Ranking the 20 most influential footballers of this decade

Ranking the 20 most influential footballers of this decade

The football world comprises some of the best athletes the world has ever seen. Some players transformed themselves into huge business brands and marked their spot in the entrepreneurship space. The most influential footballers are the ones who performed remarkably for the club and country and went on to become extremely successful in their personal lives.

Most influential footballers
Photo: canva.com (modified by author)
Source: UGC

Football players worldwide aspire to become the biggest name in the sport. So they work daily to mark their place among the most elite footballers by performing remarkably on the pitch or pulling glorious fates off the pitch.

Who are the most influential soccer players of all time?

According to publications on the internet, many former and current football players are considered extraordinary. This post will focus on the 20 most outstanding among them.

20. George Weah

Most influential footballers of this decade
President of Liberia George Manneh Oppong Weah arrives for an EU Africa Summit on February 17, 2022, in Brussels, Belgium. Photo by Thierry Monasse.
Source: Getty Images

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George Weah has inspired not only fellow African athletes but also an imposter purporting to be his cousin to play for Southampton. Weah was one of a group of forwards who rewrote the rule book in the 1990s.

19. Kelly Smith

Kelly Smith's father suggested she try another sport after she was kicked from a boy's team as a child because she was too skilled. Smith continued to play football, but she had to take the long route to gain her earned attention.

Most influential footballer in the world
Kelly Smith ahead of the Barclays FA Women's Super League match between Chelsea Women and Manchester United Women on May 08, 2022, in Kingston upon Thames, England. Photo by Catherine Ivill.
Source: Getty Images

England's finest female player had to move for the greener pastures of US soccer to have a chance. Girls followed in her footsteps and Bend It Like Beckham was based on her life. She returned to her homeland, won the Quadruple with Arsenal, and established her legacy. She is one of the most influential footballers of all time.

18. Ronaldinho

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The first image of Ronaldinho that England supporters recall is him tearing away in joy after lobbing David Seaman from 40 yards. They may have found it difficult to believe initially, but they would grow to appreciate this mischievous chap.

Most influential footballers in the world
Ronaldo "Ronaldinho" de Asis Moreira attends during a press conference to present Metasoccer at Casa Seat on April 05, 2022, in Barcelona, Spain. Photo By Marc Graupera Aloma.
Source: Getty Images

Ronaldinho brought showmanship back into football. He was the last great performer of the twenty-first century, dazzling with his powers; scoring all 23 goals in a youth game once and practicing his incredible abilities in his backyard as a child with his dog - he is the most extroverted enigma you could ever find.

17. Pele

Edson Arantes do Nascimento was a footballer like no other. He was only 5'8 but could outjump everyone and manipulate the ball with any part of his body. He scored for fun: the only way to stop him in 1966 was to hack him down.

Most influential footballers
Edson Arantes do Nascimento, a.k.a. Pele attends the 'Hublot loves Football': Pele and Kylian Mbappe meeting at Hotel Lutetia on April 02, 2019, in Paris, France. Photo by Marc Piasecki.
Source: Getty Images

Pele broke into football at 16 and was the only adolescent to score in a World Cup final in the previous 50 years. He popularized the bicycle kick, the rainbow flick, and the moniker 'The Beautiful Game,' and the no.10 position has any prestige because of him.

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16. Manuel Neuer

Many first saw the contemporary sweeper keeper in a 2014 World Cup match against Algeria. With Per Mertesacker in the high line, Germany's defence lacked the recovery speed needed to deal with on-rushing attackers. So instead, Manuel Neuer arrived to greet them.

Most influential ballers
Manuel Neuer of FC Bayern Muenchen looks on during the FC Bayern Muenchen and Paulaner photo session at FGV Schmidtle Studios on September 01, 2019, in Munich, Germany. Photo by Alexander Hassenstein.
Source: Getty Images

But Neuer was more than just a cleaner. Pep Guardiola, a former deep-lying playmaker in his playing days, almost abolished the DLP role from his Bayern Munich team, such as the ball-playing ability of his goalkeeper and any two centre-backs at his disposal.

15. Andres Iniesta

Andres Iniesta is curiously diminutive, yet he succeeds above all others in a game focused on brawn and brutal force. It demonstrates his technical ability, football intuition, and vision, and he has forever altered the playing ground for aspiring top-tier central midfielders.

