1. Diego Armando Maradona (1976-1997)
Born: October 30, 1962
Playing Position: Supporting Striker, Attacking Mid-fielder
Clubs: Argentinos Juniors, Boca Juniors, Barcelona, Napoli, Sevilla, Newell’s Old Boys
Diego Maradona won the 1986 World Cup almost single-handedly and took Argentina to the final four years later. He also took unfancied Napoli to its only two Italian titles. Maradona was controversially voted best player of all time in an internet poll held by FIFA. No one can deny the fact that Maradona was the best ever dribbler of the ball. He proved as much, when he scored what was arguably the greatest ever World Cup goal in 1986 (Awarded : “GOAL OF THE CENTURY” by FIFA in 2002). Maradona picked up the ball on the halfway line and promptly proceeded to leave half the England team for dead before slotting the ball into the net. That game was also the one in which he scored his infamous ‘Hand of God’ goal. He repeatedly refused to admit openly to handling the ball. In the nineties his career hit a downward trajectory.
In Rosario city, Argentina, fans organized the “Church of Maradona.” Maradona’s 43rd birthday in 2003 marked the start of the Year 43 D.D. – “Después de Diego” or After Diego – for its founding 200 members. Tens of thousands more have become members via the church’s official web site.
2. Pele (Edson Arantes do Nascimento) (1956-1977)
Born: October 23, 1940
Playing Position: Forward
Clubs: Santos, New York Cosmos
In the eyes of many, if in fact not most, football fans Edson Arantes do Nascimento is the greatest footballer ever, and there is a lot to be said for that opinion. There is certainly no denying his pedigree. Pelé, because that’s who we are talking about, has won three world cups with Brazil and scored more than 500 league goals.
Pelé made his debut in the Brazilian league at the age of 16, and promptly went on to become the league’s top scorer, scoring 36 goals in 29 matches. The next season was every bit as impressive as the youngster produced 58 goals in 38 matches. His overwhelming debut earned Pelé a place in Brazil’s 1958 World Cup squad, where he and his team-mates ended up lifting the trophy. Pelé scored two goals in the final, as the world sat up and took notice. At age 17 Pele was, and is to this very day, the youngest ever World Cup winner.
His impact on the 1962 and 1966 tournaments was negligible due to injuries, but at the 1970 Wold Cup Pelé once again shone resplendidly. Playing in what many consider to be the greatest ever football team, Pelé was universally acknowledged as the world’s best player. His deft touch, dribbling skills and tremendous scoring ability, would see him notching up more than 500 league goals. In 1975 Pelé joined the North American Soccer League, where he became a goodwill ambassador for football. It’s a role Pelé has been playing ever since.
3. Johan Cruyff (Johan Hendrikus Cruijff) (1964-1984)
Born: 25 April 1947
Playing Position: Attacking Mid-fielder, Forward
Clubs : Ajax, FC Barcelona, Los Angeles Aztecs, Washington Diplomats, Levante, Feyenoord
A superb dribbler of the ball, George Best undoubtedly the most naturally gifted British player of his generation. A combination of lightning pace, perfect balance, and ability to produce goals with both feet, meant Best was a handful for even the best of defenders.
Helping Manchester United win the European Cup in 1968 was his greatest achievement. That year Best was voted European Player of the Year. But in the years to follow Best the player would increasingly be eclipsed by Best the rock and roll celebrity, as problems with gambling, womanising and alcoholism overshadowed El Beatle’s achievements on the field.
In 1974 George Best left Manchester United, effectively ending his career at the highest level at the age of 27. The Belfast Boy would play on for nearly ten more years at a number of lesser clubs, showing occasional signs of his former greatness.
4. Ferenc Puskas (1944-1966)
Ferenc Puskás (1927) was the outstanding player of the marvelous Hungarian national team of the early 1950s. In 1952 they had won Olympic Gold in Helsinki and the “Magical Magyars” arrived at the 1954 FIFA World Cup in Switzerland undefeated in four years. Their most resounding victory to date had been achieved the previous year when they were the first non-british team to defeat England at Wembley. In one of the great upsets of football history, Hungary were pipped at the post by Germany, with Puskas playing in spite of an injury picked up early on in the tournament. Puskas fled Hungary in the wake of the Soviet invasion of 1956 and went on to play for Real Madrid well into his 30’s. At Madrid he teamed up with the likes of Di Stefano and Gento to win numerous trophies.
