10 Best English Footballers of all Time (2024)

England's national football team are one of the most successful International teams in history, owing largely to their 1966 World Cup success at the Old Wembley Stadium when they defeated their rivals, West Germany 4-2 after Extra Time.

England were one of the very first national teams established, alongside Scotland in 1872. They participated in the first ever International match versus Scotland that same year.

Alongside their sole World Cup success, they reached the Semi-Finals of the inaugural European Championships in 1968 and 1996, as well as reaching the final four of the World Cup on two further occasions in 1990 and 2018.

England were the most successful team in the now-defunct Home Nations tournament that took place between 1884 and 1984. England won 54 titles in the 100-year history of the competition.

After a long period of underachievement, England's run to the semifinals in the 2018 World Cup has been followed by reaching the Semi-Finals of the first ever Nations League tournament in which they are to take on the Netherlands on June 6, 2019.

Despite long periods of limited success, the England national team has produced a number of world class players who have all played at the peak level of European and International Football. Names such as Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Paul Scholes, Kevin Keegan have all lit up European and International Football though none of those names ever lifted an International trophy. Peter Shilton is England's most capped player with 125 caps and Wayne Rooney is his country's all time highest goal scorer with 53 goals.

The 1966 England team yielded several all time great English players that have achieved immortality.

This slideshow looks at the 10 greatest England players of all time.

Do you agree? Let us know in the comments section below!

#10 Paul Gascoigne (1988-98)

Appearances: 57

Goals: 10

Paul "Gazza" Gascoigne's England career began on September 14, 1988 in a friendly versus Denmark as a late substitute for Peter Beardsley.

His first goal for his country came in a 5-0 drubbing of Albania at Wembley in April 1989.

However, "Gazza's" most memorable performances for England came during the 1990 World Cup.

Gascoigne's intelligence shone at Italia '90 as he assisted goals versus Egypt in the group stage, lobbed a beautiful free kick for David Platt to volley home the winner in the first knockout stage versus Belgium and also played a delightful through ball for Gary Lineker in the Quarter Final, which proved to be decisive. As Lineker latched on to the pass, he was fouled and subsequently dispatched the match-winning penalty.

It was during the Semi-Final versus West Germany that "Gazza" achieved worldwide fame. With the score 1-1, he accidentally tripped Thomas Berthold earning a yellow card. Having also been booked in the Second Round versus Belgium, this meant that Gascoigne would have been suspended for the World Cup Final had England got there.

Upset, "Gazza" burst into tears, endearing himself to millions.

England boss, Sir Bobby Robson, resigned after the tournament and new manager, Gordon Taylor dropped Gascoigne from the starting line-up. Shortly afterwards, Gascoigne suffered torn cruciate ligaments and was ruled out of Euro 1992.

When he returned from injury, he was restored to the starting line-up but could not prevent England from failing to qualify for the 1994 World Cup.

Football came home at Euro 1996 and "Gazza" lit up the tournament with several impressive performances, most notably versus Scotland when he lobbed the ball over Colin Hendry's head and volleyed past Andy Goram in the Scotland goal. Gascoigne helped England reach the Semi-Finals where he came within a whisker of sending his country to the Final, but his outstretched leg could not quite meet Alan Shearer's cross, in which any contact would have earned the Golden Goal necessary to send England through.

Following Euro 1996, Terry Venables was replaced by Glenn Hoddle as England manager and Hoddle kept faith with the ageing Gascoigne in the centre of his midfield.

Gascoigne played a key role during the qualification process scoring and assisting goals on a regular basis and seemed assured of a starting role at the World Cup Finals in France. However, shortly before the squads were due to be announced, "Gazza" was photographed eating Kebabs on a night out. The ensuing fall out, amidst concerns over Gascoigne's fitness levels led to him not being included in England's 1998 World Cup squad. He would never play for his country again.

It was a sad end to a brilliant international career that came very close to seeing his country achieve World and European success.

#9 Alan Shearer (1992-2000)

Appearances: 60

Goals: 30

10 Best English Footballers of all Time (1)

Alan Shearer highlighted Euro 96 in England when his golden boot performance of five goals led his country to the brink of the Final. Only Semi-Final penalty shootout heartache versus the Germans denied England.

However, Shearer's four goals in the group stage and one versus Germany in the Semi-Final ensure he is synonymous with that tournament.

Debuting for his country in 1992, Shearer marked his bow with a goal versus France. However, due to injury he only played intermittently in the run up to the 1994 World Cup. His absence from the qualifying campaign meant that England had little firepower going forward and they failed to reach the tournament finals.

