Who is the best footballer of all time?

Top 10 best footballers

The boredom of the quarantine brings all kinds of flowers. Some start to sew and do handicrafts, others also watch the last series on Netflix or become whimsical. In my case, apathy and pent-up gray time reliably lure out the nerd in me - and after manically creating 80s playlists, he turned to football without being asked. On the occasion of Maradona's death and Pele's 80th birthday before that, I wanted to clarify the question at least for myself ... Who was the best footballer of all time?


My tools - in addition to an enthusiastic layman's opinion - were the repeated viewing of countless YouTube videos, but also the thousands of reports, complete games (including repeated classics from the 60s and 70s) and scenes that I have sucked up like a junkie since childhood. From the 1994 World Cup, when I fell in love with football, to the present, when I have alienated myself from it and its commercial excesses - but still regularly kicker, 11 friends and read all kinds of sports pages, often several times a day, because ... I don't know. Probably because I still love the game somewhere deep inside me.

Disclaimer: This, of course, highly subjective choice was about field players - not goalkeepers - and the focus for me was not just on pure talent. Otherwise the young, still thin Brazilian Ronaldo and a Ronaldinho would have to be rated much higher. Rather, it was about the whole package, about what the NBA calls the “Most Valuable Player”: the football skills, the ability to achieve great things in decisive games and to dominate your own generation, the importance for them Team, but also for football and its evolution as a whole, the consistency over the entire career, the success as a player - as well as the personality on the pitch.

The basic idea was not: the former players would no longer have a chance in today's high-performance sport, but rather: how good would they be with today's highly efficient training, optimal care and in modern stadiums. And: how good would a Cristiano Ronaldo have been with the fields, lousy food and rudimentary sports medicine at that time, how good a Messi would have been with sometimes smoking, drinking fellow players and brutally rattling in from the 60s or 80s without being so protected by the referee and television cameras to become like today (at the 1982 World Cup, for example, the Italian Claudio Gentile was put on the young star Maradona and fouled him 23 times - only in this one game).

In short: This post is probably the biggest nonsense I've ever put on this page, but enough of the introductory words. Here are my top 10, to provide evidence, I have linked most of the theses to videos.


10. Gerd Muller

(* November 3, 1945, Germany)

There is a parallel universe in which Franz Beckenbauer and Gerd Müller did not play for FC Bayern, but in 1860 Munich. Beckenbauer, because in his youth he wasn't slapped by a sixties. And Müller, because those responsible for the “lions” came to the contract negotiation an hour earlier. But that is how the boy from Nördlingen ended up with Bayern and started his professional career - after initial difficulties under coach “Tschick” Cajkovski, who called him “little, fat miller” and tried in vain to put on a diet. And what a. It is just amazing how many important goals he scored. The 14 hits in only two world championships seem surreal today. Müller scored against all the great defenders in the world, for years and at will: in various national championship finals, a double in the game of the century against Italy in 1970, but also a double in the European Championship final. And the winning goal in the 1974 World Cup final in his inimitable way. More is simply not possible. Added to this is his quota of 68 goals in only 62 international matches, which will almost be forgotten: 78 goals in 62 DFB Cup games, or 34 hits in 35 national championship cup games. But also: seven top scorer titles in what was then a very offensive Bundesliga and with strong competition. Of course, they also have other best records such as 40 goals in one season and the most Bundesliga goals; his world record of 85 “stalls” in one calendar year also remained untouched for decades.

Its numbers are unbelievable, its silent importance for its teams cannot be overestimated, as well as the importance of the games in which it was so regular. Was perhaps not particularly talented in football or even outstanding, which also explains this comparatively low placement, but always good for technically clean double passes. His real place of work, however, was the penalty area: the ball had to go over this white line, no matter how. While other players on this list elevated scoring goals to an art form, Müller did the opposite: With his unique goal instinct, he often made the hardest thing in football look child's play and couldn't be stopped by anything. One reads with amusement the hymns of his former opponents, who despaired of him and his agile body with the monstrous thighs and the low center of gravity. Or the comments from Beckenbauer and other players who complained that they had no chance if they had to play against him in training. Nobody got it on the ground, nobody got a grip on it.

