Football, or soccer in the US, is the most popular sport in the world. Throughout the years, the sport has seen numerous great players come and go, and new talents are always emerging to maintain a high level of competitiveness. Here is a look at some of the greatest football players of all time.
Pele was a Brazilian footballer who led his country to three World Cup titles in 1958, 1962, and 1970, and he is a true legend of the sport. He is widely regarded as the greatest football player of the last century. This was confirmed by FIFA when the organization presented him with “The Best Footballer of 20th Century” award.
While Pele’s international career was a great success, his success at club level is questionable. He spent most of his playing career at a Brazilian club called Santos and a few years in the American league, both of which were not considered competitive leagues. Nonetheless, he set the record for the most number of goals scored while he was playing for Santos. According to unofficial statistics, he scored a total of 1,281 goals in 1,363 matches.
2. Lionel Messi
Most football fans regard Messi as the greatest football player in the world today, and some are even convinced that he is the greatest of all time. This Argentine footballer was born on the 24th of June, 1987, and he made his first team debut for his current club Barcelona at the tender age of 17. Over the years, he has accumulated a long list of achievements, including the youngest footballer to score 200 goals in La Liga, all-time top scorer for Barcelona, and the first football player ever to win five FIFA Ballon d’Or awards.
However, Messi has not been as successful at the international level. The closest he came to winning a major international competition was in 2014, when the Argentine team lost to Germany in the World Cup final. Some people argue that Messi cannot be considered the greatest player ever because he has not won a World Cup title.
3. Diego Maradona
Legendary Argentine footballer Diego Maradona is arguably the greatest dribbler the world has ever seen, and his name is often mentioned alongside Pele in conversations about the greatest footballer of all time. Unlike Pele, he spent almost his entire club career playing in Europe, with Barcelona and Napoli. Although he was transferred to Barcelona at a world record fee at that time, his time there was nothing remarkable. Nonetheless, he led Napoli to two Serie A championships in 1987 and 1990, which was a great achievement considering that Napoli was an underdog before his arrival.
However, Maradona is best remembered for his inspiring and ingenious performance in the 1986 World Cup, where he guided an unspectacular Argentine team to victory. In the process, he scored three of the most memorable goals in football history, one of which was the controversial “Hand of God” goal.
4. Zinedine Zidane
By guiding the French national team to its first ever World Cup title in 1998, Zidane established himself as the greatest French football player ever. He scored twice in the final against Brazil and won the Golden Ball award for being the best player in the tournament.
Zidane was also very successful at club level. He won the Serie A title twice with Juventus and brought the club to two Champions League finals, losing on both occasions. In 2001, he transferred to Real Madrid and won his first Champions League title there.
5. Franz Beckenbauer
Beckenbauer was a German footballer who revolutionized the way defense was played. He began his career playing for the SC Munchen youth team, and he joined Bayern Munich in 1958. He helped Bayern win three consecutive European Cup titles from 1974 to 1976. It was during his time in Bayern that he invented a new position called “sweeper”. The sweeper is the final line of defense behind the two center defenders, and he can bring the ball up during counter attacks.
Beckenbauer’s success did not stop at club level as he took Germany to the World Cup final in 1966 and won the title in 1974. He also helped his country win the European Championship in 1972.
All football fans have their own lists of the greatest footballers of all time. While some people may disagree, the abovementioned football players truly deserve to be considered some of the greatest ever because of their achievements, talent levels, and overall impact on the game.