List of association football players considered the greatest of all time

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This is a list of men's football players considered "the greatest of all time", so claimed by at least one expert or one group of experts.[a] With the 20th century coming to an end, numerous lists were composed and votes held on the subject.[1]

Hyperbole and the influence of one's employer[2][3] may have influenced some opinions. It has also been argued that due to the vast pool of talent, circumstantial differences, personal preferences, and the evolution of the game, it is difficult to compare players from different eras.[4][5]


Player Years Club(s) National team(s) № of expert(s)
Roberto Baggio 1982–2004 Vicenza, Fiorentina, Juventus, Milan, Bologna, Inter Milan and Brescia  Italy
Franz Beckenbauer 1964–1983 Bayern Munich, New York Cosmos and Hamburger SV  Germany
George Best 1963–1984  Northern Ireland
Bobby Charlton 1956–1980  England
Johan Cruyff 1964–1984 Ajax, Barcelona, Los Angeles Aztecs, Washington Diplomats, Levante and Feyenoord  Netherlands
Alfredo Di Stéfano 1945–1966 River Plate, Huracán, Millonarios, Real Madrid and Espanyol  Argentina and  Spain
Eusébio 1957–1979  Portugal
Garrincha 1953–1972 Botafogo, Corinthians, Portuguesa Carioca, Atlético Junior, Flamengo, and Olaria  Brazil
Diego Maradona 1976–1997 Argentinos Juniors, Boca Juniors, Barcelona, Napoli, Sevilla and Newell's Old Boys  Argentina
Giuseppe Meazza 1927–1947 Inter Milan, Milan, Juventus, Varese and Atalanta  Italy
Lionel Messi 2003–present Barcelona  Argentina
Gerd Müller 1963–1981 1861 Nördlingen, Bayern Munich and Fort Lauderdale Strikers  Germany
Pelé 1956–1977 Santos and New York Cosmos  Brazil
Michel Platini 1972–1987 Nancy, Saint-Étienne and Juventus  France
Ferenc Puskás 1943–1967 Budapest Honvéd and Real Madrid  Hungary and  Spain
Ronaldinho 1998–2015  Brazil
Ronaldo 1993–2011  Brazil
Cristiano Ronaldo 2002–present Sporting CP, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juventus  Portugal
Zico 1971–1994 Flamengo, Udinese and Kashima Antlers  Brazil
Zinedine Zidane 1989–2006 Cannes, Bordeaux, Juventus and Real Madrid  France

See also[edit]


  1. ^ These include agents, club presidents/chief executive officers, clubs, coaches, football-related associations, members of the written media, sporting directors and other professional footballers
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h The vote was conducted by France Football at the end of the 20th century. Stanley Matthews, Omar Sívori, George Best and Lev Yashin did not vote.[9]
  3. ^ Lawton had his opinion published twice. In 2014, he opted for Maradona,[29] but chose Pelé on his revised assessment of the debate three years later.[30]
  4. ^ Karl-Heinz Rummenigge is one of the first 34 players to win the Ballon d'Or.
  5. ^ a b Benzema has voiced contradictive opinions at least twice. In 2016, he told the official website of bwin: “When I was younger, the way the Brazilian Ronaldo played had an influence on me. For me he's the best striker and the best player of all-time,” even though he had said: “[Cristiano Ronaldo] made me dream and he still makes me dream. For me, he is the best player of all time. I play with the best player in the world,” in an interview with Téléfoot two years earlier.
  6. ^ During the 2012–13 season, Mourinho lauded Cristiano Ronaldo as the greatest of all time,[159][160][161] but effectively retracted these statements in 2016 and 2018 by saying that he prefers Ronaldo Nazário, Pelé, Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi to Cristiano.[162][163]
  7. ^ Arvind has also worked and written articles for Managing Madrid, SB Nation, SB Nation Radio and Outside of the Boot.


