Soccer players are among some of the most popular and famous figures on the planet these days, their fame knows no bounds and their wealth is almost unmatched by any other sportspeople.
Recently we looked at 10 of the most hated soccer players on the planet, so we decided to mix things up today and instead look at the most loved players of all time.
Of course, everyone has their favorites, and we couldn’t include everybody on this list. If you know a player we’ve unfairly left out of this list, please let us know!
Here are the 10 most loved soccer players of all time.
10. Erling Haaland
In the space of just a few short years, Erling Braut Haaland has gone from being a relatively unknown phenomenon in his native Norway to one of the world’s foremost soccer stars.
The Norwegian powerhouse has developed into a goalscoring machine that looks almost unstoppable on his day and has helped deliver an impressive treble to his club Manchester City in 2023.
Haaland initially plied his trade for local team Bryne before moving to Norwegian giants Molde to play under then-manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
After impressing once more, Haaland earned a move to central Europe to play for RB Salzburg who hoped to develop into their main man up top. This occurred and the Austrian couldn’t prevent Haaland from transferring to Borussia Dortmund in 2019.
After three stellar seasons in Germany, Haaland moved to Manchester to play for the club his father did some years earlier. Haaland hit the ground running and is now considered the best center-forward in the world by many fans.
9. Ronaldo (R9)
One of the most talented individuals to ever grace a soccer field, Ronaldo was a Brazilian superstar that had the world at his feet and could have achieved even greater success had it not been for a string of injuries bringing his career to a premature end.
Nowadays, Ronaldo has been unfairly labeled as ‘fat Ronaldo’ due to the weight he has gained in retirement.
Ronaldo’s best moments came in the 2002 World Cup in which he helped deliver the last of Brazil’s five triumphs in the competition.
Thanks to his injuries, Ronaldo had hardly played before the tournament and was a doubt to feature at all. Despite these fears, Ronaldo reminded the world of his ability and deservedly won the Player of the Year award.
Since retiring, Ronaldo has appeared in various media roles and remains a prominent figure in his native Brazil.
8. Wayne Rooney
Arguably the biggest face of the sport in the late 2000s and early 2010s, English striker Wayne Rooney is one of the most recognizable names in soccer.
Starting his career with his beloved Everton, Rooney dazzled as a 16-year-old starlet and later earned a transfer to Manchester United.
Rooney would spend the majority of his career with the Red Devils, becoming the club’s record goal scorer in the process. He remains loved at Old Trafford to this day.
For this country, Rooney became the figurehead of the English national team for well over a decade and led the line at a number of major tournaments. He also became England’s record goal scorer for a short while before being overtaken by Harry Kane recently.
Rooney has since enjoyed a relatively successful start to his managerial career, leading Derby County and DC United here in the US. Rooney had previously played for the capital-based club after leaving Everton for the second time.
7. Kylian Mbappe
One of the faces of the future as much as the present, Kylian Mbappe remains one of the youngest and most talented players in the world.
The Frenchman has already appeared in two World Cup finals despite his age and shows no signs of stopping in terms of his development as a goal scorer.
Mbappe’s career began on the south coast of France with Monaco where he formed part of the legendary title-winning squad as a teenager.
This obvious talent attracted suitors from across the continent, however, the Frenchman opted to stay in his home country with Paris Saint-Germain. Setting the Ligue 1 giants back nearly 200 million euros, it was a gamble that had to pay off. It certainly did.
While PSG may not have won the UEFA Champions League with Mbappe leading the line, this success can’t be far away.
After signing a new deal worth $4 million a month, Mbappe continued to shine and later became the club’s record goal scorer.
6. Paul Gascoigne
Possibly the greatest English player to ever step foot on a soccer field, Paul Gascoigne was vastly talented yet troubled with injuries and addiction.
Known to fans around the world as ‘Gazza’, Gascoigne burst onto the scene with hometown club Newcastle United in the late 1980s.
Soon ‘Gazza mania’ swept across England as the fans realised they has unearthed a gem that could deliver the country to its second World Cup title.
