Top 100 Greatest Ever Footballers

It’s that time of the year again. The time when a random (ok, let’s call it ‘well-respected’ if you prefer) football publication makes an “All Time Best” ranking that never fails to create controversy and offend a few people.

FourFourTwo did one of those last month, this time it’s the turn of the ‘Association of Football Statisticians’ to make its Top 100, after studying every fact and figure from the beautiful game over the past 100 years.


Points are given for goals scored by forwards and clean sheets for defenders. Players also get awarded marks for trophies won, captaincy and the level they played at throughout their career.

It should come as no big surprise to see Pelé at nº1 spot (the Brazilian legend totalling 16,799.44 points), but the names and rankings further down the list are bound to raise some eyebrows. The analysis of The Sun highlights the biggest problems in English Premiership terms:

  • Manchester United legends George Best, Denis Law and Eric Cantona don’t make the top 100.
  • Ali Daei‘s 109 goals in 149 games for Iran puts him at 26th — ahead of players like Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry and Ronaldinho.
  • Diego Maradona is ranked only 6th.

The publishers explain to The Sun that Best misses out because he never participated in a World Cup tournament, and had a fairly short career, while Ali Daei won his place by scoring 109 goals in 149 international matches for… Iran.

'Greatest Ever Footballers' by Headline publishersThe Daily Star takes a look the UK players, and finds out that England’s top star is Bobby Charlton in 23rd spot, two places above Scotland’s Kenny Dalglish. David Beckham is 44th, Kevin Keegan at 46th, Gary Lineker 56th, Welsh ace Ryan Giggs 62nd, and Michael Owen 68th. Alan Shearer misses out of the top 100.

Further analysis of the ‘Best 100’ reveals that the top 3 trio is 100% Brazilian (with Ronaldo 2nd and Romario 3rd… and Cafu closing down the Auriverde block at 10th). Figo is 4th, Zidane 5th, and other big names such as Platini (13th), Maldini (15th), Zico (16th), Gullit (18th) and Cruyff (21st) are excluded from the Top 10.

TThe most represented nation is France (with 16 players), followed by Brazil (11), Italy and Germany (10). England totals 7, Argentina 5 (Messi not included).

Also, in terms of overall football career, the most represented European league is the Serie A. Indeed, most of the Top 100 players worked at one point or another in Italy: Serie A totals at least 58 players in that ranking, closely followed by La Liga (44), and the EPL (36). Other represented leagues include the Bundesliga (22), the French Ligue 1 (22), the Dutch Eredivisie (20), and the Portuguese Superliga (5). As for South America, the Campeonato Brasileiro counts 11 players while the Argentine Apertura/Clausura only 8 (most of the Brazilian/Argentine stars obviously beginning their career back home). An interesting note is the total of 13 players who played in the MLS/USL (mostly at the end of their careers), making North America the destination of choice for footballers close to retirement.

As for the Italians, aside from the aforementioned Paolo Maldini the remaining 9 players in the list are Paolo Rossi (43rd), Alessandro Costacurta (49th), Dino Zoff (51st), Alessandro Del Piero (60th), Demetrio Albertini (64th), Giacinto Facchetti (75th), Franco Baresi (77th), Gianni Rivera (78th) and Roberto Baggio (79th).

The Top 100 is revealed in the book Greatest Ever Footballers, on sale next week by Headline publishers for £14.99 (€21.50).

Here’s the full list. Any thoughts?

1 Pele Pelé (Brazil)
2 Ronaldo Ronaldo (Brazil)
3 Romario Romário (Brazil)
4 Figo Luís Figo (Portugal)
5 Zidane Zinedine Zidane (France)
6 Maradona Diego Maradona (Argentina)
7 Matthaus></td>  <td>Lothar Matthäus </strong></td>  <td><strong>(Germany) </strong></td>  </tr>  <tr>  <td><strong>8 </strong></td>  <td><strong><img mce_tsrc= Lothar Matthäus (Germany)
8 Muller Gerd Müller (Germany)
9 Beckenbauer Franz Beckenbauer (Germany)
10 Cafu Cafu (Brazil)

.

