There is no doubt about it. Soccer is the most loved sporting activity the world over with billions of fans watching their favorite teams week in and week out. And when they are not playing, it's time to support your national team as they try to qualify for and then win the World Cup.
This is something not achieved by many players but those who do become instant legends. Many soccer competitions also thrust players into the limelight, like the European Cup, for instance. With Real Madrid dominating it over the past four years, their players have become household names and command salaries that the man on the street can only dream of.
But it doesn't matter, because they become heroes to many, young and old alike, as they dazzle us with their incredible football skills. A dribble here, a 60-meter pass there or an incredible curing free-kick that is the winning goal, soccer players send their fans into rapture time and time again.
So, as a fan, you should be able to identify them, right? Sure, some of the modern footballers will be easy to recognize, even from a black and white picture. But what about those legends of the game who played years and years ago? Do you think you would be able to identify them?
Cristiano Ronaldo is somewhat of a phenomenon. The Portuguese captain has been voted the best player in the world five times and to top it off, he has won the Champions League on five occasions. He also led the less fancied Portugal to the 2016 European Championship. At Real Madrid, he scored more than 300 goals for the club. Although he has moved to Juventus, at 33, his career shows no sign of stopping.
Often compared to Maradona by Argentinians, perhaps unfairly, Lionel Messi is one of the best modern soccer players the world has seen. He has played most of his club football for Barcelona where he has won just about every trophy on offer, scoring and assisting goals along the way. Unfortunately, his form during World Cups is often poor, probably due to the weight of having to carry the dreams of Argentina on his shoulders.
An incredible talent, Maradona made his club debut in Argentina at the age of 15. He went on to lead his country to the 1986 World Cup and played for clubs such as Barcelona and Napoli. His private life, however, was a shambles but soccer lovers will forget that for his pure talent.
Without a doubt, Pele is one of the greatest footballers ever, some would say the greatest. Pele won the World Cup with Brazil on three occasions and scored 77 goals in 92 appearances for the national side. He also scored 650 goals in 694 club games for Santos and the New York Cosmos. Incredible!
The best young player in the world right now, Kylian Mbappe set the world alight at the 2018 World Cup, scoring in the final on the way to a French victory. Blessed with pace, strength, vision and incredible technical abilities, Mbappe is a world superstar in the making.
One of England's greatest players, Stanley Matthews is arguably the first superstar footballer from that country. Matthews, known as the 'Wizard of Dribble,' played 800 club games and was capped 54 times by England, both before and after the Second World War. Matthews was the first winner of the Ballon 'd Or (1954) and played top flight football until the age of 50.
The captain of Brazil in 1982, Socrates was an intelligent footballer who read the game like no other. Socrates, who often wore a headband, represented Brazil on 60 occasions, scoring 22 goals.
One of the greatest players out of Holland, Johan Cruyff was simply an incredible footballer. But perhaps it was his approach to football for which fans will remember him forever. Cruyff introduced 'Total Football,' where players interchanged positions seamlessly and the team attacked relentlessly. Cruyff helped the Dutch perfect this style of play and then introduced it at the clubs he managed, such as Barcelona.
Now a successful coach, Zinedine Zidane was one of the world's most creative midfielders during his playing days. Zidane won the World Cup with France in 1998, the European title in 2000, again with France, and the European Cup with Real Madrid in 2002. He was a true magician.
George Best is one of the best wingers ever to have played soccer. Mercurial, fast, supremely skilled and oozing talent, Best led the best defenses on a merry jig... that's when he wanted to play. Unfortunately, he let outside influences ruin his career and he left Manchester United at the age of 27. He then played all over the world for various clubs until the age of 37.
Another incredible marksman, Romario says he scored more than 1,000 goals in his career. Whether that is true is up for debate. What is not up for debate is the fact that this Brazilian was lethal in front of the goal and his scoring prowess helped Brazil win the World Cup in 1994. He ended his career with 55 goals in 70 games for his country.
Playing for Dynamo Moscow and the USSR, Lev Yashin was one of the world's premier goalkeepers. He is the only goalkeeper to win the sought-after Ballon d'Or and saved more than150 penalties during his career. Yashin helped the USSR win the 1956 World Cup and helped Moscow win the European Cup in 1960.
David Beckham is sometimes recognized for his exploits off the field more than on it. The fact is, Beckham was an incredible player, a midfielder with the ability to hit pinpoint passes and take incredible free-kicks. Beckham made his name at Manchester United before playing for a host of other top clubs in Europe, including PSG and Real Madrid.
A World Cup-winning captain in 1990 with Germany as well as their most capped player with 150 appearances, Lothar Mattheus was a giant of world soccer. A rare talent in that he could not only break up attacks but create them as well, Mattheus won the Ballon d'Or in 1990 as well as a host of domestic and international titles.
Currently one of the most recognizable names in soccer, Mohamed Salah's 44 goals in his debut season for Liverpool in the 2017/2018 season brought him to the attention of every soccer lover. Salah represented Egypt at the 2018 Soccer World Cup.
Together with Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit was the force that drove the Dutch team in the 1980s and 1990s. Guillit was exceptional and able to play a number of roles, both in defense and midfield. In 1987, Gullit won the Ballon d'Or and together with van Basten, helped the Dutch win the European Championship in 1988.
Bobby More was an incredible defender, both for West Ham, his club, and England, which he captained to World Cup glory in 1966. He could receive no greater accolade than from Pele who called Moore the best defender he every played against.
