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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Top Ten European Footballers of All Time

Football is undoubtedly the biggest global sport which has millions of supporters around the world. However, Europe is the region which has produced most great players of the game. Many great footballers came from Europe who dominated world football by their own. So, making a list of top ten European footballers was not very easy. I admit that many great players, who have been excluded from the list, could have made it to the list. For instance, I was in a dilemma to decide whom should I choose among Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit and Gerd Muller. So, before you go through the list, I would like to say that the list of players given below is of my personal opinion and you do not necessarily need to agree with me. You can rather share your personal opinion in the comment section. So, let us go through list and I hope you will enjoy it:

Johan Cruijff

Johan Cruijff is one of the greatest footballers the game has ever seen. Though Ferenc Puskas-led Hungary of 50’s first showed the glimpses of ‘Total Football’, it was Johan Cruijff who popularized this style of play 20 years later with Netherlands national team. Along with coach Rinus Michels, Cruijff led the Dutch side to reach the 1974 world cup final before losing to eventual champion West Germany 2-1.

His superb pace and technical as well as tactical skill made him an incredible player on the pitch. Johan Cruijff could speed up the game and his versatility as a player helped him confuse the opponent by dint of abrupt change in position. Three time winner of European Footballer of the Year ((1971, 1973 and 1974) and the best player of 1974 world cup, Johan Cruijff scored 33 goals in his 48 appearances for Netherlands.

Johan Cruijff got most of his club successes with Ajax and Barcelona, the two clubs whom he later on coached with sheer success. Guiding Barcelona to win the 1992 champions league, Cruijff became one of the very few players to win Champions League both as a player and manager.

Ferenc Puskas

No doubt, Cruijff popularized “Total Football”, but Ferenc Puskas’ Hungary of 1940’s and 50’s first adopted this trick successfully. Ferenc Puskas was the captain of the legendary ‘Mighty Magyars’, the national team of Hungary in 1950’s and was instrumental behind Hungary’s extraordinary display in 1954 world cup where they stormed into the final before losing to champions West Germany.

With his leadership and magnificent skill and talent, Puskas led Hungary to remain unbeaten for a then-record of 32 games in early 50s, and along the way he helped them win the gold medal in 1952 Helsinki Olympic Games. For Hungary, he scored 84 goals in 85 matches. During his 8-year stint at Real Madrid, Puskas along with another great Alfredo di Stéfano formed a lethal forward line up and won 3 European Championship titles alongside 5 Spanish league titles. He was a top scorer of European Championship in 1960 and 1964.

Franz Beckenbauer

This German legend is the only defender placed in this list. If Cruijff and Puskas are the finest ever players of “Total Football,” then Franz Beckenbauer is the pioneer of the role of modern sweeper. Started as a midfielder, Beckenbauer ended up becoming perhaps the best defender of all time. Nicknamed Der Kaiser (The Emperor), he was the captain of West Germany’s 1974 world cup winning team, and later on coached Germany’s world cup winning team of 1990. He scored 14 goals in 103 appearances for West Germany and represented his country in three world cup tournaments. Beckenbauer is also very successful in his club career as he captained Bayern Munich in three consecutive European Cup triumphs in 1970s. He is the two-time winner of European Player of the Year award.

Michel Platini

There are many who believe that Michel Platini is the best ever footballer France has ever seen. Well, there are enough reasons too. His excellent skill in passing and free kick, besides his consistent scoring ability as a midfielder made him a different player from others. Representing France in 72 matches including 3 world cup tournaments (1978, 82, 86), Platini scored 41 goals. Platini was instrumental behind France’s triumph in 984 European Championship. During his illustrious club career, he played for AS Nancy, Saint-Étienne and Juventus. With Juventus he won European Cup and Intercontinental Cup in 1985. He was awarded the European Player of the Year in 1983 while playing for Juventus. Michel Platini is the current president of UEFA.

Alfredo di Stefano

Alfredo di Stefano is undoubtedly one of the best footballers of all time and he is perhaps the best player in the history of football who did not take part in any world cup finals. Born in Argentina, he represented three countries at international level: Argentina, Columbia and Spain. Alfredo di Stefano helped Spain qualify for 1962 world cup by his impressive performance in the qualification phase, but a muscle injured ruled him out of world cup finals. In his 31 appearances for Spain, he scored 23 goals.

Actually, most of his success in football came at club level. Nicknamed Saeta rubia (blond arrow), Di Stéfano has been a legend of Spanish club Real Madrid with whom he won five consecutive European Cup titles in 1950s and 8 La Liga titles. Outstanding technical and tactical skills as well as magnificent stamina were the strengths of Alfredo di Stefano. The two-time European Player of the Year, Di Stéfano is still the fourth highest goal scorer of Spanish La Liga with 216 goals in 282 league games. A vote conducted by France Football, a weekly French magazine, placed Alfredo di Stefano at the fourth place, just behind Pele, Diego Maradona, and Johan Cruijff, in a list of best footballers of the century.


Mozambique-born Eusébio is regarded as the best ever footballer of Portugal. Because of his dark complexion, he is nicknamed ‘The Black Panther’. A prolific goal scorer, Eusébio led Portugal to win the third place of 1966 world cup, scoring highest 9 goals in 6 games of the tournament. Scoring 41 goals in 64 appearances, Eusébio is one of the all-time leading scorers of Portugal. In his club career, he played for many clubs, but his 15-year stint with Portuguese side Benfica saw his best years. Eusébio won two European Cup and 11 Portuguese league titles with Benfica, and in the process, becoming the all time highest scorer of Benfica. While playing for Benfica, he was awarded European Player of the Year award in 1965. Eusébio is also the two-time European golden boot winner.

George Best

George Best is another great player who did not play in world cup finals. The Northern Irish player is famous for his success with English premier league club Manchester United with whom he won two league titles as well as European Cup title in 1968, the year he was awarded European Footballer of the Year award. He scored 137 goals in 361 appearances for Manchester United. Alcohol may have affected the midfielder’s career a lot, but still he is arguably considered as the best British footballer of all time. Best is one of the all-time best footballers when it comes to dribbling. His excellent speed, technique and vision made him an instant threat for the opponent.

Lev Yashin

The only goalkeeper placed in the list, Lev Yashin is considered by many as the best goalkeeper the game has ever seen. It is not a mare claim, if you consider his glorious career. If Beckenbauer is credited for inventing the role of modern sweeper, then Yashin is the pioneer of goalkeeper sweeping role. His style was marked by excellent athleticism and he was adept at reflex saves. Moreover, his height (6 and 1/2 inch) also helped him become more dominant in goal.

Lev Yashin was part of Soviet United (USSR) squad in 4 world cup tournaments including 1966 world cup where he helped his team reach the semi final.

Moreover, Yashin also helped USSR to win Olympic Gold medal in 1956 and European championship in 1960. A one-club player, Yashin played for Dynamo Moscow throughout his illustrious career. During his 22-year stint with Dynamo, he won five Soviet Championship titles. Yashin received European Footballer of the Year award in 1963, and in 1988, he was awarded the highest FIFA award FIFA Order of Merit. In 2000, Lev Yashin was honored with FIFA World Keeper of the Century.

Zinedine Zidane

Three-time FIFA World Player of the Year winner, Zinedine Zidane is considered to be one of the greatest footballers of all time. In fact, there are many who even believe that Zidane is the greatest footballer of all time. The Algeria-born French international is a playmaker with extraordinary technical and tactical skills. His lethal passes, superb free-kicks, and above all his ball controlling and balance made him a magnificent player.

Zidane is successful both at international and club level. He has 31 international goals to his car in his 108 appearances for France national team. He was instrumental behind France’s triumph in 1998 world cup and his superb performance earned him FIFA World Player of the Year and European Player of the Year award that year. Zidane also helped France to win the UEFA European Championship in 2000. Starting his career at Cannes, Zidane played for Bordeaux, Juventus and Real Madrid during his glorious career. He won two Italian league titles with Juventus and two Spanish league titles as well as a UEFA Champions League title with Real Madrid.

Marco van Basten

Another great player from Netherlands, Marco van Basten did not have a very long career due to recurrent injury problems, but he could successfully show his talent and skill during his short but glorious career. Marco van Basten retired from football at the age of just 29. He won the European Footballer of the Year award on three occasions in 1989, 1990 and 1992 and won the FIFA World Player of the Year award in 1992.

A prolific goal scorer, Marco van Basten played for Ajax and AC Milan and won many titles with the two clubs. Specially, his stint with AC Milan was highly successful as he won 3 Serie A and 3 Champions League titles during his 6-year stay at the club. For Netherlands, the striker scored on 24 occasions in 58 appearances. His biggest success with Netherlands came when he helped the Dutch side win their first and so far only European Championship title in 1988, scoring highest 5 goals in the tournament. His goal against USSR (Soviet Union) in the tournament final is considered as one of the best goals in the history of football.

Some Other Great Players from Europe:

Ruud Gullit, Gerd Muller, Bert Trautmann, Luis Figo, Roy Keane, Bobby Charlton, Gianluigi Buffon, Bobby Moore, David Beckham, Raúl, Michael Laudrup, Brian Laudrup, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Roberto Baggio, Frank Rijkaard, Dennis Bergkamp, Dino Zoff, Paolo Rossi, Gheorghe Hagi, Peter Schmeichel, Duncan Edwards, Pavel Nedvěd, Kevin Keegan, Gordon Banks, Gary Lineker, Rinat Dasayev, Alan Shearer, Éric Cantona, Gianfranco Zola, Hristo Stoichkov, Davor Šuker, Cristiano Ronaldo, Andriy Shevchenko, Kenny Dalglish, Kevin Keegan, Steven Gerrard, John Terry, Frank Lampard and many others.



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