21st Century Football Players

Find out more about the greatest 21st 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 21st Century Football Players

 1 Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo
206
Famous As: Football Player
Birthdate: February 5, 1985
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Funchal, Portugal

Widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, Portuguese football player, Cristiano Ronaldo, is one of the world's highest-paid athletes. He is a versatile attacker capable of playing on either wing as well as through the center of the pitch. He has the distinction of being the first European to score 100 international goals.

 2 Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi
189
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.

 3 Neymar

Neymar
93
Famous As: Football Player
Birthdate: February 5, 1992
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: State of São Paulo, Brazil
Amongst the best football players in the world presently, Neymar is a part of Brazil national team and French club Paris Saint-Germain. The prolific goal scorer debuted with Santos and played for Barcelona before joining PSG in a deal that made him the world’s most expensive player. He led Brazil national team to its first Olympic gold medal in 2016.
Recommended Lists:

 4 Zlatan Ibrahimović

Zlatan Ibrahimović
82
Famous As: Football player
Birthdate: October 3, 1981
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Malmo, Sweden

Swedish professional footballer Zlatan Ibrahimović currently plays as a striker for Serie A club A.C. Milan. Widely regarded as one of the best strikers of his generation, he is one of the most decorated active footballers in the world.  He is Sweden's all-time leading goalscorer. He is a brash person and has been involved in several violent incidents with teammates.

 5 David Beckham

David Beckham
81
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.  

 6 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.

 7 Harry Kane

Harry Kane
49
Famous As: One of the Best Football Strikers in the World
Birthdate: July 28, 1993
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Walthamstow, England
A brilliant striker known for his impressive ability to score goals, Harry Kane is an English football player who leads the national team of England and also plays for Premier League club, Tottenham Hotspur. Harry Kane has been named the Premier League Player of the Month six times and received the Golden Boot twice.
You May Like

 8 Pele

Pele
28
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.

 9 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.

 10 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.

 11 Gareth Bale

Gareth Bale
60
Famous As: Footballer
Birthdate: July 16, 1989
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Cardiff, Wales

The charismatic Welsh footballer player, Gareth Frank Bale played for Southampton football club and Tottenham Hotspur extensively before joining Real Madrid in 2013 for a fees that exceeded Christiano Ronaldo’s earlier record fee. Known for his speed and accuracy, Gareth Bales is also the captain of Wales national team and plays for Tottenham Hotspur, on loan from Real Madrid.

 12 Robert Lewandowski

Robert Lewandowski
38
Famous As: Football Player
Birthdate: August 21, 1988
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Warsaw, Poland

Considered one of the best football players in the world, Robert Lewandowski plays for Bundesliga club Bayern Munich and leads the Poland national team as its captain. Known for his exceptional goal scoring ability and striking skills, Lewandowski has earned several accolades including Polish Player of the Year title for eight consecutive years. Besides, he is also a venture capitalist.

 13 Wayne Rooney

Wayne Rooney
55
Famous As: Football Player, Football Manager
Birthdate: October 24, 1985
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Croxteth, Liverpool, England

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!

 14 Ronaldo

Ronaldo
27
Famous As: Footballer
Birthdate: September 18, 1976
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Rio de Janeiro, State of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

 15 Luis Suarez

Luis Suarez
26
Famous As: Football Player
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.

 16 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. 

 17 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.

 18 Gianluigi Buffon

Gianluigi Buffon
34
Famous As: Football Player
Birthdate: January 28, 1978
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Carrara, Italy
Gianluigi Buffon is an Italian footballer, often considered the greatest goalkeeper of all time. The first goalkeeper to receive the Golden Foot Award, Buffon was included in Pelé's FIFA 100 list in 2004. He is also well-known for his charity work; in 2019, he was named a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations' World Food Programme.

 19 Luka Modrić

Luka Modrić
18
Famous As: Football Player
Birthdate: September 9, 1985
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Zadar, Croatia
Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modrić has won 17 big trophies for his club. He had a difficult childhood, growing up amid the Croatian War of Independence. He has played for Tottenham Hotspur, and in 2018, he led Croatia to their first football World Cup final and won the Golden Ball.

 20 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

 21 Kaká

Kaká
16
Famous As: Footballer
Birthdate: April 22, 1982
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Gama, Federal District, Brazil

Regarded as one of the best footballers of his generation, Kaká is a Brazilian retired football player. He is one of eight footballers to have won the Ballon d'Or, the UEFA Champions League, and the FIFA World Cup. Also known for his humanitarian work, Kaká has been working with the United Nations, as part of its World Food Programme initiative.

 22 Andrés Iniesta

Andrés Iniesta
14
Famous As: Football Player
Birthdate: May 11, 1984
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Fuentealbilla, Spain
Spanish midfielder Andrés Iniesta, who now captains the Japanese club Vissel Kobe, has had a 22-year stint with Barcelona, serving as a captain in three seasons and winning nine La Ligas and four UEFA Champions Leagues. He scored the winning goal to help Spain win the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

 23 Xavi

Xavi
12
Famous As: Football player
Birthdate: January 25, 1980
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Terrassa, Spain
Former Barcelona footballer Xavi won multiple trophies with the team, such as the La Liga and the UEFA Champions League. Famous for his tiki-taka style, he also helped Spain win the FIFA World Cup in 2010. After playing for the Qatari club Al-Sadd, he began coaching the team.

 24 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. 

 25 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

 26 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.

 27 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.  

 28 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.

 29 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.

 30 Radamel Falcao

Radamel Falcao
16
Famous As: Football player
Birthdate: February 10, 1986
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Santa Marta, Colombia

 31 Peter Schmeichel

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

 32 Michael Owen

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

 33 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.

 34 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.

 35 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.

 36 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

 37 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.

 38 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.

 39 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.

 40 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.

 41 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.

 42 Dennis Bergkamp

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

 43 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.

 44 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.

 45 Kylian Mbappé

Kylian Mbappé
48
Famous As: Football player
Birthdate: December 20, 1998
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Paris, France

Regarded as one of the best footballers of the current generation, Kylian Mbappé became only the second teenager to score a goal in the final game of a World Cup. Known for his explosive speed and dribbling skills, Mbappé made an impact at a young age. Very mature for his age, he also believes in giving back to society.

 46 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.

 47 Mohamed Salah

Mohamed Salah
40
Famous As: Football player
Birthdate: June 15, 1992
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Nagrig, Egypt

Egyptian professional footballer Mohamed Salah is considered one of the best players in the world. Known for his finishing, dribbling, and speed, he plays for the Premier League club Liverpool and the Egyptian national team. He has been named the CAF African Footballer of the Year twice. His fans and the press have nicknamed him "The Pharaoh."

 48 Paul Pogba

Paul Pogba
41
Famous As: Football player
Birthdate: March 15, 1993
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Lagny-sur-Marne, France

Paul Pogba is a prominent football player for the English club Manchester United; in 2016 he was transferred from Juventus to Manchester United for a then-world record transfer fee of £89.3 million, which remains the highest paid fee by any English club. Also an important member of the France national team, he helped France win the 2018 World Cup.

 49 Romelu Lukaku

Romelu Lukaku
28
Famous As: Football Player
Birthdate: May 13, 1993
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Antwerp, Belgium

Romelu Lukaku, the Belgian football player, is known for his goal-scoring abilities. He plays in the forward position and can also play as a winger. He has scored more than 50 international goals while playing for the men’s national team of Belgium. Inter Milan, Chelsea, West Bromwich Albion, Everton and Manchester United are some of the clubs he has played for.

 50 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.