With the World Cup 2018, we are going to witness lots of new talent interspersed with older talent. Let’s take a look at the most talented players to ever grace the pitch in previous tournaments. Here’s our list of the Best World Cup Players of All Time.
15: Paolo Rossi
This Italian footballer played for his national team in the 1978 and 1982 World Cups. So, why exactly has he made number 15 in our list of Best World Cup Players of All Time?
Well, this young Italian superstar first made the squad in 1978. After a shaky few years – including the 1980 Totonero betting scandal that shook the core of Serie A and saw him receive a three year ban for his alleged actions – he was still chosen for the 1982 World Cup squad.
These tough years saw Rossi turn up to the tournament out of shape and practice. Some viewers simply saw him as a spare part on the team. However, something clicked and Rossi scored an incredible hat-trick that saw Italy beat Brazil 3-2. This Brazilian side was no soft side either, featuring the likes of Zico and Socrates. He also helped the team defeat Poland in the semi-finals. In the finals, Rossi scored again and helped his Italian team beat the Germans 3-1 to be crowned tournament winners. He went from a zero to a hero. Unfortunately the team has failed to qualify for the tournament this year, so they will be watching from the side-lines.
14: Michel Platini
This French attacking midfielder played for his national squad in three consecutive World Cups: 1978, 1982 and 1986. He may not have been part of a winning squad, but he did help the side reach the semi-finals in both 1982 and 1986. The reason he is on our list of Best World Cup Players is because he is regarded by many as being one of the best free-kick takers and one of the best passers in the history of football. He was, indeed, a member of what was known as France’s ‘Magic Square’ midfield in the 1980s.
Despite the fact that Platini was just a midfielder, he scored 40 goals for his national team and this stood as a French record until it was stolen by the legend that is Thierry Henry. So, can they grab victory this year? Well, they are seen as 4th favourites for the win and at odds of 13/2 for a win and 3/1 for the top two at 888sport, it might be worth a look.
This one-named wonder could only be the product of the legendary footballing nation, Brazil. Romario played for his team in both the 1990 and 1994 World Cups. The reason he is on our list of Best World Cup players is mainly because of his 1994 World Cup role.
The player had a decent, but pretty non-remarkable 1990 World Cup campaign, but it was 4 years later that this player shone. He formed half of the incredible – and lethal striking partnership that was affectionately known as “Ro-Ro-Duo” with Ronaldo. This tournament saw Romario score an impressive five goals that helped lead his team to be crowned World Cup winners. To top this off, he was named as player of the tournament. Brazil look set to have another shining tournament in the World Cup 2018 and are tipped as favourites. With odds of 9/2 at 888sport, it is looking likely.
Get used to single name monikers being used in our list of Best World Cup Players. This is a team that is always in the group of teams likely to win – this year being no exception. As you can imagine, Brazil are going to own a fair few of the best players of all time. Here we have an earlier player, Didi, who played for his country in the 1954, 1958 and 1962 World Cup tournaments. This was a player that was instrumental in helping his side to be crowned World Cup winners in both 1958 and 1962.
He wasn’t a striker, but in fact a midfield player and played an important role in all of the teams victories. This was a team that was top of the tree at this time. Despite being a midfielder, he scored an impressive twenty goals in his sixty-eight performances during this period, including two in the 1958 campaign.
11: Bobby Moore
At last we come to an England player who has made it onto our list of Best World Cup Players. Hallelujah! This man is definitely an England footballing legend and is iconic in English footballing history. We all know he was part of the winning 1966 team, but he was also part of the World Cup squad in 1962 and 1970.
Bobby Moore was one of the best defenders to ever play football and was as fierce as the lions on his shirt when it came to protecting the back line. Having made a name for himself as one of the most reliable and best players on the England World Cup winning team, the Queen bestowed upon him the Jules Rimet trophy. This led to the iconic image of Bobby Moore wiping the mud and sweat from his hands onto the blue velvet tablecloth before he shook hands with HRH. Sir Bob, we salute you! Can World Cup 2018 finally see another England victory? Well, we may be placed as 7th favourites, but you can back us with great odds of 17/1 at 888sport. Stranger things have happened…
10: Franz Beckenbauer
Well, as the German team has been crowned World Cup winners more than its fair share of times, it has to have players included. Beckenbauer is an obvious choice to put in our list of Best World Cup players. ‘Der Kaiser’ as he was known amongst fans, played for West Germany in the 1966, 1970 and 1974 World Cup tournaments. As well as this he was manager for the 1990 World Cup. This player is regarded by many to be one of the top defenders of all time.
