10 Best Soccer Players of All Time
Who are the best soccer players of all time? These players have left their market on the game, becoming a household name and inspiring a generation of fans. These icons have transcended soccer and have become cultural icons in their own right. Let's take a look at the ten best soccer players of all time.
10. Michel Platini
Michel Platini earned the nickname "Le Roi" (The King) for his exceptional skills on the pitch. His offensive dominance, technical creativity and strong leadership is why he's widely regarded as one of the best soccer players of all time.
During his playing career he played for Nancy, Saint-Étienne and Juventus. He won the Serie A top scorer award three times, and led Juventus to victory in the European Cup.
Platini was a key member of the French national team that won the 1984 European Championship, earning best player and finishing as top goalscorer.
His most significant individual achievement was winning the Ballon d'Or award three times in a row in 1983, 1984, and 1985.
9. Ferenc Puskas
Ferenc Puskas scored 84 goals in 85 international matches for Hungary and is one of the best soccer players of all time. He won an Olympic gold medal in 1952 and led Hungary to the final of the 1954 World Cup.
Regarded as soccer's first superstar, Puskas scored an incredible 619 goals in 618 league and cup games in both Spain and Hungary.
He won five La Liga titles and the European Cup three times, and he's considered to have had one of the most powerful left foot shots in history.
8. Ronaldo Nazario
Not only is Brazil's Ronaldo Nazario one of the best soccer players of all time - he was also the face of one of the best soccer cleats of all time, the first Nike Mercurial.
Nicknamed "O Fenomeno" (The Phenomenon) he was known for his speed, technical ability and scoring prowess during his prime, and he was able to dominate world soccer as a teenager.
He starred at PSV, Barcelona, Inter Milan, AC Milan, and Real Madrid but it was his performances with the Brazilian national team that were almost mythical.
Ronaldo scored 62 goals in 98 appearances for Brazil, and they never lost a game when he scored. His many accolades include FIFA World Player of the Year award three times, the Ballon d'Or twice and winning the 1994 and 2002 World Cups.
7. Franz Beckenbauer
Franz Beckenbauer is considered by many to be the best soccer defender of all time. The 1972 and 1976 Ballon d'Or winner is credited with experimenting with and creating the role of the modern sweeper (libero).
Beckenbauer turned defending into an art, using his intelligence, anticipation and bravery to defend and attack further up field where defenders wouldn't dare.
Often credited in part to Bayern Munich's rise as a super club, Beckenbauer was instrumental in the Bavarian side winning three consecutive European Cups and the European Cup Winners' Cup.
He became an icon, becoming one of only three men to have won the World Cup as a player and manager: as a player in 1974 and manager in 1990. Beckenbauer starred in 109 games for West Germany and scored 14 goals.
6. Zinedine Zidane
Zinedine Zidane played with a level of elegance, vision and technique that elevated soccer to an artistic level never seen before. His ball control was generational, as was his ability to find space. Zidane was simply unstoppable during his prime and he won it all - the Serie A, La Liga, World Cup, Champions League and Ballon d'Or.
He's considered to be the greatest ever central midfielder of all time but his versatility meant he could play as an attacking or defensive midfielder, and even as a defender or striker if the need arose.
Individually Zidane was crowned FIFA World Player of the Year three times, starred in France's 1998 World Cup win, and was player of the tournament in France's second place finish in the 2006 World Cup, and their Euro 2000 winning campaign.
5. Johan Cruyff
Charismatic Dutch superstar Johan Cruyff is one of the best soccer players of all time. He helped propel the rise of Dutch football globally and was a pioneer with the very successful Dutch Total Football system. Employed as a center forward, Cruyff was given a license to roam freely under the Total Football philosophy and he thrived.
His technical ability, vision, passing and control made him an unstoppable attacking force. At Ajax, Cruyff won 17 major trophies which included three consecutive European Cups. Individually he won three Ballon d'Or awards but was a part of one of the greatest golden generations that never won a World Cup.
