20th Century Football Players

Find out more about the greatest 20th Century Football Players, including Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Zlatan Ibrahimović, Jamie Vardy and Tom Brady.

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi
117
Famous As: Football Player
Birthdate: June 24, 1987
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Rosario, Argentina

Considered one of the best football players in the world and a prolific goal scorer, Lionel Messi has shattered and created numerous records in his playing career. Regarded by another soccer legend, Diego Maradona, as his successor, the Argentinian superstar is also one of the world’s highest paid athletes.

 2 David Beckham

David Beckham
54
Famous As: Former English Footballer
Birthdate: May 2, 1975
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Leytonstone, London, England
David Beckham is a former English footballer who was football superstar on-field and a heartthrob off-field. A former player for Manchester United, Real Madrid and Milan, among others, Beckham was a free-kick specialist, a brilliant crosser of the ball and the first English player to win league titles in four countries. His passion for football, charisma and fashion style have made him an international sensation.  

 3 Ronaldinho

Ronaldinho
30
Famous As: Footballer
Birthdate: March 21, 1980
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Porto Alegre

Regarded as one of the best football players of all time, Ronaldinho played a crucial role in Brazil’s victory in 2002 FIFA World Cup. Later, he helped FC Barcelona win two La Liga and a UEFA Champions League title. The two time FIFA world Player of the Year, who retired in 2018, was known for his technical skills and creativity.

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 4 Luis Suarez

Luis Suarez
11
Famous As: Uruguayan Footballer
Birthdate: January 24, 1987
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Salto, Uruguay

Controversy’s favorite child Uruguayan professional Luis Suarez has been in the news for an infamous handball and also for biting opponents. He now plays for Atlético Madrid and has previously represented Barcelona and Liverpool, winning 19 trophies in his career to date. He is Uruguay's leading goalscorer of all time.

 5 Thierry Henry

Thierry Henry
19
Famous As: French football Coach
Birthdate: August 17, 1977
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Les Ulis, Essonne, France

A football coach, Thierry Henry began his career as a player with Monaco team and later also played for Arsenal and Barcelona. A lethal striker, he became a record goal scorer for both France and Arsenal. He played a crucial role in the French victory in 1998 FIFA World Cup and Arsenal’s win in Premier League and the FA Cup.

 6 Wayne Rooney

Wayne Rooney
37
Famous As: Footballer
Birthdate: October 24, 1985
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Croxteth, Liverpool, England, United Kingdom

Regarded as one of the best football players of the current era, Wayne Rooney is the record goal-scorer for the Manchester United FC and England national team. Originally a boxer, Wayne continues to pursue boxing as a recreational activity. Wayne has been controversy's favorite child for many years now; from allegations of infidelity to legal issues, he has faced them all!

 7 Zinedine Zidane

Zinedine Zidane
21
Famous As: Football Player
Birthdate: June 23, 1972
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: La Castellane, Marseille, France

Amongst the greatest footballers of all time, Zinedine Zidane led France to victories in the FIFA World Cup in 1998 and the European Championship in 2000. Later, the three-time FIFA World Player of the Year took up the position of Real Madrid manager and carved yet another success story by winning major titles like Champions League and UEFA Super Cups.

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 8 Ronaldo

Ronaldo
13
Famous As: Footballer
Birthdate: September 18, 1976
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Rio de Janeiro, State of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

 9 Alex Ferguson

Alex Ferguson
13
Famous As: Former Manager of Manchester United
Birthdate: December 31, 1941
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Glasgow, Scotland
Alex Ferguson is known for his 26-year tenure as the manager of the football club Manchester United, from 1986 to 2013. He won 38 trophies with the club, including 13 Premier League titles. The first English Football Hall of Fame inductee, Ferguson has also received the knighthood

 10 Pele

Pele
15
Famous As: Brazilian footballer
Birthdate: October 23, 1940
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Tres Coracoes, Brazil

Brazilian football legend Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pele, was named the Football Player of the Century by the IFFHS. He called football “The Beautiful Game” and was one of the world’s highest-paid athlete for a while. His 1281 goals in 1363 games is a Guinness World Record.

