10 Greatest Football Players of All-time


It’s the question always guaranteed to spark contentious debate amongst football fans. We at PledgeSports have debated long and hard on who we think are the 10 greatest football players of all-time. Of course if you feel we have left anyone out, please let us know!

10. Alfredo Di Stéfano


Nicknamed “The Blonde Arrow” Di Stéfano hailed all the way from Argentina. He grew up playing on the streets of Barracas and then moved onto playing professional football in Columbia and then of course for Real Madrid in Spain. Sir Bobby Charlton and Franz Beckenbauer, among others, have both stated that Di Stefano was probably the best all-round player to grace football. One most Alfredo’s most iconic moments was when he netted a breathtaking hat-trick in Real Madrid’s astonishing 7-3 annihilation of Eintracht Frankfurt at Hampden Park in the 1960 European Cup Final.

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9. Franz Beckenbauer


Like many great players, Beckenbauer was adept at playing in several positions. He is often credited as having invented the role of the modern sweeper. At club level with Bayern Munich, Beckenbauer won the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup in 1967 and three consecutive European Cups from 1974 to 1976. The latter feat made him the only player to win three European Cups as captain of his club.

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8. Ronaldinho


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. In his second season with Barcelona, he won his first FIFA World Player of the Year Award, as Barcelona won La Liga. Ronaldinho played 97 matches for the Brazil national team, scoring 33 goals. He represented his country in two FIFA World Cups, and was an integral part of the 2002 FIFA World Cup-winning team in Korea and Japan.

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7. Ronaldo Nazário


Ronaldo Nazário or “Brazilian Ronaldo” better known is widely considered to be one of the greatest football players of all time. In his prime, he was known for his dribbling at speed, feints, and clinical finishing. Ronaldo won the FIFA World Player of the Year three times, in 1996, 1997 and 2002, and the Ballon d’Or twice, in 1997 and 2002, as well as the UEFA Club Footballer of the Year in 1998.

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6. Zinedine Zidane


An elite playmaker, renowned for his elegance, vision, ball control and technique, Zidane was named the best European footballer of the past 50 years in the UEFA Golden Jubilee Poll in 2004. He was a special player with the ball, he skimmed past players at ease and controlled the game at his leisure. Zidane is one of seven players to have won the FIFA World Cup, the UEFA Champions League and the Ballon d’Or.

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5. Johan Cryuff


Cruyff won 20 major honours – including three successive European Cups from 1971 to 1973. As a player, he won the Ballon d’Or three times, in 1971, 1973, and 1974. Cruyff led the Netherlands to the final of the 1974 FIFA World Cup and received the Golden Ball as player of the tournament. He scored an impressive 290 goals in just over 500 games in club football. Considered to be one of the most influential figures in football history, Johan was looked up to by many players and managers alike for his remarkable philosophy of the game.

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4. Cristiano Ronaldo


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 Man United 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.

3. Diego Maradona


Now 57 years old, Diego Maradona once was captivated the world with his outstanding dribbling abilities. He was regarded and as one of the greatest football players of all-time. Maradona played in four FIFA World Cups, including the 1986 World Cup in Mexico where he captained Argentina and led them to victory over West Germany in the final, and won the Golden Ball as the tournament’s best player. He scored over 290 goals for his club’s and over 30 goals for Argentina. For country, people remember him for his goals in the 1986 World Cup were he scored the “Hand of God” goal which was a foul and then the “Goal of the Century” 60 yard dribble to defeat England 2-1 and send his country to the semi-finals.

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2. Lionel Messi


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.  Here’s a look at some of his achievements –

  • Most UEFA Champions League goals for single club: 120 (Barcelona)
  • Most Ballon d’Or awards: 7
  • Most Liga goals: 474
  • Most goals in a calendar year: 79 (2012 – or 91 including goals for Argentina)
  • Most Liga titles won by a foreign player: 10
  • Most ESM Golden Shoes: 6
  • Most club honours: 35
  • Most Argentina caps: 158
  • Most Argentina goals: 80
  • Most goals for South American nation: 80

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1. Pelé


Three time world cup winner with Brazil back in 1958, 1962 and 1970 and a true icon of the game, Pele is widely considered as the greatest football player of all-time. Pelé is the most successful league goal-scorer in the world, scoring 1281 goals in 1363 games, which included unofficial friendlies and tour games. Pelé is the all-time leading goalscorer for Brazil with 77 goals in 92 games. At club level he is the record goalscorer for Santos, and led them to the 1962 and 1963 Copa Libertadores. He was the face of the “Beautiful Game” and a true football icon both on and off the field. We rank him number 1 on our list of the greatest football players of all-time.

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