Lots of the finest gamers of all time have appeared on the World Cup – however they have not essentially performed their finest soccer there.
Loads of the sport’s best skills have wowed the world on the most important stage of all of them, although.
Right here, we run by way of the 33 most distinctive performers within the World Cup’s lengthy and illustrious historical past.
33. Teofilo Cubillas
Peru’s best participant of all time, Teofilo Cubillas showcased his abilities to a worldwide viewers on the 1970, 1978 and 1982 World Cups.
The legendary attacking midfielder – a famend free-kick specialist – scored 5 targets at every of the 1970 and 1978 tournaments, serving to Peru to the quarter-finals of the previous – the place, on the age of 21, he was additionally voted one of the best younger participant.
32. Roger Milla
Roger Milla introduced himself on the World Cup stage on the ripe outdated age of 38, rising to cult hero standing together with his performances for Cameroon at Italia ’90.
The striker scored 4 targets at that match – the place he helped his nation to an historic victory over reigning world champions Argentina – and added one other one on the 1994 World Cup, by which era he had celebrated his forty second birthday.
31. Geoff Hurst
Till Kylian Mbappe emulated him in 2022, Geoff Hurst was the one participant to attain a hat-trick in a World Cup closing – a fairly exceptional feat.
England’s immortal hero of 1966 – whose iconic ‘Did it cross the road or did not it?’ purpose towards West Germany at Wembley secured his nation’s first World Cup triumph – additionally performed and scored on the 1970 finals in Mexico.
30. Oliver Kahn
For his heroic performances in Germany’s run to the 2002 closing, Oliver Kahn turned the primary goalkeeper to win the World Cup Golden Ball award because the match’s finest participant.
In the long run, there was heartbreak for the Germans and captain Kahn as they misplaced to Ronaldo-inspired Brazil – however not even the Bayern Munich legend’s mistake for the primary purpose may take the gloss off what was an outstanding summer season for him.
29. Dennis Bergkamp
Dennis Bergkamp’s gorgeous last-gasp purpose towards Argentina to ship the Netherlands by way of to the 1998 World Cup semi-finals is undoubtedly one in every of best within the historical past of the competitors.
However that wasn’t the extent of the deliciously gifted Dutchman’s exploits on the most important stage: he netted 3 times at every of the 1998 and 1994 tournaments (the latter within the USA being the place his well-documented concern of flying is alleged to have originated).
28. Gary Lineker
Certainly one of England’s most interesting strikers of all time, Gary Lineker was at his good finest on the 1986 World Cup in Mexico – the place he scored six targets to win the Golden Boot.
Lineker was at it once more 4 years later, notching 4 instances to assist England attain the semi-finals of Italia ’90 (the place he additionally skilled a moderately unlucky bowel-related incident in the course of the Three Lions’ match opener towards the Republic of Eire…).
27. Jurgen Klinsmann
Jurgen Klinsmann was key to West Germany’s final World Cup victory earlier than the reunification of Germany – at Italia ’90, the place they defeated holders Argentina within the closing.
The long-lasting centre-forward bagged three targets at that match, including an extra eight throughout the 1994 and 1998 World Cups to change into one of many all-time high scorers within the competitors.
26. Thomas Muller
Arguably Germany’s finest participant of the twenty first century, Thomas Muller scored 5 targets on the 2010 World Cup – profitable the Golden Boot my advantage of getting registered extra assists.
He was additionally named Finest Younger Participant at that match – however his most interesting hour was to come back 4 years later as he helped Germany to glory in Brazil, opening the scoring in that 7-1 semi-final demolition of the hosts.
25. Ferenc Puskas
Maybe the best participant by no means to win the World Cup, Ferenc Puskas may hardly have executed extra in Hungary’s pursuit of the Jules Rimet trophy in 1954 – the place the legendary Magical Magyars agonisingly misplaced to West Germany within the closing.
Puskas’ teammate Sandor Kocsis top-scored at that match with 11 targets, however Hungary’s captain and best ever participant was one of the best on the planet on the time – and his affect on the facet was undeniably immense.
24. Lothar Matthaus
Lothat Matthaus’ epic profession stretched from the late 70s to the flip of the twenty first century – and it took in no fewer than 5 World Cups, a document for an outfield participant till Mexico’s Rafael Marquez equalled it in 2018.
An indeniable legend of the German recreation, the midfielder captained West Germany to glory at Italia ’90, profitable the Ballon d’Or in the identical 12 months.
Iconic flying full-back Cafu appeared at 4 World Cups for Brazil, performed in three finals – and gained two of them. That is fairly some return.
In 2002, he acquired his arms on the trophy as skipper – with the picture of him surrounded by ticker tape, winners medal round his neck back-to-front, probably the most well-known in World Cup historical past.
22. Michel Platini
Michel Platini’s best success with France was profitable the 1984 European Championship – however the midfielder was one of many best gamers on then planet throughout that decade, and he was pivotal in his nation’s run to the 1982 World Cup semi-finals.