 11 Johan Cruyff

Johan Cruyff
11
Famous As: Football player
Birthdate: April 25, 1947
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Amsterdam, Netherlands
Died: March 24, 2016
Dutch midfielder/forward Johan Cruyff pioneered the idea of Total Football, along with coach Rinus Michels. The first three-time Ballon d'Or-winner was known for his signature move, the Cruyff Turn. He made it to FIFA 100 and ranked second only to Pele in an official World Player of the Century poll.

 12 Gary Lineker

Gary Lineker
17
Famous As: Footballer
Birthdate: November 30, 1960
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Leicester

Gary Lineker is a British former football player who currently works as a sports broadcaster. Considered one of the greatest British strikers of all time, Gary Lineker is the third-highest goal-scorer for England. During his 16-year playing career, Lineker never received a red or yellow card, due to which he was honored with the FIFA Fair Play Award in 1990.

 13 George Best

George Best
11
Famous As: Footballer
Birthdate: May 22, 1946
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Belfast
Died: November 25, 2005
Manchester United winger/midfielder George Best was the 1968 European Footballer of the Year and was placed sixth on the FIFA Player of the Century list. A skilled dribbler, the Northern Irish player was also known for his stunning good looks and his affinity for women and alcohol. 

 14 Francesco Totti

Francesco Totti
10
Famous As: Italian Footballer
Birthdate: September 27, 1976
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Rome, Italy

Italian footballer Francesco Totti is known for his 25-year stint with Roma. Nicknamed “The Golden Boy” and “The Gladiator,” he led Roma to win the Serie A and the Coppa Italia. He was also part of the 2006 FIFA World Cup-winning Italian team. He was named to Pele’s FIFA 100

 15 Eric Cantona

Eric Cantona
8
Famous As: Football player, Actor
Birthdate: May 24, 1966
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Marseille, France

Eric Cantona is a French actor, filmmaker, and former football player. During his playing career, Cantona was a key player for the popular football club Manchester United and is often credited with reviving the club's reputation as a footballing force. Nicknamed King Eric by Manchester United fans, Eric Cantona continues to enjoy an iconic status within the club.

 16 Alan Shearer

Alan Shearer
7
Famous As: Football Player
Birthdate: August 13, 1970
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Gosforth, England
Former Newcastle United striker Alan Shearer has also worked as a BBC football pundit and a football manager. The Euro 1996 Golden Boot-winner has also represented Southampton and Blackburn Rovers, winning the 1994-1995 Premier League with the latter. With 260 goals, he became the Premier League’s leading goal-scorer.

 17 Paolo Maldini

Paolo Maldini
9
Famous As: Footballer
Birthdate: June 26, 1968
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Milan, Lombardy, Italy

Paolo Maldini is an Italian former professional footballer widely regarded as one of the greatest ever defenders. He played primarily as a left-back and central defender and was affiliated with Milan and the Italian national team. Currently, he is serving as the technical director for Milan. He is also the co-owner of the USL Championship club Miami FC.  

 18 Peter Schmeichel

Peter Schmeichel
5
Famous As: Football player
Birthdate: November 18, 1963
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Gladsaxe Municipality, Denmark

 19 Pep Guardiola

Pep Guardiola
17
Famous As: Football player, Football Manager
Birthdate: January 18, 1971
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Santpedor, Spain

A football addict from beginning, Pep Guardiola went on to become a key player with the Barcelona and the Spanish National team. He played a crucial role in winning major titles like the La Liga and an Olympic gold medal. After retiring as a player, he became a coach and is widely regarded as one of the world's best coaches. 

