Alfredo Di Stefano

There are plenty of footballers that have been considered the greatest player in the world during their career, but they all appear to be post-WW2, such as Alfredo Di Stefano.

Alfredo Di Stefano, Wikipedia

Alfredo Stéfano Di Stéfano Laulhe (4 July 1926 - 7 July 2014) was an Argentinian footballer and coach, who, besides having played for the Argentine national team, also played for Selection Spanish. He is considered one of the greatest footballers in history.


And of course Pele during his time was considered the greatest player in the world, and is debatably considered the greatest player of all time.

Pele, Wikipedia

Edson Arantes do Nascimento (Brazilian Portuguese: [ˈɛtsõ (w)ɐˈɾɐ̃tʃiz du nɐsiˈmẽtu]; born 23 October 1940), known as Pelé ([peˈlɛ]), is a Brazilian former professional footballer who played as a forward. Regarded as one of the greatest players of all time and labelled "the greatest" by FIFA, he was among the most successful and popular sports figures of the 20th century. During his playing days, Pelé was for a period the best-paid athlete in the world.

Johan Cruyff

After Pele retired, the designation of greatest player in the world probably fell to Johan Cruyff.

Johan Cruyff, Wikipedia

Hendrik Johannes Cruijff OON (Dutch: [ˈjoːɦɑn ˈkrœyf] (About this soundlisten), internationally spelled Cruyff; 25 April 1947 – 24 March 2016) was a Dutch professional football player and coach. As a player, he won the Ballon d'Or three times, in 1971, 1973, and 1974. Cruyff was a proponent of the football philosophy known as Total Football explored by Rinus Michels, and is widely regarded as one of the greatest and most prolific players in the history of the sport.

Diego Maradona

Then Diego Maradona.

Diego Maradona, Wikipedia

Diego Armando Maradona (Spanish: [ˈdjeɣo maɾaˈðona]; 30 October 1960 – 25 November 2020) was an Argentine professional football player and manager. Widely regarded as one of the greatest players in the history of the sport, he was one of the two joint winners of the FIFA Player of the 20th Century award. Maradona's vision, passing, ball control, and dribbling skills were combined with his small stature, which gave him a low centre of gravity allowing him to manoeuvre better than most other players. His presence and leadership on the field had a great effect on his team's general performance, while he would often be singled out by the opposition. In addition to his creative abilities, he possessed an eye for goal and was known to be a free kick specialist. A precocious talent, Maradona was given the nickname "El Pibe de Oro" ("The Golden Boy"), a name that stuck with him throughout his career. He also had a troubled off-field life and was banned in both 1991 and 1994 for abusing drugs.

Zinedine Zidane

After Diego Maradona the mantle was probably taken up by Zinedine Zidane.

Zinedine Zidane, Wikipedia

Zinedine Yazid Zidane (born 23 June 1972), popularly known as Zizou, is a French former professional football player who played as an attacking midfielder. He is the current manager of La Liga club Real Madrid and is one of the most successful managers in the world. Widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, Zidane was an elite playmaker renowned for his elegance, vision, passing, ball control, and technique. He received many individual accolades as a player, including being named FIFA World Player of the Year in 1998, 2000 and 2003, and winning the 1998 Ballon d'Or.

Cristiano Ronaldo

And most recently, Cristiano Ronaldo. Though some may argue Lionel Messi.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro GOIH ComM (Portuguese pronunciation: [kɾiʃˈtjɐnu ʁɔˈnaɫdu]; born 5 February 1985) is a Portuguese professional footballer who plays as a forward for Serie A club Juventus and captains the Portugal national team. Often considered the best player in the world and widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, Ronaldo has won five Ballon d'Or awards and four European Golden Shoes, both of which are records for a European player. He has won 31 major trophies in his career, including seven league titles, five UEFA Champions Leagues, one UEFA European Championship, and one UEFA Nations League title. Ronaldo holds the records for the most goals (134) and assists (42) in the history of the UEFA Champions League. He is one of the few recorded players to have made over 1,000 professional career appearances and has scored a record 770 senior career goals for club and country. He is also the second male to score 100 international goals and the first European one to achieve the feat.

Who were the best pre-WW2 footballers in the world?

But there was life before these players. But we rarely hear about footballing life before WW2, giving the impression it all begins in the late 1940's. So I ask, who were considered the greatest pre-WW2 players in the world?

  • This is probably highly subjective, since the sport wasn't as popular at this time. I know a few but I'm not sure they were actually the best or just really good.
    – dly
    Mar 30, 2021 at 18:59
  • @dly I am looking through the 1930, 1934 and 1938 world cup all stars team. I think i've pinpointed the 1920's and 1930's two superstars. At least on paper anyway. But I wont say who I have in mind just in case someone else thinks they know who was considered the best at the time. Mar 30, 2021 at 19:11
  • 3
    Considered by whom? As currently worded, I think this question is too open to opinion-based answers, such as that of jashinjashua.
    – F1Krazy
    Mar 31, 2021 at 10:34

1 Answer 1


A few names I can think of are:

José Leandro Andrade (22 November 1901 – 5 October 1957) was an Uruguayan footballer who played at wing-half. He was nicknamed 'The Black Marvel' (maravilla negra). During his prime he was regarded as one of the finest footballers in the world, contributing to the Uruguay national football team's domination of international football during the 1920s, winning two consecutive Olympic Gold Medals and then the first FIFA World Cup.

Throughout his career, he played mainly for Internazionale in the 1930s, scoring 242 goals in 365 games for the club, and winning three Serie A titles, as well as the Coppa Italia; he later also played for local rivals Milan, as well as Turin rivals Juventus, in addition to his spells with Varese and Atalanta. At international level, he led Italy to win two consecutive World Cups: in 1934 on home soil, and in 1938 as captain; he was named to the All-star Team and won the Golden Ball Award at the 1934 World Cup, as the tournament's best player. Along with Giovanni Ferrari and Eraldo Monzeglio, he is one of only three Italian players to have won two World Cups.

From 1916 to 1933 he played in 606 games for 1. FC Nürnberg, then a dominating team in German football, winning five national championships (1920, 1921, 1924, 1925, 1927). Between 1918 and 1922 Nuremberg did not lose in 104 association games, with a goal difference of 480:47.

He also gained 21 international caps, captaining the German national side in six appearances. He surpassed the record of Eugen Kipp (19 games) for the most appearances for the national team. His last international cap was a 0–2 loss against Italy in Frankfurt in 1930.

Stuhlfauth was considered one of the best goalkeepers of his time, along with legendary Spanish keeper Ricardo Zamora. He was known for being one of the first "playing" goalkeepers, actively participating in the game. In games he always wore a grey sweater and a flat cap.

William Ralph "Dixie" Dean (22 January 1907 – 1 March 1980) was an English footballer who played as a centre forward. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest players of his generation and was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2002.

Born in Birkenhead, he began his career at his hometown club Tranmere Rovers before moving on to Everton, the club he had supported as a child. He was particularly known for scoring goals with his head. Dean played the majority of his career at Everton before injuries caught up with him and he moved on to new challenges at Notts County. He is best known for his exploits during the 1927–28 season, which saw him score a record 60 league goals. He also scored 18 goals in 16 appearances for England.

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