Over the last 50 years there have been some very special footballers that have stood out and proven themselves to be the best around. We’ve trawled through each decade since the 1950s to have a look and share our thoughts on the ultimate superstars from each decade.
Superstars of the 50s
Widely regarded as Hungary’s greatest ever player. Puskas made his name during the 50s with both Budapest Honved and Real Madrid and during his club career he scored an impressive 514 goals in 529 games. It was not just at club level Ferenc impressed, during his time with the Hungarian national team Puskas scored 84 goals in 85 games. Not forgetting the cherry on top, winning the 1954 World Cup Golden Ball.
The Real Madrid legend has been referred to by some of the games most influential people as the “most complete footballer to have played the game”. During his time with Real Madrid, Di Stefano scored 216 La Liga goals and was recognised as one of the greatest players of his generation by picking up two Ballon d’Or’s during the 50s.
Another part of the great Real Madrid 50s era. Raymond Kopa was a proper playmaker, who also had an eye for goal. Kopa’s contribution for Stade Reims, Real Madrid and France put Raymond up there with the very best of the 50s. This was backed up by his 1958 Ballon d’Or win.
Superstars of the 60s
Benfica’s goal machine. Eusebio was Portuguese football in the 60s, the 1966 World Cup Golden Boot winner has one of the most incredible goalscoring records of all time. At club level, Eusebio played 745 games and netted an outrageous 749 times! His goals at Benfica were essential in the sides dominance during the 60s which brought about 7 league titles, 4 Portuguese Cups and a European Cup victory for Eusebio and the team.
Sir Bobby Charlton is still regarded as one of the greatest English midfielders of all-time and rightly so. He could do it all, his vision made him a massive asset in the middle of the park, but his vicious shot made Charlton lethal in front of goal as well. Charlton netted 249 times for Man United and was also a major part of the 1966 England World Cup winning side. In that same year, Charlton gained recognition as one of the greats by winning the Ballon d’Or.
When a Man United scout spotted a 15 year old George Best, he telegrammed Sir Matt Busby stating ‘I think I’ve found you a genius’, and he wasn’t wrong. Northern Ireland’s greatest ever footballer will always be remembered as one of the greatest footballers with the ball at his feet and went on to score and incredible 137 league goals for United. His character was just as big as his footballing ability as he become a real football icon for more than just his brilliance on the pitch. During the 60s, Best, alongside Charlton, was essential to the Man United team and won the Ballon d’Or in 1968.
Superstars of the 70s
Johan Cruyff… the epitome of ‘Total Football’. There was more to Cruyff than just a technically gifted footballer, the dutchman changed the way the game was played. He would control his team and control the play. Johan ‘The conductor’, had the vision and football know-how to back up his magnificent technical ability. During the 70s, Cruyff was the first player to pick up three Ballon d’Or’s, proving he was up there with the very best.
Der Kaiser. Possibly the greatest ever German player? The rock of the German national team and any side he played for, Beckenbauer could lead any team to glory. The 70s were very kind to Beckenbauer… one World Cup, one European Championship, three Bundesliga titles, one German cup, three European Cups, 2 NASL titles and 2 Ballon d’Or’s. Winner.
Of course. Widely touted as the best of all-time, Pele is obviously in this list. Pele could and should probably be in both 60s and 70s (but that would just make things confusing). The reason we went for the 70s? Well the 1970 World Cup. Pele was a massively influential part of what was possibly the greatest team of all time. Brazil swept all before them to win the tournament as Pele deservedly won the Golden Ball. His goal tally throughout his career was ridiculous and Pele is definitely up there as one of the greatest players ever.
Superstars of the 80s
During his time with Juventus, Platini established himself as one of football’s true greats. Expectations were high when Platini made the move to Italy in 1982 and Michel didn’t disappoint. With two league titles, one European Cup, one European Cup Winners’ Cup and an incredible three consecutive Ballon d’Or’s during this period Platini was a true superstar of the 80s.
Do we need to explain? Diego Maradona is up there as one of the all-time greats. Maradona’s balance and ability to run with the ball was, and is still, second to none. Maradona proved just how good he was when it come to the ’86 World Cup. The “Hand of God”, the ‘goal of the century’, the winning captain and the golden ball… Mexico 86 was all about Maradona.
It would be hard to find as complete a forward as Van Basten. The dutchman had everything and proved it week in, week out. During the early 80s, Marco was already proving himself to be one of the games greatest strikers while at Ajax. Over his six years with the dutch club Van Basten scored an impressive 128 Eredivisie goals in 133 games. Milan came calling off the back of this goalscoring form and Van Basten carried on proving his ability, winning titles, European cups and won the first two of his three Ballon d’Or’s in 1988 & 1989.
Superstars of the 90s
After proving his qualities with Fiorentina in the 80s, Baggio went into the new decade as the most expensive player in football. After signing for Fiorentina’s rivals Juventus Baggio hit the ground running, banging in 27 goals and was an integral part of the Juve team for the five years he was there. During that spell Baggio also won the Ballon d’Or in 1993.
Zizou was undoubtedly a superstar of the 90’s. He may not have been the star throughout the whole period but one year and in particular one summer brought Zidane to the forefront of the football world. Zizou’s home world cup, France 1998, the tournament was a platform for Zidane to claim his spot at the top of the footballing pyramid. His impact throughout the whole tournament and his vital two goals in the final made Zidane an instant football hero. His performances throughout 1998 culminated in Zizou being named FIFA World Player of the Year and winning the Ballon d’Or in that year.
While everyone knows the mysterious story that surrounded the World Cup 1998 final, Ronaldo was ‘the’ player heading into the tournament and was rightly seen as the true superstar of the 90s. The ultimate goal scorer, Ronaldo scored wherever he played. He led goalscoring charts throughout the 90s including scoring 34 la liga goals in 37 games in his one season at Barcelona. Ronaldo’s form in the 90s earned the forward two FIFA World Player of the Year title in 1996 & 1997, and the Ballon d’Or in 1997.
Superstars of the 00s
The second portuguese star in this list. Luis Figo had already made a name for himself during his time at Barcelona, then at the turn of the century made the controversial move to Real Madrid. Figo became an integral part of the ‘galacticos’ era and kicked off the noughties with a Ballon d’Or win in 2000 for his time with both the Spanish giants.
The 2005 Ballon d’Or winner was arguably the biggest name in football in the 00s. During his time at PSG, Barcelona and Milan, Ronaldinho proved that he had skills like no other. It was not just his club career that made Ronaldinho so special, he was also integral to Brazil’s 2002 world cup success, and is definitely the stand out performer of the noughties.
It may have all gone wrong after Real Madrid’s big money move in 2009, but throughout the 6 years prior to Kaka’s move, the midfielder became a household name. Kaka exuded class on the football pitch and his reputation sky rocketed throughout the noughties. The midfielders incredible displays were rewarded in 2007 when he won the Ballon d’Or and was also named FIFA World Player of the Year.
Superstars of the 10s
The big Swede. If you are looking at the last four years there aren’t many who have stood out quite like Zlatan. While he may not be seen in the same light as Cristiano and Lionel he is certainly a current superstar of our game. With three titles a Puskas Award and bucket loads of goals over the last four years, Zlatan deserves his place in this list.
Along with Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi has dominated this period, and is not slowing down. The focal point of all that is good for both Barcelona and Argentina. The little genius can do things with the ball that others couldn’t even dream of doing. Breaking goals and assists records is just part of everyday life for Lionel.
The current best player in the world. Cristiano’s record over his career is actually incredible. His ability has never been questioned and since leaving Manchester United for Real Madrid at the turn of the decade his stock has continued to grow scoring over 50 goals per season in his last 4 seasons and well on course to do so once more.