10 Greatest Football (Soccer) Players Ever

1. Diego Armando Maradona (1976-1997)
Born: October 30, 1962
Playing Position: Supporting Striker, Attacking Mid-fielder
Clubs: Argentinos Juniors, Boca Juniors, Barcelona, Napoli, Sevilla, Newell’s Old Boys

Diego Maradona won the 1986 World Cup almost single-handedly and took Argentina to the final four years later. He also took unfancied Napoli to its only two Italian titles. Maradona was controversially voted best player of all time in an internet poll held by FIFA. No one can deny the fact that Maradona was the best ever dribbler of the ball. He proved as much, when he scored what was arguably the greatest ever World Cup goal in 1986 (Awarded : “GOAL OF THE CENTURY” by FIFA in 2002). Maradona picked up the ball on the halfway line and promptly proceeded to leave half the England team for dead before slotting the ball into the net. That game was also the one in which he scored his infamous ‘Hand of God’ goal. He repeatedly refused to admit openly to handling the ball. In the nineties his career hit a downward trajectory.

In Rosario city, Argentina, fans organized the “Church of Maradona.” Maradona’s 43rd birthday in 2003 marked the start of the Year 43 D.D. – “Después de Diego” or After Diego – for its founding 200 members. Tens of thousands more have become members via the church’s official web site.

2. Pele (Edson Arantes do Nascimento) (1956-1977)
Born: October 23, 1940
Playing Position: Forward
Clubs: Santos, New York Cosmos

In the eyes of many, if in fact not most, football fans Edson Arantes do Nascimento is the greatest footballer ever, and there is a lot to be said for that opinion. There is certainly no denying his pedigree. Pelé, because that’s who we are talking about, has won three world cups with Brazil and scored more than 500 league goals.

Pelé made his debut in the Brazilian league at the age of 16, and promptly went on to become the league’s top scorer, scoring 36 goals in 29 matches. The next season was every bit as impressive as the youngster produced 58 goals in 38 matches. His overwhelming debut earned Pelé a place in Brazil’s 1958 World Cup squad, where he and his team-mates ended up lifting the trophy. Pelé scored two goals in the final, as the world sat up and took notice. At age 17 Pele was, and is to this very day, the youngest ever World Cup winner.

His impact on the 1962 and 1966 tournaments was negligible due to injuries, but at the 1970 Wold Cup Pelé once again shone resplendidly. Playing in what many consider to be the greatest ever football team, Pelé was universally acknowledged as the world’s best player. His deft touch, dribbling skills and tremendous scoring ability, would see him notching up more than 500 league goals. In 1975 Pelé joined the North American Soccer League, where he became a goodwill ambassador for football. It’s a role Pelé has been playing ever since.

3. Johan Cruyff (Johan Hendrikus Cruijff) (1964-1984)
Born: 25 April 1947
Playing Position: Attacking Mid-fielder, Forward
Clubs : Ajax, FC Barcelona, Los Angeles Aztecs, Washington Diplomats, Levante, Feyenoord

A superb dribbler of the ball, George Best undoubtedly the most naturally gifted British player of his generation. A combination of lightning pace, perfect balance, and ability to produce goals with both feet, meant Best was a handful for even the best of defenders.

Helping Manchester United win the European Cup in 1968 was his greatest achievement. That year Best was voted European Player of the Year. But in the years to follow Best the player would increasingly be eclipsed by Best the rock and roll celebrity, as problems with gambling, womanising and alcoholism overshadowed El Beatle’s achievements on the field.

In 1974 George Best left Manchester United, effectively ending his career at the highest level at the age of 27. The Belfast Boy would play on for nearly ten more years at a number of lesser clubs, showing occasional signs of his former greatness.

