Who are the greatest football players right now? Read on to discover the true king of football.
Since the invention of the beautiful game, stars have emerged across various generations who have exuded remarkable and unexplainable levels of charm, finesse, brilliance, grace, and deadliness in the goal.
These stars have solidified their legacy not just as one of the great names ever to dominate the sport in their generation but have moved the conversation further by contending for the esteemed title of the greatest football player of all time.
While the conversation of the one and only indisputable GOAT is bound to never come to a definite conclusion, the fiery discourse which has driven the conversation has never been as intense as it has been in the era of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
With Messi’s recent triumph at the 2022 FIFA World Cup, many feel the discourse comes to a dramatic conclusion, but as with every conversation across football, it never ends.
While fans cast the GOAT spotlight on the duo, many forget about previous stars’ impressive and legendary performances, which lay as many credible claims to the GOAT title as the two rivals.
We thus scour the various eras in the history of football to present the top 10 stars who have proved themselves worthy of being in the GOAT discourse.
The Greatest Football Players of all Time Ranked
10. De Lima Ronaldo
Long before CR7 came into the picture, the world was in love with just one Ronaldo, and he wasn’t known as the Brazilian Ronaldo, but De Lima Ronaldo and fondly called R9 or, as his dearest fans nicknamed him O Fenômeno (The Phenomenon).
The insanely talented Brazilian star is ranked as one of the greatest stars ever to play the beautiful game, as he reached a remarkable level of success few stars can relate to this day.
In the course of his career, which extends to up to about two decades, De Lima dominated on the international scene as well as in club football.
He led the Brazilian national team to two World Cup titles, securing his mark in the tournament with impressive displays.
His immense contributions saw him win the FIFA World Cup Final Most Valuable Player, FIFA World Cup Golden Shoe, and FIFA World Cup Silver shoe, all in 2002.
The star, who played for domestic rivals across two toughly contested leagues, Barcelona and Real Madrid in La Liga, Inter Milan and AC Milan in Serie A, is a two-time Ballon D’or holder and three-time winner of the FIFA World Player of the Year Award.
9. Ferenc Puskas
In modern football, some may allude to the notability of Hungarian football star Ferenc Puskas to be named after the widely coveted Puskas Award.
But during the heydays of Ferenc Puskas, few stars measured up to the star of his goal-scoring ability.
As with every great legend included in the GOAT list, Puskas boasted of superior football abilities with terrific ball control skills, great maneuvers, precision, and passing.
A riveting ability of his was his fondness for pulling dummy dribbles, which confused opponents, and his accurate set-piece goals, including a direct free-kick goal.
Since his exit from the center stage of football about three decades ago, Puskas left foot shot is still regarded as the most powerful in the sport.
His ingenious football abilities earned him a Ballon D’or Silver Award, four Pichichi Trophies, a FIFA World Cup Golden Ball, and a Golden Boot of the World award.
8. Franz Beckenbauer
Though he retired about three decades ago, the legendary antics of German football star Franz Beckenbauer still is lauded to this day.
His elegant and ingenious football antics earned him the moniker Der Kaiser, which translates to The Emperor.
The nickname stuck as his style of play, his leadership qualities on the pitch, and his first name Franz bring to mind the dispositions of Austrian emperors.
Though pegged as a midfielder/defender, Beckenbauer produced stellar performances that will see forwards today go green with envy.
His versatility on the pitch earned him not plaudits but also the invention of the Sweeper tactic in the sport, for which he is credited.
Beckenbauer, who has won the FIFA World Cup as a player and manager, ranks as one of the nine players in football history to have lifted the World Cup, UEFA Champions League, and Ballon d’Or trophies.
He ranks as the only defender in the history of football to have claimed the Ballon d’Or, which he won on two occasions.
He has also won the FIFA World Cup Bronze Boot, FIFA World Cup Award for Best Young Player, FIFA World Silver Ball, and many more.
7. Alfredo Di Stéfano
As his nickname proves, Alfredo Di Stéfano was truly as precise and deadly as an arrow.
