The greatest Poland players in history have been ranked (2024)


  • Poland has a rich footballing history, with a golden generation in the 1970s and 1980s.
  • Robert Lewandowski is the pick of the bunch, with the striker having established himself as one of the best players in the world over the past decade.
  • Borussia Dortmund have had a big hand in developing great Polish players in the modern era, with three on this list - including Lewandowski - previously turning out for the German side.

They may be ranked 28th in the world right now, but Poland has a rich footballing history. The European nation has competed in nine FIFA World Cups to date, with two third-place finishes coming in 1974 and 1982. That period was considered the golden generation for Poland, during which time the team also won a gold medal at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, and won the silver medal four years later in Montreal.

Success has been far harder to come by in the 21st century, but with a keen focus on youth development and with football being the prime national sport in Poland, the country has still produced some top players in the modern era, too. Poland has qualified for every European Championship since 2008, and will be present once more at Euro 2024.

This list features some of the standout stars of those glory days in the 1970s and 1980s, a handful of impressive talent from the more recent past, and two great players who are still active today.

Ranking factors

  • Quality as a player
  • Achievements with Poland
  • Importance in wider football history



Years active

Poland caps


Robert Lewandowski




Zbigniew Boniek




Grzegorz Lato




Kazimierz Deyna




Wladyslaw Zmuda




Jakub Blaszczykowski




Jerzy Dudek




Lukasz Piszczek




Piotr Zielinski




Wlodzimierz Lubanski



10 Wlodzimierz Lubanski

Career span: 1962-1985

Making his debut for the national team at just 16 years old, Lubanski would go on to represent Poland 75 times, scoring 48 goals. That prolific strike rate makes him one of the country's all-time leading goalscorers. Sadly, his international career was hampered by a knee injury sustained in a 1973 World Cup qualifier against England, and he would miss the 1974 tournament where Poland achieved a third-place finish.

Lubanski cemented his legendary status at club level, spending 12 years at Gornik Zabrze, where he won multiple Polish league titles and Polish Cups. He was the top scorer in the Ekstraklasa league time and time again, and even helped his side reach the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup final in 1970. He later moved on to K.S.C. Lokeren in Belgium, before ending his career in France.

9 Piotr Zielinski

Career span: 2010-

One of just two players still going to this day, Zielinski was part of the Napoli side that won the Serie A title in 2022-23. A technically-gifted, versatile, and creative central midfielder, there's a very good chance that Zielinski will be adding to his 88 caps for Poland this summer at Euro 2024. He will also be looking for a new club this summer, as his contract with Napoli comes to an end next month.

Zielinski has spent all of his senior career in Italy, joining Udinese as a youngster before moving on to Napoli in 2016. 364 games later, with 51 goals and 46 assists to his name, plus a league title and a Coppa Italia medal, too, it's safe to say this Polish midfielder is one of the best players his nation has produced since the turn of the millennium.

8 Lukasz Piszczek

Career span: 2001-2021

The greatest Poland players in history have been ranked (2)

It feels almost criminal that a player like Lukasz Piszczek only won 66 caps for his country. A versatile defender, though largely operating at right-back, Piszczek spent the majority of his career in Germany, where he earned cult status at Borussia Dortmund after spending more than a decade with the Bundesliga giants.

Piszczek made almost 400 appearances for Dortmund, and was part of the title-winning squad in 2010/11 and then again in 2011/12. He was also part of the Poland side that made it to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, which is still the furthest the nation has ever progressed in that competition. He is now manager of Polish fourth division side Goczalkowice.

7 Jerzy Dudek

Career span: 1996-2011

The greatest Poland players in history have been ranked (3)

25th May 2005. The Ataturk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul, Turkey. Jerzy Dudek's most iconic moment as a professional goalkeeper will live long in the memory, not just for Liverpool fans but for spectators the world over. Liverpool trailed 3-0 to AC Milan at half-time in the Champions League final, but managed to claw their way back and take the game to penalties. Dudek would famously save Andriy Shevchenko's tame penalty and claim the trophy for Liverpool, but it was his double save in the latter stages of the game that really won the day.

His international career was relatively unremarkable in comparison, turning out for Poland during a time when major competitions were hard to come by. Still, at club level, he not only became an icon for Liverpool, but also enjoyed four years with Real Madrid before retiring in 2011.


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6 Jakub Blaszczykowski

Career span: 2002-2023

The greatest Poland players in history have been ranked (5)

Lightning quick with tricky feet and a high footballing IQ, Jakub Blaszczykowski is one of the most prominent Polish players of the modern era. After excelling in his homeland for Wisla Krakow, Blaszczykowski was picked up by Borussia Dortmund and really started to make a name for himself across Europe. He was part of the same successful Dortmund side as Lukasz Piszczek.

