Legends Never Die: The Players Who Shaped Football

Photo credits: Philip Lawer Alimo

The game of football is sculpted by a chosen few. Much like directors shaping a film, coaches envision the style of play. Players, akin to actors, are entrusted with bringing those visions to life on the field. Numerous footballers and coaches have left an indelible mark on the sport throughout the past century. Inspired by the unbreakable spirit of these legends, punters can celebrate the glory of football’s golden era with the Virgin bet free bets offer. Whether you’re backing today’s stars to break age-old records or simply enjoying the thrill of the match, this offer adds an exciting dimension to your betting experience, connecting you directly to the timeless stories of football’s most revered figures.

Today, contemporary figures are invariably influenced by their predecessors. Below, we highlight the most influential individuals who have forged the football landscape as we recognize it today.


Famously known as the King of Football, Pele stands as one of the most exceptional players in the sport’s history, and his accomplishments are nothing short of extraordinary. He secured three FIFA World Cup titles (1958, 1962, and 1970), unmatched by any other player. Pele’s unmatched speed, finesse, and goal-scoring prowess set him apart. He netted an astonishing 1,281 goals in 1,363 official matches, a record that still stands as a testament to his brilliance. In 2000, he was honored as the World Player of the Century by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics and also named FIFA Player of the Century. Even after retiring from football, Pele remained active, serving as Brazil’s sports minister from 1995 to 1998 and continuing as a football ambassador.

Diego Maradona

Despite his controversial personal life, he remains a football legend whose influence transcends generations. Maradona, an Argentine football icon renowned for his mesmerizing dribbling and creativity, left an indelible mark on the sport. His infamous “Hand of God” goal in the 1986 World Cup exemplified his audacity, while his “Goal of the Century” against England in the same tournament epitomized his brilliance. Maradona’s legendary dribble through the entire England team remains iconic in football history. His captivating personality and on-field achievements endeared him to fans worldwide, securing his place in football lore.

Sir Alex Ferguson

Sir Alex Ferguson stands unparalleled in football management, boasting unprecedented success spanning decades. In the 1980s, he shattered the Scottish football scene’s status quo by guiding Aberdeen to three league championships and a remarkable victory in the European Cup Winner’s Cup, defeating formidable opponents such as Bayern Munich and Real Madrid.

His illustrious career then took him to Manchester United in 1986, where over the ensuing 26 years, Ferguson amassed an astonishing 38 trophies, including 13 Premier League titles, five FA Cups, and two Champions League triumphs.

The key to Ferguson’s enduring success is his adaptability and willingness to evolve. His initial Premier League victory was credited to the emergence of the famed Class of ’92. However, six years later, his 1999 treble-winning team showcased a different dynamic. Subsequently, Ferguson embraced a fresh approach, harnessing the talents of Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, and Carlos Tevez to form a formidable attacking trio.

The hallmark of exceptional coaches is their recognition that football is a dynamic, constantly evolving sport. They remain open to learning, adapting, and adjusting their strategies. Ferguson’s ability to pivot and adapt ensured his dominance over three decades, earning him a coaching résumé unlike any other in the world.

Johan Cruyff left an indelible mark on 21st-century Barcelona, transforming it into one of the most formidable teams in global football. Renowned for its tiki-taka style and consistent production of world-class talent from the esteemed La Masia Academy, Barcelona’s current stature contrasts sharply with its pre-1988 history. Before Cruyff’s return to Camp Nou, the club had claimed only 36 trophies in 89 years and had never clinched a European Champions title.

Johan Cruyff

A beloved figure from his playing days at Barcelona, Cruyff further solidified his legacy during his eight-year tenure as manager. Drawing from his experience as the linchpin of the Netherlands’ Total Football squad in the 1970s, Cruyff instilled similar principles upon taking charge of Barcelona, orchestrating a comprehensive overhaul of the club.

Under Cruyff’s guidance, Barcelona’s distinctive style of play emerged, permeating every facet of the organization, particularly the La Masia youth academy. Emphasizing technical proficiency over physicality, a departure from conventional wisdom at the time, Cruyff’s approach laid the groundwork for the club’s future success.

The outcome was resounding: since 1988, Barcelona has claimed five Champions League titles and an additional 47 trophies. Legendary players like Messi, Xavi, and Iniesta have emerged from La Masia while coaching luminaries like Guardiola, who continue to perpetuate Cruyff’s footballing philosophy.