10 Best Soccer Players of the 1990s
In 1990, for the first time in 40 years, the United States competed in the World Cup. Though much of the rest of the world had serious soccer fever, it wasn’t until then that the sport, known as football elsewhere, piqued the interest of the American audience.
Controversy was also rampant throughout the world of soccer in the 1990s, and several major rules were changed, which led to negative player tactics both on and off the field. The 1990 World Cup is noted as one of the most boring and poorly played cups of all time, but with the 1994 World Cup being held in the United States for the first time, it was also a historic time for the world of soccer.
The 1990s were a good time for the Americans to become interested in the sport, as it was an exciting time in the world of soccer. The European teams were the ones to notice in the FIFA universe, and the world of soccer was certainly intertwining with politics throughout the world. Fans of the sport had their own version of a soap opera as the player’s antics both on and off the field were noted in the tabloids.
Some of these players became household names, and even in the US, where soccer was less popular, people recognized names such as David Beckham and Luiz Ronaldo. The following are the headliners, the loved and the worshiped, or in other words, the top 10 best soccer players of the 1990s:
10. Gheorghe Hagi
Gheorghe Hagi played professionally from the early 1980s to the early 2000s, and he is widely considered to be the best Romanian player of all time. He was one of the most feared attacking mid-fielders in the whole of Europe throughout the 1980s and 1990s, and fans called him “The King” or “The Commander.”
Hagi is considered a Romanian hero, and he was named the Romanian Footballer of the Year a total of seven times. He was both a creative and advanced player on the field, and well known for his passing, dribbling and finishing. Hagi played for the Romanian national team in 1990, 1994 and 1998 and also played in three European Football Championships. Even Pele, one of the best players of all time, named Gheorghe Hagi one of the 100 Greatest Living Footballers.
Throughout his career, Hagi was both a player and a coach, and he holds the Romanian record for the national team’s top scorer, as of 2016. As a professional, he is one of the only players in the world to play for both rival Spanish football teams, Barcelona and Real Madrid. He also played for Galatasaray, Brescia, Steaua Bucure?ti, Sportul Studen?esc and Farul Constan?a, which is where he began his career in 1982.
Today, Hagi is both the owner and chairman of the Romanian club Viitorul Constanta, which he founded, and he runs the Gheorghe Hagi Football Academy, one of the largest football academies in the Southeastern Europe region.
9. Peter Schmeichel
Peter Schmeichel, known as “The Great Dane,” is the only goalkeeper on the list, and he is best known for his years with Manchester United. Schmeichel was voted “IFFHS World’s Best Goalkeeper” in 1992 and 1993. Schmeichel is an intimidating man in size, with a height of 6’3”, and wore custom made XXXL jerseys when he played.
On the field, Schmeichel was a fierce competitor, and often loudly criticized his defenders when he believed they made mistakes. Though he was a goal keeper, he was able to score 11 goals throughout his career, including one when he was on the Denmark national team. He played for the Denmark national team for the Euro 92 tournament, in the 1998 FIFA World Cup and for three years in the European Championship tournament.
Schmeichel is known as one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time, and was ranked as one of the top 10 keepers of the 20th century by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics. Reuters also did a public poll where most of the 200,000 participants rated Schmeichel as the best goalkeeper ever. Though he is a Danish player, he played for teams throughout Europe in his career including Manchester United, Sporting CP, Aston Villa F.C. and Manchester City F.C. He was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2003 for his years playing in England, and at the FIFA 100 celebrations, he was also chosen as one of the 100 Greatest Living Footballers.
8. Paolo Maldini
Italian soccer player Paolo Maldini also deserves a spot on the list of the top 10 best soccer players of the 1990s He played left back and central defender for 25 seasons for A.C. Milan and the Italy national team. Throughout his career with Milan, he won the Champions League five times and received seven Serie A titles. He won five European Super Cups, a FIFA Club World Cup and two International Cups.
Maldini began playing professionally in 1988 and over that time, he was a captain of his team for 8 years, serving as game captain 74 times. With the Italy national team, he played in four World Cups and three European Championships.
As one of the greatest defenders of all time, Maldini played at a world class level throughout this entire career, which lasted for almost 25 years. He was voted in at number 21 in the World Soccer list of 100 Greatest Football Players of the 20th Century in 1999, and was chosen as one of the World’s Greatest Living Players on the FIFA 100 list.
Maldini was highly regarded by other players during his playing years, and was known as “Il Capitano,” or The Captain. He also holds the record for the most appearances in the Serie A with 647, and holds the record for the most appearances in the UEFA Club competitions.
When Maldini retired in 2009, Milan retired his number, and in 2012, he was placed into the Italian Football Hall of Fame. Today, Maldini works off the field, and is the co-owner of Miami FC.
Thus far, only European players have appeared on the list, but soccer is also extremely popular in South America, especially in Brazil, where the next player hails from. Rivaldo is a former attacking midfielder and second striker, who had a long and illustrious career. He is a versatile player, and can play on either flank, and was considered one of the best players in the whole of the world in the late 1990s. Rivaldo played for Barcelona, and with the team won both the 1998 and 1999 La Liqa championship and the Copa del Ray in 1998.
In the decade from 1993 to 2003, Rivaldo also played for the Brazil national team and appeared in 74 matches. He scored 35 goals over those years, which puts him as the 7th highest scorer in the history of the team. He also helps the team reach the finals of the 1998 FIFA World Cup, was part of the FIFA World Cup All-Star Team in 1998, and with Brazil, he won the Copa America in 1999. He was named Player of the Tournament.
Rivaldo was known as one of the most creative and skillful players of his generation, and was well-known for his skills with overhead kicks, bending and free kicks. These skills set him apart from the other big names of the late 1990s, and he was named FIFA World Player of the Year in 1999. He is on the FIFA 100 list of the World’s Greatest Living Players, and was introduced in the Brazilian Football Museum Hall of Fame. Rivaldo retired from the game in 2015.
6. Fernando Hierro
Fernando Hierro is a Spanish footballer, who is best known for his time with Real Madrid and the Spain national team. Throughout his career, he played in more than 500 games, appeared two European Championships and in four World Cups. Hierro has played as a sweeper, central defender and defensive midfielder, and he was able to play as both a defender and goalscorer. This made him one of the most sought-after players in the world. He also won three UEFA Champions League and five La Liga over 15 years.
Hierro played for Real Madrid from 1989 to 2003, and throughout the 1990s, was noted for his playmaking skills. He was an important part of the 1994 World Cup competition for Spain, as he made the winning goal against the qualification match with Denmark that allowed the Spanish team to move on to the finals. In the finals, during the Round of 16, he scored the only goal for Spain against their opponent, Switzerland, which sent them to the quarterfinals. However, the team was ultimately eliminated after losing to Italy.
During the 1990s, he was choses as the UEFA Club Best Defender in the 1997-1998 season, and was part of the ESM Team of the Year in the 1996-1997 and 1997-1998 seasons. Hierro retired from soccer in 2005, but went back to coach at Real Madrid for the 2014 – 2015 season.