Best soccer players in 21st century⚽🥇
Another decade with many ups & downs and many memories in different fields to be remembered forever. The soccer world hasn’t been different as well and has brought us many joyful moments and many shiny stars not to be forgotten.
Stars who have created mesmerizing moments that may still make us jump out of our skins when we think about them. Moments like Barcelona’s 6-0 win over Real Madrid in 2009 or Germany’s 7-1 win over Brazil in 2014.
Time to name a few of these stars. We also have to mention that it is somehow impossible to make a list of all the stars in this world, as there are many of those unforgettable names. Therefore, this is just a list of the ones we can remember at the moment.
Here are the best footballers in the 21st century:
20. Steven Gerrard
He is known as one of the greatest midfielders of all time, being awarded the UEFA Club Footballer of the Year award in 2005, and the Ballon d'Or Bronze Award. It is interesting to know that in 2009, Zinedine Zidane and Pelé said that they considered Gerrard to be the best footballer in the world.
Titles & Achievements: Footballer of the year in 2009, Champions League winner in 2004/05, English FA Cup winner in 2001 and 2006, 3 times English League Cup winner, UEFA Cup winner in 2000/2001, Footballer of the year in 2009, 2006 UEFA Club Footballer of the Year, and the Ballon d'Or Bronze Award winner.
19. Javier Zanetti
The 46-year-old former Inter Milan captain is one of the most beloved footballers in not only Italy but also the whole world of football.
Titles & Achievements: Zanetti was the Champions League winner in 2009-10, 5 times Italian Champion, 4 times Italian Cup winner, 4 times Italian Super Cup winner, 2010 FIFA Club World Cup, 2016 Globe Soccer Player Career Award winner, 2018 Italian Football Hall of Fame winner, and UEFA Cup Winner in 1997/98.
18. Francesco Totti
Known as The Golden Boy, The Eighth King of Rome, The Big Baby, The Captain, and The Gladiator, Totti is famous for his technique, and goalscoring ability and is considered as one of the greatest Italian players of all time, one of the best players of his generation, and Roma's greatest ever player.
Titles & Achievements: World Cup winner in 2006, Serie A title winner in 2000/01, Serie A Young Footballer of the Year in 1999, UEFA Euro 2000 Final Man of the Match, Serie A Footballer of the Year in 2000 & 2003, 5 times Serie A Italian Footballer of the Year, Serie A Goal of the Year in 2005 & 2006, 2006 European Golden Shoe winner, 2010 Golden Foot winner, 2017 UEFA President's Award and many more.
17. Iker Casillas
Casillas is one of the best goalkeepers of all time with no doubts. The 38-year-old is mostly famous for his quick reactions and spectacular saves. He experienced his best professional days at Real Madrid where he won many awards including five La Liga titles, three UEFA Champions League titles and the FIFA Club World Cup.
Titles & Achievements: 2010 World Cup winner, 2 times European Champion, 3 times Champions League winner, five La Liga titles,2014 & 2015 FIFA Club World Cup winner, and 2 times UEFA Supercup winner.
16. Oliver Kahn
Oliver Kahn who is known as “Der Titan” and “Vol-Kahn-o” is one of the most well-known German goalkeepers, best known for his time in Bayern Munich. He guarded Bayern Munich net from 1994 till 2008 and conceded 632 goals during this period.
Titles & Achievements: Player of the year in 2001/2002, FIFA World Cup Golden Ball winner in 2002, two times Footballer of the Year trophy winner, 8 times German Champion, 6 times German Cup winner, UEFA Cup Winner in 1995/96, intercontinental cup winner in 2001, and 6 times German League Cup winner. It also has to be mentioned that he became the only goalkeeper in history to win the Golden Ball.
15. David Beckham
The 44-year-old all-time star, who was known for his range of passing, crossing ability and bending free kicks, is the first English player to win league titles in four countries: England, Spain, the United States, and France. His most important years as a player belongs to the time he kicked the ball for Manchester United, Real Madrid, & LA Galaxy. It also has to be mentioned that David Beckham was the first British footballer to play 100 UEFA Champions League games.
Titles & Achievements: Six time Premier League title winner, the FA Cup winner foe two times, 1999 UEFA Champions League winner, La Liga title winner in 2006/07, Ballon d'Or Runner-up in 1999, FIFA World Player of the Year, Silver Award winner in 1999 & 2001, three times Premier League top assist provider, England Player of the Year in 2003, UEFA Club Footballer of the Year in 1998/99, 2018 UEFA President's Award & many more.
14. Gianluigi Buffon
He definitely is one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time and the best in Juventus. In fact, no goalkeeper has ever been better for longer than Gianluigi Buffon. Buffon holds the record for the longest streak without conceding a goal in Serie A history.
