In a recent article published by FourFourTwo, one of the world’s biggest football magazine, Lionel Messi has been rated the best football player of all time.
The Argentine maestro has been rated above the likes of Great Brazilian footballer Pele, Lionel Messi’s country man, Diego Maradona and of course the Portuguese Legend,Cristiano Ronaldo who recently just scored his 700th club career Goal against Everton on Sunday.
The list is as controversial as it could be because some footballers were absent from the list, and many might think otherwise. The top 10 is what we are going to be talking about.
10. Ronaldo Nazário.
He won his first FIFA World Player of the Year award at the young age of 20 in 1996, went on to become the second footballer to be honoured three times, claimed the Ballon d’Or twice and became the World Cup’s greatest scorer in 2006 with his 15th strike (since surpassed by Miroslav Klose in 2014).
The Brazilian scored 47 goals in 51 matches as the Catalans won the Copa del Rey and UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup and narrowly missed out on La Liga – but Barça couldn’t hang on to him for long, as the forward signed for Inter in 1997 and was the star attraction at the 1998 World Cup, where he won the Golden Ball and finished with four goals.
After Inter, he signed for Real Madrid. His game necessarily reinvented thanks to his loose lifestyle and dodgy knees.
Biggest highlight: His brace in the 2002 World Cup Final for Brazil against Germany sealed one of the game’s most remarkable comeback tales.
9. Ferenc Puskas
Puskas averaged more than a goal per game throughout his illustrious career, including 87 goals in 85 caps for Hungary.
He joined Real Madrid at 31 in 1958 but became one of their most prolific scorers in history with 242 goals in 262 appearances. His partnership with Alfredo Di Stefano was truly breathtaking, but he outlasted the great Argentine, staying until 1966.
Biggest highlight: Puskas scored four goals – all in the second half – in his only European Cup final appearance, as Real Madrid thrashed Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3 at Hampden Park in 1960.
8. Franz Beckenbauer
In his first entire season, Bayern won promotion to the recently formed Bundesliga.
Bayern won a hat-trick of Bundesliga titles between 1972 and 1974 and did likewise in the European Cup between 1974 and 1976. On the international stage, Beckenbauer captained West Germany to triumph in the 1972 European Championship and 1974 World Cup.
7. George Best
Best made his debut for United in April 1963. By 1968, he’d twice won the English league title, while his 32 goals in 53 games in ‘67/68 coincided with them winning.
Biggest highlight: He may have preferred his dalliance with the 1973 Miss World, but his performance in the 1968 European Cup Final against Benfica inspired the 4-1 victory that made United the first English winners of the competition.
6. Johan Cruyff
Cruyff won 20 significant honours – including three successive European Cups from 1971 to 1973 – before a player revolt had him banished to Barcelona. Nobody could match his speed, vision or eye for goal.
Part of arguably the best team never to win the World Cup in 1974 – the Netherlands lost 2-1 to West Germany in the final, having gone 1-0 up without the hosts touching the ball – Cruyff may not have reached his peak with his national team, but that only adds to his allure.
Biggest highlight: That turn at the 1974 World Cup against Sweden. It remains football’s great conjuring trick and is also the recipient of Jan Olsson’s career highlight. “I loved everything about this moment and knew it would become famous,” the Swede later said. “I thought I was going to take the ball. I still cannot understand. Every day I think about football, I think about Johan Cruyff.”
5. Zinedine Zidane
For a player whose primary function was to facilitate and create and who was far from a prolific scorer, he was remarkably decisive – as evidenced by goals in two separate World Cup finals and an astonishing winner in a Champions League final for Real Madrid in 2002.
Biggest highlight: Decisive goals in World Cup and Champions League finals seem the only ports of call here, but to many purists, his finest moment came in the quarter-finals of the 2006 World Cup. Against Brazil, though, Zidane put in one of the all-time great performances, a divine exhibition of dribbling and ball-playing from central midfield – equal parts no-nonsense maturity and youthful exuberance – to roll back the years, secure himself the player of the tournament award and guide his country towards the final.
Aged 17 in 1958, Pele became the youngest player to feature in a World Cup final. He scored six times in Sweden, including a semi-final hat trick and two more in the final. It was the first of three World Cup trophies he brought back home to answer those tears he saw running down his dad’s face.
In the 1960s and ’70s, Pele travelled the world with his club team Santos. In Nigeria, a two-day truce was declared in the war with Biafra as a way for both sides to watch him play. His impact on the Nigerian football psyche is so huge that when he predicted an African nation would win the World Cup before the noughties, local fans already saw it coming.
Biggest highlight: On November 19, 1969, Pele scored his 1,000th goal from a penalty in a match against Vasco da Gama at the Maracana stadium.
3. Cristiano Ronaldo
We all know his attributes: instinctive finishing, sharp movement, and unrivalled focus. He has the explosiveness of a sprinter, the musculature of a cage fighter, and the leap of an NBA player. His repertoire includes dizzying solo runs, gravity-defying free-kicks, and headers in which he appears to hang in the air. As a goalscorer, he is as close to completion as imaginable.
Already a United great at 24, Ronaldo moved on to Madrid, providing a snip at £80m. As trophies have been lifted and records shattered, he has evolved from a tricky winger to a herculean goalscorer, prolonging his stay at the top.
At 32, an age when most forwards are past it, his ascetic lifestyle has enabled him to score crucial goals as Madrid won a Liga and Champions League double in 2017. Time may get every footballer in the end, but Ronaldo looks well-prepared to put up a fight.
Biggest highlight: In 2008, a towering Ronaldo header helped Manchester United to the Champions League title, leading him to his lifelong goal of being voted the best player in the world. He had reached the pinnacle at 23 – and yet it was just the start.
2. Diego Maradona
After winning the league with Boca Juniors, Maradona moved to Barcelona for a world-record £5m fee in 1982.
It was in his seven seasons in Naples that Maradona confirmed his legend. The Church of Diego Maradona still exists. The Partonopei had never come close to winning Serie A before the Argentine arrived, but such was El Diego’s brilliance that Napoli won Scudetti in 1987 and 1990. En route to winning the UEFA Cup in 1989, El Pibe de Oro’s (The Golden Boy) semi-final warm-up before facing Bayern Munich has long since entered football legend.
Ever the Machiavellian – learned the hard way on the Buenos Aires streets with what locals call viveza criolla or native cunning – the ends always justified the means. He knew ‘the Hand of God should have been ruled out – he screamed at his teammates, “Come hug me, or the referee isn’t going to allow it” – but beating England in the quarter-final was more critical.
Biggest Challenge: Scoring the Goal of the Century en route to World Cup glory in 1986. Mortals shouldn’t be able to do that.
1. Lionel Messi
The history books will laud Messi, yet their limitations will disservice him. In 20 years, young football fans will read about a messianic figure whose brilliance stunned the world, shattered a litany of records and started an era of dominance… but not until they watch the videos will they get an idea of what they have missed.
The number of his goals pales in comparison with their beauty. The goal of the month may not even make his top 20, be it a solo run, a bending free-kick, a cheeky lob, a golf putt finish or a thunderous missile.
By now, most know his story: how expensive medicine for a growth hormone deficiency led him from his home town, Rosario, to Barcelona, where his 2004 debut started an era of brilliance. He has been voted into the world’s top three players for ten years and in the top two for nine.
Biggest highlight: Days after criticism of his aerial game, Messi steered a looping header over Edwin van der Sar that sealed Barcelona’s 2-0 win over Manchester United in the 2009 Champions League Final. It’s one of his personal favourites; he once told FFT.
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