Take a glimpse at some well-known soccer players then and now. Many footballers have come and gone throughout the generation and left a beautiful legacy.

It is not uncommon for football fans to idolize and admire their favorite players and try to emulate their gameplay or replicate their looks.

All of them started small, as juvenile players trying to make an impact. Have you ever wondered how they looked at an early age compared to how they look now?

Of course, the contrast is immense, like they are totally different people. And many factors play a part in their transformation from how they looked a decade or two decades ago. Age is the primary factor. Everybody ages, and with that, appearances, physical build, and mentality change. Like how it changes with time, personality also plays a major part.

Furthermore, the fashion sense is also constantly evolving. Players used to wear oversized kits. Compared to now, player outfits were significantly more baggy and loose. The sport was still developing, and there were no established guidelines for what participants should wear.

This photo collection allows you to correspond the impression of some of the best football players in history with that of their current selves.

1. Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi finally settled the dust that had been levitating around him for a long time which was to win the world cup.

Lionel Messi on his debut against Espanyol in 2004 and him lifting the World Cup in 2022
Source : instagram

With seven goals and three assists, Messi made a 'date with destiny' in the quest of his life and also won the Golden Boot in the 2022 Qatar World Cup, as reported by CBS Sports.

The Ballon d'Or winner made his Barcelona debut during the 2003-04 season against Espanyol in La Liga. Messi has scored 672 goals and 269 assists for Barcelona. He joined PSG on a free transfer in 2021.

2. Cristiano Ronaldo

Another player with a high stature is the Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo who has five Ballon d'Or.

Widely regarded as the greatest of all time, Ronaldo recently amazed the world by joining the Saudi Professional League side Al Nassr from Manchester United.

18 year old Ronaldo on his Manchester United debut in 2003 and when he signed for Saudi Arabian club Al Nassr in 2023
Source : instagram

Ronaldo began his career with Sporting Lisbon before moving to United in 2003, where he won numerous domestic and international titles. In 2009, he joined Real Madrid, where he had great success, winning multiple league titles and the UEFA Champions League.

3. Luka Modric

Luka Modric is a Croatian professional footballer known as one of the best midfielders of this era.

Luka Modric on his international debut in 2006 and after finishing third in the 2022 FIFA World Cup
Source : instagram

He pledges his loyalty to the Spanish side Real Madrid and captains the Croatian national team. Under his leadership, Croatia reached the final of the 2018 World Cup and finished third in the 2022 World Cup.

Modric began playing at Dinamo Zagreb before moving to Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League. He joined Real Madrid in 2012 and won the Ballon d'Or in 2018.

4. Karim Benzema

The current Ballon d'Or winner, Karim Benzema, is a striker for Real Madrid and the French national team. 

Karim Benzema with Olympique Lyon in 2005 and him winning the Ballon d'Or 2022
Source : instagram

Mostly renowned for his speed, technique, and finishing prowess, Benzema has achieved both individual and team success, in addition to being active in several social and humanitarian projects.

He became Los Blancos' highest goal scorer with 331 goals overtaking Raul's 323 goals in May 2022. However, he is still far behind CR7, who has 451 goals for Madrid.

5. Neymar Jr.

A little boy from Santos, Neymar Jr., grew older in front of our eyes and is now 30 years old.

A 17-year-old Neymar Jr. on his Santos debut in 2009 and training with PSG in 2023
Source : instagram

Currently, a number 10 for Ligue 1 side Paris Saint-Germain, the Brazillian has all the skills to be among the elite players in football history. His excellent dribbling skills, speed, and goalscoring ability are outstanding. 

Before joining Barcelona in 2013, Neymar was a Starkid at Santos in Brazil. He moved to Paris Saint-Germain in 2017 for an unprecedented transfer price.

6. Kylian Mbappe

Kylian Mbappe is probably one of the few young talents with the audacity to match the standard set by the two greats, Messi and Ronaldo.