Most influential footballers of all time
Andres Iniesta of Vissel Kobe attends the press conference for launching 'Kizuna', bonds of friendship ambassador at the Ebisu Show Room on December 2, 2019, in Tokyo, Japan. Photo by Jun Sato.
Source: Getty Images

Everyone wants to be Don Andres in 2013; he has triggered the evolution of a new emphasis on hybrid centre midfield/No. 10s, and his fast feet will never be forgotten.

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14. Gianfranco Zola

The Premier League is where mercurial talent flourishes and technically superior players are appreciated; the inflow of foreign talent has resulted in a more skilful spectacle, and it all began with the first few foreign arrivals.

Most influential ballers of all time
Gianfranco Zola plays in the BMW PGA Celebrity Pro-Am Golf Championship at Wentworth on May 25, 2016, in Virginia Water, England. Photo by Danny Martindale.
Source: Getty Images

Gianfranco Zola was one of them, and if not the very first, he is unquestionably one of the most remarkable. Some Chelsea Football Club fans confess today that they were lured to the Blues because of Zola's skill on the ball, and he set the tone for other clubs to search abroad for unusual talent.

13. Diego Maradona

Diego Maradona is one of those players that you can love and despise at the same time. He demonstrated his great, unequalled brilliance and the sinister side that made him such a controversial figure in subsequent years in five minutes against England while playing for Argentina in 1978.

Most influential footballer in the world in 2022
Maradona plays for the ill children (Boulimie and Anorexie) in Buenos Aires, Argentina on October 10, 1994. (Photo by Rafael WOLLMANN.
Source: Getty Images

The mazy dribble from inside his half to around the keeper to score was one of the best goals this sport has ever seen; the one with his hands four minutes earlier was one of the most criminal. Nevertheless, he is one of the most influential football players of all time.

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12. George Best

George Best is undoubtedly one of the greatest players in the beautiful game's history. His smooth abilities guided Manchester United to a slew of trophies, and he is still the best technician to have represented Northern Ireland on the international stage.

Most influential footballer in the world in 2022
Football player George Best in a recording studio, August 1982. Photo by Jim Forrest.
Source: Getty Images

11. Eusebio

Eusebio is nearly solely responsible for bringing Portuguese football back into prominence. Numerous mercurial talents have emerged from the Iberian region recently, but none of them may have thrived if the great man had not laid the groundwork earlier.

Most influential football players of all time
Football, UEFA Cup Winners Cup Final, Berne, Switzerland, 10th May 1989, Barcelona 2 v Sampdoria 0, Barcelona's Eusebio. Photo by Bob Thomas Sports Photography.
Source: Getty Images

In the 1960s, he led a tremendously successful Benfica team that won two European Cups and finished runners-up three times in the same decade. He is one of the most influential figures in football history.

10. Philipp Lahm

He is said to be the mother of innovation, but in the case of Pep Guardiola, breakthroughs have often come from having all of the essential parts and just assembling them in a way that has never been done before.

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Most influential football players of all time
Philipp Lahm is awarded with the Bavarian Order of Merit (Bayerischer Verdienstorden) at Residenz on July 8, 2021, in Munich, Germany. Photo by Gisela Schober.
Source: Getty Images

Guardiola saw that his most intellectual player at Bayern Munich was a full-back who could play on either wing. So Bayern kept their offence wide by allowing Philipp Lahm and David Alaba to drift inward in possession while shifting natural ball-winners to the middle of the park.

9. Thierry Henry

Henry possessed the bulk and power of number nine, but he never lost the desire to drift left and cut inside. Modern strikers were primarily box dwellers - but because of the self-belief of a man who believed he could drift to aid his team wherever they needed him (he assisted an incredible 20 goals in the 2002/03 season), strikers soon became more mobile.

Most influential players in football
Thierry Henry comments for Amazon Prime Video the Ligue 1 match between PSG and AS Monaco (ASM) at Parc des Princes stadium on August 28, 2022, in Paris, France. Photo by Jean Catuffe.
Source: Getty Images

8. Johan Cruyff

Johan Cruyff was a fantastic footballer who pioneered the "Cruyff turn." His quick feet, insane dribbling ability, and tremendous finishing skills have allowed him to assume the mantle of one of the best players in the game's history.

