18 Footballers Who Changed The Game

Football has been around for a very long time. Over the years there have been some amazing and unforgettable players who really had a significant impact on the world of football and how it is played. Below is a list of 20 players in who over their careers have really proven their skills, talent and what we can learn from them from just watching back their highlights.

Each football player is known for their different attributes and impacts which they made for their teams playing at the time, and all played significant roles in the history making of football.

1.  Leonel Messi

Description- Leonel Messi is an Argentinian Football Player who plays for FC Barcelona is either a winger or striker. He is known for being amongst the greatest football players of all time holding 6 Ballon d’Or trophies, the most out of FIFA Football history. Messi has an astonishing 575 goals from 681 appearances for FC Barcelona.

Playing Career- 2004 – Present

Attributes- Speed, Agility, Passing, Vision, Intelligence, Placement when shooting, Left foot precision

 Success Tips- Throughout Messi’s career he has shown great character and passion for the sport. He is known as being the little magician and his footballing stats and achievements really show that.

“It’s not all about physical ability, but it’s about mental ability”- Leonel Messi

Tips to learn from Messi:

  • Fight for your Dreams
  • No Cheating
  • Capitalize on Opportunities
  • Sacrifices and Hard Work
  • Looks and expert opinions don’t matter, worry about yourself

2.  Cristiano Ronaldo

Description- Cristiano Ronaldo is a Portuguese Professional Footballer who has played for the likes of Sporting Lisbon, Manchester United, Real Madrid and currently Italian giants Juventus. Cristiano Ronaldo is known to also be up with the top footballers ever holding 5 Ballon d’Ors, one less than Leonel Messi. Ronaldo is known for his footballing ability and is also a very prestigious businessman holding his own clothing line CR7 and hotel franchise Pestana CR7.

Playing Career- 2002 – Present

 Attributes- Hardworking, Determined, Disciplined, Athletic physique, Powerful right foot and controlled left foot.

 Success Tips- Ronaldo has always been a dedicated player how has achieved his majority of his success through staying consistent in his training and daily habits.

“Dreams are not what you see in your sleep, dreams are things which do not let you sleep.”- Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo’s tips on becoming the success which he is today believes that YOU should follow these tips to improve your game:

  • Learn to train your mind as well as your body
  • Stay motivated by sticking to a routine
  • Set goals and how they will be achieved
  • Sleep regularly to maximise muscle relaxation and rejuvenation
  • A good workout routine must be combined with a health and energising diet

3.  Pele

Description- Pele was one of the first people to take the eye of the world to football being a 3x FIFA World Cup Winner. He played for Santos and New York Cosmos while holding his national career with his home country Brazil. He is most known for his ability to score goals having an average of one goal per game playing 700+ career football games.

 Playing Career- 1956- 1977 (21 years)

 Attributes- Dribbling, Close ball control, Finishing, Athleticism, Adaptability to play in different positions, Determined, Never gave up

 Success Tips- Pele was renowned for his continuous goal scoring form. Every game he played, he would score. This didn’t happen throughout his entire career through luck. Pele was determined to become better daily.

“Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do”- Pele

He did this through:

  • Healthy eating habits
  • Ball control drills
  • Trained shooting with his left leg to improve less dominant foot
  • Always trained on his weak points

4.  Diego Maradona

Description- Maradona was the first great to come out of Argentinian football. He posed a class of his own when playing football spending his careers throughout several countries including Argentina, Spain and Italy. He spent majority of his career playing for Italian powerhouses Napoli. Maradona led his side to the FIFA World Cup in 1990 being one of many highlights throughout his career and is now the Head Coach of Argentine Primera División club Gimnasia de La Plata.

 Playing Career- 1976 – 1997 (21 years)

Attributes- Defiant, Unapologetic/ Ruthlessness, Passionate, Outstanding Ball Control

Success Tips- Maradona was an outstanding football player who played with his heart on his sleeve. He was always played like it was his last game and gave it his all in every game played.

“I am Maradona, who makes goals, who makes mistakes. I can take it all, I have shoulders big enough to fight with everybody.”- Diego Maradona

Diego Maradona was a footballer like no other. He was very honest with what he had to say and always had a lot to say. However, with words actions must follow. Maradona always was able to deliver on the words he spoke upon.