Kylian Mbappe celebrating after thrashing Borussia Dortmund out of the Champions League in 2017 and him winning the MOTM in the 2022 Qatar World Cup
Source : instagram

The French and PSG forward's impressive three-star display, and hat trick at the World Cup Final in Qatar 2022 alone was enough to establish him in the list of next-generation superstars in the world of soccer.

Mbappé began his career with AS Monaco, and in 2017, he transferred to Paris Saint-Germain, where he has continued to deliver at the top level.

7. Erling Haaland

Erling Haaland is the 22-year-old Norwegian striker currently playing in the Premier League with Manchester City.

Erling Haaland with Red Bull Salzburg in 2019 and him at Manchester City in 2023
Source : instagram

After an impressive goal-scoring stat for both club and country, many clubs were interested in signing him last summer. However, City sealed the deal by paying €60 million (£51.2 million) release clause to Borussia Dortmund.

Haaland is wreaking havoc in the PL this season, breaking record after record with 21 goals already in 15 appearances.

8. Sergio Ramos

Sergio Ramos is a professional footballer who plays as a center-back for PSG and the Spanish national team.

Sergio Ramos made his Real Madrid debut in 2005 and him winning the Best defender award in 2022
Source : instagram

Ramos has spent his entire professional playing career at Real Madrid, coming from the club's academy before heading to Paris in 2021. At Madrid, he has helped the team win multiple regional and international titles, including five UEFA Champions League crowns.

Similarly, the 36-year-old has accumulated several individual honors and is considered one of the best defenders in the world.

9. Oliver Giroud

Oliver Giroud is a 2018 World Cup winner with France and a 2021 Champions League Winner with Chelsea.

Oliver Giroud at Montpellier in 2012 and him in 2022 with AC Milan
Source : instagram

Despite consistently producing for his club and nation, he is regarded as an underestimated athlete. Giroud began his career with Grenoble before playing for Montpellier, Arsenal, and Chelsea.

In July 2021, Giroud sought a new adventure and signed with Seria A giant AC Milan. He has netted 16 goals for the club so far.

10. Luis Suarez

Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez is a former Liverpool and Barcelona main man. He recently joined a Brazillian team Grêmio.

Luis Suarez made his Ajax debut in 2007 and him signing for Gremio in 2023
Source : instagram

Nicknamed El Pistolero ('The Gunman'), Suarez was considered one of the lethal strikers during his prime days. He began his career with Nacional in Uruguay before going to Europe with some brilliant teams like Ajax, Liverpool, and Barcelona.

With Lionel Messi and Neymar, Suárez formed a formidable three, coined MSN, that won the La Liga, Copa del Rey, and UEFA Champions League trebles in 2015.

11. Eden Hazard

Eden Hazard is a retired Belgian national team caption currently playing for Spanish giant Real Madrid.

Following his impressive seven seasons at Chelsea, winning the Premier League, Europa League, and several domestic titles, Hazard joined Madrid for a remarkable fee of €125 million.

Belgian winger Eden Hazard with LOSC Lille in 2011 and him playing captaining Belgium in 2022
Source : instagram

But with frequent injuries and weight issues, he never had the chance to shine in Spain. After Belgium's abysmal display and getting knocked out of the group stage in the 2022 WC, Hazard announced his retirement from the national team, as per FIFA.

12. Mesut Ozil

Mesut Ozil is a professional football player who currently plays as an attacking midfielder for İstanbul Basakşehir.

Mesut Ozil began his senior career with Schalke in 2005 and he is currently playing for İstanbul Başakşehir
Source : instagram

Known for his creative passing, technical ability, and vision on the pitch, Özil began his career with Schalke before moving on to play for Werder Bremen, Real Madrid, and Arsenal.

Ozil has also played a critical role for the German national team, helping lead the team to victory at the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

13. David Beckham

David Beckham is a former English footballer widely regarded as one of his generation's most gifted and influential players.

