Football's greatest: Best players from the decades

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Everybody certainly knows who are the greatest players of our generation, but how about the legends that have graced us with their talents in past times?

The rules of football were devised in the late 1840s, but they became recognisable as they are today in the late '20s and early '30s. 

Let us see the biggest legends since football is as we know it.


Giuseppe Meazza

His name is widely known as the re-name of the San Siro stadium. The Italian forward who was known as "Peppino", is an Inter Milan legend. He was an incredibly prolific scorer, having scored 242 goals in 365 games for the Nerazzurri and was known for his hallmark shots, speed and dribbling ability. 

He won the 1934 and 1938 World Cups with Italy, being the outstanding star in both of them. He started his career as a striker, but then he moved to an inside forward, as his playmaking abilities were as incredible as his goalscoring skills.


Sir Stanley Matthews

Mathews' dribbling was like no-other in his time, as he brought in revolutionary new moves with his body and feet. He was named "the Wizard of Dribble" for his exquisite skills. He is a legendary figure not only for Stoke City and Blackpool but for every English football fan who had the privilege to have witnessed his immense footballing talent.


Alfredo Di Stefano

Di Stefano is synonymous with the success and legacy of the Spanish giants Real Madrid. He was the star in the great mid 1950s Madrid - the most successful side in the history of European football, with the five back-to-back European Cup title wins.

The Argentinian forward was frequently the one who would set-up attacks from midfield and would finish most of them himself, successfully.

Certainly one of the best footballers ever.

Ferenc Puskas

The Hungarian player who played mostly as a second-striker gained his reputation for, above all, his goalscoring ability. Armed with great close ball-control and a ferocious left-foot shot that was a nightmare for any goalkeeper, he managed to score the insane amount of goals, finishing with a record of 616 goals in 620 games.



There cannot be any serious football conversation about the greatest footballers of all time, without mentioning the name of the great Brazilian in the top two choices.

He is the only player that has won the World Cup with Brazil three times and one of the few players to score over 1000 goals in his entire career. 

I don't think I can describe the playing style that Pele had, as he was just the perfect complete footballer, who could do anything on the pitch.

George Best

The Northern Ireland born winger is considered one of the most talented football players that have ever grace a football field. His agility and incredible balance allowed him to run circles around all the defenders of the opposition. 

He certainly was a very controversial person, but his good times with Manchester United will forever be remembered and highlighted.


Together with his fellow Brazilian Pele, they dominated the opposition with pace, agility and trickery. 

He is considered as the greatest one-on-one dribbler in all of football's history. He surely gave us some magical moments throughout his career.


Johan Cruyff

Johan Cruyyf is the most important Dutch player and one of the greatest footballers to ever play. His name is synonymous with the playing style of Total Football.
Cruyff was a playmaker, ammunitions provider and marksman rolled into one. He was known for his technique, acceleration and his unmatched vision.

He was the key and star player in the Ajax side which won three consecutive European Cups in the early '70s.

Franz Beckenbauer

Beckenbauer is the best German and Bayern Munich player of-all-time. A versatile defender who did everything on the pitch, he practically invented by himself the role of the "sweeper" position and he probably is the best ever at it.

Der Kaiser ("The Emperor"), is one of the most decorated players ever and probably one of the most complete football players to ever play the game.


Diego Maradona

The highly controversial Argentinian is considered as the finest player that has ever laced his boot in a football field.

Quite possibly the most unstoppable and most gifted footballer ever, he has scored two of the most famous goals in the history of modern football in the same match, against England in the semi-finals of the 1986 World Cup, the one which he undoubtedly won it single-handedly. A solo goal that was voted as "the greatest goal of the century" and the "hand of God".

Michel Platini

The French magician was an amazing passer, a free-kick specialist and he won the Ballon d'Or three consecutive times, which made people consider him as one of the best playmakers in football history. 

"Le Roi" (The King) is the current UEFA president and an important contributor for European football.


Paolo Maldini

Paulo Maldini has implemented his name into the A.C. Milan's and Italy's grand history as probably its greatest, leading the defence with his genius tackling and marking skills over the years.

He is one of the greatest leaders of his generation, a two-footed defender who played both centre-back and left-back. He had a 25-year marvellous career, making 902 appearances in the Rossoneri kit of Milan.

Roberto Baggio

Both the Ballon d'Or and Fifa Player of the Year in 1993, "Il Divin' Codino" (The Divine Ponytail) was an incredibly technical-gifted player, with moves like no-one else in the 90s. 

He holds the record for the most goals scored by an Italian in the World Cup.


Zinedine Zidane

His name stands synonymous with football excellence and greatness. He had a brilliant footballing talent, a phenomenal ability to create attacks from seemingly nothing situations.

He is a player with an excessive haul of silverware and individual honours - and he is regarded as one of the greatest football players to ever set foot on a field.

Zizou was just that player that could, in a moment, just with one brilliant touch, change the fate of any game.


Ronaldo is one of the most exciting and talented players in football history. The Brazilian striker wasKnown as "the phenomenon", for his wince-inducing dribbling skills, his all-encompassing range of shooting and his killer goalscoring instincts.

Had he not been marred with injuries, he could possibly be the greatest footballer of all time.


Cristiano Ronaldo

Ronaldo is one of the best all round players. A top goalscorer, a great dribbler, set-piece taker, he has incredible positioning and leadership skills - and is seen by many as the most athletic footballer of all time. He is your complete player that you could wish to have on your team.

The portuguese is the current icon of Real Madrid, the player that has either the first or last word of every attack the Merengues make.

Lionel Messi

The absolute reason for the incredible success that Barcelona has enjoyed the past few years, the 26-year-old is widely considered as the best footballer in the world right now.

With countless individual honours, the Argentinian is an unstoppable record-breaker and probably the most important contributor to Barcelona's history.

He can dribble, make plays and draw multiple defenders to free up space for his teammates - and then easily slot home the finish.

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Lionel Messi
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This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

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