World Football's Most Loved Figures Past and Present

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistMarch 29, 2012

World Football's Most Loved Figures Past and Present

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    We all know about the players that fans love to hate and how press they get, but how about for once we give the players who are loved by all a bit of our time.

    This list of 15 players is compiled of club legends, revered national figures and players who are loved by mostly everyone on the planet.

    Without further wait, here is the list of the players past and present who are the most loved.

Lionel Messi

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    The best footballer in the world today is revered by many fans and even his fellow players.

    Unlike the number two footballer in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi has a very respectable reputation and more importantly is loved by fans.

    Every time you see the little Argentine impress on the pitch, the Twitter world blows up with comments celebrating the 24-year-old.

Pele

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    The man who is considered the world's best footballer ever was also loved by the public.

    From his early days at Santos to his tenure with the New York Cosmos in the old NASL, the Brazilian forward gained a ton of attention in the press and handled it with class.

    Nowadays, Pele is still one of the most recognizable names in world football, and whenever he speaks on the present day game, he earns the attention of everyone in the world.

Alan Shearer

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    The former Southampton, Blackburn and Newcastle player is popular figure still at his three former clubs and as a member of the England national team.

    Shearer was a prolific goal scorer and club hero as he led Blackburn to the Premier League title in the 1994-95 season.

    Although he was unable to earn such honors again in his career, the forward was an idol in England and even tried his hand at managing a struggling Newcastle United side in the 2008-09 disaster season for the Magpies before they were relegated from the Premier League that season.

Jens Lehmann

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    Jens Lehmann patrolled the goal for five clubs in his professional career but was mostly known for his time at Arsenal.

    Lehmann became a fan favorite with Gunners fans during his five seasons with the London club, and he was even welcomed back as an emergency keeper in the 2010-11 season while his former club were in a goalkeeping crisis.

Brian McBride

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    Before there was Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey in American soccer, there was Brian McBride.

    The hard-working forward began his career in MLS and then made a move to Fulham after two loan spells in England and became a standout player for the Cottagers and paved the way for outfield players like Dempsey and Donovan to play in the Premier League.

    McBride was also loved by American soccer fans as he was the face of the national team for most of his playing career, which spanned three World Cups and an Olympic appearance in 2008.

Roberto Baggio

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    One of the most popular figures in Italian football in the past few decades is Roberto Baggio.

    Baggio is considered as one of the best players to ever step foot on a football pitch and played for more than a quarter of Serie A's 20 teams.

    Baggio was such a fan favorite that the Italian public criticized Azzurri coach Dino Zoff for not including him in the Euro 2000 squad, which would have been his final international tournament.

Kenny Dalglish

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    Kenny Dalglish may be the most popular figure at Liverpool Football Club.

    The Scotsman has had a lasting impact on the club that he first joined from Celtic in 1977, which began as a player and has evolved into his time as manager, a role he has taken on twice in his career.

    Not only has Dalglish made an impact at Liverpool, but he also returned to Celtic for a short stint as manager in 2000 and led Blackburn Rovers to the Premier League title in the 1994-95 season.

Kevin Keegan

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    Another player who made his mark at Liverpool was Kevin Keegan.

    In his career, which saw him play with five different clubs, Keegan was very popular at mostly all of the clubs he played at.

    Starting with Liverpool and then on his return to England with Southampton and Newcastle, Keegan always received great support from the fans.

    After his playing career was over, Keegan went back to Newcastle to start his managerial career and led the Magpies back to the Premier League and into Europe with two second place finishes in his time at St. James' Park.

Theirry Henry

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    Thierry Henry is another player who made a mark at one club, Arsenal, and eventually returned to his old stomping grounds.

    Henry shined at Arsenal for eight seasons before moving to Barcelona and eventually the New York Red Bulls.

    In January, Henry came back to his beloved club with Gunners fans welcoming him back with resounding applause, and the Frenchman even scored three goals in his seven match spell back at the Emirates Stadium.

David Beckham

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    If you ask any casual football fan to name one player in the sport, it is David Beckham.

    Beckham's reach has spanned the globe and led to worldwide fanfare for the Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder.

    It all began at Manchester United as the Englishman came up with the group of players known as Fergie's Fledglings, which included Nicky Butt and the Neville brothers as well as Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes.

    From Manchester, he took his global appeal and celebrity with him to Real Madrid and now the LA Galaxy, and though some are not fans of Beckham, many people are, and that is one thing that will never change.

Andrea Pirlo

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    How could you not love Andrea Pirlo?

    The Italian midfield maestro is a complete professional in every sense of the term.

    Pirlo is not one to go out in public and make comments about anything and does his job on the pitch masterfully.

    Now in the twilight of his career with Juventus, Pirlo will soon retire but will be remembered as one of the true professionals of his generation.

Robin Van Persie

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    When you are playing with the form that Robin van Persie is at this point in his career, there is no way you can not root for him, unless you are a Tottenham supporter.

    The Arsenal forward has started to become world renowned with his excellent finishes during his career year with the Gunners.

    Along with the exposure around the world that he gets with Arsenal, van Persie will also become one of the world's favorite players when he appears in the Euro 2012 tournament with Holland.

Carles Puyol

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    Another true professional of the game who has earned a ton of respect from fans is Carles Puyol.

    The Barcelona and Spain defender has racked over 500 appearances for his club and over 100 for his country in his career.

    The 33-year-old is another class act of world football, and if football fans around the world do not respect that, there is a problem with this generation of fans.

Tim Cahill

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    Tim Cahill has been a fan favorite at Everton and before that, Millwall during his decade long career in England.

    The hardworking Aussie has been a staple at Goodison Park since 2004 and has had a flare for the dramatic throughout his Everton career.

    Although his goal production has slipped this season, Tiny Tim is still a force in the Toffees midfield and the club's supporters love every minute of it.

Cristiano Ronaldo

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    Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the the hated and loved players to ever play the game.

    Yes, he is known for his diving and his questionable tactics on the pitch, but he is still a skillful master of the game.

    Along with Messi and Beckham, Ronaldo's name is one of the most recognizable by fans who do not follow football and to have a global reach like that with fans is enough to alone put Ronaldo on this list, like him or not.

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