Beckham played midfielder for clubs such as Manchester United, Real Madrid, AC Milan, and Paris Saint-Germain. Similarly, he won numerous domestic and international titles, including the Premier League and the UEFA Champions League.

A 17 year old David Beckham on his Manchester United Debut in 1992 and him in 2022
Source : instagram

He hung his boot at the age of 38 in 2013 with PSG. Moreover, Beckham is the current president and co-owner of the Major League Soccer (MLS) club Inter Miami.

14. Pep Guardiola

Pep Guardiola is a manager at Manchester City known for his offensive tactics and fluid gameplay strategy.

Pep Guardiola on his Barcelona debut in 1990 and now he is the manager at Manchester City
Source : instagram

As a player, Guardiola spent the majority of his career at Barcelona. Following his retirement, he moved into coaching and has had great success with clubs such as Barcelona, Bayern Munich, and Manchester City.

Famous for his tactical expertise and ingenious approach to the game, the 51-year-old revolutionize football with his possession-based Tika Tika Football.

15. Thierry Henry

Thierry Henry is a retired French football player who played as a striker in Europe and the United States.

Henry has contributed to clubs such as Juventus, Arsenal, Barcelona, and New York Red Bulls, playing some top-level football during his era. Following his retirement in 2014, he shifted his focus to a managerial perspective.

Thierry Henry on his Monaco debut in 1994 and him as an assistant coach of Belgium in 2022
Source : instagram

Henry has moved into coaching and has also worked as a television pundit. He is France's second-highest goalscorer and is currently an assistant coach for Belgium's national team.

16. Eric Cantona

Eric Cantona is a retired professional footballer who played as a forward for clubs such as Marseille, Leeds United, and Manchester United.

Cantona was a dominant layer for Manchester United in the 90s and has marked his name in the club's history with golden letters. Following retirement from football, Cantona ventured into the entertainment world.

Eric Cantona after joining Manchester United in 1992 and him in 2022
Source : instagram

The 56-year-old is now an actor, producer, and director and has contributed largely to the French film industry.

17. Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is an Italian side AC Milan striker and a former Swedish international. 

Zlatan Ibrahimovic on his Ajax debut in 2001 and him playing for AC Milan in 2022
Source : instagram

Throughout his career, the 1.95 m tall forward has represented a variety of teams, including Ajax, Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona, and Paris Saint-Germain. He has won various national and international championships with these teams, including several league trophies.

The Swedish national top goal scorer is renowned for his outrageous demeanor, and straightforward character, in addition to his individual accomplishments.

18. Frank Lampard

Frank Lampard is an English professional football coach for Everton and a former Chelsea player.

He has earned legendary status at the West London club, being the all-time leading goal scorer with 211 goals in his thirteen seasons with Chelsea.

Frank Lampard making his West Ham debut in 1995 and him signing for a managerial role at Everton in 2022
Source : instagram

Beginning his career with West Ham in 1995, Lampard has played for Chelsea, Manchester City, and New York City FC. After retiring as a player, Lampard has moved into coaching and is currently the manager of Everton.

19. Ronaldinho Gaucho

Ronaldinho Gaucho is a former Brazilian star footballer famous for his amazing skills and creativity on the pitch.

A 20-year-old Ronaldinho on his PSG debut in 2001 and him in 2022
Source : instagram

Born in Porto Alegre, State of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, in a poor family background, Ronaldinho started playing with bare feet in the streets of Brazil, mastering his skills.

During his career, he played as a midfielder for Barcelona, Paris Saint Germain, and AC Milan and retired in 2018. He is also known for his high-profile personal life and celebrity status.

20. Ronaldo Nazario

Ronaldo Nazario is a retired football player and a 2002 World Cup winner for Brazil.

With his magic feet and goal-scoring proficiency, Ronaldo was destined for greatness. He played as a striker for clubs such as Ac Milan, Inter Milan, Real Madrid, and Barcelona.

