50 Best International Players of All Time
There are so many different ways you could label the greatest international players of all time.
One could classify them based on their goals total, others on their assists total. There again you could base it on the amount of trophies that a player has been a participant in winning for their country.
Still there are more important things that winning, not to say it is not the reason one plays at the international level, but what makes a great player such is his affect on his team.
Does a player bring to the table the intangibles that make him great as well as those around him, does one lift his team to a different level.
Those are the factors that make a player the greatest best in the world. With so many decades and eras worth of quality players the task of deciding the 50 greatest of all time is a herculean one.
Knowing there will be much debate, get to the list and start the discussion below.
All statistics were collected from FIFA.com.
Miroslav Klose is the second all-time leading scorer for the German national team, and is close to surpassing German legend Gerd Muller. The striker is the only player to ever have scored four or more goals in three World Cups.
Nicknamed "The King," Iranian striker Ali Daei is the highest scoring international player in history. His only diminishing factor as the greatest goalscorer is due to the lower level of competition that the AFC (Asian Football Confederation) offers.
Honors: 1968 Olympic Tournament Golden Boot, 1968 Bronze Medal
Japanese striker Kunishige Kamamoto is the highest scoring Japanese international of all time and is head and shoulders above the current crop of players that perhaps dream of his national team goals.
Unfortunately though, Kamamoto never had his skill tested in a World Cup.
Nationality: Ivory Coast
Didier Drogba has had a prolific career on the international stage for his country and it is unfortunate that with the level of talent that the Ivory Coast have had, they have not lived up to expectations this recent decade.
One interesting fact about Drogba is that in the 2010 World Cup, he became the first African player to score against Brazil in a World Cup match.
Nationality: Republic of Ireland
Honors: 1998 UEFA U19 World Cup, 2011 Nations Cup
If there is a player from the modern era that "is" the Irish national team, it is their captain and talisman, Robbie Keane. The now 32-year-old continues to lead the line for his nation as he has for the better part of the past 15 years.
He is the second most capped player in his nation's history and has more that double the goal haul than the second most scoring player behind him in the team's history.
Honors: 2008 UEFA European Championship, 2010 World Cup
David Villa has had the honor of playing with some of the best Spanish players in the history of the game and his potency in front of goal has only been that much more effective because of the team around him.
He has the ability to score brilliant goals when they are the most needed and equally can set them up as well.
Honors: 1998 World Cup, 2000 UEFA European Championship, 2003 Confederations Cup
Thierry Henry has been the second most capped player all time for his nation and is the highest ever goal scorer. Much like Ireland's Robbie Keane, Henry has been the heart and soul of his nation's attack for as long as many of today's generation can remember
Had legendary Italian defender Paolo Maldini made it to one more World Cup in 2006, the man who is considered perhaps the greatest Italian defender of the modern era would have finally gotten his winners medal.
Like many strikers on the list before him, Ukrainian international Andriy Shevchenko has been the player that defined his nation for more than the last decade.
Shevchenko has never had the chance to truly reach the heights of an international career, but is still an exemplary player to mention none the less.
During the 1950s, French international attacking midfielder, Raymond Kopa, was one of the most prolific midfield goal scorers and play makers in the game, and helped his nation to the third place match of the 1958 World Cup.
Consequently, the French national team never lost a game in which he scored.
One of several players that I will mention who have only a handful of caps for their country is Valentino Mazzola. The unfortunate loss of not only himself but many Italian national team members in the 1949 Superga Disaster kept him from becoming one of his national team's greatest ever players.
Despite his inability to have a chance to carve his name into the history of the national team, his ability as one of the first all-around midfielders in the game provide insight into just how good he would have been.
Honors: 1949 Copa America, 1958 World Cup, 1962 World Cup
Nilton Santos was the original wingback, as he pioneered the attacking defensive style that permeates through many offenses around the world today. He also was one of Brazil's most influential defenders of all time due to his ability to help start the attack from the back.
Honors: 1968 European Championship
A stalwart in defense for Italy during the 1960s and 1970s, he helped to solidify the sweeper position in the history of the Italian game.
Honors: 1980 UEFA European Championship, 1988 Olympic Tournament Bronze medal, 1990 World Cup, 1996 UEFA European Championship.
Lothar Matthaus is the most capped German of all time. Currently there are a few that will undoubtedly catch him on the list, but until then he remains one of the most used international midfielder/defender's in the history of the game.