It was considered a gamble by England coach, Terry Venables to start Shearer at Euro 96, but his fine performances meant he was the first name on the team sheet following the tournament.

Shearer was made Captain by new England coach, Glenn Hoddle and continued to plunder the goals as England qualified for the 1998 World Cup at the expense of Italy, who were forced to qualify via the playoffs instead. Shearer scored five times during the qualifiers and added two more in the finals as England were knocked out in a famous Second Round encounter with old rivals, Argentina.

The goals kept coming for Shearer but as he approached his 30th birthday, he announced his International retirement following the Euro 2000 tournament. He scored twice in the finals as England crashed out at the group stage.

Shearer was one of England's most talismanic goalscorers ever and one of their greatest ever players.

#8 Bryan Robson (1980-91)

Appearances: 90

Goals: 26

10 Best English Footballers of all Time (2)

"Captain Marvel," Bryan Robson played for England for 11 years, during which time he captained his country 65 times, a number only beaten by Billy Wright and Sir Bobby Moore.

He was selected for the 1980 European Championship squad but did not play during the tournament.

In his 13th cap, in September 1981, he scored his first goal for England and began to become a fixture in the centre of the team's midfield.

At the 1982 World Cup, Robson scored the fastest ever goal at a World Cup finals, after just 27 seconds. It was a record that stood for 20 years until it was surpassed by Davor Sukur at the 2002 tournament.

He captained his country for the first time that November and became England's best player; an energetic box to box midfielder, Robson had stunning anticipation as well as great goal-scoring and tackling ability.

He led England to the 1986 World Cup finals but was injured in the group stages and watched from the sidelines as his country reached the Quarter Finals wherein they were eliminated by the good and bad of Diego Maradona; namely the goal of the tournament and the infamous "Hand of God."

Robson again led from the front with an array of fine personal performances during qualifying for the 1988 European Championship. However, he was unable to prevent England from making an early exit in the finals.

Robson participated in a third World Cup finals for England, however, his personal Italia 90 ended early as he was once again injured in the group stages. This time the squad went one better as they reached the Semi-Finals; ultimately eliminated by West Germany on a penalty shootout.

The following year, Robson retired from England duty after scoring 26 goals in 90 appearances; "Captain Marvel" indeed.

#7 Gary Lineker (1984-92)

Appearances: 80

Goals: 48

10 Best English Footballers of all Time (3)

Gary Lineker is the third most prolific goalscorer in England's history, behind only Sir Bobby Charlton and Wayne Rooney.

He rose to prominence on the International stage by top scoring at the 1986 World Cup with six goals, becoming the first ever England player to earn the Golden Boot. Doubly impressive that he did so, despite England making a relatively early exit in the Quarter Finals.

He also became just the second Englishman to score a hat trick at a World Cup following Geoff Hurst's treble in the 1966 final 20 years earlier.

Lineker scored four times in qualifying for the 1988 European Championship, three of them in the one game, during the 8-0 rout of Turkey at Wembley Stadium. However, he did not score in the finals as England suffered a humiliating tournament, losing all three of their group games.

1990 saw a revival in England's fortunes as they reached the Semi-Finals of the 1990 World Cup. Lineker scored four times in the finals including the opening goal in their first group game versus the Republic of Ireland, two more in the crucial Quarter-Finals versus Cameroon and the equalising goal in the Semi-Final versus West Germany; a game which England eventually lost on penalties.

Lineker participated in qualifying for Euro 1992, but was substituted by England manager, Graham Taylor, one goal shy of Bobby Charlton's then record of 49 England goals in his final game for his country.

It was a disappointing end to a prolific International career for one of England's finest ever forwards.

#6 Wayne Rooney (2003-16)

Appearances: 119

Goals: 53

10 Best English Footballers of all Time (4)

Wayne Rooney is England's record goalscorer. For that reason alone, the former Manchester United man is deserving of a spot on this list.

Rooney made his England debut as a 17 year old and was England's youngest ever debutant at the time. He also became his country's youngest ever goalscorer when he scored versus Macedonia in a Euro 2004 qualifier.

The precocious Rooney lit up Euro 2004, scoring four goals and made UEFA's team of the tournament. Unfortunately, he was injured in the Quarter-Finals and England were eliminated on penalties.

Rooney was injured prior to the 2006 World Cup and failed to fully recover in time for the tournament and was a shadow of the player he had been in 2004.

