In any sport, trying to name one player as the greatest ever can be a bit unfair, because there will be many who excelled in different eras, did well in their own rights, and had to contend with different opposition. As far as soccer is concerned, there are numerous players who have left their mark on the game and its history.
Pelé is the best footballer ever to play on the field. He grew up in Brazil and honed his skills in its slums. In the year 1957, at the age of 15, Pelé was included in the Brazil national team for the World Cup. In his debut match, Pelé scored two goals. For his skills with the ball and the goal scoring capacity he is known as the King of Soccer. In his long career, spanning 25 years, he scored 1,000 goals. In 1999, Pelé was chosen as The Athlete of The Century, by the international Olympic committee. The Time magazine, in the same year, included Pelé in the list of 100 Most Influential People of the 20th Century. Can you recollect his real name in full? His real name is Edison Arantes do Nascimento.
Maradona is the most celebrated Argentine football player. Throughout his career, Maradona enthralled his fans and the opponents with his extraordinary footwork and balance. His career lasted for 26 years from 1975 to 2001. Diego Armando Maradona is an icon and hero for many footballers. Even though he was involved in many controversies, on and off the field, he is still regarded as one of the greatest footballer of all time.
Born in Munich, Germany, Franz Beckenbauer was also known as Der Kaiser or The Emperor, simply because he was extremely elegant in his style of play. He played at a time when Germany was not unified, which is why he represented West Germany in 103 games, from 1965 to 1977. He won the title of ‘European Footballer of the Year’ twice, He is only the second footballer to win the World Cup as a player and coach, and the only one to win it as a captain and coach. He also played for Bayern Munich, New York Cosmos, and Hamburger SV, besides being the manager for West Germany, Marseille, and Bayern Munich.
Hristo Stoichkov is thought of as the most successful Bulgarian soccer player. He started his professional career with CSKA Sofia and later moved on to the FC Barcelona soccer club. He played an influential role in club’s winning the Spanish Primera División. During his career, Stoichkov earned global acclaim four times in a row. In 1992, his scintillating play was responsible for his club’s Championships League victory. He bade good-bye to the field of soccer in 2003.
Michel Platini represented France from 1976 to 1987, and was also the coach of the team from 1988 to 1992. He is the current president of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA). He was a member of the French team that won the 1984 European Championship, and his nine goals in that tournament is still a record that has not been broken. He also played for clubs such as Nancy, Saint-Étienne, and Juventus. Platini was a free kick specialist, and scored 41 international goals and 224 goals for the clubs that he played for.
Zico, whose real name is Arthur Antunes Coimbra, played for Brazil from 1976 to 1988. He was well-known for his free kicks, passing skills, and finishing, and scored 52 goals for his country. He is often compared to Pelé, and hence was fondly know as ‘White Pelé’. Zico was a part of the ’80s Brazilian squad that was widely considered to be the best team Brazil ever produced. Besides coaching various countries and clubs, he also played for Flamengo, Udinese, and Kashima Antlers, for whom he scored 192 goals. Currently, he is the coach of the national team of Iraq.
His full name is David Robert Joseph Beckham. In 1991, Manchester United, signed this 16-year-old teenager for its youth squad. After a span of 5 years, Beckham was finally selected for the Manchester United team. After the season of 1997 – 1998 season, Beckham was selected for England’s World Cup team. In the FIFA World Cup (2006), David Beckham led the English football team. He shares the honor of representing the England in 3 World Cups with the 5 others, including Sol Campbell and Michael Owen.
One of the most well-known German footballers, Oliver Kahn was a goalkeeper who represented his country from 1994 to 2006. Many believed that Germany reached the 2002 World Cup finals not because the team was a great one, but because Oliver Kahn’s goalkeeping skills managed to keep Germany alive in the tournament. He received the ‘Golden Ball’ award after being chosen as the best player in the tournament. Kahn also represented clubs like Karlsruher SC II, Karlsruher SC, and Bayern Munich.
