10+ greatest football players of all times and some fun facts about them every sports fan should know

What Americans call soccer is really called football elsewhere in the world so for the sole purpose of this article we will use the word "football" to name the most popular sport all over the world! Just a fact: association football is played by over 250 million players in over 200 nations and has the highest television audience in sport! Here are some football players from all the decades and all around the globe that have literally made football history as we know it today. Some may be more acknowledged than others but everyone of them is worth a standing ovation for their football skills.



Franco Baresi


Italian and former Milan F.C. player, he is considered one of the greatest defenders of all time. A few accomplishments: Baresi was captain of his team for 15 seasons and won the 1983 FIFA World Cup with the Italy national team!

Gabriel Batistuta


Nicknamed "Batigol", this retired argentine football won many titles playing for Newell's Old Boys, River Plate and Boca Juniors, in Argentina, and then became one of the highest scorers of all-time in the Italian Serie A. Until 2016, he also was Argentina's all-time leading goal scorer with 54 goals in 77 official matches, when he was surpassed by Lionel Messi in the semi-finals of the Copa América Centenario.

Franz Beckenbauer


Early in his career as a professional footballer he was nicknamed "The Emperor" because of this elegant style. Even though he remains an influential figure in both German and international football, in 2016 and investigation started for being suspected of fraud and money laundering as part of the 2006 World Cup.

Gianluigi Buffon


This Italian footballer has been playing as a goalkeeper For Serie A club Juventus since 2001. "Gigi" is known for his "outstanding shot-stopping", currently being the most expensive goalkeeper in history and holding many records both for his club and the Italian national team, as the longest streak without conceding a goal in Serie A history.



His real name is Marcos Evangelista de Morais and is is the most internationally capped male Brazilian player of all time, representing his nation 142 times and winning 1994 and 2002 FIFA World Cups.

Mario Coluna


Being one of the most talented Portuguese players of all time, the former central midfielder spent most of his career playing at Benfica. After his retirement, when Mozambique became independent in 1975, he held the post of President of its Football Federation.

Cristiano Ronaldo


Cristiano Ronaldo is often considered the best player in the world, right next to Lionel Messi. He has won five Ballon d'Or awards, the most for a European player, and debuted at age 18, after being put through heart surgery at age 15 for a racing heart condition!

Alfredo Di Stefano


The former Argentine footballer played international football mostly for Spain after moving to Madrid and is best known for his time at Real Madrid, but he also played for Argentina in River Plate and Huracán. Many of the greatest footballers you'll see in this list have regarded him as the greatest football player of all time!



He became famous for inventing the folha seca (dry leaf) free kicks, used by modern-day players such as Ronaldinho, where the ball would swerve downward unexpectedly at a point resulting in a goal. In 1950 he scored the first ever goal at the Maracanã Stadium.

Dragan Dzajic


This Serbian footballer emerged from former Yugoslavia and some experts may say he's perhaps one the most underrated players in European football. In 2011, Goal.com named him as being part of "the greatest European Championship XI of all time".

Giacinto Facchetti


After his death in 2006, the Italian defender was named one of the year's Golden Foot "Football Legends" and received the FIFA Presidential Award. He is remembered for being one of the first truly great attacking full-backs and was member of the Inter team known as "Grande Inter".

Just Fontaine


This retired French footballer holds the record for most goals scored in a single edition of the FIFA World Cup, with 13 in 6 matches in 1958! "Justo" was chosen by Pelé as one of the 125 greatest living footballers in March 2004

Walter Fritz


His early career in German football started at FC Kaiserslautern club, which home stadium was renamed after him as the Fritz-Walter-Stadion in 1985. As part of the German national team, he was named captain of the team that won the 1954 FIFA World Cup.

Ryan Giggs


The Welsh football coach and former player played his entire career for Manchester United! He received many honours regarding his football career but maybe the most eccentric one is the Order of the British Empire he was appointed in the Queen's 2007 Birthday Honours List for his services to football.

Gheorghe Hagi


"Gică" is a Romanian former player considered one of the best attacking midfielders in Europe in the 80s and 90s. Some of his nicknames are "Comandante" (The Commander) and "Regele" (The King).

Thierry Henry


In 2007 he surpassed Michel Platini to become France's top goal scorer of all time. He played for Monaco, Juventus, Barcelona, New York Red Bulls and Arsenal, where he is also holds the record for all-time goal scorer. Nowadays he is the second assistant manager of the Belgium national team.

