Welsh football fans are enjoying their national side’s most successful era with the dragons making three appearances at major tournaments in the past seven years. With victory over Ukraine in the World Cup 2022 play-off, this group of Welsh players affirmed their status as the greatest Welsh team ever assembled. Those lucky few that managed to play in all three EURO 2016, EURO 2020 and FIFA World Cup 2022 campaigns certainly have the credentials to make this list but with over a century of Welsh football in the history books, there is a large cohort of former Welsh greats to have never made a major tournament. The country has produced some world-class competitors over the years and while they might not have experienced the international success the current crop have enjoyed, they are by no means any less talented. Here’s our look at the best Welsh footballers of all-time. 

 

4 – Mark Hughes

Better known these days for striking a grumpy demeanor on the touchlines as a manager, Hughes was an exceptional talent on the pitch in his own right. The Welsh striker played for some of Europe’s biggest clubs in his playing days and had a massive impact wherever he plied his craft. Manchester United, Chelsea, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Everton were all benefactors of the forward’s unrivaled ability in front of goal and all were in the mix for major silverware when Hughes was up front. He accrued 11 major trophies in his playing career including a European Super Cup, two Premier Leagues and a litany of domestic honours. Sadly he did not reach the same heights with his International career as a result of playing in a significantly weaker Wales side compared to the one we see today. Having said that, it did not affect how impactful he was for them on the pitch, scoring 16 goals in his 72 appearances, with a particular highlight against England hitting the winner in his debut. A rare talent that few could emulate. 

 

3 – Ryan Giggs

The Manchester United winger was one of the best assets at Sir Alex Ferguson’s disposal in his legendary tenure at the Old Trafford club. His importance to their success can be seen in his longevity, playing for the Red Devils until he was 40 and as a result becoming the most decorated footballer in English football history. His versatility was enviable and wizardry with the ball at his feet more so. His incredible performances earned him a number of records for his club and in the league. He holds the record for the most appearances for Manchester United and held the record for the most Premier League appearances for years, only superseded by Gareth Barry in 2017. He also holds the record for scoring in the most Premier League seasons consecutively with a run of 21 campaigns. He has a club career second to none but his Wales career is considerably less impressive. Despite playing some of the best football in Europe for over a decade, Giggs only made 64 appearances over an International career that spanned 17 years. It’s clear his priorities laid elsewhere and that combined with personal issues off the pitch has tarnished his legacy somewhat, but there are few that would debate he is one of the most talented footballers Wales has ever produced. 

 

2 – Ian Rush 

In the 80s there was no striker in world football as prolific in front of goal as the iconic Welshman. His goalscoring exploits made Liverpool the most dominant powerhouse in world football, they won everything. Multiple First Division titles and European Cup victories were won as a result of Rush’s 346 goals for the Reds. He was simply unstoppable. A combination of blinding pace with superb finishing was too much for defences to handle. He was impressive for his country too. 28 goals from his 73 appearances was a healthy return, even if it didn’t quite match the levels he found for the club. Regardless, his undeniable talent and incredible scoring feats mean he is second on the list and perhaps the greatest player never to reach a major tournament. 

 

1 – Gareth Bale 

There is no doubt, Wales’ all-time top goalscorer is the greatest footballing export the country has ever produced. With 38 goals for his country and the esteemed honour of leading his country to their first World Cup finals for 64 years, Bale will forever hold a place in the hearts of Welsh football fans. His goals for country have been vital in re-establishing Wales as a force to be reckoned with both on a European and World stage. His lightning quick pace on the left wing tore defences apart for years and his supreme finishing lit up the Premier League. UK betting sites will always have odds on the Champions League, something Bale has won many times. While he left England with no silverware, he won an astounding five Champions League titles with Real Madrid after completing his record breaking move from Spurs in 2013. He became the most expensive player of all time and the hottest commodity in world football.

Even with remarkable domestic success, Bales’ commitment to the national side is unmatched and confirms his place atop the list of the greatest Welsh footballers of all time.