The Most Famous

SOCCER PLAYERS from United Kingdom

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This page contains a list of the greatest British Soccer Players. The pantheon dataset contains 21,273 Soccer Players, 1,246 of which were born in United Kingdom. This makes United Kingdom the birth place of the 3rd most number of Soccer Players behind Japan, and Brazil.

Top 10

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.

Photo of Bobby Charlton

1. Bobby Charlton (1937 - 2023)

With an HPI of 73.02, Bobby Charlton is the most famous British Soccer Player.  His biography has been translated into 71 different languages on wikipedia.

Sir Robert Charlton (11 October 1937 – 21 October 2023) was an English professional footballer who played as an attacking-midfielder, left-winger or centre-forward. Widely considered one of the greatest 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 finished second in the Ballon d'Or voting in 1967 and 1968. He played almost all of his club football at Manchester United, where he became renowned for his attacking instincts, passing abilities from midfield, ferocious long-range shooting from both left and right foot, 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. With success at club and international level, he was one of nine players to have won the FIFA World Cup, the European Cup and the Ballon d'Or. His elder brother Jack, who was also in the World Cup–winning team, was a former defender for Leeds United and also for ten years was the manager of the Republic of Ireland. Born in Ashington, Northumberland, Charlton made his debut for the Manchester United first-team in 1956, aged 18, and soon gained a regular place in the team, during which time he became a Football League First Division champion in 1957 then survived the Munich air disaster of February 1958 after being rescued by teammate Harry Gregg; Charlton was the last survivor of the plane crash from the club. After helping United to win the FA Cup in 1963 and the Football League in 1965 and 1967, he captained the team that won the European Cup in 1968, scoring two goals in the final to help them become the first English club to win the competition. Charlton 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. At international level, Charlton was named in the England squad for four World Cups (1958, 1962, 1966, and 1970), though he 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; Bobby Moore overtook this in 1973. Charlton was the long-time record goalscorer for both Manchester United and England, and United's long-time record appearance maker – his total of 758 matches for United took until 2008 to be beaten, when Ryan Giggs did so in that year's Champions League final. With 249 goals, he was the club's highest all-time goalscorer for more than 40 years, until his record was surpassed by Wayne Rooney in 2017. He is also the third-highest goalscorer for England; his record of 49 goals was beaten in 2015 by Rooney, and again by Harry Kane in 2022.

Photo of George Best

2. George Best (1946 - 2005)

With an HPI of 71.38, George Best is the 2nd most famous British Soccer Player.  His biography has been translated into 65 different languages.

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 skillful dribbler, he is considered one of the greatest players of all time, along with being considered one of the most talented to play. He was named European Footballer of the Year in 1968 and came fifth in the FIFA Player of the Century vote. Best received plaudits for his playing style, which combined pace, skill, balance, feints, goalscoring and the ability to get past defenders. His style of play captured the public's imagination, and in 1999 he was on the six-man short-list for the BBC's Sports Personality of the Century. He was also an inaugural inductee into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2002. Born in Belfast, Best began his club career in England with Manchester United, with the scout who had spotted his talent at the age of 15 sending a telegram to manager Matt Busby which read: "I think I've found you a genius". After making his debut at age 17, he scored 179 goals in 470 appearances over 11 years and was the club's top goalscorer in the league for five consecutive seasons. He won two League titles, two Charity Shields and the European Cup with the club. 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 handsomeness, dark Beatle mop-top hair and playboy lifestyle, Best became one of the first media celebrity footballers, earning the nickname "o Quinto Beatle" by Portuguese press reporters after a stand-out performance for Manchester United in Lisbon in March 1966. However, his extravagant lifestyle led to various personal problems, most notably alcoholism, from which he suffered for the rest of his life. These issues affected him on and off the field, often causing controversy. Although conscious of his problems, he made light of them and was known for his intelligence and wit on the subject during periods of sobriety: "I spent a lot of money on booze, birds 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, aged 59, from complications from the immunosuppressive drugs he needed to take after a liver transplant in 2002.

