it’s time to look at the country who popularized football and see who are the best English football players of all time?
English football has a long and rich history as it is the oldest there is in world football. Over the years football has seen many great English players that have played in the English top flight or have even plied their trade overseas to test their luck in foreign leagues. So we thought it would be a great idea to compile a list of best English football players of all time and see what they did during their career to deserve that title.
These greatest English footballers of all time have been mainly chosen because of the influence they had on English football or even football in general. Obviously it was extremely tough to choose who to put on the list and we ended up excluding players like Peter Shilton and David Beckham but rest assured that those who made the list of best English footballers of all time totally deserved it. So now let’s find out who made the list.
We decided not to rank any of these greatest English footballers of all time as they are from different eras of football history and the game has changed so much over the years that these eras are not really comparable, but let’s see who made the list:
The English top-flight’s all-time highest goal scorer with 357 goals and the 1966 World Cup winner is the Tottenham and Chelsea legend, Jimmy Greaves. He is certainly one of the best English football players of all time because of his impressive goal scoring record and the fact that he was one of the players that was part of arguably the best England national team ever in the 1960s. Jimmy was a non-stop goal scoring machine the likes of which is rarely seen in European football. In fact, he is one of the more underrated players amongst our list of best English footballers of all time, but let’s change that and take a look at his career.
Greaves was a product of Chelsea youth academy and he found his way to the first team in 1957. Greaves, who was only 17 at the time, immediately made an impact and scored 22 goals. He went on to play at Chelsea 4 years, always scoring more than 30 goals a season. His last season at Chelsea was his career best where he scored 41 goals in 40 matches. After that he joined AC Milan to test his luck overseas and although he scored in most matches he played in and even won a Serie A title, he did not enjoy his time there and wanted a return to England.
Greaves came back to London in 1961 but this time he went to Tottenham where he became a legend by playing the most important role in one of Tottenham’s few successful periods in their history. With Greaves’ goal-scoring prowess Tottenham managed to win 2 FA Cups and a European Cup Winners’ Cup. Although Greaves failed to win any English top flight titles in his times in either Chelsea or Tottenham.
Jimmy Greaves has been the English top flight top scorer 6 times, more than any other player, and has played a big part in 1962 and 1966 World Cups for England scoring more than 3 goals in each and cementing his name in history as one of the best English football players of all time. although he was usually outshined by players like Bobby Moore and Bobby Charlton and perhaps because of that he is not talked about more often but that doesn’t take anything away from his capabilities and he will undoubtedly be the best English striker of all time.
Premier League’s highest goal scorer is someone that we have talked about before extensively, when we named him one of the best Premier League strikers of all time. Shearer, who is a native of Newcastle, played for 3 clubs during his long career. he started his career at Southampton youth academy and soon found his way to Southampton’s first team when he was only 17 but it wasn’t until he was into his 20s that he made an impression on the bigger clubs.
Finally, in the summer of 1992, both Manchester United and Blackburn Rovers were after him and after a lengthy transfer saga, Shearer agreed to join Blackburn for what was then a world record fee of £15 million. He hit the ground running in Blackburn and managed to score more than 30 goal a season in 3 of 4 seasons he stayed at Blackburn.
In the 1994-95 season, Shearer set a Premier League record, which is yet to be broken, after he scored 34 goals in a single season which helped Blackburn achieve a dream in winning the Premier League that season. Shearer scored another 30+ goals in the following season before leaving to join his childhood club Newcastle United in 1996. Although injuries hampered some of his seasons at Newcastle, Alan Shearer never lost his consistency when he was fit.
He has won the Premier League Golden Boot 3 times and were placed third for both Ballon d’Or and FIFA Player of the Year award in 1996 as well as winning the European Golden Boot that same year. Shearer represented England 63 times and he scored 30 goals. in the Premier League, with 260 goals in 441 Premier League games, he is the competition’s highest goal scorer and it’s doubtful that anyone would break his record and that’s why he is one of the best English players in football history.
