FourFourTwo's 100 Greatest Footballers EVER: 80 to 71

A dominant centre-half and a prolific striker - and that’s just John Charles on his own. Part three takes in players from Wales, Scotland, France, Italy and beyond

80. Thierry Henry

Thierry Henry

Why are they here?
Untouchable for the half-decade he spent at his peak, Henry guided Arsenal through the most glittering period of their modern history in unfathomably urbane fashion. One of a select few players to have a distinct type of signature goal – the one-on-one down the inside-left channel, slotting the ball inside the far post with the instep of his right foot – he scored over 20 goals for five seasons on the trot, back when that was an elite striker’s magic number.

The mercurial Frenchman could use both feet, was able to finish with either savagery or subtlety, and didn’t lack pace nor competitive arrogance. Arguably the most frightening striker of the Premier League era, Henry also scored a national-record 51 goals for France.

Career highlight
Did all his best stuff at Arsenal, but his involvement with the early incarnations of Pep Guardiola’s epochal Barcelona side, including a treble win in 2009, felt like a career’s vindication.

Words: Alex Hess

79. Gigi Riva

Gigi Riva

Why are they here?
Italy’s all-time record scorer, Riva was a powerfully built left-footer with a formidable shot who raised an unfashionable club to glory. Riva was forced into premature retirement at just 32 after a succession of injuries, but by then it was a case of job done: he spent 13 years at Cagliari, helping himself to 207 goals at club level and another 35 (in just 42 games) for his country.

With Italy, his exploits were key in the nation’s victory at Euro 1968, and their place as runners-up at the World Cup two years later, but his greatest achievement came in Serie A.

Career highlight
Leading Cagliari to their first and only Scudetto in 1970, his 21 goals from 28 games were the vital ingredient in a historic accomplishment.

Words: Alex Hess

78. Just Fontaine

Just Fontaine

Why are they here?
In tandem with Raymond Kopa at Stade de Reims, the diminutive Fontaine - two footed and smooth - plundered goals for fun. He carried on scoring even after Kopa departed to Real Madrid in 1958, eventually netting 121 goals in six years for Reims.

Fontaine, who scored a hat-trick on his international debut against Luxembourg, is best known for his remarkable 13-goal haul at the 1958 World Cup. He remains the overall fourth-highest scorer in World Cup history, despite having scored in one tournament.

Career highlight
Fontaine's four goals in the third-place play-off match against reigning world champions West Germany meant he passed Sandor Kocsis's 11-goal record in 1954 – a moment to treasure.

Words: Jon Spurling

77. Frank Rijkaard

Frank Rijkaard

Why are they here?
Few players are good enough or lucky enough to play for a single great club side in the course of their career. Rijkaard played for three. The Ajax team of the early '80s, where he cut his teeth under the stewardship of Johan Cruyff and alongside Marco van Basten, Jan Molby and Ronald Koeman. Then Arrigo Sacchi’s seminal Milan team, where he won successive European Cups in 1989 and 1990. After that he finally returned to join Ajax's now-legendary European Cup-winning side of 1995, by then an old head among a team of fresh-faced stars-in-waiting.

Aggressive, quick-witted and with a marathon runner’s endurance levels, Rijkaard was a precursor to the great box-to-box midfielders that emerged in the '90s – Keane, Vieira and Gerrard – but with abundant added silk.

Career highlight
Sauntering through the Benfica defence to slot home the only goal of the 1990 European Cup Final.

Words: Alex Hess

76. Denis Law

Denis Law

Why are they here?
There wasn't a more thrilling sight in the 1960s and early '70s than the vision of 'The Lawman' triumphantly punching his right fist into the air after plundering one of his 237 goals in 404 Manchester United appearances.

Law netted United's first goal in the 1963 FA Cup Final, won two league titles with Matt Busby's men, and dovetailed perfectly with the other two members of the 'Holy Trinity' - George Best and Bobby Charlton. Having unluckily missed out on the European Cup final triumph in 1968 with injury, Law nonetheless played on into the technicolor '70s, before enjoying a second spell at rivals Manchester City.

Career highlight
Law was United's top scorer during their title-winning 1964/65 campaign, winning the Ballon d'Or in the process.

Words: Jon Spurling