The 10 Best Soccer Players in the World Right Now (2024)

Ask anyone who the best soccer player of all time is, and chances are they’ll answer Pelé. Rightfully so. Dubbed the most gifted footballer in history, he had what’s arguably the most distinguished career as well.

Pelé is the only footballer to have won three world cups. He was the highest paid athlete in his glory days, and he held the Guinness World Record for the most career goals — practically one goal for every match he played. 

He was lauded by the likes of Nelson Mandela, Andy Warhol and even his arch-rival, Diego Maradona. Not to mention he was named Athlete of the Century and one of Time’s 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century in 1999, and World Player of the Century in 2000.

Pelé passed away in 2022, decades after he last graced the pitch. If we had to choose a new God of Football to fill the void he left behind, which players compare to his influence, skill, and accomplishments? Few footballers are in the running, but I’ve rounded up the best of the best.

A photo of Pele dribbling the ball during a match
No one played football like Pelé

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The Qualifying Round — Who’s In The Running?

Football banter can get very heated, very quickly, so to keep things as objective as possible, here’s how I narrowed it down.

  1. Stats. Each footballer on this list is as good on paper as they are in practice. 
  2. Honors. This could be anything from trophies to world records.
  3. Status. To qualify, the contender must be an active player as of the time of publishing.
  4. Public opinion. What are the critics, reporters, and fans saying? If the footballer is beloved across the board, they stand a good chance of winning the title.

This is an age-old discussion, and we’ll likely never see a unanimous end to it. Remember, it’s all in the spirit of fun. Ready for the kick off? Let’s jump in.

The 10 Best Soccer Players Right Now

These 10 players are outstanding in their field — literally! Whether it’s insurmountable talent, an excellent spirit, or a bite to match their bark, they’re all great and worth rooting for. This list is in no particular order for the most part, but I’ve saved the best for last.

10. Warren Zaïre-Emery

🏆 Best Newcomer
TeamsAubervilliers (2011-2014)
Paris Saint-Germain (2014-present)
France National U21s

Warren Zaïre-Emery was born in 2006. By 2010, he was playing for Aubervilliers’ youth club. As his career progressed and he showed immense promise, Paris Saint-Germain added him to their roster.

At age 16, he broke a number of records, both with PSG and as an individual. This includes becoming PSG’s youngest debutant, starter, goal-scorer, and Champions League player. He’s also the club’s youngest player to score a Ligue 1 assist, and is the youngest Champions League starter in history. In 2022, he was awarded the Titi d’Or.

Zaïre-Emery is praised for his versatility as a midfielder. His career has only just begun, but he’s already cemented his name as a trailblazer, and currently, all eyes are on him. 

9. Neymar

🏆 Most Talented
TeamsSantos (2009-2013)
Barcelona (2013-2017)
Paris Saint-Germain (2017-2023)
Al Hilal (Present)

Talent is difficult, if not impossible to quantify — but in soccer, one name is synonymous with it: Ronaldinho. Since he’s retired, we’ll give the gold to the player he himself named as the heir to his fancy footwork throne — Neymar.

Neymar’s style, skill and spirit were praised by a pantheon of legends, including Cristiano Ronaldo, Diego Maradona and David Beckham. Lionel Messi said he believed Neymar would become the best in the world.

As an avid Brazil supporter, watching Neymar is often frustrating. Not every play has to be a performance, and sometimes his tactics do more harm than good. Still, I can’t deny watching him is like watching the greats that paved the way for him — a rare occurrence in the beautiful game.

8. Kylian Mbappé

🏆 Highest Earner
TeamsMonaco II (2015-2016)
Monaco (2015-2018)
Paris Saint-Germain (2017-present)

I cheated a little with this one, but hear me out. Technically speaking, Neymar, Messi, N’Golo Kante, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo out-earn Kylian Mbappé — but they’ve had longer, more established careers. Not to mention in 2022, Kylian Mbappé was the highest paid footballer, overtaking them all with a dazzling $128 million — an impressive feat.

Kylian Mbappé became a household name when he captained France in the 2022 FIFA World Cup. It was a match like no other, and even though France lost out on the cup, Mbappé’s performance solidified his significance in football history. 

It’s no surprise many clubs hope to poach him, or that his move from Monaco to PSG was the second most expensive transfer of all time — but it’s shocking to hear PSG reportedly offered him a record-breaking $1 billion for a lifetime contract.