Honors: 1991 Copa America, 1992 Confederations Cup, 1993 Copa America
Striker Gabriel Batistuta is the all time leading scorer for Argentina and also has the best goals per game percentage of any player for the team that follows him in the top of the list.
His prolific ability to score from anywhere around the box made him one of the most dangerous goal threats of the 1990s.
Kenny Dalglish is the most capped Scottish player in history, as well as being tied as the nation's all time leading scorer. While many will remember him for his a brilliant career at Liverpool, his contribution to Scotland was none the less influential.
Honors: 1999 Copa America, 2002 World Cup, 2005 Confederations Cup
One of the most electrifying players in his hay day, Brazil's Ronaldinho brought a creative and attacking vein to the game of the Samba boys that brought back memories of the 1960s and 1970s squads that dominated international football.
Honors: 1995 Confederations Cup
Michael Laudrup is one of two men that have defined the sport for the Danish national team. His ability on the ball and leadership on the pitch helped to create some masterful moments for his nation. However, his failure to have been part of the 1992 European Championship squad is a real shame.
Honors: 1989 Copa America, 1994 World Cup, 1997 Copa America, 1997 Confederations Cup
Romario was a prolific scorer for Brazil and helped them to dominate the 1990s with his nation as they did for so many decades before.
Nicknamed "O Monstro Sagrado" (The sacred monster), Mario Coluna made his name as a dominant attacking midfielder with a powerful long-range shot and all the technical qualities you could ask for.
Bulgarian international Hristo Stoichkov is the greatest player in his nation's history. As a winger and a striker, he excelled on all levels, but was unfortunately unable to lift his nation to greater glory.
Honors: 1982 World Cup
Gaetano Scirea was one of the most fair and graceful, yet superbly technical defenders of his generation and was a rock for the Italian national team through his ten year international career.
Honors: 1988 UEFA European Championship
Dutch maestro Ruud Gullit was part of the 198's golden generation for the Holland international team and it was a shame he did not lift a World Cup trophy for his nation during the height of his career.
Honors: 2001 UEFA U17 Championship, 2002 UEFA U18 Championship, 2008 UEFA European Championship, 2010 World Cup, 2012 UEFA European Championship
Part of Spain's current golden generation, Andres Iniesta is part of a midfield that is the greatest in the modern game, and he has proved time and again his ability to both score and create big goals to help his nation.
Honors: 1999 FIFA World Youth Championship, 2000 Olympic Silver Medal, 2008 UEFA European Championship, 2010 World Cup, 2012 UEFA European Championship
By the time his career is over, it is quite possible that Xavi could be labeled the best Spanish midfielder of all time. He is a maestro, an engine and a creative genius all in one, and continues to be the best orchestrator in his national team at the moment.
Honors: 1970 World Cup
Not only could Tostao score goals, but his ability to find the open man and create magic for another player was one of his specialties. A sensational player on all levels, his career was short, but he made his mark on the Brazilian national team's history.
Honors: 1968 UEFA European Championship
One of the game's first true attacking leftback's, Giancinto Facchetti was a position defining player for his country and made the wingback a part of the Italian game to this day.
Zico was one of the greatest players of the early 1980's. He remains one of the best finishers of a shot that Brazil and the world has ever seen.
Honors: 1997 Confederations Cup, 1999 Copa America, 2002 World Cup
Rivaldo defined the attacking midfield and supporting center forward role for the Brazilian national team around the turn of the millennium. His skill both in creativity and as a shooter made him an integral part of his national team success at the 2002 World Cup.
Marco Van Basten
Honors: 1988 UEFA European Championship
One of the greatest forwards of all time, Marco Van Basten led the line of Holland with fierce tenacity and was an amazing finisher. His career was unfortunately cut short due to injury or he could have gone on the possibly even greater accolades for the Oranje.
Honors: 1992 UEFA European Championship
If Michael Laudrup was the definition of a Danish outfield player, Peter Schmeichel is the definition of what a goalkeeper is. By many he is considered to have been the best goalkeeper in history.
Honors: 1952 Olympic Gold, 1953 Central European Champions
Nandor Hidegkuti was one of the original attacking midfielder/supporting forwards to truly change the game with his abilities. He was from a select group of Hungarian footballers that are still considered the greatest generation to ever come from the Eastern European country.
