11 Greatest England Players in Football History Ranked


  • Many remarkable players have represented England since the first international in 1872.
  • World Cup winners Bobby Moore and Gordon Banks make the list for their heroics in 1966.
  • Modern greats David Beckham, Wayne Rooney and Harry Kane also feature.

Since the first international game of 1872, England has seen so many great players pull on the iconic Three Lions shirt. While the modern-day greats like the goal-scoring captain Harry Kane and Jude Bellingham, skilled beyond his 21 years, keep English dreams alive – it’s always worth remembering the example they follow from the icons of before.

It’s well-known that England’s last success is decades deep in an often-agonising footballing history. However, with many fans asking ‘they couldn’t, could they?’ under Gareth Southgate’s reign, GIVEMESPORT looks back at halcyon days and some of England’s greatest Three Lions.


10 Best England Wins in EUROs History (Ranked)

England have never won the European Championships, but have had some memorable wins over the years. Let’s take a look at the best ones.

Ranking factors

  • International achievements
  • Performances in an England shirt
  • Longevity
  • Legacy

11 Peter Shilton

England career span: 1970-1990


Maradona-induced sadness aside, Peter Shilton had an excellent England career and goes down as one of his nation’s finest goalkeepers. He remains the Three Lions’ top appearance maker with sublime longevity seeing him tally up 125 caps over a 20-year career. That feat probably wasn’t that impressive to the man himself, given he actually had more than 1000 domestic games, however in 2002, he was also inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame.

His immense tally of caps for England includes helping the Three Lions to a fourth-placed finish at the 1990 World Cup in Italy, while he shares the record of 10 clean sheets in finals matches with France’s Fabien Barthez.

Peter Shilton’s England Career



Clean Sheets


Best World Cup Finish

Semi-final (1990)

10 Alan Shearer

England Career Span: 1992–2000

Alan Shearer celebrating for England at Euro 96

Prolific as the Premier League’s record goal-scorer, Shearer’s finest moments in an England shirt arrived at Euro ’96. Before the tournament, he had suffered a goal-drought, yet he scored in the opening match in a 1-1 draw with Switzerland before following that up with another against Scotland.

Alongside Teddy Sheringham, Shearer was the focal point of a balanced and creative attack – most memorably demonstrated in the 4-1 thrashing of the Netherlands, where both scored twice. Shearer scored in the penalty shootout win against Spain and notched against Germany in the semi-final’s 90 minutes before adding another in the shootout before England ultimately went out once more at the hands of Die Mannschaft.

Alan Shearer’s England Career





Best Euros Finish

Semi-final (1996)


What Happened to England’s 2014 World Cup Team

It was the last time England failed to get out of a group, but here’s what happened to all of the players involved

9 Wayne Rooney

England Career Span: 2003–2018


After an immensely exciting emergence in the build-up to and during Euro 2004, Wayne Rooney became one of England’s finest strikers of all time. Arguably the most exciting England player since Paul Gascoigne at the time, he lit up the tournament that year. Had he not been injured early in the quarter-final with Portugal, he may have led England further.

However, alongside a stellar career with Manchester United, Rooney gradually stepped up with the Three Lions and went on to bag an impressive 53 goals in 120 international caps, and become England’s second-most-capped player (behind Peter Shilton) as well as second-top goalscorer. He also won the England Player of the Year award four times in 2008, 2009, 2014, and 2015.

Wayne Rooney’s England Career





Best Major Tournament Finish

Quarter-final (2004, 2006, 2012)

8 Gary Lineker

England Career Span: 1984–1992

Gary Lineker celebrates in 1986

England’s fourth-most prolific scorer, fox in the box Gary Lineker was awarded the Golden Boot for his six goals at Mexico ’86. His poaching hat-trick against Poland fired the Three Lions into the second round where he then scored twice in a 3-0 victory against Paraguay. His sixth came late-on in their quarter-final versus Argentina as England fought an ultimately futile comeback against Maradona’s side.

Subsequent success nearly came at Italia ’90, with Lineker once again competently leading the line for his country. Two well-taken penalties ensured England fought back from a 2-1 score line against Cameroon before he took the semi-final with West Germany to extra-time after his goal in the 80th minute. The Leicester native netted in the penalty shoot-out but England lost out, leaving many asking ‘what could’ve been?’ Lineker still holds England’s record for goals in the World Cup.

Gary Lineker’s England Career





Best World Cup Finish

Semi-final (1990)


Why Ricardo took off his gloves vs England at Euro 2004

The Portuguese stopper won Portugal the quarter-final shootout vs England by saving a penalty gloveless.

7 David Beckham

England career span: 1996-2009

England's David Beckham

Hailed as one of the greatest and most recognisable midfielders of his generation, as well as one of the best free-kick takers of all time, David Beckham’s England career was just as divisive as that of his tabloid-riddled domestic one. After overcoming public ridicule due to the dubious sending off in World Cup 1998’s last-16 clash with Argentina, he made 115 career appearances in total, appearing at two more World Cups, as well as two European Championships.

Beckham held the England appearance record for an outfield player until 2016, and conjured one of his nation’s most iconic moments with a beautiful free-kick at Old Trafford against Greece to secure qualification to the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan.

