Top 15 most influential soccer players in the 21st century

09/04/2024 Betting News

Not long ago, the renowned sports magazine FourFourTwo’s published the list of “The most influential soccer players of the 21st century”. Immediately, there were divergent opinions raised for debate. Indeed, many fans argued that the rankings in this list needed adjustments. However, according to admin Wintips, the list is entirely accurate and without errors. Nevertheless, the admin also wishes to present a perspective on the Top 15 most influential soccer players. Let’s see if it aligns with your thoughts.

Most influential soccer players in the 21st century
Most influential soccer players in the 21st century

Most influential soccer players – Top 15 legend

1/ Pelé

Born as Edson Arantes do Nascimento and famously known as the “King of Football,” Pelé undoubtedly stands as one of the greatest soccer players of all time. Hailing from Brazil, Pelé’s achievements are nothing short of remarkable.

He secured three FIFA World Cup titles (1958, 1962, and 1970), an unparalleled feat yet to be replicated. Pelé’s unique blend of speed, skill, and goal-scoring prowess set him apart. He netted a staggering 1,281 goals in 1,363 official matches, a record that still stands as a testament to his greatness.

King of football with more than 1000 career goals - Pelé
King of football with more than 1000 career goals – Pelé

He was voted the Player of the Century by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics in 2000 and FIFA’s Player of the Century. Even after a successful football career, Pelé showed no signs of slowing down in retirement. He served as Brazil’s Minister of Sports from 1995 to 1998 and became a global ambassador for football.

2/ Diego Maradona – Most influential soccer players

Despite controversial personal life, Diego Maradona remains a football legend whose influence extends not only to his own generation but also to future ones. He is an iconic figure in Argentine football renowned for his inspirational dribbling skills and creativity.

Most influential soccer players in the 21st century
South American football legend with outstanding talent – D. Maradona

The infamous “Hand of God” goal in the 1986 World Cup showcased his audacity. But it was the “Goal of the Century” against England in the same tournament that truly reflected his brilliance. Maradona’s mesmerizing dribbles past the entire English team have been etched deeply into football history. His personality and on-field exploits have earned him a revered status among fans worldwide.

3/ Andrea Pirlo – Most influential soccer players

The 5-a-side game in England has been completely revolutionized since Andrea Pirlo’s pinnacle performance against England at Euro 2012: now, a Sunday League player can be designated to casually stroll around the pitch, feigning disinterest. But at the highest level, Pirlo took on Italy’s ancient register and deemed it contemporary crucial.

This hipster darling began his career far before resurging as a deep-lying playmaker. He couldn’t bear it. His conception of his role was both midfielder and leader: suddenly, the ball-winners and shields in front of the defense almost seemed secondary to someone as effortless as Pirlo in possession.

The "conductor" of Italy's play - Andrea Pirlo
The “conductor” of Italy’s play – Andrea Pirlo

Every Italian midfielder since has embodied both traits of the midfielder born in Flero and his teammate Rino Gattuso in their character. Pirlo himself proved that culture can be found in midfielders; in brains as well as brawn. He remains a style icon and always will be.

4/ Antonin Panenka

No other player has a penalty-taking style named after them – take a second to think about that. The pen of Antonin Panenka not only has been emulated by countless players over many decades but can also be the most beautiful moment in football history. This game is equivalent to the game Who Wants to Be a Millionaire in the US.

The legendary Antonin Panenka is the owner of the familiar 11m "Panenka" rock style
The legendary Antonin Panenka is the owner of the familiar 11m “Panenka” rock style

However, from this root, consider the influence of what these moments have had on football in terms of penalty saves. Jorginho’s chip and even the essence of slotting the ball into the net – whether from a dead ball or not – have stemmed from these moments.

5/ Lionel Messi – Most influential soccer players

Lionel Messi is a phenomenal player; his performance in the 2022 World Cup reflected just that. He led Argentina to victory in the 2022 World Cup and secured his 2nd Ballon d’Or. Messi is praised for his unparalleled dribbling skills, precise ball control, and accurate finishing.

