Lionel Messi or Diego Maradona? Is Pele the undisputed greatest from Brazil? Clint Dempsey or Landon Donovan? What concerning the No. 1 from England? After asking our writers to appoint essentially the most iconic gamers from all over the world, we would like you to vote as we attempt to settle a few of the sport’s greatest debates: Who’s the best male participant of all time from 13 key nations?
Arising with shortlists was no simple job, as first we needed to set up a transparent standards for GOAT candidacy. Our panel of writers took under consideration worldwide and membership accolades, in addition to issues comparable to historic significance and a participant’s relationship/reference to followers.
For instance, Hugo Sanchez makes Mexico’s checklist extra resulting from his membership accomplishments in Spain than his success with El Tri, and Alfredo Di Stefano, who performed for 3 totally different nations, is in Argentina’s high three resulting from his contribution towards the sport’s progress in South America.
Merely put, let the debates — and voting — start …
Lionel Messi, FW (taking part in profession 2004-)
Notable accomplishments: World Cup second place (1), World Cup Golden Ball (1), Ballon d’Or (6), FIFA World Participant of the 12 months (1), The Greatest FIFA Males’s Participant (1), World Cup Dream Crew (1), Copa America Golden Ball (1), Argentine Participant of the 12 months (11)
Making a case for Messi: Maybe no participant within the historical past of the sport has been in a position to maintain such constant excellence on the highest degree for a decade and a half — and counting. With the ball tied to his left foot, Messi is a genius in tight areas, and appears to be watching the sport from the very best seat in the home, conscious of what’s occurring all around the pitch and making pivotal selections in a fraction of a second. True, there aren’t any senior titles with Argentina so as to add to all of the silverware he has gained with Barcelona — although he does have an Below-20 Cup title and an Olympic gold medal to his identify. Even so, he has scored extra targets for Argentina than anybody else and has carried them to 4 finals (one World Cup, three Copa Americas). With 640 targets for Barcelona, Messi wants solely 4 extra targets to interrupt Pele’s one-club aim file of 643.
Diego Maradona, MF (1976-1997)
Notable accomplishments: World Cup (1), World Cup Golden Ball (1), World Cup Silver Ball (1), World Cup Silver Shoe (1), World Cup All-Star Crew (2), World Cup All-Time Crew; FIFA Participant of the Century; Serie A (2), South American Footballer of the 12 months (2), Argentine Footballer of the 12 months (4)
Making a case for Maradona: Maradona may very well be his personal worst enemy, and his life and profession adopted a path as mazy as a few of his low centre of gravity dribbles, with drug issues and loads of controversy alongside the best way. However it’s uncertain that any participant, earlier than or since, has hit the heights in a World Cup that he reached in 1986. It got here at a time when he was unstoppable, even for many who tried to foul him. Standing simply 5-foot-5, he wanted distinctive bravery to carry out as he did so fantastically in membership soccer in Argentina and, most notably, in main Napoli to a pair of Serie A titles. Maradona’s profession featured varied peaks and valleys, however his greatest stretches are among the many greatest we have ever seen.
Alfredo Di Stefano, FW (1945-1966)
Notable accomplishments: South American championship (1), Ballon d’Or (2), World Crew of the Century; European Cup (5), La Liga (8)
Making a case for Di Stefano: The final and best product of the Forties golden age of Argentine soccer, Di Stefano helped Argentina win the 1947 Copa America, however that hardly scratches the floor of his affect. He helped get skilled soccer in Colombia up and operating starring for Millonarios, however that was a mere warm-up for what he would do in Europe. When the European Cup (now Champions League) was launched in 1955, the continent was nonetheless recovering from battle. It may have failed however thanks largely to Di Stefano, the guts and brains of Actual Madrid, it was a surprising success. Nominally a striker, he dominated the sphere as Actual gained the primary 5 variations of the competitors, imposing his approach, intelligence and can on throughout him. These years modified soccer and, by serving to enhance the picture of Spain, modified the course of post-war European historical past. No participant has been extra influential. — Tim Vickery
ESPN FC’s panel is unanimous in declaring Pele Brazil’s all-time greatest over Garrincha and Ronaldo.
Pele, FW (1956-1977)
Notable accomplishments: World Cup (3), World Cup Golden Ball (1), Ballon d’Or (7), World Cup Silver Ball (1), FIFA Participant of the Century, South American Footballer of the 12 months (1), Copa Libertadores (2), Brazilian league (6)
Making a case for Pele: Pele had all of it: energy, velocity, stability, imaginative and prescient, immaculate two-footed approach, aerial skill, cunningness, intelligence, an enormous match temperament, and a fearsome will to make sure he bought essentially the most out of his expertise. Earlier than Pele, Brazil had been all potential. By the top of his taking part in profession, they had been the undisputed world energy, each for the amount of titles and for the audacious and joyful approach wherein they had been achieved. From the exuberant skinny teenager of Sweden 1958 by means of to the excellent sensible previous owl of Mexico 1970, Pele was the soul of the attractive sport.
Garrincha, RW (1951-1972)
Notable accomplishments: World Cup (2), World Cup Golden Ball (1), World Cup Golden Boot (1), World Cup All-Star Crew (2), Ballon d’Or (1), World Crew of the Century, Brazilian Championship greatest participant (1)
Making a case for Garrincha: Some Brazilians price Garrincha larger than Pele. It’s a stretch — not least as a result of Garrincha’s peak solely lasted from 1956 to his knee operation in 1962 — however it’s onerous to consider anybody who gave followers extra pleasure. Garrincha turned soccer right into a variation of bullfighting the place nobody died however a whole bunch of left-backs had been humiliated, tormented and toyed with. Born with a uncommon abnormality — certainly one of his legs was longer than the opposite — Garrincha feinted this fashion and that earlier than beating defenders on the surface. Everybody knew what he was going to do, however nobody appeared in a position to cease him. His most interesting hour got here within the 1962 World Cup. With Pele injured, Garrincha scored 4 targets to hold an getting old Brazil to the title.