 20 Roberto Baggio

Roberto Baggio
7
Famous As: Football Player
Birthdate: February 18, 1967
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Caldogno
Italian former footballer Roberto Baggio is the only Italian to score goals in three World Cups, in 1990, 1994, and 1998. He was the FIFA World Player of the Year in 1993. Nicknamed “The Divine Ponytail" for his peculiar hairstyle, he also became the Goodwill Ambassador of the UN’s FAO.

 21 Bobby Charlton

Bobby Charlton
7
Famous As: Football Player
Birthdate: October 11, 1937
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Ashington, Northumberland, Englan

Widely considered one of the greatest players ever, Bobby Charlton was an important member of the England national football team that emerged victorious at the 1966 FIFA World Cup. The recipient of several prestigious awards, including the Ballon d'Or, Charlton received a knighthood in 1994. He is the second-highest goalscorer for England.

 22 Alessandro Del Piero

Alessandro Del Piero
8
Famous As: Footballer
Birthdate: November 9, 1974
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Conegliano, Veneto, Italy

Alessandro Del Piero is an Italian former football player. Renowned for his creativity, he is often counted among the best players of his generation. He is also widely regarded as one of Italy's greatest players of all time. A prolific goal-scorer, Del Piero scored 346 goals during his playing career, making him the second-highest Italian goal-scorer of all time.

 23 Rivaldo

Rivaldo
6
Famous As: Former Brazilian Footballer
Birthdate: April 19, 1972
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Paulista, Brazil
Brazilian former footballer Rivaldo is known for his powerful strikes and has had successful stints with the clubs Barcelona and Milan. He is the seventh-highest goal-scorer for Brazil and was part of the 2002 FIFA World Cup-winning team. Post-retirement, he appeared in the film I Am Not Salvador

 24 Ruud Gullit

Ruud Gullit
8
Famous As: Former Dutch Footballer
Birthdate: September 1, 1962
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Amsterdam, Netherlands

Ruud Gullit is a Dutch former football player. Considered one of the greatest players in the history of football, Gullit was known for his versatility as he could play as an attacking midfielder, forward, or midfielder. During the 1988 UEFA European Football Championship, he led his national team to its first title.

 25 Gerard Piqué

Gerard Piqué
19
Famous As: Football Player
Birthdate: February 2, 1987
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Barcelona

Spanish footballer Gerard Piqué, who plays for FC Barcelona, is considered one of the world’s best centre halves. He is amongst the few players who have won the UEFA Champions League for two consecutive years, but for different teams. He also played a crucial role in the Spain national team’s victory in 2010 FIFA World Cup and UEFA Euro 2012.

 26 Roberto Carlos

Roberto Carlos
6
Famous As: Football Player
Birthdate: April 10, 1973
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Garça

A major force behind Brazil’s World Cup win in 2002, Roberto Carlos was born into a poor peasant family and grew up working on his family farm. He soared to fame during his 11-season stint with Real Madrid, winning four La Liga titles and three UEFA Champions Leagues with them.

 27 Gabriel Batistuta

Gabriel Batistuta
6
Famous As: Football player
Birthdate: February 1, 1969
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Santa Fe Province, Argentina
Argentine former footballer Gabriel Batistuta, also known as “Batigol” and “El Ángel Gabriel,” has played for clubs such as Fiorentina and Roma. A powerful striker, he was Argentina's all-time leading goal-scorer until Lionel Messi broke his record. He is also the only footballer with two hat-tricks in separate World Cups

 28 Franz Beckenbauer

Franz Beckenbauer
6
Famous As: Former German Footballer
Birthdate: September 11, 1945
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Munich, Germany
German former footballer Franz Beckenbauer spent most of his career with Bayern Munich, winning championships such as the European Cup. He won the World Cup for West Germany twice, first as a player in 1974 and then as a manager in 1990. He was also a Sky Germany analyst.

 29 N'Golo Kante

N'Golo Kante
12
Famous As: Association football player
Birthdate: March 29, 1991
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Paris, France

N'Golo Kante is a French football player who currently plays for the France national team as well as Chelsea FC. Widely regarded as one of the best midfielders in the world, Kanté played a major role in helping his former team Leicester City win their first Premier League title. He also helped France win its second World Cup in 2018.

