Top 10 Best Soccer Players
Ah top 10 lists. A sure way to spark a conversation or debate on a topic. Plant a flag with rankings and then step back.
Soccer, or fútbol as it's known in much of the world, is a beautiful sport with some of the most talented and skilled athletes on the planet. The top is stacked with fantastic players.
So how do you rank? By era? Position? Best defender? Is it based purely on statistics? Championships? Leadership? There are endless ways to try and sort and rank players. And no one way.
For this we're going all in. The best of all-time. There is and will never be a definitive all-time best list. But here goes:
10. Roberto Baggio. Baggio is an Italian former professional soccer player. Baggio mainly played as a second striker or as an attacking midfielder. Known for unique dribblings. He was a master of curling free kicks and scoring on corners. His play captivated fans.
Baggio is the joint fourth-highest goalscorer for his national team, alongside Alessandro Del Piero. He starred in the Italian team that finished third in the 1990 FIFA World Cup, scoring twice. At the 1994 World Cup, he led Italy to the final, scoring five goals, received the World Cup Silver Ball and was named in the World Cup All-Star Team.
9. Ronaldo Nazario. Nazario is a retired Brazilian professional soccer player. Nazario played striker and was known as O Fenômeno - “The Phenomenon”. Nazario had a dazzling level of speed and power causing fits for defenders around the world.
Nazario was the youngest player ever at 20 years old to receive the FIFA World Player of the Year in 1996. At 21 he he received the 1997 Ballon d’Or the youngest recipient of that award as well.
8. Zinedine Zidane. Zinedine Zidane, a retired professional soccer player from France was an attacking midfielder. Zidane was a zen master of ball control, passing and scoring. He was a beauty to watch in motion.
His many individual accolades throughout his career include FIFA World Player of the Year in 1998, 2000, and 2003, and the 1998 Ballon d’Or.
With France Zidane won the 1998 World Cup and the 2000 European Championships. In Spain, Zidane won multiple trophies including a La Liga title and the UEFA Champions League.
Unfortunately for Zidane part of what he is remembered for is ramming his head into the chest of Marco Materazzi in the 2006 World Cup final. This however does not diminish his stellar career.
7. Johan Cruyff. Cruyff was a Dutch former professional soccer player. His technical skills were superior and was known for top ball control and stregnth.
Cruyff won the Ballon d’Or three times - in 1971, 1973, and 1974. He led the Netherlands to the final of the 1974 FIFA World Cup and was the recipient of the Golden Ball as a player of the tournament.
Cruyff has a move named after him! He preformed and popularized the “Cruyff Turn” at the 1974 Finals.
6. Ferenc Puskas. Puskas was a Hungarian soccer player and considered one of the first superstars. Puskas was a monster at scoring goals. Scoring 808 goals in 794 official games during his career, an almost unthinkable number.
An Olympic champion in 1952 Puskas led his Hungry to 1954 World Cup. With Real Madrid he won the three European Cups and five league titles.
As third top goalscorer of all time, in October 2009 the FIFA Puskás Award was created. The award is given to the player who has scored the “most beautiful goal” over the past year.
5. Cristiano Ronaldo. Another Ronaldo! Maybe naming your kids Ronaldo is a path to soccer stardom. Ronaldo plays forward for Serie A club Juventus and is captain of the Portugal national team. Ronaldo has an array of talents - speed, a beautiful header, and an incredible scorer.
Ronaldo has won five Ballon d’Or awards only behind Lionel Messi with 6. Ronaldo has records for most goals in the Champions League and the most goals in the European Championship. He is also tied with Ali Daei for most international goals. The man can score.
Ask casual soccer fans to name a professional player and Ronaldo often comes up.
4. Alfredo Di Stefano. Alfredo Di Stefano is an Argentine-born professional soccer player and later a coach. Known as a flawless player, Di Stefano was a talented forward with quickness, stamina and a true tactician.
Di Stefano scored 216 goals in 282 games for Real Madrid. He was given the Ballon d’Or in 1957 and 1959. Real Madrid’s third-highest scorer of all time and also the leading scorer in the history of El Clásico.
Di Stefano won Copa America with Argentina.
3. Diego Maradona. Maradona was an Argentine professional football player. Maradona had it all - leadership, personality and scoring ability. Maradona is widely considered one of the best if not the best ball handlers of all time.
Maradona was a joint winner of the FIFA Player of the 20th Century award. He carried Argentina to win the 1986 World Cup.
The order of the final two might be controversial. Actually the whole list might be. Isn't that part of what makes lists fun?
2. Lionel Messi. I know I know. Messi not #1? I'll get to my reasoning soon.
Lionel Messi is an Argentine soccer player. Messi plays forward for Ligue 1 club Paris Saint-Germain and is captain of the Argentina national team. He's an impeccable player - tops in history in dribbling, passing and finishing.
Messi has won a record six Ballon d’Or awards. With Barcelona Messi won a club-record 35 trophies, including ten La Liga titles, seven Copa del Rey titles, and four UEFA Champions Leagues. Incredible. Messi has scored more than 750 senior career goals combined for club and country and has the most goals all-time by a player for a single club.
1. Pelé. Pelé was is a Brazilian professional soccer player, he played as a forward. Why is he my number one? Partly because growing up I read a book about Pelé that was my first introduction to professional and international soccer. Also he's labeled “the greatest” by FIFA! Pelé had an amazing ability to read a soccer field. His speed, stregnth and dribbling were top notch.
Pelé scored 1279 goals in 1363 games. Pelé was voted World Player of the Century by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics (IFFHS) and was one of the two winners of the FIFA Player of the Century. Pelé is the all-time goalscorer for Brazil with 77 goals in 92 games - and Santos’ all-time goalscorer with 643 goals in 659 games. No player has won more World Cups than Pelé.
Pelé coined the Portuguese phrase "o jogo bonito", the beautiful game. He is a true ambassador to the global sport.
That's the list! Maybe you'd swap George Best in for someone? Neymar? Michel Platini? Beckham?
We can debate it out on the pitch.