The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary British Soccer Players of all time. This list of famous British Soccer Players is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of British Soccer Players.
With an HPI of 77.94, George Best is the most famous British Soccer Player. His biography has been translated into 64 different languages on wikipedia.
George Best (22 May 1946 – 25 November 2005) was a Northern Irish professional footballer who played as a winger, spending most of his club career at Manchester United. A highly skilful dribbler, Best is regarded as one of the best players in the history of the sport. He was named European Footballer of the Year in 1968 and came sixth in the FIFA Player of the Century vote. Best received plaudits for his playing style, which combined pace, skill, balance, feints, two-footedness, goalscoring and the ability to get past defenders.In international football, Best was capped 37 times for Northern Ireland between 1964 and 1977. A combination of the team's performance and his lack of fitness in 1982 meant that he never played in the finals of a major tournament. He considered his international career as being "recreational football", with the expectations placed on a smaller nation in Northern Ireland being much less than with his club. He is regarded as one of the greatest players never to have played at a World Cup. The Irish Football Association described him as the "greatest player to ever pull on the green shirt of Northern Ireland".With his good looks and playboy lifestyle, Best became one of the first media celebrity footballers, earning the nickname "El Beatle" in 1966, but his extravagant life style led to various personal problems, most notably alcoholism, which he suffered from for the rest of his life. These issues affected him on and off the field, often causing controversy. Although conscious of his problems, he was publicly not contrite about them; he said of his career: "I spent a lot of money on booze, birds [women] and fast cars – the rest I just squandered". After football, he spent some time as a football analyst, but his financial and health problems continued into his retirement. He died in 2005, age 59, due to complications from the immunosuppressive drugs he needed to take after a liver transplant in 2002.
With an HPI of 74.22, Bobby Charlton is the 2nd most famous British Soccer Player. His biography has been translated into 61 different languages.
Sir Robert Charlton (born 11 October 1937) is an English former footballer who played as a midfielder. Considered one of the best players of all time, he was a member of the England team that won the 1966 FIFA World Cup, the year he also won the Ballon d'Or. He played almost all of his club football at Manchester United, where he became renowned for his attacking instincts, his passing abilities from midfield and his ferocious long-range shot, as well as his fitness and stamina. He was cautioned only twice in his career; once against Argentina in the 1966 World Cup, and once in a league match against Chelsea. His elder brother Jack, who was also in the World Cup-winning team, was a former defender for Leeds United and international manager. Born in Ashington, Northumberland, Charlton made his debut for the Manchester United first-team in 1956, and over the next two seasons gained a regular place in the team, during which time he survived the Munich air disaster of 1958 after being rescued by Harry Gregg. Charlton is the last surviving person of the crash. After helping United to win the Football League First Division in 1965, he won another First Division title with United in 1967. In 1968, he captained the Manchester United team that won the European Cup, scoring two goals in the final to help them become the first English club to win the competition. He was named in the England squad for four World Cups (1958, 1962, 1966 and 1970), though did not play in the first. At the time of his retirement from the England team in 1970, he was the nation's most capped player, having turned out 106 times at the highest level. (As of November 2019, this record had been surpassed by six players.) Charlton was both Manchester United's and England's long-time record goalscorer, and United's long-time record appearance maker, as well as briefly England's, until Bobby Moore overtook his 106 caps in 1973. His appearance record of 758 for United took until 2008 to be beaten, when Ryan Giggs did so in that year's Champions League final. With 249 goals, he is currently United's second-highest all-time goalscorer, after his record was surpassed by Wayne Rooney in 2017. He is also the second-highest goalscorer for England, after his record of 49 goals which was held until 2015 was again surpassed by Rooney. He left Manchester United to become manager of Preston North End for the 1973–74 season. He changed to player-manager the following season. He next accepted a post as a director with Wigan Athletic, then became a member of Manchester United's board of directors in 1984.
With an HPI of 73.47, David Beckham is the 3rd most famous British Soccer Player. His biography has been translated into 104 different languages.
