Top footballers who have been knighted

Thu 03 June 2021 | 7:30

Wouldn’t it be cool to be given the title of knighthood or damehood? Well, we have put together a list of football personalities with British honours, who have made history as either club or national team legends in the UK or even outside the country.

Who wouldn’t want to receive one of the highest honors possible in the UK directly from her majesty the Queen the United Kingdom herself? It would definitely be cool to be awarded knighthood and be called with the official title of Sir/Lady by everyone.

While such a title was only given to men for their chivalric acts during the middle ages, this award is now given only to men and women who have made a remarkable contribution to their nation and their own field of expertise, which is why the title is up for grabs for anyone willing to work hard enough to become a pride of the UK. With association football being introduced to the world by the United Kingdom, it would only be reasonable to see many footballing icons and legends receive such a high honor for their long-term services to their nation.

There are many

footballers who have been knighted

over the years throughout Queen Elizabeth II’s reign over Britain, with even football managers having their own place alongside these footballing icons. Surely almost all football fans have heard the name “Sir Alex Ferguson”, the Scottish genius who brought about the golden age of Manchester United throughout his career managing the Red Devils.

This list of football personalities with British honours is full of such geniuses who served their nation in the best and most effective way possible. Let’s see who else is on our shortlist, as we can’t possibly name all of those who have received this title over the years.

List of footballers who received knighthood titles

There are five different levels of Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, which includes the Member (MBE), the Officer (OBE), the Commander (CBE), the Knight or Dame (KBE/DBE) and finally the Knight Grand Cross of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (GBE). But we will not cause further confusion by distinctly going into detail about each and every one of these titles. So without further ado, follow us below as we name some of the top

footballers who have been knighted


Kenny Dalglish

On the list of

footballers who have been knighted

, one can clearly see the name of Liverpool legend Sir Kenny Dalglish, who is a part of both


’s and the United Kingdom’s history. Born in Dalmarnock, Scotland, Dalglish set foot on a long journey of success with Celtic way back in 1971. Having risen up through the ranks as a


graduate, the youngster went on to conquer Scotland domestically by winning four Scottish leagues, four Scottish Cups and the League Cup throughout his career at the club.

With more than 100 goals to his name in 200 appearances, the immensely versatile striker caught the attention of then Liverpool manager Bob Paisley, who was more than willing to pay a British transfer record of £440,000 to sign the young striker from Celtic. While his years at Celtic were undoubtedly illustrious and full of trophies, it was only after his record-breaking move to Liverpool that Dalglish set foot onto the footballing halls of fame. Of course he was already a Scotland international by then, but Liverpool was where his career peaked.

The former Celtic striker went on to make a total of 497 appearances for the Reds, scoring 161 goals and providing 74 assists in the process, helping his club win three European Champion Clubs’ Cups, a record of eight English league titles, four FA Cups, four English League Cups, the UEFA Supercup and seven Charity Shields. Such achievements were enough to make Dalglish a club legend, but he also went on to manage Liverpool on two occasions, once from 1985 to 1991 and again in the 2011-12 season, further adding numerous trophies and titles to the club’s trophy cabinet.

Sir Kenneth Mathieson Dalglish was added to the list of footballers who received knighthood in 2018 for his services to football and the City of Liverpool after being appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire in the 1985 New Year Honours.

Trevor Brooking

One can’t possibly argue that the former midfielder Sir Trevor Brooking is not a

West Ham United

legend, as he spent almost all of his career with The Hammers from 1966 to 1984. The Englishman started his career having earned a call-up to West Ham’s senior squad from the club’s U18 side back in 1967.

He played as an attacking midfielder most of the times as he was able to play a role of authority in the midfield with his controlled passing. The England international went on to make a total of 647 appearances for West Ham, scoring more than 85 goals in the process as well, while also helping his club win two FA Cups, once in 1975 and again in 1980. He also graced the pitch wearing England’s jersey from 1947 to 1982, when he made 47 international appearances and even scored five goals for his nation.