Ronaldo, FW (1993-2011)
Notable accomplishments: World Cup (2), World Cup runner-up (1), World Cup Golden Ball (1), World Cup Silver Ball (1), World Cup Golden Boot (1), World Cup All-Star Crew (2), Ballon d’Or (2), FIFA World Participant of the 12 months (3), Copa America (2), European Golden Shoe (1), La Liga (1), Serie A Participant of the 12 months (1)
Making a case for Ronaldo: Soccer exploded within the late ’90s, changing into the world’s main sports activities attraction — and the sport’s poster boy throughout that period was certainly one of its most explosive strikers of all-time. Few gamers, if any, have run with the ball at their toes with the tempo and energy of Brazil’s Ronaldo — attributes which got here along with two-footed approach, subtlety and uncommon calm. In full circulate, he was merely dazzling. Equally spectacular was the best way that he slowed down as he approached aim, saved his head nonetheless, and picked his spot. Who may cease him? Solely his personal bodily limitations. It’s attainable that he bulked up an excessive amount of — the hunt for energy meant that he didn’t lengthy stay the thin child who first made a reputation for himself with Cruzeiro in Brazil. After two years with PSV within the Netherlands, he got here alight in a golden season with Barcelona — after which onto Inter Milan, the place the knee issues started to plague him. Twice he broke down in excruciating agony and plenty of thought he would by no means play top-class soccer ever once more. And so his triumphant comeback on the 2002 World Cup, the place his targets fired Brazil to victory, is without doubt one of the most heartwarming tales within the historical past of the sport. — Tim Vickery
Clint Dempsey, FW (2004-2018)
Notable accomplishments: Gold Cup (3), Gold Cup runners-up (1), Gold Cup high scorer (1), U.S. joint-record aim scorer; U.S. Soccer Athlete of the 12 months (3), Confederations Cup Bronze Ball (1), MLS Cup (1), US Open Cup (1), MLS All-Star workforce (4)
Making a case for Dempsey: Dempsey’s profession spanned 14 seasons, seven which had been within the Premier League with Fulham and Tottenham Hotspur. Twice successful Fulham’s Participant of the Season award, he additionally excelled in MLS with the New England Revolution and the Seattle Sounders. Nevertheless it was with the U.S. nationwide workforce that Dempsey endeared himself to American followers, scoring in three totally different World Cups and ending tied with Landon Donovan because the U.S. workforce’s all-time main scorer with 57 targets. Greater than something, Dempsey introduced a swagger to the sphere — and willingness to check himself abroad — to which U.S. followers may relate. Not unhealthy in any respect for a child from Nacogdoches, Texas.
Landon Donovan, FW (1999-2018)
Notable accomplishments: World Cup All-Star Crew (1), World Cup Greatest Younger Participant (1), Gold Cup (4), Gold Cup MVP (1), Gold Cup high scorer (3), Gold Cup workforce of the event (4), U.S. joint-record aim scorer; U.S. Soccer Athlete of the 12 months (4), USMNT Participant of the 12 months (7), MLS Cup (6), MLS MVP (1), MLS Golden Boot (1), MLS Greatest XI (7), MLS All-Star workforce (14)
Making the case for Donovan: Donovan divided opinion amongst U.S. followers like maybe no different. Except for very temporary stints with Bayer Leverkusen, Bayern Munich, and Everton, Donovan spent the majority of his profession in MLS. He was little question profitable in that league — he retired because the league’s all-time main scorer — successful six MLS Cups throughout his time with the San Jose Earthquakes and LA Galaxy. However there was a way he may have completed extra in Europe towards the world’s high expertise. That mentioned, his performances with the U.S. bolster his place among the many nation’s greatest. Not solely is he tied with Dempsey for many U.S. targets (57) — 5 of which got here in World Cups — however his 58 worldwide assists are a U.S. file as effectively. After which there may be the last-minute aim towards Algeria, essentially the most iconic second within the historical past of the USMNT.
Tim Howard, GK (1997-)
Notable accomplishments: Gold Cup (2), U.S. Soccer Athlete of the 12 months (2), CONCACAF Goalkeeper of the 12 months (3), CONCACAF Greatest XI (1), PFA Crew of the 12 months (1), MLS All-Star workforce (3)
Making the case for Howard: In relation to all-time U.S. greats, there aren’t any scarcity of keepers to select from, with Kasey Keller and Brad Friedel among the many contenders. However Howard’s contributions for each membership and nation edge out the opposite two. Howard started his skilled profession within the USL with the New Jersey Imperials, however he quickly moved on to MLS with the MetroStars, the place he parlayed his robust performances right into a transfer to Manchester United. Whereas he endured some inconsistent spells with the Crimson Devils, his subsequent 10 seasons at Everton noticed him turn out to be a stalwart and fan favorite on Merseyside, the place he made a complete of over 400 appearances. He was simply as important for the U.S., showing 121 instances and beginning at each the 2010 and 2014 World Cups. It’s that 2014 World Cup for which Howard will probably be most remembered, particularly his event file 15 saves in a 2-1 extra-time defeat to Belgium.
Tab Ramos, MF (1988-2002)
Notable accomplishments: CONCACAF Participant of the 12 months (1), U.S. Soccer Athlete of the 12 months (1), U.S. Soccer Corridor of Fame (1), MLS All-Star workforce (3), ASL All-Star workforce (1)
Making the case for Ramos: The primary American to play in three World Cups, Ramos was among the many most gifted U.S. gamers of his technology, a performer able to hitting defense-splitting passes in addition to popping up for giant targets. He was a part of the pioneering spirit that characterised gamers of the late Eighties and 90s, heading to Europe the place he, spent two seasons with Figueres and later Actual Betis. He then returned dwelling to play for the New York/New Jersey MetroStars of MLS. However his most noteworthy exploits got here in a U.S. shirt. His aim towards Costa Rica in a 1-0 U.S. win clinched qualification to the 1998 World Cup, and he arrange Earnie Stewart’s aim within the 2-1 win over Colombia on the 1994 World Cup. There’s a sense of “What if?” about Ramos’ profession, because the fractured cranium he suffered towards Brazil within the ’94 World Cup sidelined him for an prolonged interval. — Jeff Carlisle
The ESPN FC panel discusses which England legend is the best to ever play for the Three Lions.