5.  Zinedine Zidane

Description- Zinedine Zidane is a now retired French Football who played for Juventus and Real Madrid in his professional playing career. Zidane was an incredible midfielder with a high work rate and passing ability. He led his country to the 1998 FIFA World Cup along with the 2000 European Championship, and winning the champions league in 2002 with Real Madrid. He is now the Head Coach of Real Madrid after being reappointed a second time. Zidane is also very famous for his head button Materazzi in the 2006 FIFA World Cup.

Playing Career- 1994 – 2006 (12 years)

Attributes- First touch, Dribbling, Passing, Shooting, Aura

Success Tips- When it came to being a footballer, Zinedine Zidane had it all as a midfielder. He had the consistency of being able to deliver in all his performances for club and country.

“If you are determined and confident, there is nothing in this great existence that can stop you from achieving what you want.” Zinedine Zidane

As Zidane has stepped into now being the Coach of Real Madrid, he believes in pushing his players to the limits during training to alternatively get the most out of them during games. He believes that preparation is the most important key to his successes of being a player and coach now.

6.  Johan Cruyff

Description- Johan Cruyff is known for ‘inventing’ football. At the time of Cruyff beginning his professional career he had taken to the world a revolutionary style of football which had not been seen in his day. He was known for changing the game up immensely through his movement, ball play and overall technical skill.

 Playing Career- 1964 – 1984 (20 years)

 Attributes- Cruyff turn (signature move), Goalscorer, Creative, Enthusiast, Passionate.

Success Tips- Cruyff was a gentleman of the game who really had a major impact on the world of football. One thing he was potentially most famous for and still is today is the famous ‘Cruyff Turn’. Cruyff was a mastermind of the game who spent hours on the training pitch and transferred all his training into games making him one of the best in his time.

7.  Ronaldinho

Description- Ronaldinho was one of the most technically and talented footballers to walk the earth. His ability to play football brought so much joy to the world. Expressing his emotions was through his love of the sport which is what he was known for while playing. Ronaldinho played for a number of clubs throughout his playing career including, Gremio, PSG, FC Barcelona, A.C Milan, Flamengo, Atketico Mineiro, Queretaro and ending his career at Fluminense. Through his career he won the FIFA Player of The Year Award and a Ballon d’Or.

 Playing Career- 1998 – 2018 (20 years)

Attributes- Creativity, Playmaking, Dribbling, Shooting Accuracy, Pace.

Success Tips- Ronaldinho was an incredible player who really loved playing the game with a smile. A man with so much experience in the game earned his stripes through his dedication and development with the ball. Running is the easy side of football, what you do with the ball is what can change the game.

“I have the chance to do for a living what I like the most in life, and that’s playing football. I can make people happy and enjoy myself at the same time.” – Ronaldinho

Ronaldinho was a man who always played with his heart. Learn from him and remember why we really play football, for the love and passion the game gives us.

8.  Neymar

Description- Neymar is the latest produce out of Brazil showcasing his talent and skills at Paris Saint Germain. He holds the all time world record transfer fee of 222 million Euros from FC Barcelona to PSG. Neymar started his professional career at Santos in Brazil before making the leap to European football giants Barcelona and now at PSG. He is the future face of football for what he has already achieved and continually strives to be the best.

 Playing Career- 2009 – Present

Attributes- Speed, First Touch, Technique, Dribbling, Finishing

Success Tips- Neymar from a young age had a drive which made him shine more than most. He had the desire to provide more for his family and community. Growing up in the slums of Brazil, Neymar learnt the tricks to his trade playing street football amongst other people in his community. Hours spent out on the streets playing is what created a genius of the game.

“There is no pressure when you are making a dream come true.”- Neymar

It just comes to show that we don’t need much to practice becoming better. All we really need is a ball between our feet and the rest is history.

9.  George Best

Description- George Best was a Northern Irish Football who spent the majority of his career playing for Manchester United. Perform on the professional stage for 20 years, Best delivered some of the most extraordinary football skills in his time.