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  2. ^ Rawson, Dov (April 2018). "What a Real Madrid youngster has done after saying he prefers sahil shaikh Ronaldo". GiveMeSport. Retrieved 17 June 2018. It's widely understood that everyone employed by Real Madrid will say that [Cristiano] Ronaldo is the better of the two [Lionel Messi and Ronaldo].
  3. ^ Shetty, Sanjeev (12 June 2017). "Who really is the best: Messi or Ronaldo?". GQ. Retrieved 17 June 2018. When he wasn't coach of the richest football team in the world, Zinedine Zidane was allowed opinions on things not pertaining to Real Madrid.
  4. ^ Liew, Jonathan (4 June 2014). "How and why Pele's mystique and reputation as the world's greatest ever footballer has been overhyped". The Telegraph. Retrieved 17 June 2018.
  5. ^ a b Heta, Marco (2 September 2018). "Ronaldo, Messi, Pele: The GOAT debate is unending, and shouldn't matter". Football Paradise. Retrieved 2 September 2018.
  6. ^ Giulia Crivelli. "Gianni Agnelli e "roi Michel", una passione infinita" (in Italian). Il Sole 24 Ore. Retrieved 6 November 2018. Baggio è il più grande giocatorino che abbia mai visto.
  7. ^ "Ravanelli elogia Baggio: «Il più forte di sempre»" (in Italian). Il Corriere dello Sport. 18 February 2017. Retrieved 6 November 2018. Faccio tanti auguri a Roberto, è un ragazzo straordinario, sa giocare a calcio come pochi, sicuramente il più forte col quale ho giocato. Non era alto, sembrava non fosse forte fisicamente ma lo era, ha avuto problemi gravi alle ginocchia ma non l'hanno fermato. Per il momento uno come lui non c'è in circolazione, negli ultimi 30 metri diventava cinico, non perdonava, sapeva far gol e mettere la palla perfetta al compagno.
  8. ^ Brehme, Andreas (28 May 2018). "Andreas Brehme picks his all-time Germany XI". Retrieved 28 June 2018. With all respect for players such as Pelé, Johan Cruyff, Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, for me Franz Beckenbauer continues to be the best player in the world of all time.
  9. ^ Stokkermans, Karel (23 December 2015). "France Football's Football Player of the Century". Rec.Sport.Soccer Statistics Foundation (RSSSF). Retrieved 18 June 2018.
  10. ^ Kilpatrick, Chris (13 March 2013). "Pele: Belfast boy George Best was Brazilian". Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 26 June 2018. The legendary Brazilian footballer Pele famously named George Best as the world's greatest ever player.
  11. ^ "What made Bobby Charlton the best footballer ever?". Radio Times. 8 October 2017. Retrieved 9 July 2018.
  12. ^ a b c d e "Il più grande di tutti i tempi" [The greatest of all time | Five commentators, five choices: that's why]. SportMediaset (in Italian). 29 October 2010. Retrieved 27 June 2018.
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  14. ^ Spencer, Jamie (6 April 2018). "What Made Johan Cruyff, Hero of 1974, the Greatest of All Time". Retrieved 25 June 2018.
  15. ^ Dove, Ed. "'Di Stefano was the best of all time' - Perez". Goal. Retrieved 23 September 2018.
  16. ^ ESPN staff (7 July 2014). "Alfredo Di Stefano greatest of all time". Retrieved 23 September 2018.
  17. ^ "Alfredo Di Stéfano, the best player of all time". Madrid, Spain: Real Madrid Club de Fútbol. 7 July 2014. Retrieved 13 June 2018.
  18. ^ Haugstad, Thore (17 December 2015). "The incomparable legacy of Helenio Herrera". These Football Times. Retrieved 18 June 2018. 'Di Stéfano’s the greatest player in history,' Herrera would later say.
  19. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Kane, Desmond (25 March 2016). "The top five players of all time - where does Johan Cruyff rank on our list of greats?". Official website of Eurosport. Retrieved 19 June 2018. After the sad death of Dutch icon Johan Cruyff at the age of 68 on Thursday, we ask 10 Eurosport writers in the UK and Ireland and around mainland Europe to name their greatest five players in the history of the game and why they merit their place in the top five.
