If you are eager to find out which the top best German soccer players of all time are, instead of going through the best current German soccer players, you came to the right place.
In Germany, as in many places around the globe, soccer is among the (if not THE) most popular sports. That can be seen in figures: German Football Association (DFB – Deutscher Fussball-Bund) has around 6.5 million members! This number includes around 25,000 clubs and around 170,000 teams nationwide. That makes it among the world’s largest football associations. And of course, we should mention Bundesliga, a league comprising of 18 teams, being one of the most important German competitions, and one of the most popular worldwide as well.
German national team has won four Fifa World Cups, and three UEFA European Championships with some of the best German soccer players of all time scoring on them, as you will see later on our list.
So, where to start in the search for the best German soccer players of all time? Surely not everyone would have the same opinion, and much discussion can be put on this matter where a lot of personal preferences would outweigh. But we have tried to stay as objective as we could. So we have sought for opinions on many sport and soccer oriented places such as One Football, HITC, Sporty Ghosts and Sports Mole where we have found many names concerning the best German soccer players right now, and of all time as well. We have also found some of the players going through the best soccer players of all time in general, as listed on Quora or Paste Magazine. And of course, we have found them among the top 100 soccer players of all time on Topend Sports.
Here we are talking about German soccer only (as you might have noticed obviously), but since you are here, that means you are probably a soccer fan, so you can also check out which the best players are in the other parts of the world, in countries that have also given some of the best soccer players of all time: Top 15 Best Argentine Soccer Players of All Time and Top 20 Best Brazilian Soccer Players of All Time.
But let’s return to our German footballers now, and finally, proceed to the list of the top best German soccer players of all time. This was our choice. And would it also be your choice for the German football team of dreams as well?
16. Paul Breitner
Breitner was playing in positions of midfielder and defender. He played for Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Eintracht Braunschweig and of course for the national team. He started off as a strike but was the most successful on the position of the midfield. In 1982 he was one of the few players to score in two World Cup finals, which put them among the top players at that time. After his playing career, he was to become a national coach and actually held the position for fully 17 hours.
15. Philipp Lahm
Although not having decades’ long career, Lahm surely deserves a place among the top best German soccer players of all time. He started his sports career at a very young age – he joined FT Gern Munchen when he was only 6 in 1989. Afterward, he played as a defender and midfielder for Bayern Munich and as a loan for VfB Stuttgart. He also played for the national team until 2014 where he had 113 appearances. Interestingly, he wrote an autobiography when he was only 27, where he mostly described his experiences as a soccer player career and observations on current football in general.
14. Manuel Neuer
Neuer is one of Germany’s best goalkeepers, and being a relatively young and promising player he also deserves a place among the top best German soccer players of all time. He had won the World’s Best Goalkeeper award three years in a row (2014-2016). He is currently playing with Bayern Munich (with 190 appearances there) and for the national team (with 74 appearances).
13. Oliver Kahn
Kahn played on a position of goalkeeper, and his aggressive and prominent way of play had earned him nicknames such as “Der Titan” (the Titan) and “Volcano.” He played for Karlsruher SC and SC II at the beginning of his career, after which he remained in Bayern Munich, also playing for the National team with which he had 86 appearances.
12. Thomas Müller
Müller is the youngest on our list of the best German soccer players of all time. He is 28 and currently playing as a forward for Bayern Munich. In 2014 he scored five goals at the 2014 World Cup. He also tops at reaching fastest 200 Bundesliga wins – he had 200 wins in 2017/2018 season.
11. Karl-Heinz Schnellinger
As most of the audience’s favorite players, Schnellinger also had a nickname for his extraordinary playing characteristics, he was known as “Volkswagen.” He played on the position of defender. As a young player, he was awarded the German Footballer of the year playing with 1. FC Koln (when he was 23 years old). He retired from football completely in the seventies.
10. Uwe Seeler
Seeler played as a striker for Hamburger SV where he achieved 404 goals in 476 appearances. He also played for national team West Germany. He also had one appearance with Cork Celtic in 1978 where he scored 2 goals. After playing career, Seeler was president of Hamburger SV, but not for a long time – from 1995 to 1998. That was also his last function in the world of soccer.
9. Jürgen Kohler
Kohler was one of the best German soccer players of all time, playing on a position of defender he was one of the best on this position. After he finished his active playing career, he continued managing clubs such as Germany U-21, VfR Aalen, and currently, he is the manager of SC Hauenstein.
8. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge
As one of the top best German soccer players of all time, Rummenigge, being on the position of forward, had scored 220 goals for the teams he played (Bayern Munich, Inter Milan, and Sevette), most of which was for Bayern – 162 in 310 Bundesliga. He was vice president of Bayern in the period of 1991-2002, and now he is in a position of the chief executive officer of Bayern.
7. Gerd Müller
Müller was also known under his nickname the bomber (Der Bomber), playing on a position of striker. Only in 1970 Fifa World Cup, he scored ten goals when he was awarded for being the top goal scorer. His career was mostly spent in Bayern Munchen when he moved to the US playing for 3 seasons in Fort Lauderdale Strikers.
6. Sepp Maier
Josef Dieter Maier or Sepp Maier was also known as Die Katze von Anzing (the cat from Anzing), and probably Germany’s best goalkeeper ever. He spent his active career in Bayern Munich and had also played for the national team. Afterward, since 1988 he continued as a goalkeeping coach for his team.
5. Miroslav Klose
Although born in Poland, Klose is one of the top best German soccer players of all time, being in a position of striker. He is one of the younger generations of German footballers, having retired from active playing in 2016. But he remained in the world of soccer, currently being part of Germany’s coaching team.
4. Fritz Walter
Walter started his sports career very early when he was 8, which was in 1928. He played for 1. FC Kaiserslautern (FCK) until 1959 having 364 appearances and 357 goals with it! He had also played for the national team where he had 61 appearances and 33 goals. His positions were attacking midfielder and inside forward. UEFA had placed Walter among the Golden Players 2003 list which included best football players in the past 50 years.
3. Jürgen Klinsmann
Klinsmann played on a position of striker center-forward, and after his active career, he continued as a manager, recently being replaced from the position of manager and coach for the United States National Soccer Team in 2016. Nevertheless, in 1995 he took the third place of Fifa World Player of the Year and is also listed on Fifa’s 125 greatest players (compiled by Pele).
And now, let’s see the number one on our list of top famous German football players.
2. Lothar Matthäus
Being among the top German soccer players of all time, Matthaus was the first (and only German) player to have been named the Fifa World Player of the Year in 1991. He had played as much as 5 Fifa World Cups and had 150 appearances. During his career, he was on a position of a central midfielder, after which he became coacher for clubs such as Rapid Wien form Austria, FK Partizan from Serbia and Hungarian national team just to name some.
1. Franz Beckenbauer
At last, we have finally reached the number one, and there probably would not be a person who wouldn’t agree on Franz Beckenbauer being the best German soccer player of all time. That is also why he got his nickname Der Keiser (the emperor) which pretty much says it all. During his career, he was mostly on the position of sweeper and central midfield, and later on continued his career as the football manager for West Germany, Marseille, and Bayern Munich. During his career, he had 572 appearances and scored 83 goals with teams, and 103 appearances and 43 goals with the national team. Though being the top German soccer player, Beckenbauer was banned from having any activity in football for 90 days in 2014 by Fifa for refusing to cooperate an ethics committee.
This wraps it up for our list of top best German soccer players of all time.