You may be forgiven for thinking that Australia isn’t known as a powerhouse of world soccer, and to be fair, you’d be right. Cricket and rugby are more popular sports in the land down under, but while the Socceroos may not have always had the best team around, individually they have produced some superb soccer players.
With many of the truly great Australian soccer players invariably moving abroad to play their league soccer, many of those on our list of the greatest Australian soccer players of all time are well-known names.
Let’s jump straight in and look at the 10 best players Australia has ever produced.
10. Tony Vidmar
- Position: Left-Back
A defender whose career spanned almost twenty years, Tony Vidmar began his playing career at hometown club Adelaide City in 1989, eventually retiring from professional soccer in 2008. Spells in Holland, Scotland, England, and Wales put Vidmar on the soccer map.
Especially successful was Vidmar’s period at Rangers where he won two Scottish Premier Leagues, two League Cups, and three Scottish Cups, as he went on to become a huge fan favorite at the Glasgow giants.
An excellent defender, Vidmar also popped up with the occasional goal, scoring a vital goal for Rangers in a Champions League qualifier, finishing his career on 31 career goals.
After discovering an irregular heartbeat, Vidmar finally hung up his boots in 2008 after losing the Championship Grand Final with the Central Coast Mariners.
9. Johnny Warren
- Position: Midfielder
One of the least-known players on our list, but arguably the most important, Johnny Warren was a keen advocate of Australians enjoying soccer as a sport. Nicknamed Captain Socceroo due to his tireless work promoting soccer in his homeland, Warren played his entire career in Australia.
In a career that spanned 15 seasons, several whilst playing for amateur teams, it is a testament to Johnny Warren’s legacy that so many excellent players have been produced by Australia over
the years. It is doubtless that without his passionate work to bring soccer to the continent, Australia would be nowhere near as successful at soccer as it is today.
8. Lucas Neill
- Position: Centre-Back
In a career spanning over 500 league games, Lucas Neill is one of the best central defenders Australia has ever produced, as well as being one of the most successful players the national team has ever seen, captaining his country a record 61 times.
A no-nonsense defender who spent 15 seasons in England with teams such as Milwall, Blackburn Rovers, and West Ham United, Neill was a consistent and hard-working defender that could also play at right-back.
Neill was a sought-after player in his prime, with Liverpool at one stage making a bid for the player, although the Australian decided to move to West Ham United instead.
After a brief spell with Everton, where Neill teamed up with fellow Australian, Tim Cahill, he eventually moved on, this time to the UAE to Al Jazira and Al Wasl, before a return to Australian soil in 2013 with Sydney FC.
At times an unpopular figure, Neill will still be remembered as an excellent defender, especially given his 95 international caps for Australia.
7. Mark Bresciano
- Position: Central Midfield
Unlike many of his fellow Aussie soccer players, Mark Bresciano chose not to head to England, but Italy instead and proceeded to have an outstanding career in one of the toughest leagues in soccer.
Having played in three World Cup Finals and two AFC Asian Cups, Bresciano is the epitome of a successful Australian soccer player.
After leaving the now-defunct Australian soccer team Carlton in 2009, Bresciano moved to Empoli, then in the Serie B in Italy. And helped the club to promotion to the Serie A. After several excellent seasons, Bresciano was sold to Parma for €7 million, a then-record fee for an Australian.
Mark Bresciano helped his new team to a fifth-place finish in Serie A, which meant qualification for the UEFA Cup. Several successful seasons later, and already a regular international, Bresciano moved to Palermo in 2010.
Four more seasons went by, with the Australian being an integral part of the Palermo squad, before a move to Rome in 2010 to Lazio. This move only lasted a year before Bresciano moved to Qatar, where he eventually hung up his boots in 2015.
A mainstay in several teams, including the Australian national team, Mark Bresciano was one of the most talented players to play for Australia, as strong going forwards with the ball as he was in defense.
6. Brett Emerton
- Position: Right Midfielder
Brett Emerton was a pacy and talented player that could cover the entire right side of the pitch, and it was his versatility that made him stand out from the crowd. Emerton could run for 90 minutes, tackle, pass, and cross a ball, all while covering every blade of grass on the pitch.
After successful spells at Sydney Olympic and Feyenoord, it was at Blackburn Rovers that Emerton found his home, playing almost 250 games for the midlands club. Energetic and consistent, the Australian became a key player for both club and country, making 95 appearances for the Socceroos.
Brett Emerton became a fan favorite at Blackburn due to his ability to go past opponents. It was the club promising Emerton that he would be played on the right side of midfield, rather than at right-back that made him decide to remain at the club rather than move on.
Easily one of the best right-sided players Australia has produced, Emerton has to find his way into any list of the best Australian players due to his ability to play almost any position.
