These are the 40 greatest footballers of all time

Pelé has been voted the greatest footballer of all-time – ahead of Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

The three-time World Cup winner scored an incredible 727 goals during his glittering 21 year career, including 77 for Brazil in 92 appearances.

Widely regarded as football’s first superstar, he is still the youngest player ever to appear in a World Cup final featuring in the culmination of the 1958 tournament aged just 17.

He made his domestic debut at 16 years old for Santos FC and remained there until 1975, when he moved to New York Cosmos amid much fanfare for the final two years of his career.

Elsewhere in the poll, just a handful of votes separated Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo who finished second and third respectively – suggesting the debate of who is better is far from over.

Man Utd legend, George Best, was the highest ranking Brit in the poll commissioned by TV channel, HISTORY, to mark its History of Football season, which runs from 28 May to 10 June.

The former Northern Ireland international came fourth ahead of Argentine great, Diego Maradona.

Dan Korn, Vice-President Programming for HISTORY said: “HISTORY’s special season of football programming aims to ignite an entertaining debate on what were the ultimate historic moments of the sport, who stands as the best player in history, which coaches most shaped the game – and much more.”

England’s ‘66 World Cup winning captain, Bobby Moore OBE finished sixth, ahead of ex-Barcelona and Holland star, Johan Cruyff, who came seventh.

Moore’s ’66 teammate, Sir Bobby Charlton CBE, finished eighth and is joined in the top 10 by ‘Golden Balls’ himself, David Beckham OBE and current Real Madrid manager, Zinedine Zidane.

Other notable names in the top 40 include England’s Gary Lineker OBE, Paul Gascoigne and Bryan Robson OBE who perhaps most famously all represented England at Italia ’90.

Steven Gerrard MBE, Michael Owen and England’s current record goalscorer, Wayne Rooney and are among the more recent English players on the list.

Sir Tom Finney CBE, at one stage the Three Lions’ highest ever goalscorer, appears too.

Legends such as Eusébio, Franz Beckenbauer and Marco van Basten feature as well, alongside current stars of the game, Kevin De Bruyne, Mohamed Salah and Gareth Bale.

Carried out through OnePoll, the research also identified the greatest manager of all-time as Sir Alex Ferguson CBE, who finished ahead of Brian Clough OBE and Bill Shankly OBE.

The greatest moment in England’s football history was revealed too and unsurprisingly it is the 1966 World Cup win.

But the Three Lions’ second greatest ever moment is the 5-1 win over Germany in 2001, while their third is Paul Gascoigne’s wondergoal against Scotland at Euro 96.

Former England captain, Terry Butcher, who features in Return to Turin: Italia 90 airing on HISTORY on Monday 28th May at 9pm, said: “There’s always been a real interest and passion for football in the UK, particularly the history and nostalgia.

“Some incredible highs and disastrous lows for all the nations in the UK, but that is football – unpredictable, heroic and full of passion.”

TOP 40: GREATEST FOOTBALLERS OF ALL-TIME:
Pelé
Lionel Messi
Cristiano Ronaldo
George Best
Diego Maradona
Bobby Moore OBE
Johan Cruyff
Sir Bobby Charlton CBE
David Beckham OBE
Zinedine Zidane
Thierry Henry
Franz Beckenbauer
Eusébio
Kenny Dalglish MBE
Ronaldinho
Ryan Giggs OBE
Gary Lineker OBE
Paul Gascoigne
Ronaldo
Steven Gerrard MBE
Denis Law CBE
Dennis Bergkamp
Alfredo Di Stéfano
Ferenc Puskás
Wayne Rooney
Sir Tom Finney CBE
Michael Owen
Michel Platini
Jürgen Klinsmann
Lothar Matthäus
Marco van Basten
Mohamed Salah
Bryan Robson OBE
Lev Yashin
Gareth Bale
Zlatan Ibrahimović
Franco Baresi
Xavi
Kevin De Bruyne
Gianluigi Buffon

  • Mat is a writer with an interest in public opinion research. He has a passion for stories covering lifestyle, travel and technology.

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