Xavier Hernández


Popularly "Xavi", the Spanish footballer now plays for Qatari club Al Sadd SC, but he is mostly known for playing for the Spain national team and Barcelona FC. He has wan 31 trophies, only surpassed by Andrés Iniesta.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic


Already retired from the Swedish national team, where he served as a captain since 2010, he is currently the second most decorated active footballer in the world, with 31 trophies in his career, while he continues playing for Manchester United.

Andrés Iniesta


Only the most successful Spanish player of all time, having won 33 trophies until now. He's been playing for Barcelona FC since 2002 and now he serves as a captain of the team.

Mario Kempes


Nicknamed "El Toro" or "El Matador", and with a stadium named after him in the city of Cordoba (Argentina), Kempes scored twice in the 1978 FIFA World Cup winning the match and the World Cup for Argentina. He also finished as the tournament's top scorer, receiving the Golden Boot award.

Ángel Labruna


"Angelito" or "El Feo" (The Ugly!) is the second top scorer of the Argentine First Division with 293 goals. Labruna is a River Plate's idol and was part of the celebrated team's offense called "La Máquina" (The Machine), given that name because of its extraordinary performance of the forward line on the field.

Philipp Lahm


Due to his small stature and precise technique, the German retired player was nicknamed the "Magic Dwarf". He also is a former captain to the German national team and won the 2014 FIFA World Cup, just before retiring from international football.

Sepp Maier


His agility and reflexes earned him the nickname of "Die Katze von Anzing" (The cat from Anzing), a location in the state of Bavaria near Metten, where he was born in 1944. He spent his entire career at Bayer Munich and was chosen for the West Germany squad for four consecutive World Cups.

Paolo Maldini


The Italian central defender spent all his career (25 seasons!) in the Serie A with Milan, before he retired at the age of 41! With the Milanese team he attained way too many awards and trophies, including the 2007 FIFA Club World Cup with the Italian national team after defeating Boca Juniors on 16 December.

Diego Maradona


Maybe THE greatest football player of all times, the Argentinian played for Argentinos Juniors, Boca Juniors, Barcelona, Napoli, Sevilla and Newell's Old Boys during his club career, and for the Sbeing most known for this time at Napoli, where he is an icon and idol not only for the team but for the city of Naples, Italy.

Lionel Messi


Even though Messi was diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency as a child, he is currently the best football player in the world and regarded by many as the greatest of all time, even greater than Maradona! The boy is such an beast: he scored over 600 goals in his senior career for club and his country team.

José Manuel Moreno


Nickname "El Charro", Moreno was also part of the River Plate team called "La Máquina" (The Machine), next to Juan Carlos Muñoz, Adolfo Pedernera, Ángel Labruna, and Félix Loustau. He was the first footballer EVER to win first division league titles in four different countries.

Gerhard Muller


"Gerd" is a prolific German striker considered one of the greatest goal scorers of all time, even named by Pelé as one of the 100 world's living players in 2004. He scored a record of 365 goals in 427 Bundesliga games, in Germany.

Pavel Nedved


The Czech retired footballer and former Juventus' player has been described as one of the best footballers of his generation. He won the Ballon d'Or as European Footballer of the Year in 2003 and was the second Czech player to receive the honour.



Commonly known as just as "Neymar" or "Neymar Jr.", the Brazilian full name is Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior, who currently plays at as a forward for French club Paris Saint-Germain and the Brazil national team. He's been often compared to Pelé due to his dribbling and ability with both feet.

Adolfo Pedernera


In a poll by the IFFHS in 2000 the Argentinian forward was elected the 12th best South American footballer of the 20th century. During his time in River Plate he was part of five winning teams and with Argentina he won the Copa America 1941 and 1945. Unfortunately, he could not participate in a World Cup due to Second World War but after that his career continued moving forward.



According to the IFFHS, Pelé is the most successful league goal-scorer in the world. He was voted World Player of the Century in 1999 and is often regarded as the best football player of the history.

Michel Platini


Nicknamed "The King", the French former player won the Ballon d'Or three times, in 1983, 1984 and 1985 and was his country's record goal scorer until 2007. In 2015 he announced he would be running for FIFA President but soon he would see himself involved in the ongoing corruption scandal, so he took down his candidateship.

