The legendary ‘Black Spider’ won the 1963 Ballon d’Or and remains the only goalkeeper to be named as the best player in the world. Yashin revolutionized the art of keeping. Previously, keepers were happy to wait in between the sticks until a save needed to be made. Yashin, on the other hand, would verbally organize his defense, tackle onrushing attackers and intercept crosses. A true commander.
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The most capped player in Brazil’s history with an unbelievable 142 caps. He lifted trophy after trophy during a glittering career, both domestically and with Brazil. One Champions League title and two World Cups titles put him in an elite band of players. Typically Brazilian, he preferred the attacking form of defense. His marauding runs up the right-hand side left defenders clutching at grass and got him the nickname ‘The Express Train’.
AFP/Getty ImagesGABRIEL BOUYS
Affectionately referred to as ‘Der Kaiser’, he was known for creating the attacking sweeper role in soccer tactics. He regularly created chances for his team with runs that started in one penalty area and ended in the other. Beckenbauer captained West Germany to World Cup glory in 1974 and won three back-to-back European Cups with Bayern Munich -- some achievement.
Regarded as a true legend with AC Milan and Italy in a 20-year period where strikers constantly came up against a brick wall in the centre of defence. The hard-tacking, understated and professional approach won admirers across the world of soccer and formed the cornerstone of the Milan defence that went on to dominate Europe. Boasting six Serie A titles, three Champions Leagues and a World Cup win in 1982, Baresi has won everything there is on offer and is a proven winner – and there is nothing more important than that.
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Another of the Milan mainstays, Maldini’s illustrious career stretched 25 years where he won five European cups and seven Serie A titles, which included 25 pieces of silverware in total. Having spent his entire career at AC he followed in his father’s footsteps at the Rossoneri where he went on to make more than 900 appearances. Known for his versatility and strength to play with either foot, Maldini seamlessly played across the defensive line and has a reputation as one of the most complete defenders ever to grace the game.
Bongarts/Getty ImagesHenri Szwarc
One of the most effortless and elegant soccer players you are likely to see. His career may have ended in the worst possible fashion -- his sending off for headbutting Marco Materazzi in the World Cup final -- but Zidane’s silky skills and honors will be his lasting legacy. The Frenchman had a great knack of turning up for the big games, dictating the play and in turn lifting his teammates to play better.
Getty ImagesBen Radford
An innovator, creator and icon of modern day soccer. During his time at Ajax as well as going on to lift eight league titles and three European cups, Cruyff also instilled a philosophy that made its way through the Amsterdam club into the national team. A three-time winner of the Ballon d’Or in the early 1970s, during which time he guided Barcelona to its first La Liga title since 1960 after joining for a then world record fee. Despite his successful club career, Cruyff never lifted the World Cup with the Netherlands, but his legacy continues in soccer and he will eternally be known for inventing the ‘Cruyff turn’.
Alfredo Di Stefano
He never played in a World Cup -- amazing considering he played for Spain, Argentina and Colombia at international level -- but Di Stefano deserves a place as part of the world’s best XI. He has a goalscoring rate to rival the modern greats of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo -- 307 in 396 appearances for Real Madrid and 485 in 664 matches in his whole career. Not to mention he won five consecutive European Cups with Real -- a record held to this day.
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A controversial figure on and off the pitch, but nonetheless one of the greatest players of all time, Maradona’s technical ability on the ball was second to none. The little Argentine is best known for his outstanding displays for the national team and despite his overwhelming talent his spells with Barcelona can be described as chequered at best. But the Maradona that really catches the imagination is that one who dragged Argentina to World Cup glory in 1986 who after the ‘hand of God’ incident stifled England’s defence with one of the greatest goals ever, and almost repeated the feat four years later.
Getty ImagesSteve Powell
Barcelona’s little genius has constantly smashed records on the way to becoming the greatest player of modern time. Growing up in the Barcelona academy, Messi has progressed to become the focal point of Barca’s recent domination across Europe amassing a whopping 354 goals in all competitions at just the age of 27. As well as the personal records and honors (four Ballon d’Or’s, three European golden boots, FIFA World Player of the Year awards, Barcelona’s all-time top scorer – to name but a few ), he has also gone on to have unprecedented success with the Catalan giants, including six La Liga titles, three Champions Leagues and two Copa del Rey’s. And the scariest thing is, he’s likely to keep on breaking records!
Getty ImagesJean Catuffe
He was forced into early retirement through a knee injury; however the Brazilian superstar had already made an indelible mark on world soccer. He was the ultimate goalscorer and had the flicks and tricks to match! The gifted striker may have represented Santos for twenty years; but his goal record -- 1088 goals in 1115 games -- is a stat unrivalled by anyone. Regarded by many as the best player to have ever lived.