The Blonde Arrow (Saeta rubia), as his moniker goes, was the face of Laliga’s side during their golden years of the 1950s and 1960s.
During his time in Madrid, Alfredo Di Stéfano formed an incredible partnership with fellow legend Ferenc Pukas, which saw him rack up an impressive goal record.
Though Stefano never hit the jackpot in international football with a World Cup win, he proved to be the incredible player he is with his success with the Argentine national team at the 1947 South American Football Tournament.
For his outstanding performances, Alfredo Di Stéfano was awarded the Ballon d’Or on two occasions and received the Super d’Or, a now-defunct award given to the best player in the last three decades.
Stefano, who ranks as the only player to receive the Super d’Or, is a five-time winner of the Pichichi Trophy.
6. Johan Cruyff
Few players in the GOAT discourse have had an exciting career in the manner Johan Cruyff shaped football.
An exceptional talent, Cruyff not only showed off his superior football prowess but also was the face of the Total Football philosophy which he greatly implemented during his time on the pitch.
The fluid football style of play earned him major success, which inspired him to follow other football styles, such as his famous tiki-taka football style, which is still implemented to this day.
Cruyff’s interest in football wasn’t only about winning but winning with a superior sense of finesse and aesthetics, a move he greatly implanted on the pitch with his win-with-style philosophy of which the Cruyff turn feint is a major hallmark.
To achieve the incredible strides he reached in his career, Cruyff adhered to 14 rules which proved fundamental to his football antics.
The late football star is a three-time Ballon d’Or winner and a FIFA World Cup Golden Ball winner.
5. Zinedine Zidane
In recent years football fans remember Zinedine Zidane for his success with Real Madrid, but as a football Starr, Zidane was a playmaker unmatched in abilities.
Beyond the headbutt incident that marked his exit from football, Zidane boasts of multiple spectacular moments in football that point to the ingenuity that marked his football career.
As a player, Zidane’s famous settled play-making ability, which saw him combine his intense vision, elegant ball control, and superb technique, made him a wonder to watch.
With incredible club football stints with European A-list clubs Juventus and Real Madrid, Zidane secured highly coveted trophies such as UEFA Champions League and League titles with both sides.
Zidane boasts of one Ballon d’Or award, three FIFA Player of the Year awards, and several more.
4. Diego Maradona
No matter how the tales of football stars’ heroics are told in football history books, Diego Maradona’s career would always boast of incredible signify Bce in the sport.
The Argentine star had, from an early age, shown he had in him a pool of extraordinary talent that the world was so privileged to witness.
Maradona’s artful maneuvers, which entail combining his dribbling gifts, ball control ability, as well as his vision, and passing, make him one of a kind.
Despite having a short stature, Maradona intimidated defenders and proved to be a menace for rivals.
Not only his football antics made him the very best, but the man nicknamed The Golden Boy (El Pibe de Oro) had rousing leadership skills, which proved to be one of his greatest assets on the pitch.
His top-rated goal sense made him a deadly set-piece taker, especially free-kicks.
For a player of his status, Maradona enjoyed incredible football success at both international and club levels.
He won the FIFA World Cup while coming in third place in Copa America. With Napoli and Barcelona, the deadly Maradona claimed domestic glories.
Maradona has won the FIFA World Cup Golden Ball, Silver Ball, and Bronze Ball. He also laid claim to a FIFA Goal of the Century Award.
No words exist to describe just how phenomenal and sensational a career as glorious as that of Pele is.
A deadly force in the goal, Pele, who never played European club football, still measures above most European stars in football prowess and ability.
Pele’s incredulous performance can be seen in his astounding performances at the FIFA World Cup, which he dominated to a staggering degree that seems inconceivable.
As a young boy and a teenager, Pele had the world spelled-bound with a stunning performance at the FIFA World Cup, setting the stage for his first three World Cup wins.
Pele did not only lift World Cup trophies on a record three occasions but also pulled brilliant performances in all three World Cup tournaments to make him the first and only football star to have achieved World Cup glory three times.
