5 Best Footballers Of The 21st Century

As the 2017/18 season approaches, we look at the players who have been involved in the action over the past 17 years to determine who are the best footballers of the 21st Century.

At PledgeSports, we have worked with individual players and teams, of all levels and ages, from around the world to raise money for football through sports crowdfunding.

Without further ado, these are the 5 Best Footballers Of The 21st Century.

5. Ronaldinho


Ronaldinho’s career seemed to tail off earlier than it should have but that, in no way, takes away from what he did at his peak.

It was with Barcelona that Ronaldinho became the greatest player in the world at the time. He seemed capable of doing anything, bewildering defenders with his skill, technique and sheer audacity to pull off tricks others wouldn’t even attempt in training sessions.

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In four of his five seasons with Barcelona, he was irresistible and a joy to watch. In addition to his World Cup success with Brazil in 2002, he won the Ballon d’Or in 2005, FIFA World Player of the Year in 2004 and 2005, and was named in the FIFPro World XI three times.

4. Andres Iniesta


Iniesta oozes class, everything he does is of the highest quality. A graceful midfielder, Iniesta is exceptional on the ball, capable of gliding past opponents with ease, and also has wonderful passing and shooting abilities. He has won 25 trophies with Barcelona, including seven La Liga titles and four Champions League winners medals.

With Spain, Iniesta was pivotal in their 2008, 2010 and 2012 Euro and World Cup successes, scoring the all-important winning goal in the 2010 World Cup final.

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Iniesta has played 559 games for Barcelona and won 102 caps for Spain. He has made the FIFA FIFPro Team of the Year six times and has been nominated for the Ballon d’Or three times, finishing second, third and fourth.

3. Xavi

xavi_hernandez_comiatIf you are considered the greatest Spanish footballer in history by many, considering the amazing success they’ve had of late and some of the incredible older players they produced, you must be a special player. Xavi is just that.

Xavi has had an unbelievable career, the majority of which was spent at Barcelona. He made his debut in 1998 and went on to become the club’s all-time appearance maker. He’s represented them over 700 times.

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The playmaker has eyes in the back of his head, and there simply hasn’t been a more influential player in his position for many, many years. It took a while for Xavi to be fully appreciated at Camp Nou though, a little like Scholes, but slowly but surely he became one of the first names on the team-sheet.

He was a major part of Pep Guardiola’s awe-inspiring side that won two Champions League and three La Liga titles between 2008 and 2012, and his partnership with Andres Iniesta in the middle of the park has to go down as one of the best ever. For Spain, the diminutive maestro earned 133 caps, and he won two European Championships and one World Cup. He has been a stunning footballer and remains a class act to his day.

2. Cristiano Ronaldo


It was obviously a very difficult decision between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo for second place on this list, but the consistency of the Portuguese forward earned him second spot.

Ronaldo’s goal scoring is quite remarkable.

A prolific goalscorer, Ronaldo holds the records for most official goals scored in the top five European leagues (373), the UEFA Champions League (114), the UEFA European Championship (29) and the FIFA Club World Cup (7), as well as most goals scored in a UEFA Champions League season (17). By age 22, he had received Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year nominations and at age 23, he won his first Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year awards.

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In 2009, Ronaldo was the subject of the most expensive association football transfer when he moved from Manchester United to Real Madrid in a transfer worth €94 million (£80 million). Not to mention Ronaldo is now a 5-time Ballon d’Or winner, just 1 behind Lionel Messi’s 6.  His trophy haul at Madrid is 3 Champion Leagues, 3 Club World Cups, 3 European Super Cups, 2 La Liga title, 2 Copa del Rey and 2 Spanish Super Cup.

Ronaldo holds the record for most goals in the UEFA Champions League (127), the UEFA European Championship (9), the FIFA Club World Cup (7), and the UEFA Nations League Finals (3), as well as most goals scored in a UEFA Champions League season (17).

Playing for Juventus now, Ronaldo has scored over 600 club goals,  and the Portuguese forward is the first player to reach a half-century of goals in Serie A, La Liga and the English Premier League.

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Ronaldo is the top UEFA club competition scorer with 143 goals and the top UEFA Champions League/European Cup scorers 140 goals.

1. Lionel Messi


The greatest player of this century and possibly on his way to being the greatest player of all time, there is not much left to say regarding Lionel Messi. The ludicrous list of achievements held by the Argentine is widely known and been written and talked about millions, if not billions of times.

He has the most goals in a single season, most goals in a calendar year, most goals in Catalan derbies, most goals in El Classico derbies. Not only is Messi the all-time top scorer for Barcelona, he is the all-time top scorer in La Liga, and holds the record for the most assists in the league’s history.

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Messi hails from Argentina, much like Maradona he is known for his low centre of gravity, dribbling ability and scoring pedigree. He is a true genius on the field. People regard him as the greatest football player of all-time and it is hard to argue that.  He has spent his entire professional career with Barcelona,  where he recently notched up 700 appearances for Barca, during which time he has scored a phenomenal 614 goals while winning 34 trophies, including 10 La Liga and four Champions League titles, and a host of other records and awards.

In 2021 he played a vital roll for his Argentina’s Copa del Rey title and yet again won the Ballon d’Or.  The former Barcelona forward has now won the Ballon d’Or award for the world’s best player a record even times (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2019 and 2021)!

Now playing for French side Paris Saint-Germain, Messi’s record breaking endeavours on the pitch will continue.

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