Playing Career- 1963 – 1983 (20 years)

Attributes- Hold up play, Taking on Opponents, Crossing, Finishing

Success Tips- George Best in his time was the prime of football. He brought so much to the game in the way he played. Best created a stage for himself at Manchester United bringing many people from far and wide wanting to watch his skills. Best on the pitch was another level, however, off the field his life was not very good. George Best was an alcoholic who really struggled with life off the pitch. Learn from his great skills he shone with during his time, but also learn from him off the pitch, there is always someone out there to help you in your life, no matter good or bad.

10.               David Beckham

Description-David Beckham was Avery successful football in his own right playing for Manchester United, A.C Milan, Real Madrid, LA Galaxy and finishing his career at PSG. David is also a very successful businessman off the base of his footballing career being one of the highest paid players in his time. During his 20-year career David help up a staggering 19 major trophies in 4 different countries.

Playing Career- 1992 – 2012 (20 years)

Attributes- Passing, Distribution, Free kick Taking (Dead ball Specialist), Midfield Control

Success Tips- David Beckham is a very successful football who created his own career through hard work and constant dedication to becoming better. At a young age, David had been told he would not be good enough to become a professional footballer. To David’s success he went on to become one of the most capped English footballers for his country. Beckham did this through these following tips.

  • You have to love what you do to be able to continue to improve
  • Sacrifices are necessary to get ahead of others
  • Success means not having any regrets later on
  • Practice, Practice, Practice. There can never be enough practice
  • If you believe in yourself then nothing is impossible
  • Never give anything less than 100%

“I still look at myself and want to improve.” – David Beckham.

David was a talented and gifted footballer, but so are so many other people. He made himself what he is through constantly giving more and more every time he trained and played.

11.               Gianluigi Buffon

Description- Gianluigi Buffon or Gigi Buffon is among one of the greatest goalkeepers to ever step out on to the football pitch. Have a career spanning over 30 years is an outstanding achievement in itself. Buffon has played his career at three clubs including Parma FC, PSG and the majority of his career for Italian giants Juventus. Buffon has been recognised over the years being awarded FIFA Goalkeeper of the Year several times, being named in the FIFA team of the year multiple occasions and holding their record for most world cups played in by any player being called up for five, and winning the 2006 FIFA World Cup with Italy.

Playing Career- 1991 – Present

Attributes– Shot Stopping, Leadership Ability, Distribution, Athleticism 

Success Tips- Having a career which has spanned over 30 years don’t just happen by coincidence. Next to none have had a career which has spanned for as long as Gigi Buffon. Although Buffon has not shown much into his secrets to his success, it is prevalent that Buffon looks after himself very well. This is a result of constantly training well each and every day, having a healthy and balance diet and having a good life outside of football. With the correct mindset and attitude, anything is possible in football.

“Not looking for excuses is the right thing to do”. – Gigi Buffon

Buffon is nothing more than right in his quote above, keep practicing for the day that excuses don’t need to be made.

12.               Xavi

Description- Xavi Hernandez or just Xavi is a Catalonian born and bred product of FC Barcelona. He joined the Barcelona Academy Program at age 11 and played the majority of his career in the Camp Nou before playing his final years in Qatar and now coaching in Qatar as well. Xavi was a rock in the centre for both country and club winning multiple club titles with Barcelona and the FIFA World Cup in 2010. HE was also amongst the best footballers in the world being named in the World XI on multiple occasions.

 Playing Career- 1991 – 2019 (28 years)

 Attributes- Passing, Midfield Control, Leadership, Distribution, Vision.

Success Tips- Xavi was a mastermind of the game outclassing players with his consistency in passing throughout the field. Bill Shankly, one of the greatest coaches in time stated “Football is a simple game based on giving and taking of passes, controlling the ball and of making yourself available to receive the ball. It is terribly simple.” Xavi was another class when playing football control, the tempo, speed and way each game was played. Along with midfield companion and maestro Iniesta, Barcelona were an incredible side with Xavi in the middle.

“I spend the entire 90 minutes looking for space on the pitch”. – Xavi

Xavi was never the biggest player; however, he did defy that you don’t need to be big to be good at football, finding what works best for you and being good at it is what will make you stand out more than others.

