20th Century Football Players

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Find out more about the greatest 20th Century Football Players, including Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Zlatan Ibrahimović, Jamie Vardy and Tom Brady.
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 1 
Diego Maradona
(One of the Greatest Football Players in the History of the Sport)
Diego Maradona
94
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.

 2 
Zinedine Zidane
(French Professional Football Manager and Former Player Who Played as an Attacking Midfielder)
Zinedine Zidane
53
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.

 3 
Ronaldo
(Brazilian Retired Professional Footballer Who Played as a Striker)
Ronaldo
52
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.

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 4 
Thierry Henry
(Former French Professional Football Player, Coach and One of the Greatest Strikers of All Time)
Thierry Henry
37
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.

 5 
Pep Guardiola
(Former Spanish Football Player Who is Considered One of the Greatest Managers of All Time)
Pep Guardiola
54
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. 

 6 
Alex Ferguson
(One of the Greatest Football Managers of All Time)
Alex Ferguson
32
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
 7 
Johan Cruyff
(One of the Greatest Football Players & One of the Best Managers Ever)
Johan Cruyff
21
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.
 8 
George Best
(Northern Irish Professional Footballer Who Played as a Winger)
George Best
30
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. 
 9 
Eric Cantona
(French Actor and One of the Greatest Footballers of His Generation)
Eric Cantona
27
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.

 10 
Alan Shearer
(Football Player)
Alan Shearer
19
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.
 11 
Francesco Totti
(Italian Former Professional Football Player Who Played as an Attacking Midfielder and as a Forward)
Francesco Totti
27
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

 12 
Paolo Maldini
(Italian Former Football Player Who Played as a Defender)
Paolo Maldini
17
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.  

 13 
Michael Owen
(Football player)
Michael Owen
26
Birthdate: December 14, 1979
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Chester, England
 14 
Roy Keane
(Irish Football Pundit, Manager, and Former Football Midfielder)
Roy Keane
19
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.

 15 
George Weah
(25th President of Liberia)
George Weah
16
Birthdate: October 1, 1966
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Clara Town, Liberia
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.
 16 
Peter Schmeichel
(Football player)
Peter Schmeichel
19
Birthdate: November 18, 1963
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Gladsaxe Municipality, Denmark
 17 
Gary Lineker
(One of the Greatest English Football Strikers)
Gary Lineker
32
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.

 18 
Patrick Vieira
(Association football player, Association football manager)
Patrick Vieira
23
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.

 19 
Bobby Charlton
(One of the Greatest Football Players of All Time)
Bobby Charlton
12
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.

 20 
Luís Figo
(One of the Best Portuguese Football Players of All Time)
Luís Figo
15
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.
 21 
Rivaldo
(Brazilian Former Football Player Who Played as an Attacking Midfielder)
Rivaldo
12
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
 22 
Roberto Carlos
(Brazilian Former Professional Football Player Who Played as a Left-Back)
Roberto Carlos
11
Birthdate: April 10, 1973
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Garça, 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.

 23 
Roberto Baggio
(Italian Former Professional Football Player Who Played as an Attacking Midfielder or as a Forward)
Roberto Baggio
16
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.
 24 
Alessandro Del Piero
(Italian Former Professional Football Player Who Played as a Deep-Lying Forward)
Alessandro Del Piero
18
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.

 25 
Romário
(One of the Greatest Football Players of All Time)
Romário
16
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.
 26 
Ruud Gullit
(One of the Greatest Football Players of All Time)
Ruud Gullit
15
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 
Dennis Bergkamp
(Dutch Retired Football Forward)
Dennis Bergkamp
13
Birthdate: May 10, 1969
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Amsterdam

Dutch football coach and retired player Dennis Bergkamp had a successful playing career with clubs such as Ajax, Arsenal, and Inter Milan. Initially a midfielder, he later played as a striker. The 2-time FIFA World Player of the Year bronze winner also gained the nickname the Non-Flying Dutchman for his fear of flying.

