The Top 250 Players of All-Time: 10-2

In February 2013 up in the attic bedroom of our student house, Football History Boys Gareth Thomas and Ben Jones, with the help on contributor Ollie Jackson, decided it was time we did something about the question, 'Who is the best player in the World?'. Housemate Liam suggested setting out to find the greatest 50 players of all time, this swiftly grew to 100, 150 and 200 before we settled on 250. Our original website is still there to answer the debate but we furthered our work to blogging about the beautiful game starting up

Missed the last installment? Here it is!

Without further ado here is the TOP 10!



NATION: Brazil (98/62)

CLUB(s): Cruzeiro (BRA), PSV (NED), Barcelona (ESP), Inter (ITA), Real Madrid (ESP), Milan (ITA), Corinthians (BRA);

CLUB HONOURS: 1x Campeonato Mineio, 2x Copa do Brasil, 1x KNVB Cup, 1x Johan Cruijff-Schaal, 1x Copa Del Rey, 1x UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, 2x Supercopa de Espana, 1x UEFA Cup, 1x La Liga, 1x Intercontinental Cup, 1x Campeonato Paulista;

INTERNATIONAL HONOURS: 2x FIFA World Cup, 2x Copa America, 1x Confederations Cup, 1x Olympic Bronze Medal.

Other Notable Honours: Eredivise Top Scorer (1995), European Golden Boot (1997), Serie A Player of the Year (1998), World Cup Team of the Tournament (1998, 2002), World Cup Golden Ball (1998), Ballon D'or (1997, 2002), FIFA World Player of the Year (1996, 1997, 2002), Pichichi Trophy (1997, 2004), FIFA World Cup All-Time Top Goalscorer (1998-2006)

"Ronaldo, just pips his namesake to the top 10 of the #TFHBTop250. A quite incredible player and perhaps the first global superstar I can remember seeing on the television in 1998. The list of clubs he has played for exemplify just how good he was - Barcelona, Inter, AC Milan and PSV, Cruzeiro and Corinthians. But it was his time at Real Madrid for what I shall most remember him. After the controversy surrounding the 1998 World Cup Final and two horrendous injuries in the subsequent years, people could be forgiven for believing his career was at an end. However, his comeback to football was truly astonishing, winning the World Cup in 2002 (scoring 8 goals along the way) and establishing a quite brilliant record at the Bernabeu in the famous "Galacticos" side. His hat-trick at Old Trafford in 2003 will go down as my fondest memory, receiving a standing ovation from the opposition supporters and truly becoming one of the greatest players of all-time."
Ben Jones - TFHB

"What should not be forgotten is that Ronaldo had that, too. He commanded attention, enraptured the eyes. He was a blur of motion, a fusion of power and grace. Dating back the world's best player is a curious business, but it seems just to suggest that Ronaldo was the finest footballer of the 1990s. Even when he travelled as a teenager to Leeds with PSV Eindhoven in 1995, before the Nike deal and before the legend was born and sold, he created that excitement. Had knee injuries not curtailed the prime of his career, Messi would have inherited the tag of best player in the world not from Zinedine Zidane or Ronaldinho, but from the original Ronaldo, the best Ronaldo."
Rory Smith - Telegraph

"The best player I have ever played with? That's Ronaldo, il Fenomeno, The other Ronaldo - Cristiano - probably makes my top five, but I have seen il Fenomeno do things that nobody else has ever done."

"When Ronaldo Nazario de Lima finally called time on his playing days in February 2011, it was after an 18-year career of remarkable sporting success and more than his share of devastating injuries. While he made great use of his considerable strength and pace, it was his natural goalscoring ability that he is best remembered for.

The Rio de Janeiro native plundered opposition defences with clubs sides in the Netherlands, Spain, Italy and his homeland, while at international level he was a member of Brazil's squad at four FIFA World Cups™, twice collecting winners’ medals."


