HomeFifa World Cup 20227 Greatest Footballers of All Time to Feature in FIFA World Cup

7 Greatest Footballers of All Time to Feature in FIFA World Cup

The FIFA World Cup is arguably the most popular sporting competition in the world. It is well and truly a global event as the world, despite all their differences, unite to watch and cheer their favourite players and teams. 

Success in the World Cup often leads to widespread recognition and celebration, as it demonstrates a player’s ability to perform under immense pressure and against top-tier competition

Players who make their mark on the greatest stage are forever remembered and enter a hall of fame. Here we take a look at five of the best FIFA World Cup players of all time:

The 7 Greatest Footballers Who Have Featured in the FIFA World Cup

1. Franz Beckenbauer (Germany)

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Franz Beckenbauer is possibly the greatest defender to have ever stepped out on a football pitch. He played in three World Cups for West Germany and was a constant presence at the back. 

He netted four goals at the 1966 FIFA World Cup when he played as a midfielder. He then stepped back and played as a defender in the 1970 and 1974 World Cup. He was also captain of the side in 1974. 

He is one of only three men, alongside Brazil’s Mário Zagallo and France’s Didier Deschamps, to have won the World Cup both as a player and as a manager. He first lifted the World Cup trophy as a captain in 1974 and then achieved the same triumph as a manager in 1990.

2. Ronaldo Nazario (Brazil)

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Nicknamed ‘O Fenomeno’, Ronaldo Nazario is regarded as the most complete striker to have played the game. He featured in four World Cups for Brazil and was part of two title-clinching campaigns. 

It is also widely believed that his absence in the 1998 World Cup final was one of the biggest reasons behind Brazil losing the game. Ronaldo made a comeback and was part of Brazil’s triumph in the 2002 FIFA World Cup. As far as numbers are concerned, this champion player has scored 15 goals in the World Cup.

He also had a stellar performance in the 1997 Copa América, where he was named Player of the Tournament, and in the 1999 Copa América, where he emerged as the top goalscorer. Overall, Ronaldo represented Brazil in 98 matches, netting 62 goals, making him the third-highest goalscorer in the history of his national team.

3. Pele (Brazil)

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Pele forced the world to sit up and take note when as a teenager he became the youngest player to score a World Cup goal when he was just 17 years, 239 days old. This record is not yet beaten. In 1958, he went on to score a hat-trick in the semi-final against France and then went on to score a brace in the final against Sweden.

He was injured in the 1962 and 1966 World Cups, but was at his supreme best when he made a comeback in the 1970 edition of the tournament. He was awarded the Golden Ball at the 1970 FIFA World Cup and led Brazil to the title. 

Pelé played his first international match against Argentina in 1957 at just 16 years and eight months old, scoring his first goal for the national team. This made him the youngest goalscorer in Brazil’s history.

Throughout his career, Pelé scored 77 goals in 92 appearances for Brazil. His remarkable scoring record kept him as the nation’s top goalscorer for over 60 years, until Neymar surpassed him in 2023.

4. Diego Maradona (Argentina)

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One of the most charismatic and controversial players to play the game, Maradona slammed eight goals and provided eight assists in 21 World Cup games across four tournaments. He was the main reason why Argentina won the trophy back in 1986 when he scored a brace both in the quarter-finals and the semi-finals against England and Belgium. 

He was also captain of the side that beat West Germany 3-2 in the final. 

In the 1986 World Cup quarter-final against England, both of his goals were special. The first goal, famously known as the “Hand of God,” was an unpenalized handling foul. The second goal, celebrated for its brilliance, came after an extraordinary 60-meter (66-yard) dribble past five England players. This goal was later voted “Goal of the Century” by FIFA.com voters in 2002.

One of the two joint winners of the FIFA Player of the 20th Century award, Maradona passed away in 2020.

5. Garrincha (Brazil)

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Back in the 1962 FIFA World Cup, Pele was injured in the group stages. However, a winger took up the mantle to almost single-handedly fired Brazil to the title. That World Cup, Garrincha became the first player to win the Golden Ball, Golden Boot a the World Cup in the same tournament.

Garrincha won two World Cups with Brazil. As far as numbers are concerned, Brazil have lost just the one game when Garrincha was part of the side. And, when both Garrincha and Pele were both in the lineup, Brazil was always unbeaten.

Owing to his immense popularity in Brazil, he was affectionately nicknamed Alegria do Povo (People’s Joy) and Anjo de Pernas Tortas (Bent-Legged Angel).

6. Lionel Messi (Argentina)

Lionel Messi, one of the greatest footballers of the modern era, has scored 13 goals in 26 matches across five FIFA World Cup editions (2006, 2010, 2014, 2018, and 2022), making him Argentina’s leading goal scorer in the tournament. In the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, he scored seven goals, helping Argentina secure their third world title at the age of 35.

Messi also boasts an impressive record in FIFA World Cup qualifiers, with 28 goals in 60 appearances. Throughout his career, Messi has scored over 800 goals for both club and country, including a record 672 goals for a single club.

His accolades include a record eight Ballon d’Or awards, six European Golden Shoes, and being named FIFA’s best player in the world eight times, underscoring his exceptional talent and enduring impact on the sport.

Read More: Lionel Messi Net Worth and Sources of Income 2024

7. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)

Cristiano Ronaldo has netted eight goals in 22 FIFA World Cup matches, including a memorable hat-trick against Spain in the 2018 tournament. Although he hasn’t scored prolifically at the World Cup, he remains one of the competition’s standout performers.

In the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, Ronaldo made history by becoming the first man to score in five different World Cups with his goal in Portugal’s opener against Ghana. He is just one goal shy of the legendary Eusebio, who holds the record for the most World Cup goals for Portugal with nine. Despite not having the highest goal tally, Ronaldo’s consistent excellence has cemented his legacy as one of the tournament’s best players.

Read More: Cristiano Ronaldo Net Worth and Expensive Possessions


From the dribbles of Pelé to the lethal precision of Maradona, and the relentless determination of Ronaldo and Messi, these icons are among the best FIFA World Cup players of all time.



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