There will always be a player whose domination would undoubtedly leave him as the most talked about player for those few years. Currently, we are in the Messi-Cristiano Ronaldo era. Here is a list of players who were the dominant player when they played.
So, a list of players who dominated, starting from the 1950s.
Period: 1950s-mid 1960s
Arguably the greatest player to have ever graced the sport. The Brazilian legend had a lethal eye for gold and throughout his career with Santos, scored nearly 1 goal every game. If there was a player that announced Brazilians to the world, it was him and that probably paved way for the European teams to scout in Brazil. On top of that, he is the only player to have won 3 World Cups and is the top scorer of the Brazilian national football team.
He played mostly for Santos and finished his career with a 3 year stint with the New York Cosmos.
Some individual accolades include, the FIFA Ballon d’Or Prix d’Honneur, FIFA 100, World Team of the 20th Century and FIFA World Cup Dream Team as well as being the joint holder of the FIFA Player of the 20th Century.
He is currently the ambassador for the 2016 Summer Olympics which will be held in Rio, but has been having health problems in the last year.
Period: The 1960s George Best and Bobby Moore
This man has been hailed by some as the Greatest Defender to have played, if not one of the greatest. The Englishman was the pillar that held England together in their 1966 triumph. Pele once said, Moore is the greatest defender he has ever played against.
The man was a rock for England and West Ham United. While he never had much club honors, he made it count on the International Level. Helping them to win the world cup, there is a statue of Moore being hosted by his teammates, holding the World cup. His conduct on and off the field has been widely well received, with a quiet personal life and courteous conduct during play.
He has been named in the FIFA World Cup Dream Team and in the FIFA 100.
Moore played most of his career with West Ham United.
He was battling cancer in his last years before finally passing away on 24th February, 1993 at the age of 51.
The Northern Irishman was a part of the 60’s golden generation of Manchester United, a squad that contained Sir Bobby Charlton and Denis Law. Best was one of the greatest dribblers the sport has ever seen. He had all the technical skills to leave defenders behind. As a winger, he scored an amazing tally of 181 goals. His highlight was winning the Ballon d’or and European Championship in 1968 with other accolades.
He died on 25th November 2005, after battling Alcoholism that had plagued him for most of his adult life.
The Dutchman has been named the Pythagoras of Football for his pinpoint passing. He was also the pioneer of Total Football, the system of playing currently used by the Netherlands and FC Barcelona, to great effect.
He had his club success with AFC Ajax and FC Barcelona, establishing himself as a club legend at both. Despite disagreements with the Dutch football federation, he was one of the greatest players to have donned the Orange jersey, and till date one of their most clinical players of the national team.
After his playing career, he had a successful managerial career with both Ajax and Barcelona.
A creative mastermind, he was gifted with technical ability, speed, dribbling, acceleration and vision. Cruyff’s host of personal accolades speak for themselves. He has been named the Dutch player in the UEFA Jubilee celebrations, FIFA 100, FIFA World Cup Dream Team as well as winning 3 Ballon D’or. The Dutch super shield is named after him.
Cruyff is currently an adviser to AFC Ajax.
Period: The 1980s –Michel Platini and Diego Maradona
One of the best attacking midfielders, Platini had a lethal eye for goal in his career. Part of a talented generation of French Footballers, Platini played for Nancy, Saint-Etienne and Juventus. He led France to European Glory in 1984 and has been one of their more prolific players in front of goal.
In his playing career, he was known as one of the best passers of the ball as well as being a talented free kick and penalty specialist. Platini had good control, vision and technique and as a creative player, he provided many assists for his teammates. However, he was clinical as well, finishing his club career with 312 goals in 580 games and 41 goals in 72 matches for France.
His individual accolades include being a member of the FIFA 100, FIFA World Cup Dream Team and is one of two players (the other being Lionel Messi) to have won 3 consecutive Ballon d’or.
The conclusion of his playing career saw him take an administrative role in the sport. He has been the president of the UEFA since 2007 and has expressed his interest in taking the role of FIFA Presidency, following the resignation of Sepp Blatter.
Along with Pele, Diego Maradona has been widely acclaimed as the greatest player to have ever played. Known as El Pibe de Oro (The Golden Boy) Maradona played for several clubs including Newells Old Boys, Boca Juniors, FC Barcelona, Sevilla and SSC Napoli in which he enjoyed his greatest club success. He was the key player in Argentina’s 1986 World Cup triumph over West Germany.
His primary playing positions were that of an attacking midfielder or second striker. He was a player that possessed exceptional dribbling skills, vision, ball control, passing and creativity. He was short but strong and could hold his own in any physical game. His short height gave him a low center of gravity. Johan Cruyff had noted that the ball seemed glued to his feet, an observation he would make about Lionel Messi in the future. He was a clinical finisher but able to provide a large number of assists after surging down the right.
He is most famous for 2 goals. Both were in the same match. His infamous “hand of god” was the first goal in the 1986 World Cup quarter final. His second goal, voted the “Goal of the Century” was a magnificent solo effort that saw him run half the field, dribbling past 5 English players before slotting the goal into the net after a feint to English Keeper, Peter Shilton. All of that with just 11 touches.
At an individual level, his accolades include FIFA 100, FIFA World Cup Dream Team, FIFA Player of the 20th Century, an award he holds with Pele, FIFA Goal of the Century and is the only player to have broken the world transfer fee record twice.
