Lionel Messi? Cristiano Ronaldo? Pele? Maradona? Who are the greatest players ever?

See who our pundits selected as their best five players ever - and let us know yours!

Greatest player

The Sky Sports pundits have named their top five players of all time - but who would you name as the greatest ever?

Who is the greatest footballer of all time? Is it Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo? Or do you have to look further back in time to Diego Maradona or Pele? It's a topic that is debated across the world, across generations and it divides opinion.

Our pundits - Graeme Souness, Jamie Redknapp, Paul Merson and Alan Smith - were asked to name their top five players of all-time, making their selections on The Football Show.

Messi, Ronaldo, Pele and Maradona were just a few of the names mentioned, but who did our pundits name as their number one?

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Graeme Souness - Messi, Ronaldo so far ahead

Graeme Souness

Messi and Ronaldo are top because of longevity and the leagues they've played in. I say to my son, who is a football nut, enjoy this. I've been saying it for 10 years. Players like this don't come along in every generation. They are so far ahead.

If you think, in the last 10 years, who has been the third-best player in the world? Good but way behind those two. They are off the charts, for me, and you talk about consistency, you talk about goal scoring, you talk about assists and the things they bring to the team. The confidence they will bring to any team they are playing in. I just think they are so far ahead of anybody else.

Lionel Messi
Image: Lionel Messi has won the Champions League four times

There's an argument, would Messi and Ronaldo go back generations? On a bobbly pitch would they be so effective because they'd want to run with the ball? Diego Maradona could do that. Diego seemed to have his personal problems at a time when he should've been enjoying his best years.

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And then there's Pele. As I understand, Brazilian football is regional, so he won a lot of leagues and scored a lot of goals in a lesser competition. Then he went off to America to play in a lesser competition.

Then Zidane, I just got so much pleasure in watching him.

Zinedine Zidane lit up the 1998 World Cup final for France against Brazil
Image: Zinedine Zidane lit up the 1998 World Cup final for France against Brazil

Jamie Redknapp - Pele transcended football

Jamie Redknapp

I spent all weekend changing my mind, but the only one that hasn't changed is number one. It has to be Pele. He's the only man to have won three World Cups. As a 17-year-old, in 1958, he scored one in the quarter-final, a hat-trick in the semi-final and two in the final. For me, he transcended football.

Yes, people do talk about a lot of his goals being scored in exhibition games, but World Cups is what sets him apart. When you talk to the Brazilians, he was the man. He is the most outstanding footballer for me, just an absolute superstar in every way.

Pele won the world Cup with Brazil three times in his career
Image: Pele won the world Cup with Brazil three times in his career

Number two was difficult because you've got your Messi and Maradona debate. I've gone with Maradona because of the rule changes. There's a stat, in 1982 when Maradona played against Gentile and Italy, it was 24 times that he fouled him before Gentile was booked. That's what you were able to do to players then and my vision of Maradona playing when I was growing up and falling in love with football was him, not just evading tackles, he was hurdling tackles.

People not just trying to tackle him, but to hurt him and what he did in 1986 with that Argentina team, which was a decent team, but he made them win the World Cup. He went to Napoli and they hadn't won the league before Maradona and they haven't won it since, but they won it twice with him. He took that team to another level.

Messi and Ronaldo, what can you say? There are no more superlatives to throw at those guys. They are wonderful footballers, but the question mark will always be in that era when you could intimidate, when you could kick people and when the pitches weren't as good, it was a totally different game.

And finally, Zidane was just an artist. He was so talented and so easy on the eye. He was a big guy and the thing that really struck me was how big his feet were. How could you control the ball so beautifully with feet that big but everywhere you went, he'd move it away from you and just glide around the pitch. He was so talented.

Paul Merson - Why was Maradona better?

Paul Merson

When I was growing up, it was that era of watching football, and Maradona went to Napoli, which was in the hardest league in the world at the time. You got kicked from pillar to post, it was defensive-minded, where it was hard to score goals, and he took them to win the league.

He also won the World Cup virtually on his own in '86. I know Argentina had good players around him, but for me if it wasn't for him they wouldn't have won the World Cup. For me, he's the best player I've ever seen, and I still say that today. I know the game has moved on, but he got kicked from pillar to post, he had to do a lot of it on his own, and he's my favourite player.

Argentine soccer star Diego Armando Maradona, being carried by fans after winning the 1981 local Championship with Boca Juniors at La Bombonera stadium in Buenos Aires. Boca Juniors,
Image: Diego Maradona being carried by fans after winning the 1981 local Championship with Boca Juniors

I think people have short memories in football, they are forgotten very quickly. I played with Tony Adams for many years and he was a top, top defender. If you see what Marco van Basten did to Tony Adams at the Euros you have to really sit up and think: 'This player is unbelievable.' He was nicknamed The Prince. He was a phenomenal player, and could do everything. He was quick, strong, with both feet. He was special.

Maldini was phenomenal. I was fortunate enough to play against him; I thought my strength was being able to see things, I thought I had quite a quick brain. But against him, I never got a kick. Everything I did he was always there, always thinking another pass or interception before me.

It was an honour to play against him. We're often thinking the best players in the world are forwards, but if you don't have world-class defenders, it's very, very rare you win anything.

Alan Smith - Messi, Ronaldo goal output staggering

Alan Smith

It is difficult. We are all going to put Messi and Ronaldo in. Then how do you compare different eras and different generations? But with Messi and Ronaldo, it's the longevity as much as anything else. The number of years they've played at the very top and the very top of their respective games. The goal output has just been staggering.

All the best players don't get injured, and there's a bit of luck involved in that as well. You have to have the right muscle type, the right bone type, but they've not missed many matches at all over the course of their careers. They've always been available to their managers but just two outstanding players with magnificent attitudes.

during the serie A match between Juventus and US Sassuolo at Allianz Stadium on September 16, 2018 in Turin, Italy.
Image: Cristiano Ronaldo has won league titles with Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juventus

I put Messi top because maybe he's a little bit more of a team player. I don't know, it's so tough. I was watching the Ronaldo documentary and his drive; his determination never stands still. It's what you've got to have and it's what Messi has got as well.

We always talk about attack-minded players in these things and I always think defenders get short-changed a little bit because how do you compare an attacker to a centre half. That's why I've put Beckenbauer in there. He was one on his own, that ball-playing defender.

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