Top 10 best German footballers of all time: Find out who tops the list

Top 10 best German footballers of all time: Find out who tops the list

Helix Odhiambo
updated at April 12, 2023 at 8:28 PM

Germany is one of the most successful national teams in international competitions. The country has won four World Cups and three European Championships. Besides, it has one of the best leagues, the Bundesliga, which has hosted the best German footballers of all time.

Best German footballers
German fans with the flag during the FIFA World Cup closing ceremony at the Olympic Stadium in Munich, Germany, on 7 July 1974. Photo: Istvan Bajzat
Source: Getty Images

Ranking among the greatest German footballers of all time is a unique honour many players dream of achieving. The list includes players with incredible performances who have won millions of fans worldwide.

Best German footballers of all time

Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Muller, and Lothar Matthaus are among the most talented Die Nationalmannschaft footballers. They dominated their opponents through skill, determination, and hard work.

Who is the best footballer in Germany?

Here is a list of German football player legends and their achievements. The legendary stars featured below have retired from the sport.

10. Matthias Sammer

Best German midfielders of all time
Germany's Matthias Sammer celebrates their victory over England on penalties on 26 June 1996 (after extra time). Photo: Bob Thomas
Source: Getty Images

The legendary defensive midfielder played for West and East Germany. Sammer is one of the most decorated and best German footballers of the 90s. He retired in 1998 as one of the greatest soccer stars in Europe.

  • Games: 74
  • Goals: 14
  • Position: Defensive midfielder
  • Clubs: Dynamo Dresden, VfB Stuttgart, Inter Milan, Borussia Dortmund
  • Awards: German Footballer of the Year (1995), 1996 FIFA Ballon d'Or, Best Player of the UEFA Euro 1996
  • Trophies: Bundesliga (3), DFB Super Cups (2), Champions League

9. Uwe Seeler

Who is the best footballer in Germany?
Uwe Seeler attends his 75th Birthday celebration at Imtech Arena on 5 November 2011 in Hamburg. Photo: Kati Jurischka
Source: Getty Images

Seeler was a scoring machine which made life difficult for opposing defenders. He is the first soccer player to receive the Federal Republic of Germany's Great Order of Merit. Uwe Seeler failed to win a World Cup but remains one of the sport's legends. He scored over 406 goals in his Bundesliga career.

  • Games: 72
  • Goals: 43
  • Position: Striker
  • Club: Hamburger SV
  • Awards: German Footballer of the Year (3), Bundesliga Top Scorer, FIFA World Cup All-Star Team
  • Trophies: German football championship, DFB-Pokal

8. Bastian Schweinsteiger

Best German midfielders of all time
Bastian Schweinsteiger celebrates winning the World Cup Quarter Final match against France at the Maracana- Estadio on 4 July 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo: Simon Bruty
Source: Getty Images

Schweinsteiger registered his name among the best German midfielders of all time following his outstanding performance in the 2014 World Cup. He is among the best German footballers in the 21st century.

The legendary midfielder spent most of his career at Bayern Munich and won dozens of titles. He played his last international game on 31 August 2016, becoming the fourth most-capped Die Nationalmannschaft footballer.

  • Games: 121
  • Goals: 24
  • Position: Midfielder
  • Clubs: Bayern Munich, Manchester United, Chicago Fire
  • Awards: German Player of the Year (1), ESM Team of the Year, Silbernes Lorbeerblatt (3), FIFA World Cup Dream Team
  • Trophies: Bundesliga (8), DFB-Pokal (7), DFL-Supercup, DFB-Ligapokal, UEFA Champions League, FIFA World Cup, UEFA Super Cup, FA Cup

7. Sepp Maier

Who are the best Germans to play in the EPL?
Legendary goalkeeper Sepp Maier with the World Cup trophy on his head at Munich's Olympic stadium on 7 July 1974. Photo: Werner Baum
Source: Getty Images

The country has produced outstanding goalkeepers like Manuel Neuer, Oliver Kahn, and Jens Lehmann. However, Sepp Maier tops the list of the shot-stoppers to emerge from the nation. Many people consider Maier the world's most outstanding goalkeeper in the 1970s. He registered four clean sheets at the 1974 World Cup and helped his country win the coveted trophy.

  • Games: 95
  • Goals conceded: 73
  • Clean sheets: 43
  • Position: Goalkeeper
  • Club: Bayern Munich
  • Awards: German Footballer of the Year (4), Germany's goalkeeper of the Century, FIFA World Cup All-Star Team
  • Trophies: World Cup (1), European Championship (1), Intercontinental Cup winner (2), Bundesliga (4), German Cup (4), Champions League (3)

6. Fritz Walter

Who is the best striker in Germany?
Enthusiastic supporters carried Fritz Walter (top) after the World Cup triumph at Wankdorf Stadium in Berne in 1954. Photo: Picture Alliance
Source: Getty Images

Walter led his country to their first World Cup triumph in 1954. He was an attacking midfielder or forward who spent most of his career at Kaiserslautern in the national championships before the formation of the Bundesliga.

  • Games: 61
  • Goals: 33
  • Position: Attacking midfielder/forward
  • Clubs: Kaiserslautern, TSG Diedenhofen, TSG Saargemünd
  • Awards: UEFA German Golden Player
  • Trophies: FIFA World Cup, German football championship (2), FIFA Order of Merit

5. Miroslav Klose

Best German footballers in the 21st century
German's Miroslav Klose celebrates after scoring in the FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifying Group C match against Austria at Allianz Arena on 6 September 2013 in Munich. Photo: Thomas Niedermueller
Source: Getty Images

No one would doubt Miroslav Klose's ability and genius on the pitch. The German's all-time goal scorer also holds the record for most World Cup goals (16) in history. He never lost a single game he scored while playing for his nation.

