Who are the 10 greatest Portuguese footballers in football history?

Who are the 10 greatest Portuguese footballers in football history?

Grace Waruguru
updated at June 23, 2023 at 10:43 AM
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Portuguese footballers have made their mark in the industry, earning top positions in various clubs and national teams. Some individuals were born in Portugal and later moved to other countries to pursue their professional careers. Here are some of the greatest football players from Portugal.

Portuguese footballers
Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal celebrates his goal on his 200 appearance for Portugal during the UEFA EURO 2024 Qualifying Round Group J match between Iceland and Portugal at Laugardalsvollur on June 20, 2023, in Reykjavik, Iceland. Photo: Will Palmer
Source: Getty Images

Who is the best Portugal football player? International leagues and competitions have seen Portuguese citizens take up top spots and make world records. Their skills are nurtured in their home country from an early age, laying a firm foundation for successful careers. Who are the greatest Portuguese footballers? Keep reading to find out.

Top 10 greatest Portuguese footballers in history

These talented players have impressive records in their country's national teams and beyond. Here are 10 of the greatest players from Portugal:

10. Deco

Famous Portuguese footballers
Deco, Founder & CEO, D20 Sports, on SportsTrade stage during the opening day of Web Summit 2019 at the Altice Arena in Lisbon, Portugal, on November 5, 2019. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: Anderson Luis de Souza
  • Date of birth: August 27, 1977
  • Teams: Porto, Barcelona, Chelsea, Fluminense
  • Position: Midfielder

Deco is a former midfielder who played for clubs like Barcelona and Chelsea, winning the UEFA Champions League in 2004 and 2006. Deco was the first player to win the UEFA Midfielder of the Year award. In 2004, he took the second position at the Ballon d'Or voting.

The former footballer also represented Portugal in two World Cups (2006 and 2008). While playing for Barcelona, Deco was awarded the 2006 FIFA Club World Cup Golden Ball and the Man of the Match award in the final. He is one of the great Portuguese footballers who retired from professional football in August 2013.

9. Ricardo Carvalho

Best Portuguese footballers
Ricardo Carvalho during an Olympique de Marseille training session at Centre Robert Louis-Dreyfus on September 19, 2019, in Marseille, France. Photo: Maxime-Alexandre Paul
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: Ricardo Alberto Silveira de Carvalho
  • Date of birth: May 18, 1978
  • Teams: Porto, Chelsea, Real Madrid, Monaco, Shangai PSG
  • Position: Centre-back

Former centre-back Ricardo Carvalho is one of the greatest Portuguese footballers of all time. He was instrumental in Porto's Champion's League win in 2004. During his stay in Chelsea between 2004 and 2010, Carvalho scored 11 goals in 210 appearances. In addition, he won two Premier League and one League Cup. He later moved to Real Madrid, Monaco, and Shangai PSG. Ricardo has also represented his country at the FIFA World Cup.

8. Pepe

Greatest Portuguese footballers
Pepe of FC Porto during the Portuguese Cup Final match between SC Braga and FC Porto at Estadio Nacional on June 4, 2023, in Oeiras, Portugal. Photo: Gualter Fatia
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: Kepler Laveran de Lima Ferreira
  • Date of birth: February 26, 1983
  • Teams: Porto, Real Madrid
  • Position: Centre-back

Pepe is a retired defender who was among the best in his time. The 40-year-old is among the greatest Portuguese footballers who spend his career with Porto, Real Madrid, and the Portuguese national team. He won two Primeira Liga titles, a Portuguese Cup, and a UEFA Champions League title in 2004.

Later, he joined Real Madrid, where he attained three La Liga titles, two Copa del Rey titles, and three UEFA Champions League titles. He has appeared in over 130 matches with the Portugal national team.

7. Nani

greatest Portuguese footballers of all time
Luis Nani poses for a photo on the Green Carpet ahead of The Best FIFA Football Awards 2022 on February 27, 2023, in Paris, France. Photo: Sylvain Lefevre
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: Luís Carlos Almeida da Cunha
  • Date of birth: November 17, 1986
  • Teams: Fenerbahce SK Football, Lazio Football, Valencia CF Football, Manchester United
  • Position: Winger

Nani is among the best Portuguese footballers who started playing at nine. He became the youngest member of the UEFA Under-21 Championship in 2006. He later played for the senior Portuguese team, making 112 appearances, before joining the Sporting CP youth team. The athlete has also represented his country at the FIFA World Cup and Euro Championships.

6. Paulo Futre

 best Portuguese footballers of all time
Paulo Futre reacts before the UEFA Europa League quarter final leg one match between Atletico Madrid and Sporting CP at Wanda Metropolitano on April 5, 2018, in Madrid, Spain. Photo: Quality Sport Images
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: Paulo Jorge dos Santos Futre
  • Date of birth: February 28, 1966
  • Teams: Sporting CP, Atletico Madrid, West Ham United
  • Position: Winger

Paulo Futre is one of the old Portuguese players born in 1966, and his career debut was in 1983 at 17. He won the Spanish Cup for two consecutive years with Atletico Madrid. Additionally, Futre won the Portuguese Footballer of the Year in 1986 and 1987. He also represented his home country, making over 40 appearances in the UEFA Euro and FIFA World Cup.

