11) Carlton Palmer
Of all the categories for this week, the midfielders section was by far the most difficult to compile, purely due to the fact that it contains so many different types of player. So get your abuse or congratulations in at the bottom, and apologies to Cristiano Ronaldo, Rivelino, Socrates et al:
10) Ryan Giggs
Giggs is a strange choice for me, because I am not sure if he is in here on merit, or simply due to the tabloid frenzy as he nears retirement, telling football fans that Giggs is the greatest ever.
And the you watch that goal against Arsenal, and you look as his sheer consistency and longevity at the greatest level. In truth, although they are Manchester United’s greatest players, Best and Giggs could not have been more different.
Giggs does suffer, however, from his apparent lack of dedication to the international cause, having only made 64 appearances in twenty years, and scored just twelve international goals.
Quotes on Giggs:
Ron Atkinson: “Ryan makes you believe that there is a football God”
9) Michael Laudrup
You know that you are a special player when fans of Real Madrid and Barcelona both love you even though you crossed the divide. Just ask Luis Figo. And Michael Laudrup is a special player.
With Real, Barca, Ajax and Juventus, Laudrup won seven titles and the European Cup, was voted Denmark’s best ever player. Perhaps as more of a compliment was his award of the best foreign player in La Liga of the last 25 years in 1999.
Quotes on Laudrup:
Romario: “The best player I have ever played with and the fifth best in the history of the game”
Beckenbauer: Pele was the best in the 60s, Cruyff in the 70s, Maradona in the 80s, and Laudrup in the 90s
Iniesta: “Who is the best player in history? Laudrup”
8 ) Francisco Gento
Gento should be known as the player with the most poetic nickname in history: The Storm of the Cantabrian Sea, and also for being arguably the greatest Spanish players in history.
Gento is also one of the most decorated players in history, playing in eight European Cup finals and winning a record six. He also won an amazing twelve league titles, and scored 30 goals in the European Cup.
7) Johan Cruyff
Known by six year old kids across the land as the player that did the first skill you learn in football, it would be more complimentary to remind readers that Cruyff won the Ballon D’Or in 1971, 1973 and 1974, a joint record.
Cruyff should have inspired the Netherlands to World Cup glory in 1974, but lost out in the final to West Germany. No matter, Cruyff was given the award for Golden Ball.
Bosman: Cruyff always thinks he’s right and the funny thing is he is always right”
Guardiola: “Cruyff painted the chapel, and Barca’s subsequent coaches must merely restore and improve it.”
6) Lothar Matthaus
The only outfield player to play in five different World Cups, and also has played more World Cup matches than anyone else. Also played in four European Championships. So that’s just the nine major tournaments.
Matthaus also made 150 caps for Germany, and scored 23 goals. A versatile player, Matthaus’ all-round ability meant he performed equally well as a sweeper, defensive midfielder and attacking midfielder.
Unfortunately, Lothar has sort of ruined it by managing Hungary, Atletico Paranense, Red Bull Salzburg and Maccabi Netanya. Not exactly big time.
Instructions to make your day: Go on wikipedia. Type in Lothar Matthaus. Get the names of his four wives. Search for images of them.
The man is a legend.
Quotes on Matthaus:
Maradona: “He is the best rival I have ever had. I guess that’s enough to define him
5) Michel Platini
It is unfortunate that Platini is only known now to children of the game as the President of UEFA, where he spends his time seemingly ignoring all calls for goalline technology.
In the 80s, Platini was the European Maradona, and even from midfield scored 352 career goals in 652 games, becoming France’s top scorer in the process, until a certain Thierry came along.
In the space of three years from 1983-5, Platini won two Ballon D’Or, two World Player of the Year awards, was top goalscorer and player of the tournament in the 1984 Euros and was top goalscorer in the European Cup in 1985.
Quotes on Platini:
Zidane: “When I was a kid and played with my friends, I always chose to be Platini. I let my friends share the names of my other idols between themselves.”
Considered one of the greatest passers in football history, Zico was known as the White Pele, despite what Manchester United chants might tell you.
Zico scored 52 goals in 72 matches, and can be considered as one of the greatest players to never win the World Cup, despite playing in three tournaments.
In total, it is reported that Zico played 1180 games in his career, and scored an impressive 826 goals.
Quotes on Zico:
Pele: “throughout all the years, the player that came closest to me was Zico”
3) Zinedine Zidane
Along with the larger Ronaldo (and Psycho of course), the greatest player I have ever seen live.
Players that are truly great seem to have more time on the ball than any other player. It is as if the clock slows down as opposition players give a master space, because they are scared of what may just happen next. The time taken for the ball to come down in the Champions League final in 2002 seemed an age, before Zizou swept home majestically.
His record is phenomenal. One of only two players to have won FIFA World Player of the Year on three occasions, Zidane led his national side to the World Cup in 1998 and the Euros in 2000. After international retirement, an aging Zidane was called upon to lead his side once again in 2006, where he was named the tournament’s best player, scoring his third World Cup Final goal.
Yes there was the headbutt, but I won’t go into that too much. Rather than detract from his genius, perhaps it even adds to it. I strongly recommend you read a book by Ed Smith called What sport tells us about life, which has a cracking chapter on Zidane.
Quotes on Zidane:
Cesare Maldini: “I would give up five of my squad to have Zidane in my team”
2) George Best
Icon. Legend. A (flawed) genius. If George Best had been Brazilian, it is likely that he would now be talked about as the greatest ever player.
Unfortunately, being the best player in the world (or even greatest midfielder) has to be partly based on international success and longevity. Best was not able to match up to these two characteristics due to the fact that his body and mind were riddled with the effects of a glamorous lifestyle.
Possibly the most naturally talented footballer to have ever lived, Best won the European Cup in 1968 and was named European Footballer of the Year.
Quotes on George Best:
The hotel bellboy who delivered champagne to Best’s room and found him entertaining a scantily-clad Miss World on a bed covered with his winnings from the casino: “So George, where did it all go wrong?”
Widely regarded as the best dribbler in the history of the game, Garrincha was named as the second greatest player of all time by FIFA, and is known as the Joy of the People in Brazil, a decent moniker I think you will agree.
Seen as ahead of his time, the midfielder was akin to Lionel Messi in the way that he used skills and stepovers to beat opponents, and scored a wonderful goal against England in the World Cup in 1962.
Enough about his football. Garrincha is reported to have fathered up to 36 children. He was born with a disability that had to be operated on when he was a child and had a distorted left leg.
Garrincha died aged 49 from cirrhosis of the liver, but will be regarded (by me at least) as the greatest midfielder of all time.
Quotes on Garrincha:
Pele was the best but Garrincha was better Pele was a machine; Garrincha was an artist.