The 1990s was truly a cracking decade for the beautiful game.
Great goals, passionate fans and legendary players everywhere, it was a golden era for football.
As such, when nominating the best player from the decade, it’s a task that is virtually impossible.
However, football fans have attempted to do just that and the results are certainly eyebrow-raising. The sheer volume of all-time greats who dominated in the 1990s that miss out is pretty ridiculous.
Clarence Seedorf (104th), Paolo Maldini (100th), David Beckham (72nd), Cafu (64th), Roy Keane (42nd) and Paul Gascoigne (35th) – to name just a few – all miss out.
The amount of down voting on some of football’s biggest names over on Ranker suggests sabotage from rivals fans.
However, the top 25 below is still stacked with legendary names!
25. Jari Rantanen
Erm, who? The Finnish striker – who played for Leicester between 1987 and 1989 – didn’t even manage 100 career goals, scoring just 21 in the 1990s. Not the greatest start…
24. Oleg Salenko
Another bizarre inclusion. The Russian striker scored five goals in one World Cup game in 1994, but that’s about as good as it got. Don’t worry, the list does get better!
Finally, a truly world-class name. One of Brazil and Barcelona’s greatest ever players and the 1999 World Player of the Year and Ballon d’Or winner – he was also voted the Copa America Player of the Tournament that same year.
22. Oliver Kahn
The German is one of the greatest goalkeepers ever and Kahn was an absolute colossus for Bayer Munich and Die Mannschaft in the ’90s.
21. Alan Shearer
Now this is a proper striker. The Premier League’s all-time record goal scorer enjoyed huge success in the 1990s with Blackburn and Newcastle, an icon of the English game.
20. Paul Scholes
He wasn’t bad, was he? Scholes was at his magnificent best during the 90s, helping Manchester United win the treble in 1999.
19. Lothar Matthaus
A midfielder that could do it all. Matthaus excelled with Inter Milan, Bayern Munich and Germany, winning the 1990 Ballon d’Or for his efforts.
The legends just keep on coming. Raul is probably the most popular Real Madrid player ever and during the ’90s, there were few better strikers than the Spaniard.
17. Gheorghe Hagi
A silky playmaker who could do it all. However, his best days were behind him by the time the ’90s rolled around, with his spells at Real Madrid and Barcelona both underwhelming. Hagi shouldn’t make the top 25 here.
16. Hristo Stoichkov
The focal point of Barcelona’s ‘dream team’ and a key man in helping Bulgaria reach the World Cup semi-final in 1994.
Another one of Brazil’s all-time greats and Stoichkov’s partner-in-crime for two seasons at Barca. The 1990s belonged to Romario.
14. Eric Cantona
Some will argue that Cantona is United’s greatest ever player. One thing is for sure, he was untouchable for long periods in the 1990s, a player unlike any other.
13. Gabriel Batistuta
Raul, Romario and Shearer were all great, but Batigol really was something else. Scoring goals in Italy is always difficult, so the fact the Argentine made it look so easy with Fiorentina (203 in 331 games) says it all really.
12. Ryan Giggs
Giggs’ achievements in the game are remarkable, there’s no denying that. But ahead of the likes of Rivaldo, Stoichkov and others? Surely not.
11. Luis Figo
Portugal’s Player of the Year in 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999, Figo dominated the world of football with Barcelona in the ’90s, eventually winning the Ballon d’Or in 2000.
10. Roberto Carlos
The fact Carlos finished second in the FIFA World Player of the Year rankings in 1997 says everything. A truly iconic defender.
9. Pavel Nedved
If we were discussing the 2000s, Nedved coming in at ninth would be pretty fair. However, despite success with Sparta Prague and Lazio in the ’90s, his ranking here is far too high.
How this guy isn’t number one is anybody’s guess. The most dominant player on the planet throughout the 1990s with PSV, Barcelona, Inter Milan and Brazil. Eighth place is an insult to El Fenomeno.
7. Thierry Henry
Henry ahead of Ronaldo here is an absolute joke. The Arsenal legend was a dominant force in the 2000s, but the previous decade he was a youngster making his way in the footballing world.
6. Dennis Bergkamp
Bergkamp ahead of Ronaldo? Interesting. The Dutchman was in a class of his own at Arsenal in the Premier League and he also scored THAT goal against Argentina at the 1998 World Cup. But ahead of Ronaldo?!
5. Zinedine Zidane
Zidane’s time with Juventus in the ’90s is actually underrated and he should be further up the rankings. The Frenchman was unplayable in Italy, winning the Ballon d’Or and World Player of the Year awards in 1998.
4. Alessandro Del Piero
Del Piero over Zidane?! Not for us. The silky Italian is one of the best to lace a pair of boots, but Zizou is still a cut above that.
3. Roberto Baggio
If you ever need proof of why Baggio is deservedly third on this list, just go and watch a compilation of the great man at the 1994 World Cup. The pony-tailed Italian was untouchable.
2. Peter Schmeichel
Despite the litany of big names behind him on the list, it’s hard to make a case for Schmeichel not being second. He won Euro ’92 with Denmark and was the best goalkeeper in the world with United. What more could you want?
1. Diego Maradona
By the time 1990 rolled around, Maradona’s career was starting to fall apart. Napoli’s Serie A triumph in 1989/90 was followed by a decent showing at the World Cup in 1990, but it all fell apart after that for the Argentine. As such, him being at number one seems a bit of an insult to the likes of Ronaldo and Zidane.
After a very shaky start, the big names redeem the integrity of the top 25 to some extent.
Regardless of the rankings, it’s always nice to take a trip down memory lane and the sheer nostalgia levels from revisiting the ’90s are off the chart.
Football just seemed better back then, didn’t it?
- Ranking 20 of the most humiliating defeats in football history
- Football fans rank the 50 greatest players of the 2000s
- The 15 greatest individual performances of all-time