David Robert Joseph Beckham (UK: ; born 2 May 1975) is an English former professional footballer, the current president & co-owner of Inter Miami CF and co-owner of Salford City. He played for Manchester United, Preston North End (on loan), Real Madrid, AC Milan (on loan), LA Galaxy, Paris Saint-Germain and the England national team, for which he held the appearance record for an outfield player until 2016. He is the first English player to win league titles in four countries: England, Spain, the United States and France. He retired in May 2013 after a 20-year career, during which he won 19 major trophies.Beckham's professional club career began with Manchester United, where he made his first-team debut in 1992 at age 17. With United, he won the Premier League title six times, the FA Cup twice, and the UEFA Champions League in 1999. He then played four seasons with Real Madrid, winning the La Liga championship in his final season with the club. In July 2007, Beckham signed a five-year contract with Major League Soccer club LA Galaxy. While a Galaxy player, he spent two loan spells in Italy with Milan in 2009 and 2010. He was the first British footballer to play 100 UEFA Champions League games. In international football, Beckham made his England debut on 1 September 1996 at the age of 21. He was captain for six years, earning 58 caps during his tenure. He made 115 career appearances in total, appearing at three FIFA World Cup tournaments, in 1998, 2002 and 2006, and two UEFA European Championship tournaments, in 2000 and 2004. Known for his range of passing, crossing ability and bending free-kicks as a right winger, Beckham has been hailed as one of the greatest and most recognisable midfielders of his generation, as well as one of the best set-piece specialists of all time. He was runner-up in the Ballon d'Or in 1999, twice runner-up for FIFA World Player of the Year and in 2004 was named by Pelé in the FIFA 100 list of the world's greatest living players. He was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2008 and the Premier League Hall of Fame on 20 May 2021. A global ambassador of the sport, Beckham is regarded as a British cultural icon.Beckham has consistently ranked among the highest earners in football, and in 2013 was listed as the highest-paid player in the world, having earned over $50 million in the previous 12 months. He has been married to Victoria Beckham since 1999 and they have four children. He has been a UNICEF UK ambassador since 2005, and in 2015 he launched 7: The David Beckham UNICEF Fund. In 2014, MLS announced that Beckham and a group of investors would own Inter Miami CF, which began play in 2020.
With an HPI of 73.16, Stanley Matthews is the 4th most famous British Soccer Player. His biography has been translated into 50 different languages.
Sir Stanley Matthews, CBE (1 February 1915 – 23 February 2000) was an English footballer who played as an outside right. Often regarded as one of the greatest players of the British game, he is the only player to have been knighted while still playing football, as well as being the first winner of both the European Footballer of the Year and the Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year awards. His nicknames included "The Wizard of the Dribble" and "The Magician".Matthews kept fit enough to play at the top level until he was 50 years old. He was also the oldest player ever to play in England's top football division (50 years and 5 days) and the oldest player ever to represent the country (42 years and 104 days). He was also an inaugural inductee to the English Football Hall of Fame in 2002 to honour his contribution to the English game.Matthews spent 19 years with Stoke City, playing for the Potters from 1932 to 1947, and again from 1961 to 1965. He helped Stoke to the Second Division title in 1932–33 and 1962–63. Between his two spells at Stoke he spent 14 years with Blackpool, where, after being on the losing side in the 1948 and 1951 FA Cup finals, he helped Blackpool to win the cup with a formidable personal performance in the "Matthews Final" of 1953. In 1956, he was named the winner of the inaugural Ballon d'Or, a prize given to the best European footballer each year. Between 1934 and 1957, he won 54 caps for England, playing in the FIFA World Cup in 1950 and 1954, and winning nine British Home Championship titles. Following an unsuccessful stint as Port Vale's general manager between 1965 and 1968, he travelled around the world, coaching enthusiastic amateurs. The most notable of his coaching experiences came in 1975 in South Africa, where in spite of the harsh apartheid laws of the time he established an all-black team in Soweto known as "Stan's Men".
With an HPI of 72.47, Gordon Banks is the 5th most famous British Soccer Player. His biography has been translated into 53 different languages.
Gordon Banks (30 December 1937 – 12 February 2019) was an English professional footballer who played as a goalkeeper. He made 679 appearances during a 20-year professional career, and won 73 caps for England, highlighted by starting every game of the nation's 1966 World Cup victory. Banks joined Chesterfield in March 1953, and played for their youth team in the 1956 FA Youth Cup final. He made his first team debut in November 1958, and was sold to Leicester City for £7,000 in July 1959. He played in four cup finals for the club, as they were beaten in the 1961 and 1963 FA Cup finals, before winning the League Cup in 1964 and finishing as finalists in 1965. Despite this success, and his World Cup win in 1966, Banks was dropped by Leicester and sold on to Stoke City for £50,000 in April 1967. In the 1970 World Cup, he made one of the game's great saves to prevent a Pelé goal, but was absent due to illness as England were beaten by West Germany at the quarter-final stage. Banks was Stoke City's goalkeeper in the 1972 League Cup win, the club's only major honour. He was still Stoke's and England's number one when a car crash in October 1972 cost him both the sight in his right eye and, eventually, his professional career. He played two last seasons in the United States for the Fort Lauderdale Strikers in 1977 and 1978, and despite only having vision in one eye, was NASL Goalkeeper of the Year in 1977 after posting the best defensive record in the league. He briefly entered management with Telford United, but left the game in December 1980. Regarded as one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time, Banks was named FWA Footballer of the Year in 1972, and was named FIFA Goalkeeper of the Year on six occasions. The IFFHS named Banks the second-best goalkeeper of the 20th century, after Lev Yashin (1st) and ahead of Dino Zoff (3rd).