Most influential soccer players in the 21st century
After winning the 2022 World Cup, Messi has officially completed his collection of trophies

He spent the majority of his career at Barcelona, and as of June 2023, Messi has won 43 titles, including numerous Ballon d’Or awards. Beyond being a remarkable goal scorer, Messi is also an outstanding leader. His teammates commend him for making them better players.

6/ David Beckham – Most influential soccer players

He is an icon for anyone born from the mid-1980s onwards, symbolizing the trajectory from zero to hero so quintessentially English yet never seen with such flair. Becks then became one of England’s most famous footballers, a Galactico, and later revolutionized MLS by elevating them to the heights of fame.

D. Beckham - A reputable, elegant and excellent player
D. Beckham – A reputable, elegant and excellent player

Amidst all this, it’s easy to forget just how skilled a footballer David Beckham truly was (even if he mostly features on this list for what he achieved in the US). He staked his claim in a very specific area of the game, becoming a set-piece specialist; Crossing from the right wing remained a David Beckham trademark, yet it provided many assists for Kevin De Bruyne.

7/ Cristiano Ronaldo

We cannot compile this list without mentioning the powerhouse forward Cristiano Ronaldo, synonymous with athleticism and goal-scoring prowess. He has won 35 titles and holds the record for the most goals in men’s football history.

Most influential soccer players in the 21st century
CR7 is the individual with the most total followers on Instagram and Facebook

Ronaldo’s rivalry with Messi for the title of the world’s best player has propelled both to unprecedented heights. The player currently plying his trade for Al Nassr in Saudi Arabia has set the standards for football, and we can only expect more from him in the future.

8/ Claude Makelele – Most influential soccer players

Pure purists would tell you that Claude Makelele is nothing special. That despite his title being his, he wasn’t the originator of ideas; that he once told Marca, “One day I hope I can play like Aaron Mokoena of Ajax.” They might have a point.

Most influential soccer players in the 21st century
French football legend – C. Makelele

But not just anyone could play the role of Makelele. The French midfielder wasn’t the most talented when in possession. Nor did he possess remarkable muscles or defensive traits. He simply was in the right place at the right time: in fact, it was extraordinary to see him sitting among the Galacticos in midfield and shadowing them.

9/ Philipp Lahm – Most influential soccer players

Fame, they say, is the mother of invention – but in the case of Pep Guardiola, innovation often comes from having all the necessary parts and just assembling them in a way never before done. Inverting full-backs. During his time at Bayern Munich, Guardiola realized his smartest player was a full-back, capable of playing on either flank.

Lahm has not received a single red card throughout his career
Lahm has not received a single red card throughout his career

Philipp Lahm could read the game better from the pitch than an analyst in the stands; by allowing him and David Alaba to tuck inside, Bayern could maintain wide attacking play while naturally shifting ball-winners into midfield. With support from Pep, Lahm blurred the line between a defender and a midfielder. Lahm’s success inspired other full-backs to play with confidence and rise higher.

10/ Franco Baresi

Franco Baresi was cursed by being defined by someone he wasn’t. Initially dubbed ‘Little One’ because his older brother was a former footballer, he later took on the nickname “Kaiser Franz”. Alluding to Franz Beckenbauer. Ask any AC Milan fan, and they’ll tell you he was just one part of a backline quartet, alongside Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Costacurta, and Mauro Tassotti.

The history of AC Milan is associated with the name Franco Baresi
The history of AC Milan is associated with the name Franco Baresi

But Baresi might just be the most crucial. Sure, he was rugged, resilient, and sturdy, but it was in his distribution that he truly was a visionary. A playmaker from the last line of defense. Baresi inspired countless defenders to emulate his style, as coaches drew inspiration from Arrigo Sacchi’s high and tidy defensive line.

