10 Best European Football Players of All Time
Listing of the top footballers in Europe's illustrious sporting history.
Europe has given birth to some of the best football players that the world has ever seen. Some of these football legends are still active, some are retired, and some are remembered only by true enthusiasts of the sport as they played decades ago. These are the top 10 best European football players of all time.
10.) Ferenc Puskás
Years active: 1943-1966
Clubs: Budapest Honvéd, Real Madrid
Perhaps the most prolific football player ever to come out of Hungary, Ferenc Puskás isn't as known as some of the more recent greats due to being active over 50 years ago. Playing for Budapest Honvéd and Real Madrid as well as being the star player of Hungary's national team, the Mighty Magyars, some of Puskás' career highlights include being the Olympic champion of 1952, the team captain during Hungary's successful run in the 1954 World Cup and being named the top scorer of the 20th century.
9.) Bobby Moore
Clubs: West Ham United
Also not as known with the current generation of football enthusiasts, Bobby Moore was active decades ago as West Ham's captain for over ten years. A prolific defender, he is remembered primarily for being England's captain when the country won the Football World Cup in 1966 and also for setting a national record of 108 winning caps by the time his career ended.
8.) Gerd Müller
Years active: 1963-1981
Clubs: Bayern Munich
Germany's famous striker Gerd Müller was renowned for his prodigious striking ability and held the all-time goal-scoring record for 32 years. A star player for Bayern Munich for over fifteen years, Müller's top career achievement occurred while playing for his national team, when he scored the winning goal for West Germany in the 1974 World Cup.
7.) Marco van Basten
Country: The Netherlands
Years active: 1981-1995
Clubs, Ajax, Milan
The well-known Dutch striker Marco van Basten retired prematurely in 1995 due to an injury he sustained on the field two years before that. Aside from winning UEFA Cup Winners Cup with Ajax and two European Cups with Milan, the highlight of van Basten's storied career was winning the Euro 1988 with the Dutch national team, where he scored a significant goal in the final against the Soviet Union.
6.) Gianni Rivera
Years active: 1959-1979
Clubs: Alessandria, Milan
The so-called "Golden Boy" of Italy, Gianni Rivera, was a successful midfielder with a penchant for playmaking ranking high among the top Italian footballers of all time, some of his best career accomplishments include winning the European Football Championship with Italy in 1968 and scoring an extra-time goal in the 1970 World Cup semi-finals that allowed his country to move on to the finals.
5.) Paolo Maldini
Years active: 1985-2009
Another star player from Italy, Paolo Maldini retired in 2009 after playing for Milan for over twenty years, many of which saw him acting as the team's captain. Considered one of the top defenders to ever step onto the field, Maldini reached the finals of the 1994 World Cup and Euro 2000 as Italy's captain and lead Milan to win five Champions League stints and a FIFA Club World Cup.
4.) Thierry Henry
Years active: 1994-2014
Clubs: Monaco, Juventus, Arsenal, Barcelona, New York Red Bulls
The most recently active player on the list so far, Thierry Henry retired in late 2014 after twenty year-long senior career that saw him playing for many of the top football clubs in the world. Despite being a notable player for several other clubs, namely Barcelona when the club enjoyed immense success in 2009, he is perhaps best known as Arsenal's top striker, eventually leading the team to win the 2006 UEFA Champions League Final as their captain. He is also France's record goalscorer, winning the 1998 FIFA World Cup, the UEFA Euro 2000 and the 2003 FIFA Confederations Cup with his country.
3.) Franz Beckenbauer
Years active: 1964-1983
Clubs: Bayern Munich, New York Cosmos
Possibly the best player to ever play for Germany, Franz Beckenbauer enjoyed huge success in several positions on the field throughout his career. Nicknamed "The Emperor" due to his presence on the football field, Aside from winning the FIFA World Cup with Germany in 1974, Beckenbauer was also a prominent Bayern Munich player and the team's captain, winning the UEFA Winners' Cup in 1967 and three European Cups in a row, eventually becoming the club's manager.
2.) Bobby Charlton
Years active: 1956-1976
Clubs: Manchester United, Preston North End, Waterford United
Many would agree that Sir Bobby Charlton is the greatest English footballer to ever live. An aggressive midfielder known for his physical prowess, the bulk of Charlton's career was spent in Manchester United, where he helped the team win two Football leagues, one in 1965 and the other in 1967. With Manchester, he also won the European Cup in 1968 - a victory that saw him scoring two winning goals in the finals. The top goal scorer of all time for not only Manchester United but England as well, Charlton also carried the English national team to World Cup victory in 1966.
1.) Zinedine Zidane
Years active: 1989-2006
Clubs: Cannes, Bordeaux, Juventus, Real Madrid
Named the best European football player of the last 50 years in the UEFA Golden Jubilee Poll, "Zizou" has definitely earned his number one spot on this list. His career was equally successful at both club and international levels, as he won an Intercontinental Cup and a UEFA Super Cup both with Juventus and Real Madrid. With France's national team, he won the 1998 FIFA World Cup with two decisive goals in the finals, a victory that saw him become a national hero of France, as well as winning the UEFA Euro 2000 as the Player of the Tournament. While the three-time FIFA World Player of the Year winner is known for headbutting the chest of Marco Materazzi in the last game of his career, what he will truly be remembered for is his visionary play as an attacking midfielder throughout his career.