Rooney top scored for England during their perfect 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign, notching nine goals. However, he went goalless in the finals as England bowed out in the Second Round versus old foes. Germany.

The Manchester United Captain once more saved his best form for the qualifying tournaments as he scored three times as England reached Euro 2012. However, Rooney earned a petulant red card in the final qualifier and was suspended for the first two matches of the finals. In his first match of the tournament, Rooney scored the only goal versus Ukraine to send England to the Quarter-Finals where they were defeated on a penalty shootout against Italy.

At the 2014 World Cup, Rooney scored and assisted the only goals his country scored at the tournament as they bowed out in the group stages.

Prior to Euro 2016, England manager, Roy Hodgson made Rooney Captain as his performances improved by playing in the centre of England's midfield. Despite some fine displays, Rooney couldn't prevent his country from elimination in the Second Round by minnows, Iceland.

Rooney announced his international retirement the following year, making one final appearance a year later in 2018 to promote his new charity in a friendly versus the United States.

Despite some inconsistent performances in major tournaments, Rooney's goals and performances raised the level of an England team with few star names during the 2010 to 2016 period.

#5 Geoff Hurst (1966-72)

Appearances: 49

Goals: 24

10 Best English Footballers of all Time (5)

Geoff Hurst may have only played International Football for six years but few England players have ever had the impact he had wearing the Three Lions.

Hurst is of course most famous for his World Cup Final hat trick in 1966, which gave England their sole major Championship win.

What is less remembered, however is that Hurst was not first choice for England during that tournament. Indeed, Hurst was new to the International set up, having only debuted for his country in February of that year, ironically against 1966 finalists, West Germany.

However, an injury to Jimmy Greaves in the final group stage match cleared the way for Hurst to break into the starting line-up and he made an immediate impact. Hurst scored the winning goal versus Argentina to propel England into the Semi-Finals. Hurst subsequently set up Bobby Charlton's winning goal in the 2-1 victory over Portugal.

That led to Hurst's finest hour as he became the first (and still only) man to score a hat-trick in a World Cup Final.

Hurst scored in the inaugural European Championships in 1968 as England defeated the Soviet Union in the Third Place Play Offs.

Hurst retained his starting berth at the 1970 World Cup and again was amongst the goals in England's opening group game versus Romania. However, there was to be no repeat of 1966, as England were disappointingly eliminated in the Quarter-Finals by West Germany, despite Hurst having a goal disallowed with the score at 2-2.

Hurst played in the qualifiers for the 1972 European Championships, but injuries ensured he would not represent his country again.

However, despite the brevity of his England career, no one has since replicated the iconic moments he delivered in that 1966 final, making Hurst one of the most famous players to ever wear the Three Lions of England.

#4 David Beckham (1996-2009)

Appearances: 115

Goals: 17

10 Best English Footballers of all Time (6)

David Beckham is arguably the most famous England footballer of all time, given his worldwide fame as a fashion icon and tenures playing first class Football in England, Spain, Italy and the United States of America.

Beckham wasn't selected for Euro 96 in England but he made his debut later that year for the 1998 World Cup qualifiers. He was the only England player to compete in every qualifying match.

However, he didn't start either of England's first two group games at the finals as manager, Glenn Hoddle stated that he did not believe the youngster was focused on the tournament. The next two games demonstrated the best and worst of the Manchester United midfielder.

He scored his first goal for his country with a trademark 30 yard free kick versus Columbia to seal England's passage through to the Second Round.

However, in one of the most famous World Cup matches ever, Beckham petulantly lashed out at Diego Simeone after he was fouled and was given a straight red card. His country subsequently lost on penalties.

Beckham's redemption was complete when after suffering abuse from his own supporters for two years, he was made Captain by incoming manager, Sven Goran Eriksson.

Another trademark free kick from Becks sent his country to the 2002 World Cup with a stoppage time goal to rescue a 2-2 draw against Greece.

He banished his personal demons with the winning goal versus Argentina in the group stages of the finals, however Beckham was struggling with injury during the tournament and ducked out of a tackle in the Quarter-Finals versus Brazil with England 1-0 up, allowing Rivaldo to equalise. A fluke free kick from Ronaldinho early in the second half eliminated England from the tournament.

Beckham once again struggled for fitness at Euro 2004 in which England were heavily favoured to do well. He missed a penalty in his country's late 2-1 defeat to France and again in the shootout in the Quarter Finals versus Portugal, condemning England to yet another last eight exit.