Klose hung his boots after winning the 2014 World Cup title. He is among the few footballers who won the World Cup gold, silver, and bronze medals.

Games: 137

Goals: 71

Position: Striker

Clubs: FC 08 Homburg, FC Kaiserslautern II, Werder Bremen, Bayern Munich, Lazio

Awards: FIFA World Cup Golden Shoe (2006), Germany Footballer of the Year, Bundesliga Player of the Season, Bundesliga top goalscorer, DFB-Pokal top goalscorer

Trophies: DFL-Ligapokal (2), Bundesliga (2), DFB-Pokal (2), DFL-Supercup, Coppa Italia, World Cup

4. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge

German football player legends
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge of West Germany (in white) in action during the UEFA Euro 1980 group game against the Dutch at the Stadio San Paolo on 14 June 1980 in Naples, Italy. Photo: Professional Sport
Source: Getty Images

Rummenigge followed in the footsteps of his predecessors in the national team. He was a talented centre-forward with an eye for goal. The legendary striker is among the five stars from his country to win the Ballon d'Or. Rummenigge left his job at the bank to join Bayern Munich in 1974. He became the club's second-best goal scorer behind Gerd Muller.

  • Games: 95
  • Goals: 45
  • Position: Centre-forward
  • Clubs: Bayern Munich, Inter Milan, Servette
  • Awards: Bundesliga Top Goalscorer (3), Ballon d'Or (2), European Cup Top Goalscorer, Golden Foot, Onze d'Or (2), Bravo Otto (5)
  • Trophies: UEFA European Championship, Bundesliga (2), DFB-Pokal (2), European Cup (2), Intercontinental Cup

3. Lothar Matthaus

Who is the best German footballer ever?
Lothar Matthaeus (left) is celebrating after scoring a goal in the first-round match against Yugoslavia during the 1990 FIFA World Cup in Italy. Behind him is Juergen Klinsmann. Photo: Bernd Wende
Source: Getty Images

The former charismatic midfielder is the most capped player ever for his country. He also holds the record for the most appearances in the World Cup. Matthaus was a flexible footballer with excellent passing skills and strong tackling. He is part of Pele's FIFA 100 list of the best-living soccer players. Many people consider Matthaus the best central midfielder ever.

Games: 150

Goals: 23

Position: Midfielder

Clubs: FC Herzogenaurach, Borussia Mönchengladbach, Bayern Munich, Inter Milan, New York MetroStars

Awards: Ballon d'Or, IFFHS World's Best Player, Onze d'Or, German Footballer of the Year (2), Golden Foot legends award

Trophies: Bundesliga (6), DFB-Pokal: (2), DFB-Supercup, DFB UEFA Cup, Serie A, UEFA Cup, FIFA World Cup

Who is the best striker in Germany?

Gerd Muller is undoubtedly the most outstanding football striker in Die Nationalmannschaft history. His goal-scoring prowess and precision finishes made him stand out among other legends. Many people will remember the forward for scoring ten goals during the 1970 World Cup.

2. Gerd Muller

Best German footballers of the 90s
Gerd Mueller raises his right fist in triumph after winning the World Cup final on 7 July 1974 in Munich. Photo: picture alliance
Source: Getty Images

Muller holds the record for the most goals scored in the Bundesliga (523). He also has a Ballon d'Or and a World Cup in his prestigious career. The legendary striker won the Champions League for three consecutive years, among other titles with Bayern. Muller made the art of goal-scoring look simple.

Games: 62

Goals: 68

Position: Centre-forward

Awards: Ballon d'Or, German Footballer of the Year (2), Bundesliga Top Scorer (7), Onze de Onze, European Cup Top Scorer, FIFA World Cup Golden Boot

Trophies: Champions League (3), FIFA World Cup, Bundesliga (4), European Cup, German Cup (4), Intercontinental Cup (2)

1. Franz Beckenbauer

Most talented German footballer
Legendary Die Nationalmannschaft captain Franz Beckenbauer raised the World Cup trophy at the award ceremony after defeating the Netherlands in the 1974 final in Munich. Photo: Sepp Maier
Source: Getty Images

The versatile central midfielder tops the list of best German footballers in history. He invented the role of a sweeper in the sport. Beckenbauer was the first captain to win the World Cup, European Cup, and European Championships.

Beckenbauer was equally successful in the dugout, becoming one of only three people to lift a World Cup as a player and a manager. He is also the only defender to lift the Ballon d'Or twice.

Games: 103

Goals: 14

Position: Central defender

Awards: European Footballer of the Year (2), Ballon d'Or (2), German Footballer of the Year (4), Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, Laureus World Sports Awards lifetime achievement, FIFA Presidential Award, IFFHS Genius of World Football award

Trophies: FIFA World Cup, European Championship, European Champions' Cup (3), Intercontinental Cup, DFB German Cup (4)

Who are the best Germans to play in the EPL?

Many Germans had played in the Premier League since December 1992, when Matthias Breitkreutz debuted for West Ham. Uwe Rosler was the first to score in the tournament in March 1994 as a Manchester City player.

Other are Jurgen Klinsmann, Michael Ballack, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Mesut Ozil, Lorey Sane, Robert Huth, Per Mertesacker, and Antonio Rudigger. Man City's Ilkay Gundogan and Kai Havertz of Chelsea are among the best German footballers 2023 playing in the league.

The best German footballers have inspired many young talents in the current generation who aspire to follow in their footsteps. Some of their records will take many years to break, while others may last forever.

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Helix Odhiambo photo
Helix Odhiambo
Helix Odhiambo is an award-winning Kenyan journalist and content creator with over 6 years of experience. In 2016, he won the Goal Blaze Correspondent Award for young writers.