Football is the most popular sport in the world. It is estimated that roughly 3.5 billion people play or watch football around the world. The 2010 World Cup drew in an estimated viewing figure of 715 million people, which means that one person in every ten watched the game. Just looking at these figures you can see how much the game is treasured throughout the world.
As football has been played with such a large audience for a long time, people have grown to love the finest football players both on and off the field. Here we will explore more information about Pele, Eusebio, Maradona, Marco Van Basten and Roberto Baggio. These players have been selected not only for their on-field skills but their off-field work and management abilities, which have truly defined them as legends.
Edison "Edson" Arantes do Nascimento (Pele) was a Brazilian footballer that many people believe to be the best footballer to ever grace the pitch. In 1999, Pele won probably the finest achievement any player could win the ?Player of the Century" award, and the ?Football Player of the Century" from the Ballon D'or, these two awards were voted by the IFFHS International Federation of Football History and former Ballon D'or winners respectively. Apart from a 'retiring' spell in the United States and the World Cup, Pele never left the continent, which means that he did not grace the European game with his talents. However, this did not reflect poorly on him, as everybody saw his talents come to light against the best players in the world every four years at the world cup. Even to this day, Pele is the only man to have won three world cup medals, and he is still the leading goal scorer for the Brazilian national team, which is quite a feat when you consider all the players that have put on the yellow of Brazil.
Playing as a centre forward, Pele was a great striker of the ball and without a doubt prolific goal scorer; however, what made him world-class and potentially the best of all time was his awareness and technical ability. Pele was without a doubt one of the most intelligent players on the pitch, and he certainly could back it up.
Since retirement, Pele has been an ambassador for football and has also been a wonderful spokesperson for poverty in his homeland of Brazil.
Even though many would argue that Pele was the best of all time, others would say that Eusébio da Silva Ferreira (Eusebio) was better. Of course, as he was just one year younger than Pele, it was hard to avoid comparing the two as they played at the same time. Born in Mozambique, Eusebio played nationally for Portugal and played the majority of his glistening career at Benfica, where he actually scored more goals than he played games, which when you consider the amount of games/goals was 614 (638) you can see the accomplishment. In fact, over his whole club career he scored two more goals than he did play games, considering many would argue that the last 4-5 years of his career were just 'filler' years this was a massive accomplishment. Over his club career, Eusebio ventured to no less than ten clubs even though he spent 14 years at Benfica alone. Apart from his time in Portugal, Eusebio played in both North and South America; however, he did not move over there until he was 33, two years after he had retired internationally.
Eusebio was simply a game changer, and whenever he was on the pitch the other team knew that there could be serious trouble whenever he picked up the ball, even if he was having a bad game. Many argue that Eusebio proved himself more than Pele because he played in the Champions League and was successful in Europe as well.
In his time, Eusebio won just about every individual award possible, even though his success for his country was limited because the team around him did not match his quality. Now, Eusebio is a name mentioned in the world's best list all the time, and he is still an ambassador for the beautiful game.
Undoubtedly one of the most charismatic players ever to grace the field, Maradona clearly could back up his cockiness. Even though the English will probably remember him for all the wrong reasons, those that played with or against him will let you know just how much of a menace he was in the midfield. The ?hand of God" game should have been known for how Maradona danced his way through the England back line to score what was later defined as the best goal of all time; however, he is instead known for his handball, which put Argentina one goal to the good.
Unlike some other of the world's best, Maradona moved around from club to club playing just shy of 500 club games for seven different clubs in Argentina, Italy and Spain. Maradona played for Napoli (188 games), Argentinos Juniors (167 games), Boca Juniors (70 games over two spells), Barcelona (36 games), Sevilla (26 games) and Newell's Old Boys in Argentina for seven games.
Even though he stood at just 5 foot 5, Maradona withstood some of the heaviest tackles, and due to his size, he was quick across a short distance, which made movement past some defenders a doddle. Maradona's trademark was a dash down the right wing, often leaving players in his stride. Maradona was left footed and even used his left when the ball seemed better positioned for his right, and this was not to his detriment. Many who watched him play would tell you that when you have a foot that good you do not need to be ambidextrous.
Since retirement, Maradona has not been out of the news for personal reasons. Various drug and health issues paired with outspoken controversy have meant that he has been in the front pages just as much as he used to be in the back pages. However, things have been looking a bit more up for Maradona recently as he took over the Argentinean world cup team for the run up to and the 2010 world cup walking away after Argentina's elimination in the quarter finals. He is currently the manager of UAE team Al Wasl FC, after being linked with teams like Fulham and Aston Villa in the interim.
Playing at the highest level in Europe for such a long time and winning the European footballer of the year three times are two things that define you as a world class player and Marco van Basten is one player who has both achievements to his name. Unfortunately, van Basten had his career cut short with an ankle injury, which he had carried throughout the majority of the later part of his career. However, he still managed to play for 14 years up until he was 31 even though he spent the majority of his final two seasons in rehabilitation. In 2007, Sky Sports voted Van Basten the best ever player to have his career cut short.
Playing as a striker, Van Basten scored 218 goals in 280 games for two of the world's best teams Ajax and AC Milan. He also scored 24 goals in 58 games for his country. As a striker, Van Basten was strong on the ball and had one of the best long range strikes on any player.
Van Basten has gone into management with both Ajax and the Netherlands and is considered a bit of a legend in his home country. In a poll in his home country, Van Basten was voted at number 25 of the 100 greatest Dutch people of all time. Currently, he is out of work even though he still works closely with both the Ajax and national team.
Defined by many as one of the greatest football players of the 'modern era', Roberto Baggio is highly rated among players and fans alike. Even though his career spanned over 22 years, Baggio spent his entire career playing in the Italian league with; Vicenza, Florentina, Juventus, Milan, Bologna, Inter and Brescia, scoring 218 goals in 488 games from attacking midfield. Furthermore, Baggio remained loyal to his country retiring from international football the same time he stopped domestically.
Like a few of the others, Baggio is known mostly for his 1994 world cup final penalty miss against Brazil. Stepping up to score a decisive penalty, which would mean Brazil had to score to win, Baggio inexplicably ballooned it over the bar, to gift Brazil the win and the world cup.
Baggio was a wonderful play-maker that knew where the goal was whenever he collected the ball. His loyalty to his country and the fact that he always left it all on the pitch made him a national hero, and even though many of us would have forgotten about Baggio (because he did not become a manager), he is still working in football. In fact, in 2010 Baggio was awarded the World Peace Award by the Nobel Peace Prize group, which really states the work he has done during his 'retirement.'
Some of the footballers mentioned above have featured in many fifa computer games released on consoles such as the playstation and the pc. If you would like to read more about these footballers profiles beyond what we cover on our site you can go to the BBC's football archive.
These men are truly football legends, and even though there have and will be many more, these men really stand out from the crowd for both their ability and skills as people and as players/managers.