Brazilian Ronaldo made his Inter Milan debut in 1997 and him in 2022
Source : instagram

After retiring as a player, he has remained active in the sport through various business and charitable ventures. Currently, the 46-year-old is the president of the Spanish club Real Valladolid and the owner of Brasileiro Série A club Cruzeiro,

21. Ricardo Kaka

Another fine Brazilian football star Ricardo Kaka is the 2007 Ballon d'Or winner.

He began his journey from his local club Sao Paulo in 2000 and was a class player in Brazil's 2002 World Cup triumph behind Ronaldo and Ronaldinho. In 2003, AC Milan approached him, and in 2009 he joined Real Madrid.

Ricardo Kaka with AC Milan in 2003 and him in 2022 at Al-Bayt Stadium in Qatar
Source : instagram

Kaka is known for his quick feet and ability to dribble past any defender with ease. He returned to his boyhood club Sao Paulo and ended his career in 2017 with Orlando.

22. Zinedine Zidane

Zinedine Zidane is a professional football manager and former French player.

He was a pivot of Real Madrid during the first Galacticos era. He played alongside legendary players like Luis Figo, Ronaldo, David Beckham, Owen, and Raul.

Zinedine Zidane on his France national team debut in 1994 and him visiting London in 2022
Source : instagram

Zidane is famous for his headbutt to an Italian player Marco Materazzi in the 2006 FIFA World Cup Final. After retiring, he started coaching, and he was appointed as the head coach of Real Madrid in 2016 and gave the Spanish side three Champions League titles.

23. Alan Shearer

Alan Shearer is a former English football player widely considered as one of the greatest goalscorers in the history of the game.

Known for his clinical finishing and goalscoring prowess, Shearer is the all-time leading goalscorer in the Premier League, with 260 goals he scored playing for Blackburn Rovers, Southampton, and Newcastle United.

Alan Shearer on his English League debut with Southampton in 1988 and him at Newcastle in 2022
Source : instagram

Moreover, he has 30 goals for the England national team in 63 caps. Following his retirement, he began acting in media and started working as a football analyst. He is currently a sports pundit at BBC Sport.

24. Wayne Rooney

Wayne Rooney is a former English player currently working as a manager at the MLS club D.C. United.

Wayne Rooney made his Everton debut in 2002 and him winning the career award at 2022 Globe Soccer Awards
Source : instagram

Rooney was the spark of Ferguson's United team since he joined the club in 2004 from his boyhood club Everton. He played with the Red Devil for thirteen seasons, winning every major trophy.

Furthermore, he is the club's all-time record goal scorer with 253 goals across all competitions. Similarly, Rooney has 53 goals for England in 120 appearances.

25. Ian Wright

Ian Wright is a retired professional footballer from England who played as a striker for Crystal Palace, Arsenal, and West Ham United.

Ian Wright on his Arsenal debut in 1991 and him as a football pundit at present
Source : facebook

Wright is known for his clinical finishing and goalscoring ability and is the all-time leading goalscorer for Arsenal. After retiring as a player, Wright has worked as a television pundit and is involved in various charitable and philanthropic endeavors.

Currently, Wright is working at ITV Sports and BBC as a football analyst and has covered several premier league games.

26. Xavier "Xavi" Hernández

Xavier Hernández, basically known as Xavi, is a former midfield maestro of the Spanish national team and Barcelona.

Xavi with Barcelona at age 14 in 1992 and he is the manager of Barcelona in 2022
Source : instagram

Xavi, along with Messi, Iniesta, Pedro, and Fabregas, came from Barcelona youth academy La Masia. He is known for his superior passing ability, technical skills, and leadership qualities.

He left Barcelona in 2015 and joined the Qatari club Al Sadd. After retiring in 2019, Xavi moved into coaching and is currently the manager of Barcelona.

27. Andreas Inietsa

Andreas Iniesta is another one of Barcelona's youth academy La Masia products and a good one.