Beckham was fully fit by the time the 2006 World Cup rolled around and he lit up the group stages, providing assists for the winning goal versus Paraguay and both goals in a 2-0 success against Trinidad and Tobago. He scored in the Second Round versus Ecuador, making him the first England player to score at three World Cups.

Beckham suffered with illness during that game and was subbed in the next round, which England went on to lose on penalties to Portugal once more. Despite an impressive World Cup, Beckham was dropped from the squad completely be new manager, Steve McClaren.

Some fine performances for his club, Real Madrid earned Beckham a recall to the International team. He set up John Terry's goal versus Brazil in the first match held at the new Wembley Stadium and assisted Michael Owen and Peter Crouch's goals in a 2-0 qualifier versus Estonia.

However, bizarrely he was left out of England's final crucial qualifier versus Croatia. After England went 2-0 down, Beckham was brought on as a substitute and almost inspired a full comeback as he set up Crouch to score the equalising goal. However, England would concede again, ensuring they missed out on qualifying for the 2008 European Championships.

Beckham played a full role in England's successful qualification campaign for the 2010 World Cup under new boss, Fabio Capello, however injury ruled him out of the finals, denying him a fourth finals appearance. Beckham was not selected again, ending a superb International career as England's most capped outfield player.

#3 Gordon Banks (1963-72)

Appearances: 73

10 Best English Footballers of all Time (7)

Quite simply; Gordon Banks is England's finest ever goalkeeper.

Peter Shilton may be England's most capped shot stopper and indeed his country's most capped player full stop, but Shilton could not match Banks's achievements between the sticks for England.

Banks's was named FIFA's goalkeeper of the year on six occasions and it's easy to see why. Making his debut for his country in 1963, he soon established himself as England's full time number one in place of Ron Springett.

Entering the 1966 World Cup, England had only lost one of their past 21 matches, a defeat to Austria, in which Banks did not play.

Banks's expert positioning and quick reflexes made him extremely difficult to beat and England's defence was crucial to their 1966 World Cup win. Banks did not concede a goal until the Semi-Finals versus Portugal and that was a penalty.

Famously, Banks was defeated twice in the World Cup Final by two goals which were caused by uncharacteristically poor England defending which left the keeper with little chance.

Banks made several great saves in Extra-Time as England scored twice to win the World Cup, 4-2.

However, probably Banks's most famous moment in an England shirt came at the subsequent World Cup in 1970. After keeping a clean sheet in England's opener versus Romania, Banks had the unenviable task of trying to keep the world's best player, Pele at bay as well as the other attacking forces of Brazil.

In one of the greatest saves ever, Banks showed incredible reflexes to deny a powerful, pinpoint header from Pele out of the net. Meeting Jairzinho's cross, Pele met the ball with his head directing it downward to Banks's right. Banks leapt to the floor and with an outstretched hand, shocked the world by scooping the ball over the crossbar. Banks did concede his first goal of the tournament however, when Jairzinho scored the only goal of the game in the second period.

Banks suffered with illness after the group stages and therefore missed England's Quarter-Final bout with West Germany, wherein his understudy, Peter Bonetti conceded three late goals as England spurned a two goal lead.

Banks played for England for a further two years before retiring from England duty with a stunning record of 35 clean sheets in 73 appearances.

#2 Bobby Charlton (1958-70)

Appearances: 106

Goals: 49

10 Best English Footballers of all Time (8)

There are few more iconic players than Sir Bobby Charlton. Revered as one of the best footballers of all time, Charlton played for England during the most successful period in their footballing history.

Charlton was selected for the 1958 World Cup finals but did not play despite the squad being ravaged following the Munich Air Disaster several months earlier in which many Manchester United and England Internationals died.

He scored his first hat trick for his country in 1959 versus the USA and another two years later against Mexico.

By the time the 1962 World Cup came around, Charlton had established himself as a regular in his country's starting line up. Charlton scored just once in the finals though as England were eliminated in the Quarter-Finals by eventual winners, Brazil.

Following the tournament, Charlton became his country's most prolific ever goalscorer, with his 31st goal for England, seeing him surpass the 30 mark set by Tom Finney and Nat Lofthouse.

Charlton scored three times during England's 1966 World Cup success. One of his best performances in an England shirt came in the Semi-Finals versus Portugal when he scored twice and dictated play in the midfield.

Charlton won his 100th cap for his country in 1970 in a match versus Northern Ireland. In the same game, he scored his penultimate goal for his country.

