#TFHB100 Players of All-Time: 5-1

To mark our 4th birthday, we have decided once more develop a list of the greatest players of all-time. In our infancy, we attempted to countdown the top 250 players through a public vote. However, over the past year a new poll was created gaining a far greater number of votes from almost 50 countries around the world! Alongside the public vote is a judging panel made up of:
Football has been pivotal to the last 100 years of history and players from all areas of the globe have become heroes, villains and even symbols of national identity in the process. Without further ado - here is The Football History Boys - Top 100.

5. Zinedine ZIDANE

D.O.B: 23.06.72

Place in #TFHB250: 1

Nation: France

Club(s): Cannes, Bordeaux, Juventus, Real Madrid

League Apps (Goals): 506 (95)

International: 108 (31)

UEFA Intertoto Cup x2; Serie A x2; Supercoppa Italiana; UEFA Super Cup x2; Intercontinental Cup x2; La Liga; Supercopa de Espana x2; UEFA Champions League; FIFA World Cup 1998; UEFA European Championship 2000; FIFA World Cup 2006 Runner-up

Individual: Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year; Ligue 1 Player of the Year; Serie A Foreign Player of the Year x2; UEFA Club Midfielder of the Year; L'Equipe Champion of Champions; FIFA World Cup All-Star Team x2; FIFA World Cup Final Man of the Match 1998; World Soccer Awards Player of the Year; French Player of the Year x2; Onze d'Or; Ballon d'Or 1998; FIFA World Player of the Year x3; FIFA XI; UEFA Euro Player of the Tournament; UEFA Euro Team of the Tournament x2; Serie A Footballer of the Year; UEFA Team of the Year x3; La Liga Best Foreign Player; FIFA World Cup All-Star Team 2002; FIFA 100; FIFA FIFPro World XI x2; FIFA World Cup Golden Ball 2006; UEFA Team of Teams; UEFA Champions League Best Player of the Past 20 Years 2011; UEFA Euro All-Time XI

The Football History Boys:
"Zinedine Zidane was perhaps the surprise winner of our original TFHB Top 250 search back in 2014. It certainly shocked us but to be honest it's not far off the mark. During late 90s-early 2000s, Zidane was without doubt one of the greatest footballers on the planet. The midfielder totally dominated the scene, particularly internationally, as France won World Cup 1998, Euro 2000 and came ever so close to another trophy in World Cup 2006. Who can forget the way Zidane would bow out of the world stage in 2006 with that infamous head-butt?!
There is almost a cult of Zidane to French fans as well as Madridistas. During his time at the Bernabeu he was filmed for a project called 'Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait'. The 2006 documentary is 90 minutes long and filmed with all 17 cameras in the stadium trained on him. It is an incredible watch, showing his deft of touch, his reading of the game and the way he glides around a pitch. What a player!"

Cesare Maldini (Manager of Italy at World Cup 1998):
I would give up five players to have Zizou in my squad".

Kevin Keegan:
"You look at Zidane and think 'I've never seen a player quite like that'. Diego Maradona was a great player. Johan Cruyff was a great player. They were different - but with similarities. What sets Zidane apart is the way he manipulates a football, buying himself space that isn't there. Add his vision and it makes him very special."

Edgar Davids:
He thinks in one second and does it the next. He is a special player, one who is original and exceptional. He creates space where there is none. Only the very best players can do that. No matter where he gets the ball or how it comes to him, Zidane can get out of trouble. His imagination and his technique are amazing."