11/ Andres Iniesta

When Andres Iniesta left Barcelona, AS newspaper simply headlined “Don’t go!” For a player with few goals, assists, or standout moments quantifiable by untrained eyes, it’s perhaps strange that this man was so beloved by a club accustomed to adoring winners. Indeed, Iniesta changed the DNA of a midfielder.

Most influential soccer players in the 21st century
Iniesta and Spain dominated world football for 8 years

The man whom Pep Guardiola declared “will retire us all” had the tight ball control and dribbling skills of a winger, famously possessing “La Pausa” – the ability to draw defenders into his orbit and display such selflessness that he couldn’t be called selfish. So artful in and out of possession, you could forgive thinking he was an android Pep had specially crafted for tiki-taka.

12/ Ronaldinho – Most influential soccer players

The first thing English fans truly remember about Ronaldinho is his audacious celebration after lobbing David Seaman from 40 meters out. At that moment, they might have felt incredulous, but they gradually grew to adore this daring character.

Most influential soccer players in the 21st century
The inspiration of South American and Brazilian football – The legendary Ronaldinho

Ronaldinho reintroduced flamboyance into football. As the ultimate entertainer of the 21st century, he dazzled with his skills; stories abound of him scoring all 23 goals in a youth team match and honing his unbelievable abilities on the streets as a child with his pet dog – he’s the most enigmatic extrovert you’ll ever find.

13/ Francesco Totti

When faced with the phrase “carpe diem,” Francesco Totti famously asserted he couldn’t speak English. It’s hard to believe this man would come to define a Latin phrase. But Totti was another pioneer of the modern false nine system and a reference point for second strikers in the 2000s.

Prince of Rome - Francesco Totti
Prince of Rome – Francesco Totti

The Roma legend may never receive the respect he rightfully deserves in his career – Italian football somewhat looks down upon legends who stray from clubs in the North – but his influence is more cultural than his lack of Latin knowledge would suggest.

14/ Ian Wright – Most influential soccer players

Ian Wright was only 29 when the Premier League began. His rise to become one of the greatest strikers ever is nothing short of remarkable. Wrighty epitomizes starting from nothing, working at Greenwich Borough and earning £30 a week at the age of 22. He’s a shining example of never giving up.

The legendary Ian Wright is part of Man Utd's history
The legendary Ian Wright is part of Man Utd’s history

Perhaps the man who broke Arsenal’s all-time goal-scoring record played and celebrated with such passion because of that tumultuous start to his career. Wright spent a few weeks in prison, came from a disadvantaged family, and succeeded against all odds. If you escaped what he escaped, you’d be smiling too.

15/ Zinedine Zidane

Fundamentally, Zinedine Zidane was rewarded handsomely for his strategy of scoring decisive goals in Champions League finals, after Real Madrid splashed out £45 million to acquire him, breaking the transfer record. He was a Galactico. He was the suave figure around whom Los Blancos built their team.

Most influential soccer players in the 21st century
Z. Zidane and Real Madrid won 3 consecutive Champions League titles

As a result, Zizou was the prototype number 10 of an entire generation (oh, also number 5). His performances at Euro 2000 are legendary, as well as the pinnacle victory in 2006 against Brazil. His spell at Marseille became synonymous with him; his strides were mimicked by wannabes. His first touch was unrivaled.


In conclusion, the world of soccer has been shaped by numerous remarkable talents. But a select few have left an indelible mark on the sport, earning the title of the most influential soccer players. From Pelé to Messi, these icons have transcended generations, redefining the game with their unparalleled skill, vision, and dedication. Their impact extends far beyond the pitch, inspiring millions worldwide and cementing their legacies as true legends of the beautiful game. Visit the homepage of the bookmaker website to update more news.

See also: Who are the worst goalkeeper in the world? Come to the Top 10

  • Top Bookmakers

    Bonus up to
    200 $
    Bonus up to
    250 $
    Bonus up to
    100 $
    Bonus up to
    150 $
    Bonus up to
    100 $