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15 Best Soccer Players of All Time Who Have Made History

best soccer players of all time

As one of the most popular sports in the world, soccer naturally has a lot of players that have left an indelible mark on the sport’s long history. A great sportsman is not only one who helps win matches but also someone who is able to step up when faced with immense pressure and give the game their all.

So, if you’re wondering about the best soccer players, here are 15 of the best soccer players of all time who have inspired generations.

15 Best Soccer Players of All Time

#1. Eusébio

Eusébio

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Eusébio, also known as the Black Panther, was of Portuguese and East African descent and was considered the most excellent Portuguese soccer player to have ever represented the country.

Eusébio played as a striker and scored over 730 goals in 745 soccer matches during his career. He also gained popularity for his right-footed straight shot to the goal, speed, and athleticism.

Eusébio is honored with a statue in his home state of Portugal, where the Eusébio Cup tournament is also celebrated annually.

#2. George Best

George

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One of the best soccer forwards, George Best is also known as a fashion icon in his own right. The Northern Irish player played with Manchester United for most of his soccer career.

George Best started his soccer career at the young age of 15 when he was discovered by a talent scout for Manchester United. He is up there with Manchester United’s top scorers and is known for his feints, goalscoring, pace, and impeccable balance.

George Best scored Manchester United’s win in the European Cup in 1968, the first English soccer club to be awarded that honor.

#3. Bobby Moore

Bobby

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The Golden Boy of English soccer, Bobby Moore played a major role in England’s World Cup win in 1966 against West Germany at the tender age of 23. He is also known as the captain of the West Ham United Football Club and is considered one of the most brilliant defenders of the sport.

Renowned for his wits in the field, especially in anticipating the opponent’s next move, Moore was also awarded the English Footballer of the Year in 1964.

Apart from his exemplary intuition in the sport, Moore was also known for his defensive skills.

#4. Marco van Basten

Marco

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Marco van Basten was a Dutch soccer player and coach who played for Ajax, AC Milan, and the Netherlands national team before retiring at the age of 27 in 1995 due to an injury. Throughout his career, he scored 300 goals and is regarded as one of the sport’s best.

In 1992, van Basten earned the title of FIFA World Player of the Year apart from three FIFA Ballon d’Or.

His headers, impeccable attacking, strikes, and volleys are what made van Basten exceptional.

#5. Lev Yashin

Lev

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Lev Ivanovich Yashin was a goalkeeper known as the Black Spider because of his fondness for wearing darker colors (almost all black) in the field. The Russian goalkeeper was one of the best, earning the European Footballer of the Year award in 1963, the first keeper to ever win the award.

His finesse as a goalkeeper earned the Soviet Union the gold medal in the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne — the first European soccer team to do so. Known for his acrobatic saves, Yashin collected a record of 150 penalty saves and 207 shutouts in his career.

#6. Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano

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Christiano Ronaldo is a Portuguese soccer player who captains the Portugal national team and plays as a forward for Manchester United. Regarded as one of the best soccer players of this generation and all of the game’s history, Ronaldo has won 32 trophies throughout this illustrious career.

Ronaldo has garnered five Ballon d’Or under his wing together with records of most goals (with 140), most assists (with 40), as well as most appearances (with 181). Ronaldo is among the highest-paid and decorated athletes globally, earning $1 billion in all of his time playing soccer.

#7. Cafu

Cafu

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Marcos de Morais, or Cafu as he is generally known, is a former Brazilian soccer player and the most internationally capped player from Brazil of all time. Cafu is also the only soccer player to have played in three consecutive World Cup finals.

He has played for more than six teams in his career, including Roma, São Paulo, and AC Milan. He is well known for being one of the best defenders and full-backs because of his pace and impressive runs.

In 2004, Pele named Cafu as one of the world’s greatest living players on the FIFA 100 list.