You Might Also Like: Best Strikers in Premier League History
Super Frankie is possibly one of the best central midfielders of the last 25 years. His hunger for success and his ability to score goals as well as creating them, made him one of the most dangerous players of his generation and it’s the reason why he is considered to be one of the best English football players of all time. He is a club icon at Chelsea where he is managing right now, but his playing days didn’t start there as he was a West Ham United player before that.
He spent 6 seasons there and played 148 games for West Ham before joining Chelsea in 2001. At Chelsea, where he spent 13 seasons, Lampard took his game to the next level and alongside John Terry became the English core of Chelsea. Lampard led Chelsea to win 4 FA Cups, 3 Premier League titles, 1 Europa League and 1 Champions League trophy. He won multiple individual awards and came very close to winning the Ballon d’Or in 2005 by being placed 2nd.
Lampard’s skills as a midfielder were very diverse as he could play in several midfield roles but at Chelsea he mainly played as an attacking midfielder. His incredible ability to score goals as a midfielder is second to none in the history of football and it has helped him score more than 300 goals during his career for club and country, which is a number that even most strikers dream of achieving, especially at the level that he played in.
Frank Lampard is certainly one of the greatest players of the Premier League era as he has helped turn Chelsea from a relatively small club to a great club it is today. He represented England in 106 games and scored 29 goals for them. As one of the best English soccer players of all time, Lampard will certainly be a role model for English youngsters for generations to come and his legacy at Chelsea will never be forgotten.
The only goalkeeper amongst our list of best English football players of all time is the legendary Gordon Banks. The Leicester City and Stoke City icon is regarded by many to be one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time. Banks who was named FIFA Goalkeeper of the Year 6 times, would inspire many generations of goalkeepers in England to follow in his footsteps, but none of them truly surpassed him.
Banks was an athletic goalkeeper capable of the most fantastic saves which happened mainly because of his instinctiveness. His save against Pele’s header in the 1970 World Cup is an example of that. He also had a great positional sense which according to him was one of his best assets as a goalkeeper and like many great goalkeepers he had a great composure and mental strength to his playing which helped him be decisive in goal.
You Might Also Like: Most Clean Sheets in Premier League History
Banks didn’t achieve many honors in his club career as he only won 2 League Cup trophies (1 with Leicester City and 1 with Stoke City), but he was England’s goalkeeper when they won the World Cup in 1966 which has cemented his legendary status as one of the best English football players of all time.
You might know him as the Match of the Day host but Lineker was a great player way before he became a TV presenter. In fact, he is one of the greatest English strikers who not only excelled in England but he also plied his trade in Spain, at Barcelona, and even managed to win some trophies there. Lineker was also one of England’s national team best players and he is the 3rd highest England goal scorer behind Bobby Charlton and Wayne Rooney. But where did his career start?!
Well, Lineker started his career in the lower leagues of England, like Leicester’s current striker Jamie Vardy, and he spent several years between the England’s First and Second division as Leicester was constantly being promoted and then subsequently relegated. But Lineker never disappointed as he seemed to score goals in the First Division just as easily as he did in the Second Division, which won him 2 top scorer awards, 1 in each league and that earned him a move to Everton, who were one of the best English teams of that era.
Despite his great season at Everton which saw him score 38 goals in all competition, Lineker didn’t win anything of importance with them but the 1986 World Cup would soon change his career path. Lineker scored 6 goals in the tournament and won the World Cup Golden Boot, the only time an Englishman had won the award until Harry Kane repeated the feat in 2018, and that got Barcelona’s interested in him.
After the World Cup, Lineker joined Barcelona where he enjoyed a couple of seasons, winning the Copa del Rey and Cup Winners’ Cup trophy. After Johan Cruijff took over as the manager of Barcelona Lineker was mainly used out of position which saw him leave Barcelona to join Tottenham after 3 seasons. He won another Golden Boot at Tottenham and he helped them win an FA Cup trophy in 1991.