 30 Steven Gerrard

Steven Gerrard
15
Famous As: Football Player
Birthdate: May 30, 1980
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Whiston
Steven Gerrard spent most of his career as a Liverpool midfielder and also captained Liverpool and the English national team. His phenomenal performance in the 2006 FA Cup Final led it to be called The Gerrard Final. The Order of the British Empire member now manages the Scottish club Rangers.

 31 Ole Gunnar Solskjær

Ole Gunnar Solskjær
13
Famous As: Football Manager
Birthdate: February 26, 1973
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Kristiansund

Former Norwegian football player, Ole Gunnar Solskjær was one of the most successful players of Manchester United and scored 126 goals for it. He famously scored the winning goal against Bayern Munich in the 1999 Champions League final to secure a treble for the Manchester United. Post retirement, he began his coaching career and is currently the manager of Manchester United.

 32 Jürgen Klinsmann

Jürgen Klinsmann
7
Famous As: Football Player
Birthdate: July 30, 1964
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Göppingen

Jürgen Klinsmann is a German football manager who guided the German national team throughout the 2006 FIFA World Cup, helping them finish third. A former player, Klinsmann helped the West German team win the 1990 World Cup. One of Germany's main strikers during the 1990s, Jürgen Klinsmann was named in Pele's FIFA 100 list in 2004.

 33 Clarence Seedorf

Clarence Seedorf
8
Famous As: Football Coach
Birthdate: April 1, 1976
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Paramaribo, Suriname

Clarence Seedorf is a Dutch former football player. Widely considered one of the best midfielders of his era, Seedorf was included in Pelé's FIFA 100 list in 2004. Having won several continental and domestic titles for clubs in the Netherlands, Brazil, Italy, and Spain, Clarence Seedorf is one of the most celebrated and decorated Dutch players of all time.

 34 Romário

Romário
8
Famous As: Football player, Politician
Birthdate: January 29, 1966
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Rio de Janeiro, State of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
One of the most prolific goal scorers in the history of football, Romario has had an engaging and electric presence both on and off field. He starred in Brazil's 1994 FIFA World Cup triumph and was named the Player of The Tournament, earning a Golden Ball. He later turned to politics after he bid adieu to the field.

 35 Luís Figo

Luís Figo
9
Famous As: Former Portuguese Footballer
Birthdate: November 4, 1972
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Almada, Portugal
Portuguese former footballer Luís Figo has had successful stints with Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Inter Milan. He made a La Liga record with 106 assists, the second-highest in the league. He participated in two World Cups for Portugal and was named the 2001 FIFA World Player of the Year.

 36 Didier Drogba

Didier Drogba
10
Famous As: Football player
Birthdate: March 11, 1978
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire

 37 Marco van Basten

Marco van Basten
5
Famous As: Former Dutch Football Star
Birthdate: October 31, 1964
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Utrecht, Netherlands
Dutch footballer Marco van Basten is known for his successful stints at Ajax and Milan and won the Champions League thrice with the latter. However, an ankle injury cut his career short. The three-time Ballon d'Or winner later took over as the manager of Ajax and the Dutch national team.

 38 Ryan Giggs

Ryan Giggs
10
Famous As: Footballer
Birthdate: November 29, 1973
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Cardiff
Welsh midfielder Ryan Giggs has had a successful 24-year stint with Manchester United as a senior player and has also served as their interim coach. He has won 13 Premier League titles with the club and was the first player with two consecutive PFA Young Player of the Year awards.

 39 Gerd Müller

Gerd Müller
7
Famous As: Football Player
Birthdate: November 3, 1945
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Nördlingen, Germany
Died: August 15, 2021
German footballer Gerd Müller, also known as "Bomber der Nation," had a successful stint with Bayern Munich. His score of 85 goals in a single year was broken by Lionel Messi after 4 decades. He scored the winning goal for West Germany in the 1974 FIFA World Cup.