Andres Inietsa on his Barcelona debut in 2002 and him in 2022
Source : instagram

His pair with Xavi, both in Barcelona and the Spanish national team, resulted in tremendous success at both club and national levels. His 116th-minute extra-time goal in the 2010 FIFA World Cup gave Spain its first World Cup trophy.

From 2002 to 2018, Iniesta played 669 games for Barcelona before making an emotional exit in 2018. Since then, he has been playing in the Japanese league with Vissel Kobe FC.

28. Gianluigi Buffon

Gianluigi Buffon from Italy is widely regarded as one of the finest goalkeepers of this generation.

Best known for his shot-stopping ability, leadership, and longevity, Buffon is still actively playing in the Serie B club Parma even at the age of 44. He is among the exclusive group of players with over 1,100 professional appearances.

Gianluigi Buffon on his professional debut with Parma in 1995 and him at Parma in 2022
Source : instagram

The 2006 Ballon d'Or runner-up started his career with Parma in 1995 and joined Juventus in 2001, where he played till 2018 and rose to world number one. With his impressive display, Buffon won the World Cup with Italy in 2006.

29. Kun Aguero

Sergio 'Kun' Aguero is a former Argentine international and Manchester City forward.

Sergio Aguero on his Atletico Madrid debut in 2006 and him in 2022 after retirement
Source : instagram

Aguero, at his peak, was the most feared attacker in football. His dazzling run and unstoppable finish were a nightmare for defenders and goalkeepers. With his injury-time winning goal, Sergio gave Manchester City their first Premier League title in 2012.

The striker moved to Barcelona in 2021, but due to a medical condition, a problem with his heart, he was forced to retire early in 2021 at the age of just 33. 

30. Peter Cech

Peter Cech is a former goalkeeper from the Czech Republic and a Chelsea legend.

Hardly any football fans from the 2010 decade generation would not recognize him and his iconic helmet. In October 2006, in a game against Reading FC, he suffered a head injury that resulted in a deep skull fracture, as per Chelsea FC.

Peter Cech wore helmet for the first time after head injury in 2006 and him as a ambassador for Chelsea in 2022
Source : instagram

After returning from the horrible injury, Cech wore a helmet in every game he played. He played 494 games and kept over 200 clean sheets for Chelsea before moving to Arsenal in 2015.

31. Arjen Robben

Arjen Robben is widely regarded as the Dutch Lionel Messi because of his similar gameplay.

His darting run, quick inside cut to the left, and finding the corner of the net with a curler is his trademark move through which he has scored lots of goals for club and country.

Arjen Robben while he was at PSV back in early 2000 and him on his retirement in 2021
Source : instagram

Robben spent most of his career playing for top European clubs such as Chelsea, Real Madrid, and Bayern Munich. He also played for the Dutch national team, with whom he reached the 2010 World Cup Final. He retired from professional football in 2019.

32. Cesc Fabregas

Cesc Fabregas is a Spanish football player currently playing with the Italian second-division club Como 1987.

Cesc Fabregas on his Arsenal debut in 2003 and him playing for  Italian Serie B club Como in 2022
Source : instagram

Fabregas, in his prime, was an untouchable midfielder. His ability to find a pass from any sort of range, even in tight angles, helped him earn the tag "Assist King."

He began his career with Barcelona but made his name playing for Arsenal and Chelsea in the premier league. The Spaniard moved to Monaco in 2019 and joined the Serie B side in 2022.

33. Didier Drogba

Didier Drogba is a retired Ivorian professional footballer who played as a striker, mostly for Chelsea.

Renowned for his brute power, flying prowess, and precise finishing, Drogba was a target man for Chelsea from 2004 to 2012. His MOTM performance against Bayern Munich in 2012 clinched the London side their first UEFA Champions League trophy.