At the 1990 World Cup in Italy, Gascoigne shone brighter than ever before. The midfielder looked like leading his country to success before an agonising semi-final defeat to Germany in which he famously cried on the field after receiving a yellow card that would have banned him from playing in the final.
Gascoigne later went on to take England to the semi-final’s at Euro 96’, scoring an iconic goal against rivals Scotland.
Sadly ‘Gazza’s’ life after soccer hasn’t been easy, plagued with illness and alcoholism he has frequently undergone rehabilitation. Despite all this, Gascoigne remains an idol to English fans everywhere.
5. George Best
Prior to the dawn of commercialism in soccer, there were no superstars in the game, as players were still considered to be something of working-class heroes to the fans.
This was until George Best burst onto the scene. Comfortably the greatest Irish player of all time, Best is most well-known for his time wearing the number 7 jersey at Manchester United.
Best played his first match for the club aged just 17 and would on to become one of the Red Devil’s greatest stars. His talent earned him riches that were unheard of at the time, he became colloquially known as ‘Georgie Best superstar’ and became famous outside of the sport.
Despite his ability, Best suffered from alcoholism throughout his career and would often be seen drinking after playing.
After retiring Best would often be involved in controversial events caused by his drinking, later undergoing liver surgery to save his life. Unfortunately Best continued to drink and died aged just 59 in 2005.
One only needs to think back to the outpouring of love for Pele upon the occasion of his death last year to see just how popular he was.
The Brazilian is still considered by some to be the greatest soccer player of all time, whose records remained untouched for decades until the days of Messi and Ronaldo.
While his club career was primarily spent in his home country, Pele’s international record is nothing short of superb. He led Brazil to multiple World Cup victories and dazzled supporters with his quick feet and powerful shooting. Pele is credited as scoring 1279 goals during his career.
Pele died in 2022 and his funeral was a national affair in Brazil as the country mourned its greatest star.
3. Cristiano Ronaldo
There are few players in the history of soccer that have worked harder to get where they are than Cristiano Ronaldo.
Now playing in Saudi Arabia, Ronaldo was previously considered one of the greatest players on the planet and achieved almost impossible success at club level with Real Madrid, Juventus and Manchester United.
The Portuguese international remains one of the most followed men on social media and has a loyal group of fans that idolize his every move.
Many of Ronaldo’s best moments came in the UEFA Champions League, a competition that has always been special to him. His overhead kick against future club Juventus in 2018 simply highlighted the strength and ability of the man.
While the end of his career isn’t what many had hoped for, there is no doubt Ronaldo will be remembered for his best years.
2. Diego Maradona
Some soccer players are heroes, some are icons, and few can be considered gods. That’s the category that the great Diego Armando Maradona slots into, however.
In his native Argentina there fans still chant his name in the stands at Boca Juniors games, despite his death a few years ago. Maradona almost single-handedly delivered the World Cup to Argentina in 1986.
His club career saw him become equally famed at Napoli after bringing the Scudetto to the city. There are still plenty of reminders of the great man around the city, including the club’s stadium that is named after him.
Maradona’s life was not without controversy, however, as he was addicted to cocaine for much of his career and subsequent life in retirement.
He also scored the most controversial goal in history, nicknamed ‘The Hand of God’. In the same game, he also scored arguably the greatest goal ever, soloing his way through a hoard of opponents before slotting home.
1. Lionel Messi
Before he won the World Cup for the first time in 2022, I would have placed Maradona above Messi in this list.
Lifting the trophy in Qatar and doing so by leading the way for Argentina in the same vein as Maradona has finally put Messi on the same pedestal as the late Maradona in his homeland.
Messi has always shone brighter than any other in my opinion and will be remembered as the greatest player of all time. His mazey runs and insane solo goals defy belief every time he does it and his talent is second to none.
If you ever have the chance to watch this man play for Inter Miami you must take it because when he’s gone they’ll be a gaping hole in soccer fans’ hearts the world over. We are privileged to have him play here in the US.