He faced drug addiction since the 1980s, and that affected his health after his retirement. He did venture into management, including the Argentina National Football Team in 2010. He is currently the “spiritual coach” of Argentina Primera D club, Deportivo Riestra.
Period: The late 1980s and 90s
Paolo Maldini has been one of the finest defenders to have graced the sport. He spent 25 years with Italian Giants, AC Milan. Making a staggering 902 appearances, he has a rich trophy cabinet that includes 5 UEFA Champions League.
Maldini cemented his legacy as the one of the defending greats, thanks to his exceptional positioning ability. He was able to intercept incoming passes so well, he made a tackle every two games. He never lost his touch, even in the twilight years of his career, making himself the complete defender.
His accolades at an individual level include the FIFA World Cup Dream Team and the FIFA 100.
He is currently the co-owner of Miami FC
Period: Mid 1990s to mid 2000s – Zidane and Ronaldo
Ronaldo, aka the phenomenon has been acknowledged as the greatest striker to have played in recent times and one of the greatest players in the Sport. He has had success with various clubs and is a two time FIFA World Cup Winner in 1994 and 2002.
Ronaldo played with Cruzeiro, PSV, FC Barcelona, Inter Milan, Real Madrid, AC Milan and Corinthians. Throughout his career, he has scored 352 goals in 518 games, and 62 goals in 98 matches for Brazil. This tally includes 15 World Cup Finals goals, which was a record till 2014.
Ronaldo is regarded as a complete forward. He could play across various attacking positions (though he preferred playing as a striker). His composure was an important trait that helped him maintain his lethal touch. He was capable of providing assists for his teammates as well with his good vision, passing and crossing abilities.
There is only one surprising downside to his illustrious career. His personal accolades include Two Ballon d’or, Three FIFA World Player of the Year, FIFA 100.
Currently, Ronaldo is engaged in several business ventures following his retirement. He is the co-owner of the Brazil A-1 Team, Co-owner of Sports Marketing Company 9INE and has recently acquired a stake in the Fort Lauderdale Strikers in the North American Soccer League.
Zinedine Zidane was one of the greatest midfielders ever. He played his trade for Cannes, Bordeaux, Juventus, Real Madrid and the French National Team. Referred to as Zizou, he won the 1998 FIFA World Cup as part of the French Golden Generation.
His career saw him play 681 games for the four clubs and has scored 125 goals. The most prolific years of his career came with Real Madrid from 2001 till 2006, when he retired. He was renowned for his playing style, where his trickery and skills with the ball dazzled his teammates, oppositions and fans alike. He had exceptional vision and passing accuracy and scored some stunning goals in his career.
He made a famous exit from the Sport in the final of the 2006 FIFA World cup. He head-butted Italy’s Marco Materazzi in the final, after the Italian had riled him up. He missed the subsequent Penalty shootout, where Italy prevailed 5-3.
On an individual level, his accolades include the Ballon D’or, FIFA 100, FIFA World Cup Dream Team, three time FIFA World Player of the year and being named as the Best European player in the last 50 years.
He is currently the coach of the Real Madrid reserves as he looks set to take reins as the manager of a club sometime in the future.
Period: 2007 onwards – Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo
The Portuguese Forward has been the driving force for whichever club he has represented, and the linchpin of his country’s international hopes. With 3 Ballon d’or, he has joint second highest with Platini and Cruyff.
After establishing himself at Manchester United, he was transferred to Real Madrid in a mega money move. There he directly competed with Lionel Messi, the other golden player in the current generation. Since 2009/10, they have been unrivaled in the goal scoring prowess by any player across the top European Leagues.
Cristiano is an exceptional scorer, he is able to score goals from anywhere. He is good at set-pieces. He has the mental aggression to win, and has good vision, positioning and is one of the fastest players right now. His ability in the one on one, is rivaled only by Leo Messi.
He has scored 118 goals for Manchester United and 313 for Real Madrid (his average at Real is more than a goal per game).
He has not been able to achieve much with Portugal, primarily because of the lack of support. He alone has to shoulder the hopes of the country.
The Argentine maestro has been hailed as the greatest player right now. At 28, he has quite a few good years left for him. It’s hard to believe what all he has accomplished with his team right now including a massive list of accolades.
At Barcelona, there is nothing he has not won with multiple of each trophy. He has 24 club trophies including two trebles. He is really famous for humiliating the opposition with his amazing runs and skills. Being a part of the FC Barcelona, he plays with the Tiki-Taka style that allows players to move across the pitch, proving his versatility. A talented dribbler, he is a lethal finisher as seen by his goal tally. He is also a team player, as seen by his assist tally. Like Maradona, Messi has a low centre of gravity, and the ball just seems to be glued to his feet. This has increased the comparisons to Diego Maradona.
He has broken many records and has set a high bar. The highlight of his individual brilliance is his record 4 FIFA Ballon d’or (and finishing second 3 times as well).
What I find his scariest club statistic?
He has scored 412 goals for FC Barcelona. The second highest goal tally by an individual is César Rodríguez at 232. With at least 3 good years left, he could just be doubling that with ease!
However, Like Cristiano Ronaldo, he has not delivered the same level of performances for his country.
He has a FIFA World Cup Runners up and Copa America Runners up medal in the international stage.