4. Ferenc Puskas (1944-1966)
Ferenc Puskás (1927) was the outstanding player of the marvelous Hungarian national team of the early 1950s. In 1952 they had won Olympic Gold in Helsinki and the “Magical Magyars” arrived at the 1954 FIFA World Cup in Switzerland undefeated in four years. Their most resounding victory to date had been achieved the previous year when they were the first non-british team to defeat England at Wembley. In one of the great upsets of football history, Hungary were pipped at the post by Germany, with Puskas playing in spite of an injury picked up early on in the tournament. Puskas fled Hungary in the wake of the Soviet invasion of 1956 and went on to play for Real Madrid well into his 30’s. At Madrid he teamed up with the likes of Di Stefano and Gento to win numerous trophies.

5. Franz Beckenbauer (1964-1984)
This list of top 10 greatest ever football players is heavily biased towards forwards, as all these kind of lists tend to be. We make no apologies for that as it is those players that bring joy to the crowds all over the world with their goals and artistry. However, this list would not be complete without Franz Beckenbauer (1945). Nicknamed ‘der Kaiser’, Beckenbauer was the mainstay of Bayern Munich’s triple European Cup winning team of the mid Seventies. He also captained his country to the 1974 World Cup, held in Germany. An elegant sweeper, Beckenbauer was known for his outstanding technique and tactical insight. As a manager, he steered the German national side towards their 1990 World Cup win in Italy.

6. Eusebio (1958-1978)
Eusébio da Silva Ferreira (1942) won 10 Portuguese league titles, plus the 1962 European Cup with Benfica, scoring two goals in the final. He virtually single-handedly took Portugal to third place in the 1966 World Cup, scoring nine goals. Eusebio’s trademarks were his speed (he was the under-19 Portuguese champion of 400, 200 and 100 metre races), quick dribble and a powerful and accurate right-footed strike. Eusébio scored an incredible 727 goals in 715 matches wearing the Benfica jersey, and until recently was the all-time leading scorer for Portugal, with 41 goals in 64 matches.

7. George Best (1963-1984)
A superb dribbler of the ball, George Best (1946) was undoubtedly the most naturally gifted British player of his generation. A combination of lightning pace, perfect balance, and ability to produce goals with both feet, meant Best was a handful for even the best of defenders. Helping Man U win the European Cup in 1968 was his greatest achievement. That year Best was voted European Player of the Year. But in the years to follow Best the player would increasingly be eclipsed by Best the rock and roll celebrity, as problems with gambling, womanising and alcoholism overshadowed his achievements on the field. In 1974 Best left Manchester United, effectively ending his career at the highest level (although he would play on until 1984).

8. Michel Platini (1973-1987)
Three times European Footballer of the year, Michel Platini (1955) led France to two World Cup semi-finals and the 1984 European Championship title. Platini started at French club Nancy-Lorraine before moving on to Saint-Etienne, where he won the league title in 1981. In 1982 he moved to Italian club Juventus. One of the greatest passers of the ball in the history of the game, Platini was also a master of the free kick, a skill which he perfected using a row of dummies during training. Despite nominally being a midfielder, Platini displayed a remarkable goalscoring prowess. He scored 68 goals in 147 league games for Juventus, and was crowned top scorer of the Serie A no less than three times.

9. Alfredo di Stefano (1943-1966)
Two-time European Footballer of the Year, Alfredo Di Stéfano (1926) led Real Madrid to five consecutive European Cups. Incredibly versatile, many believe he is the best all-around player in history. Di Stéfano was a powerful forward blessed with stamina, tactical versatility, and above all vision that allowed him to act as the conductor to Real’s symphony of attacking football. Di Stéfano won numerous domestic league and cup titles with Real, but like George Best, he never graced a World Cup. He moved to Espanyol in 1964 and played there until hanging up his boots at the age of 40.

10. Zinedine Zidane (1988-2006)
Whether Zinedine Zidane (1972) or Michel Platini is the greatest ever French player is up for discussion. That Zidane belongs in this list of truly great players surely isn’t. The outstanding player of his generation, he led France to World Cup glory in 1998 and to the European Championship in 2000. He was a superb passer of the ball first and foremost, an outstanding playmaker that fed his forwards with great passes. But Zidane could produce goals himself as well, most notably the winning goals in the 1998 World Cup Final and the 2002 Champion’s League Final. Zidane was named European Footballer of the Year in 1998, and FIFA World Footballer of the Year in 1998, 2000, and 2003.

##We would like to know, if we missed some Great players or you have a different list of the Greats. Please let us know.

History Of UEFA European Football Championship

First played in 1960 under the name of UEFA European Nations Cup, the idea of this popular European football league was first suggested by Henri Delaunay in 1927 who was a member of French Football Federation. Finally in 1960, his dream turned into reality and the tournament was held in France. In his honor, the tournament trophy was named as Henri Deluanay Trophy. 17 teams participated out of which three teams did not played- West Germany, England and Italy. Among the 14 remaining teams, USSR made its way into the final and won the first tournament trophy by outsmarting Yugoslavia by 2-1.

After that, the name of this tournament was changed to European Football Championship in 1968 and then since 1992, this tournament became popular as Euro. Held once in every four years; statistical reports show that this is the third most popular sports tournament in the world after Olympic Games and World Cup. So far, 13 tournaments had been played and this Euro 2012 is the 14th session. Germany is the most successful team in this tournament who had been in the final six times and won championship title three times.

In 1964, Spain was the host of the tournament with 29 teams participating in the tournament. The host succeeded in bagging the championship title by defeating the last time champion USSR by 2-1.

In 1968, the tournament name was reframed but the format remained same with two new teams. Held in Italy, the championship title also went to the host country when they defeated Yugoslavia in a replay match by 2-0. The most notable incident in that year was a coin toss to decide a semi-final match. This coin toss was the first and the only time incident in Euro history.

Belgium was the host in 1972 when West Germany (now Germany) won the final beating Soviet Union by 3-0.

1976 tournament was held in Yugoslavia and that was the final year to put an end for two things- host team had to be in the final and four teams qualifying in the final. That year is also notable for the newly introduced penalty shootout. Czechoslovakia won the final.

The next tournament in 1980 was organized in a new format in Italy. The concept of group came up and eight teams participated with winners of each group getting into the play-offs and then to the final. West Germany won once again and this was their second championship title.

In 1984, the concept of semi-final also emerged which gave totally a new format to this tournament. France won the tournament by smashing Spain in 2-0. Michel Platini was then the Captain of France who was an impressive player of the tournament. He scored 9 goals in 5 matches.

The two times champion, West Germany hosted the 1988 tournament where Netherlands defeated the host to win the championship title. This year is still considered as a glorious year in football history because Marco van Basten made a spectacular goal over the goalkeeper straight from the right wing.

Then in Sweden in 1992 when European Football Championship became Euro 1992 for the first time! Denmark won the league by defeating unified Germany by 2-0. Yugoslavia was not allowed to participate in the tournament that year as they were in a state of war.

16 teams participated in UEFA Euro 1996which was organized in England. Germany ousted newly-formed state Czech Republic by 2-1 and bagged another championship trophy for the third time. But for unified Germany, this was the first time.

Belgium and Netherlands were the host for Euro 2000 when France was the emperor of football. As expected by the entire world, France once more succeeded in retaining their position as champion when they defeated Italy by 2-1.

The championship trophy of UEFA Euro 2004, held in Portugal, was won by Greece who defeated the host team by 1-0 in the final.

Switzerland and Austria, again two countries hosted UEFA Euro 2008 where Spain defeated Germany by 1-0 in the final to become the champion.

Finally 2012! This year Ukraine and Poland will host the tournament where 16 teams are participating from four groups, each group having four teams. Czech Republic, Greece, Poland and Russia are from Group A, Denmark, Germany, Portugal and Holland are from Group B, Croatia, Spain, Italy and Ireland are from Group C and England, France, Sweden and Ukraine are from Group D. This exciting tournament will start on June 8, 2012 and will continue till July 1, 2012.

The Unseen Threat From Europe – the Premier League’s Dominance of European Football is in Danger

So, Manchester United look like they are going to win the Premier League title again. And with Chelsea dying a slow death in West London and Arsenal constantly shooting themselves in the foot, while Liverpool argue with their own manager, can anyone challenge them?

The Reds one-sided success (this year would make it 11 wins out of 17) in the English Premier League puts the league in danger of turning itself into an Eastern European backwater-type league where a single team is dominant for decades, as the rest of the country scratches around for scraps. The red herring this season is Aston Villa, who have broken into the top four, but is that because they have improved to meet the top four, or is it that the three below Man Utd are drifting down to meet them?

The fact that the top tier in the English league has an obvious second league of teams nowhere near good enough to challenge for anything other than mid-table obscurity, underline the crossroads English football appears to be at.

Of course, there’s the money. Last week it was announced that Sky accidentally blew Setanta out of the water and took five out of six Premier League TV packages by upping their bid to £1.4bn over three years. All good for clubs who can continue to throw money at players in a bid for the Holy Grail of football, a place in the top four .
But that money is only the base on which the big clubs are building their brands – and Man Utd’s success is such that they are in danger of getting too big for British football. A survey last year suggested that United had 333m fans worldwide compared with 75m in 2003. Clearly, success is paying off globally – one only has to look at the growing percentage of southeast Asian fans popping up at Old Trafford for visual evidence.
 
Man Utd’s dominance would not threaten “Brand Premier League” on its own: what the English leagues should be really worried about is that the rest of Europe appears to be getting its act together. As TV pays the bills, and global branding pays for the pretty dresses, any danger to Brand Premier on the world stage will be disastrous, particularly as the world lurches into a financial crisis.

The four big leagues (France, Italy, Spain and Germany) are in the midst of becoming more exciting by the week, with competition at the top and engaging action at the bottom, with a little quality, too. There finances appear to be improving rapidly, too. France’s Ligue 1 has seven teams vying for the title this year: perhaps because the team that has dominated for a decade, Lyon, has not had the global branding Man Utd has had. And the French leagues hit the jackpot in 2005 when a bidding war put the price of TV packages at £1.6bn – almost on a par with the Premier League.

Last year, the German Bundesliga took over the English Premiership’s mantle as the league making the most money out of shirt sponsorship: a small part of a club’s overall revenue but significant in that it suggests how bankable the league is in terms of marketability.
A year ago a rather doom-laden Spanish La Liga was looking at multiple bankruptcies as economists warned that clubs had radically overspent to keep up with Real Madrid and Barcelona. But the fact that Spain has two clubs bigger than Man Utd means that it will always be more competitive on a global market. It also has the advantage that there are more football-mad nations that speak Spanish than English-speaking nations.
 
The fate of Italian clubs, meanwhile, should serve as a warning for the money-bloated Premier League. For years they fed on bloated cheques from rich owners – often local companies done good or senior politicians or Italian oligarchs. Now it doesn’t look so good. Juventus has been dropped a league and since returned, while many other clubs suffered from wage bills hitting 85% of income. Now, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Clubs like Napoli, which suffered from the previous wage profligacy (Maradona and Paul Gascoigne the highest profile luxuries), are back in the black and highflying in Serie A.  Oh, and Italy still has four of the top 20 richest clubs in Europe.

Perhaps more importantly is the strong support in Italy for a salary cap which, if implemented, will drive Italian clubs back up to the top in Europe.
 
If the Premier League continues on its current path, three things could happen:

1) Of course, everything could work out fine, with the money levelling off as Brand Premier begins to help every club in the league. Competition becomes more intense, the world is hooked,

2) Man Utd continue to dominate and the fans slowly but surely switch off. United decides it doesn’t want to share the TV money so, as the only show in town, decides to break away from the TV package and sell itself. With little or no competition at home European action becomes more important. The spectre of a European super league raises its ugly head again.

3) Brand Premier goes the way of Italy: money breeds corruption, breeds alienation and eventually the English falls into a bitter sea of fear, court cases and recriminations. Millions worldwide switch back to a revitalized Serie A and La Liga and the old world order is duly re-established.
 
Sepp Blatter allows himself a quiet, triumphant smile.

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