Ferenc Puskas


This Hungarian footballer was a prolific forward who scored 84 goals in 85 international matches for Hungary, and 514 goals in 529 matches for both the Hungarian and Spanish leagues.

Frank Rijkaard


Rijkaard has played for Ajax, Real Zaragoza and Milan and represented the Netherlands national team 73 times. He's also known for the "spitting incident" that took place in the 1990 FIFA World Cup when Rijkaard spat in West German player Völler's hair after being both expelled from the match.

Roberto Carlos


The Brazilian retired professional football is considered one of the best left backs in history and was nicknamed "El Hombre Bala" (The Bullet Man) due to his formidable bending free kicks, that have been measured at over 105 miles per hour!



Romário was the star of 1994 FIFA World Cup triumph for Brazil, receiving the FIFA Golden Ball as player of the tournament, and he is the third highest goal scorer for his national team. While holding many honours during his career, he is one of very few strikers ever to surpass the mark of 1000 goals!



The Brazilian former player is also an ambassador for Spanish club Barcelona. He is renowned for his creativity, agility, dribbling ability and his classical no-look passes and is one of the few players that have won the FIFA World Cup, the UEFA Champions League AND the Ballon d'Or award!



He is best was known for his dribbling at speed, feints, and clinical finishing. The Brazilian former player was off football for several years due to some to serious knee injuries, but he recovered to join Real Madrid, followed by Milan and Corinthians!

Paolo Rossi


One of only three players to have won all three awards at a World Cup (FIFA World Cup, Golden Boot and Golden Ball in 1982), the Italian is Italy's top scorer in World Cup history. Since his retiring, he has gone into sports journalism and punditry and currently works as a pundit for Mediaset Premium.

Hugo Sánchez


This retired Mexican played is the fourth highest scorer in the history of Spain's top division and the sixth highest goal scorer in Real Madrid's history! Since 2015, Sánchez is a commentator for ESPN Mexico and the United States.

Djalma Santos


Santos found much success as a defender becoming one of the greatest right-backs of all time. Along with Franz Beckenbauer and Philipp Lahm, he was one of the players included in three FIFA World Cup All Stars Team.

Uwe Seeler


The former German striker played for Hamburguer SV and made 72 appearances for the West Germany national team. He's been immortalized by the German kicker football sports magazine as the Photo of the Century, where you can see him devastated by the 1966 World Cup Finals loss, as seen above.

Enrique Omar Sívori


In 1957, the Italian team Juventus paid 10 million pesos (equivalent to roughly 500.000 dollars) to sign him in, allowing the Argentinian team River Plate to complete their Monumental stadium by adding a fourth stand that bears his name, with the money from the transfer. His audacious and brilliant style made him one of the most valuable players from his time.

Luis Suárez


Suárez is a Uruguayan professional footballer who plays as a striker for Spanish club Barcelona and the Uruguay national team. In December 2017, he scored his 400th goal for both his club and country career!

Carlos Alberto Torres


Santos scored the fourth goal in the 1970 FIFA World Cup final for the Brazilian national team, which is considered to be one of the greatest goals in the history of the tournament. In 2004, Pelé named him as one of the 100 world's greatest living players.

Marco Van Basten


Marco Van Basten is a Dutch former football player, who played for Ajax and Milan and the Netherlands national team, while scoring 300 goals in a high-profile career. Unfortunately, he had to retired in 1995 due to an ankle injury he had two years before.

Obdulio Varela


Varela was an Uruguayan football player, captain of the team that beat Brazil in the decisive final round match known as "The Maracanazo" in the 1950 FIFA World Cup. He was nicknamed "El Jefe Negro" (The Black Chief) due to his dark toned skin and the influence he had on the pitch.

Javier Zanetti


With 1,114 official games played, the Argentinian defender is the most capped player as captain in the Champions League and the fifth player in history with the most career appearances! The club Internazionale, commonly known as "Inter", retired his number 4 jersey.

Zinedine Zidane


Nicknamed "Zizou", this French retired football player and current manager of the Real Madrid was an attacking midfielder named the best European footballer of the past 50 years in a poll made by the UEFA in its Golden Jubilee in 2004. He retired as the fourth-most capped player in France history after winning numerous honours, as the FIFA World Cup, the UEFA Champions League and the Ballon d'Or.

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