7. Alisson Becker

🏆 Best Goalkeeper
TeamsInternacional (2013-2016)
Roma (2016-2018)
Liverpool (2018-present)

Does anyone else feel like goalies don’t get enough love or attention? Often excluded from “Best” lists, they’re an integral part of soccer, and more often than not are responsible for how a team fares. Goalkeepers might just be my favorite of the lot, so which one deserves to be crowned the greatest?

Alisson Becker, of course — and no, I’m not just saying that because he plays for Brazil. He’s been described as superhuman, a phenomenon, and as the Messi of goalkeeping. Liverpool coach, Jürgen Klopp, even credited Becker as the most consistent player on the team.

Then, we have to consider his accolades — too numerous to list in their entirety. Over the course of his senior career, Becker has won Goalkeeper of the Year in Serie A and the Globe Soccer Awards, UEFA Champions League Goalkeeper of the Season, IFFHS World’s Best Goalkeeper, the Yashin Trophy, Best FIFA Goalkeeper, Samba Gold, and the Golden Glove from both the Premier League and Copa América

6. Marta

🏆 Best Female Footballer
TeamsVasco da Gama (2000-2002)
Santa Cruz (2002-2004)
Umeå IK (2004-2008)
Los Angeles Sol (2009)
Gold Pride (2010)
Santos (2011)
Western New York Flash (2011)
Tyresö (2012-2014)
Rosengard (2014-2017)
Orlando Pride (2017-present)

As with goalkeepers, women are almost always excluded from the ranks, but I ask you, who says the next Pelé can’t and won’t be a lady? Not Pelé. He onced dubbed Marta “Pelé in skirts”. Her skill, speed and style on the pitch has seen her compared to Ronaldinho as well.

Marta is arguably the best female football player in the world, and some would say of all time. In her 21-year-and-counting career, she’s claimed the Best FIFA Women’s Player title six times. She was named the IFHS Best Woman Player of the Decade, and has won the FIFA Women’s World Cup Golden Boot and Golden Ball — among many, many others. Her list of accolades is longer than most men’s. She also holds the record for FIFA Women’s World Cup goals at 17.

5. Antonio Rüdiger

🏆 Fastest Footballer
TeamsVfB Stuttgart II(2011-2015)
VfB Stuttgart (2015-2016)
Roma (2016-2017)
Chelsea (2017-2022)
Real Madrid (2022-present)

Thierry Henry holds the record for the fastest speed in a professional match, clocking an astonishing 39.2km/h (24,2 mph). Unfortunately, the French soccer superstar hung up his boots in 2014, so the title goes to his closest competitor.

Antonio Rüdiger holds the Premier League speed record, reaching 36.72 km/h (22.81 mph) — but his velocity is not the be-all-end-all of his career. He’s a prolific defender, praised by experts for his comfort on the pitch, his commanding play style, and his versatility. 

He’s also charismatic, known for his down-to-earth attitude off the pitch, and his silly antics during matches — including his celebrations, dances, and iconic running gait. 

4. Tobin Heath

🏆 Most World Cup Wins
TeamsNew Jersey Wildcats (2004-2006)
Hudson Valley Quickstrike Lady Blues (2007)
Pali Blues (2009)Atlanta Beat (2010)
Sky Blue FC (2011)
New York Fury (2012)
Paris Saint-Germain (2013-2014)
Portland Thorns (2013-2020)
Manchester United (2020-2021)
Arsenal (2021-2022)
OL Reign (2022-present)

No one has broken Pelé’s record of three world cup wins, but many great players have claimed two. Still, the current pool of male footballers has lagged behind in the last few decades — not a single active male player has more than one world cup trophy — so this one goes to the gals.

We’re spoiled for choice. Looking at the USA Women’s team alone, we have more than a dozen contenders, but I think Tobin Heath deserves the title. Among many other international honors, she helped the USA win the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2015 and 2019, and won gold at the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics.

The US Soccer Federation and ESPN dub Heath the most skilled soccer player in the USA. Judging by her accolades, I think they’re on to something.

3. Son Heung-min

🏆 Most Charismatic Footballer
TeamsHamburger SV II (2010)
Hamburger SV (2010-2013)
Bayer Leverkusen (2013-2015)
Tottenham Hotspur (2015-present)
South Korea

Pele isn’t only legendary because of his skill, but his presence as well. I think it’s only fair one of his potential successors lives up to his spirit, and who better to honor than Son Heung-min — a man many footballers have stated is the nicest guy on the planet.