5. Vitor Baia

 legendary Portuguese footballers
Vitor Baia of Porto gives an interview before the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final Second Leg match between Chelsea FC and FC Porto at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on April 13, 2021, in Seville, Spain. Photo: Jose Manuel Alvarez
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: Vítor Manuel Martins Baía
  • Date of birth: October 15, 1969
  • Teams: Porto, Barcelona
  • Position: Goalkeeper

Retired goalkeeper, Vitor Baia, is among the most famous Portuguese footballers. He spent his professional career with Porto and Barcelona, playing as a goalkeeper. He won 26 championships with Porto and served the team as an ambassador.

Additionally, he played for the Portugal national team in two European Championships and the 2002 FIFA World Cup. In 2015, EA Sports announced the renowned goalkeeper as a part of their FIFA 16 Ultimate Team Legends alongside other former players.

4. Mário Coluna

Portuguese football players
Mozambique-born footballer Mário Esteves Coluna, a player for Benfica and Portugal, 28th May 1968. Photo: Mike McLaren
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: Mário Esteves Coluna
  • Date of birth: August 6, 1935
  • Died: February 25, 2014
  • Teams: Benfica
  • Position: Midfielder

The late Mário Coluna, popularly known as ''The Sacred Monster,'' is one of the famous Portuguese footballers who spent the better part of his career with Benfica, making over 525 appearances with 127 goals. He also scored eight goals over 57 matches with the Portugal national team. Coluna died in 2014 after succumbing to a pulmonary infection.

3. Eusebio

 great Portuguese footballers
The late Eusebio Ferreira da Silva, of Portugal's Benfica. Photo: Keystone
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: Eusébio da Silva Ferreira
  • Date of birth: January 25, 1942
  • Died: January 5, 2014
  • Teams: Benfica
  • Position: Striker

Eusebio, also known as ''The Black Panther,'' is among the black Portuguese footballers who played for Benfica and the Portugal national team. He is remembered as Benfica's best player, scoring 733 goals in 745 matches. He was the top scorer at the 1996 FIFA World Cup, with nine goals, helping his team finish third. Eusebio passed away in 2014 after succumbing to heart failure.

2. Luis Figo

most famous Portuguese footballers  ‌
Luis Figo celebrates after scoring at the Ultimate Champions Match prior to the UEFA Champions League 2022/23 final on June 09, 2023, in Istanbul, Turkey. Photo: Jonathan Moscrop
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: Luís Filipe Madeira Caeiro Figo
  • Date of birth: November 4, 1972
  • Teams: Sporting CP, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Inter Milan
  • Positions: Midfielder

Luis Figo is undoubtedly one of the legendary Portuguese footballers and one of the best of his time. The 50-year-old has the second-highest assists in La Liga history (106). Figo also represented his country at the Euro World Cup. His career highlights include:

  • One Portuguese Cup
  • Four La Liga titles
  • Three Italian Super Cups
  • Four Serie A titles

1. Cristiano Ronaldo

Portuguese footballers
Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal before the UEFA Euro 2024 Qualifying Round Group J match between Iceland and Portugal at Laugardalsvollur on June 20, 2023, in Reykjavik, Iceland. Photo: Will Palmer
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro
  • Date of birth: February 5, 1985
  • Teams: Sporting CP, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Al Nassr
  • Position: Forward

Cristiano Ronaldo is among the best Portuguese footballers of all time, playing for top clubs like Real Madrid and Manchester United. He has five Ballon d'Or awards and four European Golden Shoes, the highest number by any European player.

Ronaldo has scored over 800 goals in his professional career in 1,100 appearances. He has over 32 trophies and is among the highest-paid football players.

These legendary Portuguese footballers enjoy incredible support from their home country, thanks to the Football Federation of Portugal. Their performance offers the current generation of players a myriad of lessons that they could use in their careers.

READ ALSO: Sporting Lisbon legends: Top 10 all-time greats

Sports Brief published Sporting CP's legendary players. The Portuguese club has been home to some of the finest players and is one of the oldest in the country. The club's football academy has bred some young players who have become the best on the field. Who are some of the top players?

Pedro Barbosa is an alumnus of the club who graduated from the club but did not make it to the main crew. Manuel Vasques was also part of the team, starting his professional career in 1946. Other players include Cristian Ronaldo and Hector Yazalde. Check out the article for the top 10 legendary athletes.

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Grace Waruguru
Grace has over 4 years of experience in article writing and digital media content creation for various local and global brands. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Communication (Public Relations) from Daystar University, Kenya.