Zinedine Zidane played as an attacking midfielder for France, and was a part of the team that won the 1998 World Cup and 2000 European Championship. In the 2006 World Cup, he was the best player of the tournament, and won the ‘Golden Ball’ award. But in the same event, in the finals, he was involved in a controversial incident, in which he headbutted Italian defender Marco Materazzi. He represented France from 1994 to 2006, and in his 108 appearances, he scored 31 goals and was the play maker for hundred others. At the club level, he played for Cannes, Bordeaux, Juventus, and Real Madrid. For these clubs, he managed to score 95 goals in total.
There is no doubt that Ronaldo is one of the most celebrated players from Brazil, after Pelé. He is also known as the Phenomenon, because of his speed, dribbling and passion for scoring again and again. His full name is Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima. Born in the poor suburbs of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, he was influenced by another legend of the footballer, Zico. Ronaldo played for Brazil in the 1998 FIFA World Cup, in which Brazil lost to the French side in the final match. However, in the year 2002, as a member of Brazil squad for the FIFA World Cup, Ronaldo scored eight goals in only seven games. Top scorer of the tournament, Ronaldo helped the Brazilian team to win their 5th FIFA World Cup title.
Ronaldinho is another jewel from Brazil. He is famous for his natural play and terrific control over the ball. He was a part of the Brazilian team, for the 2002 FIFA World Cup, which was jointly hosted by Korea and Japan. The highlight of this prestigious tournament was the goal, a 35 meter free kick, scored by the Ronaldinho against England. Brazil went on to win the 2002 FIFA World Cup. In June 2005, Ronaldinho captained the Brazilian side to their second FIFA Confederations Cup title by beating Argentina in final match 4 – 1. In the past, he has played for the Gremio, Paris SG, FC Barcelona soccer clubs. This skillful footballer has won many awards and acclaims. He was chosen twice, for the FIFA World Player of the Year Award.
A teammate of the legendary Pelé, Garrincha was part of the Brazilian team that won the 1958 and 1962 World Cups. Although his full name is Manuel Francisco dos Santos, he earned the nickname of Garrincha, a term meaning ‘little bird’, for his playful behavior on the field. His skills included decisive and accurate passes and he was well-known for his powerful free kicks. Garrincha ranks second, after Pelé, in the list of best Brazilian soccer players.
Leônidas da Silva
He is the man who shouldered the responsibility of giving the Brazilian football the solidity, it deserved. This pre-Pelé era player was known as the Rubberman because of his elastic body. Through Leônidas da Silva, in 1938 World Cup, soccer world came to know about the natural talent, techniques and the spirit of Brazilian football. The most famous footballer of his time, Leônidas da Silva is also believed to the father of the Bicycle kick. He was the first player to score 4 goals in World Cup soccer bout.
This most beloved Italian footballer was included in the greatest living footballers list that was prepared by none other than the famous Pelé. He represented Italy in the World Cup 1994 and scored 5 goals for his team. Italy lost to Brazil in the final match in penalty shoot out. Most unfortunately, Baggio missed his penalty kick. He scored 27 goals, in all, for his national team. Nine of these goals were scored in three World Cups. He retired from football in 2004.
In 2000 – 01, Totti, another celebrated Italian football player, scored 13 goals and helped his favorite club, A.S. Roma, to win the first league title, since 1983. Francesco Totti is also known as the Prince and Er Pupone. He was named as the Italy’s Player of the Year in 2000 and in 2003. He was part of the Italian National squad in the Euro 2000 qualifiers. He scored against Romania and Belgium and got the team in the Finals. Although, France beat Italy in the final match, they couldn’t stop Totti from lifting the Man of the Match title.
Christian Vieri was an Italian center-forward, who was named by the great Pelé as one of the greatest living footballers ever. He was one of the best forwards in all of Europe, and besides playing for his country, represented as many as 12 clubs throughout his career. His conversion rate was so good that he managed to score an average of one goal per game in his world cup matches. In all, he scored 23 goals for Italy and 194 goals for all the clubs that he played for.