"Ronaldo was my hero, I loved watching players like [Zinedine] Zidane, Ronaldinho and Rivaldo but Ronaldo was the best striker I've ever seen. He was so fast he could score from nothing, and could shoot the ball better than anyone I've ever seen."
Lionel Messi
9. Paolo MALDINI

POSITION: Defender

NATION: Italy (126/7)

CLUB: Milan (ITA)

CLUB HONOURS: 7x Serie A, 1x Coppa Italia, 5x Supercoppa Italiana, 5x UEFA Champions League, 5x UEFA Super Cup, 2x Intercontinental Cup, 1x FIFA World Club Cup


Other Notable Honours: UEFA European Championship Team of the Tournament (1988, 1996, 2000), FIFA World Cup All-Star Team (1990. 1994), UEFA Champions League Final Man of the Match (2003), FIFA World Player of the Year Silver Award (1995), Ballon d'Or Bronze Award (1994, 2003), World Soccer Player of the Year (1994), Serie A Defender of the Year (1994), UEFA Team of the Year (1994), FIFPro World XI (2005), UEFA Champions League Best Defender (2007), Most AC Milan Appearances in All Competitions (902), Most Serie A League Appearances (647), Most UEFA Club Competitions Appearances (175), Record World Cup minutes (2216)

"What can be said about Paolo Maldini? Anyone who followed football in the 90s and 00s know all about this guy. The epitome of a one club man with over 900 Milan appearances in over 20 years you just can't dislike him! His notable honours show a list unmatchable by the 99% of the rest of world football as does his 5 UEFA Champions Leagues. The great man was a football addict, when he wasn't on the training pitch he'd spend the rest of his life watching other games or pouring over old performances looking for anything that could give him that extra edge. Paolo Maldini, a legend in every sense of the word and a justified 9th in our Top 250 Countdown!" 
Gareth Thomas - TFHB

"Maldini is the symbol of Milan. He brings continuity and he has represented the antique and the modern." 
Gianni Rivera

"It is outstanding what he has achieved at this level at his age. He is a world great, one of the best of his era. He has won the whole lot in his career, with five European Cups now. He will be remembered for a long time." 
Jamie Carragher

"He has a wonderful presence, competitive spirit, athleticism, and although not the world's greatest technically, he has influenced all the Milan teams during his wonderfully successful era." 
Sir Alex Ferguson



NATION: Portugal (64/46); 

CLUB(s): Sporting de Lorenco Marques (POR), Benfica (POR), Boston Minutemen, Monterrey (USA), Toronto Metros-Croatia (USA), Beira-Mar (POR), Las Vegas Quicksilvers (USA), Uniao de Tomar (POR), New Jersey Americans (USA); 

CLUB HONOURS: 11x Primeira Liga, 5x Taca de Portugal, 1x European Cup, 1x NASL

Other Notable Honours: European Footballer of the Year (1965), World Cup Top Scorer(1966), FIFA 100, European Golden Shoe (1968, 1973), FIFA World Cup Team of the Tournament (1966);

"Eusebio is the first player of the TFHB Top 10, who Gareth or I did not have the sheer honour to watch live. From what we have seen on YouTube and other sites it is clear that Eusebio was a legend in his own right. Following his passing earlier this year, we have seen more and read more on the great man, what he stood for and what he gave to the world of football. For one he was part of Bela Guttmann's Benfica side which ended the Real Madrid dominance of the European Cup and later went on to star for Portugal at the 1966 World Cup - memorably scoring four goals to squeeze his nation through against a stubborn North Korean side. One thing is for sure - Eusebio will never be forgotten!"
Ben - TFHB

"Eusebio, the explosively powerful and prolific “Black Panther” of Benfica and Portugal throughout the 1960s and into the ’70s, was a truly great footballer, fit to take his place in any company, in any era. The first globally famous player to emerge from Africa, the lithe Mozambican averaged better than a goal a game in more than 600 appearances in all competitions for Benfica, and was the European Footballer of the Year for 1965. He appeared in four European Cup finals, though he finished on the winning side only once, and helped to lift 11 domestic titles while gracing the international stage as Portugal’s key man for more than a decade.