Most beautiful, however, remains his jubilation: without much staging, an almost childlike, short joy that never wanted to match his pithy nickname “Bomber of the Nation”. At the first goal as well as at the end of his career with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers in the USA. Despite all his successes, Müller always remained a quiet, humble person who never staged himself or placed himself in the center, although he would have had a thousand reasons for doing so. And so perhaps the words that friends and companions found about him on the occasion of his illness also touch.



9. Alfredo Di Stefano

(* July 4, 1926 - † July 7, 2014, Argentina / Spain)

FC Barcelona wanted him first and already transferred a transfer fee. Madrid got it anyway, probably also because of their most powerful “fan”; allegedly dictator Franco intervened behind the scenes. And so Di Stéfano led Real to five national championship titles in a row and to eight championships - and shaped this early phase of football with players like Puskás and Gento. 216 goals in 282 league games in Spain are in his statistics, for his clubs in South America he had previously published similar numbers. The only reason he does not stand out in these debates is because, in addition to his "too early" work, he was also unable to take part in any world championships; Surprisingly missed the 1958 World Cup as an Argentine or naturalized Spaniard. But everyone who has seen him play says that he cannot be rated highly enough.

The "blonde arrow" was then considered breathtakingly fast, robust and assertive with its tempo dribbles. In the middle field a majestic charisma, ball control and bag of tricks like Zidane, in the end sober like Gerd Müller. Has been named “Europe's Footballer of the Year” twice with the Ballón d’Or honored - and also won the vote in 1989, which has only been awarded once Súper Ballón d’Or for the last three decades - despite the strongest competition.

Was a pioneer of the more modern, better documented football after him, and at the same time with his personality and his athletic skills also the foundation of the “White Ballet” of Real Madrid, on which the club and its legend are built to this day.



8. Luis Nazario de Lima

(* September 18, 1976, Brazil)

If it were only about pure footballing talent, what a player was able to achieve at his peak - then the young, thin, dynamic Ronaldo, who ran for Eindhoven, Barcelona and Inter Milan, would be in a shared third place here. At least. If you look again at his old games and scenes, in addition to his speed, his dribbling is immediately noticeable: destructive, purposeful and with incredible control even at the highest speed. Sometimes he trotted, walked or ran straight into four or five men and almost always got through - and that against an outstanding generation of tactically well-trained, tough Italian defenders. In addition, always an eye for teammates and absolutely freezing in front of the goal (passable header, extremely good shot). As a young player he was in excellent physical condition, spread fear and panic in every defense back then. With today's training and more ethos, Ronaldo could have become the greatest of all time - and especially without the serious injuries. But as it was, he was at the peak of his creativity for almost two and a half years. Then came back much harder and never became the same again. Otherwise, it would be roughly worded in response to the question “Messi or CR7?” maybe the answer: “Both in one”. The various videos of him really open your eyes again in case you have forgotten the hype in your first few years.

Back then, in the debates about the best of all time, he immediately jumped into the Maradona and Pelé category. Today it is not even the first hit if you google it; instead, its athletic namesake from Portugal appears. The actually even more talented “O Fenomeno”, on the other hand, is well on the way to becoming a half-forgotten, cozy comic figure. The time of his real dominance, these just four or five years, does not seem enough today to place him even higher. If you look back on his promising career start, on the 34 goals in 37 games in his only season for Barcelona, ​​he looks rather incomplete and like thegreat unfulfilled promises of football.