 28 
Franz Beckenbauer
(One of the Greatest Football Players in the History of the Sport)
Franz Beckenbauer
16
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 
Ferenc Puskás
(Football player Forward, Attacking Midfielder)
Ferenc Puskás
12
Birthdate: April 1, 1927
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Budapest, Hungary
Died: November 17, 2006
 30 
Gabriel Batistuta
(One of the Greatest Football Strikers of All Time)
Gabriel Batistuta
12
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
 31 
Marco van Basten
(Former Dutch Football Star)
Marco van Basten
11
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.
 32 
Alfredo Di Stéfano
(Argentine Professional Footballer and Coach Who Played as a Forward)
Alfredo Di Stéfano
12
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.

 33 
Gerd Müller
(One of the Greatest Football Goal Scorers of All Time)
Gerd Müller
18
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.
 34 
Lev Yashin
(One of the Greatest Goalkeeper in the History of the Sport)
Lev Yashin
11
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.
 35 
José Mourinho
(Portuguese Former Professional Football Player and One of the Greatest Managers of All Time)
José Mourinho
4
Birthdate: January 26, 1963
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Setúbal

When it comes to great football managers, Jose Mourinho’s name comes right at the top. He is regarded as one of the most tactfully brilliant managers ever, even though his defensive style has at times been criticised. He has had great stints with Premier League clubs like Inter Milan, Real Madrid, Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur.

 36 
N'Golo Kante
(Association football player)
N'Golo Kante
18
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.

 37 
Steven Gerrard
(Football Player)
Steven Gerrard
23
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.
 38 
Ole Gunnar Solskjær
(Norwegian Professional Football Manager and Former Player Who Played as a Forward)
Ole Gunnar Solskjær
23
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.

 39 
Virgil van Dijk
(Dutch Professional Football Centre-Back)
Virgil van Dijk
16
Birthdate: July 8, 1991
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Breda, Netherlands

Dutch footballer Virgil van Dijk plays as a defender for Liverpool and has won several titles, such as a Premier League, with them. Starting his senior career with Groningen, he later played for teams such as Celtic and Southampton. He is the only defender to be named the UEFA Men's Player of the Year.

 40 
Raúl González
(Football manager, Football player)
Raúl González
15
Birthdate: June 27, 1977
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Madrid, Spain
 41 
Didier Drogba
(Football player)
Didier Drogba
16
Birthdate: March 11, 1978
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire
 42 
Hristo Stoichkov
(One of the Greatest Bulgarian Football Players of All Time)
Hristo Stoichkov
9
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.
 43 
Didier Deschamps
(Former Footballer Defensive Midfielder)
Didier Deschamps
13
Birthdate: October 15, 1968
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Bayonne, France

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. 

 44 
Michel Platini
(Former French Football Player, Manager and 6th President of UEFA (2007 - 2015))
Michel Platini
10
Birthdate: June 21, 1955
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Jœuf, France

Michel Platini is a former football player, administrator, and manager. Widely considered one of the greatest football players of all time, this French footballer won the prestigious Ballon d'Or award three times during his glorious playing career. Michel Platini also played a key role as France's national team coach before he was banned from football by the FIFA Ethics Committee.

 45 
Frank Rijkaard
(Dutch Former Football Player and Former Manager Who Played as a Forward)
Frank Rijkaard
5
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.
 46 
Jack Grealish
(Association football player)
Jack Grealish
25
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. 

 47 
Ryan Giggs
(Welsh Football Coach and Former Player)
Ryan Giggs
18
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.
 48 
Samuel Eto'o
(Footballer)
Samuel Eto'o
15
Birthdate: March 10, 1981
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Douala, Cameroon
 49 
Carlo Ancelotti
(Italian Former Professional Footballer Regarded as One of the Greatest Managers of All Time)
Carlo Ancelotti
13
Birthdate: June 10, 1959
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Reggiolo, Italy

Carlo Ancelotti had humble beginnings as a midfielder in Italian club football. He was part of the Italian national squad in two World Cups and one UEFA Euro, and is one of three managers who have won the UEFA Champions League thrice, twice with Milan and once with Real Madrid.

 50 
Ousmane Dembele
(Association football player)
Ousmane Dembele
14
Birthdate: May 15, 1997
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Vernon, Eure Vernon, France

Ousmane Dembele is a footballer who currently plays for the France national team as well as Barcelona. Renowned for his speed, agility, and technical ability, Dembele helped his national team win its second FIFA World Cup in 2018. A skillful player, Dembele can use either foot while playing. Although a mid-fielder, he is also known for his ability to score.