The 10 Best Soccer Players in the World

Every fan has an opinion about the world's best soccer stars, but nearly everyone agrees on the greatness of a few players. Many of these athletes play for the elite soccer teams—Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Manchester figure prominently in this list—and a few are already considered legends, including Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Each one contributes to the global appeal of what soccer fans call the "beautiful game."


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Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi Barcelona
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A multi-year winner of FIFA's Player of the Year Award, Lionel Messi is generally considered to be the best soccer player of all time. His ability to mesmerize defenders with a mix of skill and speed is unmatched, and it often appears as though the ball is glued to his feet. Messi led his home country, Argentina, to the 2014 World Cup final, losing 1-0 to Germany, and to the finals of the 2015 and 2016 Copa Americas. A serial winner with his club, the Barcelona star is versatile enough to play anywhere across the frontline.

Teams: Argentina, F.C. Barcelona

Position: Forward

Team number: 10 (both teams)

Birthdate: June 24, 1987

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Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo playing against Ghana
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Cristiano Ronaldo is the only player in the same league as Messi. Ronaldo is stronger and taller than the Argentine, and his goals-to-games ratio is similar. In 2016, Ronaldo was named FIFA's Player of the Year, his fourth such honor. Since joining Real Madrid from Manchester United in 2009, Ronaldo has been a revelation, making the world-record outlay of $131 million look less outrageous with every goal he scores. His famous stopover is imitated in parks across the world.

Teams: Portugal, Real Madrid

Position: Forward

Team number: 7 (both teams)

Birthdate: February 5, 1985

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Luis Suarez

Luis Suarez Uruguay
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The Barcelona striker is not everyone’s cup of tea, but his ability is not up for debate. Luis Suarez is a master at weaving his way into the penalty box, deadly in one-on-one situations, and an excellent free-kick taker. His link-up play with teammates is of the highest order, and he always gives 100 percent. A penchant for conning referees remains his Achilles heel, but that did not stop Barcelona from paying Liverpool $128.5 million for the player in July 2014.

Teams: Uruguay, F.C. Barcelona

Position: Forward

Team number: 9 (both teams)

Birthdate: January 24, 1987

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Neymar Brazil
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Neymar has been playing pro soccer since he was 17. As of 2018, he has scored more goals than Messi and Ronaldo had at the same stage of their careers and he has the capacity to be the very best once Messi's career begins to wind down. Alongside the Argentine and Suarez, he forms one of the best attacking ​lineups in the history of the sport. In 2016, Neymar was named the captain of Brazil's soccer team at the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Teams: Brazil, F.C. Barcelona

Position: Forward

Team number: 10 (Brazil), 11 (Barcelona)

Birthdate: February 5, 1992

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Sergio Aguero

Sergio Aguero
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A consummate finisher, Sergio Aguero was part of Argentina's run to the 2014 World Cup finals, where the team ultimately lost to Germany. Aguero was instrumental in securing two title wins under Roberto Mancini and Manuel Pellegrini, scoring that famous late winner against QPR in 2012 to seal the Premier League. Quick, with an excellent first touch and ability to bring others into play, the Argentine has few weaknesses.

Teams: Argentina, Manchester City F.C.

Position: Forward 

Team number: 11 (Argentina), 10 (Manchester)

Birthdate: June 2, 1988

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Manuel Neuer

Manuel Neuer
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Hands down the best goalkeeper in the world, Manuel Neuer exudes confidence in everything he does. Bayern fans were not initially convinced when the club signed him from Schalke in 2011, but few doubters inhabit the Allianz Arena these days. Neuer is superb in one-on-one situations and capable of stunning reflex saves. He is also technically skilled and boasts excellent distribution. Neuer led his German national team to the 2014 World Cup title over Argentina.

Teams: Germany, F.C. Bayern Munich

Position: Goalkeeper

Team number: 1 (both teams)

Birthdate: March 27, 1986

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Gareth Bale

Gareth Bale Wales
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Gareth Bale, the Welsh attacker, is a supreme dribbler who boasts the speed and skill required to beat multiple opponents. Bale is also a great finisher and capable of scoring consistently from a long range. His performance in the 2016 UEFA Champions League title game against Atlético Madrid was a career standout, as was his goal against Barcelona in the 2014 Copa del Rey final.

Teams: Wales, Real Madrid

Position: Midfield/Forward (Wales), Forward (Real Madrid)

Team number: 11 (both teams)

Birthdate: July 16, 1989

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Andres Iniesta

Andres Iniesta Spain
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Soccer fans of all stripes agree that Andres Iniesta is one of the classiest midfielders in the game. His short, eye-of-the-needle passes can pierce holes in even the most stubborn of rearguards. Iniesta is also very modest, never creating problems for his coaches. He scored the winning goal in the 2010 World Cup final against the Netherlands and helped Barcelona to two trebles in 2009 and 2015.

Teams: Spain, F.C. Barcelona

Position: Midfielder

Team number: 6 (Spain), 8 (Barcelona)

Birthdate: May 11, 1984

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Zlatan Ibrahimovic Manchester United l
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Expect the unexpected from the mercurial Swede. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is perhaps the moodiest player in world soccer, but completely unplayable when he is on his game. Just witness his stunning overhead kick against England in 2012. "Ibra," as fans call him, has won league titles in Holland, Italy, Spain, and France with six different clubs and is something of a lucky charm for those willing to invest in his considerable talents. One of Sweden's top stars, he has won that nation's Golden Ball award for the best soccer player a record 11 times.

Teams: Sweden, Manchester United F.C.

Position: Forward

Team number: 10 (Sweden), 9 (Manchester United)

Birthdate: October 3, 1981

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Arjen Robben

Arjen Robben
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This winger further enhanced his glowing reputation with some impressive showings for Holland at the 2014 World Cup. Robben's deadly combination of speed and trickery is a nightmare for defenders, enabling him to score more goals than the average winger. Robben has been at the top of the game for 10 years, having had stints with Chelsea, Real Madrid, and Bayern Munich. Injuries held him back in the 2015–16 and 2016–17 seasons, but he re-signed for the 2017–18 season with Bayern Munich.

Teams: Holland, Bayern Munich

Position: Forward (Holland), Midfielder (Bayern Munich)

Team number: 10 (both teams)

Birthdate: January 23, 1984