Gordon Banks, GK (1958-78)
Notable accomplishments: World Cup (1), European Championship third place (1), World Cup All-Star Crew (1), FIFA Goalkeeper of the 12 months (6), FWA Footballer of the 12 months (1)
Making a case for Banks: When England gained their first (and thus far solely) World Cup, in 1966, the contribution of goalkeeper Banks was simply as vital as that of Bobby Charlton and hat-trick hero Geoff Hurst. Banks saved clear sheets in England’s first 4 video games in ’66 and conceded solely two targets from open play in the complete event. Banks was extensively thought to be the world’s greatest goalkeeper through the late-Sixties and early Seventies, and his save from Pele throughout a World Cup conflict towards Brazil in 1970, when Banks someway dived full-stretch to palm Pele’s goal-bound header over the bar, stays one of many sport’s most iconic moments. A automobile crash in October 1972, when splinters of glass price him the sight in his proper eye, prematurely ended Banks’s England profession at age 34.
Bobby Charlton, MF (1956-75)
Notable accomplishments: World Cup (1), European Championship third place (1), Ballon d’Or (1), Ballon d’Or second place (2), World Cup Golden Ball (1), World Cup All-Time Crew, World Cup All-Star Crew (2), FWA Footballer of the 12 months (1), European Cup (1), First Division (3)
Making a case for Charlton: Till Wayne Rooney grew to become the primary England participant to attain greater than 50 worldwide targets, Charlton had been the nation’s all-time file aim scorer (49) for nearly half a century. The Manchester United midfielder, who survived the 1958 Munich air catastrophe that killed eight of his membership teammates, made 106 appearances for England, with the excessive level coming within the 1966 World Cup remaining win towards West Germany at Wembley. Solely six gamers have represented England extra instances. Charlton’s two-goal efficiency within the semifinal victory towards Portugal was arguably his best on the worldwide stage. In that sport, Charlton showcased each his tireless vitality in midfield, however his additionally goal-scoring prowess and skill to search out the web from distance.
Jimmy Greaves, ST (1957-71)
Notable accomplishments: World Cup (1), European Cup Winners Cup (1), Serie A (1), FA Cup (2)
Making a case for Greaves: Greaves was essentially the most prolific aim scorer of his technology and a participant regarded by many as England’s greatest-ever striker. The previous Chelsea, AC Milan and Tottenham star scored 44 targets in 57 video games for England, however his worldwide profession was outlined by the damage that price him his place in Sir Alf Ramsey’s workforce through the triumphant 1966 World Cup marketing campaign. Greaves was the quickest England striker to fifteen, 20, 25, 30, 35 and 40 targets and nonetheless has the file of scoring essentially the most hat tips — six — for his nation. His file of 357 targets in England’s high division is unlikely to ever be crushed, as he sits 43 away from second place Steve Bloomer and a whopping 177 forward of the lively chief, Sergio Aguero.
Bobby Moore, DF (1958-83)
Notable accomplishments: FIFA World Cup (1), European Championship third place (1), Ballon d’Or second place (1), World Cup All-Time Crew (1), World Cup All-Star Crew (1), European Championship Crew of the Match (1), FWA Footballer of the 12 months (1), European Cup Winners’ Cup (1)
Making a case for Moore: Extensively thought to be England’s greatest-ever participant, Moore was the person who lifted the Jules Rimet Trophy following the 1966 World Cup remaining victory over West Germany. The centre-half was not blessed with blistering tempo, however his studying of the sport and calm temperament mixed to make him the excellent defender of his technology. He captained England for 10 years, from the age of 23 till his remaining look in 1973 and gained 108 caps. His commanding efficiency in a 1-0 defeat to Brazil on the 1970 World Cup is remembered as his best, with the postmatch shot of Moore being embraced by Pele proving to be one of the iconic in World Cup historical past. — Mark Ogden
Cristiano Ronaldo, FW (2002-)
Notable accomplishments: European Championship (1), UEFA Nations League (1), Ballon d’Or (5), FIFA World Participant of the 12 months (1), The Greatest FIFA Males’s Participant (2), World Cup Dream Crew (1). European Championship Silver Boot (1), European Golden Shoe (4), FIFA Puskas Award (1), FIFA FIFPro World XI (13), Champions League (5), FIFA Membership World Cup (4), Premier League (3), La Liga (2), Serie A (2)
Making a case for Ronaldo: Ronaldo, alongside Lionel Messi, has dominated world soccer for nearly 20 years. One of the devoted athletes you will discover in any sport, Ronaldo’s mixture of velocity, high quality, energy and unpredictability make him an absolute nightmare to defend towards, beforehand as a left-winger with Sporting, Man United and his early years with Actual Madrid, and these days as an tailored in-the-box aim scorer with Juventus. Having gained 5 Ballon d’Ors, 5 Champions Leagues, three Premier Leagues, two La Ligas, and two Serie A titles, Ronaldo has gained seemingly every thing there may be to win in membership soccer. His Portugal profession is sort of as embellished, as he led a shocking Portugal workforce to Euro 2016 glory and is certainly one of two gamers ever to have scored 100 worldwide targets (102 and counting). Ronaldo, now 35, remains to be going robust and is at present solely seven targets wanting besting Iran’s Ali Daei’s file of 109 worldwide targets.
