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Top 10 Legendary Soccer Players

VO: Adrian Sousa WRITTEN BY: Adrian Sousa

Eusébio, Garrincha, and Ferenc Puskás . These names will continue to go down in history as some of the best in the world. WatchMojo counts down the Top 10 Legendary Soccer Players.

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Script written by Adrian Sousa

Top 10 Legendary Soccer Players


#10: Eusébio

Portugal
From playing with balls made of newspaper in the streets of Mafala in Mozambique, to leading Portugal to their best-ever World Cup appearance. Eusébio da Silva Ferreira aka The Black Pearl to most or The King to Benfica fans started to make his mark in Europe at the age of 19 for Benfica. With his speed, power and elusiveness with the ball, he lead Benfica to European Cup glory just a year later, scoring twice in the final against Real Madrid. Over 500 goals, one European Cup, 11 Portuguese Primeira Liga titles, five Taça de Portugal titles and one Ballon d’Or later, and Eusébio goes down in Benfica and football history as one of the all-time greatest players.

#9: Garrincha

Brazil
The nickname given to Manuel Francisco dos Santos or “Garrincha” was bestowed upon him by his sisters, given that his birth defects and small stature resembled a “wren” or small bird to them. Despite his right leg being 6 inches longer than the other and his spine being deformed from birth, Garrincha went on to to become one of Brazil’s most important players from 1955 to 1966. When he was fielded alongside fellow megastar Pelé, Brazil never lost. Garrincha was one of the first Brazilians to represent the creative, pacey, joie-de-vivre style that they are now known for, and in doing so, he lead Brazil to a 1962 World Cup victory in Pelé’s stead, winning both the Golden Ball, and the Golden Boot.

#8: Michel Platini

France
The 1980’s belonged to France’s Michel Platini, as the Juventus playmaker was often regarded as the brain behind both his club and country’s attack. With a nickname like Le Roi, his dominance on the pitch was certainly magisterial, earning him a move from Saint-Etienne to Juventus in 1982, where he would go on to win three Ballon d’Or in a row, two Serie A, a European Cup, and a European Football Championship with France in 1984. Platini embodied the skilled attacker/playmaker role during his reign, with his incisive passing and skill from dead ball situations. Though his reputation was sullied a bit following his term as UEFA president, he is still known as Le Roi among French football fans.

#7: Ferenc Puskás

Hungary
You’ve had to have done something right in your career to have a FIFA Award for the most beautiful goal of the year named after you. This Hungarian and later Spanish dual-national caught the attention of Real Madrid due to his ridiculous goalscoring numbers for Budapest Honvéd in which he scored 358 goals in 350 appearances. Signing for Los Blancos in 1958, Puskás and his 156 goals in 180 matches helped lead Madrid to 5 Spanish League titles and three European Cup titles, among others. Oh, and did we mention that he arrived at Real Madrid at the age of 31? Internationally, he also helped Hungary to a second placed World Cup finish in 1954 and an Olympic Gold Medal, making him one of Europe’s best ever players.

#6: Alfredo Di Stéfano

Argentina
Di Stéfano was such a special talent, his services were sought by no less than three national teams: Argentina, Colombia and Spain, though it was for, and whilst in the latter that he pulled off his greatest feats. La Saeta Rubia or The Blonde Arrow as he was known in Argentina, made a name for himself as a powerful, quick and technically exquisite forward for Buenos Aires’ historic River Plate club. Later, he would be known the world over due to his exploits with Real Madrid alongside the aforementioned Ferenc Puskás. As of August of 2018, he remains the sixth highest scorer in Spanish League history, the third-highest in Real Madrid history, and was considered to be the most complete attacking player of his time.

#5: Franz Beckenbauer

Germany
Der Kaiser, the first player in history to have both captained and then coached his national team to World Cup glory before Didier Deschamps repeated that feat. After retiring from his day job as an insurance salesman, he looked to achieve his dreams becoming a professional football player with Bayern Munich, and he achieved this and then some. Starting as both a left-back and midfielder before settling in as a centre-back, his elegance and intelligence on the ball helped Germany to a UEFA European Championship in ’72 and a World Cup in ’74, guided Bayern Munich to 4 Bundesliga and DFB Pokal titles each, and won the Ballon d’Or on two occasions. Beckenbauer has established himself as Germany’s greatest player of all time, and among football’s elite.

#4: Zinedine Zidane

France
Though his playing career came to an end in a surprising fashion, Zidane’s legacy lives on, inspiring an entire generation of young football players not just in France, but across the globe. Starting his career with Cannes, his trademark control and dribbling, his ability to pick out a pass that no defender has foreseen, and his leadership skills saw him move from Cannes, to Bourdeaux, to Juventus, and eventually to Real Madrid in a then world record deal. Before going on to have an extremely successful albeit still fledgling managerial career, Zidane won both the World Cup and the European Championships with France, multiple domestic titles at the club level, and a Champions League trophy with Real Madrid. After a career which had seen him win the Ballon d’Or, he still managed to win the Golden Ball at the 2006 World Cup, despite that moment.

#3: Johan Cruyff

Netherlands
Whenever going through the history of football, the term “Total Football” is bound to come up, and Johan Cruyff’s name should follow shortly. The late Cruyff, born in Amsterdam, guided the Netherlands from footballing obscurity in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, turning them into the household name that they are today in footballing terms. In fact, he led the Oranje to the 1974 World Cup final, where he pulled off his infamous “Cruyff Turn” in a 2 - 1 loss to West Germany. At the club level and personal levels, Cruyff won the Ballon d’Or on three occasions, eight league titles with Ajax, one with Barcelona, 3 European Cups with Ajax, and many, many more. His revolutionary playing style and on-pitch implementation of “Total Football” lifted an entire nation’s footballing profile, and changed how the game was played forever.

#2: Diego Maradona

Argentina
El Pibe de Oro, the Golden Boy, or simply El Diego: there are many names and even more controversies that surround Diego Maradona. The height of his achievements was undoubtedly dragging a rather average Argentina squad to the finals of the 1986 World Cup, and winning the tournament along with the Golden Ball and the Silver Shoe. He won league titles and a UEFA Cup with Napoli and some other silverware at the club level, but what was truly remarkable about Maradona was how unique his playing style was. Case and point? His “goal of the century” that he scored against England in the quarter-finals of the aforementioned World Cup. Playing during an era of football where the World Cup was the ultimate measure of a career, Maradona’s achievements with Argentina were above and beyond his peers at the time.

Before we get to our most legendary of football players, here are a few honourable mentions.

Lev Yashin
Russia

Ronaldo
Brazil

Paolo Maldini
Italy

#1: Pelé

Brazil
When you talk about the legendary football players, few names come up more frequently than Pelé, the Brazilian who went from a 17 year-old wondered to arguably the greatest player to play the game. According to the International Federation of Football History & Statistics, Pelé is the only footballer to ever score over 1,200 club goals, sitting pretty at 1,281 goals in 1,363 matches. He started his international legend by scoring twice in the 1958 World Cup final, the youngest player to score in a final, which was the first of his unprecedented 3 World Cups that he would win with the Seleção. At the club level, at just 16, he scored 36 goals in 29 matches for Santos, where he would go on to win 6 Campeonato Brasileiro Série A, 2 Copa Libertadores. Pelé set the bar high for those who wish to take his crown.

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