If we just let the numbers do the talking, then it is very hard to argue against Pele being the best player in the history of the game. The Brazilian legend went on to win three World Cups! Yes, three. He was part of the Brazil national teams that won the prestigious title in 1958, 1962 and 1970.
He was also an integral part of the Santos side that won two Intercontinental Cups in 1962 and 1963.
The player, who claims to have scored over a 1000 goals in his career, was named the FIFA Player of the Century, an award based on votes from FIFA officials, journalists and coaches.
Perhaps the only time that an international team won a major tournament riding on the coattails of one payer were Argentina at the 1986 World Cup. Maradona drove his team with his performances and leadership and was instrumental in delivering La Albiceleste their second world title. He almost repeated the feat four years later in Italy, but his team lost in the final to West Germany.
Where Pele’s international glories came partly due to being part of extremely talented sides, Maradona can claim to have done it all on his own. He was influential figure at Napoli during their most successful years and all their major trophies – two league titles and a UEFA Cup – came when Maradona was in Naples.
Maradona won FIFA Player of the Century award based on the Internet poll.
Cruyff is undoubtedly the greatest player in the history of European football. What makes the Dutchman even more legendary is that his influence stretched beyond his playing days as his methods shaped the game’s future.
On the pitch, Cruyff was an imperious playmaker and went on to win ten league titles, seven domestic cups and three European Cups. Among other things, he is the inventor of the eponymous Cruyff turn. He will also remain forever synonymous with beautiful attractive football and no mention of Total Football will be complete without Cruyff.
He was chosen on the World Team of the 20th Century in 1998 and the FIFA World Cup Dream Team in 2002.
In a sport where defenders usually do not get as much attention as the attacking players, it is a testimony to Beckenbauer’s greatness that he always makes the list of the greatest players to have ever played the game.
Beckenbauer was absolutely integral two of the greatest sides in the history of the game: the West Germany national team of the 1970s and the Bayern Munich side of the same decade. The player, who was fond of dictating play from the back, invented the libero position.
He won four league titles, three European Cups, the 1972 European Championship and the 1974 World Cup to embellish a spectacular career.
Alfredo Di Stefano
Real Madrid probably would never have been regarded as the greatest club in European football had it not been for Di Stefano. The maverick Argentine helped them to the first five European Cup triumphs and was absolutely peerless at his best.
His Madrid team-mate Jose Santamaria once said: “He was the most complete player ever, something I’ve never seen anywhere else. And I’ve seen a lot of players.” Di Stefano also collected eight league titles with Real Madrid.
The Argentine is one of the few players to have represented three national teams – he turned out for Argentina, Colombia, and Spain. His biggest international success came at the 1947 Copa America as he helped La Albiceleste to the title.