#8. Zico

Zico

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Zico, often called White Pelé after the legendary Brazilian soccer player, is a former Brazilian soccer player and is now a soccer coach. His superb eye for the goal and his finesse made him popular as one of the best passers in soccer history.

Zico was considered one of the best free kick specialists and best playmakers for his free kicks and how he could bend the ball. He is regarded as the 8th best soccer player in the 20th century, decided by a grand jury in the FIFA Player of the Century list.

#9. Gerd Müller

Gerd

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Widely known as Der Bomber, Müller is regarded among the greatest goal scorers of all time.

In all of his 62 international matches, he netted an impressive 68 times, which is 1.1 goals per match. He also holds the record for scoring 365 goals in 427 Bundesliga matches when he played for Bayern Munich.

He was the first German player to be named European Footballer of the Year in 1970.

#10. Garrincha

Garrincha

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The best right winger in soccer history is the Brazilian soccer player Manoel Francisco dos Santos, famously known as Garrincha. Together with Pelé and Didí, the three of them led the Brazilian national team to two World Cup championships in the years 1958 and 1962.

One of the greatest dribblers of all time, Garrincha, which means “little bird,” was nicknamed so because of his slightly deformed legs resulting from childhood polio. Arena BRB Mané Garrincha, previously known as Estádio Nacional de Brasília Mané Garrincha, in Brazil is named after Garrincha.

#11. Michel Platini

Michel

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Michel Platini is a former professional French soccer player who was the President of the Union of European Football Associations or UEFA from 2007 to 2016. He has three Ballon d’Or under his belt, winning for three consecutive years from 1983 to 1985.

Le Roi, or the King as he is also known, was commendable for his leadership and excellent goalscoring abilities. FIFA named him seventh on their list of the best soccer players of the 20th century. In 1985, he was awarded the title of a Chevalier of the Légion d’honneur.

#12. Paolo Maldini

Paolo

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Reputed as one of the leading defenders, Paolo Maldini played left and center back for both AC Milan and the Italian national soccer team.

He spent Serie A with Milan for all 25 seasons of his career. At the age of 39, Maldini was awarded the Best Defender trophy at the UEFA Club Football Awards. He was won 25 trophies throughout his career, before retiring in 2009 at the age of 41.

#13. Franz Beckenbauer

Franz

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Franz Beckenbauer is a retired German soccer player known as “der Kaiser” or the Emperor. Beckenbauer dominated the soccer field in the 1960s and ’70s and is regarded as Germany’s most excellent soccer player and one of the best athletes in all realms of sports.

Beckenbauer was a versatile player who started his career as a midfielder, moved on to become a reputed central defender, and even invented the position of the modern sweeper. Together with France’s Deschamps and Brazil’s Zagallo, Beckenbauer is only one of the three who have both won the World Cup as a player and a manager.

#14. Ferenc Puskás

Ferenc

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Ferenc Puskás was both a celebrated Hungarian soccer player and manager. He is revered as one of soccer’s best and one of the first soccer superstars renowned internationally.

Ferenc Puskás played the forward position in the Hungarian national soccer team, scoring 162 goals for Hungary in 123 international matches. In 1952, Puskás became an Olympic champion and led his team to the 1954 World Cup final. Throughout his career, he scored 806 goals in 793 official games and became the fourth top goal scorer of all time!

In honor of this legendary player, FIFA established the Puskás Award that is awarded to a player scoring the “most beautiful goal.”

#15. Alfredo Di Stefano

Alfredo

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Known as “Saeta Rubia” or the “blond arrow” for his many accolades during his time playing for Real Madrid, Di Stefano is regarded as one of the greatest soccer players of all time.

Di Stefano played a big part in Real Madrid’s domination in the ’50s during the European Cup and the La Liga. Aside from playing for Spain in the World Cup, he also played for Colombia and Argentina.

He was awarded the Ballon d’Or two times and is one of the leading goal scorers in soccer history.

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