Another incredible talent from Brazil, Ronaldinho played 97 times for his country, scoring 33 goals. A great technician, he was able to play in a number of positions. Ronaldinho was twice voted the best player in the world by Fifa and was part of the Brazil team that won the World Cup in 2002.
One of soccer's early greats, Alfredo Di Stefano was a South American legend by the time he touched down to play for Real Madrid in 1953. With Madrid, Di Stefano went on to win five European Cups, eight league titles and was a Ballon d'Or winner twice.
Garrincha starred for Brazil at the 1962 World Cup, winning the Golden Boot and helping Brazil move toward the title after Pele was injured midway through the tournament. His exploits are even more amazing when you add the fact that Garrincha had a bent spine that caused one leg to be 6 centimeters shorter than the other.
Although his hairstyles were a little zany, Ronaldo was one of modern soccer's most gifted strikers. Quick, strong and technically brilliant, Ronaldo burst onto the scene in his first season for Barcelona when he scored 47 goals in 51 games, winning major trophies along the way. Although he went missing during the 1998 World Cup final after suffering a seizure, he returned in 2002 to help Brazil claim the World Cup.
Eusebio was born in Mozambique but left the country as a young man to pursue his career in football in Portugal. He is widely regarded as the greatest African-born player ever and won the Golden Boot award at the 1966 World Cup as well as the Ballon d'Or in 1965.
One of the most decorated players to have played the game, Ryan Giggs played 963 times for Manchester United, scoring 168 goals. He won 25 major honors with the club.
Another legend from Real Madrid's dominance in the 1950s, Raymond Kopa won three European Cups with the Spanish giants and was named the best player in the world in 1958. He was the first footballer to ever receive the highest honor in France, the Légion d'Honneur. He represented the country on 45 occasions.
A 25-year career, more than 1,000 matches for club and country... the career of Paolo Maldini was nothing short of incredible. In fact, when he retired from Milan, his No. 3 shirt was retired as well. This certainly is not a regular occurrence in soccer. Maldini won five European Cups with the club.
Bobby Charlton will forever be remembered for captaining England to the 1966 World Cup and then Manchester United to the 1968 European Cup, both at Wembley. After he survived the Munich air disaster in 1958 which decimated the United team, Charlton went on to become a legend for club and country.
Injury saw to it that one of the world's greatest-ever strikers was forced to retire at just 28 years old and at the peak of his game. Marco van Basten was a prolific goal-getter, capable of scoring against any opposition for Holland or his club side. He won the Ballon d'Or on three occasions.
One of soccer's early greats, Ferenc Puskas was a Real Madrid legend in the 1950s, winning three European Cups and five Spanish titles. Puskas also won a gold medal with Hungary at the 1952 Olympic games.
"The Kaiser,' as he was known to fans, Franz Beckenbauer is a true soccer legend. Blessed with the ability to play anywhere, Beckenbauer started out as a forward before ending his career as a center-back, perfecting the 'sweeper' role. His West German side won the World Cup in 1974 with him as captain and again in 1990 with Beckenbauer as manager. He is one of only three players to have achieved that feat.
With nine goals in five matches, Michel Platini was the star of the show at the European Championship in 1984, helping France to the title. Platini won the Ballon d'Or three times and went on to become a controversial soccer administrator.
A no-nonsense Italian defender, Franco Baresi was a wall and many opposition attackers simply could not pass. He won the Serie A title with AC Milan on six occasions and captained the side for 15 years. During his career, Baresi's Milan won the European Cup on three occasions.
Luis Suarez is perhaps more well known for misdemenours on the field than some of his play. Disgraced in 2014 for biting an Italian player, there is no doubt that Suarez's will to win gets the better of him. He is, however, an incredible footballer as his career at Liverpool and Barcelona have shown. A goalscorer of the utmost class.
Another Real Madrid legend, Paco Gento won 12 La Liga titles and six European Cups with the club.
One of the top goalkeepers in the world, David De Gea is the Spanish national shot stopper and plays for Manchester United.
Now plying his trade in the Major Soccer League in America, Wayne Rooney played 559 games for Manchester United, scoring 253 times, a club record.
One of the world's top strikers, Argentinian Sergio Aguero has made a name for himself at English club Manchester City, helping them to the Premiership title on three occasions.
One of the greatest midfielders ever produced in England, Steven Gerrard captained both England and Liverpool. Although he won every major honor with Liverpool, the Premier League title eluded him. His greatest triumph, however, was inspiring the club to the 2005 European Cup. Down 3-0 at half-time, Gerrard sparked a revival that saw Liverpool draw 3-3 and then win on penalty kicks.
A World Cup winner in 2018 with France, there is no doubting Paul Pogba's talent. His success at club level came with Juventus but he has failed to win over the fans at Manchester United since his big-money move in 2016. A man who sports a new hairstyle almost every weekend, Pogba has the ability to be a true great. Whether he wants it badly enough, that is the question.
Another of the new Brazilian generation, Coutinho made a name for himself at Liverpool before moving to Barcelona. A midfield maestro, Coutinho has an eye for the goal and can pick out a teammate with an array of wonderful passes. Coutinho will certainly be hailed as a Brazilian great in the future.
A modern Brazilian superstar, Neymar is idolized by fans in the country. His is the third highest goal scorer for Brazil and is only 26 years old. He is somewhat controversial and was called out at the 2018 World Cup for his constant diving and play acting.