Titles & Achievements: 2006 Ballon d'Or runner-up, 2006 FIFA World Cup, 12 times Serie A Goalkeeper of the Year, two times UEFA Club Goalkeeper of the Year, 2002/03 UEFA Club Footballer of the Year, 2017 footballer of the year, 2018/19 French Champion, two-time Pallone Azzurro, 2016/17 Serie A Footballer of the Year, 11 Scudetti, five Coppa Italia titles, one UEFA Cup and many more.
13. Paul Scholes
The former Midfielder spent his entire professional playing life with Manchester United and made 718 appearances, which is the third-highest number of appearances by any player for the club. He also kicked the ball for England national team from 1997 to 2004 and had a key role in the 1998 and 2002 World Cups, as well as the UEFA Euro 2000 and Euro 2004 tournaments. Considering all these honors, Scholes is regarded as one of the best football players in his generation.
Titles & Achievements: 11 times English Champion, 2 times Champions League winner, 4 times English FA Cup winner, 3 times English League Cup winner, FIFA Club World Cup winner in 2009, and 5 times English Super Cup winner.
12. Ricardo Kaka
Kaká is one of the best players of all time and he is also one of the eight players to have won the FIFA World Cup, the UEFA Champions League and the Ballon d'Or. A complete symbol of an attacking midfielder with rare combination of physical prowess and unbelievable technical ability!
Titles & Achievements: 2007 Ballon d'Or, 2007 FIFA World Player of the Year, two times Confederations Cup winner, two times Serie A Footballer of the Year, two times “Time 100 list member”, 2002 FIFA World Cup, one Scudetti, UEFA Super Cup winner, one UEFA Champions League, one La Liga, and one Copa del Rey.
11. Andriy Shevchenko
The current Ukraine manager is the former player of Dynamo Kyiv, Milan, & Chelsea. Andriy Shevchenko is ranked as the fifth top goalscorer in all European competitions with 67 goals and also the all-time top scorer for the Ukrainian national team with 48 goals.
Titles & Achievements: 2004 Ballon d'Or winner, 2004 FIFA World Player of the Year Bronze award winner, 2002/03 Champions League winner, 2002/03 Italian Cup winner, 5 times Ukrainian Champion, 2002/03 UEFA Supercup winner, and UEFA Champions League Top Scorer for 2 times.
10. Fabio Cannavaro
Known as "Il Muro di Berlino" due to his defensive performances, the center-back brought many honors for the teams he played at, specially for Juventus and Real Madrid. Cannavaro also did the same in Italy national team as he led them to victory in the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany as the team captain.
Titles & Achievements: The best FIFA men’s player in 2006, Ballon d'Or winner in 2006, World Cup winner in 2006, 2 La Liga titles, UEFA Cup winner in 1998/99, UEFA Euro Team of the Tournament in 2000, FIFA World Cup Silver Ball in 2006, & World Soccer Player of the Year in 2006.
9. Luís Figo
He is mostly known for his creativity and ability to get past defenders as a winger and known as one of the bests in his generation. It is interesting to know that Figo's 106 assists are the second-most in La Liga history, behind Lionel Messi. Pelé named him in the FIFA 100 list of the world's greatest living players in 2004.
Titles & Achievements: The best FIFA Men’s Player in 2001, 2000 Ballon D’or winner, Champions League Winner in 2001/02, 4 times Spanish Champion, 2 times Spanish Cup Winner, 4 time Italian Champion, Portuguese Cup winner in 1995, and 2 times UEFA Supercup winner.
8. Thierry Henry
The 42-year-old French football coach is one of the names mostly remembered by his fabulous performance as an Arsenal star. Thierry Henry was the player who scored 228 goals in all competitions for Arsenal and received the Premier League Golden Boot a record four times.
Titles & Achievements: Two FA Cup, runner-up for the FIFA World Player of the Year in 2003 & 2004, PFA Players' Player of the Year for 2 times, three times FWA Footballer of the Year, 2009 FIFA Club World Cup winner, 1998 World Cup winner, 2000 European Champion, 2008/09 Champions League winner, 2012/13 Supporters Shield winner and many more.
7. Xavi Hernandez
He is definitely considered as one of the greatest central midfielders of all time. You must also know that many believe that he is the greatest Spanish player ever. Interestingly, Xavi has won 31 trophies for Barcelona and Spain, a total only surpassed by Andrés Iniesta as the most decorated Spanish player in history.
Titles & Achievements: 2010 FIFA World Cup, 2008 & 2012 UEFA European Championship, 2008 UEFA European Championship Player of the Tournament, 2005 La Liga Spanish Player of the Year, four times UEFA Champions League winner, eight times Spanish Champion, three Copa del Rey, Eight Spanish Super Cup winner, 2 times FIFA Club World Cup winner, and 2 times UEFA Supercup winner.
6. Andres Iniesta
The current Vissel Kobe central midfielder is definitely one of the best players of his generation and one of the greatest midfielders of all time. Iniesta in the name to come up with all the honors in soccer world. The 35-year-old had a key role in the Barcelona sides that won two historic trebles in 2009 and 2015. He also has achieved 35 trophies, including nine La Ligas and four UEFA Champions League titles.