Eusebio, FW (1957-1980)
Notable accomplishments: World Cup third place (1), Ballon d’Or (1), FIFA XI (2), FIFA 100, World Cup Golden Boot (1), World Cup Bronze Ball (1), World Cup All-Star Crew (1), European Golden Shoe (2), Portuguese Footballer of the 12 months (2), European Cup (1), Portuguese Primeira Liga (11)
Making a case for Eusebio: The “Black Panther” was certainly one of soccer’s most prolific gamers, scoring 727 targets in 715 video games for Benfica between 1960-1975 and one other 41 in 64 video games for Portugal. Devastatingly fast and blessed with a rocket of a proper foot, Eusebio fittingly scored a hat trick in his first sport for the Portuguese giants. Having risen above poverty in his native Mozambique, the striker is credited with being certainly one of Africa’s first true superstars and would go on to win the European Cup with Benfica in 1962, the Ballon d’Or in 1965 and the European Golden Boot in each 1968 and 1973. That mentioned, Eusebio’s brightest second got here on the 1966 World Cup, the place he led Portugal all the best way to what’s nonetheless a nationwide greatest, third-place end, scoring 9 targets to win the Golden Boot and Bronze ball alongside the best way.
Luis Figo, FW (1989-2009)
Notable accomplishments: Ballon d’Or (1), FIFA World Participant of the 12 months (1), FIFA 100, World Cup All-Star Crew (1), European Championship Crew of the Match (2), Portuguese Footballer of the 12 months (6), Champions League (1), La Liga (4), Serie A (4)
Making a case for Figo: Whereas Cristiano Ronaldo and Eusebio had been aim scorers, Figo was greatest identified for his passing and position as a playmaker. In his early days, the Almada-born man was a dynamic and direct winger who may get down the flank and curl in crosses or lower in to create capturing alternatives. As his velocity deteriorated, Figo dropped into midfield the place he reinvented himself as a No.10 to nice impact. Spending time at Sporting, Barcelona, Actual Madrid and Inter, the 2000 Ballon d’Or winner, would go on to win 22 membership trophies, together with the Champions League with Madrid in 2002. Whereas he by no means gained a significant event with Portugal, he appeared in three Euros and two World Cups, was chosen six instances because the Portuguese Participant of the 12 months, and retired as Portugal’s all-time caps chief with 129 (since surpassed by Ronaldo). — Gus Elvin
Former France defender Frank Leboeuf reveals his high participant to don the shirt of Les Bleus.
Thierry Henry, ST (1994-2014)
Notable accomplishments: World Cup (1), European Championship (1), Ballon d’Or second place (1), World Cup All-Star Crew (1), European Championship Crew of the Match (1), French Participant of the 12 months (5), Champions League (1), Membership World Cup (1), Premier League (2), La Liga (2), Ligue 1 (1)
Making a case for Henry: The most effective striker France has ever seen, forward of Simply Fontaine. His file speaks for itself: 123 caps (second highest), 51 targets (highest), one World Cup triumph in 1998 at 20, one Euro title in 2000, performed in 4 World Cups, and he scored some unimaginable targets for the nationwide workforce, to not point out his golf equipment. He took Arsenal to the highest of English soccer, main “The Invincibles” to an unbeaten home season (03-04), and scoring 175 targets in 258 Premier League video games over eight plus seasons with the Gunners. And when Henry left London in the summertime of 2007, he joined Barcelona to lastly win the Champions League, reinventing himself as a winger alongside Lionel Messi and Samuel Eto’o to assist Barca win a treble underneath Pep Guardiola. It’s a disgrace that the Parisian’s legacy was tarnished barely by his notorious handball towards the Republic of Eire in 2009 that resulted in his nation qualifying for the 2010 World Cup. He mentioned it was a foul reflex and when the controversy raged on, he felt he was not supported sufficient by folks in France. It was not his most wonderful second, nor was the 2010 World Cup which adopted. That mentioned, he indisputably stays probably the greatest strikers of contemporary instances, who at instances was merely unplayable.
Raymond Kopa, FW (1949-67)
Notable accomplishments: World Cup third place (1), Ballon d’Or (1), World Cup All-Star Crew (1), French Participant of the 12 months (1), European Cup (3), La Liga (2), Ligue 1 (4)
Making a case for Kopa: In case you lookup firsts for French soccer, Kopa is commonly instances the reply. He was the primary to win the Ballon d’Or, to maneuver to the largest membership on the earth when becoming a member of Actual Madrid in 1956, to win the European Cup in 1957 (and in 1958 and 1959) and to turn out to be an enormous soccer star in France after he led Les Bleus to 3rd place within the 1958 World Cup in Sweden. He had nice tempo and great expertise with a flamboyant fashion.
Michel Platini, MF (1972-87)
Notable accomplishments: World Cup third place (1), European Championship (1), Ballon d’Or (3), World Cup All-Time Crew, World Cup All-Star Crew (2), European Championship Participant of the Match (1), French Participant of the Century, European Cup (1): Serie A (2), Ligue 1 (1)
Making a case for Platini: A No. 10 who was additionally a No. 9 and so many different issues. He delivered the primary soccer trophy to the nation with a panoramic 1984 European Championship (9 targets in 5 video games). He was a beautiful captain, a terrific chief, with imaginative and prescient, intelligence and a mind for aim. He was additionally a free-kick grasp. His performances with Juventus additionally confirmed that he may do it overseas in the very best league on the earth on the time. He gained the Ballon d’Or thrice and got here near World Cup glory in 1982 and 1986.
Zinedine Zidane, MF (1989-2006)
Notable accomplishments: World Cup (1), European Championship (1), Ballon d’Or (1), FIFA World Participant of the 12 months (3), World Cup Golden Ball (1), World Cup All-Star Crew (2), European Championship Participant of the Match (1), FIFA XI (4), French Participant of the 12 months (2), Champions League (1), La Liga (1), Serie A (2)
Making a case for Zidane: Poetry in movement. Watching him play stay was all the time a spectacle, as he’s certainly essentially the most technically gifted participant France has ever produced. His soccer got here from the streets of Marseille the place his beautiful first contact was formed. His imaginative and prescient and expertise had been wonderful. He was quiet off the pitch however had a fiery mood on it and his final sport will all the time be remembered for his purple card within the 2006 World Cup remaining when he head-butted Marco Materazzi. Zidane’s exploits together with his nation in 1998, 2000 and 2006, in addition to his achievements with Bordeaux, Juventus, and Actual Madrid, alongside his 1998 Ballon d’Or, make him one of many world’s greatest ever, by no means thoughts in France. — Julien Laurens
Franz Beckenbauer, DF (1964-83)
Notable accomplishments: World Cup (1), European Championship (1), Ballon d’Or (2), World Cup Silver Ball (1), World Cup All-Time Crew, World Cup All-Star Crew (3), German Footballer of the 12 months (4), European Cup (3), Bundesliga (5)
Making a case for Beckenbauer: Der Kaiser, which interprets as “the Emperor”, invented the place of the libero, an attacking sweeper. With class, intelligence and magnificence, he led the strains from behind the centre-backs with highly effective lengthy runs and stylish passes. One of many few Germans to ever win the Ballon d’Or — and he did it twice. He led Germany to 1974 World Cup glory, and he performed within the 1966 and 1970 editions in addition to being a part of the 1972 European Championship-winning facet.
