Years Played: 1956 - 1974
Why he's one of the greatest: Bobby Charlton boasts 106 caps and 49 goals for England, as well as a 17-season career with Manchester United, during which it became the first English club to win the European Cup in 1968.
Bobby Charlton remains one of the most famous English footballers of all time. He commands much-deserved'respect to this day as a consummate sportsman of the highest integrity. Throughout his playing career, he won every title football had to offer, both as captain of England and long-standing servant of Manchester United. The ultimate ambassador of football, Bobby Charlton is admired worldwide for all he has done for the game.
Part of the "Busby Babes," Charlton was one of the survivors of the disastrous 1958 Munich plane crash that claimed the lives of eight of his Manchester United teammates. Three months later, Manchester United was in the FA Cup final, losing 2-1 to Bolton. In his second World Cup, Charlton played a crucial role in England, reaching the 1962 quarterfinals where the team was defeated by powerhouse Brazil. Four years later on home soil, Charlton was part of the squad that hoisted England's only World Cup trophy, on a Geoff Hurst hat trick against West Germany. It was Charlton's upstaging of Eusebio in the semifinals match against Portugal that lives on as Charlton's greatest ever match for England.
Eusebio (Eusebio da Silva Ferreira)
Years Played: 1961 - 1978
Why he's one of the greatest: Claimed the Golden Boot in the 1966 World Cup, scoring nine goals for Portugal before being eliminated in the semifinals by England.
The first African player to gain worldwide recognition, the Mozambique born "European Pele" is still considered the greatest Portuguese player of all time. He began his brilliant career with Portugal's Benfica, who virtually stole him from Sporting Lisbon. At the age of 19, he grabbed the spotlight by scoring a hat trick against Pele's Santos in the Paris Tournament of 1961. Eusebio's league play included seven top-scoring honors and the much-earned 1965 European Footballer of the Year award. His two brilliant goals against Real Madrid helped Benfica win their second European Cup in 1962.
Considering his European career was halted by knee problems at the age of 32, he managed an incredible 41 goals in 64 international matches. Following a full tour of various teams in the North American Soccer League, Eusebio returned to Lisbon, where he's still heralded as a local and national hero. Above all of his footballing accomplishments, it's his sportsmanship that most impressed fans and opponents alike. Even in the face of a European Cup final defeat in 1968, he patted Manchester United's Alex Stepney on the back after Stepney had foiled Eusebio's possible winning goal!
Years Played: 1964 - 1984
Why he's one of the greatest: Cruyff wore the captain's armband during Holland's amazing 1974 World Cup campaign, scoring two goals against both Argentina and Brazil, only to lose to Franz Beckenbauer's West Germany in the final.
Johan Cruyff stands out as the most dominant Dutch player of all time. He was a linchpin in Ajax's dominance of European football in the early 1970s, during the early period of "total football." One of the best attacking midfielders of all time, he dominated Holland, claiming nine league titles -- eight with Ajax and one with Feyenoord. His performance in European play contributed largely to Holland's three consecutive European Champions' Cups from 1970 to 1973. He almost single-handedly picked apart Italian side Inter in the 1972 edition of the competition, scoring both goals in the 2-nil final win.
Such dominance made him an obvious target for other big clubs, with Barcelona finally winning out in 1973. The Catalan side went on to win the Spanish league title that season, but did little else during Cruyff's time there. Having retired from international play prior to the 1978 World Cup, Cruyff went on to successfully manage both of his former clubs. He claimed the European Cup Winner's Cup with both sides, first with Ajax in 1987 and then with Barcelona in 1989. His all-around success on and off the pitch certainly qualify Johan Cruyff as one of the best of all time.