4 years later, the legendary playmaker – who gained the Ballon d’Or three years operating from 1983 to 1985 – helped Les Bleus to the final 4 as soon as once more – regardless of being a way beneath peak situation for that match.
Rivaldo’s World Cup profession was overshadowed by his feigning of a head harm to get Turkey’s Hakan Unsal despatched off within the 2002 semi-finals – however the Brazilian nice’s general efficiency on the pinnacle of the worldwide recreation greater than warrants a spot on this record.
The 1999 Ballon d’Or winner was a runner-up with Brazil in 1998, earlier than enjoying a pivotal position of their victory 4 years later.
The metronomic brilliance of Xavi is unparalleled within the fashionable period – and the Barcelona legend ensured similar standing with Spain as he carried out his deep-lying midfield position with elite aptitude.
A (fairly actually) pivotal member of La Roja’s Euro 2008 and Euro 2012-winning squads, Xavi was likewise on the 2010 World Cup – the place he stored issues ticking as Vicente del Bosque’s facet tiki-taka’d their solution to glory in South Africa.
19. Gerd Muller
Doubtless probably the most scientific finishers the sport has ever seen, Gerd Muller banged in purpose after purpose for West Germany – ending his worldwide profession with a document of 68 in 62 caps.
Equally an icon of Bayern Munich, Der Bomber was victorious on the 1974 World Cup on residence soil – the place he discovered the online 4 instances, notching the winner as West Germany got here from behind to beat the Netherlands within the closing.
18. Paolo Rossi
In firing Italy to 1982 World Cup glory with six targets, Paolo Rossi turned one in every of a choose group of gamers to win the Golden Boot, Golden Ball and World Cup itself (he additionally added that 12 months’s Ballon d’Or for good measure).
The legendary striker scored 9 World Cup targets in all – he acquired going with three in the course of the 1978 match – making him one of many Azzurri’s all-time main marksmen within the competitors.
17. Bobby Moore
It is one in every of the most recognisable World Cup images: captain Bobby Moore hoisted up by his teammates, holding the Jules Rimet trophy aloft after England defeated West Germany to change into world champions for the primary time.
The West Ham and Three Lions icon was probably the greatest defenders on the planet on the time; certainly, a sure Pele described extra as “the best defender [I] ever performed towards”.
16. Lev Yashin
Russia’s love affair with the goalkeeper stems from Lev Yashin’s shot-stopping brilliance for the Soviet Union in the course of the 50s and 60s.
The suitably nicknamed Black Spider – who, in 1963, turned the primary ‘keeper to obtain the Ballon d’Or – starred on the 1958, 1962, 1966 and 1970 World Cups – serving to his nation to a fourth-placed end in ’66, and was included in FIFA’s World Cup Dream Crew in 2002.
15. Fabio Cannavaro
Fabio Cannavaro loved an immensely memorable 12 months in 2006: the good centre-half captained Italy to their first World Cup success in 24 years and have become the primary defender to win the Ballon d’Or.
Cannavaro performed at 4 World Cups in complete, forming defensive partnerships with the likes of Alessandro Nesta and Marco Materazzi.
14. Carlos Alberto
One of many best defenders within the historical past of the game, Carlos Alberto dazzled in an attacking right-back capability for Brazil – memorably captaining them to victory on the 1970 World Cup.
And it was within the closing of that match that Carlos Alberto scored probably the greatest World Cup targets of all time, smashing the ball residence to complete a positive group transfer for Brazil’s fourth purpose of their 4-1 win over Italy.
13. Simply Fontaine
Simply Fontaine averaged greater than two targets a recreation on the 1958 World Cup, putting 13 instances in solely six video games for France – together with 4 towards defending champions West Germany.
Unsurprisingly, that tally earned Fontaine the Golden Boot – and it took till 1974, when Gerd Muller scored his closing World Cup purpose, for anybody to surpass his complete throughout World Cups general, by no means thoughts at a single version!
12. Johan Cruyff
One other member of the ‘Imagine it or not, they by no means gained the World Cup’ membership, Johan Cruyff’s affect on the sport endures to at the present time – and he very almost influenced the Netherlands to glory on the most important stage of all.
Cruyff gained the Golden Ball as a shedding finalist in 1974, earlier than staying at residence because the Dutch reached the ultimate once more 4 years later – resulting from, it emerged in 2008, the tried kidnapping of his household the earlier 12 months.
Prime scorer of Brazil’s legendary 1970 World Cup-winning group with seven targets – eclipsed solely by Gerd Muller at that match – Jairzinho was a real celebrity for his nation.
A extremely versatile winger, O Furacao (The Hurricane) discovered the online in each spherical of the aforementioned match in Mexico – bagging the third purpose as Brazil thrashed Italy within the closing.
Remembered for his extraordinary, explosive dribbling means, Garrincha (‘Little Hen’ in Portuguese) was a recent of Pele – however, removed from being overshadowed by Brazil’s best participant of all time, was enormously influential in his personal proper.
