As a sport, soccer is more widespread than any game on the planet. There are so many national teams, and along with these teams come world-class players. These national sides participate in a variety of competitions such as the European Championship (Euro Cup), the Copa Sudamerica (South American Championship), and of course, the World Cup, which spans the entire globe. It’s far from easy to quantify the accomplishments of great players in any given sport, especially when it comes to soccer.
10. Didier Drogba
Didier Drogba is an Ivorian footballer who plays in the centre forward position. He currently plays for Chelsea in the Premier League, where he is deputy vice-captain, and is the captain and all-time top scorer of the Côte d’Ivoire national football team. He has scored more goals for Chelsea than any other foreign player and is currently Chelsea’s sixth highest goal scorer of all time. His key attributes include his physical strength, ability in the air, and his power to retain possession of the ball. Drogba moved to Chelsea the following season for a record breaking fee of £24 million, making him the most expensive Ivoirian player in history.
9. Carlos Tevez
Carlos Tevez uses his body better than any forward in the world and his technique and work rate means that he can play on his own up front, or as a support striker. He has scored 51 goals in his Manchester City career, which, impressive a stat as it is, also ignores all the hard work he does off the ball.
8. Wesley Sneijder
Wesley Sneijder is a Dutch footballer playing as an attacking midfielder for Internazionale.He was named UEFA midfielder of the season as well as one of the three best midfielders in the world for 2010 by FIFA. Due to his impeccable placement and confirmed ability to score from free kicks, Sneijder earned the reputation as a dead-ball specialist.With short stature, he is quick, strong on the ball, and his passing range is enhanced by his ambidexterity.
A product of the Ajax Academy, he previously played for AFC Ajax with whom he won six trophies and during which time he was awarded the Johan Cruijff Award (for best young player in Holland) in 2004. He was later sold to Real Madrid for €27 million in 2007, winning La Liga in his first season with the club and later being sold to Internazionale for €15 million.
7. David Villa
Despite sustaining a serious injury as a child, he started his professional career with Sporting de Gijón. He moved to Real Zaragoza after two seasons, where he made his La Liga début, winning his first senior honours—the Copa del Rey and Supercopa de España. He joined Valencia CF in 2005 for a transfer fee of €12 million and was part of the Valencia team that won the Copa del Rey in the 2007–08 season. In 2010 he moved to FC Barcelona for €40 million where he won his first La Liga and UEFA Champions League titles.
6. Diego Forlan
Diego Forlan is a Uruguayan footballer who plays as a striker for Internazionale and the Uruguayan national team. He is a two-time winner of both the Pichichi Trophy and the European Golden Shoe, and also received the Golden Ball as the best player at the 2010 World Cup. In his first season in Spanish football, Forlán scored 25 league goals and won the Pichichi Trophy. After two more successful seasons with Villarreal, Forlán joined Atlético Madrid, where he once again became the league’s top scorer, and became the first player to win the Pichichi Trophy twice since Ronaldo achieved this feat in 2003–04.
5. Andres Iniesta
Iniesta played for Spain at Under-16, Under-19 and Under-21 levels, before making his international debut in 2006. He was selected for the 2006 FIFA World Cup, playing one game, as Spain went out in the second round. He helped Spain qualify for Euro 2008, and played an important role in the side as they went on to win the competition, playing every game and being selected in the UEFA Team of the Tournament. Iniesta was selected for the 2010 FIFA World Cup and was a key member of the victorious Spanish side; he scored the winning goal in the final against the Netherlands, also being named Man of the Match, and was selected in the tournament’s All-Star Team. He was also the Man of the Match for two other World Cup games.
He has been capped 103 times for the Spanish national team, with whom he won UEFA Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup. He was named Player of the Tournament by UEFA at UEFA Euro 2008. He was one of the three finalists for the 2010 FIFA Ballon d’Or, alongside Barcelona teammates Messi and Andres Iniesta, he finished third on the vote behind Messi and Iniesta.He narrowly defeated Lionel Messi to win World Soccer’s Player of the year.
On 2 January 2011, in a league match against Levante UD, Xavi made his 549th appearance for the club in all competitions, matching the record held by Migueli. Following this match Xavi is the player with most appearances with Barcelona of all time.
3. Wayne Rooney
Aged nine, Rooney joined the youth team of Everton, for whom he made his professional debut in 2002. He spent two seasons at the Merseyside club, before moving to Manchester United for £25.6 million in the 2004 summer transfer window. Since then, with Rooney in the team, United have won the Premier League four times, the 2007–08 UEFA Champions League and two League Cups. He also holds two runner-up medals from both the Premier League and the Champions League. In August of the 2011–12 season Rooney scored his 150th goal, becoming United’s highest goalscorer since the inception of the Premier League.
In 2009–10, Rooney was awarded the PFA Players’ Player of the Year and the FWA Footballer of the Year. Rooney has won the Premier League ‘Goal of the Season’ award by the BBC’s Match of the Day poll on three occasions. As of 2011, he is the third highest-paid footballer in the world after Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, with an annual income of €20.7m (£18m) including sponsorship deals.
2. Cristiano Ronaldo
Ronaldo became the most expensive player in football history after moving from Manchester United to Real Madrid in a transfer deal worth £80 million (€94m, US$132m). In addition, his contract with Real Madrid, in which he was to be paid £11 million per year over the following six years, made him the highest-paid football player in the world at the time, and his buyout clause was valued at €1 billion as per his contract.
On 15 May 2011, Ronaldo became the highest goalscorer in a season in the history of Real Madrid with 51 goals, surpassing the club’s previous high of 49 by Ferenc Puskás. He would later finish the season with a total of 53 goals, making him the first Real Madrid player to ever reach and surpass 50 goals in a season. Six days later, Ronaldo broke the record of most goals ever scored in a season in La Liga with 40, surpassing Telmo Zarra’s mark established in 1951 and Hugo Sanchez’s mark matched in 1990.
1. Lionel Messi
is regarded as one of the best football players of his generation, Messi received several Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year nominations by the age of 21, and won in 2009and 2010. His playing style and ability have drawn comparisons to Diego Maradona, who himself declared Messi as his “successor”.
Messi was the top scorer of the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship with six goals, including two in the final game. Shortly thereafter, he became an established member of Argentina’s senior international team. In 2006, he became the youngest Argentine to play in the FIFA World Cup and he won a runners-up medal at the Copa América tournament the following year. In 2008, in Beijing, he won his first international honour, an Olympic gold medal, with the Argentina Olympic football team. At international level Messi has scored 17 goals in 62 games.