11 Roberto Carlos (Brazil)
12 Marco van Basten (Holland)
13 Michel Platini (France)
14 Rivaldo (Brazil)
15 Paolo Maldini (Italy)
16 Zico (Brazil)
17 Raúl (Spain)
18 Ruud Gullit (Holland)
19 Eusébio (Portugal)
20 Ferenc Puskás (Hungary)
21 Johan Cruyff (Holland)
22 Alfredo di Stefano (Argentina)
23 Bobby Charlton (England)
24 Jürgen Klinsmann (Ger)
25 Kenny Dalglish (Scotland)
26 Ali Daei (Iran)
27 Karl-Heinz Rummenigge (Ger)
28 Gabriel Batistuta (Argentina)
29 Michael Laudrup (Denmark)
30 Hristo Stoichkov (Bulgaria)
31 Dennis Bergkamp (Holland)
32 Frank Rijkaard (Holland)
33 Thierry Henry (France)
34 Pavel Nedved (Czech Rep)
35 Gheorghe Hagi (Romania)
36 Peter Schmeichel (Denmark)
37 Andriy Shevchenko (Ukraine)
38 Sepp Maier (Germany)
39 Didier Deschamps (France)
40 Lilian Thuram (France)
41 Enzo Francescoli (Uruguay)
42 Hakan Åžükür (Turkey)
43 Paolo Rossi (Italy)
44 David Beckham (England)
45 Jean-Pierre Papin (France)
46 Kevin Keegan (England)
47 Marcel Desailly (France)
48 Oliver Kahn (Germany)
49 Alessandro Costacurta (Ita)
50 Clarence Seedorf (Holland)
51 Dino Zoff (Italy)
52 Patrick Kluivert (Holland)
53 Jari Litmanen (Finland)
54 Daniel Passarella (Arg)
55 Bixente Lizarazu (France)
56 Gary Lineker (England)
57 Ronaldinho (Brazil)
58 Sylvain Wiltord (France)
59 Bebeto (Brazil)
60 Alessandro Del Piero (Italy)
61 Davor Å uker (Croatia)
62 Ryan Giggs (Wales)
63 David Trezeguet (France)
64 Demetrio Albertini (Italy)
65 Patrick Vieira (France)
66 Jürgen Kohler (Germany)
67 Laurent Blanc (France)
68 Michael Owen (England)
69 Youri Djorkaeff (France)
70 Frank De Boer (Holland)
71 Emilio Butragueño (Spain)
72 Hugo Sánchez (Mexico)
73 Rudi Völler (Germany)
74 Djalma Santos (Brazil)
75 Giacinto Facchetti (Italy)
76 Kanu (Nigeria)
77 Franco Baresi (Italy)
78 Gianni Rivera (Italy)
79 Roberto Baggio (Italy)
80 Oscar Ruggeri (Argentina)
81 Gheorghe Popescu (Romania)
82 Jon Dahl Tomasson (Denmark)
83 Raymond Kopa (France)
84 Carlos Valderrama (Colombia)
85 Rui Costa (Portugal)
86 Gary Neville (England)
87 Edgar Davids (Holland)
88 Claudio Taffarel (Brazil)
89 Paul Scholes (England)
90 Diego Simeone (Argentina)
91 Bryan Robson (England)
92 Roy Keane (Rep of Ireland)
93 Brian Laudrup (Denmark)
94 Henrik Larsson (Sweden)
95 Fabien Barthez (France)
96 Michael Ballack (Germany)
97 Jan Koller (Czech Rep)
98 Edwin van der Sar (Holland)
99 Robert Pirès (France)
100 Johan Neeskens (Holland)

Marco Pantanella writes on the mCalcio blog