A World Cup winner in 1958 and 1962, Garrincha completed as joint high scorer on the latter match – the place he bagged a brace in a 4-2 semi-final overcome Chile.
9. Miroslav Klose
German poacher extraordinaire Miroslav Klose notched a powerful 16 World Cup targets at a mean of 4 per match – top-scoring in 2006 on residence soil.
He needed to accept third place that point round, however he remained a keep in mind of the nationwide squad till 2014 – when he lastly picked up a World Cup winners’ medal, scoring his sixteenth and closing purpose within the competitors as Germany eviscerated hosts Brazil 4-1 within the semi-finals.
Cristiano Ronaldo has by no means actually delivered on the World Cup stage – however fellow Portuguese nice Eusebio did, virtually inspiring his nation all the way in which to the ultimate in 1966.
Famously pictured leaving the sector in tears at full-time of Portugal’s semi-final loss to eventual winners England, nine-goal Eusebio picked up the comfort prize of the Golden Boot – having scored 9 of his nation’s 15 targets on the match.
7. Kylian Mbappe
Kylian Mbappe has performed at two World Cups – and the France celebrity has comprehensively left his mark on each of them.
Instrumental to Les Bleus’ 2018 triumph in Russia – the place he scored eight targets, together with one within the closing, and was voted the match’s finest younger participant – Mbappe adopted in Geoff Hurst’s footsteps in Qatar 4 years later, hitting a hat-trick towards Argentina within the closing as France fell simply in need of retaining their crown.
The PSG man additionally collected the Golden Boot in 2022, together with his eight targets essentially the most by any participant since Ronaldo 20 years earlier.
6. Franz Beckenbauer
Certainly one of a choose few individuals to have gained the World Cup as each a participant and supervisor, Franz Beckenbauer first tasted glory as a legendary sweeper for West Germany on residence soil in 1974.
4 years earlier, Der Kaiser had famously stayed on the pitch together with his dislocated arm in a sling as West Germany had been narrowly crushed 4-3 by Italy in a traditional semi-final.
5. Zinedine Zidane
The 1998 World Cup belonged to France – and to Zinedine Zidane, who saved his two targets till the ultimate in Paris, the place Les Bleus famously breezed previous holders Brazil to be topped world champions for the primary time.
Zizou was unable to forestall France from crashing out within the group stage 4 years later – however he virtually helped them to a different victory in 2006, solely to see purple within the closing for that headbutt on Italy’s Marco Materazzi, having earlier put his nation forward with a Panenka penalty.
That proved to be the final recreation of the 1998 Ballon d’Or winner’s typically exceptional profession.
Having revolutionised the position of the centre-forward throughout his prolific time at Barcelona, Ronaldo set about set about operating riot on the final word stage on the 1998 World Cup (he had beforehand been the youngest member of Brazil’s 1994 World Cup squad, aged simply 17).
And it appeared like O Fenomeno was going to fireplace his nation to glory at France 98 – solely to endure a seizure which precipitated him to overlook the ultimate.
His time would come, although: 4 years later, he tore up the World Cup in South Korea and Japan, profitable the Golden Boot with eight targets as Brazil claimed their fifth title.
3. Diego Maradona
We may make a foul joke about Diego Maradona ‘singlehandedly’ profitable the 1986 World Cup for Argentina – however it would not be inaccurate to say that he did.
There is not any denying that El Pibe de Oro (The Golden Boy) was an utter genius – and he confirmed that whereas sporting the captain’s armband as Argentina went all the way in which in Mexico.
Maradona discovered the online 5 instances in all at that match, with the clear spotlight being his Purpose of the Century towards England within the quarter-finals (not that England followers will agree that it was his most notable contribution that summer season…).
2. Lionel Messi
Any true footballing romantic would have needed Lionel Messi to information Argentina to glory on the 2022 World Cup, would not they? At 35 years outdated, it appeared prefer it may nicely be La Pulga‘s (The Flea) final probability to get his arms on the sport’s grandest prize of all.
And Messi may hardly have written the story extra completely: he scored in each spherical – and within the penalty shootout victory over France within the closing – and walked away with the Golden Ball.
Did that success cement his standing as the best of all time? That debate will little doubt go on endlessly – however it did earn him an unbelievable eighth Ballon d’Or in 2023.
May it actually have been anybody else to high the record of one of the best World Cup gamers of all time? Pele was the sport’s first world celebrity – and it would not have been doable with out the stage of the World Cup to grace.
And charm it Pele did after which some – serving to Brazil to victory in 1958, 1962 and 1970, profitable his first World Cup as a 17-year-old prodigy.
The prodigy went on to change into one in every of most interesting skills ever to play the sport of soccer, scoring 12 targets in 14 World Cup appearances throughout 4 editions of the match, and leaving a mark like nobody else ever has.
Pele is the primary participant to have gained the World Cup 3 times.