Who are the Greatest Soccer Players of All Time?

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Ranking the best soccer players of all time is no easy task. It’s one of the few sports that truly qualifies as an international obsession, and this has been going on for a long time, which means that there have been hundreds upon hundreds of players who are worth remembering. But when you ask the experts on the sport, there are a few players who make it into that top echelon, most notably these five:

5. Johann Cruyff: Cruyff is widely regarded as the greatest Dutch player in history. He led his club, the Dutch team Ajax, to numerous European Cup victories in the early ‘70s before departing for FC Barcelona, where he played the bulk of his league career. Remembered for his bursts of speed, his leadership, his tactical brilliance, and his technical abilities, Cruyff was voted by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics as the greatest European footballer of the 20th century.

4. Zinedine Zidane: As a member of the French national team, “Zizou” (as he is popularly known) lead his team to its first ever World Cup victory in 1998 and powered them to the 2006 final, winning the MVP trophy for both tournaments. Zizou rose to prominence in Cannes and Bordeaux before commanding record fees to join Juventus and later Real Madrid. He’s known for his fiery playing style, controversial personality, and strong leadership skills.

3. Franz Beckenbauer: The German Beckenbauer is remembered partly for inventing the modern sweeper position that so many recent players have used to great success, but his achievements go far beyond this. He was the top player on the successful Bayern Munich club through much of the 60s and 70s and lead the West German national team to a World Cup victory in 1974. He is the only former player to have also won the World Cup trophy as manager, which he accomplished in 1990.

2. Diego Maradona: Still worshipped in his home country, Maradona played an inestimable role in the Argentine national team’s success in four different World Cup tournaments. In the 1986 tournament, in addition to winning the tournament along with his team, Maradona won the MVP and scored the “Goal of the Century” versus England in the quarter finals. His varied professional career included 8 different teams in South America and Europe, his longest stint being Napoli between 1984 and 1991.

1. Pele: No player in the history of the game has commanded more worldwide fame and respect than Pele. He remains the only player to have been involved in three World Cup-winning teams, and he still holds the highest mark for goals scored in the illustrious history of the Brazilian national team. During his career, including 18 years as striker for the Santos club in Brazil, he set new standards in the sport for speed, athleticism, and technical skill.

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