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.

Vote for Your Favourite 20th Century Football Players

 1 David Beckham

David Beckham
82
Famous As: Football player
Birthdate: May 2, 1975
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: 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.  

 2 Diego Maradona

Diego Maradona
63
Famous As: Football Player
Birthdate: October 30, 1960
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Lanús, Argentina
Died: November 25, 2020

Nicknamed The Golden Boy, Diego Maradona is considered one of the greatest footballers of all time. Thanks to his popularity and controversial personal life, which includes drug abuse issues and addiction to cocaine, Diego Maradona became a world-renowned counterculture icon. He was also an iconic figure in popular culture.

 3 Pele

Pele
29
Famous As: Football player
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.

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 4 Ronaldinho

Ronaldinho
46
Famous As: Football Player
Birthdate: March 21, 1980
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Porto Alegre, State of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil

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.

 5 Zinedine Zidane

Zinedine Zidane
33
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.

 6 Ronaldo

Ronaldo
28
Famous As: Footballer
Birthdate: September 18, 1976
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Rio de Janeiro, State of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima is a Brazilian retired professional footballer who played as a striker. Widely considered one of the greatest players of all time, he played for Brazil in 98 matches, scoring 62 goals. He was named FIFA World Player of the Year three times. He retired in 2011 and has since established himself as a successful businessperson.

 7 Pep Guardiola

Pep Guardiola
27
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. 

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 8 Thierry Henry

Thierry Henry
23
Famous As: Football Coach, Fotball player
Birthdate: August 17, 1977
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Les Ulis, 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.

 9 Alex Ferguson

Alex Ferguson
21
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 Johan Cruyff

Johan Cruyff
16
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.

 11 George Best

George Best
20
Famous As: Footballer
Birthdate: May 22, 1946
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Belfast, Northern Ireland
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. 

 12 Francesco Totti

Francesco Totti
18
Famous As: Football player
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

 13 Eric Cantona

Eric Cantona
20
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.

 14 Paolo Maldini

Paolo Maldini
11
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.  

 15 Alan Shearer

Alan Shearer
14
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.

 16 Roy Keane

Roy Keane
14
Famous As: Footballer Midfielder
Birthdate: August 10, 1971
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Cork, Ireland

One of the most successful footballers from Ireland, Roy Keane became one of the stars of Manchester United. A talented midfielder, he has helped the team win multiple FA Cups and Premier League championships. Post-retirement, he has also managed teams such as Sunderland and Ipswich Town.

 17 Peter Schmeichel

Peter Schmeichel
11
Famous As: Football player
Birthdate: November 18, 1963
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Gladsaxe Municipality, Denmark

 18 Michael Owen

Michael Owen
16
Famous As: Football player
Birthdate: December 14, 1979
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Chester, England

 19 Gary Lineker

Gary Lineker
26
Famous As: Football Player
Birthdate: November 30, 1960
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Leicester, England

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.

 20 Patrick Vieira

Patrick Vieira
15
Famous As: Association football player, Association football manager
Birthdate: June 23, 1976
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Dakar

Patrick Vieira is a football manager and former footballer. Vieira, who was an important member of the France national team, is currently serving as the manager of Crystal Palace Football Club which competes in the Premier League. Widely regarded as one of the best players of his time, Vieira helped his team win its first FIFA World Cup in 1998.

 21 Bobby Charlton

Bobby Charlton
9
Famous As: Football Player
Birthdate: October 11, 1937
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Ashington, Northumberland, England

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 Rivaldo

Rivaldo
10
Famous As: Football Player
Birthdate: April 19, 1972
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: State of Pernambuco, 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

 23 Alessandro Del Piero

Alessandro Del Piero
12
Famous As: Football - Forwarder for Italy
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.

 24 Roberto Carlos

Roberto Carlos
10
Famous As: Football Player
Birthdate: April 10, 1973
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Garça, State of São Paulo, Brazil

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.

 25 Luís Figo

Luís Figo
11
Famous As: Football Player
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.

 26 Ruud Gullit

Ruud Gullit
11
Famous As: Football player
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.

 27 Romário

Romário
12
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.

