Football has never been short of entertainers.
That’s what we all watch it for, right? To be entertained by quality players who can do things with a ball that we can only dream of?
Every era has had its players who you just couldn’t afford to miss.
And it’s not just skilful players who we’re talking about here.
You didn’t know whether Manchester United icon Eric Cantona was going to kung-fu kick a rival supporter, or whether Colombian goalkeeper Rene Higuita would produce his gravity-defying scorpion kick.
- 11 Premier League XIs the streets won’t forget
- Mourinho names the GOAT – not Messi or CR7
- Check out our new GIVEMESPORT homepage
It’s called the Beautiful Game for a reason and, while we’ll take a 1-0 win if it means three points, we also love to be treated to a moment of genius – or even a moment of madness.
So, with that in mind, GIVEMESPORT has taken a look at football’s top 11 most entertaining players in history.
Where do we start?
Ronaldinho was the ultimate entertainer, his fancy footwork and samba skills earning him popularity from near enough everyone.
He scored goals that made crowds go wild – even opposing ones.
He received a standing ovation from Real Madrid fans at the Santiago Bernabeu after producing a breathtaking performance in 2005.
The Brazilian was a genuine magician.
2. Lionel Messi
It seems that not a week goes by without Lionel Messi doing something incredible.
Just in the space of five days earlier this month, the Barcelona star provided a brilliant assist against Inter Milan and scored a wonderful free-kick against Sevilla.
Perhaps the best part of it all is that Messi doesn’t go out of his way to entertain; it just all comes naturally to the Argentinian.
3. Jay-Jay Okocha
So good they named him twice.
Former PSG and Bolton Wanderers star Jay-Jay Okocha was capable of doing some brilliant things with a football.
His freestyle skills made him a delight to watch. He had the sort of quality that couldn’t be coached, and very often couldn’t be stopped.
4. Zinedine Zidane
The last image we have of Zinedine Zidane on a football pitch is him heading Italy’s Marco Materazzi in the 2006 World Cup final.
And while we should remember the moments of brilliance, Zidane’s fiery temper played a part in creating arguably the finest player to represent France.
He’s often been given the term ’The Scientist’ and that is an apt name for a truly intriguing figure who could make a football do whatever he wanted it to do.
5. Adel Taarabt
The streets will never forget Adel Taarabt.
The Moroccan possesses enormous ability and while he’s failed to turn all of that talent into a truly remarkable career, Taarabt remains a true showman.
Long-range curlers, nutmegs, Panenka penalties… Taarabt is a wizard.
6. Rene Higuita
Rene Higuita was nicknamed El Loco – ‘The Madman’ – and with good reason.
Few players are quite as daring as Higuita was. His coaches may have shielded their eyes but he was thrilling to watch.
Which other goalkeeper do you see performing a scorpion kick to clear the ball?
7. Dennis Bergkamp
The Non-Flying Dutchman was an artist.
Just as former Newcastle United defender Nikos Dabizas, who had a close-up view of Bergkamp’s skills.
The ex-Arsenal striker scored some incredible goals for club and country but his all-round play, which include many near-impossible passes, made him a superb teammate.
8. George Best
The balance. The finesse. The speed.
Do yourself a favour and watch a George Best highlights video on YouTube. You won’t regret it.
Best was a world-class player who Oasis’ Noel Gallagher considers “the greatest footballer of all-time”.
The Northern Irishman made an impact off the pitch, too.
He was dubbed the ‘fifth Beatle’, becoming football’s first celebrity in the 1960s.
Best passed away in 2005 but gave some hilarious quotes during his time.
A pick of the best…
“They say I slept with seven Miss Worlds. I didn’t. It was only four. I didn’t turn up
for the other three.”
“I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I just squandered.”
“If you’d given me the choice of going out and beating four men and smashing a goal in from thirty yards against Liverpool or going to bed with Miss World, it would have been a difficult choice. Luckily, I had both.”
On David Beckham: “He cannot kick with his left foot, he cannot head a ball, he cannot tackle and he doesn’t score many goals. Apart from that he’s all right.”
9. Mario Balotelli
The story of Mario Balotelli is crazy.
The Italian is pure box office.
Whether it’s riling every single Manchester United player, attempting a back-heel shot when a simple strike would have sufficed or lifting up his shirt after scoring to reveal a ‘Why Always Me?’ top, it’s a shame that Balotelli no longer finds himself in the limelight.
You could write a book about all off his off-field antics, too.
- Throwing darts at Man City’s youth players
- Saying: “Because I’m rich” after being stopped by police going around his hometown with £25,000 cash
- Bringing his iPad onto the bench so he could play games on it
- Letting off fireworks inside his house, setting his house on fire in the process
- Driving around a women’s prison because he wanted to “look around”
- Struggling to put a bib on properly
- Having several cars impounded
10. Eric Cantona
The Frenchman is one of the most famous players to wear the No.7 shirt in Manchester United’s history.
Old Trafford will never forget the mercurial genius, whose temper led him to deliver a kung-fu kick on Crystal Palace fan Matthew Simmons in 1995.
Cantona received an eight-match ban and proceeded to deliver a press conference that included references to seagulls and sardines afterwards.
Bizarre Cantona speeches remain a thing of today. “As flies to wanton boys, we are for the gods,” he said on stage at the Champions League draw in August.
11. Ronaldo Nazario
If not for injuries, Ronaldo Nazario would be a more popular choice when we debate who the GOAT is.
The Brazilian combined clinical finishing with astonishing footwork and it was spellbinding to watch.
It’s no wonder Jose Mourinho called him the GOAT over Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.