Do you eat, sleep, live, and breathe soccer? Then you are probably wondering which players take the title of best players of all time. From South America to the USA, from English Premiere to Copa América and the FIFA World Cup... here are the best athletes of all time.
10 Best Soccer Players of All Time
1. "Pelé" or Edson Arantes do Nascimento
FIFA World Cup Champion: 1958, 1962, 1970
Stats: 650 goals in 694 league matches; 1281 goals in 1363 games
Net worth: 100 million; the highest-paid athlete in the world during his career
Anyone vaguely familiar with football knows the name Pelé. Did he really score over 1,000 goals? Yes. He is considered the most successful goal-scorer in football history (but Arthur Friedenreich had 1,329 goals).
Edson Arantes do Nascimento is considered one of the greatest football players of all time. Born in 1940, Pelé is now retired, but he played for the Brazilian team as a forward. He was voted World Player of the Century by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics (IFFHS) and won FIFA Player of the Century and Athlete of the Century by the International Olympic Committee.
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2. "Mia Hamm" or Mariel Margaret Hamm-Garciaparra
Position: Midfielder, Forward
FIFA World Cup Champion: 1991, 1999
Olympic Gold Medals: 1996, 2004
Stats: 275 matches (USA national team),158 goals
Net worth: $10 million
Mia Hamm is a two-time Olympic gold medalist and two-time FIFA World Cup champion. She played in four FIFA World Cups and competed with the U.S. women's national team for 17 years. Mariel Margaret Hamm-Garciaparra was born in Alabama in 1972. As a US athlete, she had one of the biggest fan bases during her career, inspiring millions of aspiring young female soccer players worldwide.
Mia Hamm received the title of FIFA World Player of the Year in 2001 and 2002. She was one of the youngest athletes to win the World Cup in 1991 at the age of 19. She also won Soccer USA's "Female Athlete of the Year" five times from 1994 to 1998.
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3. "Leo" Lionel Messi
Team: Argentina national team, Barcelona
Stats: 695 goals (club/national team); most goals in La Liga (419), 8 hat-tricks UEFA Champ. League, 169 assists La Liga, and 12 in the Copa América.
Net worth: Highest paid athlete in the world Forbes in 2019.
Lionel Messi, or Lionel Andrés Messi Cuccittini, was born in 1987 in Argentina. He's a forward and the captain for both the Argentina national team and Barcelona. Messi has 5 Ballon d'Or awards, 6 European Golden Shoes, and 34 trophies with Barcelona, setting a club record.
Fans wonder who is better, Ronaldo or Messi? Many argue Ronaldo is an all-around better player, scoring 126 goals (Real Madrid, Manchester United, Juventus), whereas Messi has 112 (Barcelona). Messi began playing at an early age. He overcame setbacks from a growth hormone deficiency, during which he moved to Barcelona and received healthcare assistance. That's when he joined the FC Barcelona youth league.
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4. Homare Sawa
Team: Japan, Atlanta Beat (WUSA)
FIFA World Cup Champion: 2011
Olympic Silver Medal: 2012
Stats: 81 international goals—Japanese female-best; a hat trick in the 2011 World Cup (v. Mexico).
Homare Sawa was named FIFA Women's World Player of the Year in 2011. She was the captain of Japan's national team in 2011 which won the World Cup title and the silver medal in the 2012 Summer Olympics. Sawa was born in Tokyo in 1978 and started playing soccer when she was 6 years old; she trained with her brother's soccer team.
Sawa also played for the Atlanta Beat with the establishment of the Women's United Soccer Association (WUSA) in 2001. She is known for scoring the first goal in the club's history. Sawa played for Nippon TV Beleza until 2008 during which she was named Women's Player of the Year for the Asian Football Confederation in 2004. She was named MVP in 2006 and 2008 for the L. League; Nippon TV Beleza won the league's championship four times.
