Pro Evolution Soccer. The whacky, hilarious and addictive game that made so many of us fall in love with football, video games and tiny robotic men.
PES – as it’s known – has developed a cult following for almost 20 years, providing some of the most exciting, entertaining and enjoyable products on the market. As technology advanced and our taste buds matured however, the KONAMI sensation began to be left behind.
But guess what…IT’S BACK, BABY!
While thousands of gamers grow tired of FIFA’s frustrating gameplay and unnecessary tweaks, PES has continued to stick to its roots, consistently producing a solid and enjoyable game, and putting its loyal community ahead of anything else.
And this week’s release of PES 2021 marks a very special milestone too – the 20th anniversary of the very first Pro Evolution Soccer, a whole two decades since the birth of this incredible franchise. With that in mind, 90min has decided to take you on a trip down memory lane, and rank the best players to have ever graced the glorious game.
This one is pretty niche, but it’s deserved. Alan Smith – yes, Leeds and Manchester United’s Alan Smith, was once one of the very best strikers on Pro Evolution Soccer. The English forward had a potential growth peak of 90, and if you put the effort and the hours in, he’d become a star.
A lethal forward, an unfulfilled destiny, an unsung hero. All hail Smithy.
Some players may not be the best on the ball, or even the highest rated overall – but they have one particular trait that makes them so fun. And Juninho Pernambucano – unsurprisingly – could hit one mean free-kick.
He possessed 99 free-kick ability on PES, making it harder to miss than to score on occasion, effortlessly floating them into the top corner without a care in the world.
For a brief year or so, Kaka was the best player in the world. The Brazilian had the world at his feet, and when the ball rolled into his path, the entire planet just watched and admired him in all his glory.
His wonder was replicated on the big stage (PES) in 2009, where he was rewarded with 93 Attack, 95 Sprint Speed and 95 Dribble Speed. Wind him up, let him go and watch him tear down the pitch unrivalled. Glorious.
Cover star of Pro Evolution Soccer 4 Francesco Totti was an elite player. Blessed with 93 attacking, there was little the Italian magician couldn’t do. The second striker was a star for Italy and AS Roma, and he could tuck away a nice free-kick, too.
Now a legend on PES 2020, you can recreate that magic with the King of Rome to this day.
A man who promised so much, but just failed to deliver on a consistent basis. Luckily, video games are incapable of capturing such human flaws in a player’s personality, so Alvaro Recoba quickly became a PES icon.
A supporting striker with vicious shooting from distance, mind-boggling curve, and consistent displays, the Uruguayan was born to be a video game legend.
A flamboyant genius of our sport, Ronaldinho was equally as exciting to use with a controller in your hands. The PES 4 edition saw the Brazilian superstar handed stats above 80 in every department bar his aerial ability, while his technique and dribbling were a whopping 97.
Stick him behind your striker or out on the left-wing, and re-create some of the classic moments he treated us to during his time at Barcelona. A personal hero.
Radolno, or Ronaldo to you and I, was another fantastic player from the ISS Pro Evolution Soccer 2 edition. He was as good as a player could be on such a young and edgy game, slightly faster and stronger than his teammates and opponents, and ruthless with both feet.
A special time for us all.
An all-rounder. Pavel Nedved was a superstar back in the early 2000’s, and having just won the Ballon d’Or, his heroics were reflected aptly by KONAMI. With just one stat dipping below 75, he could do anything, and play anywhere.
Czech mate for every opponent.
Prime Wayne Rooney. Around 19 years of age at the time, the young Englishman had quickly established himself as one of the best strikers in world football. And he had the perfect build and traits to transfer that ability onto our computer screens.
Bullishly strong, fast and with a destructive long-range shot, Rooney was the ideal attacker, and one of the closest we ever got to the heir of the ultimate forward’s throne (to be revealed later).
Peak Cristiano Ronaldo, don’t @ me. The Portuguese star was rising to fame in England with Man Utd, and as a tricky, pacy right-winger, there were few better on the game.
Ronaldo was so agile, nippy and rapid that defenders simply couldn’t keep up, and his finishing was equally as devastating. Keep your eye on this kid, he’s destined for bigger things.
If you’ve not screamed ‘GERRARRRRRRD’ into the night sky when hammering a ball in anger, you haven’t lived. For many, that pleasure came daily on Pro Evolution Soccer 6, when the Liverpool star was at his very best.
With 99 short pass speed (vital stat) and 96 long shots, he was a shoe-in for a last minute rasper to clinch all three points for England or the Merseyside Reds.
Some memories flooding back for this one. You’re almost in your own half, but you win a free kick. What do you do? Float it into the box? Take it short? Nah. Step up, R. Larcos.
Roberto Carlos (we assume it is him) stands 20 yards back from the ball, tip toes towards it, and then thwacks an unstoppable strike into the top corner, just like he did that time against France. Aside from his unique free-kick technique, you could give him the ball at left-back, and he’d charge all the way down the line unchallenged, before whipping an inch-perfect cross into the box.
Complete and elite.
Two-footed, rapid, and a hammer for a shot. Obafemi Martins was a proper baller on Pro Evolution Soccer 5. With 99 top speed and 99 acceleration, there was simply no stopping him when through on goal.
And of course, because it’s Martins, he would then treat us to a comically exaggerated and extravagant (but brilliant) version of his acrobatic backflip celebration. Iconic stuff.
Arsenal and the Premier League’s finest ever player, Thierry Henry was equally as dominant in our virtual world. For a couple of years, he was untouchable. In fact, he was gifted 98 in Attack, 96 Acceleration, 95 Shot Accuracy, and 97 Technique on PES, making him statistically the best striker in the game.
He also did a cool free-kick, where his run up lasted only one or two steps, before bending it into the top corner. Shivers.
Sorry to be that boring ranker, but there can be only one winner in this list of Pro Evo heroes. In fairness, anyone who actually played the game will have put this guy as number one, too.
Adriano was broken. A cheat code. 99 shot power. Put him on that left foot within 40 yards of goal, and he could unleash a thunderbolt straight from the heavens, that would rocket off the crossbar and burst the net. Tall, strong, powerful, rapid and a clinical finisher, the Brazilian striker was the best on the planet – both on and off of PES.