Once again this week Diego Maradona has attacked Brazilian legend Pele, claiming that Pele will always be inferior. This comes after Pele was awarded the Ballon d’Or Prix d’Honneur at FIFA’s annual Ballon d’Or ceremony. Maradona aside let’s take a look at the 10 best players to ever grace the Beautiful Game.
10. Paolo Maldini – Italy – Defender
A rare one club man he played over 1000 times for AC Milan and Italy. He finished his career having won 5 European Cup’s, and 7 Serie A titles. He was renowned for his ability to never make a tackle, superb covering and brilliant leadership. Nicknamed “Il Capitano” he was consistently world class even into his late 30s. He retired in 2009 at the age of 41 as one of the best defenders to ever play the game.
9. Ferenc Puskas – Hungary – Forward
The Galloping Major was captain of the legendary “Mighty Magyars” scoring an impressive 84 goals in 85 appearances. He won 3 European Cup’s with Madrid scoring 242 goals in the progress. He is regarded as one of the finest finishers of all time with 514 goals in 529 matches throughout his career. In 2009 FIFA introduced the Puskas Goal of the Year named after the legend himself. He was named European Player of the Century by L’Equipe.
8. Eusebio – Portugal – Forward
The Black Panther was known for is wicked speed and incredible shooting ability on both feet. He scored 733 goals in 745 matches primarily for his beloved Benfica. He took Benfica to the 1962 European Cup and helped them to three more finals appearances. He was voted ninth best player ever in a poll by IFFHS and seventh by UEFA. Born in Mozambique he is known as “Africa’s best ever player.” He died 3 weeks ago but will forever be remembered as a true legend.
7. Ronaldo – Brazil – Forward
The highest scoring player in World Cup history, Ronaldo made a name for himself in the Netherlands, Italy and Spain scoring 352 goals in that time. He is regarded has one of the best dribblers of all time and was a supreme finisher from all angles. He could be seen scoring goals through 3 or 4 players on a regular basis. He is a three time winner of the FIFA Player of the Year and two time World Cup champ.
6. Diego Maradona – Argentina – Midfielder
The man who led Argentina to the 1986 World Cup title is without a doubt one of the most skillful players ever. During the 1986 cup he scored a truly genius goal against England in which he dribbled through 5 players before slotting it by the keeper. He is known for being one of the best dribblers and playmakers of all time. He was a true game changer proved by his many goals in big games many of which came for Argentina. He scored over 300 times in his career amid much controversy, which is the reason he has slipped to sixth of this list.
5. Alfredo Di Stefano – Argentina/Spain – Forward
Di Stefano was perhaps one of the most well rounded forwards to ever play; he possessed brilliant tactical awareness and vision as well as knack for scoring goals. He could play any position on the field due to a genius understanding of the game. He scored 485 times in his career, and is Real Madrid’s second highest goal scorer. He was the leader of the Madrid side that won 5 straight European Cup’s and finished his career is Spain with 8 La Liga titles. He was remarkable in every aspect of the game and is the most versatile player to ever play.
4. Franz Beckenbauer – West Germany – Defender
Der Kaiser is one of the most decorated players ever, known for inventing the “libero” of sweeper role he was one of the best attacking defenders ever. He won 5 Bundesliga titles and 3 European Cup’s, and led Germany to the 1974 World Cup. He was a two time Ballon d’Or winner and he was listed in the World Team of the 20th Century. He possessed a very elegant style, brilliant leadership and supreme versatility. He is without a doubt the best defender of all time.
3. Zinedine Zidane – France – Midfielder
Zidane is a three time FIFA World Player of the Year, World Cup winner, Champion’s League winner. He was voted Best European Player of the last 50 years in 2004 and in 2011 he was nominated the Best Champions Player in the last 20 years. He was successful where ever he went picking up titles in Spain and Italy as well as World Cup ’98 and Euro 2000 for France. He is considered to pick one of the best technical player’s ever possessing immaculate ball control and the ability to beat any defender in the world. He could sit deeper and be a world class playmaker of push forward into a quality goal threat. He was the ideal attacking midfielder with brilliant technique, vision and elegance.
2. Johan Cruyff – Netherlands – Midfielder
He is one of the creators of Total Football in the ‘70s, Cruyff was a tactical genius as well as a superb dribbler. He was adept at playing inside or on the wing, he is known for his speed, acceleration, dribbling and finishing. However his greatest asset was his vision, he was able to pick a pass from any range. He was a general and a marksman and was known to bring out the very best from anyone playing around him. He won 3 European Cup’s with Ajax and 9 league titles in total. Many consider him to be the total footballer; no one possessed such technical and mental ability. He is without a doubt the best European player ever and truly deserves to be second all time.
1. Pele – Brazil – Forward
Is it any surprise that Pele is first? Of course not, this small, skinny Brazilian kid became a true superstar and global icon. He scored 1281 goals in 1363 games and won 3 World Cups with Brazil. In fact at the tender age of 17 he scored two goals in the 1958 World Cup final, and if that wasn’t enough he scored 127 goals in the next calendar year. In 1999 he won Footballer of the Century from UNICEF, France Football and IFFHS. He transcended the sport and was a source of inspiration for millions. In 1967 the two factions involved in the Nigerian civil war called a 48-hour cease fire to watch Pele play in an exhibition match. His talent was truly electrifying and his genius unmatched. Andy Warhol said it best; “Pele was one of the few who contradicted my theory: instead of 15 minutes of fame, he will have 15 centuries.” The world should consider itself lucky to have ever seen a player as great, tremendous, superior, and as legendary as Pele.
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