5. Ronaldinho Gaúcho or Ronaldo de Assis Moreira
Team: Brazilian national and club, Barcelona, A.C. Milan
Position: Midfielder, forward
FIFA World Cup Champion: 2002
Stats: 97 matches played for Brazil national team, 33 goals
Ronaldo de Assis Moreira was born in 1980 in Brazil. Known as an extremely technical, accurate, and talented ball-handler, he received 2 FIFA World Player of the Year awards and a Ballon d'Or. He signed with Barcelona in 2003 which he played for from 2003-2008, A.C. Milan from 2008-2011, and then returned to play for Brazilian club teams, scoring a total of 167 goals in his senior career. He played 97 matches for the Brazil national team, scoring 33 goals. His name was added to the FIFA 100, which is a list compiled by Pelé of the world's greatest football players.
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6. "Marta" or Marta Vieira da Silva (Brazil)
Team: Brazilian national team, Orlando Pride
Olympic Silver Medal: 2004, 2008
Stats: 112 international goals scored
"Marta" or Marta Vieira da Silva, is Swedish-Brazilian and was born in Brazil in 1986. She holds the record for the most goals scored in FIFA World Cup tournaments. According to Pelé, Marta is one of the best female football players in the world. She is the 6-time recipient of the FIFA World Player of the Year award from 2006 to 2010 and in 2018. In January 2013, she was named 1 of 6 ambassadors of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Brazil, and was 1 of 6 to carry the Olympic flag.
Marta was excluded from playing soccer when she was younger because of her gender but eventually joined a males junior team. She is a huge inspiration for young football players worldwide.
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7. Hidetoshi Nakata (Japan)
Stats: 203 appearances, 25 goals, 29 assists
Hidetoshi Nakata is considered one of the greatest Japanese soccer players of all time. He is the recipient of the Asian Football Confederation Player of the Year award in 1997 and 1998. He played for Japan in the World Cup in 1998, 2002, and 2006 and on the Olympic team in 1996 and 2000.
In 2005 he was made Knight of the Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity, an extremely prestigious honor. Nakata retired at the age of 29 after playing for 10 years which included Italian club and English Premier. Nakata made Pelé's FIFA 100 list. He is also heavily involved in philanthropic activity and is considered one of the greatest Japanese players of all time.
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8. Julie Foudy (USA)
FIFA World Champion: Two titles
Olympic Medals: Gold 1996 and 2004, Silver 2000
Julie Maurine Foudy was born in 1971 in California, USA. Foudy played for the national USA team from 1987-2004 and was a team captain. She received the FIFA Fair Play Award in 1997 and was the president of the Women's Sport Foundation from 2000-2002. She and Mia Hamm were inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2007. Julie Foudy is a big advocate for elevating young football players and supporting the equal pay movement:
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9. Diego Maradona
FIFA World Cup Champion: 1986
Stats: 34 international goals
Net Worth: 100,000
Diego Armando Maradona was born in 1960 in Argentina. Nicknamed "El Pibe de Oro" or "The Golden Boy," he received the FIFA Player of the 20th Century award. He is known for his amazing leadership, ball-handling skills, and playmaking skills. He won the Golden Ball award, designating him as the best player of the 1986 World Cup, Mexico. He coached Argentina in 2008 and prepared the team for the 2010 World Cup.
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10. Christine Sinclair
Team: Canada, Portland Thorns FC
Position: Forward, Midfielder
CONCACAF Champion: 2010
Christine Margaret Sinclair, OC (appointed Officer of the Order of Canada), was born in 1983 and is the captain of the Canadian national team. She has won Canada Soccer Player of the Year Award 14 times and joined the senior national team at just 16 years old. She is the all-time leading scorer for Canada and holds the title for the second leading international goal scorer with 182 goals (Abby Wambach has 184). She's played in 5 FIFA World Cups (2003, 2007, 2011, 2015, 2019) and three Olympics (2008, 2012, 2016).
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Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia