Maradona, Ronaldo, Messi: Who is the greatest footballer of all time?

  • Rob Swan

Diego Maradona would have celebrated his 61st birthday on October 30, 2021.

The legendary Argentine footballer sadly passed away in November 2020 after suffering a heart attack at his home in Buenos Aires.

The football world mourned the passing of one of the game’s most colourful characters and unquestionably one of the greatest players in history.

Maradona is best remembered for inspiring Argentina to glory at the 1986 World Cup finals in Mexico.

He also led an Napoli to their only two Serie A title in 1987 and 1990.


But where does El Diego rank on the pantheon of all-time greats in the eyes of football fans?

Over on Ranker, the 50 greatest footballers have all time have been ranked, with a massive 3.5 million votes cast.

Let’s take a closer look at the results:

50. Hristo Stoichkov

49. Dennis Bergkamp

48. Alessandro Del Piero

47. Cafu


46. Andrea Pirlo

45. Philipp Lahm

44. Eric Cantona

43. Ryan Giggs

42. Oliver Kahn

41. Toni Kroos


Legends everywhere and we’ve only just started.

Cafu may feel a little hard done by to only make 47th place considering the Brazilian is the only player to appear in three World Cup finals.

40. Frank Lampard

39. Paolo Maldini


38. Bobby Charlton

37. Sergio Ramos

36. Romario

35. Samuel Eto’o

34. Sergio Aguero

33. Raul

32. Roberto Carlos

31. Steven Gerrard


Sergio Aguero above the likes of Paolo Maldini, Bobby Charlton and Romario is likely to raise eyebrows.

Steven Gerrard was obviously a fantastic player for Liverpool but to see him in 31st place on this list shows just how highly regarded is by football fans across the world.

30. Roberto Baggio

29. Franz Beckenbauer

28. Luis Suarez

27. Manuel Neuer


26. Luis Figo

25. Didier Drogba

24. Iker Casillas

23. Wayne Rooney

22. Thierry Henry


21. Zlatan Ibrahimovic

It’s not a shock to see any of these superstars on the list. All were magnificent footballers at their peak.

Thierry Henry is arguably the greatest player in Premier League history and is perhaps a little unfortunate to find himself out of the top 20. Then again, the same can be said for Franz Beckenbauer, one of the best defenders in history.

20. Carles Puyol

19. David Beckham

18. Francesco Totti

17. George Best


16. Lev Yashin

15. Xavi

14. Peter Schmeichel

13. Pele


12. Neymar

11. Gianluigi Buffon

The thing that stands out here is Pele in 13th(!) place – below Neymar! The Brazilian icon has been regarded by many as the greatest footballer of all time over the past few decades, but perhaps his reputation suffers because there’s not as much footage of the three-time World Cup winner in action compared to other players on this list. For some, the fact that he never played in Europe also counts against him.

David Beckham in such a high position on the list is surprising. The former England captain was an excellent player but the 19th best in history? That seems *very* generous.

10. Johan Cruyff


9. Andres Iniesta

8. Gerd Muller

7. Luka Modric

6. Ronaldinho


Luka Modric the seventh best footballer in history? The Croatian midfielder has been sensational for Real Madrid since joining the Spanish giants from Tottenham in 2012, but there’s no way that he should be above Gerd Muller, Andres Iniesta and Johan Cruyff.

Ronaldinho in sixth place feels about right based on pure talent. The Brazilian is arguably the most skilful footballer that we’ve ever seen.

5. Cristiano Ronaldo


4. Zinedine Zidane

3. Ronaldo

2. Lionel Messi

1. Diego Maradona


But it’s the late Maradona who tops the fans’ rankings, edging out his compatriot Lionel Messi to finish in pole position.

Cristiano Ronaldo won’t be happy to see himself down in fifth place, behind his former boss Zinedine Zidane and namesake Ronaldo Nazario, but there won’t be many complaints to see the great Maradona top of the pile.


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