 28 Dennis Bergkamp

Dennis Bergkamp
8
Famous As: Association football player
Birthdate: May 10, 1969
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Amsterdam

 29 Roberto Baggio

Roberto Baggio
11
Famous As: Football Player
Birthdate: February 18, 1967
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Caldogno, Italy
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.

 30 Franz Beckenbauer

Franz Beckenbauer
9
Famous As: Football Player
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.

 31 Gerd Müller

Gerd Müller
10
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.

 32 Clarence Seedorf

Clarence Seedorf
10
Famous As: Football player, Football Manager
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.

 33 Marco van Basten

Marco van Basten
8
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.

 34 Ferenc Puskás

Ferenc Puskás
7
Famous As: Football player Forward, Attacking Midfielder
Birthdate: April 1, 1927
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Budapest, Hungary
Died: November 17, 2006

 35 Lev Yashin

Lev Yashin
8
Famous As: Football Player
Birthdate: October 22, 1929
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Moscow, Russia
Died: March 20, 1990
Legendary Soviet goalkeeper Lev Yashin was nicknamed the Black Spider or the Black Panther for his signature all-black attire. He played in four World Cups and later also served as the deputy chairman of the Football Federation of his country. He became the only goalkeeper to win the Ballon d'Or.

 36 Alfredo Di Stéfano

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

Alfredo Di Stéfano was an Argentine-born Spanish football player and coach. Counted among the greatest football players of all time, Di Stéfano is remembered for his association with Real Madrid, where he played a major role in the club's domination of La Liga and the European Cup during the 1950s. In 2004, he was included in Pele’s FIFA 100 list.

 37 Ole Gunnar Solskjær

Ole Gunnar Solskjær
17
Famous As: Football Manager, Football Player
Birthdate: February 26, 1973
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Kristiansund, Norway

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.

 38 N'Golo Kante

N'Golo Kante
15
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.

 39 Steven Gerrard

Steven Gerrard
21
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.

 40 Gabriel Batistuta

Gabriel Batistuta
10
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

 41 Jürgen Klinsmann

Jürgen Klinsmann
12
Famous As: Football Player, Manager
Birthdate: July 30, 1964
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Göppingen, Germany

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.

 42 Alisson Becker

Alisson Becker
4
Famous As: Football player
Birthdate: October 2, 1992
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Novo Hamburgo, State of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil

 43 Didier Drogba

Didier Drogba
13
Famous As: Football player
Birthdate: March 11, 1978
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire

 44 Virgil van Dijk

Virgil van Dijk
13
Famous As: Footballer centre-back
Birthdate: July 8, 1991
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Breda, Netherlands

 45 Lothar Matthäus

Lothar Matthäus
7
Famous As: Football Player, Football Manager
Birthdate: March 21, 1961
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Erlangen, 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

 46 Ryan Giggs

Ryan Giggs
13
Famous As: Football Player, Football Manager
Birthdate: November 29, 1973
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Canton, Cardiff, Wales
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.

 47 Riyad Mahrez

Riyad Mahrez
12
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.

 48 Oliver Kahn

Oliver Kahn
11
Famous As: Footballer
Birthdate: June 15, 1969
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Karlsruhe, Germany

 49 Hristo Stoichkov

Hristo Stoichkov
7
Famous As: Football Player
Birthdate: February 8, 1966
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Plovdiv, Bulgaria
Bulgarian footballer/coach Hristo Stoichkov’s temper and ugly fights with players have earned him nicknames such as The Raging Bull and The Dagger. The Ballon d'Or-winning player started his career at 11 with a local club. He then graduated to CSKA Sofia and Barcelona and was named to FIFA 100, too.

 50 Frank Rijkaard

Frank Rijkaard
5
Famous As: Football player
Birthdate: September 30, 1962
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Amsterdam, Netherlands
Dutch footballer and former manager Franklin Rijkaard has represented clubs such as Ajax, Real Zaragoza, and A.C. Milan. He has also coached clubs such as Barcelona and Sparta Rotterdam and the Dutch and Saudi Arabian national teams. He has also earned the 2005-2006 UEFA Manager of the Year honor.