Photo of Stanley Matthews

3. Stanley Matthews (1915 - 2000)

With an HPI of 67.88, Stanley Matthews is the 3rd most famous British Soccer Player.  His biography has been translated into 50 different languages.

Sir Stanley Matthews (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 and one of the greatest players of all time, 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 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. His experiences included coaching in South Africa, where in spite of the harsh apartheid laws of the time he established an all-black team in 1975 in Soweto known as "Stan's Men".

Photo of David Beckham

4. David Beckham (b. 1975)

With an HPI of 67.04, David Beckham is the 4th most famous British Soccer Player.  His biography has been translated into 110 different languages.

David Robert Joseph Beckham ( BEK-əm; born 2 May 1975) is an English former professional footballer, the president and co-owner of Inter Miami CF and co-owner of Salford City. Primarily a right winger and known for his range of passing, crossing ability and free-kick taking, Beckham has been hailed as one of the greatest and most recognisable midfielders of his generation, as well as one of the best free-kick takers of all time. He won 19 major trophies in his career, and is the first English player to win league titles in four different countries: England, Spain, the United States and France. 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, the FA Charity Shield twice, the Intercontinental Cup 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 AC Milan in 2009 and 2010. He became the first British footballer to play 100 UEFA Champions League games. He retired in May 2013 after a 20-year career. 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 Cups in 1998, 2002 and 2006 as well as two UEFA European Championships in 2000 and 2004. Beckham held the England appearance record for an outfield player until 2016. A global ambassador of football, Beckham is considered to be a British cultural icon. He has been in a well publicised marriage to Victoria Beckham since 1999 and was consistently ranked among the highest earners in football, in 2013 being listed as the highest-paid player in the world having earned over $50 million in the previous twelve months. Beckham was runner-up in the Ballon d'Or in 1999, twice runner-up for FIFA World Player of the Year (1999 and 2001) 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 in 2021. He has been a UNICEF 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, which began playing in 2020.

Photo of Gordon Banks

5. Gordon Banks (1937 - 2019)

With an HPI of 66.08, Gordon Banks is the 5th most famous British Soccer Player.  His biography has been translated into 56 different languages.

Gordon Banks (30 December 1937 – 12 February 2019) was an English professional footballer who played as a goalkeeper. Widely regarded as one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time, 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 greatest saves to prevent a Pelé goal, but was absent due to illness as England were beaten by West Germany in the quarter-finals. 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. 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.

Photo of Bobby Moore

6. Bobby Moore (1941 - 1993)

With an HPI of 65.80, Bobby Moore is the 6th most famous British Soccer Player.  His biography has been translated into 54 different languages.

Robert Frederick Chelsea Moore (12 April 1941 – 24 February 1993) was an English professional footballer. He captained West Ham United 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. Furthermore, Moore is sometimes considered to be one of the greatest players of all time. Widely regarded as West Ham's greatest ever player, Moore played more than 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 stands 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 1967 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.

Photo of Denis Law

7. Denis Law (b. 1940)

With an HPI of 65.04, Denis Law is the 7th most famous British Soccer Player.  His biography has been translated into 49 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 (equivalent to £3,098,877 in 2023). 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, as well as the FA Cup in 1963 and two Charity Shields. He missed their European Cup final 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. In 2023 Law became the last remaining member of the "United Trinity" following the death of Sir Bobby Charlton.

Photo of Bobby Robson

8. Bobby Robson (1933 - 2009)

With an HPI of 62.96, Bobby Robson is the 8th most famous British Soccer Player.  His biography has been translated into 51 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. He is widely considered to be one of the best English managers of all time as well as one of the greatest managers in the history of the game. 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. From 1991 onwards, he had 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 had raised over £12 million as of 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, in July 2009.

Photo of Kevin Keegan

9. Kevin Keegan (b. 1951)

With an HPI of 62.95, Kevin Keegan is the 9th most famous British Soccer Player.  His biography has been translated into 55 different languages.