Didier Drogba on Chelsea shirt for the first time in 2004 and him at the 2022 Ballon d'Or award ceremony
Source : instagram

Besides, Drogba is the all-time leading scorer for the Ivory Coast. After retiring in 2018, he shifted his focus to philanthropy work and has played a huge role in ending the civil war and restoring peace in his homeland, reports BBC.

34. Tim Howard

Tim Howard is a retired professional footballer widely deemed one of the best goalkeepers in American soccer history.

Tim Howard made his premier debut in 2003 and he is currently a football analyst
Source : instagram

Howard kickstarted his career with the New York Red Bulls (previously MetroStars) and later joined English clubs Manchester United and Everton.

With more than 100 games for the squad and three World Cup appearances, he is also one of the highest-capped players in the US national. Howard hung up his boots once and for all in 2019.

35. Oliver Khan

Oliver Khan is a former professional football player from Germany who played as a goalkeeper.

Oliver Khan on his Karlsruhe debut in 1990 and currently he holds the position of CEO at FC Bayern Munich
Source : instagram

If the 'Germany efficiency' has a name, that has to be Khan. Not only is he an excellent player, but he is also a true leader in the field. He was awarded the best goalkeeper of the year for three consecutive years, in 1999, 2001, and 2002.

Khan played for Bayern Munich in Bundesliga his whole career. He retired from football in 2008; as of now, Khan is a German football director and Bayern's CEO.

36. Ryan Giggs

Ryan Giggs is a former Welsh winger comprehensively identified for his contribution to Ferguson's United era.

Giggs played for Manchester United for over two decades and was a key team member under manager Sir Alex Ferguson during the successful period. After retiring in 2014, he joined the United coaching staff.

Ryan Giggs on his Manchester United first appearance in 1990 and him as a the Wales national team manager in 2022
Source : instagram

Currently, Giggs is the manager of the Welsh national football team. Moreover, the 49-year-old has also invested in local football clubs, such as Salford City FC and Cafe Football.

37. Didier Deschamps

Didier Deschamps is only among the few player-turned-manager coach who has had success in both disciplines.

Deschamps was a defensive midfielder for France in the 90s and relished a booming career, playing for clubs such as Nantes, Marseille, Juventus, and Chelsea.

Didier Deschamps winning the World Cup as a player in 1998 and him lifting the trophy in 2018 as a manager
Source : talksport

He captioned the French national team to their first World Cup win in 98 and the Euro Cup triumph in 2000. Similarly, under his managerial regime, Deschamps led France to their second World Cup trophy in 2018. 

38. Andrea Pirlo

Andrea Pirlo is a retired Italian professional football player with a genius midfield brain.

His vision, passing and technical ability were top-notch, which helped establish him as one of his generation's greatest deep-lying playmakers. Pirlo began his career with Brescia but made his name playing for top Italian sides such as AC Milan, Inter, and Juve.

Andrea Pirlo making his professional Brescia in 1995 and him as a head coach of Fatih Karagümrük in 2022
Source : instagram

Pirlo retired from professional football in 2018 and has since worked as a coach and a television pundit. He is also among the best free-kick takers in the game's history.

39. Steven Gerrard

The former English national team and Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard is one of a kind.

Born in 1980 in a small family in Merseyside, Gerrard played for the red side of the city. He joined Liverpool in 1989 as an academy player, rose through the ranks, and finally made his senior debut in 98.

Steven Gerrard made his first Liverpool start 1998 and him with his son Lio Gerrard in 2022
Source : instagram

Gerrard has won every trophy except the Premier League title in his seventeen years with the club. He played his final game in 2016 and, since then, has moved to coach. His last managerial position was at Aston Villa.

40. Michel Platini

Michel Platini is a three times Ballon d'Or winning retired French football player and coach.

Michel Platini captained France national team in the eighties and currently a French football administrator
Source : instagram

Platini had a noteworthy club and international career with Juventus and the French national team in the 70s and 80s. After retiring, he became a coach and later served as the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) president from 2007 to 2015.

Similarly, the former midfielder has also served as the VP of the French Football Federation.