4. Johan CRUYFF

D.O.B: 25.04.47

Place in #TFHB250:

Nation: Netherlands

Club(s): Ajax, Barcelona, Los Angeles Aztecs, Washington Diplomats, Levante, Feyenoord

League Apps (Goals): 514 (290)

 48 (33)

Honours: Eredivisie x9; KNVB x6; UEFA European Cup x3; UEFA Intertoto Cup x2; Intercontinental Cup; La Liga; Copa del Rey; FIFA World Cup Runner-up 1974

Individual: Dutch Footballer of the Year x3; Ballon d'Or x3; Dutch Sportsman of the Year x2; FIFA World Cup Golden Ball 1974; FIFA World Cup All-Star Team 1974; Don Balon Award x2; North American Soccer League MVP; FIFA World Cup All-Time Team; FIFA World Cup Dream Team; FIFA 100; World Team of the 20th Century; World Soccer's Greatest XI of All-Time; IFFHS European Player of the Century

The Football History Boys:

"Johan Cruyff rightly finds himself in the top 5 of our Top 100 countdown for me. He is one of those players I wish I could've seen play. Whilst we have to rely on footage, one thing will go down in history... The Cruyff Turn. His revolutionary bit of skill may get overlooked in today's game of modern tricks and flicks, the turn though was something unseen before. During the 1974 World Cup, where Cruyff was a star, the Netherlands man turned his Swedish opponent inside out, leaving his marker standing and Cruyff heading off toward goal.
As part of the Total Football train that was Dutch football; Cruyff won trophies-a-plenty with Ajax, netting 190 Eredivisie goals in just 240 appearances. He won the Ballon d'Or in 1971, 73 & 74 and also can boast an impressive 3 European Cups. Cruyff sadly passed away in March 2016."

Franz Beckenbauer:
"When players like [Gareth] Bale and [Cristiano] Ronaldo are worth around €100 million, Johan [Cruyff] would go in the billions."

Football writer Jonathan Wilson:
"Cruyff the player was gloriously impudent, a slight and graceful genius who proved that brain could outmanoeuvre brawn. Watching his Netherlands dart and thrust their way around Uruguay or Argentina in 1974, or seeing his Ajax outwit Juventus in the European Cup final in 1973, was to see a devastating puppet-master toying with lumbering opponents. Cruyff the coach, Cruyff the manager, was able to retain that sense of the joy of the game, the importance of beauty and, what’s harder, to convey that sense to his players. There has never been such a great player who was also such a great manager. In that he stands utterly unique."

Johan Cruyff himself:
"Every trainer talks about movement, about running a lot. I say don't run so much. Football is a game you play with your brain. You have to be in the right place at the right moment, not too early, not too late."


D.O.B: 30.10.60

Place in #TFHB250: 4

Nation: Argentina

Argentinos Juniors, Boca Juniors, Barcelona, Napoli, Sevilla, Newell's Old Boys

League Apps (Goals): 491 (259)

 91 (34)

Argentine Primera Divison; Copa del Rey; Copa de La Liga; Supercopa de Espana; Serie A x2; Coppa Italia; UEFA Cup; Supercoppa Italiana; FIFA World Cup 1986; FIFA World Cup Runner-up 1990

Individual: Argentine Primera Divison Top Goalscorer x5; Argentine Football Writers' Footballer of the Year x4; South American Footballer of the Year x2; Onze d'Or x2; FIFA World Cup Golden Ball 1986; FIFA World Cup All-Star Team x2; L'Equipe Champion of Champions; World Soccer Awards Player of the Year; Serie A Top Goalscorer; FIFA World Cup All-Time Team; South American Team of the Year; World Team of the 20th Century; FIFA 100; Marca Leyenda; Number 10 retired by Napoli; FIFA Player of the Century; FIFA World Cup Dream Team; World Soccer's Greatest XI of All-Time; Napoli All-Time Top Goalscorer

The Football History Boys:
"When I say Diego Maradona what comes to mind? The Hand of God? World Cup 1986? The charismatic/verging on crazy personality who is impossible to hate? While his club career may be beaten by a large number of players within the Top 100, it is definitely not an exaggeration to say that Maradona is without doubt one of the greatest international footballers ever to pull on his country's shirt. Appearing in four World Cups, 1986 was his year... Getting away with THAT moment against England and then following it minutes later up with 'The Goal of the Century'. You cannot leave Maradona outside your top 5, he rightly takes the bronze medal in our poll."

