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The 10 greatest Scottish players in football history have been ranked




  • Scotland has a rich footballing history, with clubs like Rangers and Celtic some of the most successful in the world.
  • Several Scottish players have finished in the top three of the Ballon d’Or voting, with one even winning the prized accolade.
  • Liverpool icons such as Andrew Robertson, Graeme Souness and Kenny Dalglish all make the list.



For a proud nation of just five and a half million, Scotland has a remarkable record of producing footballers who have gone on to make their mark at the very highest level of the game.

They are also a country with an incredible history too. Along with the “Auld Enemy” England, Scotland are the joint oldest national team in the world, due to their participation in the world’s first international football match when facing the Three Lions at Hamilton Crescent on the 30th of November 1872, a fixture that in commemoration of the occasion took place every year until 1989.

Scotland’s two most famous club sides, the Old Firm, Rangers and Celtic, are steeped in history too. In terms of titles, Rangers are the second most successful club in the world and were also the first British team to reach a European final, falling short to Fiorentina in the 1961 Cup Winners’ Cup Final. As for Celtic, they went one step further in the 1966/67 season under legendary manager Jock Stein, becoming the first British side to win the European Cup, defeating Inter Milan in the final.

But what about some of the sport’s best players? Those to have donned the dark blue shirt with the most distinction. With that in mind, here are the ten best Scottish footballers in history.

Greatest Scottish Players in Football History




Years active


Kenny Dalglish




Denis Law




Jim Baxter




Graeme Souness




Billy Bremner




Jimmy Johnstone




Billy McNeill




John Greig




Andrew Robertson




Dave Mackay



10 Dave Mackay

Years Active: 1953-1972

Despite standing at just 5’7″, footballers don’t come much more intimidating than Dave Mackay. Nicknamed Football’s Braveheart, Mackay had the career that he dreamed of as a boyhood Heart of Midlothian supporter, ending the club’s 48-year wait for a major honour by winning an incredible seven trophies over nine seasons, including a record-breaking Scottish league championship in 1957/58.

Mackay then moved to Tottenham Hotspur and quickly established himself as an integral member of the side that saw success in the early 1960s. Indeed, many have referred to Mackay as “the heartbeat” of Spurs’ double-winning season in 1961.

The tenacious midfielder won the English top division for a second time in 1969, this time with Derby County, with his performances that season seeing him named Football Writers Association’s Player of the Year. His success with the Rams continued, as he led the club to the title in 1975, this time as manager. His achievements in both his playing and coaching career saw Mackay inducted into both the English and Scottish Hall of Fame.

9 Andrew Robertson

Years Active: 2012- Present


The only name in the list from the 21st century, Andrew Robertson has asserted himself as one of the finest players in his position of the Premier League era. Robertson first made a name for himself at Dundee United, putting in a string of impressive performances that saw him named PFA Scotland Young Player of the Year and rewarded with his first senior Scotland cap, whilst still just a teenager.

In 2017, Robertson followed in the footsteps of several Scottish football icons in joining Liverpool and soon became an irreplaceable part of Jurgen Klopp’s team, reaching the Champions League in his first season, a competition they won the following campaign. In 2019/20, after coming close the previous year, Robertson won the Premier League, and in 2021/22 he was part of the team that won the FA Cup and Carabao Cup. Now 30, Robertson has served as captain of the Scotland National Team since 2018.


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8 John Greig

Years Active: 1961-1978

John Grieg is one of football’s true one-club men. A fellow left-back, Greig joined Rangers at 17, and went on to make a staggering 755 official appearances for club across his 17-year senior playing career. During his time at Ibrox, Grieg helped end an unwanted 35-year record of losing finals to Old Firm foe Celtic, when Rangers triumphed 3-0 in the replay of the 1963 Scottish Cup final. This was one of six Scottish Cups that Greig, along with an impressive five League Championships.

In his role as captain, Grieg was a leading figure in the club’s recovery following the Ibrox disaster in 1971. The following year, Greig captained the club to their first European silverware as the Light Blues lifted the European Cup Winners’ Cup with a 3-2 win over Dynamo Moscow in Barcelona. Greig captained his country on 15 occasions, most notably in Scotland’s famous 3-2 win in 1967 over England at Wembley, their first since winning the World Cup the previous year. At the turn of the millennium, Greig was named “The Greatest Ever Ranger” and how serves as a life president of the club.

7 Billy McNeill

Years Active: 1957-1975

What Grieg is to Rangers, Billy McNeill is to Celtic. Nicknamed ‘Cesar’, McNeill was the lynchpin and captain of Jock Stein’s famous Celtic team that won nine consecutive Scottish League Championships, as well as seven Scottish Cups and six League Cups in that period.

McNeill’s crowning moment, however, came in May 1967, when he captained Celtic to the European Cup with a 2-1 victory over Inter Milan at the Estadio Nacional in Lisbon. This feat saw Celtic become the first British team to win the competition, and in turn gave McNeill the honour of being the first British man to lift the European Cup.

