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The Rediff Special/
March 25, 2004
Who is the world's greatest footballer?
11. Gerd Muller (Germany)
World Cups: 1970 (3rd), 1974 (winner)
In 62 internationals Muller scored 68 goals, and the 14 he slotted in during the 1970 and 1974 World Cups make him the most prolific goal scorer in the history of the competition.
His predatory instincts in front of goal were amazing. He needed only a sniff of a chance to put the ball into the net. 'Der Bomber,' as he was affectionately known, was without doubt Germany's deadliest forward.
12. Dino Zoff (Italy)
World Cups: 1974, 1978 (4th), 1982 (winner)
When Italy won the World Cup in 1982, Zoff became the oldest player to lift the trophy. He was 40. Always focused and composed, great inside the box, magnificent on the line, he was the supreme professional. His inspirational leadership played an vital role in Italy's 1982 World Cup triumph.
Zoff was capped a record 112 times for Italy. When he came in to the 1974 World Cup he had another unique distinction: not having conceded a goal in 1,147 minutes, that is 13 games from September 1972 to June 1974.
13. Marco van Basten (Holland)
World Cups: 1990
Pressure brought out the best from this Dutch striker. He was graceful, yet powerful, could strike with either foot and quick on the turn and supreme in the air.
The Dutch team had been one of the world's heavyweights for long but starved of success in major championships after Johan Cryuff called it a day. In 1988, van Basten's superb form in front of goal helped Holland win the European Championships and break their drought.
He won the European Player of the Year award thrice -- 1988, 1989 and 1992. He was also World Footballer of the Year 1988 and 1992
14. Johan Cruyff (Holland)
World Cup: 1974
While most soccer stars are known for distinctive playing styles, Johann Cruyff is credited with initiating a whole soccer movement -- 'Total Soccer.'
Cruyff's gift to soccer was a revolutionary approach where players were encouraged to play attacking soccer without being tied down to a role or formation.
He made his debut for Ajax in the Dutch league at 19. In his first year itself, he emerged the league's top scorer. From thereon, there was no looking back. He was voted European Footballer of the Year thrice, having been part of the winning Dutch squad. A natural winner, he was, however, on the losing side when Holland made it to the 1974 World Cup final.
15. George Best (Northern Ireland)
Pele named him his favourite player, which was remarkable considering Best's international career with Northern Ireland never allowed him the opportunity of appearing in the World Cup final.
'He was quick, two-footed, beautifully balanced,' his friend television personality Michael Parkinson once wrote. 'He could hit long and short passes with equal precision, was swift and fearless in the tackle and he reintroduced the verb to dribble. He was as imaginative and whimsical in midfield as he was economical and deadly given a chance at goal.'
Best reached unimaginable heights with his outrageous skills in a career that lasted a mere six years at the top, before self-destructing into alcoholism, bankruptcy and jail. He was one of football's many flawed geniuses, and arguably the greatest of them all.