5. Mile Jedinak
- Position: Defensive Midfielder
A giant of a defensive midfielder, Mile Jedinak was an excellent player whose leadership qualities and sheer determination made him a fan favorite wherever he played. A Sydney untied youth graduate, the Australian played in the A league for Sydney before a move to Central Coast Mariners in 2006.
After a successful, if unspectacular move to Turkey in 2009, Jedinak began looking for a new club with only one year remaining on his contract. A move in 2011 to English team Crystal Palace, then in the Championship, turned Jedinak into one of the most effective midfielders in Europe.
Not only was the Australian instrumental in helping Crystal Palace achieve promotion to the Premier League, his leadership qualities and work ethic made him an indispensable member of the team.
For the five seasons Jedinak played for the club, he played in 165 games and was voted the player of the season in 2013.
After leaving Palace for Midlands club Aston Villa, Mile Jedinak retired in 2019 to take up a coaching role, but will forever be remembered by fans of Crystal Palace as one of their best-ever players.
4. Mark Schwarzer
- Position: Goalkeeper
|Games||Goals Conceded||Clean Sheets|
Australia has produced several great goalkeepers over the years, but it’s hard to find one that has had a playing career quite as long, or as successful, as Mark Schwarzer.
An incredible 26-year career, with 625 league appearances, and still the most capped Australian of all time with 109 caps, Schwarzer had a phenomenal career.
Despite playing for several clubs, it is for his exploits at Middlesborough and Fulham that Schwarzer made a name for himself.
A great shot-stopper that rarely made mistakes, the giant Australian played in two European finals, losing both. He also has the dubious honor of being the oldest player to ever play for both Chelsea and Leicester City.
One of the most reliable goalkeepers of his era, Schwarzer turned down moves to Bayern Munich and Juventus, primarily because they couldn’t guarantee him the number one jersey, but still enjoyed a superb career, and will go down as one of Australia’s most popular players.
3. Tim Cahill
- Position: Attacking Midfielder
Tim Cahill remains the greatest international goalscorer Australia has produced, with 50 international goals in 108 appearances. Second, only to Mark Schwarzer on the all-time appearances list, Cahill was a combative and talented attacking midfielder with an eye for goal.
555 league appearances and 141 goals is an excellent return for any midfielder, but when we consider that Milwall got Cahill on a free transfer, and then Everton paid only £1.5 million for him in 2004, he could go down in history as one of the best value-for-money players ever. In 443 appearances for Milwall and Everton, Cahill scored 108 goals, not bad for a free transfer.
Tim Cahill was one of the best midfielders in the Premier League for several seasons and was a much-loved player that fans seemed to take a shine to, usually because of his excellent work ethic and determination to win.
Fans can see when a player is giving their all for the team, and Cahill rarely stepped off the soccer field without having given his all, something he did for 20 years as a professional player.
2. Mark Viduka
- Position: Striker
One of the most prolific strikers in Australian history, Mark Viduka scored goals for every team he played for, in some of the hardest leagues in Europe.
Thanks to a physique that made him look more like a boxer than a soccer player, Viduka was impossible to dispossess, had a powerful shot, and never allowed opponents to bully him.
Mark Viduka averaged almost a goal every two games, being prolific for every team he played for, from his early days at Melbourne Knights, right through to playing for Celtic and Leeds United. Leeds was an especially successful time for Viduka, as the Yorkshire club had built an excellent young side.
Players such as Alan Smith, fellow Australian Harry Kewell, and Michael Bridges make the Leeds United squad an exciting title challenger.
A brief foray for Leeds into European competition meant Viduka had the chance to play in the Champions League, and he remains the highest-scoring Australian in that competition to this day. Mark Viduka retired in 2009 with 251 goals in 491 league appearances, one of the most lethal strikers of the 2000s.
1. Harry Kewell
- Position: Left Winger
Voted the greatest soccer player ever produced by Australia in a 2012 poll by fans and former players, Harry Kewell is the most talented player ever to be produced in Australia.
In a career that was blighted by injury, it is telling that Kewell still ranks as number one, thanks to his outrageous talent with a soccer ball.
Harry Kewell only managed 381 league appearances for his domestic clubs, clubs which included Leeds, Liverpool, and Galatasaray, but when fit to play he stood out as one of the most talented players of his generation.
On the international stage too, Kewell suffered from a lack of playing time, but still managed 17 goals in 58 appearances.
Moving to England at the age of 15, and making his debut for a young Leeds United side at only 17, Kewell became a part of the Leeds exodus after it emerged the Yorkshire club was massively overspending on wages.
After a Champions League semi-final defeat, successive seasons saw Leeds miss out on Champions League soccer, and within a few years, the club would have been relegated twice, having been forced to sell their star players.
Harry Kewell moved to Anfield for five seasons with Liverpool, but never recaptured his earlier form. Kewell had a fabulous career, but given his talent, we can only guess at his potential had he not been injured so often, and Australia’s greatest soccer export retired in 2014.