The only crazy thing is that the already thickened, fun-loving later Ronaldo was hardly able to set accents in the Champions League, but still had strong hits at Real Madrid, Brazil at the otherwise staid World Cup in 2002 with a questionable hairstyle and eight goals - two of them alone in the final -, scored for the title and, alongside Zidane, could be the great icon of a time when football was finally becoming modern and professional. Three-time world footballer, two-time world champion, two-time Copa Ameria winner, NIKE advertising figure, 62 goals in 98 international matches, plus a world championship record scorer with fifteen goals for years. And all of that partly with broken knees and overweight.



7. Franz Beckenbauer

(* September 11, 1945, Germany)

An outstanding player and certainly one of the best of all time. However, in his famous, expansive advances from the defense, he secretly benefited from the stubborn man marking of the time (nobody could kill him if he suddenly appeared in the opposing half) and the actively practiced legend of a football that suddenly (advertising) -Stars needed and they invented themselves (was about a thousand times in the category “World Class” in the kicker ranking and always got what felt like a one in Munich newspapers). On the other hand, it had a truly unique aura and was authentically described by former teammates and opponents as the outstanding figure on the pitch.

Moved ahead in all of his teams: Whether as a very young, dynamic, defensive midfielder at FC Bayern and at the 1966 World Cup (scored four goals at the time and was basically the best and most interesting player in the tournament; would have had an incredible market value at today's prices). Or later as a libero in the seventies, in which he won everything: three times the national championship cup, plus the European championship and the world championship - always as captain. With Cosmos New York he even won the title in Pelé's last season, which he hadn't been able to do on his own. And when he returned after three years abroad, he also won the championship with Hamburger SV as a veteran. Otherwise flicked free kicks into the corner from the outside of the foot and hit the goal wall from the wheat beer glass.

As a player, the "Kaiser" was elegant, fast, dominant and style-defining. He revolutionized the position of the “free man” and interpreted it in an unusually offensive manner, had a fantastic understanding of the game and a feeling for the ball that was hardly achieved in his innate ease, plus a sure instinct for double passes and forays. Always looking up and on the room, the hectic game slowly grew in his eyes. He was able to shoot, dribble, and shoot perfectly timed diagonal passes over fifty meters casually from his ankle, which otherwise only Bernd Schuster could manage, but also straddle. Everyone else here was a striker or an attacking midfielder, and he achieved this reputation as a defender (see note at the bottom).



6. Zinedine Zidane

(* June 23, 1972, France)

His spectacular skills made him next to Brazil's Ronaldo the outstanding player of his generation. If he hadn't riveted Materazzi back then, he was even a sure four-time world footballer, not just three times. Without being a striker, he shaped almost every important game of his career with his goals, whether his two World Cup finals with a total of three goals or the Champions League final in 2002 with the volley winning goal, he also became European champion. The more important the match, the more visible “Zizou” became, the more he demanded and got the ball and dictated the rhythm of the game.

Whether at the beginning with Girondins Bordeaux, later with Juventus Turin or at the end with Real Madrid: he was always the undisputed fixed point of his teams. Didn't have to talk much for that, his quiet class spoke for him. Had good tackle behavior, but was also able to do everything else at the highest level: from headers (see his two goals in the 1998 World Cup final), passing, dribbling and shots to excellent ball control. In addition, there is its iconic charisma. His performance in the quarter-finals of the 2006 World Cup was also unbelievable, when he blossomed again at the age of 34 and after many minor injuries and he succeeded in almost every single action against title favorites Brazil.

The last game of his life was the final against Italy shortly afterwards, and his headbutt was the last action of his career. And at the same time this derailment was just one of many, his temperament notorious even before that. Went past the World Cup trophy with bowed head and left his team in the lurch. On the other hand: does anyone remember Beckenbauer's last game? From Pelé? From Maradona? Zidane's departure on the largest possible stage, on the other hand, remains controversial forever - and therefore unforgettable.