The defender ended his playing career with a club-record 822 appearances over an illustrious 18-year playing career. McNeill went on to enjoy an impressive managerial career too, first with Aberdeen where he was succeeded by a certain Alex Ferguson, before returning to Celtic to take over from the great Stein. Peter Swales (Chairman of Man City in 1989), said of the icon:

“If ever a man was made for a specific club, it was Billy McNeill and Glasgow Celtic. His heart was always at Parkhead.”

6 Jimmy Johnstone

Years Active: 1962-1979

Jimmy Johnstone of Celtic

Another star of the famous ‘Lisbon Lions’ side, the name given to the 1967 European Cup-winning Celtic team, is Jimmy Johnson. Standing at just 5’4”, Johnson was famed for incredible speed and low centre of gravity which allowed him to weave his way beyond opponents, giving him his nickname, ‘Jinky’. Once he was off, he was impossible to stop.

Like McNeill, Johnson was part of Stein’s team that won nine consecutive league championships. It was in 1967, the year of their European Cup success, that Johnson came third in the voting for the Ballon d’Or. The tricky winger scored 129 goals for The Hoops and in 2002 was named the club’s greatest ever player.

5 Billy Bremner

Years Active: 1960-1982

Billy Bremner for Leeds United

The first player on the list to have played exclusively outside of Scotland, Billy Bremner is a member of both the English and Scottish Hall of Fame, and it’s easy to understand why. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest midfielders of his generation and was central to Leeds United’s most successful period, captaining the club to English First Division titles in 1968/69 and 1973/74, as well as winning the League Cup in 1968 and the FA Cup in 1972.

Bremner is second in the West Yorkshire club’s all-time appearance makers, with 772 over 16 years, and having played just one match fewer than the legendary Jack Charlton. In 1970, Bremner was named the FWA Football of the Year and was voted Leeds United’s greatest player of all time. The combative midfielder also earned over 50 caps for Scotland and was captain during their 1974 World Cup campaign.

4 Graeme Souness

Years Active: 1970-1991

Graeme Souness

Better known to younger audiences for his stern critique of the modern game on punditry panels, Graeme Souness was an equally fiery footballer during his playing days, although one of the best of his generation.

Known for his tough tackling and leadership, Souness was at the heart of the incredible success Liverpool experienced under Bob Paisley. During his time on Merseyside, Souness won an unprecedented five league titles in six seasons, as well as the European Cup just four months after joining the club. The midfielder won a further two European Cups in 1980/81 and 1983/84 before departing for Serie A with Sampdoria, winning the Coppa Italia in his first season.

3 Jim Baxter

Years Active: 1957-1970

Undoubtedly one of the most naturally gifted footballers Scotland has ever produced, Jim Baxter, at his peak was a joy to behold. Glasgow-born, Baxter joined Rangers in 1960, where he remained for five seasons, displaying his quality and importance to the team that won the Scottish League First Division three times, the Scottish Cup three times, and the Scottish League Cup on four occasions. In 1965, in what was his final year before departing for England, Baxter, nicknamed ‘Slim Jim’ for his agility and effortless play, came 13th in the voting for the Ballon d’Or. Sir Alex Ferguson even said of Baxter:

“Arguably the best player to play in Scottish football. He had touch, balance, vision and just this wonderful aura.”

In Scotland’s infamous 3-2 win against England in 1967, Baxter starred, tormenting the then-World Champions with keepie-uppies whilst waiting for teammates to find space. Injuries and addiction saw his career curtailed and by 1970, aged just 31, Baxter announced his retirement.

2 Denis Law

Years Active: 1956-1974

A black and white image of Denis Law looking on while representing Manchester United

One of the great strikers in the sport’s history, Denis Law twice broke the British transfer record, first with his move from his academy side Huddersfield Town to Manchester City, and then again in 1962 when he returned to England from Torino to join Manchester United. It was at United where Law enjoyed the best years of his career, forming of the greatest attacking trios in English football history alongside George Best and Bobby Charlton, and winning the First Division in 1965 and 1967.

Law spent 11 years at Old Trafford, finding the net on 237 occasions, a total that makes him the third-highest goal scorer in Manchester United‘s history. Moreover, Law holds the club record for the most goals scored in a single season with 43, and with 30 goals is also Scotland’s joint-highest scorer in their history.

1 Kenny Dalglish

Years Active: 1969-1990

There could only be one man at number one, and that is ‘King Kenny’ Dalglish. Adored by Scotland, Celtic and Liverpool fans alike, Dalglish is a true legend of British football. The 73-year-old started his senior career in 1969, breaking into the first team at Celtic under Stein, and winning four Scottish League Championships, four Scottish Cups and one Scottish League Cup during his eight seasons in Glasgow.

Then, in 1977, Dalglish’s long-standing love affair with Liverpool began, when Paisley paid a British transfer record of £440,000 to bring the forward to Merseyside. In what was just his first season with the Reds, Dalglish scored the only goal in the 1978 European Cup Final as Liverpool beat Club Brugge 1-0.

Dalglish was to prove key in a further three European Cup triumphs, and he also tasted success domestically, winning the First Division in his second and third seasons at Liverpool, and then a further four league titles from 1982-1986, the last coming as player/manager. Legacies don’t come much greater than Dalglish’s.


Full list of footballers that have received UK honours

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