 40 Fernando Torres

Fernando Torres
7
Famous As: Footballer
Birthdate: March 20, 1984
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Fuenlabrada

Fernando Torres is a former football player whose ability to score goals earned him a reputation as one of the best goal-scorers in the world. He helped his Spanish football team win their first FIFA World Cup in 2010. Such is his popularity in Spain that a stadium was built in his honor in Fuenlabrada, Spain, in 2011.

 41 Virgil van Dijk

Virgil van Dijk
11
Famous As: Association football player
Birthdate: July 8, 1991
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Breda

 42 Lothar Matthäus

Lothar Matthäus
5
Famous As: Former German Footballer
Birthdate: March 21, 1961
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Erlangen, Bavaria, West Germany
German football coach and former player Lothar Matthäus, one of the world’s greatest midfielders, became the European Footballer of the Year after captaining the side to their 1990 FIFA World Cup win. He also led Germany to win the UEFA Euro 1980. He spent most of his senior career with Bayern Munich

 43 George Weah

George Weah
12
Famous As: 25th President of Liberia
Birthdate: 1966 AD
Birthplace: Monrovia
George Weah, who has been the president of Liberia since 2018, was once a star footballer. The striker was named the 1995 FIFA World Player of the Year, and played for clubs such as A.C. Milan and Paris Saint-Germain. Following his retirement, he established the Congress for Democratic Change.

 44 Alfredo Di Stéfano

Alfredo Di Stéfano
6
Famous As: Football player
Birthdate: July 4, 1926
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Barracas, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Died: July 7, 2014

 45 Gareth Southgate

Gareth Southgate
7
Famous As: Football manager
Birthdate: September 3, 1970
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Watford, Hertfordshire, England, UK

Gareth Southgate is an English football manager. A former player, he used to play as a defender and midfielder for Aston Villa, Middlesbrough, and Crystal Palace. He retired in 2006, after more than 500 league appearances and began his stint as a football manager. He has been managing the England national team since 2016. 

 46 Riyad Mahrez

Riyad Mahrez
7
Famous As: Association football player
Birthdate: February 22, 1991
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Sarcelles, France

Riyad Mahrez is a professional footballer. He plays for Premier League club Manchester City and the Algerian national team. He began his youth career playing for French club AAS Sarcelles and turned professional in 2009. He represented Algeria at the 2014 FIFA World Cup. In the 2015–16 season, he was named the PFA Players' Player of the Year.

 47 Raúl González

Raúl González
7
Famous As: Football manager, Football player
Birthdate: June 27, 1977
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Madrid, Spain

 48 Didier Deschamps

Didier Deschamps
9
Famous As: Association football player, Association football manager
Birthdate: October 15, 1968
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Bayonne

Didier Deschamps is a French former professional football player turned manager. He played as a defensive midfielder for many clubs, such as Marseille, Juventus, Chelsea, and Valencia. He was also a French international. He began his managerial career in 2001 and has been the manager of the France national team since 2012. Former tennis player Nathalie Tauziat is his cousin. 

 49 Andrea Pirlo

Andrea Pirlo
13
Famous As: Italian footballer
Birthdate: May 19, 1979
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Flero, Italy

Italian professional football coach and former player. Andrea Pirlo, is currently the head coach of football club Juventus. As a player, he was known for his ball control. He retired after playing 116 matches for the Italian national football team. He was elected into the Italian Football Hall of Fame in 2019.

 50 Jack Grealish

Jack Grealish
11
Famous As: Association football player
Birthdate: September 10, 1995
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Birmingham, England

Jack Grealish is an English professional footballer. At present, he is affiliated with Premier League club Manchester City and the England national team. He plays as a  winger or attacking midfielder. He joined the Highgate United Youth Club as a boy and started playing professionally as a teenager. He is known for his ability to run and dribble past defenders.