1966 may have seen England beating West Germany in the World Cup final, but he managed to score an impressive four goals. This saw him finishing the tournament being tied for third place in the number of goals scored. As a defender, this was something special. So, can Germany do it again? Well, bookies seem to think so with the team being placed as second favourites just below Brazil. You can currently get odds of 19/4 at 888sport and you can never count the Germans out.
9: Johann Cruyff
This player from the Netherlands is probably one of the greatest players in existence to have never lifted the World Cup, having won the Ballon d’Or three times – in 1971, 1973 and 1974. He played in the 1974 World Cup only, and in that tournament he managed to score four goals in front of the eyes of the world. He led his team to outstanding defeats of top teams such as East Germany, defending champion Brazil, and Argentina. Unfortunately his team suffered defeat at the hands of West Germany in the final.
This incredible performance saw FIFA declare him to be the tournament’s most outstanding player. He never went back for World Cup 1978 for personal reasons, but his one World Cup was certainly that of glory.
8: Just Fontaine
In at number 8 of our Best World Cup players we have another entry from France, Monsieur Fontaine. This Moroccan born French player has struck his way onto the list by being the player that may well possibly hold the record for having the best goals per game average in the history of the World Cup.
This deadly striker scored an impressive thirty goals for France out of just 21 appearances. In the 1958 World Cup alone he scored an incredible thirteen goals in just six games. Although the team didn’t reach the finals despite this incredible feat, Fontaine won the Golden Boot that year. As well as this, he also holds the record for the most consecutive games scoring a goal in the World Cup with six out of six games.
7: Ferenc Puskas
Who would have thought that Hungary would have a nomination for a place in the Best World Cup Players of All Time list? Well, it would be wrong not to include Puskas, who represented Hungary in the 1954 World Cup. Known to others as ‘Magic Magyars’, he was a fundamental part of one of the best teams in the history of the World Cup.
Despite the fact that Hungary failed to win the World Cup that year, the team managed to reach the finals against West Germany. West Germany was winning 3-2 in the final when Puskas seemed to score a last minute equaliser. However, unfortunately it was deemed to be offside and was disallowed. Puskas never returned to the World Cup stage. However, in his international career he scored an incredible 84 goals in 85 performances. Impressive by anyone’s definition and worthy of a place on our list.
6: Zinedine Zidane
Sadly, this French footballing legend left the international stage in disgrace after head butting Materazzi in the final of 2006 World Cup which ultimately saw the French national team lose 5-3 on penalties to Italy. However, it’s hard to deny that he is still a player that is well deserving of a place on the list of the best World Cup players ever.
Zidane played in a total of three World Cups: 1998, 2002 and 2006 for his beloved Les Bleus. He helped his club to victory in 1998 by scoring two goals in the final against Brazil where the team went on to defeat the previous World Cup winners 3-0. It’s fair to say that during the period between 1998 and 2002, he was quite possibly the finest player in European football.
Known as Zizou by his league of fans, despite leading his team to victory in 1998, he failed to get the Best Player award. Ronaldo received the Golden Boot award as he scored the most goals in the tournament. However, despite France losing in the final of 2006 to Italy, Zidane managed to scoop the award as the captain of France.
5: Gerd Muller
I know, the list seems a bit like a who’s who of German, French and Brazilian players, but these teams have excelled. In at five, we have another German representative- Gerd Muller. Gerd ‘The Bomb’ Muller represented West Germany in both 1970 and 1974. Muller scored ten goals in the 1970 World Cup tournament and another four goals in the 1974 tournament when West Germany went on to be crowned World Cup winners. This total of fourteen strikes was a record that wasn’t beaten until 2006, when Ronaldo eclipsed it.
In total, Muller scored 68 goals in 62 appearances for his home nation from 1966 to 1974 and was a key player in one of the very best teams that Germany has ever fielded.
