Being a footballer means so much more than running around a field and kicking a ball.
Players are athletes that need to have near-perfect stamina, strength, powerful physique, and agility to perform at an elite level. But some stand a class above the rest.
In this article, I’ll list the top 10 fittest players in the world and why.
1. Inaki Williams
You might be thinking, “Who is Inaki Williams?”.
If you played FIFA 16 career mode (like myself), you’d know exactly who he is!
Inaki is a striker for Spanish La Liga side, Athletic Bilbao. The unique culture employed by Athletic Bilbao of only signing players born in the Basque region means it was the perfect home for Inaki Williams to smash the record for most consecutive league appearances in Spanish football.
He has been in 251 consecutive La Liga games – beating the previous league record by almost 50 appearances. His unbelievable streak ended in January 2023 after a hamstring strain caused him to miss one game.
That sort of record doesn’t just require a superior level of fitness, though. He’s been fit enough to not only play 251 consecutive league games but also good enough to be one of Bilbao’s star players over the years.
2. Cristiano Ronaldo
It wouldn’t be a list of “best (any quality) footballers in the world” without Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi somewhere on the list! In this list, Ronaldo just tops Messi.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s fitness has been undeniable throughout his career.
Just when people had counted him out at the age of 33 after leaving Real Madrid, he has continued to display the mindset and dedication to his body that makes him one of the greatest athletes of all time. With endless documentation of the time and money he spends on his body, his career will surely not come to an end due to fitness.
With a record of over 800 goals in over 1,100 senior appearances throughout his career, Ronaldo has been consistently one of the best players in the world for over ten years. Making his fitness is one of his most outstanding qualities as an athlete.
3. Robert Lewandowski
One of the greatest strikers of all time, Robert Lewandowski, has been scoring goals consistently for over 11 years now. He’s still doing it now as the famous number 9 (check out our post on football number positions) for FC Barcelona as the current top scorer in La Liga (with five games to go).
Perhaps he’s cheating his fitness slightly, though. His wife, Anna Lewandowski, is a personal trainer and nutritionist with multiple medals in karate world championships. It’s safe to say that looking after their bodies isn’t unusual for the Lewandowski family.
4. Bruno Fernandes
Bruno Fernandes has only missed one game throughout his career due to injury. A 10-day leg injury during the 2018/19 season and a flu for two days in the 2016/17 season. The injury didn’t force him to miss that one game, though.
Bruno would have been higher on this list, but his performances haven’t been as consistently good as other players mentioned. He’s not played in only four Premier League games for Manchester United since joining in 2020, but his performance levels have declined every season since.
5. Mohamed Salah
When we saw a skinny Mohamed Salah leave Chelsea for Roma, most of us probably thought we’d never see him again in the Premier League. 137 league goals, a Champions League trophy, and a Premier League trophy later, he’s one of the greatest attacking players we have witnessed in the league.
Salah has only missed three games for Liverpool in his time at the club and has been the first name on the team sheet ever since he made his debut in 2018. He combines immense strength, stamina, and agility to fight off the physical defenders of the Premier League to become a goal-scoring winger.
Perhaps Mo Salah goes under the radar as one of the fittest footballers in the world. But as one of the very few on this fit football players list to maintain his fitness to dominate at the top level in three different countries, his fitness shouldn’t go unnoticed.
6. James Milner
How is James Milner still getting into the Liverpool starting lineup at the age of 37? It comes down to his unbeatable work ethic and dedication to his fitness.
Seen by some as a mediocre English footballer, Milner has denied the “haters” by continuing to be a mainstay in one of the Premier League’s greatest teams. His impressive playing record backs that up.
He’s played 853 games (and counting) since his league debut in 2002. Winning three Premier League trophies, two FA Cups, and a Champions League along the way!
Whenever you see pictures or videos of the notoriously painful pre-season at Liverpool, he is always smiling. His coach, Jurgen Klopp, admires him as one of the fittest athletes he has ever seen. And at 37, he continues to blow people away with his dedication to fitness.
7. Lionel Messi
With just over 200 fewer senior appearances than Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi will remain behind his Portuguese counterpart until he reaches Ronaldo’s current age.
When he’s not going on holiday to Saudi Arabia in the middle of the season, Messi is destroying records, winning trophies, and contributing to goals. And he’s been doing that for over 15 years in two different countries – not to mention on the world stage at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
After all, you don’t win seven Ballon d’Or awards without consistently being fit enough to play at the highest level.
8. Zlatan Ibrahimovic
In 2020, Zlatan decided that the MLS was not a retiring home (as it is often referred to) when he returned to AC Milan and won a Serie A title. That Serie A trophy is the 57th trophy/award of his career!
It’s easy to forget just how dominant Zlatan was throughout his career across 4 of the top 5 leagues in Europe. And at 41 years old, he’s still going as part of an AC Milan side that is in the semi-finals of the Champions League.
Winning requires a dedication to preparing your body better than anyone else. Zlatan has perfected that art to be many of the biggest team’s go-to number 9 for so long.
9. Mason Mount
This selection is by no means biased because we grew up just a few miles apart, but Mason Mount could be classed as a veteran footballer with the number of professional games he’s played at just 24 years old.
Although his performances haven’t been up to par this season, he’s played over 180 games for Chelsea over the past three seasons – winning a Champions League trophy along the way.
Years before he reaches his athletic peak, who knows where Mason Mount’s superior fitness will take his career? I’m hoping back to Portsmouth, but sadly that will never happen…
10. Leon Goretzka
Leon Goretzka looked like another one of THOSE Bayern Munich signings in 2018. The type of Bayern signing where they throw money at the best players in the German Bundesliga so that they can dominate even more.
It looked that way until Leon came back from the global COVID pandemic, fitter and stronger than ever. Enough to force his way into the starting lineup.
Final Views On The Fittest Football Players
Fitness is often an overlooked quality in the world of football. People forget how much it takes to consistently perform at an elite level, both physically and mentally.
Footballers don’t just turn up on a Saturday and kick a ball around. They’re constantly working daily to be the best athlete they can be with their training programmes and nutrition – following strict diets to maintain their body fat percentage and fitness levels.
Many football players maintain a rigorous training schedule that includes both cardiovascular and strength-training exercises. This helps to increase overall stamina as well as improve lung capacity which is crucial in maintaining energy throughout a match.
Additionally, many footballers incorporate plyometric exercises into their fitness regime which involve jumping or explosive movements to build body