Greatest 'Athlete' To Play Soccer

Success in soccer requires excelling in a large range of fitness areas. The history of this sport is full of exceptional athletes combined with exceptional skills. A poll for The Greatest Soccer Athlete of All Time was conducted on the ESPN Sport Science website in 2012. The voting was based on the best athlete (not player) who has a combination of strength, speed, endurance, quickness, durability and the other attributes that make an athlete elite. See more about the ESPN Sport Science poll to determine the Greatest Athlete of All Time. See also our discussion of the greatest ever Soccer player (includes both skill and fitness).


Who is the greatest athlete of all time to play soccer?

  1. Lionel Messi — Three-time Ballon d'Or winner
  2. Pele — Scored 12 goals in 14 matches while leading Brazil to three World Cup titles.
  3. Diego Maradona — shorter than most players, he had exceptional ballance and acceleration.
  4. Ronaldo — scored a record 15 total goals in his World Cup tournaments. Won the FIFA Player of the Year three times.
  5. Cristiano Ronaldo — scored 60 goals for Real Madrid in 2011-12, the most in club history.

And the winner is ...


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Lists Extra

Football/Soccer is clearly the world's most popular sport, and has the most popular athletes, but which sport has the fittest players (but not necessarily the greatest athlete). These players do not always earn the most. The best of the best have made it to our 7 Sporting Wonders Lists.

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