UK and Ireland

Alex Chick

  • 1-Lionel Messi
  • 2-Diego Maradona
  • 3-Ronaldo
  • 4-Johan Cruyff
  • 5-Franz Beckenbauer
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Messi is Maradona without the injuries and personal problems. Yes, his stats are helped by more favourable refereeing, pitches and general improvements in professionalism and pastoral care - but we will look back at a player who was the best in the world week after week, year after year, and wonder how on earth it was possible.

Barcelona's Lionel Messi celebrates with the trophy after winning the UEFA Champions League

Image credit: Reuters

Barcelona-era Ronaldo is the most unstoppable player I have ever seen.

Desmond Kane

  • 1-Diego Maradona
  • 2-Lionel Messi
  • 3-Cristiano Ronaldo
  • 4-Zinedine Zidane
  • 5-Pele
Diego Maradona is arguably the greatest player in history because of what he achieved with Argentina at the 1986 World Cup finals.
He inspired Napoli to a first Italian title in 1987 and a second in 1989. Despite being booted up and down pitches in Serie A, Maradona was so single-minded, and determined to win for his team, country and personal pride that he never bothered about the abuse he was subjected to.

Diego Maradona

Image credit: Eurosport

He remains an astonishing figure, a shape-shifting sports hero of the 20th century who is celebrated in Naples like a great Neapolitan artist from centuries gone by, and one of the true hell-raisers that only adds to the legend.
Maradona was a one-off, oozing self-belief with the ability to justify it and simply in a league of his own as a player.

Chris Wheatley

  • 1-Lionel Messi
  • 2-Diego Maradona
  • 3-Pele
  • 4-Cristiano Ronaldo
  • 5. Ronaldinho
625 appearances, 201 assists, 498 goals and counting. Lionel Messi has surpassed his Argentine predecessor Maradona on almost every front except the World Cup.
He glides past players as if they’re not there, provides assists which you wouldn’t think are possible and continues to make history alongside what is arguably the greatest triumvirate to have ever played the game.
For me, it has to be Messi.

Pelé 1970 (Imago)

Image credit: Imago

Marcus Foley

  • 1-Diego Maradona
  • 2-Lionel Messi
  • 3-Ronaldo
  • 4-Johan Cruyff
  • 5-Michael Laudrup
Diego Maradona is the greatest ever footballer despite his, erm, off the pitch interests. Lionel Messi is currently redefining the parameters by which we measure players. Ronaldo was a force of nature who was like nothing we had seen before. Johan Cruyff – more or less spawned a whole new discipline of the game.

Michael Laudrup

Image credit: Imago

Michael Laudrup was outrageously undervalued, a figure who entertained as a kid at the 1986 World Cup. Shame he stayed on holiday at Euro '92.

Dan Quarrell

  • 1- Pele
  • 2-Maradona
  • 3-Messi
  • 4-Ronaldo
  • 5-Beckenbauer
Three World Cups and 1,281 goals in 1363 games (okay, give or take a few!) is pretty good going, particularly considering that Pele played at a time when he was afforded barely any protection from brutal fouls and astonishingly physical marking.
Diego Maradona’s monumental performances on the biggest stage of all at World Cups earn him second spot, at least for now, while Ronaldo’s superhuman showings early in his career demand his inclusion.

Ronaldo Brazil 2002 World Cup

Image credit: PA Sport


Igor Zelenitsyn - Russia

  • 1-Lionel Messi
  • 2-Diego Maradona
  • 3-Pele
  • 4-Johan Cruyff
  • 5. Cristiano Ronaldo
Messi is number one because he owns all imaginable records except may be the 'Who scored the biggest amount of goals in Tomsk in one game' one (but I'm not sure) followed by Maradona because of his goal against England. And because of his other goal against England.

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring a penalty against Atletico Madrid during the Champions League final (Reuters)

Image credit: Eurosport

Pele third because of three World Cups and some spectacular videos on YouTube, obviously. Johan Cruyff because he re-invented the modern game.
Cristiano Ronaldo because in the world without Messi he'd already have won eight Ballon d'Ors in a row.

Florian Bogner – Germany

  • 1-Pele
  • 2-Lionel Messi
  • 3-Franz Beckenbauer
  • 4-Diego Maradona
  • 5-Ronaldo
Pele because he’s considered the greatest of all time. Messi because he’s the best in the years beyond 2000. Beckenbauer because he’s the Kaiser and greatest of all time in Germany. Maradona because he’s Maradona. Ronaldo - the Brazilian one. Best striker ever.

1974 - Franz Beckenbauer

Image credit: Imago

Jorge Ordas - Spain

  • 1-Alfredo Di Stefano
  • 2-Lionel Messi
  • 3-Pele
  • 4-Diego Maradona
  • 5-Johan Cruyff
Di Stefano was the first great player. In a very different moment, with a very different way of playing football, but completely unstoppable.
The end of his career is still far away, but Messi could already be top of the list. Pelé is probably the best player ever, and is a figure that changes football forever from a little bit amateur to a massive professional global show.

Real Madrid's Alfredo Di Stefano, 1956

Image credit: AFP

Diego Maradona is a man who won a World Cup alone and deserves a place in the list.
Cruyff should be celebrated not only as a footballer - he made changes between the era of Pele and Maradona - but as a coach. Everything he ‘touched’ turned to gold with Ajax, Netherlands and Barcelona.

Cruyff in the number 14 shirt

Image credit: Imago

Laurent Vergne – France

  • 1-Pele
  • 2-Diego Maradona
  • 3-Johan Cruyff
  • 4-Lionel Messi
  • 5-Michel Platini
Pelé is first because he is the only player with three World Cup victories. More than a player. He is the greatest figure of the greatest team at the 1970 World Cup in Brazil. Maradona would be second. I have never seen a player so decisive in a World Cup.
Mexico 1986 = Maradona. And he made some things happen on a pitch I've never seen since - I'm not talking about scoring with your hand. Johan Cruyff is an iconic player of a revolutionary football. He changed the game forever.
Messi is the greatest player of this century. Yes, no World cup and not legendary performance in the World Cup hurts a bit, but he's so special. Michal Platini was a great goalscorer and an awesome creator. His nine goals (with two hat-tricks) in five games in Euro 1984 set probably the greatest performance ever in a truly great competition in France. The first three are above the rest of the universe.

Michel Platini Sampdoria Juventus 1982 Imago

Image credit: Imago

Mattia Fontana – Italy

  • 1-Diego Maradona
  • 2-Pele
  • 3-Johan Cruyff
  • 4-Alfredo Di Stefano
  • 5-Lionel Messi
Maradona the last player who was able to win everything alone. Di Stefano is the first innovative and total player. Pele was the most complete player ever. Cruyff was the revolutionary of football. Messi is the player of the future who could yet go further up the list.

maradona hand of god

Image credit: Eurosport

Results of our poll

  • 1-Lionel Messi - three votes for first
  • 1-Pele - three votes for first
  • 1-Diego Maradona - three votes for first
  • 4-Alfredo Di Stefano - one vote for first
  • 5- Johan Cruyff - two votes for third

Pele Messi

Image credit: Eurosport

Out of 10 votes, only Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona were named in every top five list.

pele messi maradona

Image credit: Eurosport

Pele was included in eight out of 10, but shares top place with Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi having each earned three first place votes.

Do you agree with our results? Who would you include in your top five? Let us know.

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