  20. ^ "Bobby Charlton: 'Di Stefano was a titan of the game, the best ever'". 7 July 2014.
  21. ^ "Eusebio: 'Garrincha was ahead of Pele, but Di Stefano is the best in history'". 3 March 2008.
  22. ^ Gonçalves, Pedro (15 June 2015). "The greatest teams of all time: Benfica 1960-62". Union of European Football Associations (UEFA). Retrieved 1 August 2018. Eusébio: 'He was the best player of all time,' said Alfredo Di Stéfano after Eusébio's death in January 2014.
  23. ^ Quique Rubio Seguir (2 June 2017). "Formoso: 'El mejor fue Garrincha por delante de Pelé y Cruyff'". (in Spanish). Retrieved 24 July 2018.
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  25. ^ "Glenn Hoddle Exclusive Interview - Hummel Football Boots". SoccerBible. 20 March 2014. Retrieved 25 June 2018. SB: Who in your opinion is the greatest player of all time? GH: Diego Maradona.
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  28. ^ Haugstad, Thore (28 July 2017). "FourFourTwo's 100 Greatest Footballers EVER: No.1, Diego Maradona". FourFourTwo. Retrieved 16 November 2017.
  29. ^ Lawton, James (14 January 2014). "James Lawton's 10 greatest players of all-time includes Ballon d-Or winner but he's well down the list". Irish Independent. Retrieved 3 October 2018.
  30. ^ Lawton, James (5 May 2017). "James Lawton: Ronaldo is great, but he's not the greatest... here's my top 10 best of all time". Irish Independent. Retrieved 3 October 2018.
  31. ^ Uusitalo, Heikki (11 June 2014). "Tässä ovat sata kaikkien aikojen parasta jalkapalloilijaa - kerro mielipiteesi". (in Finnish). Retrieved 5 August 2018.
  32. ^ Bailey, Richard (23 March 2018). "Messi lacks Maradona's charisma, claims Batistuta". Diario AS. Retrieved 10 October 2018. Diego Maradona 'is and will remain' the greatest ever, says Gabriel Batistuta, who believes Lionel Messi lacks the charisma to match him. [...] 'For me, [Maradona] was the greatest of all,' Batistuta told Corriere dello Sport.
  33. ^ Bailey, Richard (7 November 2008). "Maradona makes Rio's day". Sky Sports. Retrieved 18 June 2018. [Rio Ferdinand] said: 'We were like school kids around a star coming to school. In my eyes he is the best footballer ever. He is one of my heroes if not the shining beacon when I was a kid.'
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  38. ^ "Carlos Valderrama: 'Maradona is the greatest player ever'". 8 September 2017.
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  40. ^ Whittaker, Mike (24 December 2012). "Giuseppe Meazza: A legend ahead of his time". Retrieved 1 August 2018. The late great Peppino Prisco considered him to be the best of all time: 'Meazza was great, unbeatable, even if he would occasionally run into a frightful crisis, caused by his intense sexual activity and his passion for the game. When he took over on the field, he did things that left the mouth ajar.'
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  42. ^ Smith, Adam (27 December 2015). "Barcelona supremo Josep Maria Bartomeu: Lionel Messi the best throughout the history of football... we can't live without him". MailOnline. Retrieved 10 October 2018.
  43. ^ "Messi the greatest ever, says Galliani". Football Italia. Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  44. ^ Press Association (22 March 2010). "Lionel Messi is the best player ever, claims Barcelona president". Retrieved 9 October 2018.
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  46. ^ Sundaresan, Keeshaanan. ""Messi is better than Pele and Maradona," says Argentina's coach Carlos Bianchi". SportsKeeda. Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  47. ^ Marsden, Rory (24 April 2017). "Lionel Messi Hailed as 'The Best of All Time' by Luis Enrique After Clasico Win". Bleacher Report. Retrieved 14 August 2018.
  48. ^ Marsden, Sam (24 April 2017). "Barcelona's Lionel Messi 'best player in the history of the game' - Luis Enrique". Retrieved 14 August 2018.
