There are those who deserved to get into this top 20, but didn’t. They are deserving legends in their own right, and here are five footballers who just missed out on the Top 20:
Some might argue that Ronaldo deserves to get into the Top 20, but the reason he is not present is because his stock is only expected to rise as his career proceeds.
Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro is one of the best players of the modern era to grace the football pitch. And how his career has burgeoned: from a skinny little kid brought up on the Portuguese island of Madeira, to being inculcated in Sporting Club de Portugal’s Youth Academy, where he was made fun of due to his islander accent.
The dedication he shows to the game is phenomenal. While still in Portugal, he was known for learning to sprint with weights fastened to his feet so that he would be able to run faster without them. A career that has seen him play in the red of Manchester United, where he won a glittering plethora of trophies, including multiple Premier League titles and the UEFA Champions League.
Now at Real Madrid, Cristiano is one of the lynchpins of the Nuevos Galacticos and under the tutelage of fellow Portuguese trainer Jose Mourinho, is only set to scale even greater heights. Rumour has it that Ronaldo will wear the name ‘Aveiro’ in honour of his father, who was his inspiration.
Manchester United fans have a saying which goes, ‘Pele good, Maradona better, George Best,’ and that is possibly the best tribute one can pay to the Northern Irishman, who along with Sir Bobby Charlton and Denis Law, made up Manchester United’s holy trinity under legendary coach Sir Matt Busby.
Best was a prolific goalscorer who could play either as a striker or a winger. While at United, he won two First Division titles, one European Cup and one charity shield.
Sadly, Best had battled with alcoholism all his life, and it was that which ultimately took his life. He underwent a publicly-funded liver transplant carried out by the UK’s National Health Service, which at the time caused much public outcry. He has faced numerous charges stemming from alcohol abuse, including being jailed for three months in 1984 for drunk driving, assaulting an officer of the law and failing to answer his bail summons.
In 2004, he was slapped with a 20-month ban on driving for the same reason.
They say alcohol reduces your inhibitions, and that may be why Best was such a fantastical footballer on the pitch. Whatever people’s opinion of him, ‘Bestie’ will always occupy a soft spot in the heart of every Manchester United fan.
If there is one event by which people will remember Roberto Baggio, it will unfortunately be that penalty miss against Brazil at the 1994 FIFA World Cup finals held in the United States. Designated as the fifth penalty taker after both regulation and extra time had finished goalless, the onus was on Baggio to deliver after both Daniele Massaro and Franco Baresi had missed their penalties.
After a woeful group stage in which Italy had qualified as the best-placed third team, Baggio plundered five goals in the knockout stages, in a feat reminiscent of Paolo Rossi in 1982. Baggio scored against Nigeria, Bulgaria (two each) and Spain.
But the ‘Divine Ponytail’, who had converted to Buddhism, was vilified in his staunchly Catholic homeland for not winning Italy the World Cup. The adage ‘blame that on which you do not understand’ seemed very apt for the scenario Baggio found himself in.
He enjoyed a very successful Club career, representing three of Italy’s four big clubs, with stints at Inter Milan, cross town rivals AC and Turin side Juventus. He also played for Brescia, Bologna, Vicenza and Fiorentina.
The “Black Spider” made 75 appearances for the Soviet Union
Dubbed as ‘the greatest goal-keeper to have ever lived’ by some, Lev Yashin is to date the only goal-keeper to have won the coveted Ballon D’Or award. Known as the Black Panther due to the all-black kit he wore, and because he seemed to have eight arms due to the number of shots he stopped, Yashin is a name that will live forever in the history books.
With the Soviet Union, he won the 1956 Summer Olympics and the 1960 European Championships and also played in three World Cups: Sweden 1958, Chile 1962, England 1966 and Mexico 1970.
It was his performances in the Sweden that drew the attention of the world. In the group stage match against Brazil, he restricted the South American nation to a 2-0 scoreline, making many saves that seemed ludicrous at the time. His best performance, though, came in a FA centenary match at Wembley, England.
Yashin made many astounding saves in that game, which were applauded by the home side, earning him the moniker the “Black Spider”.
He is credited with the development of several techniques that are common in modern-day football, including rushing out to intercept a player, throwing the ball to start quick counterattacks and the organisation of defences at set plays.
Manchester United can consider themselves fortunate to have been graced with three one-club men in the recent past: the recently retired Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes.
In an era when the concept of the one-club man seems increasingly alien, Scholes epitomises all things Manchester United. His never say die attitude is reflective of United’s mentality as a whole. Never one to back down from a challenge, Scholes exudes a calmness and composure that permeates among his teammates, which in turn enables them to raise their game.
Not for nothing has the quote ‘keep calm and pass to Scholes’ been created for United’s midfield metronome. Hailed a ‘complete footballer’ and a player in ‘a class of his own’ by midfield maestro Zinedine Zidane, Scholes’ sprayed passes are the stuff of jaw-dropping awe, which has brought United back from the brink of defeat time and time again.
Just in case his love for the Red Devils wasn’t present for all to see, Scholes announced his comeback from retirement in January last year, featuring for United in an FA Cup game against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium. Despite being 37 and being in the twilight of his career, there’s only one word that can be used to describe ‘Scholesy’.