So significant was Cruyff's impact he was voted European Player of the Century. Not bad for a player who smoked up to two packs of cigarettes a day. After his playing career he helped transform the fortunes of both Ajax and Barcelona as manager, with both teams struggling on and off the pitch before he took over.
4. Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo has served as an inspiration for an entire generation. He started his career with Sporting Lisbon before exploding onto the world stage at Manchester United, Juventus and Real Madrid. The dynamic forward has caused issues for defenders his entire career.
From an attacking perspective he's virtually flawless, and he's become a goal scoring machine with his ankle breaking tricks and feints, and his lighting quick pace. Naturally a traditional winger, he evolved into a more attacking central role as either a striker or supporting forward, and even dropped back as an attacking midfielder at times.
He's built a reputation for his tireless work ethic and has been able to keep his body in peak condition well into his 30's. His scarcely believable, video game-like stat line includes 311 goals in 292 league games for Real Madrid.
Ronaldo won the first of his Ballon d'Or awards at age 23 and has won five Champions League titles. He was awarded FIFA Player of the Year in 2008, 2016 and 2017, the European Golden Shoe four times and has earned best player awards in the Premier League, La Liga and Serie A where he's won a combined seven league titles.
Pelé is one of the best soccer players of all time and played as a forward for Brazil, Santos and for three seasons in New York. He was known for his spectacular and electrifying play, was a genius with both feet and an absolute monster in the air.
He scored 1,279 goals in 1,363 games which is a Guinness World Record - a record which includes unofficial friendlies and tour games, but he scored well over 700 goals in official games.
The bigger the occasion, the better Pele played. He's the best World Cup player of all time and holds records that are unlikely to ever be beaten. As a 17-year old he became the youngest World Cup winner, the youngest player to score a World Cup hat-trick, and is the only player ever to win three World Cups, doing so from four attempts.
Pele shares the FIFA Player of the Century award with Maradona. He was a flawless striker with amazing speed, passing, and vision, and was often targeted by hard fouling by opposition players to try and minimize his impact.
2. Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi is one of the best soccer players of all time. Argentina's 2022 World Cup victory only strengthens his legacy and has helped settle the Ronaldo vs Messi debate for many.
A prolific goalscorer, he's considered by many to be the greatest dribbler in history. He's able to dribble with phenomenal speed and control, so much so, it's as if he can run faster with the ball than without it.
Messi's world class exploits as a playmaker is due to the fact that he can dribble without having to look at the ball, and can therefore utilise is creativity, distributing the ball with his excellent vision and pinpoint precision.
Argentina's 2021 Copa America and 2022 World Cup victories saw Messi crowned as player of the tournament in both competitions. Messi has been awarded the Ballon d'Or a record seven times in addition to six European Golden Shoes, 10 La Liga titles, a Ligue 1 title and four UEFA Champions League wins.
1. Diego Maradona
Diego Maradona is the best soccer player of all time. He was highly technical with the ball, had exceptional vision, amazing ball control and arguably the best dribbling skills ever seen. Maradona was always able to make the most out of limited space and played as an attacking midfielder, just behind the forwards, or as a second striker.
Maradona played for several clubs throughout his career, including Argentinos Juniors, Boca Juniors, Barcelona, Napoli, Sevilla, and Newell's Old Boys. It was his two titles with Napoli that was his most significant achievement at club level.
He was able to help turn Napoli around from relegation battlers, to becoming the first team from the southern mainland of Italy to win the Serie A - a league which was by far the strongest and richest in the world at the time.
Unfortunately due to his off-field antics Maradona's prime was cut short, but its further proof of what he could achieve in a shorter period of time.
Maradona never managed to win the Ballon d'Or as those outside Europe were ineligible at the time. He scored a total of 34 goals in 91 appearances for Argentina with his most significant being "The Goal of the Century" in the 1986 World Cup quarterfinal against England - a World Cup Maradona won single-handed for Argentina and giving him god-like status in the process.