10 greatest English footballers of all time (2024)

Football, as probably the most followed sport in the world, has produced a bevvy of legendary players. Be it Brazil, Spain, France or Italy, a number of European and South American country has given birth to fine knots of talents worth bragging about. One such nation among them is England - the land also partly famous as the origin of the beautiful game.

Over the years, England has hardly fallen behind when it comes to fabricating legends. Like many other footballing nations, the 1966 World Cup winners have a seemingly endless list of players who have carved out a niche in the minds of the spectators with their excellent skills.

Concocting a list of ten greatest players is no mean feat, not especially when it comes to a country like England which has been a home to an extensive list of superstars. It's a downright tedious job to compare players from different eras and rank them, considering their achievements and the kind of football they played respectively.

Here's an attempt to jot down 10 of the finest English artists the beautiful game has ever manufactured.

#10 Gordon Banks

10 greatest English footballers of all time (1)
"They won't remember me for winning the World Cup, it'll be for that save. That's how big a thing it is. People just want to talk about that save."

He wasn't entirely wrong, was he?

By the time England had travelled to the next World Cup in 1970 after winning the previous edition, English shot-stopper Gordon Banks was no less than a hero among the masses. I bet it's still impossible for you to fathom how he denied Pele with this brilliant save once you watch it. This was voted as the no.41 by the UK public in the list of the 100 Greatest Sporting Moments.

The save itself tells you how special Gordon Banks was. Regarded as one of the greatest players ever to guard the posts, the Englishman extended peerless services to Leicester City and Stoke City, gaining a legendary status by winning the Football League Cup with both the clubs and the World Cup with England eventually.

Gordon Banks may not have a long list of trophies and laurels, but he certainly has those that are mandatory to mention. His greatness is reflected in the very fact that he held the title of FIFA's Goalkeeper of the Year award from 1966 to 1972 - for six consecutive years.

To all the goalkeepers aspiring to get their names noted down in the country's history, Gordon Banks stands as a monumental inspiration.

#9 Paul Scholes

10 greatest English footballers of all time (2)

For the entire duration of his career, Paul Scholes rose to fame as an underrated player. Amongst England's greatest players, you'll hardly find one with his name on it. But that won't be the case here.

Nicknamed the 'Gingerprince', Paul Scholes came through the youth ranks at Manchester United and wasted no time in letting the world know of his talent. His ability to provide devastating long balls and create chances through link-up plays was second to none. He was also gifted with long shots, chipping in vital scorchers whenever in need. Surely, none of us might have forgotten that famous belter he scored against Barcelona to book a place in the Champions League final.

When it comes to England, however, Scholes was the part of a generation that achieved far too less than expectations. Brazilian coach Luis Felipe Scolari opted on a 4-4-2 formation that was steadily on the decline.

His decision to shift the Englishman, the team's most creative and intelligent player at that time, from centre midfield to the left wing in order to accommodate Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard. As a result, England underachieved at the Euros and the shy genius suffered from Scolari's tactical illiteracy, opting to retire early at an age of 29.

He made only 66 appearances and scored 14 times for the Three Lions. Nevertheless, he remains one of the gems that the country has ever produced, thanks to his exploits at the club level.

#8 Frank Lampard

10 greatest English footballers of all time (3)
The guy has had a great career. I must say we looked at him when he was at West Ham as a young player and I maybe regret not having done it. Where else could I get 200 goals? - Sir Alex Ferguson

Well, when a great footballing mind like Sir Alex Ferguson expresses his regret over not signing you, you know that you are pretty much a demi-god in your own right.

Frank Lampard was, simply put, one of the most majestic midfielders ever to grace the Premier League.

The Englishman was well-known for his deft touch and for making the beautiful game appear easier than it actually is. He was a versatile midfielder who functioned both as an attacking and even a defensive midfielder at times, also playing as a support striker whenever needed.

His keen eye for goal is one of the reasons why he is remembered by all. Being a midfielder, Frank Lampard is the all-time top scorer of Chelsea FC with 211 goals in 648 games. He made 106 appearances for England and netted 26 times.

A rare breed of a midfielder, isn't he?

#7 Wayne Rooney

10 greatest English footballers of all time (4)

Now, some of you might go bonkers seeing this name on the list. Wayne Rooney has been constantly lambasted by fans and pundits for his inconsistency in the recent years. However, his numbers are too hard to ignore.

One of the most selfless players this generation has witnessed, Rooney has done stuff millions can just dream of.

For starters, he is the all-time top scorer of Manchester United with 253 goals to his name. He has etched his name in the history books as England's all-time top scorer with 53 goals. He is also the second highest English Premier League goalscorer of all time with 208 goals.