5. Johan Cruyff

(* April 25, 1947 - † March 24, 2016, Netherlands)

A fascinating offensive player, a tactical genius and a thought leader on the field from a young age. Always the right passes, extremely fast and extremely dribbling, cold in front of the goal and tricky. Nobody hit the hook like him, everything revolved around him, effortlessly dominating every team he played on. Only once was too arrogant and complacent - just before and at the lost World Cup final in 1974 (otherwise he would have come in fourth for me, but that weighs heavily). If he skipped the 1978 World Cup in Argentina for personal reasons, the Netherlands might have won the close final with him. It led Ajax Amsterdam to three national championship titles in a row, then shaped FC Barcelona forever (was called by the fans "El Salvador", the savior) and also defined the revolutionary "Voetbal-Total" of the Netherlands under Michels ; total football.

Even in old age, when he returned from early retirement in the American show league to the Dutch one Eredivisie returned, Cruyff immediately won the championship again as a star and fixed point with Ajax. And when they finally sent him away because he was really too old, he also won the title with Feyenoord Rotterdam and was again footballer of the year thanks to outstanding performances.

Was able to do everything and was also easy going; you can imagine every scene, every dribble, every pass and every goal with a butt in his mouth. It is not for nothing that he is considered a co-inventor of the penalty feint.



4. Cristiano Ronaldo

(* February 5, 1985, Portugal)

His sympathy values ​​can be argued, and those of football leaks and the mirror documented allegations against him are another matter entirely. But from a purely sporting point of view, his dominance stands out, as does his almost uncanny consistency. Even as a youngster at Manchester United he was a defining figure and “Footballer of the Year” in England, scoring 31 goals in his last Premier League season. But also scored 31 times this year - as a veteran in the defensive Italian Serie A and for Juventus Turin.And in between: 311 league goals in just 292 league games for Real. These nine years in Madrid alone are of a consistency that is unparalleled in modern world football (and ultimately only found in the more highly rated Messi). Has always been the most important player on his teams, also internationally. Five Champions League titles and the all-time record scorer there, over a hundred goals for Portugal, plus this inferior team led to the European Championship final and then emotionally carried away and “coached” to the title.

Every team that sent him out on the field in the last decade has statistically taken a 1-0 lead even before the start thanks to his hit rate. Can actually do anything: With his immense jumping power, he is one of the world's best header players, plus strong dribbling, very good shot paired with an efficient finish. Threw his ring into the debate about the best fallback goal and is also a very underrated template provider.

When a Messi has got it all, the equally talented Ronaldo is a genius of will and hard work. Got more and more effective, obsessed, better over the years. Has never been seriously injured and - unlike a Ronaldinho or his Brazilian namesake - embodied absolute world class throughout his career. There is almost a decade between his first and fifth world football title, and even in his mid-thirties he is regularly shortlisted. Has worked in every league, at every age and on every team. This has not been seen often in this form before, and it also sets him apart from Santos-Pelé, Barca-Messi, Bayern-Beckenbauer, Benfica-Eusébio. And yet this impressive willingness to work, this perfection, which always seems a bit cool, and greed miss a spark of magic that the next players had. For me, 4th place is his limit, after his career you could probably put him in 5th or 6th position without hesitation. For me he is less the best general footballer, more the best version of the dominating striker, who is represented here several times with Müller and Ronaldo.



3. Lionel Messi

(* June 24, 1987, Argentina)

Has no weaknesses in terms of play, is also robust and assertive despite his size and shows astonishingly good timing even with a header, although of course that is not a weapon of his. The rest, on the other hand, is recognizable for every layperson. Messi doesn't have the hardest, but an incredibly precise and well-placed shot (even with free kicks), the world's best dribble for a long time and perhaps the best passing game compared to all the players named here. Because as often as you look at his goals, for example the legendary fifty in a league season in Spain or his world record of 91 goals in a calendar year: He is also by far the best assistant since the beginning of modern data collection, and probably all of them too Times. Even in a league season like 2019/20, pale by his standards, he managed to provide at least twenty assists and score at least twenty goals at the same time. A feat that has only been achieved once in Europe: the Frenchman Thierry Henry in the 2002/03 season. At the time, Henry was considered the premier league's supreme player. At Messi, on the other hand, his 20/20 season is recorded as a rather "weak year" - that alone shows the insane level at which he has been moving his entire career. But these are just the numbers, the more decisive factor is his feel for the game, his incredible peripheral vision, and he creates many spaces for his feeds himself through dribbling and movements. Passes like Xavi, clinical finish like CR7 or Pelé. For me he is the best of our time.