In later years he became a global ambassador for Benfica; a statue of the Mozambican now stands at the entrance to the club’s stadium, and invariably his name crops up whenever lists are compiled of the best players of all time – all just deserts for the pure and instinctive footballing genius that was Eusebio."
Ivan Ponting - Independent 

"Eusébio, who has died aged 71, was the greatest African footballer in the history of the game. He moved from his native Mozambique to the Portuguese club Benfica in 1961, blazing a trail from poverty to stardom that scores of young African footballers would follow, though none since has played with such grace or reached the benchmark he set.

He was the prototype of a complete 21st-century striker, decades ahead of his time; a superb athlete (he ran the 100 metres in 11 seconds at the age of 16) with explosive acceleration who could leave defenders trailing in his wake. He could also dribble, was good in the air and possessed a fearsome and highly accurate right foot.

His scoring record was astonishing. In 15 years at Benfica he scored an incredible 473 goals in 440 competitive games, plus many more in friendlies. He was top scorer seven times in the Portuguese league and was European Golden Boot winner twice. In his only appearance in the World Cup finals, in England in 1966, he won the Golden Boot for top scorer of the tournament, with nine goals in six games."
Gavin McOwan - The Guardian

"I met him on numerous occasions after our playing careers had finished and he always represented both his club and his country in exemplary fashion. I feel proud to have been both an opponent and friend."
Bobby Charlton

"I think he is immortal. We all know what he meant for football and especially for Portuguese football. He was not only a great inspiration but also an important figure in upholding the values, principles and feelings of football, even after finishing his career."
Jose Mourinho

7. George BEST

POSITION: Midfielder

NATION: Northern Ireland (37/9); 

CLUB(s):  Manchester United (ENG), Jewish Guild (RSA), Stockport County (ENG), Cork Celtic (IRE), Los Angeles Aztecs (USA), Fulham (ENG), Fort Lauderdale Strikers (USA), Hibernian (SCO), San Jose Earthquakes (USA), Sea Bee (HKN), Hong Kong Rangers (HKN), Bournemouth (ENG), Brisbane Lions (AUS), Osborne Park Galeb (AUS) 

CLUB HONOURS:  2x Football League First Division, 1x UEFA European Cup, 2x FA Charity Shield

Other Notable Honours: Football League First Division Top Goalscorer (1967/68), FWA Footballer of the Year (1967/68), Ballon d'Or (1968), Ballon d'Or Third Place (1971), PFA Team of the Year Second Division (1977)

"George Best is a name that resonates with football fans across the globe, especially the Northern Irish who adore their Belfast born and raised son. Best joined Manchester United at 15 and lit up the 60s and early 70s even winning the Ballon d'Or in 1968. Unfortunately Best's international career was not on the grandest stage and he never made a World Cup. Best's life was also tragically cut short at 59 in 2006 after his long battle with alcoholism but his 361 Man Utd league appearances will put him down in the history of British football as one of the 'Best'!" Gareth - TFHB 

"Few would argue that George Best was the most naturally gifted footballer Britain has produced. Speed, balance, vision, superb close control, the ability to create chances and score from seemingly impossible situations tells half the story. The other half was an uncontainable zest for the game as it should be played, a ceaseless trickery and joy. Pelé, for his part, dubbed United’s no.7 "the greatest player in the world"." Manchester United - "Legends" 

"George Best: He was confident, impudent, fast, fearless, the most gifted star to grace British football and the ultimate crowd pleaser... what a player!" John Edwards - Daily Mail

"He could also head brilliantly and he never shirked from defending when he had to. In short, he was the perfect footballer. But while he was Roy of the Rovers on the field, sadly he was Roy of the Ravers off it... He won two League Championships, the European Cup and was voted European Football of the Year. Pele named him as his favourite player, which was remarkable considering Best's international career with Northern Ireland never allowed him the opportunity of appearing in the World Cup finals." International Football Hall of Fame

"I was born with a great gift, and sometimes with that comes a destructive streak. Just as I wanted to outdo everyone when I played, I had to outdo everyone when we were out on the town." George Best