Another single named entrant. How can we not include Brazilian superstar Ronaldo in our list of best World Cup players ever. In his time he was one of, if not the most feared striker in the world. He brought terror into the heart of competitors in three consecutive World Cups: 1998, 2002 and 2006. Leading his team to tournament victory in two out of three of these World Cups, he definitely deserves a place on the list.
Overall, Ronaldo made an incredible ninety-seven appearances for his national team and scored a breath taking sixty-two goals in those matches. He holds records including the most all-time goals scored in the tournament (fifteen) – which he took from Muller. He also holds the record for most matches scoring at least one goal (eleven).
Ronaldo was also with the Brazilian squad back in 1994 but never played. However, he was soon to make his mark in the country’s footballing history. In fact, Ronaldo is one of just three players to have scored three goals in three consecutive FIFA World Cups. He shares this accomplishment with Miroslav Klose and Jürgen Klinsmann.
Staying with the Brazilian theme we have Garrincha, the ‘little bird’ who took the limelight after Pele was injured in the 1962 World Cup. In total he played in three world cups for his country in 1958, 1962 and 1966. Garrincha was a key player, helping Brazil to win its second consecutive trophy. This deadly right-winger is still revered throughout Brazil and even around the world to this day.
In total, Garrincha played fifty matches for Brazil between 1955 and 1966, scoring 12 goals for his team. However, as well as his unquestionable skills, it is the story behind the player that makes him such a unique player. Garrincha was born partially disabled and was poorly educated. However, he overcame this and gained world-wide fame as the wonder winger.
Unfortunately the ‘little bird’ was partially responsible for clipping his own wings. He struggled with the demon drink and this was compounded with other personal issues. However, when he played alongside Pele, no-one wanted to go head-to head with Brazil.
2: Diego Maradona
Staying in South America, we may not be his biggest fan, we may still hold a grudge about the ‘Hand of God’ goal, but the man was a footballing genius. This Argentinian was undoubtedly one of the best footballers to have ever graced the World Cup stage. He played in four consecutive World Cups: 1982, 1986, 1990, 1994 and helped the team lift the Rimet trophy on one occasion – in 1986.
In total, Maradona made ninety-one appearances for his country and scored thirty-four goals between 1977 and 1994; eight of these goals, alongside eight assists, were in the twenty-one World Cup games in which he played.
Probably his biggest year was in 1986. Not only was this the year that saw his team become World Cup winners, but this was also the year of the infamous ‘Hand of God’ goal. In the quarter-final, against England, Maradona scored as a result of an unnoticed handball… leading to Argentina’s victory over England 2-1. He scored both goals in that match – one illegal goal, but one incredible goal as well. He went on to captain the team to overall victory against West Germany in the final.
Although many remember that match because of the illegal handball, this is a little unfair. His other goal was legendary. He weaved through five England players along the length of the pitch and then went on to beat Shilton, the goalie. In future years, people voted this as the ‘Goal of the Century’ in a 2002 online poll.
There could only really be one victor (although Maradona was a close second). Pele is a name that has gone down in footballing history. From old to young, everyone knows the name Pele. This Brazilian player really was the best football player that the world has ever seen. Watching Pele on the pitch was like watching poetry in motion; it was like watching magic happen before your eyes. He turned a football game into a beautiful game.
Pele, born Edison Arantes do Nascimento, played an integral role in no less than four World Cups: 1958, 1962, 1966 and 1970. Out of these four tournaments, Brazil won an incredible three times. It is because of Pele that the game became so popular.
People across the globe consider Pele to be one of the best ambassadors for the beautiful game. He managed to score an incredible seventy-seven goals in ninety-two appearances for Brazil, helping the team lift the trophy in 1958, 1962 and 1970. Pele scored his very first goal in the World Cup against Wales in the 1958 tournament in the quarter-finals. He was the youngest ever player in the tournament up until that point. His last World Cup goal was against Italy in the 1970 World Cup final.
There were some who believed he was just a mere mortal; however, when they faced him on the pitch, they found out the truth.
The best World Cup odds are now flying around. Brazil is yet again favourite to win World Cup 2018; it has a great chance of lifting the trophy for a sixth time. If you want to take a punt on the Samba Boys then 888sport is currently offering the best odds at 9/2.