The best 10 players ever
As the 2014 world Cup qualifiers start to take shape, soccer nations and the best players in the world are at full throttle to qualify and get a chance to become the best nation in the world.
I think it is time to have a look at, in my opinion, the 10 best players to ever grace the soccer pitch.
The criteria for selection is based on: the player’s unique playing style, originality, impact on the world soccer community as a result of his on-the-pitch activities, impact at the national and international level, overall qualities, the number of individual and team titles won and their seemingly effortless capacity to do repeatedly complicated soccer actions that most of their peers have difficulties in achieving.
10 FRANZ BECKENBAUER (GERMANY)
The “Kaiser” as he is best known in Germany was a defender who was one of the pioneers of the art of offensive defending. He carved out the art of defenders overlapping into the heart of the game, creating a numeric advantage and also scoring important goals. A form of total football and the elegance he introduced into football was the foundation that modern defenders now build their game on.
He is the captain of Bayern Munich and Germany. At the club level he played 587 games and scored 81 goals. For Germany he played 103 games and scored 14 goals.
As a player he won as much as 22 titles in a career that spanned 19 years.
9 ALFREDO DI STEFANO ( ARGENTINA AND SPAIN)
Alfredo di Stefano is widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time. His world success was recognised while playing with Real Madrid and he was the force behind their domination of the European scene during the 1950s. With Di Stefano, Madrid won the European Champions trophy in five consecutive seasons from 1956. Di Stefano played international football mostly for Spain but he also played for Argentina and Colombia.
He was nicknamed "Saeta rubia" ("blond arrow") because of his looks. He was an extremely powerful striker, full of endurance, tactical versatility and vision and had the capacity to play several positions on the pitch. He scored 216 goals in 282 league matches between 1953 and 1964.
At the club level he scored a total of 377 goals in 521 matches. In 31 games for Spain he scored 23 goals.
8 SAMUEL ETO’O (CAMEROON)
Samuel is currently playing for Anzhi Makhachkala. This is, in my opinion, the most underrated but best player to come out of the African continent. The three times Champions League winner, twice with Barcelona and once with Inter Milan.
He scored over 100 goals in five seasons with Barcelona. In 2010, he became the first player to win two European continental trebles following his back-to-back achievements with Barcelona and Inter Milan. He is one of the very rare players in the world to have won the Uefa Champions League two years in a row with different teams. He is the most decorated African player of all time, having won the African Player of the Year Award a record four Times, in 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2010.
An Olympic gold medalist with Cameroon, he featured in three world cups, was an African Nations Cup champion twice and is the all-time leading scorer in the history of the African Nations Cup, with 18 goals.
He is a complete player; good in the air, good with both feet, extremely fast, a good dribbler, tactically world class, a great defender for his team, a good goal provider for colleagues and deadly in front of goal.
Currently he has scored 275 goals for club and country.
7 JOHAN CRUYFF (HOLLAND)
He won the Ballon D’or (Golden Ball) three times in the 70s, a feat equaled only by Michel Platini, Lionel Messi and Marco van Basten.
Cruyff was one of the most famous exponents of the football philosophy known as Total Football and is widely regarded as one of the greatest players universally. He invented the Cruyff dribble, a gesture that completely wrong foots the opponent while the striker goes in the opposite direction.
He scored 324 goals during his playing days.
6 CRISTIANO RONALDO (PORTUGAL)
He has been at the centre of world soccer for the past four years now. He is a blisteringly quick striker, good with both feet, great in the air, a great dribbler and a deadly finisher in front of goal.
He strikes the ball in a special way that gives it all kinds of effects when approaching the goalkeeper and hence he scores loads of free kicks.
Ronaldo is the world’s most expensive footballer ever. Ronaldo made history as the first player to win all four main PFA and FWA awards in England in 2007.
In 2008 he won the Ballon D’or, coming second in 2007, 2009 and 2011. He was awarded the European Golden Shoe (Europe’s highest goal scorer) in both 2008 and 2011. In 2008 he won three of the four main PFA and FWA trophies and was named the FIFPro Player of the Year, World Soccer Player of the Year, Onze d'Or, and the Fifa World Player of the Year in 2007 and 2008.
Ronaldo holds numerous scoring records, including the record for most goals scored in a season for Real Madrid and the record of the most goals scored per minute in the Spanish La Liga.
He was the first top European league player to reach 40 goals in a single season in two consecutive years.
He is the first player ever to score against every team in a single season in La Liga.
He is currently the third highest capped player for his fatherland Portugal and has scored 244 goals for club and country.