6. Johan CRUYFF

POSITION: Forward; 

NATION: Netherlands (48/33); 

CLUB(s): Ajax (NED), Barcelona (SPA), Los Angeles Aztecs (USA), Washington Diplomats (USA), Levante (SPA), Ajax (NED), Feyenoord (NED); 

CLUB HONOURS: 9x Eredivisie, 6x KVNB Cup, 3x UEFA European Cup, 1x UEFA Intertoto Cup, 2x UEFA Super Cup, 1x Intercontinental Cup, 1x La Liga, 1x Copa del Rey;

Other Notable Honours: Dutch Footballer of the Year (1967, 1969, 1971, 1972, 1984), European Golden Shoe (1968), Ballon d'Or (1971, 1973, 1974), Dutch Sportsman of the Year (1973, 1974), FIFA World Cup Golden Ball (1974), FIFA World Cup All-Star Team (1974), Don Balón Award (1977, 1978), FIFA World Cup All-Time Team, World Team of the 20th Century, FIFA 100, Golden Player of the Netherlands, World Soccer Greatest XI of All Time (2013)  

"Two years ago, I was trawling my way through Bleacher Report's top 100 players of all-time (did not include current players) and to my surprise found lying at number one - Johan Cruyff. I was intrigued, obviously I knew about the Dutch master's talent, but had assumed Maradona or Pele would be triumphant. From then on I looked more and more into the man himself, on YouTube and through various forms of football literature. Cruyff was a connoisseur of Rinus Michel's 'total football' winning three successive European Cups and coming agonizingly close to World Cup glory in 1974, in a tournament he lit up - meaning he would go down as one of football's greatest ever talents. Oh yeah...and there is the small matter of a certain 'Cruyff turn' - I'll let the footage do the talking!!"
Ben - TFHB

"If Holland were the team that gave the world Total Football, then Johan Cruyff was THE Total Footballer. Cruyff was one of a number of youngsters who emerged with Ajax of Amsterdam in the late Sixties and came to dominate European and world football in the early Seventies. Cruyff was the most outstanding of them all and was seen by many as the natural successor to Pele as the world's greatest player. He won a hat-trick of European Cups with Ajax, the World Clubs' Cup and was three times European Footballer of the Year. At their peak, the Dutch side he captained were the most exciting and talented team in international football, yet, strangely, they never won a major trophy during his reign. Total Football was not a new idea when the Dutch picked it up. It had been around since the Fifties when it was known as The Whirl. But it was first Ajax then Holland that brought it to prominence. The idea was to build a team in which all of the players had equal levels of technical ability and physical strength. In its execution it meant that all the players were capable, at any point in a game, of switching into each other's roles as circumstances demanded. Anyone could do anything. Defenders became forwards, forwards became defenders. Strictly speaking, Cruyff played centre forward in this system. But he would drop deep to confuse his markers or suddenly move to the wing with devastating effect. Once there, according to the reference book Soccer: The World Game, "a favourite trick out on the left-wing was to drag the ball behind him with his right foot, turn through 180 degrees and accelerate away outside a bemused defender."

No one had seen a centre forward like that before."
International Hall of Fame

"Whoa whoa whoa...all you Pelè and Maradona devotees, put down the axes and pitchforks and listen to me. The reasoning behind my choice for numero uno doesn't come down to purely technical abilities or international exploits: you can still safely say that both Pelè and Maradona were better (but just barely) individual players, but neither bequeathed anything as as revolutionary or enduring as Cruyff's vision of "Total Football": a style of play characterized by "tiki-taka" passing, commanding possession and the interchangeability of the outfield players now particularly in evidence at Barcelona."
Jimmi Carney - Bleacher Report

"Throughout my career I've simply tried to instil what I learned from Johan Cruyff. He has had the biggest influence on football out of anyone in the world, first as a player and then as a coach. He taught me a lot and you can see that in the fact that so many of his former players are now coaches, because he made sure his love for the sport got through to us. He's very special to us."
Pep Guardiola