As a player with Santos, Pele achieved other incredible feats.
Though he won the Ballon d’Or once, the French football magazine has recognized him as a winner on seven occasions had the award been awarded to non-Europeans during the era of Pele’s incontestable domination over football.
Pele won the FIFA Player of the Century award.
2. Cristiano Ronaldo
CR7, the football icon and highly revered star, is worthy of the recognition the plaudits bestowed on the ingenuity he is widely known for.
A star rivaled by only one in his own rights, Ronaldo has stayed solidly at the pinnacle of football domination for so long that his name triggers a sense of danger and fear down the spine of the opposition team.
Arguably the greatest football player of all time, Cristiano Ronaldo’s career is one that has been filled with dramatic fun fares, as the star has taken football fans on a rollercoaster with his consistently incredulous performance.
A young star who started out for Portuguese side Sporting CP, Ronaldo first cemented his name as a top-rated star with his first Ballon d’Or win, the first and only Ballon d’Or win for a player actively playing in the English Premier League side Manchester United.
He finally solidified his place in the GOAT debate with an ecstatic performance with La Liga side in the 2010s, where he claimed three successive UCL times and won four Ballon d’Or awards, making him the player with the second most Ballon d’Or awards in football history.
Ronaldo’s creative play-making skills and deadly accuracy at the goal make him one of the finest players ever to have played the sport.
His incredible work rate and continuous will to push himself further than his contemporaries have seen him always rise above defeat to claim victory.
Ronaldo lays claim to a FIFA World Player of the Year award, two Best FIFA Men’s Player awards, three Pichichi awards, four European Golden Shoes, and one English Premier League Golden boot award.
He has won 34 trophies in his career and has terrific records, such as the most international goals for a professional footballer.
1. Lionel Messi
With his inspirational triumph at the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Lionel Messi, by all metrics, rendered himself the Greatest of All Time.
A little boy from Rosario with football talents and gifts definitely poured into his soul from the heavens.
Lionel Andrew Messi set his sight to accomplish what he is supremely perfect at, conquering the odds to solidify his legacy beyond all reasons and questionable doubts as the supremo star of the sport has ever witnessed.
Hailed as the numero uno of football, Messi has scaled the very heights that sought to present him as just one of the greats.
B with incredible will and refinements from the burns and fiery pains of defeats, he emerges as the ultimate greatest star football has ever seen.
His journey to the very top of football dates back to 2009 when he claimed his first Ballon d’Or trophy after a scintillating performance with Barcelona, which ended with a quadruple win, the first ever in football history.
Lionel Andres Messi was crowned Ballon d’Or winner for the next three years, making him the first player to win four Ballon d’Or awards.
His stellar performance continued as he came close to completing football but hit the dust at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, where his side emerged runner-up.
After a failed attempt in 2018, which was preceded by heartbreaking disappointment in international tournaments, he sought to raise his international trophy tally from naught to as much as he could.
The turning point soon came in 2021, when his side defeated Brazil to claim his first international honor.
He followed this with a Finalissima where Argentina defeated Euros champion Italy to take his international trophy tally two up.
But his incredulous break came in December 2022, when he inspired his side from the ashes of defeat to crown them FIFA World Cup champions, a title that has eluded him for the most part of his career.
With his World Cup win, Lionel Messi completed football, and with his numerous awards, such as his seven Ballon d’Or, 8 Pichichi Trophies, two FIFA World Cup Golden Boots, 6 European Golden Shoes, one FIFA World Player of the year and BEST FIFA Men’s Player, he renders himself as the Greatest of All Time (GOAT)
Conclusion on Football GOAT
We have scoured through the multiple football GOATs.
However, selecting the preferred top 10 and ranking them as the greatest football players of all time in order of significance of their accomplishments is one which would reflect a bit of personal preference.
While objective reasoning can be followed in ranking these greats, it is important to note that trophies, individual awards, and records are the ultimate decider in the list.