His final goal came in the Quarter-Finals of the 1970 World Cup versus Germany in a match where England lost 3-2. Charlton subsequently retired from international duty at the age of 32, having set a then caps and goals record.

His appearances record lasted until 1973 when Bobby Moore overtook him but his goal-scoring record lasted much longer; four decades in fact, before it was finally surpassed by Wayne Rooney in September 2015.

One of the most famous England players of all time, Charlton was also one of the very, very best.

#1 Bobby Moore (1962-73)

Appearances: 108

Goals: 2

10 Best English Footballers of all Time (9)

Sir Bobby Moore is most famous for being the only England Captain to lift the World Cup. More than 50 years after the magical day at Wembley Stadium on July 30, 1966, the image of Moore being held aloft by his teammates retains it's awesome power.

Moore was first selected for the England team as a member of the 1962 World Cup squad, despite at that time being uncapped. His England debut came in a pre-tournament friendly versus Peru.

Moore impressed and continued to participate in the tournament until England were eliminated by Brazil in the Quarter-Finals.

However, it was his performances in the subsequent World Cup which are most fondly remembered as he captained his country to their only major tournament success.

Moore led England in the first ever European Championship in 1968 but the World Cup holders could only manage a third place finish.

Moore was confident that England could retain their World Cup trophy in 1970 and looked well on course to doing so, when they were 2-0 up versus Germany in the Quarter-Finals with just 15 minutes to go, but a late collapse saw England capitulate and lose 3-2.

The iconic image of Moore tackling Brazilian, Jairzinho in the group stages, with one of the calmest, most precise tackles ever lives long in the memory and is still talked about nearly half a century later.

Moore would continue on to play for his country but retired in 1973 after his country failed to qualify for the 1974 World Cup.

After 108 caps, the most iconic England footballer hung up his International boots.

However, his place as the greatest ever England player remains assured.

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As a seasoned football enthusiast with a deep knowledge of the history and achievements of England's national football team, let's delve into the concepts mentioned in the provided article.

  1. 1966 World Cup Triumph: England's national football team achieved historic success in the 1966 World Cup at the Old Wembley Stadium, defeating West Germany 4-2 after Extra Time. This victory remains a pivotal moment in the team's history.

  2. Establishment of National Teams: England, along with Scotland, was among the very first national football teams established in 1872. The article highlights their participation in the first-ever international match against Scotland in the same year.

  3. European Championships: England reached the Semi-Finals of the inaugural European Championships in 1968 and 1996. The team also reached the final four of the World Cup in 1990 and 2018.

  4. Home Nations Tournament: England was the most successful team in the Home Nations tournament that took place between 1884 and 1984, winning 54 titles in the 100-year history of the competition.

  5. Nations League Tournament: The article mentions England's run to the Semi-Finals of the first-ever Nations League tournament in 2019, where they faced the Netherlands on June 6, 2019.

  6. World-Class Players: Despite periods of limited success, the England national team has produced world-class players such as Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Paul Scholes, Kevin Keegan, Peter Shilton, and Wayne Rooney.

  7. Top England Players (Slideshow): The article features a slideshow that presents the 10 greatest England players of all time. It discusses iconic players like Paul Gascoigne, Alan Shearer, Bryan Robson, Gary Lineker, Wayne Rooney, Geoff Hurst, David Beckham, Gordon Banks, Bobby Charlton, and Bobby Moore.

  8. Individual Player Achievements: The detailed profiles of players like Paul Gascoigne, Alan Shearer, Bryan Robson, Gary Lineker, Wayne Rooney, Geoff Hurst, David Beckham, Gordon Banks, Bobby Charlton, and Bobby Moore showcase their contributions, memorable moments, and impact on international football.

  9. Individual Records: Mention of Peter Shilton as England's most capped player with 125 caps and Wayne Rooney as the all-time highest goal scorer with 53 goals.

  10. Legacy of 1966 Team: The 1966 England team is highlighted for producing several all-time great English players who achieved immortality, with a special focus on their World Cup triumph.

  11. Football Icons: The article briefly touches on the iconic moments, performances, and contributions of players like Paul Gascoigne, Alan Shearer, Bryan Robson, Gary Lineker, Wayne Rooney, Geoff Hurst, David Beckham, Gordon Banks, Bobby Charlton, and Bobby Moore.

In conclusion, the article provides a comprehensive overview of England's football history, highlighting key moments, tournaments, and legendary players who have left an indelible mark on the international stage.

10 Best English Footballers of all Time (2024)
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