POSITION: Defender;  

NATION: West Germany (103/14); 

CLUB(s): Bayern Munich (GER), New York Cosmos (USA), Hamburger SV (GER)

CLUB HONOURS: 5x Bundesliga, 4x DFB-Pokal, 3x UEFA European Cup, 1x UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, 1x Intercontinental Cup, 3x NASL, x Trans-Atlantic Cup

INTERNATIONAL HONOURS:  1x FIFA World Cup, 1x UEFA European Championship

Other Notable Honours: Ballon d'Or (1972, 1976), World Cup Young Player of the Tournament (1966), World Cup Silver Ball (1974), FIFA World Cup Team of the Tournament (1966, 1970, 1974), UEFA Euro Team of the Tournament (1972, 1976), German Footballer of the Year (1966. 1968, 1974, 1976), World Soccer Magazine Player of the Year (1972, 1976), NASL Most Valuable Player Award (1977), FIFA Order of Merit (1984), FIFA World Cup Dream Team (2002), FIFA Presidential Award (2012), UEFA President's Award (2013)

"Der Kaiser is unusual perhaps because as our number 5 he wasn't a tricky winger, wasn't a prolific goalscorer or a mighty midfielder... No in fact he was a stone wall sweeper at the heart of West Germany's and Bayern Munich's defence. Beckenbauer captained his nation to the 1974 World Cup but rumour would say he actually coached them there after an early tournament defeat to the East Germans left Helmut Schoen heartbroken. He won the 1972 Euros too before eventually leading his nation to the World Cup in 1990 as manager. Beckenbauer also had a distinguished league career winning the European Cup 3 times and silverware wherever he went!" Gareth - TFHB

"Franz Beckenbauer is the only man to have won the World Cup both as a player and as a manager. His roll of honour is unique. Captain of West Germany when they won the World Cup and the European Championship, he also led his club, Bayern Munich, to three successive European Cups and also to the European Cup Winners' Cup.
But it is not just for the medals and trophies that Beckenbauer is remembered. Rather it is for the style and the genius. Every movement he made on the pitch bristled with elegance. There was an arrogance in his play that suggested he was always in command - "Emperor Franz" and "The Kaiser" they called him. But more than that, he was a great thinker about the game and brought about a revolution in the way it is played by inventing the role of the attacking sweeper.

Those powerful long runs out of central defence had never been seen before. Up to then, no one had thought that a sweeper had any job being in his opponents' half of the field, let alone scoring. Beckenbauer both created and bequeathed this tactic to the modern game. It contained the element of surprise and it became his trademark." International Football Hall Of Fame

"The German was grace personified, the way be carried the ball out of defense as a libero. Indeed, in any conversation about the position of sweeper, Beckenbauer is the name that invariably comes to mind." Steward Coggin -

"The inspiration and architect of West Germany's victory over Netherlands in 1974 from his deep-lying and revolutionary sweeper position, 'Der Kaiser' showed similar vision and tactical nous when coaching the country to victory at Italia '90 and playing a key role in a united Germany winning the right to host the tournament in 2006. So for his success in reinventing the role of the sweeper, or libero, and becoming a supremely dominant force on and off the pitch, it is without a nanosecond's hesitation that we present Beckenbauer as our latest World Cup Legend." Tom Adams - ESPN
“As someone who played a team sport, I feel a bit uncomfortable being ranked as an individual so high." Franz Beckenbauer (He may not want to be ranked so highly but it's impossible not to!)