Wayne Rooney's unselfish attitude and will to play in any position according to the team requirements are his biggest assets as a footballer. Apart from being a prolific scorer in his early ages, the Englishman is also reputed for his excellent work-ethic on the pitch.

He might have waned in the later stages of his career, but Wayne Rooney has delivered oodles of performances to deserve a place on this list.

#6 Alan Shearer

10 greatest English footballers of all time (5)

It would be a sin to exclude the man who has the most number of goals in his name in the English top-flight, wouldn't it?

Alan Shearer was a classic English no.9, with a fine reputation for being able to find the net from the tightest angles. His tall stature and strong physique made him extremely strenuous to defend against and also enabled him to be an intimidating presence in the air for his teams. The fact that he headed 46 of his 260 top-flight goals in the English League is a testament to his aerial prowess.

Alan Shearer made a name for himself after spearheading Blackburn to the Premier League title. His glories as a lethal goalscorer garnered him a bunch of personal accolades and records.

With 204 goals, he became the all-time top scorer in the history of Newcastle United. His scoring exploits also enabled him to win the Premier League Golden Boot on three occasions.

For what it's worth, its a real pity to know that the Ballon d'Or eluded this giant Englishman in his playing career.

#5 Gary Lineker

10 greatest English footballers of all time (6)

Amongst some of the greatest marksmen that the Three Lions have ever produced, Gary Lineker has a fine resume to showcase and claim a spot amongst the top 3 English strikers of all time.

As one of the greatest marksmen of his age, Lineker was nimble-footed and relied massively on his technical ability to score goals. His positional sense was second to none; it made him a quintessential fox-in-the-box striker, allowing him to score innumerable tap-ins and headers. His ability to deceive defences to create room for scoring goals saw him aptly earn the nickname ‘El Matador’ during his tenure with Barcelona.

Gary Lineker found the net 281 times in 567 games as a professional footballer. He is also the third highest goalscorer for England behind Wayne Rooney and Bobby Charlton. He also holds the record for scoring the most number of goals for his country at the World Cup (10).

Gary Lineker is also one of the modest gentlemen that football has ever seen; the Englishman received the FIFA Fair Play award in 1990 for never being booked in his entire career.

#4 Kevin Keegan

10 greatest English footballers of all time (7)

Kevin Keegan is another footballer who can brag about being in the same bracket as Gary Lineker.

He is mainly remembered for his successful spell with Liverpool, where he won 3 First Division titles, 2 UEFA Cups, one FA Cup and 1 European Cup. He also clinched the Ballon d'Or twice after transferring to Hamburg in 1977, which is why he deserves a worthy place on this list.

In his playing days, Kevin Keegan was well-known as a lethal goalscorer. He had a ferocious will to win, which made him one of the best players to wear the captain's armband in the history of the Three Lions.

Following his successful career as a footballer, Keegan had a decent spell as a manager. He guided Newcastle United, Manchester City and Fulham to Second Division titles. His high point in his managerial career came in the season 1995-96 when he guided Newcastle to a second place finish in the English top-tier.

Off the pitch, Keegan displayed the versatility of his talents by releasing several singles, all while maintaining his status as one of the best players of his generation.

#3 Bobby Moore

10 greatest English footballers of all time (8)

Pele called him the best defender he had ever faced, Franz Beckenbauer listed him down as the greatest defender he had ever seen, while Jock Stein complained about having a law named against him because he knew what was happening on the pitch 20 minutes before everyone else. Befitting quotes and ones that you would like to hear about a World Cup-winning captain, aren't they?

Bobby Moore might not have a large list of trophies to brag about like many others on this list, but his heroics on the pitch are more than enough to guarantee him a place amongst England's greatest footballers. He was rather slow for the likes of a defender, but his excellent reading of the game made sure he was rarely caught out of position or beaten by attackers.

A West Ham United legend, Moore 644 appearances for the Hammers before joining Fulham. He is most famous for captaining England's World Cup-winning side in 1966.

Bobby Moore died aged 51 in 1993, but his services to the Three Lions squad have ensured him of the immortal status not many can boast about.

#2 Stanley Matthews

10 greatest English footballers of all time (9)

Legendary is a word gigantic enough to describe the kind of a footballer. In Sir Stanley Matthews' case, however, the word seems considerably inadequate. His trophy cabinets might speak very little of his career, but the Englishman has achievements few can come close to.

Having donned the Stoke City shirt for 19 years and the Blackpool one for another 14, Sir Stanley Matthews is England's oldest footballer till date. He played until the age of 50 and is the only footballer to have been knighted whilst being an active player.

Known for his terrific dribbling, he was nicknamed as The Wizard of Dribble back in his days. He also earned a great reputation for being a pin-point crosser of the ball, while playing as an outside right for his clubs and country.

