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Updated by Rajashri Venkatesh on Dec 26, 2015
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Legendary Football Players

Football is not only a sport but also a religion to many. Kingdoms have fallen and kingdoms have risen because of this sport! This is one of the most exciting sports whose history cannot be overlooked! Here is a list of few of the most legendary football sportsmen!

1

Pelé

Pelé

In 1978, Pelé was awarded the International Peace Award for his work with UNICEF. He has also served as Brazil's Extraordinary Minister for Sport and a United Nations ambassador for ecology and the environment. Pelé was named FIFA's "Co-Player of the Century" in 1999, along with Argentine Diego Maradona. To many, his accomplishments on the soccer field will never be equaled, and virtually all great athletes in the sport are measured against the Brazilian who once made the world stop to watch his transcendent play.

Lionel Messi

Messi embarked on an all-out assault on the record books in 2012. He became the first player to score five goals in a Champions League match in early March, and a few weeks later he surpassed Cesar Rodriguez's club-record 232 goals to become Barcelona's all-time leading scorer. By the end of 2012, Messi had accumulated an astounding 91 goals in club and international play, eclipsing the 85 netted in a single calendar year by Gerd Muller in 1972. Fittingly, he broke one more record when he was named the FIFA Ballon d'Or winner for the fourth time in January 2013. Messi led team Argentina to the finals of the 2014 World Cup. Although his team lost to Germany, he was named best player of the tournament.

Diego Maradona

The pinnacle of his career came as a member of the Argentinean national team that won the 1986 World Cup. His performance there included two memorable goals in a quarter-final victory over England: The first was scored illegally with his left hand, which Maradona later claimed was the work of "the hand of God"; the second required no supernatural help, other than an otherworldly ability to dribble past an onslaught of defenders to find the back of the net. Altogether, Maradona played in four World Cups, and scored an impressive 34 goals in 91 international appearances for Argentina.

Johan Cruyff

Cruyff made his senior debut in 1964 for an Ajax team on the rise. At the time, manager Rinus Michels was preaching his "Total Football" strategy, in which players seamlessly rotated between positions on the field. The multitalented Cryuff proved perfect for this method; nominally a center-forward, he had the speed and intelligence to thrive wherever positioned. Between 1966 and 1973, Ajax won six Dutch championships, three European Cups and two UEFA Super Cups. In 1971, Cryuff became the first Dutch player to win the Ballon d'Or Award as European Footballer of the Year.

Zinedine Zidane

A three-time FIFA World Player of the Year, Zidane led France to victory in the 1998 World Cup and starred for clubs in France, Italy and Spain. His career ended in shocking fashion when he was expelled from the 2006 World Cup final for headbutting an opponent, but he is nonetheless regarded as one of soccer's all-time greats.

Franz Beckenbauer

Born on September 11, 1945, in Munich, West Germany, Franz Beckenbauer revolutionized soccer as its first attacking sweeper. He led Bayern Munich to multiple club titles and played with Pelé on the New York Cosmos, but is best remembered for winning the World Cup as a player and manager. Beckenbauer helped organize the 2006 World Cup in Germany, and serves as honorary president of Bayern Munich.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo was born on February 5, 1985, in Funchal, Madeira, Portugal. Manchester United paid £12 million to sign him in 2003—a record fee for a player of his age. In the 2004 FA Cup final, he scored Manchester's first three goals and helped them capture the championship. In 2008, he set a franchise record for goals scored. In 2009, Real Madrid paid a record $131 million for his services.

Alfredo Di Stéfano

Born on July 4, 1926, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Alfredo Di Stéfano starred for Argentine and Columbian soccer clubs from 1945 to 1953. His move to Spain brought more success, as he twice won the Ballon d'Or Award while leading Real Madrid to eight league titles and five straight European Cup championships. After managing for two decades, Di Stéfano was named honorary president of Real Madrid in 2000.

Ferenc Puskás

Born on April 2, 1927, in Budapest, Hungary, Ferenc Puskás starred for Honvéd SE and Hungary's powerful national team in the 1950s. After defecting during the Hungarian Revolution, the stocky forward enjoyed more success with Spain's Real Madrid club. Puskás returned to Hungary after 25 years in exile, and saw Budapest's largest sports arena renamed in his honor shortly before his death.

Garrincha

Garrincha overcame a series of physical defects to become one of his country's greatest soccer players. He starred for the 1958 World Cup–winning team, and was named the best player of the tournament when Brazil repeated as champions four years later. His body ravaged by the effects of alcoholism, Garrincha was just 49 when he died in 1983.