athletes The Best Soccer Players of All Time

874k votes 90k voters 1.1M views 1,040 items Embed

List Rules Any current or former professional soccer players from around the world are eligible.

List of the greatest soccer players of all time is ranked by soccer (football) fans worldwide. Who are the best soccer players ever? The goal is to determine the greatest footballers to ever play the game. The list establishes individual rankings of specific soccer players and helps answer the question, "Who is the best soccer player in the world?" This list includes some of the most famous soccer players in the world, but fame doesn't necessarily determine talent.

Though many more people are exposed to top soccer players during major international events like the Olympics or the World Cup (or even UEFA's European tournaments), there are numerous soccer/football leagues around the world made up of thousands of professional athletes. Any of these soccer players are eligible for the list, even if they are mainly well known in certain regions or nations. In America, other than that nation's own Major League Soccer league, the English Premier League and its athletes are most likely to be popular, recognizable, and familiar - though the marriage of David Beckham to Posh Spice makes all the people he plays with more recognizable to American fans.
Pelé is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Soccer Players of All Time
Photo: Freebase/Public domain
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Pelé


Pele, is almost universally regarded as the greatest player in the history of football. Born Edson Arantes do Nascimento in the Minas Gerais region of Brazil, Pele emerged on to the international stage at the 1958 World Cup, at the age of just 17. He went on to win three winners medals in football's ...more

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Position: Forward, Midfielder

Birthplace: Três Corações, Brazil

Nationality: Brazil

Also Ranked

#5 on The Greatest South American Footballers of All Time

#7 on The Best Athletes of All Time

#2 on The Greatest Left-Handed Athletes of All Time

#69 on Wait, These Famous Names Aren't Their Real Ones?!

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Diego Maradona is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Soccer Players of All Time
Photo: Dani Yako/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain
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Diego Maradona


Diego Armando Maradona Franco is an Argentine former footballer. He has served as a manager and coach at other clubs as well as for the national team of Argentina. Many experts, football critics, former players, current players and football fans regard Maradona as the greatest football player of all ...more

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Position: Forward, Midfielder

Birthplace: Lanús, Argentina

Nationality: Argentina

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#1 on Athletes Who Spark the Most Fan Arguments

#1 on The Greatest South American Footballers of All Time

#1 on The Greatest Left-Handed Athletes of All Time

#1 on The Best Hispanic Athletes

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Lionel Messi is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Soccer Players of All Time
Photo: Bryan Cedeno/Flickr
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Lionel Messi


Lionel Andrés "Leo" Messi Cuccittini is an Argentine professional footballer who plays for Spanish club FC Barcelona and the Argentina national team. He is a forward and serves as captain for Argentina. By the age of 21, Messi had received Ballon d'Or and FIFA World Player of the Year nominations. ...more

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Position: Forward

Birthplace: Rosario, Argentina

Nationality: Argentina, Spain

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#11 on Athletes Who Spark the Most Fan Arguments

#6 on The Greatest South American Footballers of All Time

#162 on The Best Athletes of All Time

#4 on The Athletes That Millennials Love the Most

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Zinedine Zidane is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Soccer Players of All Time
Photo: Freebase/CC-BY-SA-2.0
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928 people just voted on Zinedine Zidane


Zinedine Yazid Zidane, nicknamed "Zizou", is a former French footballer and current coach of Real Madrid Castilla. He played as an attacking midfielder for the French national team, Juventus and Real Madrid. Renowned for his elegance, vision and technique, Zidane was named the best European ...more

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Position: Midfielder

Birthplace: Marseille, France

Nationality: France

Also Ranked

#82 on Athletes Who Spark the Most Fan Arguments

#14 on The Best Soccer Players of the '90s

#7 on The Best Current Soccer Coaches/Managers

#2 on Coolest Soccer Players

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Ronaldo is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Soccer Players of All Time
Photo: Antônio Cruz/ABr/via Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 3.0 br
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Ronaldo


Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima commonly known as Ronaldo, is a retired Brazilian footballer. Popularly dubbed "the phenomenon", he is considered by experts and fans to be one of the greatest football players of all time. He is one of only four men to have won the FIFA World Player of the Year award ...more

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Position: Forward

Birthplace: Brazil, Rio de Janeiro

Nationality: Brazil

Also Ranked

#4 on The Greatest South American Footballers of All Time

#58 on The Most Iconic Celebrity First Names

#38 on The Greatest Out of Shape Athletes in Sports

#13 on The Best Soccer Players of the '90s

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Ronaldinho is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Soccer Players of All Time
Photo: Freebase/CC-BY-SA-2.0
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+ - 17,461 10,581

Ronaldinho


Ronaldo de Assis Moreira, commonly known as Ronaldinho or Ronaldinho Gaúcho, is a Brazilian footballer who plays for Mexican club Querétaro. His main playing position is as an attacking midfielder or forward. He won the FIFA World Player of the Year award in 2004 and 2005. Renowned for his ...more

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Position: Forward, Midfielder

Birthplace: Porto Alegre, Brazil

Nationality: Brazil

Also Ranked

#3 on The Greatest South American Footballers of All Time

#1 on Coolest Soccer Players

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Johan Cruijff is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Soccer Players of All Time
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459 people just voted on Johan Cruyff


Hendrik Johannes Cruijff OON, born 25 April 1947, known as Johan Cruyff, is a former Dutch footballer and was until recently the manager of the Catalonia football team. He won the Ballon d'Or three times, in 1971, 1973 and 1974, a record jointly held with French playmaker Michel Platini and Dutch ...more

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Position: Forward, Midfielder

Birthplace: Amsterdam, Netherlands

Nationality: Netherlands

Also Ranked

#25 on The Best Athletes of All Time

#83 on The Greatest Left-Handed Athletes of All Time

#17 on Coolest Soccer Players

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Franz Beckenbauer is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Soccer Players of All Time
Photo: Freebase/Public domain
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+ - 17,666 11,195

722 people just voted on Franz Beckenbauer


Franz Anton Beckenbauer is a German football manager, and former player, nicknamed Der Kaiser because of his elegant style; his leadership; his first name "Franz", and his dominance on the football pitch. He is generally regarded as one of the greatest German footballers of all time and one of the ...more

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Position: Defender, Sweeper

Birthplace: Munich, Germany

Nationality: Germany

Also Ranked

#35 on The Best Athletes of All Time

#3 on The Best Soccer Defenders of All Time

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