5. Franz Beckenbauer (1964-1984)
This list of top 10 greatest ever football players is heavily biased towards forwards, as all these kind of lists tend to be. We make no apologies for that as it is those players that bring joy to the crowds all over the world with their goals and artistry. However, this list would not be complete without Franz Beckenbauer (1945). Nicknamed ‘der Kaiser’, Beckenbauer was the mainstay of Bayern Munich’s triple European Cup winning team of the mid Seventies. He also captained his country to the 1974 World Cup, held in Germany. An elegant sweeper, Beckenbauer was known for his outstanding technique and tactical insight. As a manager, he steered the German national side towards their 1990 World Cup win in Italy.
6. Eusebio (1958-1978)
Eusébio da Silva Ferreira (1942) won 10 Portuguese league titles, plus the 1962 European Cup with Benfica, scoring two goals in the final. He virtually single-handedly took Portugal to third place in the 1966 World Cup, scoring nine goals. Eusebio’s trademarks were his speed (he was the under-19 Portuguese champion of 400, 200 and 100 metre races), quick dribble and a powerful and accurate right-footed strike. Eusébio scored an incredible 727 goals in 715 matches wearing the Benfica jersey, and until recently was the all-time leading scorer for Portugal, with 41 goals in 64 matches.
7. George Best (1963-1984)
A superb dribbler of the ball, George Best (1946) was undoubtedly the most naturally gifted British player of his generation. A combination of lightning pace, perfect balance, and ability to produce goals with both feet, meant Best was a handful for even the best of defenders. Helping Man U win the European Cup in 1968 was his greatest achievement. That year Best was voted European Player of the Year. But in the years to follow Best the player would increasingly be eclipsed by Best the rock and roll celebrity, as problems with gambling, womanising and alcoholism overshadowed his achievements on the field. In 1974 Best left Manchester United, effectively ending his career at the highest level (although he would play on until 1984).
8. Michel Platini (1973-1987)
Three times European Footballer of the year, Michel Platini (1955) led France to two World Cup semi-finals and the 1984 European Championship title. Platini started at French club Nancy-Lorraine before moving on to Saint-Etienne, where he won the league title in 1981. In 1982 he moved to Italian club Juventus. One of the greatest passers of the ball in the history of the game, Platini was also a master of the free kick, a skill which he perfected using a row of dummies during training. Despite nominally being a midfielder, Platini displayed a remarkable goalscoring prowess. He scored 68 goals in 147 league games for Juventus, and was crowned top scorer of the Serie A no less than three times.
9. Alfredo di Stefano (1943-1966)
Two-time European Footballer of the Year, Alfredo Di Stéfano (1926) led Real Madrid to five consecutive European Cups. Incredibly versatile, many believe he is the best all-around player in history. Di Stéfano was a powerful forward blessed with stamina, tactical versatility, and above all vision that allowed him to act as the conductor to Real’s symphony of attacking football. Di Stéfano won numerous domestic league and cup titles with Real, but like George Best, he never graced a World Cup. He moved to Espanyol in 1964 and played there until hanging up his boots at the age of 40.
10. Zinedine Zidane (1988-2006)
Whether Zinedine Zidane (1972) or Michel Platini is the greatest ever French player is up for discussion. That Zidane belongs in this list of truly great players surely isn’t. The outstanding player of his generation, he led France to World Cup glory in 1998 and to the European Championship in 2000. He was a superb passer of the ball first and foremost, an outstanding playmaker that fed his forwards with great passes. But Zidane could produce goals himself as well, most notably the winning goals in the 1998 World Cup Final and the 2002 Champion’s League Final. Zidane was named European Footballer of the Year in 1998, and FIFA World Footballer of the Year in 1998, 2000, and 2003.
##We would like to know, if we missed some Great players or you have a different list of the Greats. Please let us know.