Greatest Players in German Football History

The following rankings are an entirely subjective endeavour and are not meant to be set in stone. I have tried to find the top 50 players in German football for each of the 11 tactical roles stretching the period from ca. 1900 to 2017. The players that are featured are mostly German but foreign players that left an impact in German football are also included. A foreign player has had to spend at least three seasons in Germany to be included. All players have to be born before 1990. For German players, their whole career is assessed, including years spent outside of Germany. For foreign players, only their years in Germany are assessed. Assessment includes domestic and international club career as well as performances for the national team. Players that spent the entirety or majority of their careers in East Germany are not included. The same goes for players from Austria between 1938 and 1945 when Austria was part of the German Reich, even if they played for the German national team. Over the span of 117 years tactical developments meant that the roles of players changed a lot. I had to find a guideline to group players into the same tactical positions even if they played 100 years apart. I hope that these diagrams explain how players from different eras were grouped together in similar tactical categories.


Right Backs

Left Backs

Cultured Defenders

Centre Backs

Right Midfield / Right Wingers

Left Midfield / Left Wingers

Central Midfielders / Defensive Midfielders

Offensive Midfielders




Sources for player biographies:

‘Libero Spezial – der deutsche Fußball (1900-1920)’ by IFFHS

‘Libero Spezial – der deutsche Fußball (1920-1933)’ (two parts) by IFFHS

‘Deutschlands Fussballnationalspieler – das Lexikon’ by Jürgen Bitter

‘Deutschlands Fussball-Länderspiele – Eine Dokumentation 1908-1989’ by Raphael Keppel

‘Spielerlexikon 1890-1963’ by Lorenz Knierim & Hardy Grüne

‘Spielerlexikon 1963-1994’ by Christian Karn & Reinhard Rehberg

‘Torjäger – Eine Typologie des Vollstreckers’ by Lorenz Knierim

‘Stuhlfauths Zeiten – Die goldenen Jahre des Fußballs’ by Christoph Bausenwein

As well as countless issues by ‘Kicker’ magazine


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