Philipp Lahm, DF (2001-17)
Notable accomplishments: World Cup (1), World Cup All-Star Crew (1), FIFA FIFPro World XI (2), Champions League (1), Membership World Cup (1), Bundesliga (8)
Making a case for Lahm: The most effective defender of his technology, Lahm led Germany and Bayern Munich by instance. Pep Guardiola mentioned he was “essentially the most clever participant I ever coached.” He gained eight Bundesliga titles, six DFB-Pokals and the 2013 Champions League with Bayern as they ran away from the remainder of the Bundesliga within the early 2010s. Beginning out at left-back, switching over to right-back, after which shifting up into holding midfield, he was world class in a number of positions. A accident, Shkodran Mustafi’s damage within the round-of-16 match towards Algeria, noticed Lahm return to the right-back place for Germany on the 2014 World Cup, a transfer thought to be important for the Nationalmannschaft to win their fourth World Cup. Lahm captained the facet and was the primary to carry the trophy into the Rio de Janeiro evening.
Gerd Muller, ST (1963-81)
Notable accomplishments: World Cup (1), European Championship (1), Ballon d’Or (1), World Cup Golden Boot (1), World Cup All-Star Crew (1), European Championship Prime Scorer (1), German Footballer of the 12 months (2), European Cup (3), Bundesliga (4)
Making a case for Muller: Muller’s identify stands for targets, targets, targets, and “Der Bomber” scored 365 of them within the Bundesliga. He was Germany’s all-time high scorer with 68 targets till Miroslav Klose eclipsed him, and he was additionally the all-time high scorer at World Cup finals till first the Brazilian Ronaldo after which, effectively, Klose scored extra. He’s deeply anchored within the German historical past because the scorer of the successful aim within the 1974 World Cup remaining as West Germany beat the Netherlands 2-1. By no means a person to entertain the crowds with phrases, his aim stats to this very day are up there with Messi’s or Ronaldo’s. His scoring instincts and ending skill stay unmatched. — Stephan Uersfeld
Roberto Baggio, FW (1982-2004)
Notable accomplishments: World Cup runner-up (1), Ballon d’Or (1), FIFA World Participant of the 12 months (1), World Cup Silver Ball (1), World Cup All-Star Crew (1), Serie A (2)
Making a case for Baggio: Generally known as the “Divine Ponytail,” Baggio was a basic No. 10 blessed with mesmerising dribbling expertise and a mind for aim (he ranks seventh all time in Serie A targets). He gained the Ballon d’Or and the FIFA World Participant of the 12 months in 1993 and guided Italy to the 1994 World Cup remaining, and nonetheless stands because the fourth-leading scorer within the historical past of the nationwide workforce. Performed for and gained titles with giants like Inter, Milan, and Juventus, however a few of his greatest particular person work at membership degree got here early with the likes of Fiorentina and Brescia.
Franco Baresi, DF (1977-97)
Notable accomplishments: World Cup (1), World Cup runner-up (1), Ballon d’Or second place (1), World Cup All-Star Crew (1), European Cup (3), Serie A (6)
Making a case for Baresi: A technically gifted sweeper, his best belongings had been his timing and studying of the sport. He was a part of the Italy squad that gained the 1982 World Cup and, 12 years later, helped them to a different World Cup remaining. After being famously rejected by Inter at 15, the place his older brother Beppe performed, he joined Milan as a substitute. He would find yourself captaining the facet for a few years, typically in derbies towards his brother, the captain of Inter. He was the chief of the nice Milan facet that gained back-to-back European Cups within the late Eighties and, in 1994, added a 3rd. Over his 20-year profession, Baresi additionally gained six league titles with the Rossoneri, unfold over three totally different a long time.
Paolo Maldini, DF (1984-2009)
Notable accomplishments: World Cup runner-up (1), European Championship runner-up (1), Ballon d’Or third place (2), FIFA World Participant of the 12 months second place (1), World Cup All-Star Crew (2), European Cup: (5), Membership World Cup (1), Serie A (7)
Making a case for Maldini: He made some 900 appearances for Milan over a 26-year profession, first at left-back and, later, as a central defender, whereas additionally successful 126 caps for Italy (putting him third within the all-time checklist). A pillar in defence for the nationwide workforce, Maldini helped Italy attain the ultimate of Euro 2000 and the 1994 World Cup. Tall, robust and chic, he gained 5 European Cups, in addition to seven Serie A titles. No person has appeared in additional Champions League finals or performed extra minutes within the World Cup or made extra appearances in Serie A.