Sir Robert ‘Bobby’ Charlton was arguably the best midfielder and English player of all time. Well-known for his fitness and stamina levels, he was a part of the English team that won the World Cup, whom he represented from 1958 to 1970. He scored 49 international goals during his international career, and 208 club level goals for Manchester United, Preston North End, and Waterford.
A terrific presence on the field, Lionel Messi, according to some, has reserved a spot for himself in the ranks of all time great players like, Pelé and Maradona. You can find him in the right wing of the Barcelona attack, trying to concoct a blend of speed and trickery to frustrate and get past multiple defenders. Born on June 24, 1987, this Argentinian footballer has joined the Barcelona when he was 13 years old. Winner of the FIFA World Player of the Year award in 2009 and 2010, Messi has won five league titles, and in the 2008 – 09 forming a triad with Andrés Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez, scored 38 goals only to better the record, in next two seasons, to glorious 45 and 50. He started playing for his country in August, 2005, and participated in 2006 World Cup. Olympic Games 2008 held in China saw him win the gold medal for his country. Put on a display of his sublime talent in the 2010 World Cup.
Born on October 24, 1985 in Liverpool, England, this footballer has done wonders on the field. Known for the talent not easily found in the so many of the footballers, he is their hope for the glory. At the age of 9, he joined the Everton club’s academy and in 2002, found himself as a FA Youth Cup finalist. His goal, in the Premier League, scored against Arsenal, 5 days before he turned 17, made him the youngest scorer in the history of the league. It took him 18 domestic yellow cards, earned during 2003 – 05, to realize that not every provocation needs to be taken seriously. In 2008, he partnered with the teammate Cristiano Ronaldo and won the Premier League and Champions league for his club, the Manchester United. In 2009 and 2010, Rooney won Premier League for the United but, lost to Barcelona in the finals of Champions League. At the age of 17, while playing for England against Australia, he scored and became the youngest Englishman to do so for his country. He participated in Euro 2004 and World Cup held in 2006 and 2010.
A true specimen of the present day footballer, Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro has everlasting stamina that leaves his opponents worried. The lethal combination of speed, strength and skills, and the irresistible urge to score made him the most expensive player of the 2009. Born on February 5, 1985 in Funchal, Portugal, Cristiano was signed by Sporting Lisbon at the age of 10 years. In his club’s history, he became the first footballer to scale the ladder of Under (16, 17, 18), B-team, and first team in a single season. In 2003, he transferred to the United Manchester and scored 10 times in the first season. Records at the end of the 2006 – 07 season showed 23 goals against his name in 53 appearances for the United and the first title in four seasons for his club. 2007 – 2008 season rejoiced in his 42 goals in 49 games, the Premier League and Champions League titles that he won for the Manchester United and FIFA World Player of the Year award. For Real Madrid, in 2010 – 11, he won the Copa del Rey and in La Liga, netted 40 times to create a record. He joined the Portugal national team in August 2003, and scored 2 times for his country in Euro 2004. With his 7 goals in qualifiers, he took his team to 2006 World Cup, but couldn’t take it past the semi-finals. Christiano participated in the Euro 2008 and 2010 World Cup in which, team Portugal exited in the quarter finals and the second round, respectively.
Famous soccer players, such as Pelé and Maradona are not only worshiped in their native places, but they are also idolized throughout the world. Their skills, timing and desire to shoot the ball in the net are still admired all over the world even when, they are no more on the field.
Amazing: In the 1950 World Cup final between Brazil and Uruguay, which was played in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, there was a record attendance of 199,854 spectators.
Weird: In 1998, Second Division club Jiul Petroşani Ion sold Radu, a midfielder from Romania, to Valcea for 500kg of pork.
Astonishing: In 1973, Marcello Donadini, a referee from Italy had to be hospitalized, after a player who didn’t quite like his decision bit him on his back.
Statistic: Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina, France, England, Italy, Germany and Spain are the only eight countries who have managed to win the biggest prize ever in soccer – the World Cup.