While one might think that Sir Trevor Brooking was mostly famous in the UK as he played at West Ham, he did get to immortalize himself as a co-commentator alongside Peter Brackley in Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer video game series, in which he took part until the sixth version of the series. With such a legendary status at West Ham, the club’s board decided to name a stand at Upton Park after Sir Trevor Brooking in 2009.

Before being added to the list of

footballers who received knighthood

, Brooking was appointed an MBE in 1981, further earning the title of CBE eleven years later. It was only in 2004 that Sir Trevor Brooking earned the title of Knight Bachelor after being knighted by the Queen of England for his Services to Sport.

Alf Ramsey

If winning the only World Cup your nation has ever won can’t put you on the list of footballers who have been knighted, then nothing can. Well, thankfully, it did put Sir Alfred “Alf” Ernest Ramsey on this list. Not only did Ramsey win England’s only World Cup, he also won one of the only two English league titles in


’s history after helping them qualify for the Football League First Division in the first place a season prior to their championship.

Even though he also graced the pitch as a


player, Ramsey is usually known as a Tottenham and more importantly England legend, as his success as the nation’s manager overshadows his success as a club player. Sir Alfred Ramsey also served his country in the Second World War after he was assigned to the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry. Of course he didn’t get to serve on foreign duties as he was assigned home defense duties the entire time.

Even though he managed to win the 1966 World Cup with England, everything eventually has its downfall. For Ramsey, it came only a couple of years later after failing to win any other major trophies with England and even failing to qualify for the 1974 World Cup, when the FA decided to sack him on 1 May 1974. There were also rumors about some of the FA officials having personal beefs with the Englishman, which only strengthened their desire to sack the World-Cup-winning manager.

Sir Alfred Ramsey was appointed Knight Bachelor in January 1967 after his World Cup triumph a year prior. He was also the first person to be inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame twice, once as an inaugural inductee in 2002 for the greatest achievement of his life—which was winning the World Cup—and later in 2010 for his illustrious career as a football player.

Bobby Charlton

As one of the most decorated clubs in England and in the world,

Manchester United

have such a rich history, with numerous world-class legends gracing pitch of Old Trafford as United players throughout the years. One such example is Sir Robert “Bobby” Charlton, who is simply a national treasure of both his club and his country. The now 83-year-old was part of the England team managed by Sir Alfred Ramsey, who went on to win the 1966 World Cup.

Even though Bobby Charlton did get to play for several clubs throughout his career, he spent both his youth and his prime at Manchester United, where he won several major trophies. In fact, it was thanks to his efforts that the Red Devils managed to win the European Champion Clubs’ Cup in the 1967-68 season, which made United the first English team to ever win the trophy.

Having been appointed a CBE in January 1974 and an OBE in June 1969, Sir Bobby Charlton was the second footballer to be knighted after he received the title in June 1994 for his services to sport and Association Football in particular. His impact at Manchester United was an even more historic one as he was one of the few survivors of the Munich Air Disaster. It was Harry Gregg who rescued the footballer who later went on to become a club and nationwide legend. He is currently the last survivor of the unfortunate crash.

Alex Ferguson

Sir Alex Ferguson! The man who brought about the golden age of Manchester United, putting the

Premier League

Club on the radar once again as one of the most formidable sides in Europe. The Scot’s name shines almost brighter than anyone on the list of

football personalities with British honours

. The tactical genius is rarely known for his career as a professional footballer, since his illustrious career as a manager easily trumps his early days.

Even though the 79-year-old has also managed a whole array of other teams as well, including


, St Mirren and the Scotland national team, it was during his days at Manchester United that he went on to become a sensational manager and a key figure in the club’s golden age. He won 13 Premier League titles, 2 Champions League trophies, 5 FA Cups, 4 English League Cups, the FIFA Club World Cup, the Intercontinental Cup, the UEFA Super Cup and 10 Community Shields during his tenure at United.