Football may be known as a man's game, but Sir Stanley Matthews was its perfect gentleman. He is one of those rare players who were never booked or sent off for any of their tackles. He also became immortal in history as the inaugural winner of the Ballon d'Or.

The Three Lions have given birth to a good chunk of legends after him, but they are still waiting to produce one that matches the longevity of the great Sir Stanley Matthews.

#1 Bobby Charlton

10 greatest English footballers of all time (10)

Sir Bobby Charlton dodged death in the gruesome plane crash in 1958. How good a chance do you think a couple of defenders stood when it came to denying him from scoring?

Sir Bobby Charlton was a born charmer when it came to sending the ball into the net. Known for his venomous long shots that resembled cannons, the Englishman also had a fine reputation for taking the opposition by storm with his silky dribbling.

His special relationship with the net proved extremely beneficial to both his club and country; Sir Bobby Charlton netted 49 goals for England and 249 for Manchester United, becoming the all-time top scorer for both club and country until Wayne Rooney surpassed those figures.

He played a crucial role in England's World Cup victory in 1966 and Manchester United's first European Cup triumph two years later.

Sir Bobby also clinched the Ballon d'Or in 1966, thus becoming the only Englishman to win the three greatest trophies in the sport - the World Cup, the European Cup and the Ballon d'Or.

There's hardly room for anyone to doubt his claim as the greatest footballer England has ever produced.

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As a football enthusiast with a deep understanding of the beautiful game, I bring my expertise to shed light on the concepts used in the provided article about the top 10 English football players of all time.

1. Gordon Banks (#10): Gordon Banks, the legendary English goalkeeper, is celebrated for his incredible save against Pele in the 1970 World Cup. This save is widely regarded as one of the greatest in football history. Banks' remarkable achievements include winning the 1966 World Cup with England and earning the FIFA Goalkeeper of the Year award for six consecutive years from 1966 to 1972.

2. Paul Scholes (#9): Paul Scholes, nicknamed the 'Gingerprince,' is lauded for his career at Manchester United. A versatile midfielder, Scholes was known for his ability to provide long balls, create chances, and score spectacular goals. Despite England's underachievement during his international career, Scholes remains a gem in English football history.

3. Frank Lampard (#8): Frank Lampard, a majestic midfielder, earned praise for his deft touch, versatility, and goal-scoring prowess. His remarkable career at Chelsea includes becoming the club's all-time top scorer as a midfielder. Sir Alex Ferguson expressed regret over not signing Lampard, emphasizing his impact on the game.

4. Wayne Rooney (#7): Wayne Rooney, England's all-time top scorer, is acknowledged for his selfless play, work ethic, and goal-scoring ability. Despite criticism for inconsistency, Rooney's achievements include being Manchester United's top scorer and the second-highest scorer in the English Premier League.

5. Alan Shearer (#6): Alan Shearer, a classic English striker, holds the record for the most goals in the English top-flight. His tall stature, strength, and aerial prowess made him a formidable goal-scorer. Shearer's achievements include winning the Premier League Golden Boot three times and becoming Newcastle United's all-time top scorer.

6. Gary Lineker (#5): Gary Lineker, known as 'El Matador,' was a nimble-footed striker with exceptional technical ability. His positional sense and goal-scoring ability earned him acclaim. Lineker's achievements include being England's third-highest goalscorer and winning the FIFA Fair Play award for his discipline.

7. Kevin Keegan (#4): Kevin Keegan, known for his lethal goal-scoring ability, won several titles with Liverpool and twice clinched the Ballon d'Or. As a manager, Keegan guided teams to success, notably leading Newcastle United to a second-place finish in the English top-tier.

8. Bobby Moore (#3): Bobby Moore, a World Cup-winning captain in 1966, is regarded as one of the best defenders in football history. Despite a modest trophy count, Moore's exceptional reading of the game and leadership skills earned him the admiration of peers like Pele and Franz Beckenbauer.

9. Stanley Matthews (#2): Sir Stanley Matthews, known as 'The Wizard of Dribble,' played until the age of 50 and is England's oldest footballer. Renowned for his dribbling and precise crossing, Matthews was the inaugural winner of the Ballon d'Or, showcasing his longevity and skill.

10. Bobby Charlton (#1): Sir Bobby Charlton, a survivor of the 1958 Munich air disaster, is celebrated for his venomous long shots and goal-scoring prowess. Charlton played a pivotal role in England's 1966 World Cup victory and Manchester United's first European Cup triumph. He remains the only Englishman to win the World Cup, European Cup, and Ballon d'Or.

In conclusion, the article pays tribute to these iconic English players, recognizing their contributions and impact on the world of football.

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