And yet he only comes in third here. Because he often takes breaks himself in important games and with his stature and physique on - admittedly rare - weak days it feels like he has to be cooked off from time to time. But also because with his introverted personality he obviously cannot carry his teams on the pitch alone. So far, the mediocre has not been able to take it to the top either as a player or as an “emotional leader”. Instead, he ultimately needs his teammates at Barca and Argentina just as much as they need him. If you let him down, he is vulnerable. Now you could say that modern football doesn't allow it any other way. Or: who can then carry a team all by himself? Well, the runner-up made it. Messi, on the other hand, is unable to judge it himself when a Higuain fails again in various finals with Argentina. Instead, "La Pulga" often dives into frustration himself: whether last in the 2: 8 against Bayern, when he was apathetically in the dressing room as captain at halftime (unthinkable with a Steven Gerrard), or in 2010 against Germany. In “his” 2014 World Cup, he only scored goals in the group, but not in all close play-off games afterwards, including the final with his extra time. For the The bottom line is that the team’s central offensive player is not enough. Also because he wasn't in top form when it counted (unlike - with anger in his stomach and after a change in diet - the following season, when he looked much wirier and won everything again with Barcelona).

But all this should only explain why a six-time world footballer is not in the first two positions here. Otherwise, clearly the best, most colorful, most talented player of the past thirty years and one hell of a football genius. And the only one who can do both equally well: Most assists and Seen over the whole career even the better goal rate in the eternal duel with CR7. Has Pep Guardiolas ennobled football and made it immortal forever, tragically was thwarted at the 2010 World Cup by Maradona and his “tactics”, but he couldn't help it.



2. Diego Maradona

(* October 30, 1960 - † November 25, 2020, Argentina)

Never has a single player shaped a World Cup more than he did in 1986 under the thousand suns of Mexico. Without actually being a striker, he scored two goals of the century against England in the quarter-finals, scored twice in the semi-finals against Belgium, and delivered the decisive pass to the winning goal in the final. A total of five hits and five assists. So he became world champion with a rather mediocre, possibly even weaker team at the time - definitely weaker than Argentina in 2010 and not better than Argentina in 2014 with Messi. Everything was geared towards him, never before has there been more hype and press about a player. At the same time, unlike today's stars, he had no real advisors, no clever managers who shielded him and made him scarce, no protection. He was taken advantage of, pushed into the roaring, crazy crowd and was all alone with it - and he carried the whole god damn thing. Came to the small SSC Napoli in southern Italy in 1984, who had almost been relegated the previous season and had never won anything. A club derided by the rich clubs and series winners from the north as “Italy's sewer”, a stigma that matched Maradona's own origins from a poor district. But then he became twice champion with Napoli, in what was clearly the strongest league in the world at the time, and European Cup winner - even though there were no significant newcomers apart from him.