Eric Cantona:
“Some say Pele was the greatest player of all time, but not me. Maradona will always be the greatest. He won World Cup in 1986, narrowly lost in the final in 1990 and then in 1994 maybe would have won it again had he not been banned. The crucial difference with Pele is that Maradona wasn’t surrounded by great players; he had to carry the team himself. If you took Maradona out of Argentina they would not win the World Cup, but I think Brazil without Pele would still have won.”

Terry Butcher:
“The best player I’ve ever played against, miles ahead of anyone else. As you saw in the World Cup quarter-final in 1986, I just couldn’t get near him – all I ever saw was his number 10! He had a low centre of gravity that shielded the ball, he had strength, pace and his passing was excellent. He also had a great leap for such a small man, as he showed with his Hand of God goal!” 
Julio Grondona (Former Chairman of the Argentine Football Association):
“In Argentine football there is a before and an after Maradona.” 


D.O.B: 23.10.40

Place in #TFHB250: 3


 Santos, New York Cosmos

League Apps (Goals): 694 (650)

91 (77)

Honours: Copa Libertadores x2; Intercontinental Cup x2; Intercontinental Supercup; Supercopa de Campeones Intercontinentales; Brazilian Serie A x6; Torneio Rio-Sao Paulo x4; Campeonato Paulista x10; NASL Super Bowl; NASL; FIFA World Cup x3

Individual: Brazilian Serie A Top Goalscorer x3; Campeonato Paulista Top Goalscorer x11; Copa Libertadores Top Goalscorer; FIFA World Cup Best Young Player; FIFA World Cup Golden Ball 1970; FIFA World Cup All-Star Team x2; FIFA World Cup All-Time Team; FIFA World Cup Dream Team; Copa America Best Player; Copa America Top Goalscorer; FIFA Player of the Century; FIFA Order of Merit; FIFA Centennial Award; BBC Sports Personality of the Year Overseas Personality 1970; BBC Sports Personality of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award; South American Footballer of the Year; World Team of the 20th Century; World Soccer's Greatest XI of All-Time; World Soccer World XI x7; FIFA 100; Brazilian Football Museum Hall of Fame; Brazilian All-Time leading International Goalscorer

The Football History Boys:
"Edson Arantes do Nascimento, or Pele to you and me, is a name that transcends sport. There is probably not a human being out there who doesn't know who Pele is or just how great Pele was. A man who spent most of his career in his native Brazil, Pele was a natural goalscorer. The officially recorded stats for his time at Santos read 1091 goals in 1116 games, winning a whole host of trophies, including 2 Copa Libertadores titles and 6 Brazilian Serie As.
Pele took the world by storm though on the international stage. 12 goals at FIFA World Cups, on the way to winning 3 tournaments in 1958, 1962 and 1970. He netted 77 times in 91 caps wearing the yellow of Brazil and despite football not being as widely available of the television or internet, Pele was still a star across the globe. Into his retirement Pele was and still is heavily involved in football, showing his love for the game has never ceased. You cannot talk about legends of the game without thinking about this man.

"Pele was the greatest – he was simply flawless. And off the pitch he is always smiling and upbeat. You never see him bad-tempered. He loves being Pele."

Bobby Moore:
"Pele was the most complete player I've ever seen. Two good feet. Magic in the air. Quick. Powerful. Could beat people with skill. Could outrun people. Only 5 ft 8 in tall, yet he seemed a giant of an athlete on the pitch. Perfect balance and impossible vision."

Giacinto Facchetti:
"We went up together to head a ball. I was taller, had a better impulse. When I came back down, I looked up in astonishment. Pele was still there, in the air, heading that ball. It was like he could stay suspended for as long as he wanted to."

Pele himself:
"I was born for soccer, just as Beethoven was born for music."