David Beckham’s England Career





International Major Tournament Finish

Quarter-final (2002, 2004, 2006)

6 Harry Kane

England career span: 2015-Present

Jude Bellingham and Harry Kane celebrate during England's win over Slovakia

A prolific goalscorer with strong link play, Harry Kane is regarded as one of the best strikers of his generation, and country. He is both Tottenham Hotspur’s and England’s all-time highest goalscorer, as well as being the second-highest all-time goalscorer in the Premier League. Kane has scored more than 400 goals for club and country, with 65 goals in 95 appearances for England.

He took the captain’s armband just before the 2018 World Cup, where he finished as the competition’s top goal-scorer, and led England to fourth place, their highest finish since 1990. Bettering this, he then helped England to the runner-up position at Euro 2020, marking their first appearance in a final at the tournament and their first major final since 1966.

Harry Kane’s England Career





International Euros Finish

Final (2021)

5 Geoff Hurst

England career span: 1966–1972


There were players who scored more goals for England, although none had quite as much value as those scored by Sir Geoff Hurst in 1966. After Jimmy Greaves was injured, Hurst joined Roger Hunt up front and took his chance superbly. In his first game, against Argentina, Hurst met a Martin Peters cross with a glancing header in what was the only goal. In the semis, he set up one of Bobby Charlton’s against Portugal.

In the showpiece final at Wembley, Hurst cemented his place in English football folklore with a famous hat-trick. He cancelled out West Germany’s opener and then, controversially, scored his second goal that put England 3-2 up. He completed his superb performance and the win with a goal smashed home to spark England fans’ sheer joy – a joy that echoes longingly to this day.

Geoff Hurst’s England Career






World Cup 1966


10 Best England Wins in EUROs History (Ranked)

England have never won the European Championships, but have had some memorable wins over the years. Let’s take a look at the best ones.

4 Paul Gascoigne

England career span: 1988–1998

Paul Gascoigne's dentist's chair.

Well, you have to be pretty special to beat a World Cup winner on an England list. However, Paul Gascoigne is undeniably one of the most naturally gifted footballers England has ever seen. ‘Gazza’ as he’s still affectionately known, wasn’t a shoe-in for the Italia ’90 squad as manager Bobby Robson had reservations around how he would handle the pressure.

Gascoigne dispelled those doubts with a Man of the Match display in a warm-up against Czechoslovakia, scoring once and having a hand in the other three goals in a 4-2 win. Subsequently, he was one of the stars of the tournament. His skill and dribbling won the hearts of the fans, giving hope with an awesome vision and numerous assists to help England reach the semi-final before the tournament ended in tears. Though not quite the force he was in 1990, Gazza lit up Euro ’96 with a brilliant goal and iconic dentist chair celebration against Scotland. However, again, England would experience semi-final heartbreak once more.

Paul Gascoigne’s England career





Best Major Tournament Finish

Semi-finals (1990, 1996)

3 Gordon Banks

England career span: 1963–1972


With the utmost respect to stand-in stopper Peter Bonetti, it is widely believed that had Gordon Banks not fallen ill, England would not have lost to West Germany in their 1970 World Cup quarter-final. Banks had been in superb form in the tournament, producing what many regard as the greatest save of all time when he somehow leapt down to his right and to claw Pele’s header over the bar. Undeniably England’s greatest goalkeeper, he had been just as pivotal a presence four years earlier in 1966 to help his country to their only World Cup success. The interaction after that ridiculous save against Pele is one for the ages:

Pele: “I thought that was a goal.”

Banks: “You and me both.”

Bobby Moore: “You’re getting old, Banksy, you used to hold on to them.”

Gordon Banks’ England Career



Clean Sheets



World Cup 1966


11 Greatest English Defenders in Football History [Ranked]

World Cup winners, history makers, and one club heroes – this list details England’s finest defensive minds.

2 Bobby Moore

England career span: 1962-1973


England captain and talisman in the ’60s, Bobby Moore was described by Pele and Franz Beckenbauer as the best defender they had ever seen. England manager Alf Ramsey made him his captain at just 22 and the confident Moore went on to lead the team 90 times, out of a total of 108 appearances for England.

Clasping the Jules Rimet at Wembley is simply iconic, with the impact of the commanding defender still transcending footballing success in England to this very day. Ramsey’s touching words describe him best:

“My captain, my leader, my right-hand man. He was the spirit and the heartbeat of the team. A cool, calculating footballer I could trust with my life. He was the supreme professional, the best I ever worked with. Without him England would never have won the World Cup.”

Bobby Moore’s England Career






World Cup 1966

1 Bobby Charlton

England career span: 1958–1970


After formative Three Lions showings in the late-50s, Sir Bobby Charlton played in each of England’s World Cup games in 1962 before becoming an even more important part of the side new manager Alf Ramsey was fashioning.

In 1966’s tournament, his double knocked Eusebio’s Portugal out in the semi-final. In the final Charlton took on the duty of marking West Germany’s star man Franz Beckenbauer, stifling the German’s most creative force. As if to underline the importance of Charlton’s presence, four years later at Mexico ’70, it was his substitution that perhaps aided the German fight-back that ended England’s World Cup defence and Charlton’s international career.

Charlton possessed an innate shooting ability and tremendous creativity. He was a player of great determination and responsibility, and rightly remains in the record books as one of England’s finest ever players. A World Cup winner, as well as top-scorer for a number of years, he currently sits seventh in the appearance chart and third in the scoring ranks.

Bobby Charlton’s England Career






World Cup 1966

All statistics courtesy of Transfermarkt. Correct as of 01.07.24


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Despite decades of disappointment, England have produced some world-class sides over the years. Here are the best of all time.

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