13.               Zlatan Ibrahimović

Description- Zlatan is most famously known for his incredible goalscoring and style which he plays football. Ibrahimović is a beat in the footballing industry. Swedish born, debuting in his hometown for Malmo FF, Zlatan went on to play for Ajax, Inter Milan, A.C Milan, Barcelona, LA Galaxy and Manchester United in his career, doing incredible things at each club. HE is known for his confidence and humour when playing making him one of the most loved footballers for what he does on and off the pitch.

 Playing Career- 1991 – Present

Attributes- Strike Power, Aerial Ability, Hold Up Play, Flexibility and Athleticism, Creativity, Leadership.

Success Tips- Zlatan has created a career for himself through outworking anybody in his path and not being afraid to accept new challenges. Below is a list of what really made Zlatan the type of player he is and what brought him, success in his career.

  • Smile and enjoy life. Enjoy what you do, and you will always get better
  • Don’t be too serious. We play football for fun so remember to enjoy it
  • Practice, Practice, Practice. You can never practice enough
  • Master your man stare
  • Work harder than those around you. It will show sooner or later.
  • Give respect and gain respect

“When people criticize me, instead of putting my head down, it gives me energy to do even more.”- Zlatan Ibrahimović

Zlatan is a great representation of what believing in yourself can do. All he did was work hard and trust that he had what it took to be a professional footballer. If he can do it them, you can as well.

14.               Ronaldo

Description- Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima (the first Ronaldo) was a Brazilian footballer who was known for scoring spectacular goals throughout his career. Ronaldo a side from playing football was also very famous for creating the first Nike Mercurial boot known as the R9 in 1998. During Ronaldo’s career he had many individual successes including, FIFA World Player of the Year in 1996, 1997, and 2002, winning the Ballon d’Or twice in 1997 and 2002 and UEFA Club Footballer of the year in 1998. Along with many Golden Boot awards for club and country, Ronaldo was a part of Brazil National Team when winning two FIFA World Cups in 1994 and 2002.

Playing Career- 1993 – 2011 (18 years)

Attributes-  Dribbling at Speed, Feints, and Clinical Finishing

Success Tips- Ronaldo like most footballers was an advocate for always consistently training as much as possible. Like Neymar Ronaldo grew up learning his craft on the streets of Brazil. This is where the creativity side of football is learning. Much of it can’t be taught. Ronaldo’s influential turning point in football would be how he expressed himself as a player and always trying his hardest and not letting his faults hinder his future performances.

“I am going to keep on training, and I am looking forward to getting back out there and doing what I love”. – Ronaldo

Keep on try and never give up. The more hours spent practicing the better footballer you will become.

15.               Roberto Carlos

Description- Roberto Carlos is well known for his outrageous free kick against France in the 1998 FIFA World Cup. Playing 584 professional games across his career, Roberto shone on the football world with his dynamic left foot skills and creativity like many other Brazilian players. He is the most offensive left back the world game has ever seen and will see for a while. 

Playing Career- 1992 – 2012 (20 years)

Attributes- Stamina, Running Speed, Technical Skills, Crossing Ability.

Success Tips- Roberto Carlos attributes allowed him to be amongst some of the best players in the world. He added energy and an athletic dynamic to each club that he played for. His game was built off hard work and repetitiveness during training. Each one of his attributes weren’t gifts of talent, they came from his will to continue to work and become a better footballer in every aspect of his game.

“The line between right and wrong is so thin at times, that we must train ourselves to see it clearly.” – Roberto Carlos

It’s good being born with talent, but talent is nothing without hard work and a desire to get better each and every day.

16.               Kaka

Description- Kaka was known for his incredible playmaking and creativity to create goal scoring opportunities. He has been considered as one of the greatest players in his generation. Kaka’s way of playing football was an expression of love for the game, always playing with his heart on his sleeve and loving every moment and opportunity he had. He is one of eight players to ever win the FIFA World Cup, UEFA Champions League and the Ballon d’Or.

during the Serie A match between AC Milan and AC Chievo Verona at San Siro Stadium on March 29, 2014 in Milan, Italy.