And how did he do it? With intuitive ball handling, terrific dribbling, a perfect overview that allowed even the most impossible passes, a very strong finish - and a very, very large dominance on the field. It can be described with aura and charisma, but it was more. He made his teams shine, he carried them, often all by himself, drove them on and made them better. In his strongest years also with horse lungs and physically very robust, with his play instinct (unforgotten his excess to warm up with untied shoes) almost never to be separated from the ball. But Maradona also had a kind of X-factor: If he rarely missed the ball when accepting or dribbling, the subsequent movement was usually perfect again and the best in the respective situation. Sometimes an advantage emerged, a new room, a pass, a goal. Was never completely switched off and unpredictable, if necessary crossed with overhead kicks, headers and Rabona, never let himself get down, not even by kicks and brutal, unpunished fouls on him. Was so addicted to the game that a World Cup final on the pitch probably meant as much to him as a fun training session in the mud. This looseness, but also his resilience and toughness, while he was hunted like fair game by referees unprotected, is almost bizarre with today's eyes. Ultimately, the ball was not his friend, but his servant. The anecdote from Gary Lineker, who once observed him juggling at a charity match and said that everyone from the world selection around Michel Platini at the time, watched in amazement - and no one was able to even begin to imitate that later.

And so the punch line remains that a player with such a left foot will be remembered for the “hand” of God, of all things. But it also retains its charisma, which is still unmatched today. As a youthful midfielder, Maradona was a goal-scorer genius in Argentina, later a god in Naples - and at the same time appeared more human than everyone else. Even during his career, his private life was more than questionable. In the late eighties he coke and partied with his entourage every week through Italian clubs, only to sober up, train and get halfway fit until Sunday, all of which has long been in the stranglehold of the Neapolitan Camorra. And yet it was still enough, at least for a few years. And so the following is nasty and polemical, but it is also not untrue: Maradona scored his most famous solo goal against England at a World Cup and in front of the world; Messi his only against Getafe in the cup.

It can be called tragic that after his career the great Diego, il D10S, only seemed to be stuck in a relegation battle and finally lost him. And yet he, the most famous Argentine in the world next to Evita Perón and Che Guevara, was already forgiven for everything during his lifetime and was bestowed an almost religious worship in his homeland. In the end, the fallible person Maradona, who was a drug addict playboy and clown trainer, could no longer harm the fictional character “Maradona”. And so his old opponent from AC Milan, Carlo Ancelotti, summed it up after his death: "... But you, my friend, are eternal."



1. Edison "Edson" Arantes do Nascimento

(* October 23, 1940, Brazil)

If the more exciting Maradona is the Rolling Stones and constant Sex, Drugs & Rock’n’Roll, then this actually not at all honest player is the Beatles. After all, he was also a kind of pioneer and so complete and perfect that it is almost a little boring: Strong header, clever and space-opening playmaker passes, powerful free kicks, very well-placed, hard shot, great charismatic personality on the field, similar to how Brazilian Ronaldo is a destructive, intuitive dribble that is often underestimated given his many, many goals. In addition, Pelé would be even better and superior today, as it is much more protected from deliberate kicks and injuries that threw him out of many tournaments (World Cup 1962-66). But also because his body would obviously have been predestined for today's demands: "A few years ago medical experts examined Pelé’s slim, athletic figure for weeks in a university laboratory. They prodded him, wired his head for readings, measured his muscles and his mind and when they finished they announced: “Whatever this man might have decided to do in any physical or mental endeavor, he would have been a genius. (...) Pele can run 100 meters in 11 seconds and jump almost 6 feet high. (...) "If nature wanted to be generous, it certainly exaggerated with Pelé." (NY Times of 1975)

But he couldn't just do everything and won everything, several times over, he wasn't just plain the outstanding players of his generation, but he also shaped the following generations - and thus shines brightly to this day despite the poor video documentation as with Di Stéfano. Allegedly scored an incredible 1282 goals in his career, some of them in Brazilian regional competitions, test kicks and probably also matches in daydreams. But even if you only take the officially listed competitive games as hard currency, with its quota of 767 hits in 831 games it is on par with Messi's and Cristiano Ronaldo's fabulous numbers.