Giuseppe Meazza, ST (1927-47)
Notable accomplishments: World Cup (2), Central European Worldwide Cup (2), World Cup Golden Ball (1), World Cup All-Star Crew (1), Serie A (3)
Making a case for Meazza: Easy, assured and flamboyant, he made headlines on the pitch and off it, courting a string of glamorous actresses. He led Italy to back-to-back World Cup success in 1934 and 1938 and sits second within the checklist of aim scorers for the nationwide workforce. He gained three Serie A titles with Inter, and is fourth within the all-time main goal-scoring charts for Serie A, regardless of taking part in most of his profession in attacking midfield. He in all probability would have scored much more if he hadn’t missed a whole season resulting from a foot damage and World Conflict II hadn’t damaged out simply as he was turning 29. So good they named Italy’s best stadium after him. Chances are you’ll comprehend it by its different identify, the San Siro. — Gabriele Marcotti
Johan Cruyff, FW (1966-77)
Notable accomplishments: World Cup runner-up (1), Ballon d’Or (3), World Cup Golden Ball (1), World Cup All-Time Crew, World Cup All-Star Crew (1), Dutch Footballer of the 12 months (3), European Cup (3), La Liga (1), Eredivisie (9)
Making a case for Cruyff: Some say Cruyff modified soccer. First, as a participant, main Ajax to 3 successive European Cups and in 1974 introducing “Complete Soccer” — or the concept gamers should not fastened to a particular place and are free to interchange with each other — to the world with an excellent Dutch nationwide workforce on the World Cup in West Germany. Cruyff is in the identical class as Pele, Diego Maradona, Franz Beckenbauer, and Lionel Messi. A genius as a participant and coach, Cruyff’s affect first with Ajax within the late ’80s and later in assembling Barcelona’s Dream Crew, can’t be understated.
Ruud Gullit, MF (1964-1984)
Notable accomplishments: European Championship (1), Ballon d’Or (1), Dutch Footballer of the 12 months (2), European Cup (2), Serie A (3), Eredivisie (3)
Making a case for Gullit: Gullit stays the one Dutch captain to carry aloft a significant worldwide trophy when he led the Netherlands to victory on the 1988 European Championship. Gullit was so versatile. He may play up entrance as No. 9, as an attacking midfielder or in a extra defensive position. And he ended taking part in as a central defender at AC Milan within the Nineties. He was not solely robust but in addition expert with an ideal approach. Twice he gained World Participant of the 12 months, as soon as European Participant of the 12 months and gained the UEFA Cup two instances with AC Milan squad, along with Frank Rijkaard and Marco van Basten.
Arjen Robben, FW (2000-)
Notable accomplishments: World Cup runner-up (1), World Cup Bronze Ball (1), World Cup All-Star Crew (1), Champions League (1), Premier League (2), La Liga (1), Bundesliga (8)
Making a case for Robben: The one lively participant within the checklist of Dutch stars after he got here out of retirement to assist his beloved FC Groningen in the summertime. It says every thing about Robben. The most effective Dutch participant of the twenty first century, within the period of Robin van Persie and Wesley Sneijder, Robben may perhaps have been as dominant as Messi and Ronaldo if not for all his accidents. On the 2014 World Cup, he got here in second within the participant of the event ballot. An Eredivisie, Premier League, and La Liga title, and a Bundesliga winner eight instances, to not point out scoring the successful aim within the 2013 Champions League remaining, make him one of many nation’s most embellished gamers. Perhaps the very best testomony to Robben’s ability and greatness was that his success can largely be attributed to 1 transfer — slicing in to shoot together with his left foot — but, whereas predictable, was largely unstoppable. If solely he had taken his probability to attain within the 2010 World Cup remaining, which the Dutch finally misplaced to Spain.
Marco van Basten, ST (1981-95)
Notable accomplishments: European Championship (1), Ballon d’Or (3), FIFA World Participant of the 12 months (1), European Championship Golden Boot (1), European Golden Boot (1), Dutch Footballer of the 12 months (1), European Cup (2), Serie A (3)
Making a case for Van Basten: What if van Basten had averted the intense ankle accidents by means of his 20s that finally ended his profession? We’ll by no means know however his achievements would these days evaluate to Messi and Ronaldo. He gained the European Cup Winners’ Cup with Ajax, twice the UEFA Cup with AC Milan, and the 1988 European Championship with Netherlands. The three-time European Footballer of the 12 months performed his remaining match within the 1993 Champions League remaining, aged 29, after scoring 218 targets in 280 matches for Ajax and AC Milan. — Okko van de Berkt
Steve Nicol struggles to separate Andres Iniesta and Xavi as ESPN FC considers Spain’s all-time greatest participant.
Iker Casillas, GK (1999-2020)
Notable accomplishments: World Cup (1), European Championship (2), World Cup Golden Glove (1), World Cup Dream Crew (1), Champions League (3), Membership World Cup (1), La Liga (5)
Making a case for Casillas: They do not name him San Iker (Saint Iker) for nothing. Agile, charming, good-looking and profitable are all relevant adjectives however, above all, Casillas was grasp of the inconceivable. Three examples, of many, stand out. He was upset to be dropped by Madrid towards Bayer Leverkusen for the 2002 Champions League remaining. César, his alternative, went off injured at 2-1 and Casillas then repelled a torrent of possibilities from the Germans to win his second European Cup aged solely 19. His penalty save within the 2008 European Championship quarterfinal shootout towards Italy propelled Spain to their first trophy since 1964. However his 1v1 save within the 2010 World Cup Last towards Robben is likely to be the best goalkeeper second in historical past. Afterward, he advised me ready for Robben to tug the set off was “…everlasting”. So are you Iker, so are you.
Xavi Hernandez, MF (1997-2019)
Notable accomplishments: World Cup (1), European Championship (2), Ballon d’Or third place (3), FIFA World Participant of the 12 months third place (1), European Championship Participant of the Match (1), Champions League (4), Membership World Cup (2), La Liga (8), Copa del Rey (3)
Making a case for Xavi: No query that Xavi is Spain’s “lightning conductor” participant. It was round his geometric passing brilliance, his reluctance to ever depart a match with out having had no less than 100 vital touches of the ball, that La Furia Roja (the Crimson Fury) deserted their earlier fashion and have become masters of possession, place, and trophy-winning. World-class opposition, like Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, would discuss “not having the ability to get close to him.” He’s certainly one of solely 5 males within the historical past of soccer to start out in a successful World Cup remaining and win the Treble together with his membership — twice. If he isn’t Spain’s best, who’s?
