Who is the greatest England football player of all-time? We choose the five best players to don the Three Lions shirt but who comes out on top...

5) Gordon Banks 

Voted FIFA’s Goalkeeper of the Year six years running, there was nothing flashy about Banks and the craft that he first excelled at, then perfected. 

Indeed, a deep irony resides in this bookie’s son from Sheffield being chiefly recalled for pulling off a sensational stop at the 1970 World Cup, depriving Pele in physics-defying fashion. It became known as the ‘Save of the Century’.

Yet, though he was capable of such magic, what really elevated Banks to the very pinnacle of his possession was an innate sense of positioning, that meant he rarely needed to resort to such acrobatics. 

He was, as the saying went, as safe as the Banks of England. 

4) Wayne Rooney 

Manchester United’s all-time record goal-scorer won 120 caps for his country, a fifth of them as captain, and until Harry Kane surpassed his 53-goal tally last year, no player had scored more for the Three Lions.

But there was infinitely more to this phenomenal one-man army than merely hitting the onion bag on a regular basis. 

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Exploding onto the scene as a precocious teen, Rooney quickly became England’s talisman, a source of pride and hope ahead of major tournaments. So important was he that his team’s football odds would alter if he was nursing a bruised toe. 

On his day, the wonder boy from Croxteth was unstoppable, unplayable. A lit firework in boots. 

3) Stanley Matthews

Just imagine if online betting was a thing back in the day. 

Blackpool would be under the cosh, and the temptation would be to back their opponents in the ascendancy. Only then, the ‘Wizard of Dribble’ would skin his full-back, sending him for a tin of Spam, before firing across a wicked cross that changed the game. 

For the Tangerines, Stoke and England, Matthews did this repeatedly across an illustrious career that spanned three decades, a genius very much of his time but also with a pedigree that is timeless.

You don’t win a Ballon d’Or unless you’re a very special talent and the tricky winger was certainly that. 

2) Bobby Moore 

Moore read the game like a man idly leafing through a magazine in a dentist waiting room.

It all came so easily to him, or seemed to, majestic as he was in possession, organising his team-mates like chess pieces when out of it. 

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His timing in the tackle was nothing short of immaculate.

Over a ten year period the only Englishman to lift a World Cup nullified a succession of all-time greats, from George Best on the domestic scene to Pele on the world stage, and he did so without breaking sweat. 

1) Sir Bobby Charlton

A gentleman and a giant, Charlton is the only English player to have won the domestic league, FA Cup, European Cup and World Cup, successes that can all be largely attributed to his peerless midfielding. 

His sad passing last autumn brought tributes flooding in from world leaders to stonewall legends of the game, all offering their heartfelt admiration for a man who helped rebuild Manchester United following the Munich air disaster. In doing so he became a third of the club’s ‘Holy Trinity’. 

For several decades this softly-spoken colossus was both his club and country’s record goal-scorer.

That’s some feat for a player who mostly inhabited the centre-circle.

*Credit for all of the photos in this article belongs to Alamy*

Stephen Tudor is a freelance football writer and sports enthusiast who only knows slightly less about the beautiful game than you do.

A contributor to FourFourTwo and Forbes, he is a Manchester City fan who was taken to Maine Road as a child because his grandad predicted they would one day be good.