Joseph Kevin Keegan (born 14 February 1951), nicknamed "King Kev", is an English former footballer and manager. Regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, Keegan was recognised for his dribbling ability as well as his finishing and presence in the air. Having begun his career at Scunthorpe United, he moved to Liverpool in 1971 and then to Hamburger SV in 1977, enjoying great success at both clubs. During this period, he was a regular member of the England national team. After leaving Hamburg, where he was affectionately known as 'Mighty Mouse', Keegan played for Southampton and Newcastle United before retiring. Keegan returned to football in 1992 as manager at Newcastle. He later managed Fulham and Manchester City. All three clubs he managed won promotion as champions in his first full season there. He managed the England national team from 1999 to 2000. Keegan began his playing career at Scunthorpe in 1968, before Bill Shankly signed him for Liverpool. There he won three First Division titles, the UEFA Cup twice, the FA Cup and, in his final season, the European Cup. Keegan gained his first England cap in 1972. He moved to Hamburg in the summer of 1977 and was named European Footballer of the Year in both 1978 and 1979. Hamburg won the Bundesliga title in 1978–79 and reached the 1980 European Cup Final. Keegan left Hamburg and played at Southampton for two seasons before transferring to Newcastle United in the Second Division in 1982. He helped Newcastle secure promotion in his second season, and retired from playing in 1984. He scored 204 goals in 592 appearances in his club career, adding 21 goals in 63 caps for the English national team. Keegan moved into management at Newcastle in 1992, and the team won promotion to the Premier League as First Division champions in his first full season, the following year. Newcastle finished second in the Premier League in 1995–96, after leading for most of the season. After managing Fulham for two seasons, he took charge of the England team in February 1999, but resigned in October 2000 following a 1–0 loss against Germany in qualification for the 2002 FIFA World Cup. In 2001, he became manager of Manchester City for four years until he resigned in 2005. Keegan had been out of football for almost three years when he returned to Newcastle United for a second spell as manager in January 2008, but this lasted only eight months, as he resigned on 4 September 2008 following speculation about a dispute with the club's directors.

Photo of Peter Shilton

10. Peter Shilton (b. 1949)

With an HPI of 62.54, Peter Shilton is the 10th most famous British Soccer Player.  His biography has been translated into 52 different languages.

Peter Leslie Shilton (born 18 September 1949) is an English former professional footballer who played as a goalkeeper. His 30-year career included spells at 11 clubs and he has the unique distinction of playing over 1,000 English league games, including in excess of 100 for five different clubs. During his time at Nottingham Forest, Shilton won many honours, including two European Cups, a UEFA Super Cup, the First Division championship, and the Football League Cup. Shilton represented England at the FIFA World Cup in 1982, 1986 (where Diego Maradona scored two famous goals against him) and 1990, and the UEFA European Championship in 1980 and 1988. Despite not making his World Cup finals debut until the age of 32, Shilton has played in 17 finals matches, and shares the record of 10 clean sheets in World Cup finals matches with French goalkeeper Fabien Barthez. He holds the all-time record for the most competitive appearances in world football (1,390), and, with 125 caps, Shilton is also the England national team's most-capped player. The IFFHS ranked Shilton among the top ten goalkeepers of the 20th century in 2000.


Pantheon has 1,448 people classified as British soccer players born between 1831 and 2007. Of these 1,448, 1,196 (82.60%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living British soccer players include David Beckham, Denis Law, and Kevin Keegan. The most famous deceased British soccer players include Bobby Charlton, George Best, and Stanley Matthews. As of April 2024, 205 new British soccer players have been added to Pantheon including Arthur Kinnaird, 11th Lord Kinnaird, Jesse Carver, and Ron Harris.

Living British Soccer Players

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Deceased British Soccer Players

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Newly Added British Soccer Players (2024)

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Overlapping Lives

Which Soccer Players were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 25 most globally memorable Soccer Players since 1700.