Son Heung-Min has a reputation for his humility, his warmth to fans and supporters, and his philanthropy. In South Korea, his home country, he’s a megastar, icon, national treasure, and even received the Cheongnyong Medal — the highest merit South Korean athletes  can strive for. He’s credited with Tottenham Hotspur’s boom in popularity, and avid support in Asia.

He hasn’t ranked here on sweetness alone. Heung-min is a formidable all-rounder, and is considered one of the best soccer players in the world, as well as the best Asian soccer player of all time. He’s so prolific, even Sir Alex Furgoson expressed Heung-min is the one player he wishes he got to coach and deemed him “Excellent.”

2. Cristiano Ronaldo

🏆 Most Career Goals 🏆 Fan Favorite
TeamsSporting CP B (2002-2003)
Sporting CP  (2002-2003)
Manchester United (2003-2009)
Real Madrid (2009-2018)
Juventus (2018-2021)
Al Nassr (2021-present)

Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the most prolific footballers of the era. I wouldn’t be surprised if at one point in recent history he was the most important, beloved, and supported player in the game. I remember the mania when I was a child — few footballers come close to it.

It’s not without merit. Cristiano Ronaldo currently holds the record for most career goals, with 853 to his name. He’s also the most capped player in history, with 201 caps. Believed to be the best striker in soccer history, it seems the only thing he’s missing is a World Cup title.

Ronaldo is also the most popular footballer in the world. He has the most followers across social media, tallying an estimated 835 million followers across social media.

1. Lionel Messi

🏆 Most Decorated 🏆 Most Awarded 🏆 Overall Best
TeamsBarcelona C (2003-2004)
Barcelona B (2004-2005)
Barcelona (2005-2021)
Paris Saint-Germain (2021-2023)
Inter Miami (Present)

Over the span of his career, Messi has won 44 trophies — a record shared with controversial player Dani Alvez. He’s also won 7 Ballon D’or awards, and was inducted into the Dream Team in 2020, and he’s earned 6 Golden Boots. He holds the record for the most goals scored with a single club at 672 for Barcelona, and has scored the most goals in La Liga, and the most hat tricks in La Liga and the Champions League. I would go on, but then this article would become an encyclopedia.

Love him or hate him, Messi is undoubtedly the most accomplished, and iconic, footballer of our time. His recent world cup win solidified his status and competence, and considering it was his last world cup, it was one for the history books.

He’s one of the highest paid athletes in the world, is the second-most followed footballer on social media, and is considered one of the greatest football players who ever lived. Even Pelé deemed him the best — and who are we to argue?

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Who’s better, Messi or Ronaldo?

It depends on how you look at it. Cristiano Ronaldo is the best goal scorer in soccer, and currently holds the record for the most career goals. He also has 201 caps — more than any other player in history — and the most followers on social media in a landslide.
Messi is the most decorated and most awarded footballer. He holds countless records for his performance, and he has a world cup to his name, something Ronaldo can’t say. You be the judge.

Who is the best male soccer player in the world?

Of the footballers who are currently active, most would say it’s Lionel Messi. On top of his trophies and honors, he captained Argentina when they won the world cup in 2022. He’s also one of the most valuable players, and one of the highest earners.
Although Messi retired from international play after the 2022 FIFA World Cup, he has expressed he has no intention to slow down. It looks like Messi will continue to be the best for years to come.

Who’s the best women’s soccer player? 

Objectively speaking, it’s Marta. She has had the most prolific career in women’s soccer, has the most honors and awards, and is considered Brazil’s top goal scorer. She was the first footballer of any gender to score at 5 different FIFA World Cups, has won Olympic medals, and has been compared to legends, like Pele and Ronaldhino. 

How can I watch soccer online?

The easiest and safest way to stream soccer online is to sign up for the services that have licensing and broadcasting rights. 
If you’re in the UK, you can stream the Premier League on TNT Sports, Sky TV, Amazon Prime Video, or NOW. If you’re in the US, enjoy the game on NBC channels including Peacock TV,  NBC Sports, Hulu+ Live, YouTube TV, DirecTV Stream and Sling TV. 
As for the Champions League, inside the US, you’ll find it Paramount+. Worldwide, you can watch it on BT Sport, Amazon Prime Video, and BeIN Sports Connect.
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