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Most influential ballers in football
Johan Cruyff attends the 2014 Laureus World Sports Awards at the Istana Budaya Theatre on March 26, 2014, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Photo by Mike Hewitt.
Source: Getty Images

7. Antonin Panenka

In the 1976 European Championship final, Antonin Panenka stepped out to take the winning penalty and did the unthinkable: he struck the ball softly. He watched it loop smoothly into the net.

Most influential soccer players of all time
Antonin Panenka receives the Golden Foot Award trophy during the Golden Foot Award 2014 ceremony at Sporting Club on October 13, 2014, in Monte-Carlo, Monaco. Photo by Valerio Pennicino.
Source: Getty Images

The Czechoslovakia international had accomplished something no one else had done on the international stage, and that "type" of penalty has since been termed the "Panenka penalty." Lionel Messi, Andrea Pirlo, and Zinedine Zidane have all used the tactic since.

6. David Beckham

David Beckham's fortune, reported by Goal.com is worth over $450 million and stems from more than just sport. For the past 15 years, he has been an international superstar and leveraged his celebrity and good looks to break into the market and promote himself as a business and brand.

He has perfume and apparel brands, operates charities, and purchased an MLS team. After retiring from the game, he has established a model for what to accomplish and has bridged the gap between the United States and soccer. He is one of the most famous footballers worldwide.

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5. Viv Anderson

The England shirt worn by Viv Anderson versus Czechoslovakia in 1978 is exhibited at Manchester's People's History Museum. This was the first time a black player had played for the Three Lions. As a result, he is considered one of the most influential players in football.

Most influential players of all time
England full-back Viv Anderson is pictured before a Copa Ciudad de Mexico match against Italy at the Azteca Stadium on June 6th, 1985, in Mexico City, Mexico. Photo by Allsport.
Source: Getty Images

4. Franz Beckenbauer

Boris Becker famously remarked of Der Kaiser, "Franz Beckenbauer symbolizes football and a winning mindset." "He also brought the World Cup to his own country. We are very proud of him."
Famous footballers
28 March 2022, Berlin: Franz Beckenbauer is joined on a screen for the presentation of the Sepp Herberger Awards 2022. Photo by Jens Kalaene.
Source: Getty Images

Beckenbauer is not simply the most influential character in German football history; he is also widely regarded as the best defender of all time, having won the Ballon d'Or twice.

He represents the German game's commitment and hard work, and in his role in Die Mannschaft's defence, he pioneered the sweeper or libero role, intercepting play with ease and breaking forward to launch attacks.

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3. Jean-Marc Bosman

He altered the way football contracts are structured. The Belgian legal case in 1995 changed the way football transfers were handled. Although Bosman's contract at current club Standard Liege had expired, any prospective suitors still had to pay a transfer fee to release him.

Most influential figures in football history
Jean-Marc Bosman of the team Germany shoots the ball during the match against the rest of the world and team Hamburg on September 7, 2008, in Hamburg, Germany. Photo by Christof Koepsel.
Source: Getty Images

Because no club met the asking price, Bosman could not go, had his wages lowered, and was kicked out of the first team. Later, the court found his favour, advocating for the free movement of employees across the continent.

2. Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi could have achieved half of what he went on to do, and the story would still be pretty marvellous. He was a boy with a growth hormone deficiency who won six Ballon Dor’s. He is arguably the most influential footballer in the world.

Messi has had an impact on every forward in the modern game. He serves as a model for the evolution of the false nine. His transition into situations where he could dictate was groundbreaking. Messi became a master of space in a system defined by it. There is no one better in an age defined by technicality.

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1. Cristiano Ronaldo

They could not be more dissimilar when comparing Cristiano Ronaldo's career to Lionel Messi's. Their inspirations are also vastly different. He is not only the most influential footballer in the world in 2022 but also ever.

Ronaldo has shown that hard work can get you into the same league as Messi. The way he has made consistency and big-game moments, his brand has inspired even senior players, and how he has transitioned from a winger to a frontman relying on movement has been emulated by players of all levels in recent years.

The most influential footballers are the ones who created a career that is desired by many and, in that connection, made a huge fan base be on their backs always. Moreover, these players achieved a remarkable fate on and off the pitch.

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Source: Sports Brief News