The Best Football Players of All Time (In My Estimation)

This article represents my take on the Best Footballers of All Time question – and has been informed by a large number of online searches on the said topic (using the Buckeye Internet service).


Football happens to be the most popularly watched & played sporting activity in the world, with an estimated 250 million players based all across the world; along with more than a billion people who enjoy the game as spectators and commentators (as per FIFA’s estimates).

Football 101

The modern laws of football were neatly defined (and in many ways concretized) in England in the 19th century – and have seen only minor modifications (relating to the influx of women and disabled individuals into the sporting arena) since then.

The premise of the game is simple: 2 teams of eleven players (with each team divided broadly into the defending, striking&mid-fielding factions – along with the inclusion of, of course, an indomitable goalkeeping agent) compete with each other to score the maximum number of goals. Many sports analysts reason this simplicity to be the primary reason behind the sport’s wild success (and ardent relatabilityfor practically every cultural community) on the global stage.

Introducing the Stars

But individual players are not solely defined by the mere roles that they enact, and their synchronicity with their team mates. Some are seen to rise above others, and this ascension may be attributed to a combination of distinct sporting prowess, personal charisma, espoused values and leadership potential – among other factors that assert themselves in a natural manner on the field. Football legends like Pele, Messi, Maradona and Ronaldo certainly belong to this illustrious category.

Introducing the Stars

Others may exhibit an innate tendency more spontaneously oriented towards pop-cultural commercialization; and although they may also be very good players (of their time), their fame can be attributed more to their significant star-power & cultural archetype status. David Beckham is a good example of a player that hails from this grouping of sportsmen.

Some players, of course, can fall into or defy both of these vague classifications – with this compilation being mostly my subjective assessment of their individual sporting personas.


And so (after these brief introductory remarks, and without much further ado), allow me to list the 5 football players I consider to be the best of all time.

1.    Pelé 


Almost universally lauded as the greatest football player of all time (and by some sports authorities as being the most prolific athlete in human history), the Brazilian forward Pele has been described in unrivaled adulatory terms by virtually each and every one of his contemporaries; as well as the players deemed to be ‘legends’ who followed in his footsteps.

He is particularly remembered for his clever dribbling tactics on-field, as well as his seemingly uncanny ability to anticipate his opponents’ next move.

Pele’s sporting career wins include his iconicMost Wins of the World Cup by a Single Playeraward (in 3 FIFA International Sporting tournaments), as well as a host of other noteworthy Club-level and Individual accolades. His wins outside the football pitch are just as impressive, and encompass recognition trophies & events hosted by the heads-of-state of several countries.

Pele is also renowned in his home country (and elsewhere) for the extraordinary concern that he has shown toward certain humanitarian ventures; for which he continues to use his wild popularity in a supportive way.

2.    MessiMessi

Branded as his de facto successor by the likes ofMaradona himself, the Argentinian forward Messi is widely considered by many to be the greatest living football player today. Having won a record five Ballon d’Or awards, four European Golden Shoes, and a number of other accolades, he also boasts one of the most lucrative sports-industry partnership deals in the world; with massive wealth and publicity amassments to boot.

Messi continues to stay with his childhood club, FC Barcelona, and has made the number 10 (being his shirt numeral) a figure of household acclaim all over the world.His influence on contemporary pop-culture, though it was not much significant earlier on his career, has nowadays become a force to reckon with; comparable in many ways to his contemporary and pitch-nemesis Cristiano Ronaldo.

In contrast to Ronaldo’s boisterous and often-fierce crowd-engaging personality, Messi normally displays more of an introverted ‘leave me alone to play’ type of disposition.

3.    MaradonaMaradona

Another Argentinian legend, Maradona achieved a deified cultural status on account of his singular prowess on the football pitch. Even though Messi’s star is on the zenith today, it was Maradona who pioneered in fashioning the mold that is his young prodigy’s inheritance.

Maradona played in four FIFA World Cup tournaments, and was largely responsible in scoring definitive wins for his team in at least 2 (and was subsequently awarded with the cherished Golden Ball accolade thereafter).

He has coached many international clubs and national teams, and his influence has transcended into the realm of politics – where he is frequently seen engaged in with world leaders and foreign heads-of-state. A video of him shaking hands with Vladimir Putin& and his close aides recently surfaced on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, and bears testament to this beguiling tendency of his.

4.    Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo

If showmanship and a desire to give theatrical performances (in addition to great striking skills) were a criteria for being branded the best on-field player, then Ronaldo may certainly be thought of as a worthy contender for thisposition. A Portuguese national by birth, Ronaldo is a top-scorer for Real Madrid – and has bagged some of the most impressive wins in footballing history (both for club and country).

With several autobiographies, documentary film productions, a fashion label, countless hospital, education and charity works to his name, Ronaldo’s 6 year stint with Manchester United, proceeded by his pivotal involvement in the success streak of Real Madrid (which still continues) has inspired the formation of a football legend and story like no other.

The player’s various accolades are too numerous to state here, but it should suffice to state that he is a fierce contender with Lionel Messi in the race for becoming the greatest living football player today.

5.    Di StéfanoDi Stéfano

Before Maradona and Messi graced the football field, there was Di Stefano.

When asked for a comment on the greatest Argentinian player of all time, both Pele and Maradona opined in the favor of Di Stefano. In addition to playing for club & country, he has also had a prolific career in coaching newer generations of players.

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