With an HPI of 71.98, Denis Law is the 6th most famous British Soccer Player. His biography has been translated into 47 different languages.
Denis Law (born 24 February 1940) is a Scottish former footballer who played as a forward. His career as a football player began at Second Division Huddersfield Town in 1956. After four years at Huddersfield, he was signed by Manchester City for an estimated transfer fee of £55,000, which set a new British record. Law spent one year there before Torino bought him for £110,000, this time setting a new record fee for a transfer involving a British player. Although he played well in Italy, he found it difficult to settle there and signed for Manchester United in 1962, setting another British record transfer fee of £115,000. Law spent 11 years at Manchester United, where he scored 237 goals in 404 appearances. His goals tally places him third in the club's history, behind Wayne Rooney and Bobby Charlton. He was nicknamed The King and The Lawman by supporters, and Denis the Menace by opposing supporters. He is the only Scottish player to have won the Ballon d'Or award, doing so in 1964, and helped his club win the First Division in 1965 and 1967. He missed their European Cup triumph in 1968 through injury. Law left Manchester United in 1973 to return to Manchester City for a season, and represented Scotland at the 1974 FIFA World Cup. He played only two competitive games in the 1974–75 season, retiring before the start of the League programme proper. Law played for Scotland a total of 55 times and jointly holds the Scottish international record goal tally with 30 goals. Law holds a United record for scoring 46 competitive goals in a single season.
With an HPI of 71.66, Bobby Robson is the 7th most famous British Soccer Player. His biography has been translated into 48 different languages.
Sir Robert William Robson (18 February 1933 – 31 July 2009) was an English footballer and football manager. His career included periods playing for and later managing the England national team and being a UEFA Cup-winning manager at Ipswich Town. Robson's professional playing career as an inside forward spanned nearly 20 years, during which he played for three clubs: Fulham, West Bromwich Albion, and, briefly, Vancouver Royals. He also made 20 appearances for England, scoring four goals. After his playing career, he found success as both a club and international manager, winning league championships in both the Netherlands and Portugal, earning trophies in England and Spain, and taking England to the semi-finals of the 1990 FIFA World Cup, which remained the national team's best run in a World Cup since 1966 until they reached the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup. His last management role was as a mentor to the manager of the Republic of Ireland national team, while his final official club job was at boyhood club Newcastle United, whom he left in 2004. He held several managerial positions outside of England, most notably one year at Barcelona in 1996–97, as well as stints at PSV, Sporting CP and Porto. Robson was created a Knight Bachelor in 2002, was inducted as a member of the English Football Hall of Fame in 2003, and was the honorary president of Ipswich Town F.C. From 1991 onwards, he suffered recurrent medical problems with cancer, and in March 2008, put his name and efforts into the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, a cancer research charity which has so far raised over £12 million (March 2018). In August 2008, his lung cancer was confirmed to be terminal; he said, "My condition is described as static and has not altered since my last bout of chemotherapy... I am going to die sooner rather than later. But then everyone has to go sometime and I have enjoyed every minute." He died just under a year later.
With an HPI of 70.67, Kenny Dalglish is the 8th most famous British Soccer Player. His biography has been translated into 52 different languages.