Andres Iniesta, MF (2001-)
Notable accomplishments: World Cup (1), European Championship (2), Ballon d’Or second place (1), World Cup Dream Crew (1), European Championship Participant of the Match (1), Champions League (4), Membership World Cup (3), La Liga (9)
Making a case for Iniesta: The difficulty with making a case for Xavi is that he’ll all the time let you know that the very best footballer in Spain’s historical past is Andres Iniesta. Samuel Eto’o as soon as mentioned, “Folks ask me concerning the greats I performed with and so they anticipate me to speak about Ronaldinho and Messi … but it surely’s Iniesta and Xavi. Iniesta would play in my workforce till the day he mentioned he needed to cease. He is the man who makes the complicated issues in soccer easy.” Not simply the scorer of Spain’s World Cup-winning aim, he supplied assists in three Champions League finals — and required simply 45 minutes to be the standout participant within the different one he gained.
Sergio Ramos, DF (2005-)
Notable accomplishments: World Cup (1), European Championship (2), World Cup Dream Crew (1), Champions League (4), Membership World Cup (4), La Liga (5)
Making a case for Ramos: Stats abound for this historical past maker. The person with essentially the most wins in worldwide soccer, the defender with essentially the most targets in worldwide historical past (23), with Messi the one man to attain in 17 consecutive Liga seasons, 4 Champions League trophies, two European Championships, a World Cup, 26 purple playing cards for Madrid — not one for Spain in over 170 caps. It’s going to be a shock if he does not, in the end, turn out to be essentially the most capped worldwide footballer ever. However anybody embarking on a Ramos retrospective who stops on the stats will probably be encapsulating a few tenth of this large character. Irrepressible in a disaster, a frontrunner, charismatic, enormously aggressive — simply consider his extra-time equaliser within the 2014 Champions League remaining towards Atleti if you wish to sum this man up. Add in a century of targets for Madrid from central defence, a cool 29/32 profession file from the penalty spot and a penchant for the large second, and Ramos deserves to be within the dialog concerning the best defenders of all-time. — Graham Hunter
Rafa Marquez, DF (1996-2018)
Notable accomplishments: Gold Cup (2), CONCACAF Greatest Participant (1), CONCACAF Greatest XI (1), Champions League (2), Membership World Cup (1), La Liga (4), Ligue 1 (1), Liga MX Apertura (1), Liga MX Clausura (1)
Making a case for Marquez: “El Kaiser de Michoacan.” The very fact the Franz Beckenbauer-inspired nickname match Marquez sums up what a category participant the defender/holding midfielder was. Marquez was an vital determine in one of many golden eras of Barcelona’s historical past (two Champions Leagues and 4 La Liga titles) and that tells you all it’s essential to learn about his high quality. At worldwide degree, Marquez dominated El Tri’s dressing room over a 21-year profession, changing into the primary participant to put on the captain’s armband at 5 totally different World Cups and amassing 147 caps. Regardless of the accolades, in some methods, Marquez was forward of his time, a centre-back with the imaginative and prescient of a No. 10.
Hugo Sanchez, ST (1976-1997)
Notable accomplishments: Gold Cup (1), FIFA 100, FIFA XI (1), Mexican Primera Division Golden Ball (1), La Liga (5), Mexican Primera Division (2), European Golden Shoe (1)
Making a case for Sanchez: In 1976, Sanchez graduated with a level in dentistry, though that feat was quickly surpassed when he helped Pumas to the 1977 Mexican league title at simply 18. What occurred subsequent was one thing that would have been scripted for a film: Sanchez overcoming a gradual begin and racial abuse at Atletico Madrid to win 5 scoring titles and set up himself as certainly one of La Liga’s greatest at rivals Actual Madrid. Within the historical past of La Liga, solely Lionel Messi has introduced extra factors to a workforce (by means of targets) than the Mexican overhead kick specialist did and his 238 profession targets nonetheless rank fourth within the historical past of the competitors. His worldwide profession might not have been as vibrant as his accomplishments in Spain, however he nonetheless netted greater than a aim each two video games and was a part of the final Mexico workforce to win a knockout sport again in 1986.
Cuauhtemoc Blanco, MF (1992-2016)
Notable accomplishments: Gold Cup (2), Mexican Participant of the 12 months (3), Liga MX Golden Ball (3), MLS All-Star workforce (1), CONCACAF Champions League (2), Mexican Primera Division Clausura (1)
Making a case for Blanco: At the moment a state governor, do not rule out Blanco from someday changing into the president of Mexico. Politics apart, Blanco created a reference to the lots. He appreciated to social gathering, had an enormous mouth, acted in telenovelas, and as soon as even punched a journalist in the midst of an interview! A child from the infamous Tepito neighborhood who talked in slang and was bodily unremarkable, Blanco was relatable the place Marquez and Sanchez had been aloof. Blanco additionally turned up in huge moments for Mexico maybe extra typically than another participant, with the decisive aim within the 1999 Confederations Cup remaining towards Brazil his defining second. Followers worldwide had been launched to him by means of the “Cuauhteminha” on the 1998 World Cup, however Mexico followers bought to see that form of street-learned invention and bravado regularly all through his 15-year profession. — Tom Marshall
Nwankwo Kanu, FW (1992-2012)
Notable accomplishments: Africa Cup of Nations runner-up (1), Olympic Gold Medal (1), African Footballer of the 12 months (2), BBC African Footballer of the 12 months (2), Champions League (1), English Premier League (2)
Making a case for Kanu: “Papilo” was and stays the golden youngster of Nigerian soccer, and it’s simple to see why. He captained the Below-17s to the World Cup title in 1993 and later led Nigeria to Africa’s first Olympic soccer gold medal in 1996. As if that weren’t sufficient, he went on to win nearly every thing there was to win at membership degree, together with the Champions League, UEFA Cup, Premier League (x2), and FA Cup (x3). As a striker, Kanu was not a prolific aim scorer. What he was, nevertheless, was modern, outrageously expert, and wildly clever with a soccer at his toes, routinely leaving followers, opposition, and even his personal teammates wide-eyed together with his jaw-dropping expertise. From the views of expertise, trophies, clutch performances, and simple on the attention leisure, Kanu had no friends.