Honors: 1994 World Cup, 1996 Olympic Bronze Medal, 1997 Confederations Cup, 1997 Copa America, 1999 Copa America, 2002 World Cup
One of Brazil's most decorated stars, and perhaps the most dominant striker to have graced the pitch in the past several decades, Ronaldo was in a class of his own.
Ronaldo is the second all-time scorer for the Samba Stars and is only eclipsed by a single legend in his country.
Honors: 1970 World Cup
Alberto captained his nation to a 1970 World Cup victory and is regarded as one of the greatest rightback's of 20th century. In a national team that has always been famous for their attackers, earning the respect as a defender makes the accolades all the more sweet.
Honors:1982 World Cup
One of a group of Italian sweepers that put the position on the map, Baresi may have been small in stature, but he was always up for any challenge and was a tenacious defender throughout his career.
Honors: 1952 Olympic Gold, 1953 Central European Champion
The greatest Hungarian footballer of all time, Ferenc Puskas was leaps and bounds ahead of the majority of strikers in his day save for a few.
Puskas is one of only three strikers in history to have scored over 80 goals internationally and has the highest strike rate amongst his two closest goal scorers.
The most prolific goalscorer to have ever come out of Portugal, Eusebio was beyond class, both during his club and international days.
It is unfortunate he was never able to lift a piece of international silverware.
Honors: 1952 Pan American Games, 1958 World Cup, 1962 World Cup
One of the most technically gifted passers in the history of the game. The Brazilian midfielder also was a sensational goal scorer who could make a ball dip and swerve to avoid a goalkeeper.
Honors: 1984 UEFA European Championship
French international midfielder Michel Platini wrote the book on being a set piece specialist. He always was one of the best passers and finishers of his day and still holds the record of goals scored in a UEFA European Championship with nine.
Honors: 1972 UEFA European Championship, 1974 World Cup
Germany's greatest striker of all-time is Gerd Muller. His feat of 68 goals in 62 games for his country is perhaps one that may never get over taken. The talented hit man brought a pair of Germany's international trophies
Honors: 1934 World Cup, 1938 World Cup
Giuseppe Meazza was the greatest player of the 1930s and is perhaps the greatest Italian to have ever played the game.
His style of play encompassed everything from power and speed to grace and agility and it is thought by many that he is still the greatest striker to have lived.
Alfredo Di Stefano
Nationality: Argentina / Spain
Caps: 6 / 31
Goals: 6 / 23
Honors: 1947 Copa America (Argentina)
Alfredo Di Stefano has been regarded by some as the most complete forward to have ever played the game. He is most well known for his time at Real Madrid, but his skills on the intern scene saw him extend his ability to the world's greatest stages.
Honors: 1998 World Cup, 2000 UEFA European Championship
Zidan is perhaps the best central attacking midfielder in the history of France, and he was the face of an entire generation of French internationals.
Honors: 2005 FIFA U20 World Cup, 2007 Copa America, 2008 Olympic Gold
By the time he ends his career in the future, Lionel Messi will most likely be remembered as the greatest of all time, even above and beyond those that we now give the title too.
Messi has also already made his mark on the Argentine National team, but it has been four years since their last trophy.
Sir Bobby Charlton
Honors: 1966 World Cup
A leader of England's only World Cup winning squad in 1966, Sir Bobby Charlton is without a doubt the greatest Englishman to have graced the the international stage. His skills on the ball were unparallelled and remain his trademark in memory.
Honors: 1958 World Cup, 1962 World Cup
Garrincha helped to lead the Samba Stars to two World Cup titles and is still regarded as one of the best possession players that Brazil has ever produced.
Honors: 1972 UEFA European Championship, 1974 World Cup
Franz Beckenbauer is the most dominant defender in the history of the German national team, and was a field general that took the word leadership to a new level for the national team. The "emperor" is regarded as the greatest German national of all time.
Honors: 1979 World Youth Championship, 1986 World Cup
Diego Maradona is believed to be Argentina's greatest player in history as he was there to literally hand deliver a World Cup in 1986. Despite his controversial moments, Maradona was a prolific talent that captivated the world when he was on the pitch.
Although the closest he came to an international trophy was as the 1974 World Cup runner-up, Holland's Johan Cryuff was the original total football midfielder, and was the father of a new generation of the game.
Honors: 1958 World Cup, 1962 World Cup, 1970 World Cup
There is debate that Pele is the greatest of all time, but there appears no way to dethrone the three time World Cup champion. The greatest goal scorer from the most decorated national team in international history goes a long way towards putting your name on the list of greatest all time.
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