Titles & Achievements: 2010 FIFA World Cup, 2008 & 2012 UEFA European Championships, four UEFA Champions Leagues, nine La Liga titles, six Copa del Rey, 3 FIFA Club World Cup, 2012 UEFA Men's Player of the Year Award, 2009 La Liga Best Spanish Player, FIFA Ballon d'Or 2nd place in 2010 and also 3rd Place in 2012 and 4th place in 2011, and Golden Foot winner in 2014.
For sure, Ronaldinho is one of the names not to be forgotten forever. The Barcelona ambassador brought honor for any team he kicked the ball for, including PSG, Barcelona, A.C. Milan & Flamengo. With the all-time smile on his face and his brilliant technique, he was the player to add joy and beauty to soccer.
Titles & Achievements: 2005 Ballon d'Or, 2004 & 2005 FIFA World Player of the Year, 2005 UEFA Club Forward of the Year, 2005 & 2006 FIFPro World Player of the Year, 2006 UEFA Club Footballer of the Year, two La Liga titles, one Scudetto, 2009 Golden foot, and 2004 & 2005 World soccer player of the year.
4. Ronaldo Nazário
The all-time football star is known for his dribbling at speed, feints, and clinical finishing and that’s why Ronaldo is considered as one of the greatest players of all time.
Titles & Achievements: 2 times Ballon d'Or winner, three times FIFA World Player of the Year, 1998 FIFA World Cup Golden Ball, 2002 FIFA World Cup Golden Shoe, 1994 & 2002 FIFA World Cup, 1996/97 European Golden Shoe, two times Copa America winner, two-time Pichichi winner, 1998 Serie A Footballer of the Year, two La Liga titles, one Copa del Rey, one KNVB Cup, one UEFA Cup, one Intercontinental Cup, Serie A Footballer of the Year in 1998, UEFA Club Footballer of the Year in 1997/98 & many more.
3. Zinedine Zidane
The current Real Madrid coach has always been one of the most beloved players in soccer world. The 47-year-old has been marked by his elegance, passing, ball control, and technique and is regarded as one of the greatest players of all time. Zizou has made us many unforgettable moments in football history including his left-foot volley in the 2002 UEFA Champions League Final, which is considered as one of the greatest goals in history
Titles & Achievements: Ballon d'Or winner in 1998, three times FIFA World Player of the Year, 2002 UEFA Club Footballer of the Year, UEFA Champions League Best Player of the Past 20 Years, 2000/01 Serie A Footballer of the Year, 2006 FIFA World Cup Golden Ball, the only player to be named “Player of the Year” in three of the top five leagues, 1998 FIFA World Cup, 2000 UEFA European Championships, 1999 World Soccer's Selection of the 100 Greatest Footballers of the 20th century, Ballon d'Or Silver award in 2000, UEFA European Championship Player of the Tournament in 2000, and many many more awards.
2. Cristiano Ronaldo
CR7 is the player to win almost every possible honor in football’s world and for sure one of the best players of his generation. Currently, he kicks the ball as a forward for Serie A club Juventus and also captains the Portugal national team. The 34-year-old has won 29 trophies in his career, including five Ballons d'Or and four European Golden Shoes.
Titles & Achievements: Four times Ballon d'Or winner, FIFA World Player of the Year in 2009, European Golden Shoe winner for three times, the Best FIFA Men’s player in 2017, Premier League Player of the season in 2006 & 2007, 3 times UEFA Best Player in Europe Award, two times PFA Players' Player of the Year, 2013/14 La Liga Best Player, 2016 FIFA Club World Cup Golden Ball, 2007/08 UEFA Club Forward of the Year, 2004, 2012, 2016 UEFA European Championship Team of the Tournament, 2016 UEFA European Championship Silver Boot and many more.
1. Lionel Messi
And here is the first player on our list. Leo Messi is the best in the 21st century with no doubt. The player to win six Ballon d'Or awards, & six European Golden Shoes. Just hearing his name in the squad will make the opponent players nervous and that is why he is considered as the best player in the world and widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time.
Titles & Achievements: 6 times Ballon d'Or winner, 2009 FIFA World Player of the Year, Barcelona all-time top goalscorer, Argentina's all-time top goalscorer, La Liga all-time top goalscorer, six-time Pichichi winner, most goals scored in a calendar year, FIFA Club World Cup Silver Ball in 2015, 2011 & 2015 UEFA Men's Player of the Year, seven-time La Liga Player of the Year, 2014 FIFA World Cup Golden Ball, 2005 Young European Footballer of the Year, 2009 UEFA Club Footballer of the Year, five-time European Golden Shoe winner, four Champions Leagues, nine La Liga titles, six Copa del Rey & many more awards.
Who do you think is missing on the list? Put your comment in the comment section.