1. Lionel MESSI

D.O.B: 05.02.85

Place in #TFHB250: 2

Nation: Argentina

Club: Barcelona C, Barcelona B, Barcelona

League Apps (Goals): 400 (342) (As it stands currently)

116 (57) (As it stands currently)

Honours: La Liga x8; Copa del Rey x4; Supercopa de Espana x6; UEFA Super Cup x3; UEFA Champions League x4; FIFA Club World Cup x3; Olympic Gold Medal 2008; FIFA World Cup 2014 Runner-Up; Copa America Runner-Up x2

Individual: Ballon d'Or x5; FIFA World Player of the Year; UEFA Club Footballer of the Year; UEFA Club Forward of the Year; UEFA Best Player in Europe x2; European Golden Shoe x3; Best Player in La Liga x6; Best Forward in La Liga x7; Argentine Player of the Year x10; Argentine Sportsman of the Year; FIFA Club World Cup Golden Ball x2; FIFA World Cup Golden Ball 2014; FIFPro Team of the Year x10; UEFA Team of the Year x8; La Liga Team of the Year; AFA All-Time Team; FIFA World Cup All-Star Team; Copa America Dream Team x4; FIFPro Young Player of the Year x3; Golden Boy; Copa America Best Young Player; Pichichi Award x3; UEFA Champions League Top Goalscorer x5; Top Goalscorer in La Liga; Top Goalscorer in El Clasico; Barcelona All-Time Top Goalscorer in all competitions; Argentina All-Time Top Goalscorer

The Football History Boys:
"How can you compare generations? That is often a point raised when attempting to name a GOAT of any sport. It's a fair point, Messi never played alongside Pele or Maradona or Cruyff or even really Zidane. However what we can know for certain is that once in a lifetime a player comes along and changes the game. Lionel Messi, a person who was rejected from most clubs as a boy due to his height, is that man. We are spoiled at the moment by having Cristiano Ronaldo (who came 6th in our poll) at Real Madrid, while their eternal rivals Barcelona boast Leo. Both sensational players, both worthy of their places within the top 6. For me though, what Leo offers to his side is that sense of unbeatablity that Barcelona had under the helm of Pep Guardiola. 
A product of Barcelona's historic La Masia academy, Messi is Mr Barcelona. His career stats at time of posting are ridiculous, 331 La Liga goals in 368 showings, that in a side that has a whole host of players who are just as goal hungry. 2011/12 was his season, 50 goals in 37 league ties, 73 in all competitions and 91 in 2012 as a calendar year, just unbelievable! His domestic trophy cabinet reads 8 league titles, 4 Champions Leagues and 4 Copa del Reys, remarkable considering he is only 29. Whilst his international successes may seem less productive (finishing runner-up in 3 major tournaments), his international appeal is certainly not disputable. Walk into any school in the world and every child wants to pretend they're Messi... not bad for man named after Lionel Richie!" 

Gerard Pique:
"Leo is from another planet. What makes him the best is that other great players have had ups and downs, like Maradona. He wasn’t half of what Leo is at Barça. Messi has had so many good years in his career that he deserves to be considered the best ever."

Gary Lineker:
"I never ever thought I would say that there was a better player than Maradona since he was in my time and I was in awe of him, but I honestly think for a number of reasons that Messi has surpassed him. He can do anything that Maradona did, and he does it more frequently and consistently."

Terry Venables:
"Messi is like an Oliver Twist character, picking a pocket or two, the Artful Dodger, where he’s just sort of slipping around, looking like a little lad in the playground. He’s not really taking it seriously, and he makes you smile every time he gets the ball. And when he does some of these things, I have to laugh because it’s not possible what he does. It’s wonderful to watch. It’s just wonderful to see. You’ve got to pinch yourself sometimes, it’s really amazing what he does."

John Terry:
"It’s something for me that I can tell my kids that I’ve played against Messi when we watch him on television. For me he’s got everything. He is magical to watch. When I finish and look back, and he will still be going strong, I will be able to say to myself I tested myself against the best. And quite clearly, for me, he is the best ever. He’s a great individual player but a great person as well and a credit to football."


Keep track of the list so far:

Keep tuned in to find out the next 10 in the #TFHB100 shortlist! Check out our judges' websites!!

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