As one of the best English football players of all time, Lineker represented England 80 times and scored 48 goals for them, which makes his goals-per-game ratio for England really high with 0.6. he is also England’s top scorer in the World Cup with 10 goals and has also been England’s First Division top scorer 3 times as well as being named player of the year in the 1985-86 season. He would later be placed 2nd for the Ballon d’Or trophy that year.
You Might Also Like: Best Serie A Strikers of All Time
Wayn Rooney is the greatest Manchester United forward of the Premier League era and one of the greatest players in club’s history. He is another United player among the best ever England soccer players but he started his career at Everton where became one of the youngest ever goal scorers in the Premier League history in 2002, 5 days before his 17th birthday.
After agreeing to join United in 2004 for a sum of £25.6m Rooney went on to feature for the Red Devils for 13 seasons where he scored 253 times in 559 games and became their top goal scorer of all time. He also became the 2nd highest goal scorer in Premier League history by 208 goals, just behind Alan Shearer.
Wayne Rooney was not a complete forward but rather a supportive forward who usually played behind a classic number 9 player and this allowed him to contribute to team’s success by scoring goals and making assists. He was tireless on the pitch, always running to make an impact on the pitch and he had a powerful shot that was second to none, which made him be able to score spectacular goals from time to time.
In his time at Manchester United Wayne Rooney won 5 Premier League titles, 3 League Cup trophies, 1 Champions League, 1 Europa League and an FA Cup trophy. He was also named in the Premier League team of the of the season on 3 separate occasions. Rooney is also England’s top goal scorer as he has scored 53 goals in his 120 appearances for England and because of his achievements on both team level and individual level he certainly deserves a spot on our list of best English football players of all time.
Bobby Moore is undoubtedly one of the greatest defenders of all time and an English icon. A great leader who captained England to their solitary World Cup victory in 1966 and therefore wrote his name in the history of football. Moore who captained West Ham for many years during his career is regarded as their best ever play and even helped them win a couple of trophies. The club even retired his number 6 shirt 15 years after his passing in 2008.
Moore who was made captain of England in 1964, only being 23 years old at the time, was a composed central defender who utilized his excellent reading of the game rather than being a hard tackling defender. He was praised by many to be one of the greatest defenders ever, with Pele in particular calling him “the best defender he ever faced” and Franz Beckenbauer who called him “the best defender in the history of the game”.
You Might Also Like: Best Left Backs Ever in the World
At the club level, Moore helped West Ham United win an FA Cup in 1963-64 season and he also captained them to a European Cup Winners’ Cup win the following season. But it was in England’s national team that he shined and became one of the best English football players of all time as he captained the greatest ever England side to win the World Cup trophy on home soil in 1966 and then helped them to their 3rd place finish in the following Euro 1968.
No matter what any other English player does, no one will be able to get one over Bobby Moore as he is the only English captain that held the World Cup trophy and that will be his unforgettable legacy.
There is hardly anything in European football that Paul Scholes hasn’t won. the Manchester United Legend is the most decorated English player of all time and totally deserves to be called one of the greatest English footballers of all time. Paul Scholes is one of those rare one-club players who played for Manchester United for the entirety of his career, being part of their famed Class of 92 youth team.
Scholesy, alongside players like Beckham, Neville and Butt, broke into the first team of Manchester United and under the management of Sir Alex Ferguson was able to achieve great success where he won an astonishing amount of 11 Premier League titles, as well as 3 FA Cups and 2 Champions League titles. one of those Champions League titles was in the famous Treble winning 1999 season in which Scholes played a big role in.
Paul Scholes was the image of an English midfielder, hard working on the pitch and able to do a bit of everything. His composure on the ball was second to none as he always seemed in control. He was once described by Xavi as one of the best central midfielders he had seen in the past 2 decades which is high praise coming from someone who himself is called one of the best midfielders ever.
