FourFourTwo's 100 Greatest Footballers EVER: 30 to 21

The greatest player of the mid-2000s, the 20th century’s most intimidating keeper and England’s fairytale hero 

30. Lothar Matthaus

Lothar Matthaus

Why are they here?
An all-action midfielder who combined ferocity and finesse without compromising on either, Matthaus was a rampaging engine-room presence who was described by Diego Maradona as his toughest opponent.

His heyday was as the poster-boy of the Germanic domination of European football in the late 1980s and early '90s, during which time he helped himself to 13 major club trophies, World Cup and European Championship medals, plus – to cap it all off – the Ballon d’Or in 1990.

Career Highlight
Captaining an impossibly suave West Germany side to victory in the 1990 World Cup, getting the ball rolling himself with two sumptuous individual goals against Yugoslavia in the opening game.

Words: Alex Hess

29. Raymond Kopa

Raymond Kopa

Why are they here?
An agile and lithe playmaker, the son of Polish immigrants soon became a French hero at Stade de Reims, dovetailing perfectly with Just Fontaine. An imperious display for France against Spain (Marca nicknamed him Little Napoleon) caught the eye of Real Madrid scouts, where, alongside Ferenc Puskas, he won three European Cups.

A second spell back at Reims was also hugely successful, with Kopa adding two more league titles to his bulging trophy cabinet.

Career highlight
Kopa had the honour of becoming the first Frenchman to ever lift the European Cup when Real defeated Fiorentina in the 1957 final.

Words: Jon Spurling

28. Socrates

Socrates

Why are they here?
Perhaps the ultimate bohemian icon in football history, a deep thinker in all areas of life and a formidable midfielder of one of the greatest sides Brazil has ever produced. Also a pediatrician, he was remarkably gifted and could read the game more quickly than anyone else.

He also made the no-look backheel pass his own signature – Pele once said that Socrates could play better going backwards than most players could going forwards. Off the field, he challenged the Brazilian military government and lead the democracy movement at Corinthians.

Career highlight
This intellectual footballer defined an entire generation in Brazil with his performances at 1982 and 1986 World Cups.

Words: Marcus Alves

27. Bobby Moore

Bobby Moore

Why are they here?
The icon of English football, who continues to stand guard outside Wembley Stadium 24 years after his untimely passing. West Ham legend Moore was a fairytale hero of the sport, immortalised by lifting the World Cup in 1966, and who was also renowned as a gentleman of the game.

A footballing centre-half long before the concept was fashionable, to this day he remains the yardstick against which all England defenders are measured. Pele still refers to him as the best defender he faced (with the two bound together for eternity by that photograph taken at the 1970 World Cup) and has never failed to emphasise Moore’s human qualities as being the essence of his greatness.

Career highlight
Collecting the World Cup from Her Majesty the Queen in 1966 (having wiped his hands first on the velvet tablecloth, naturally).

Words: Seb Stafford-Bloor

26.  Valentino Mazzola

Valentino Mazzola

Why are they here?
"Captain Valentino... inspired, eccentric, spoilt, talkative, surly," was how Italian journalist Nino Nutrizio described the attacking midfielder who perished in the 1949 air crash that wiped out the legendary Grande Torino side.

During his five campaigns in Turin, he won five championships and netted 102 goals. Acutely aware of his own worth, Mazzola frequently asked for more money and fell out regularly with team-mates, but president Novo invariably backed captain Valentino, basically because he was priceless.

Career highlight
Using his prodigious heading ability to great effect, he scored an outstanding 29 goals from central midfield in 1946/47, eight more than the next-placed player.

Words: Jon Spurling