  49. ^ John Owen Nwachukwu (24 April 2017). "Messi best player in football history – Luis Enrique". Daily Post. Retrieved 14 August 2018.
  50. ^ "Luis Enrique: Messi is the best ever". Marca. 23 April 2017.
  51. ^ Grohmann, Karolos (13 May 2015). "Messi is the best player of all time - Bayern's Guardiola". Reuters. Retrieved 18 June 2018.
  52. ^ "Hoyos: There's no one like Messi". Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). 19 October 2017. Retrieved 21 October 2018. Days before The Best Awards [Hoyos] says: 'He is the best ever'. [...] *Pep Guardiola said a little while ago that he’s the greatest player of all time, by a distance. What’s your view? *That’s the way I see it too, and I say that with the utmost respect for everyone else.
  53. ^ "Koeman, en El Partido de las 12: 'Lo de Piqué no es una falta de respeto. Después de un triplete se puede decir eso. Es humor'". Official website of Cadena COPE (in Spanish). 9 June 2015. Retrieved 18 June 2018. El entrenador del Southampton aseguró que 'Messi es el mejor jugador de todos los tiempos' y alabó el trabajo de Luis Enrique en el Barcelona, 'responsable de buena parte del éxito' del conjunto azulgrana esta temporada.
  54. ^ "Lopetegui: 'Messi es el mejor de la historia'". Goal (in Spanish). 30 November 2017. Retrieved 12 June 2018.
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  72. ^ Buckerfield, Kurt (31 May 2018). "Dybala: Messi Is The Best Player In History". Soccer Laduma. Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  73. ^ Football Italia staff (29 May 2018). "Dybala: Incredible to play with Messi". Football Italia. Retrieved 30 July 2018. Juventus’ Paulo Dybala admits Lionel Messi is ‘the best player in the history of football’ and that merely training with him for Argentina is ‘incredible’.
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  76. ^ Dhar, Pulasta (14 April 2012). "If Barcelona have Messi, then Bayern have Gomez". Firstpost. Retrieved 18 June 2018. 'I am not crazy enough to compare myself with Messi because he is the best there ever was and the best there will ever be.' That is what Bayern Munich striker Mario Gomez had to say to reporters in Germany who have constantly compared him to Lionel Messi in the run-up to the European Champions League final.
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  78. ^ "Icardi sentenció: 'Messi es el mejor de la historia'". El Intransigente (in Spanish). Quito, Ecuador. 11 October 2017. Retrieved 1 October 2018.
  79. ^ "The Messi dribble that had opposition fans applauding". The World Game. 22 January 2018. Retrieved 1 October 2018. Betis veteran Joaquin showered Messi with praise after the match, calling him 'the best in history'.
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  82. ^ Law, Matt (19 February 2018). "Pedro interview: Lionel Messi is best ever but not invincible - Chelsea can beat Barcelona just like in 2012". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 10 October 2018.
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  88. ^ "'Messi is the greatest ever,' says Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford". 8 June 2018. Retrieved 18 June 2018.
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  117. ^ "Rivelini: 'Pele is the best player ever'". 4 July 2014.
  118. ^ "Gianni Rivera: 'Messi is marvelous, but Pele is the best ever'". Goal. 27 March 2012.
  119. ^ "Tostao: "Pele was the greatest, simply flawless"".
  120. ^ "Carlos Alberto Parreira: 'There has been no one like Pele'". 1 October 2017.
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  140. ^ "Claudio Caniggia: Pelé fue mejor que Maradona...Los mejores son Pelé, Diego y Johan Cruyff en ese order...En cuarto lugar estaría Messi". 11 March 2012.
  141. ^ Trotter, Henry; Horcel, Thomas; Hawkins, Nick. "We cannot compare this incredible talent and play of Messi, of Neymar, of Cristiano Ronaldo, to Pelé; they are not as complete as him. Pelé was a complete talent, he could even head the ball very well. So, you cannot even compare anyone to Pelé, there is no comparison!".
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