However, many legendary players never plied their trade in Europe, instead, spent most of their playing careers in their homeland. The list comprises FIFA World Cup heroes, national legends, and some of football’s greatest ever.
On that note, here's a look at the five legendary players who never played in Europe.
5. Yasuhito Endo
Dubbed the 'Japanese Pirlo', Yashuito Endo is one of the most decorated and elite footballers to have emerged from Asia.
Endo began his professional career at the Japanese league side, Yokohama Flugels, where he would spend over 23 years of his professional career. The now-41-year-old is still an active footballer and currently plies his trade at Jubilo Iwata in Japanese football’s second tier.
Endo spent the bulk of his professional career with Gamba Osaka, registering over 500 appearances in his 19-year spell at the club. To date, the Japanese player has notched up an astounding tally of 894 appearances, yielding a return of 137 goals and 181 assists.
He played a pivotal role in Gamba Osaka’s J1 League triumphs in 2005 and 2014 and was highly rated for his incredible passing range and ability with the ball at his feet. Endo also won 152 caps for his national side over a 13-year period.
4. Ricardo Bochini
Before Diego Maradona arrived on the scene, Ricardo Bochini was regarded by many as one of Argentina’s best-ever, if not the best.
The Independiente legend was Diego Maradona’s idol and hero growing up, and also inspired a generation of Argentinians to take up the beautiful game. Bochini was widely regarded for his exquisite skills and ability to consistently find the back of the net.
After starting out with the Independiente U20 side, Bochini worked his way up to the senior team in 1972. He would go on to spend the length of his 20-year professional career at his boyhood club, playing a pivotal role in Independiente’s domination of Argentine and Latin American football in the first half of the 1970s.
In 634 appearances for the club, Bochini registered a tally of 97 goals; he also made 28 appearances for his national side.
3. Carlos Alberto
Carlos Alberto captained the all-star 1970 FIFA World Cup-winning Brazilian side and is considered by many as one of football’s greatest ever defenders.
The decorated Brazilian spent most of his professional career in his home country, representing some of the biggest clubs in the Brazilian Serie A. This includes Fluminense, Santos, and Flamengo, where Alberto spent a combined total of almost 15 years.
He spent the latter half of his playing career in North America, representing the New York Cosmos and California Surf during an 11-year stint. Nicknamed 'O Capitao do Tri', Alberto made 743 appearances in club football, along with 53 caps for Brazil.
Carlos Alberto’s stunning goal against Italy in the 1970 FIFA World Cup final was named in the list of 100 Greatest Sporting Moments.
As a right-back, Alberto scored 72 cumulative goals for club and country.
2. Mane Garrincha
Referred to as 'Alegria do Povo' or People’s Joy, Garrincha is regarded as one of Brazil’s best footballers of all time.
The forward formed a lethal attacking partnership with Pele to propel Brazil to their first FIFA World Cup trophy in 1958. Garrincha assisted both goals against Sweden in the final to help his team stage a remarkable 5-2 win.
An injury in the second match of the 1962 FIFA World Cup sidelined Pele for the entire tournament, which meant Garrincha was the effective leader of Brazil’s forward line. He emerged as the best player of the tournament, scoring two goals against England in the quarter-finals and another two against Chile in the semis.
Despite running a high fever leading up to the final, the legendary forward played a crucial role in guiding Brazil to a 3-1 win, laying laid hands on a second FIFA World Cup trophy in as many attempts. The legendary forward spent most of his footballing career in and around clubs in Brazil’s Serie A.
Garrincha was adored by the fans and, to date, remains one of the most skillful and entertaining footballers in the game’s history.
Even today, Pele is regarded by many as the greatest footballer to have ever lived and is an absolute icon of the sport.
The Brazilian is arguably the greatest player in FIFA World Cup history, playing a pivotal role in his team's three triumphs. Pele racked up a stellar tally of 77 goals and 21 assists with the national side and remains Brazil’s most successful footballer ever.
The Selecao won their first three FIFA World Cups with Pele in the squad. But they would have to wait another 24 years after the legendary forward’s international retirement following the 1970 triumph.
Pele spent 18 years of his career at Santos, where he won six Brazilian Serie A titles, two Copa Libertadores, and two Intercontinental Cups, to name a few.
The Brazilian spent the last two years of his career at the New York Cosmos, winning the NASL Soccer Bowl Championship. Pele registered 557 official appearances for both clubs, scoring a staggering 538 goals.
Upon meeting Pele, former American President Ronald Reagan said:
“My name is Ronald Reagan, I’m the President of the United States of America. But you don’t need to introduce yourself, because everyone knows who Pele is.” Read Full Story