Sir Kenneth Mathieson Dalglish (born 4 March 1951) is a Scottish former football player and manager. During his career, he made 338 appearances for Celtic and 515 for Liverpool, playing as a forward, and earned a record 102 full caps for the Scotland national team, scoring 30 goals, also a joint-record. Dalglish won the Ballon d'Or Silver Award in 1983, the PFA Players' Player of the Year in 1983, and the FWA Footballer of the Year in 1979 and 1983. In 2009, FourFourTwo magazine named Dalglish the greatest striker in post-war British football, and he has been inducted into both the Scottish and English Football Halls of Fame. He is very highly regarded by Liverpool fans, who still affectionately refer to him as King Kenny, and in 2006 voted him top of the fans' poll "100 Players Who Shook the Kop".Dalglish began his career with Celtic in 1971, going on to win four Scottish league championships, four Scottish Cups and one Scottish League Cup with the club. In 1977, Liverpool manager Bob Paisley paid a British transfer record of £440,000 to bring Dalglish to Liverpool. His years at Liverpool were among the club's most successful periods, as he won six English league championships, the FA Cup, four League Cups, five FA Charity Shields, three European Cups and one European Super Cup. In international football, Dalglish made 102 appearances and scored 30 goals for Scotland between 1971 and 1986, becoming their most capped player and joint-leading goalscorer (with Denis Law). Dalglish became player-manager of Liverpool in 1985 after the resignation of Joe Fagan, winning a further three First Divisions, two FA Cups and four FA Charity Shields, before resigning in 1991. Eight months later, Dalglish made a return to football management with Blackburn Rovers, whom he led from the Second Division to win the Premier League in 1995. Soon afterwards, he stepped down as manager to become Director of Football at the club, before leaving altogether in 1996. In January 1997, Dalglish took over as manager at Newcastle United. Newcastle finished as runners-up in the Premier League during his first season, but they only finished 13th in 1997–98, which led to his dismissal the following season. Dalglish went on to be appointed Director of Football at Celtic in 1999, and later manager, where he won the Scottish League Cup before an acrimonious departure the following year. Between 2000 and 2010, Dalglish focused on charitable concerns, founding The Marina Dalglish Appeal with his wife to raise money for cancer care. In January 2011, Dalglish returned to Liverpool for a spell as caretaker manager after the dismissal of Roy Hodgson, becoming the permanent manager in May 2011. Despite winning the League Cup which earned them a place in the UEFA Europa League, and reaching the FA Cup Final, Liverpool only finished 8th in the Premier League, and Dalglish was dismissed in May 2012. In October 2013, Dalglish returned to Anfield as a non-executive director, and Anfield's Centenary Stand was renamed after him in May 2017.
With an HPI of 70.59, Bobby Moore is the 9th most famous British Soccer Player. His biography has been translated into 51 different languages.
Robert Frederick Chelsea Moore (12 April 1941 – 24 February 1993) was an English professional footballer. He most notably played for West Ham United, captaining the club for more than ten years, and was the captain of the England national team that won the 1966 FIFA World Cup. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest defenders in the history of football, and was cited by Pelé as the greatest defender that he had ever played against.Widely regarded as West Ham's greatest ever player, Moore played over 600 games for the club during a 16-year tenure, winning the FA Cup in 1963–64 and the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup in 1964–65. During his time at the club he won the FWA Footballer of the Year in 1964 and the West Ham Player of the Year in 1961, 1963, 1968 and 1970. In August 2008, West Ham United officially retired his number 6 shirt, 15 years after his death.Moore was made captain of England in 1964, at age 23, going on to lift the World Cup trophy in 1966. He won a total of 108 caps for his country, which at the time of his international retirement in 1973 was a national record. This record was later broken by Peter Shilton. Moore's total of 108 caps continued as a record for an outfield player until 28 March 2009, when David Beckham gained his 109th cap. Moore is a member of the World Team of the 20th Century. A national team icon, a bronze statue of Moore is positioned at the entrance to Wembley Stadium. A composed central defender, Moore was best known for his reading of the game and ability to anticipate opposition movements, thereby distancing himself from the image of the hard-tackling, high-jumping defender. Receiving the BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 1966, he was the first footballer to win the award and he remained the only one for a further 24 years. Moore was given an OBE in the New Year Honours List. He was made an inaugural inductee of the English Football Hall of Fame in 2002 in recognition of his impact on the English game as a player and in the same year he was named in the BBC's list of the 100 Greatest Britons.
With an HPI of 69.61, Duncan Edwards is the 10th most famous British Soccer Player. His biography has been translated into 42 different languages.
Duncan Edwards (1 October 1936 – 21 February 1958) was an English footballer who played for Manchester United and the England national team. He was one of the Busby Babes, the young United team formed under manager Matt Busby in the mid-1950s, playing 177 matches for the club. He was noted for his physical strength, toughness, and level of authority on the pitch, and has been ranked amongst the toughest players of all time. One of eight players who died as a result of the Munich air disaster, he survived initially but succumbed to his injuries in hospital two weeks later. Many of his contemporaries have described him as one of the best players with whom they had played. Born in Woodside, Dudley, Edwards signed for Manchester United as a teenager and went on to become the youngest player to play in the Football League First Division and at the time the youngest England player since the Second World War, going on to play 18 times for his country at top level. In a professional career of less than five years he helped United to win two Football League championships and two FA Charity Shields, and reach the semi-finals of the European Cup.
Pantheon has 1,167 people classified as soccer players born between 1842 and 2003. Of these 1,167, 980 (83.98%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living soccer players include Bobby Charlton, David Beckham, and Denis Law. The most famous deceased soccer players include George Best, Stanley Matthews, and Gordon Banks. As of October 2020, 213 new soccer players have been added to Pantheon including Michael Robinson, George Raynor, and Jim Brown.
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Which Soccer Players were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 25 most globally memorable Soccer Players since 1700.