POSITION: Midfielder; 

NATION: Argentina (91/34); 

CLUB(s): Argentinos Juniors (ARG), Boca Juniors (ARG), Barcelona (SPA), Napoli (ITA), Sevilla (SPA), Newell's Old Boys (ARG); 

CLUB HONOURS: 1x Metropolitano championship, 1x Copa del Rey, 1x Copa de la Liga, 1x Supercopa de Espana, 2x Serie A, 1x Coppa Italia, 1x UEFA Cup, 1x Supercoppa Italiana; 

INTERNATIONAL HONOURS: 1x FIFA World Cup, 1x FIFA World Cup Runner Up, 1x FIFA World Youth Championship, 1x Artemio Franchi Trophy

Other Notable Honours: FIFA World Youth Championship Golden Ball (1979), World Player of the Year (Guerin Sportivo): 1979, Argentine Football Writers' Footballer of the Year (1979, 1980, 1981, 1986), South American Footballer of the Year (1979, 1980), Guerin d'Oro (Serie A Footballer of the Year): (1985), Onze de Bronze (1985, 1988), FIFA World Cup Golden Ball (1986), FIFA World Cup All-Star Team (1986, 1990), Onze d'Or (1986, 1987), Argentine Sports Writers' Sportsman of the Year: (1986), L'Équipe Champion of Champions (1986), United Press International Athlete of the Year Award: (1986), World Soccer Awards Player of the Year (1986), Capocannoniere (1987–88), Coppa Italia top scorer: (1987-88), FIFA World Cup Bronze Ball: (1990), Ballon d'Or for services to football (1996), World Team of the 20th Century: (1998), FIFA Player of the Century: (2000), FIFA World Cup Goal of the Century (2002), Napoli All-Time Top Scorer;

"WOAH!?!? Diego Maradona only comes in a number 4!? The TFHB Top 250 was a public vote and perhaps it was popularity over sheer talent which prevails. When I was growing up there was always two names in football which I heard before any others, Pele and Maradona. Maradona was a genius - simple as. He played for giants such a Boca Juniors and Barcelona, but he will most remembered for his time at Napoli winning the Serie A title twice for a team who before he arrived were never even contenders. The 1986 World Cup was the pinnacle of a sometimes controversial career, where he almost individually guided his beloved Argentina to glory in Mexico. The quarter-final victory over England is now remembered as one of the most famous of all-time. Four minutes after his infamous 'hand of god' goal, Maradona skipped past 5 England defenders and goalkeeper Peter Shilton to score a goal of such genius, skill and desire - the world really did stand still. Surprisingly his trophy cabinet is rather baron in comparison to others in the top 20 - but take nothing away, Diego Maradona really was one of the greatest players ever."
Ben - TFHB

"Arguably the greatest player the world has ever seen left Barcelona in 1984 as a 24-year-old and entered himself into the hearts of Neopolitans everywhere, lifting them to their only Scudetti in 1987 and 1990.

Maradona became more than a footballer in Naples, embodying the Southern Italian attitude as his own, beating the Northern giants of Milan and Turin on the only medium they could compete – the football pitch. Diego became a social phenomenon, and a saviour. Even today, years after his exploits, murals of the Argentinian can be found in pristine condition throughout the Italian city.

Maradona’s effect and hero status during his time in Serie A was such that fans and management ignored Diego’s drug problems, partying and lateness. In fact, by 1990, Maradona barely trained, choosing instead to simply turn up to matches on his own minutes before kick-off.

Rarely ever has there been a more influential player in a team sport."
Sam Lewis - Forza Italian Football

"Glorious and tragic, gifted and flawed, he once scored a goal with his hand and he splits opinion but he really should not. As the World Cup carnival prepares for a return to Latin America for the first time since 1986, it is a good time to rejoice in what made him so special.

Maradona the footballer personifies the game’s spirit of joy and adventure; a master of its ultimate skills to dribble past opponents with the ball and score goals. He dared and he had trickery, mischief and unpredictability."
Matt Barlow - Daily Mail

"Maradona is still worshipped in Naples, both for how he gave a depressed city hope for a short time and for his resemblance to the scugnizzo, the Neapolitan street urchin. He did not score as often as Pelé and Messi – just over a goal every two games. He did not have their apparently squeaky clean image. His life off the field was often a disaster and sometimes a disgrace. As a result his reputation has suffered. But despite everything, on the field he was the greatest."
Richard Mason - When Saturday Comes

