The Greatest Footballers of the 1990s
No.1 Michael Laudrup
No.2 George Weah
What a player. The great Liberian striker remains the only African footballer to win the Ballon d'Or, a feat he achieved back in 1995 during his spell with Milan. It says something about George Weah's standing in his own country that he has subsequently gone on to become the country’s president, winning the 2017 election.
No.3 Enzo Scifo
Scifo was a midfield playmaker who seemingly had a bit of everything to his attacking game. He was equally adept at playing in an advanced attacking midfield role, on the right, or further back as a deep-lying playmaker, dictating the tempo of his team's play. It goes without saying that his passing was one of his strongest assets, be it his short game, linking up play and stitching moves together, or his precision on his cross-field balls or deeper passes to start quick counter-attacking moves. Scifo was fantastic carrying the ball too, his dribbling and darting runs proving a constant menace for the opposition. And to top it all, Scifo knew where the back of the net was. He may not have scored as many free-kicks as others in this list, but he was deadly in open-play from around the edge of the box, his trademark goals were often low drilled shots arrowing low into the corner of the net.
No.4 Chris Waddle
No.5 Gheorghe Hagi
Outisde of Argentina, there have been plenty of players who have been labelled as the alternative Maradonas, but Hagi, as the "Maradona of the Carpathians", is probably the most famous, and the most fitting.
Whilst he would shine brightly at a global level in the 1990s he would also light up the 1980s with some phenomenal performances for both club and country, most notably in the Steaua Bucuresti team that would become a feared opponent in Europe for the continent's wealthy and established elite clubs. They'd famously won the European Cup against the odds in 1986 when they beat Terry Venables Barcelona side on penalties. In the 1988-89 season they were at it again, romping through the rounds with goals flying in, Hagi scoring six goals in the eight games that lead up to the final, whilst team-mates Marius Lacatus and Ilie Dumitrescu also contributed eleven goals between them. It was this run to the final that really elevated Hagi to the attention of fans and media across Europe. Unfortunately, in the final, Hagi and Steaua came up against a Milan side that was at the very peak of its form, a team that had demolished Real Madrid 6:1 in the semi-finals, so a 4:0 defeat at the Camp Nou was a disappointing end to their European campaign.
No.6 Dragan Stojkovic
No.7 Jean-Pierre Papin
No.8 Bernd Schuster
Schuster was a great passer of the ball, and played as both an attacking midfielder and a deep-lying playmaker, indeed he would also sometimes play even deeper, as a libero, his trademark passes starting off move after move. Schuster was a free-kick specialist and scored plenty of great goals, plenty of long range ones as you'd expect but some great subtle ones too. As well as his expertise with the dead-ball he was fantastic running with the ball too, surging forward dangerously time after time, especially during his time at the Camp Nou. In the swan song of his career he got first, second and third goals of season in West Germany!
Unfortunately, like so many really talented footballers there seemed to be something inbuilt in to his character to have trouble follow him wherever he went, and Schuster's time at most of his clubs would eventually result in a fallout and a transfer.
No.9 Andreas Brehme
Brilliant attacking full-back or wing-back, Andy Brehme was of the world's greatest left backs in the second half of the 1980s and early 1990s. He is one of the few players who was completely two-footed, with teammates , coaches and commentators regularly stating that they didn't know which was his stronger foot. This meant that whilst he mainly played on the left flank he could also play on the right as well. Brehme said that he thought his right foot was more accurate but his left foot more powerful. Brehme was renowned for his fantastic delivery from his crosses, and his accuracy and power with the ball at his feet also meant he was a set-piece expert. He scored some great goals from free-kicks but his penalty taking was even more extraordinary, goalkeepers not knowing whether he would line up to take them right footed or left footed.
No.10 Jay-Jay Okocha
If you were going to name the Greatest African footballer on talent alone, then Jay-Jay Okocha would probably be number one in the list. The Nigerian midfielder was outragously talented, right up there with the likes of Ronaldinho when it came to producing moments of magic with the ball that seemed to defy belief However, despite his talent Okacha never actually won the African Footballer of the Year Award and his list of honours is disappointingly thin, but one thing's for sure - Jay-Jay Okocha will be remembered by football fans across the globe for the sheer joy he brought to everyone who witnessed his incredible skills.
On Jay-Jay Okocha’s birthday, a reminder of the time he robbed Oliver Kahn and the entire Karlsruhe defence of their dignity.— A Funny Old Game (@sid_lambert) August 14, 2021
Have a heart, pal. Those men had families.pic.twitter.com/QqfsqwYogp
No.11 Abédi Pelé
Fantastic attacking midfielder who really came to prominence in the early 1990s as part of that exciting Marseille team who wowed fans across France and Europe with their swashbuckling brand of football. Making up Le Trio Magique alongside Jean-Pierre Papin and Chris Waddle, Abédi Pelé would be the only one of the three still at the club when it won the inaugural Champions League in 1993.
No.12 Nwankwo Kanu
Given his size (6 ft 6), one would have expected that Nwankwo Kanu's role as a forward should have been as a target man, but his style was quite the opposite. With quick feet and great technical skills, Kanu was a fantastic dribbler, capable of moments of magic that would quickly open up opportunities for himself or teammates. Ajax had snapped Kanu up as a 17 year old after he'd helped Nigeria to win the 1993 U-17 World Championships and three fantastic seasons in Amsterdam saw him claim three Eredivisie titles, a Champions league victory (and runners-up) and an Intercontinental Cup. By 1996 Kanu was rated as one of football's hottest properties, was named African Footballer of the Year Award and was signed by Serie A giants Inter. However, his time at the San Siro was affected by a serious heart defect that was discovered in his first season there. Thankfully he was able to undergo successful surgery and got his career back on track with a move to Arsenal in early 1999. Despite being unable to dislodge the prolific partnership of Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp, Kanu would become something of a cult hero at Highbury with some of his performances, particularly as a substitute.
No.13 Roger Milla
Something of an icon of the World Cup in the 1990s, Roger Milla may not have played at the very highest level of domestic football in Europe, but he certainly came to the fore when he donned the shirts of the Indomitable Lions at football’s biggest event. His iconic goal celebrations at Italia'90 became one of the tournament's most memorable moments, whilst four years later at USA'94 he smashed his own record as he became the oldest goalscorer at a World Cup tournament when he scored against Russia as a 42 year-old.