That is the Golden treble of modern football, especially for those that also played in European leagues. But it’s a very exclusive list that only the best of the best will hope to belong in. The football greats in the mold of Cristiano Ronaldo, Ronaldo De Lima, Messi, George Weah, Pele, Maradona and a host of others that won one or two of the converted titles, will always rue the loss of one to complete the treble.
Winning any of the three is difficult individually, not to talk of collectively. In this exclusive club, Brazilians lead with 3 members, followed by Germany with 2, then England, France and Italy with single members each. Let’s take a look:
Bobby Charlton – England (active years 1957 – 1980)
Sir Robert Charlton, commonly known as Bobby Charlton, born in 1937 in Ashington, England, is a Manchester United and England football legend. Between 1957 and 1973, he made a total of 106 international appearances for England (a national record at the time), and played for Man United 606 times scoring a total of 199 goals. After United, he also played for Preston North End, Waterford, Newcastle, Perth Azzurri and Blacktown City till he retired in 1980.
Being a key figure in the glorious English team that won the 1966 World Cup, Bobby Charlton also captained Manchester United when they were the first English club to win the European Cup (now known as the Champions League) in 1968. He went ahead to crown it all with a Ballon d’Or also in 1966.
Franz Beckenbauer – Germany (active years 1964 – 1983)
Born Franz Anton Beckenbauer in Munich Germany in 1945, the legendary German defender made his name at Bayern Munich between 1964 to 1977. Nick named Der Kaiser (“The Emperor”) due to his style, dominance and leadership on the field of play, the 75yr old played for the German giants 427 times and scoring 60 goals in atrophy laden career.
Being the only man to have both captained and managed World Cup-winning teams (1974 and 1990, respectively), Beckenbauer is regarded as the father of the German high-pressing style of football. Aside Captaining his German national side to the 1974 World Cup success, Franz also won the European Cup (champions league) 3 times with Bayern Munich. He was also named winner of the Ballon d’Or twice, in 1972 and 1976.
Gerd Müller – Germany (active years 1963 – 1981)
Gerhard “Gerd” Müller, the second German member of this exclusive list, was born in Nördlingen, Germany in 1945. Spending almost all his playing career with Bayern Munich which he joined from his hometown club 1861 Nördlingen in 1964, he played for the former from then till 1979 appearing 453 times and scoring 398 goals.
The prolific striker nicknamed “Der Bomber” was a key member of the German national side where he notched up 68 goals in 62 appearances, culminating in the 1974 World cup success for the Germans. He also won the European cup (champions league) 3 times with Bayern Munich in addition to multiple other trophies. His exploits in Bayern earned him his Ballon d’Or in 1970.
Paolo Rossi – Italy (active years 1973 – 1987)
One of the most prolific goal scorers of his generation, Paolo Rossi was born in Prato, Firenze Italy in 1956 and started his senior football career with Juventus in 1973 though never fielded for once throughout his contract period till 1975. He was however, sent on loan for the enture period to Como where he played only 6 times. The 64yr old made his mark as a striker at L.R. Vicenza where he played from 1976–1979, playing 94 times and scoring 60 goals. Such was his ratings that Juventus re-signed him in 1981 to 1985 and he also played 83 times for them and scored 24 goals.
Termed as the Italian Hero of the 1982 World cup winning side, Rossi score one of the most memorable hat-tricks in history against a superior Brazilian side, as Italy triumphed 3-2 in that match that would go down as one of the most exciting in history. His world cup exploits helped him to win the Ballon d’Or, and he also won the European cup (Champions league) with Juventus.
Zinedine Zidane – France (active years 1989 – 2006)
One of the all-time greats, Zinedine Zidane was born in Marseille France in 1972 by an Algerian immigrant couple. Regarded as one of the most gifted playmakers in the history of football, ‘Zizou’ (as he’s fondly called), is renowned for his elegance, vision, passing, ball control, and technique. Zidane made his first professional appearance for Cannes at 17, before transferring to Bordeaux in 1992. From there he gained prominence at Juventus where he played between 1996 to 2001, appearing 151 times and scoring 24 times and winning the Ballon d’Or as well.
But it was at Real Madrid that he became a Legend, winning the Champions league playing 155 times and scoring 37 times between 2001 to 2006 as the then most expensive player in the world. He’s among the few to win the Champions league as both player and coach, and the only one to win as coach three consecutive times in the Champions league era. In the French national team, he was a vital member of the Les Blues that dominated Europe and won the 1998 World cup on home soil.
Rivaldo – Brazil (active years 1991 – 2015)
The first of the Brazilians to belong to this list, Rivaldo Vítor Barbosa Ferreira (commonly known as Rivaldo) was born in April 1972 in Reclife Brazil. A renowned left-footed attacker, this 6footer is also a known globetrotter having played for 15 clubs from the time he started his professional career in 1991 at Santa Cruz till he retired while playing for Mogi Mirim in 2015. But it was at Barcelona that he made a name for himself after he moved from Deportivo La Coruña. At Barcelona he played 157 times and scored 86 goals between 1997 to 2002. A fearsome free kicker and an excellent dribbler, Rivaldo traditionally worked the left side of the field, and severally outscored most traditional strikers.
His exploits at Barcelona earned him a Ballon d’Or as well as several La Liga and Copa titles and he carried his form to a glorious outing for Brazil national team that won the 2002 World cup. He moved to Italian giants AC Milan in same year and won the Champions league in 2003.
Ronaldinho – Brazil (active years 1998 – 2015)
Without doubt the most naturally gifted for flair ever seen in Brazil, Ronaldo de Assis Moreira (mostly known as Ronaldinho) is a 40yr former attacking midfielder/forward that stamped his legendary feet in his flowery and controversy laden career that spanned 18yrs. Breaking out between 1998–2001 for Grêmio in his native town of Porto Alegre Brazil, Ronaldinho would go on to sign for French giants PSG in 2001 as under study for their Nigerian super dribbler, Austin ‘Jay Jay’ Okocha. He made his big money move to Barcelona in 2003 and became an instant success going on to play for the Catalans 145 times and scoring 70 goals.
In the 5yrs he spent at Barca, he was instrumental to the club winning multiple trophies as well as the Champions league in 2006. The excellent Barcelona team and Ronaldinho’s ball wizardry earned him the Ballon d’Or as well. Prior to that, he was among the glorious Seleção that won the 2002 World cup.
Kaká – Brazil (active years 2001 – 2014)
The third Brazilian on this list is Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite, commonly known as Kaká, who burst into the scene while playing for AC Milan between 2003 and 2009. One of the most loved footballers of all times, due to his humility on and off the pitch, Kaká was born in Gama, Federal District, Brazil in 1982 and started his career in 2001 with São Paulo. Kaka was among the all-conquering Brazilian side that won the 2002 World cup while still lining up for his first club São Paulo.
The attacking midfielder became a global sensation at AC Milan and Real Madrid, though he won most of his accolades in the former between 2003 and 2009. While playing at Milan, he won the Champions league (2006 – 07) along with several Scudetos and SuperCoppa titles. His exploits earned him his Ballon d’Or title in 2007.