"Everyone has an opinion on Diego Armando Maradona, and that’s been the case since his playing days. His magnificent performances and extraordinary goals at Mexico 86 will live forever in the memories of all football lovers, myself included. My most vivid recollection is of this incredibly gifted kid at the second FIFA U-20 World Cup in Japan in 1979. He left everyone open-mouthed every time he got on the ball. And at the age of 50 he still has many years in which to keep showing us his talent"
Sepp Blatter


POSITION: Forward;  

NATION: Brazil (92/77); 

CLUB(s): Santos (BRA), New York Cosmos (USA)

CLUB HONOURS: 2x Copa Libertadores, 1x Intercontinental Supercup, 1x Supercopa de Campeones Intercontinentales, 2x Intercontinental Cup, 6x Campeonato Brasileiro Serie A, 4x Torneio Rio-Sao Paulo, 10x Campeonato Paulista, 1x NASL Soccer Bowl, 1x NASL North American Soccer League, Atlantic Conference Championship

INTERNATIONAL HONOURS:  3x FIFA World Cup, 2x Roca Cup, 3x Cruz Cup, 1x Bernardo O'Higgins Cup, 1x Atlantic Cup, 3x Oswaldo Cruz Cup

Other Notable Honours: Copa Libertadores Top Scorer (1965), Campeonato Brasileiro Série A (1961, 1963, 1964), Intercontinental Cup All-Time Goalscorer,  Copa América Top Scorer (1959), Copa América Best Player (1959), FIFA World Cup Best Young Player (1958), World Cup Silver Boot (1958), World Cup Sliver Ball (1958), World Cup Golden Ball (1970), Brazilian National Team All-Time Goalscorer, FIFA Ballon d'Or Prix d'Honneur (2013), World Record - Most Career Goals (1283 in 1363 games), All-Time Goals in a Calendar Year (123 in 1959), World Record - Career Hat-tricks (92), BBC Sport Overseas Personality of the Year (1970), BBC Sport Lifetime Achievement Award (2005), Reuters Athlete of the Century (1999), FIFA Player of the Century (2000), FIFA World Cup All-Time Team (1994), World Team of the 20th Century (1998), FIFA World Cup Dream Team (2002), World Soccer - Greatest XI of All-Time (2013)

"Well what can you say about Pele that hasn't already been said?! Perhaps a shock he's only 3rd in our public vote as many would consider him the greatest player ever to grace a football field. A world record of 1283 career goals in 1363 games is pretty unbelievable and his trophy cabinet isn't too shabby either! 3 FIFA World Cups where he lit up the stage at each one sets him apart from the pack, whap him into Youtube, sit back and enjoy! ...  For me however Pele is slightly ruined as he was the man that knocked Wales out of our only World Cup in 1958. His goal ended our hopes at the Quarters but in all seriousness, this guy changed football forever and will not be forgotten!" Gareth - TFHB

"Edson Arantes do Nascimento. Pele. O Rei. Whatever the name, the memory is the same: of a world-beating superstar, a record-breaking football icon. Above and beyond his unequalled achievement in winning three FIFA World Cups, Pele was a genius who was constantly reinventing the game of football.
With every touch of the ball, every pass, every dribble, Pele was capable of coming up with something new - something the fans had never seen before. With a killer instinct in front of goal, an eye for the perfect pass and supreme athleticism, the Brazilian was just about the perfect footballer. And if theSeleção came to incarnate the 'beautiful game' in the eyes of so many observers around the world, this can largely be credited to the breathtaking skills of their most celebrated No10."

"I told myself before the game, 'he's made of skin and bones just like everyone else' - but I was wrong." Tarcisio Burgnich - Italian defender who played against Pele in WC 1970.