What also sets him apart from almost everyone else is his flawless playing career, which doesn't leave room for even the slightest criticism. Because maybe a Maradona was a bit more talented, but his vita also includes his failure at Barca and the fact that he ultimately only dominated football for five years - similar to the Brazilian Ronaldo. Cruyff, on the other hand, was only playing a World Cup and was too complacent before the final; like a top of the class who no longer studies for the final exam and then suddenly fails. Messi, on the other hand, failed to usurp a tournament even after several attempts, and the hard-working Cristiano Ronaldo simply lacks - with all due respect - at this high altitude a shot of genius. Only Pelé combined his extraordinary talent with an almost nerdy picture book career. Only he was consistently world class for twenty years and in all major matches. Only he won as a player in addition to 26 club titles in Brazil and an unbelievable three world championships, as a 17-year-old (!) Scored two goals in the final on still blurred black and white pictures and even twelve years later, as a veteran, headed one more to win the title - in a completely different time and in color . And even years after his actual career in the USA he was still clearly the best player in standing football. He also made soccer popular in America for a short time with his glamorous aura. With him, the Giants Stadium was completely sold out for the first time, Cosmos the hot shit (when Beckenbauer moved to New York, there was a single line in an evening newspaper there - on page 55).

But despite all these facts and figures: The question of whether Pele was the “greatest” always remains a personal one in the end Question of faith. Because there is comparatively little picture material of him, because he never played in Europe and was only seen here at world championships, world cup finals and friendly matches, but performed his real miracles in the shirt of FC Santos - hidden at the other end of the world. So how much do you trust the few videos that still exist of him today? And how much of the voices of those who played with him or saw him back then?

At least with the latter, it is impressive how regularly, decisively and also reverently all contemporary witnesses without exception call his name when it comes to the best of all time; even the Argentine world champion coach Cesar Luis Menotti, who after all trained his compatriot Maradona several times himself. Here in Europe, too, many initially only knew Pelé from hearsay and were initially skeptical - and then forever converted when they finally saw him in action at major tournaments. And if you also look at its statistics and unmatched successes, its unmistakable effect on football as a whole, if you watch its old videos and excerpts or (unfortunately, often difficult to access) longer game sequences for FC Santos and Brazil - then you can actually also came to the conclusion himself: Viagra advertising and controversial statements as a functionary, the worldwide love for the more eccentric, ingenious Maradona - Pelé was an icon as a player throughout his entire career.

And stays O Rey del fútbol.

Other places:

11. Michel Platini(France)

12. Bobby Charlton (England)

13. Xavi (Spain)

14. Zico (Brazil)

15. Eusebio (Portugal)

16. Lothar Matthäus (Germany)

17. Ferenc Puskás (Hungary)

18. Romario (Brazil)

19. Sergio Ramos (Spain)

20. Ronaldinho (Brazil)

*   *   *

Note: One could still discuss why, despite four World Cup titles, there were actually so few clearly and consistently outstanding offensive world stars from Italy (and with the unfinished Roberto Baggio only one world footballer). Where the hell went the fifth Beatle George Best or Zlatan, and why Marco van Basten just barely made it into the top 20. If the more recent generations are rated too low or too high because their true standing only becomes visible after decades. About great players like Fritz Walter and Socrates, whose work went beyond football, but who were perhaps only so important in their own country.

And the “philosophical” question that can probably never be fully answered: Whether defenders like Cafu, Carles Puyol, Philipp Lahm, Fabio Cannavaro, Franco Baresi and Paolo Maldini are always treated unfairly in these lists, because we even remember a goal more strongly with them than an even more important tackle. Or whether not everyone with the greatest physical and technical capabilities of his generation would automatically play further up front or centrally (just like a Guardiola wanted to immediately move the Lahm, who was given away from his point of view on the defensive, into midfield . Full-backs once started out as accurate, edgy young strikers and talented wingers - until the front wasn't quite enough and they were pushed back further and further in their youth). In both cases, the position of the offensively thinking, game-making libero à la Beckenbauer or Matthias Sammer would be an exception - who, with their outstanding skills in today's football, would be more strategic sixes / eights or dynamic box-to-box players anyway.

P.S. Wild card legends like Matt Le “God” Tissier will of course not be forgotten.