Playing Career- 2001 – 2017 (16 years)

Attributes- Creativity, Passion, Finishing, Crossing, Creating Opportunities

Success Tips- Kaka was one of the most creative players in his generation of football. Watching back his highs and lows in football, the one thing which really stands out is no matter what, play with confidence, doubt is created through fear in your mind not allowing your ability to shine. Things to take away from Kaka and to look to use:

  • Creativity is not created from just training on the pitch, it is made off the pitch in your own time.
  • Express your skills and improve your weaknesses
  • Believe. Believe in yourself, have faith in what you are doing and trust the process.

“I learnt that it is faith that decides whether something will happen or not”. – Kaka

Kaka always believed in what he was wanting to achieve. It is all about allowing yourself to believe and truly fine what you value in life and football.

17.               Dennis Bergkamp

Description- Dennis Bergkamp was among some of the most extraordinary strikers to ever play the game. The Dutch international demonstrated his talent playing his career at Ajax, Inter Milan and Arsenal. Bergkamp establish a name for himself when moving to Arsenal leading them to three Premier League titles, four FA Cup trophies and being finalists on the 2006 UEFA Champions League final. He has been inducted to the English Football Hall of Fame along with being named the FIFA World Player of the Year twice.

LONDON – AUGUST 22: Dennis Berkamp of Arsenal during the Barclays Premiership match between Arsenal and Middlesbrough at Highbury on August 22, 2004 in London. (Photo by Phil Cole/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Dennis Berkamp

Playing Career- 1986 – 2006 (20 years)

Attributes- Movement off the ball, Ball Control, Goalscoring, Vision.

Success Tips- Dennis Bergkamp was one of the most naturally gifted talented footballers to walk the earth. But he was also a firm believer that his success came from his hard work, dedication and preparation. Dennis created an environment for himself at Arsenal under Arsan Wanger where he could get the most out of his footballing abilities and enjoy the game as much as possible.

“When you beat a team so often – especially like this season when Chelsea had already lost three times to us – you know people expect you to do it again”. – Dennis Bergkamp

Being dedicated, determined and desirable, football has the ability to do many things. It’s up to you to make a difference for yourself.

18.               Ruud Gullit

Description- Ruud Gullit was turned many eyes to football not only for his footballing ability but for his looks having dreadlocks and a moustache, being very uncommon to see on footballers in his day. The Dutch international was a very successful footballer in his own individual right winning the BAllon d’Or in 1987 and FIFA Soccer Player of the Year Award in 1987 and 1989. Gullit also captained the Netherlands to the EUFA Cup in 1988 and was part of the world cup squad in 1990.

Playing Career- 1979 – 1998 (19 years)

Attributes- Versatility, Creativeness, Hard work, Shooting and Crossing Ability

Success Tips- Ruud Gullit was a tremendous football in his time turning many heads to the game through his passion and ability. Ruud and Lothar Matthaus (German International), legends of the game, both sat down and revealed their secrets to becoming such successful footballers.

  • Having self-belief. If you don’t believe in yourself then others won either
  • Playing and training with confidence
  • Being disciplined and responsible for your actions both on and off the pitch
  • Having the hunger and desire to continue improving your game in any way possible
  • Being honest with yourself as you are the only one to know where you really sit in your own training.

“Every week you have to play well to be the champion”. – Ruud Gullit

 As Gullit says in the quote above, playing well each week is what creates a champion. Staying consistent in training and daily habits will make you successful in anything you want to achieve.

Time to Conclude

Out of 18 footballers, each one has their own individual achievements, team trophies and successes. Every footballer has impacted the world of football one way or another and really left a mark on the history of football. 

It is amazing though, each player in the list of 18 share a couple things in common. They did it all for the love of the game, each person was determined to always be a better player and knew that came from hard work and all believed in themselves more than anyone else could.

What did you learn from this blog? Is there something here that you thought was interesting and might incorporate into your training or daily life? Each and every one is our own individuals but together football brings us all close for the love of the game. Keep that love each and every step of the way in your journeys on and off the park.

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KB

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