This full trophy cabinet that Ferguson managed to make for himself and his club, earned him two World’s Best Club Coach awards. He was also appointed a CBE and later an OBE for his services to football, being the eighth football manager to ever receive the title of knighthood.

Geoff Hurst

It might seem quite baffling to people from outside of the UK to see two West Ham players on the list of footballers who have been knighted as most foreigners nowadays usually think of

Manchester City

, Manchester United, Liverpool and other top clubs in the Premier League when they think of England, but those in the UK know how many British legends are also a part of West Ham history.

One World Cup earned several Englishmen national awards for their heroism, adding them to the list of footballers who have been knighted. Hurst was one of the key figures behind England’s historic World Cup triumph and to this day, he remains the only footballer to have ever scored a hat-trick in a World Cup final after he scored three brilliant goals in the 4-2 victory over West Germany at Wembley in 1966.

Sir Geoffrey Charles Hurst was appointed the title of knighthood in June 1998 for his services to football, having also been appointed an MBE in June 1979. He is the fourth footballer to be knighted.


What? Pele? A knight? As quite shocking as it may be, it is in fact true that the legendary Brazilian is a knight of the British Empire. Of course the 80-year-old cannot use the title “Sir” before his name as he is not a British citizen and the country’s rules prevent him from doing so. We all know and love Pele, even though many of us weren’t lucky enough to witness his sensational technique during his prime.

One of the most successful players in history, Pele is known for his goal-scoring records and the three historic World Cups that he won with Brazil. The center-forward never got to play in Europe, but still managed to attract a significant amount of attention at

Santos FC

, where he played most of his career from 1957 to 1975. Even though the official stats are often debated upon, Pele made more than 1363 appearances (friendlies included) throughout his career and scored a total of 1279 goals in the process.

His status as a world-class footballer received so much attention that he was appointed an honorary knight in 1997, which is why he is on our list of footballers who have been knighted.

Bobby Robson

The late Sir Robert “Bobby” William Robson is also on the list of footballers who have been knighted. Way before sadly passing away in Sacriston, England in 2009 at age 76, Bobby Robson was



West Bromwich Albion

legend, who went on to have illustrious careers both as a football player and a manager. He started his career at Fulham as one of the club’s academy graduates, joining the big leagues in 1950. He went on to spend six years in his first spell at Fulham, after which he joined West Brom for £20,000 in 1956.

Of course most outside of the UK know Sir Bobby Robson for his managerial career, during which he took charge of many world-class clubs such as


, Porto and PSV Eindhoven. He won league titles everywhere he went and he was even able to win the FA Cup with Ipswich Town in the 1977-78 season. Sir Bobby Robson was appointed a CBE in January 1991 and later received his title of knighthood in June 2002 for his services to Association Football.

Matt Busby

The manager known for raising the Busby Babes, the one who guided Manchester United to the European Cup title, these are only two of the historic achievements of the late Sir Alexander Matthew “Matt” Busby, whose statue shines in front of the Old Trafford stadium in the city of Manchester. It is quite poetic as the man who spent most of his career as a footballer playing for Manchester City and Liverpool, later went on to become of the most legendary managers of Manchester United, which even led to him being recognized more as a Red Devil than a Cityzen.

With his days as a footballer being not so illustrious, he only joined the list of footballers who have been knighted after his continental success as a manager at Manchester United. He only won the 1933-34 FA Cup with Manchester City, but went on to win several league titles, two FA Cup, five Charity Shields and the 1967-68 European Cup as a manager, with the last trophy mentioned earning him the title of knighthood.

These were only some of the footballers and managers who have been knighted by the Queen of the United Kingdom and there are dozens more that we couldn’t fit in this article. Surely more and more Brits will be added to this long list, with many believing that Marcus Rashford might also be on the waiting list to be awarded the honor in the future after being awarded an MBE last year. We can only wait and see who else gets to earn such an honor.




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