At international level, Blaszczykowski earned over 100 caps for his country and captained Poland on multiple occasions. He featured in three European Championships and one World Cup, with a particular highlight being Euro 2016 where he helped Poland to a place in the quarter-finals.

5 Wladyslaw Zmuda

Career span: 1970-1981

That golden generation for Poland wasn't just filled with silky midfielders and prolific goalscorers. Wladyslaw Zmuda is one of the finest defenders to ever pull on a Poland shirt, and was at the heart of the national team through four FIFA World Cup tournaments from 1974 to 1986, registering 91 appearances for Poland in the process. Zmuda was crowned player of the tournament in 1974, and in 1986 he equalled the record for most World Cup appearances by an outfield player.

Zmuda was a strong tackler and had a brilliant read of the game from his central defensive position. He spent the majority of his club career in Poland with spells at Gornik Zabrze, Slask Wroclaw, and Widzew Lodz. Zmuda ended his career in Italy, after a brief spell in America with New York Cosmos.

4 Kazimierz Deyna

Career span: 1966-1984

The greatest Poland players in history have been ranked (6)

Manchester City fans will be familiar with this name, as Kazimierz Deyna spent three years in England between 1978 and 1981. Unfortunately, his time with the Citizens was plagued by injuries, though his skill and class still shone through when fit. Before that, Deyna enjoyed 12 years with Legia Warsaw, where he won two league titles and a Polish Cup.

It was at international level where Deyna really excelled, though. In his near-100 caps for Poland, Deyna scored 41 goals and is widely considered one of the most important players of the country's golden generation. He captained the team to a third-place finish in the 1974 World Cup, and also finished as top scorer in the gold medal-winning Olympic team in 1972.

3 Grzegorz Lato

Career span: 1969-1984

Lato won exactly 100 caps for Poland, and scored 45 goals, becoming one of the most-capped players in the country's history, and one of its highest scorers, too. The forward made waves at the 1974 World Cup, where he won the Golden Boot at the tournament with seven goals, helping Poland to a third-place finish. Lato turned out in two further World Cups, and was also involved in the Olympics squad in 1972 and 1976.

At club level, Lato always scored goals wherever he went. He spent the majority of his career in Poland, with Stal Mielec, where he won two Ekstraklasa titles. After 14 years with the club, he moved on to Belgium, Mexico, and Canada before calling time on an incredible career.

2 Zbigniew Boniek

Career span: 1975-1988

The greatest Poland players in history have been ranked (7)

Few players can hold quite the legacy that Zbigniew Boniek does for Poland. An incredibly talented footballer, and a true leader both on and off the pitch, too. Once his playing career wrapped up, Boniek eventually took on a management role with the national team, and served as the President of the Polish FA between 2012 and 2021.

The highlight of Boniek's career came in the 1982 World Cup. The forward bagged a hat-trick in the group stages against Belgium, and helped Poland to the semi-finals where they would ultimately seal third place. Boniek was even named in the team of the tournament. He earned 80 caps for his country overall and bagged 24 goals along the way, gaining recognition throughout the game for his skillful displays. Brazil legend Pele was clearly a fan, as he named Boniek in his FIFA 100 list of the world’s greatest living players in 2004.

1 Robert Lewandowski

Career span: 2005-

The greatest Poland players in history have been ranked (8)

At 35 years old, Robert Lewandowski is likely to be winding down his career in the next couple of years, and the world of football will be worse off for losing a player of his talent. With 148 caps for Poland and 82 goals to his name — he is the country's most-capped player and top goalscorer, by quite some distance. And, at Euro 2024, the Poland captain will have the chance to add to those tallies and will be hoping to really cement his place in Polish folklore.

Germany legend, Jurgen Klinsmann, on Lewandowski: "At my time, Marco van Basten was the most complete forward in the world, in the late 80s and early 90s. And I think Robert Lewandowski put his stamp on the last decade like nobody else."

Most football fans will be more familiar with Lewandowski's exploits at club level, though. From his big breakthrough at Borussia Dortmund, before moving on to Bayern Munich and truly dominating the Bundesliga, Lewandowski has since moved on to Barcelona and is proving he can do it in Spain too.

GIVEMESPORT Key Statistic: Robert Lewandowski's 41 goals in the 2020/21 Bundesliga campaign with Bayern Munich remains the highest amount scored in a domestic season in Germany.

The greatest Poland players in history have been ranked (2024)


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