It’s impossible to imagine soccer without them.
The ranking of the best soccer players in history. In compiling it, we took into account the players’ impact on soccer, as well as based on personal preferences. As a result, we obtained a top 15 list of the best players, which we deliberately did not put in order not to provoke unnecessary disputes among our readers.
Ronaldo, the two-time Ballon d’Or winner, has been named the best player in the history of the world championships by the Castrol Index statistical collection and analysis system. Ronaldo won two World Cups with Brazil (1998 World Cup and 2002 World Cup) and held the record for most goals scored at a World Cup until 2014, when he was surpassed by Miroslav Klose. At club level, the Brazilian is also in order with trophies: in total he has won more than 10 titles, most of them in the Real Madrid shirt. During his career, Ronaldo has scored around 350 goals in official matches – not for nothing he has been dubbed a phenomenon.
Defender Lothar Matthäus is the record holder in the number of caps for Germany (150). The ageless German has featured in as many as five World Cups. His career peaked in the early 1990s. He helped Germany win the 1990 World Cup and was named player of the year at home and the world’s best player in 1991.
Barcelona legend Xavi has given his hometown club 17 years of his career. During this time he rose from promising teenager to become the best playmaker in the world according to the International Federation of Football History and Statistics (FIFIS). Xavi has won 25 trophies with Barcelona, and has been European champion twice and a world champion with Spain. The Spaniard has been named in the symbolic world team several times, but has never won the coveted Golden Ball – because of the genius of Ronaldo and Messi.
Brazilian Cafu is the owner of a unique achievement. He is the only footballer who has participated in three World Cup finals. He has won two of them (1994 and 2002 World Cups). In total he has won more than 15 club trophies during his career – with Sao Paulo, Palmeiras, Roma and AC Milan, and in 1994 Cafu was named South American Footballer of the Year.
Maldini is a legend of AC Milan. He spent his entire career at his hometown club, for which he played in 902 games. Together with AC Milan Paolo won 26 trophies. The defender was named best footballer of the world in 1994, and World Soccer magazine included Maldini in the list of the greatest footballers of the 20th century. Not surprisingly, after Paolo finished his career, AC Milan took his number (3) out of circulation.
The legendary German footballer Franz Beckenbauer revolutionized defense: he became the first attacking “libero” and ended up being the only defender in history who managed to win the Ballon d’Or twice. Franz was also named German Footballer of the Year four times. Together with Bayern he picked up 13 trophies, among them three European Champions Cup titles. He also won the World Cup and European Championship with the national team of Germany. Beckenbauer is not without reason considered the best defender of the 20th century.
In the mid-1980s Michel Platini dominated European soccer. He was the first player to win three Ballon d’Or titles in a row (1983, 1984 and 1985). He was named best player of the world and Europe several times, as well as top scorer of Serie A, European Champions Cup and European Championship. Michel has won 13 trophies during his career, including the European Championship with France and 11 club titles.
Johan Cruyff was the first player in history to win three Ballon d’Or awards: he was named Europe’s best player in 1971, 1973 and 1974. He had great success at Ajax, Barcelona and the Netherlands and, following his career, became as legendary a coach as he was a player. Cruyff transformed Barcelona into a formidable force in Europe and taught the team to love the ball and play passing. Johan is believed to be the one who invented modern soccer.
Marco van Basten
The Marco van Basten era began when the previous king of Europe, Platini, was finishing up. The Dutchman helped his national team take the 1988 European Championship, scoring a legendary goal in the final of the tournament against the Soviet Union, and in the same year he received the first of his three Golden Balls. Speaking for Ajax and AC Milan, van Basten repeatedly became the top scorer of the championship of the Netherlands and Italy. In total he has won 21 trophies with his clubs.
Legendary USSR and Dynamo goalkeeper Lev Yashin is still the only goalkeeper in history to have won the Golden Ball. In the middle of last century he started a revolution in soccer, when he started to play actively on the output and often even outside the penalty area. At first Yashin was criticized for the unusual style of play, but then it became clear that he brings the result. Not without reason Lev Ivanovich was named the best goalkeeper of the USSR 11 times, the best goalkeeper of the 20th century according to IFPIIS and even the best goalkeeper in history, according to France Football magazine.