"Though we've never really got along, I have to admit that, as a player, he was the best. I've always said, and I'll say it again: I can't compare myself to him." Diego Maradona

"There'll never be a soccer player like Pelé. Better than Pelé, maybe, but not like Pelé." Pele

2. Lionel MESSI

POSITION: Forward; 

NATION: Argentina (83/37); 

CLUB(s): Barcelona (ESP); 

CLUB HONOURS: 7x La Liga, 2x Copa del Rey, 6x Supercopa de Espana, 4x UEFA Champions League, 3x UEFA Super Cup, 3x FIFA World Club Cup; 

INTERNATIONAL HONOURS: 1x Olympic Gold Medal, 1x FIFA U-20 World Cup

Other Notable Honours: FIFA Ballon d'Or (2010, 2011, 2012), Ballon d'Or (2009), FIFA World Player of the Year (2009), World Soccer Player of the Year (2009, 2011, 2012), World Soccer Greatest XI of All Time (2013), Onze d'Or (2009, 2011, 2012),European Golden Shoe (2010, 2012, 2013), UEFA Best Player in Europe Award (2011), UEFA Club Footballer of the Year (2009),FIFA Club World Cup Golden Ball (2009, 2011), UEFA Champions League Final Man of the Match (2011)UEFA Champions League Top Goalscorer (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012)FIFA U-20 World Cup Player of the Tournament (2005), LFP Best Player (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013), La Liga Player of the Year (2009, 2010, 2011), Pichichi Trophy (2010, 2012, 2013), LFP Best Forward (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013), FIFPro World Young Player of the Year (2006, 2007, 2008), World Soccer Young Player of the Year (2006, 2007, 2008), Bravo Award (2007)Marca Legend Award (2009), ESPY Best International Athlete (2012), FIFA/FIFPro World XI (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013), UEFA Team of the Year (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012), Copa América Young Player of the Tournament (2007), Argentine Sportsperson of the Year Award (2011), Olimpia de Plata (005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013).

It is my absolute pleasure to get to write about Messi for the TFHB Top 250 - a player who without doubt is one of the greatest I have seen live. From his breakthrough season in 2005-6 we all knew he was going to be special. Despite being in a team with Ronaldinho, Xavi and Iniesta, Messi shone brighter than all three. After 3 seasons of moderate success under Frank Rijkaard, Messi became the World's greatest player following the arrival of Pep Guardiola to the Camp Nou. Pep placed Messi in the centre of the front three (he had previously been a winger) and the goals started flooding in. To date he has three Champions League winners' medals to his name, something few modern players can boast as well unrivaled domestic success with Barcelona. But what strikes me most is the nature of the man. In a footballing world dominated by egos and a distance from 'real life', Messi has brought with him a genuine sense of modesty to his genius. His response to critics is equally as impressive - this year (2014) is the first he has received any real criticism, and his response was a hat-trick at the Bernabeu to defeat rivals Real Madrid 4-3. Can Leo cement his place in history with a World Cup win this summer? I wouldn't bet against it!
Ben - TFHB

"Messi is the best in the world right now. He has been playing at a level we've never seen anyone else playing before. I'm always proud of speaking about Leo, because I was right there with him, when he started his professional senior career in Barcelona. He's now the best football player in the World and that just makes me tremendously happy!"

"Messi is class. There is him, and then there is the rest. What he does is extraordinary — he demands admiration."
Franck Ribery

"I feel sorry for those who want to compete for Messi's throne — it’s impossible, this kid is unique."
Pep Guardiola

"In my entire life I have never seen a player of such quality and personality at such a young age, particularly wearing the 'heavy' shirt of one of the world's great clubs."
Fabio Capello

"Leo doesn't need to win the World Cup to be considered the best player ever, I say that for those who demand he wins the World Cup to be considered the greatest ever in history. He's decisive in every game he's played in for six or seven years."

"I prefer to win titles with the team ahead of individual awards or scoring more goals than anyone else. I'm more worried about being a good person than being the best football player in the world. When all this is over, what are you left with? When I retire, I hope I am remembered for being a decent guy."
Lionel Messi

Who is number one?!

Leave your memories of RONALDO, MALDINI, EUSEBIO, BEST, CRUYFF, BECKENBAUER, MARADONA, PELE & MESSI in the comment section below!

Voted for by the public between August and December 2013! Missed some? - click here!


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