Paul Scholes appeared in 499 Premier League matches and by scoring 107 goals and assisting 55 more, picking up 11 EPL winner’s medal and cementing his place as one of the best English footballers of all time. Although his time with England’s national team was short as he appeared only in 66 games, he did manage to score 14 goals, including a hat-trick for them. Nonetheless, Paul Scholes has left a legacy of success that will be extremely hard for any English player to imitate and that’s why he is one of the best English players in football history.
You Might Also Like: Most Successful Premier League Clubs
We previously named Stevie G in our list of best Premier League midfielders of all time and now he is also on our list of best English football players of all time. Gerrard, who spent most of his career at Liverpool, was arguably one of the greatest midfielders of all time. What made Gerrard a cut above the rest of good midfielders of his generation was the fact that he was a great leader, a general, who acted like one too as he pulled his team out of trouble in many important games which we’ll mention some later.
Gerrard, who is a product of Liverpool academy, spent 17 seasons at Liverpool before leaving for America where he played for LA Galaxy for a season before retiring from football in 2016. Although Liverpool did not achieve any success in the Premier League at the time that Gerrard played for them, they were able to be very successful in cup and European competitions.
Gerrard helped Liverpool reach 3 European Finals, 2 of which they won, with the 2005 Champions League final being one of the most famous of the competition where after going 3-0 down against AC Milan in the first half, Gerrard helped them draw 3-3 in the second half by scoring a goal and getting a penalty and all in all controlling the game. Liverpool won the Champions League in the penalties that year and Gerrard repeated a similar feat the season after in an FA Cup final where he scored 2 goals to help make 3-0 to 3-3 and again score a penalty to help Liverpool win the trophy.
Such was the leadership skills of Gerrard which along the skills and attributes he had on the pitch made him an absolute powerhouse and one of the best English players in football history. Gerrard made 504 Premier League appearances, scoring 120 goals and assisting 92 more. He won 3 League Cups, 2 FA Cups, 1 UEFA Cup and 1 Champions League with Liverpool. He helped them reach another Champions League final in 2007 which they lost.
Steven Gerrard also had a long career with England as he represented his country 114 times and scored 21 goals in those games. Even though he didn’t win anything with England, for his amazing club achievements and dedication to the England national side he will undoubtedly be one of the greatest English footballers of all time.
You Might Also Like: Best Premier League Midfielders of All Time
The only Ballon d’Or winner on our list is the Manchester United legend and the 1966 World Cup winner Sir Bobby Charlton. There have been a number of midfielder on our list of greatest English footballers of all time but the man that inspired all of them is Bobby Charlton or as United fans call him, Captain Marvel. Charlton is considered to be one of the greatest football players ever as he has won everything there is with club and country.
Sir Bobby Charlton who was a survivor of the Munich air disaster, where the majority of Manchester United team were tragically killed in a plane crash, would help the team rebuild after the incident, under the guidance of Sir Matt Busby. Although he won the league in his first season at the club in 1956-57 season, because of the incident and the decline of the club which followed it, it wasn’t until the mid-60s that he won another league title.
Charlton was another one of those great English players during the 60s who achieved unprecedented success with Charlton in particular being the star player of that era as his goals and assists helped England win the World Cup in 1966 and helped him win the Golden Ball of the tournament. He also won the prestigious Ballon d’Or trophy later that year.
At the club level, Charlton represented Manchester United for most of his career and is regarded to be their greatest ever player. He was both England and Manchester United’s top goal scorer, with 249 and 49 respectively, before he was overtaken by Wayne Rooney in both accounts. Charlton became the first English captain to win the European Cup (now called Champions League) in 1968 and he also won 3 leagues as well as 1 FA Cup with Manchester United. He will undoubtedly be one of the best English players in football history if not the best.