Rashidi Yekini, FW (1981-2005)
Notable accomplishments: Africa Cup of Nations (1), African Footballer of the 12 months (1), Nigeria all-time file aim scorer, Africa Cup of Nations Greatest Participant (1), Africa Cup of Nations high scorer (2)
Making a case for Yekini: Yekini was not what one may name the full bundle for a footballer. What he was, was a straight, old style No. 9 who was merely distinctive at one job, placing the ball within the internet. Massive, robust and medical, Yekini wasted no time on frills. All he wanted was the ball in area or to toes and he would do the remaining, whether or not it was a tap-in from shut vary or fireplace a rocket from vary. Wherever he performed, Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire or Portugal, he persistently emerged with the Golden Boot. The nationwide workforce rode to the World Cup on the again of his targets and it’s a credit score to his skill that he has the double distinction of scoring Nigeria’s first-ever World Cup aim and holding the nation’s all-time file for worldwide targets.
Vincent Enyeama, GK (1999-2018)
Notable accomplishments: Africa Cup of Nations (1), CAF Champions League Participant of the 12 months (2), CAF Champions League (2), Nigerian Premier League (3)
Making a case for Enyeama: Contemplating a few of the names which have been ignored, this may increase greater than an eyebrow or two, however Enyeama belongs on this checklist. He’s certainly one of two gamers in Nigerian historical past to log over a century of appearances (101) and is the joint-record cap holder, however it’s greater than that. Enyeama was an especially gifted goalkeeper who stood as much as a few of the greatest gamers on the earth and earned their respect (Ronaldinho, Lionel Messi, anybody?). Not many gamers, not to mention goalkeepers make their aggressive debut in a FIFA World Cup sport, however Enyeama not solely did so however saved a clear sheet towards star-studded England. Throughout his time as Nigeria No.1, Enyeama led the Tremendous Eagles to seven main tournaments, typically single-handedly holding them in video games towards high opposition.
Jay-Jay Okocha, MF (1990-2008)
Notable accomplishments: Africa Cup of Nations (1), Africa Cup of Nations runner-up (1), Olympic Gold Medal (1), Africa Cup of Nations Greatest Participant (1), BBC African Footballer of the 12 months (2), Nigerian Soccer of the 12 months (7), Africa Cup of Nations high scorer (1)
Making a case for Okocha: One of the enigmatic and entertaining gamers to come back out of Africa, Augustine “Jay-Jay” Okocha’s identify evokes awe and admiration, not simply amongst Nigerian soccer followers, but in addition from all over the world. Supremely gifted, he captivated from the very first second his silky expertise had been launched to Nigerian soccer. In his early years, that skill to show trick at any flip was thought of a downside, which slowed the workforce down. However as he matured, his sport advanced to the purpose the place he managed the tempo of the sport and added to his repertoire with lethal free-kick taking, cleverly disguised passing, and long-range capturing. Okocha gained the African Nations Cup with Nigeria and performed at three World Cups. Surprisingly, he by no means gained the African Participant of the 12 months award however remains to be acknowledged as one of many best soccer gamers to emerge from the continent. — Colin Udoh
Harry Kewell, FW (1996-2014)
Notable accomplishments: Australia’s greatest-ever footballer, Medal of the Order of Australia, Oceania Footballer of the 12 months (3), AFC Asian Cup Crew of the Match (1), Confederations Cup runner-up (1), OFC Nations Cup (1), Champions League (1)
Making a case for Kewell: Named the Biggest Ever Australian Footballer by the Australian federation in 2012, Harry Kewell appears like an inexpensive sufficient alternative to start out this checklist. A Champions League winner with Liverpool, Kewell loved various success at Anfield, Galatasaray and Melbourne Victory, however is greatest remembered for his time at Leeds. A part of David O’Leary’s dynamic younger United facet that shocked its approach to the UCL semis in 2001, Kewell was real Premier League box-office materials. With silky expertise and a penchant for scoring wonderful targets, Kewell was courted by England to unravel their left-sided woes within the late 90s, however stayed true to his homeland and went on to make 58 appearances and rating 17 targets for the Socceroos.
Mark Viduka, FW (1993-2009)
Notable accomplishments: Oceania Footballer of the 12 months (1), Johnny Warren Medal (2), Croatian First League (3), Australian NSL (1)
Making a case for Viduka: With the quintessential “good contact for an enormous man,” Kewell’s Leeds teammate Mark Viduka performed with an ideal mix of grace and energy — items completely encapsulated in his one-man, four-goal demolition of Liverpool in 2000. The “V-Bomber” was one of the dependable strikers of his time, amassing 92 targets in 240 Premier League appearances for the likes of Leeds, Middlesbrough and Newcastle. Viduka additionally gained three titles in Croatia, Scotland’s participant of the 12 months in a one-season stint at Celtic and — surprisingly sufficient — is the one one of many three nominees right here to have gained an Australian league title — successful the NSL together with his beloved Melbourne Knights in 1995.
Tim Cahill, FW (1998-2019)
Notable accomplishments: Australia file aim scorer, Australia’s greatest-ever workforce, AFC Asian Cup (1), OFC Nations Cup (1), Oceania Footballer of the 12 months (1), AFC Asian Cup Crew of the event (1), Australian PFA Participant of the 12 months (1), MLS All-Star workforce (1)
Making a case for Cahill: Cahill might not have had the latent ability that the aforementioned two possessed, however the former Everton and New York Crimson Bulls star greater than made up for that with sheer dedication. The one Socceroo to have performed in 4 World Cups, Cahill is Australia’s greatest-ever aim scorer and may rightly declare to have single-handedly gained extra video games for the nationwide workforce than another participant. Crucially, Cahill additionally managed to win a significant worldwide trophy with Australia — the 2015 Asian Cup — an achievement that neither Kewell nor Viduka can declare. The primary Australian to attain at a World Cup, and likewise netted in three of his finals appearances and is their all-time finals aim scorer. — Mike Smart