5 LIONEL MESSI (ARGENTINA)
This is a player termed by many as the best player of all time. He is probably the only player in the world that is faster with the ball at his feet in movement as opposed to running without the ball. He is strong, intelligent and a very influential player. Messi is Barcelona’s all-time top scorer.
In 2009 Messi won the Ballon d'Or and Fifa World Player of the Year and the inaugural Fifa Ballon d'Or in 2010 and 2011. He also won the 2010/11 Uefa Best Player in Europe Award. He is the fourth football player to win three Ballon d'Or awards and the second player to win three consecutive Ballon d'Ors awards.
Messi is the first player to score five goals in one Champions League match, also matching the record of 14 goals in a single Champions League season. He is the first player to top-score in four successive Champions League campaigns.
Messi holds the world record for most goals scored in a season during the 2011/12 season (73 goals). He also set the current goal scoring record in a single La Liga season, scoring 50 goals.
He is an Olympic gold medalist and the only award missing on his shelves is the World Cup Trophy.
In total he has scored 218 goals in his career.
4 RONALDO LUIS NAZARIO DE LIMA (BRAZIL)
Ronaldo, (the real Ronaldo as some call him) is considered by experts and fans as one of the greatest football players of all time. He twice won the Ballon d'Or as the European Footballer of the Year. He is one of only three men to have won the Fifa Player of the Year Award three times, along with Zinedine Zidane and Lionel Messi.
He is considered by many as the most complete striker in the past 30 years. He has won two World Cups (1994 and 2002). Ronaldo became the highest goal scorer in the history of the World Cup with 15 goals.
Ronaldo is the only player to have won the World Cup Golden Ball and Golden Boot in separate tournaments.
He scored 414 goals during his senior career for club and country.
3 ZINEDINE ZIDANE (FRANCE)
Zinedine Zidane was called “The magician” during his playing days. The ball seemed glued to his feet and he was capable of executing every gesture in the game of soccer. Whether dribbling, volleying, shooting, passing defending or heading, you name it and he did excellently.
France’s domination of world football co-incided with his emergence into their national soccer team and ended subsequently with his exit from the scene. He won the 1998 World Cup and 2000 European Championship for France.
At club level Zidane won the La Liga and the Uefa Champions League with Real Madrid, two Serie A league championships with Juventus and an Intercontinental Cup and a Uefa Super Cup each with both aforementioned sides.
He was the Fifa World Player of the Year winner three times (1998, 2000 and 2003) and also won the Ballon d'Or in 1998.
He scored 126 goals for club and country.
2 DIEGO MARADONA (ARGENTINA)
El Piebe D’oro (the golden foot) as he was nicknamed, Diego Armando Maradona was ‘inhuman’ when on the ball. Many experts, football critics, former players, current players and football fans in general consider Maradona to be the greatest football player of all time.
He was joint Fifa Player of the 20th Century with Pele.
He was the only footballer to set world-record contract fees twice; firstly when transferring to Barcelona for a then world record £5m, and secondly when he transferred to Napoli for another record fee, £6.9m.
He played in four Fifa World Cup tournaments, most remarkably the 1986 tournament, where he captained Argentina and led them to victory almost single handedly, winning the Golden Ball Award as the tournament's best player along the way.
In the 1986 World cup v England, Maradona scored the goal that the world rates as the greatest goal ever scored in football. He did a 60 metre dribble past five England players, which included the goalkeeper. It was voted "The Goal of the Century" by Fifa.com voters in 2002.
He single handedly inspired a modest Napoli team in the 80s from an unknown team status to Italian and European championship, in style. To date he holds religious status in the eyes of Neapolitans in Italy and Argentina.
He scored 292 Goals during his career for club and country.
1 EDSON ARANTES DONACIMENTO (PELE) - BRAZIL
The undisputable best player of all time. He is the first and only player ever to actively win three World Cups, winning the first one at the tender age of 17 (1958). He set the record as the only player to win a World Cup in three different decades: 1958, 1962 and 1970.
He is the most complete player ever to grace the soccer field – fast, innovative, a striker, a midfielder and defender. He was way ahead in his days and played with the intelligence and skill in the 70s that players do in modern times.
He is rightfully regarded by many experts, players and fans as the best player of all time.
Pele helped his club, Santos, win the 1962, 1963 Copa Libertadores, the most prestigious club competition in South American football before winning the 1962 Intercontinental Cup and 1963 Intercontinental Cup against European Champions Benfica and AC Milan.
In 1962 Pele led Santos to become the first football club ever to win four out of four competitions in a single year, thus achieving the quadruple.
He is the all-time leading scorer of the Brazil national football team and the most successful league goal scorer in the world with 541 League goals.
In all, for club and country, Pele Scored a total of 1033 goals, all games included.