In the wake of Manchester City’s first Champions League title, now is a great time to celebrate the best Man City players in the club’s history.The 2022-23 Manchester City squad defeated Inter Milan to claim the Champions League, crowning the career of manager Pep Guardiola and adding the one trophy that had eluded City in the years since the club became an English soccer powerhouse.

Let’s take a look at some of the all-time greatest former Man City players, as well as a couple that still suit up for the club today. Over the past couple of decades, Manchester City’s rise has truly put them on the map, but who were some of the club’s biggest trailblazers of the past? 

Several older Man City players from World War II and the dominant late-1960s eras deserve to be remembered here, so we will take a look back through the archives and give them their due. 

Are there any U.S. players on the Manchester City soccer team?

Goalkeeper Zackary Steffen is the only U.S.-born member of the current Manchester City squad. He signed with the English club in 2019 but has since been out on loan -- first to Fortuna Dusseldorf in Germany and most recently during the 2022-23 season to Middlesbrough in the English Championship.

Steffen has made 29 appearances for the U.S. Men’s National Team. He came up through U.S. Soccer’s youth system -- playing at the Under-18, Under-20, and Under-23 levels before joining the men’s international squad.

Steffen is still a part of the Man City roster, but he has been developing out on loan so far during his time with the club.

Famous Man City Players

In recent years, the Man City squad has grown increasingly popular with an ever-widening fanbase and its great success in domestic soccer. As a result, many Man City players have been soccer icons, including Sergio Aguero, David Silva, and Kevin De Bruyne.

If we look further back into the club’s history, some of the biggest Man City legends include goalkeeper Bert Trautmann, striker Colin Bell, and winger Mike Summerbee -- all of whom are still beloved by Manchester City fans who saw them perform in their prime years.

Ranking the Top 10 Greatest Man City players of all time

  1. Alan Oakes

Position: Midfielder
Years at Manchester City: 1959 to 1976
Awards at Manchester City: First Division Title (1968), Second Division Title (1966), FA Cup Championship (1969), League Cup Championship (1970, 1976), FA Charity Shield (1968, 1972)

Alan Oakes used to clean the boots of one of his favorite City players, goalkeeper Bert Trautmann, when he was just a teenager playing for the club’s amateur team.

He made his debut for the club at age 17 and would quickly become a first-team regular in City’s midfield.

Oakes remained with the club for over 16 years, and by the time he moved on to a player-coach role at Chester, he was Manchester City’s leader in appearances. He played in 680 games in all competitions for the club in that 16-year period, a record that no player has come close to breaking to this day.

Having come up through the club’s youth teams, Oakes became a staple of the midfield who stayed loyal to Manchester City for a majority of his career. He won both the First and Second Division with the club as well as multiple domestic cup trophies. 

  1. Peter Doherty

Position: Winger
Years at Manchester City: 1936 to 1946
Awards at Manchester City: First Division Title (1937)

Peter Doherty was an Irish winger who was one of the most skillful players of his era. He could run with a soccer ball as well as anybody, and he would often run rings around defenders trying to steal the ball away from him.

He joined Man City in 1936, and his arrival was key to the club claiming the 1937 First Division championship. Doherty scored 11 goals in the final seven games of the season to help City claim the title on the final day of the season, marking the first time they had ever won the First Division.

Sadly, Doherty’s prime years were interrupted by World War II, during which time he served in the Royal Air Force. He returned to soccer after the war but was transferred to Derby County in 1946.

  1. Yaya Toure

Position: Box-to-Box Midfielder
Years at Manchester City: 2010 to 2018
Awards at Manchester City: Premier League Title (2012, 2014, 2018), FA Cup Championship (2011), League Cup Championship (2014, 2016, 2018), English Super Cup Championship (2013)

Yaya Toure was playing in midfield at Barcelona under Pep Guardiola, but he wasn’t consistently making the team because he played a similar role to Sergio Busquets who was in the starting lineup ahead of him. 

When Roberto Mancini arrived as the Manchester City manager, Yaya Toure was one of his first signings, and City spent £24 million ($37.2 million) to bring him to England. At the time many believed the signing was a waste and that Yaya didn’t offer much more than players who were already on the roster, but that would quickly change. 

On Mancini’s team, Yaya Toure played less of a defensive role and was more of a box-to-box midfielder, who had the freedom to run with the ball, pick out passes, and take shots from the edge of the box. In his time at Manchester City, Toure scored some miraculous goals and became one of the hardest midfielders in the league to defend against.

Toure was strong, physical, and great on the ball for a player of his stature. Over time he developed into one of the best midfielders in soccer. Yaya played in 316 games for City and contributed 79 goals, helping them win three Premier League titles, including the first under Mancini. He is now considered one of the club’s all-time legends. 

  1. Mike Summerbee

Position: Winger
Years at Manchester City: 1965 to 1975
Awards at Manchester City: First Division Title (1968), Second Division Title (1966), FA Cup Championship (1969), League Cup Championship (1970)

The generation of Manchester City fans who grew up watching Mike Summerbee will probably tell you that he is still their favorite of all the Man City stars who have worn the sky blue.

Summerbee was quite the character, known as “Buzzer,” who always had a joke to play on somebody. He lived a rather elaborate lifestyle with his good friend, George Best, and the two would party together when they weren’t playing soccer.

On the field, Summerbee was electric. He was signed to Joe Mercer’s City squad in 1965 and immediately helped them with the Second Division and return to England's top league. Two seasons later, they won that, too, as well as the FA Cup title in 1969 and the League Cup in 1970.

When Manchester City won the First Division in 1967-68, Summerbee tallied 20 goals from the right wing in the highest-scoring season of his career. A superb talent and beloved by City fans, he remains close to the club today.

Summerbee is one of the most famous Man City players in history, and watching him play was an unforgettable thrill for those lucky enough to have seen him.

  1. Bert Trautmann

Position: Goalkeeper
Years at Manchester City: 1949 to 1964
Awards at Manchester City: FA Cup Championship (1956), FWA Footballer of the Year (1956)

Here’s a unique story: Bert Trautmann was a German-born athlete who served as a paratrooper in the German army during World War II. He was captured by the British near the end of the war and brought to a Prisoner of War camp in the UK.

After his eventual release, he stayed in the country and started to play soccer for a local team called St. Helens Town, which is where he was discovered by Manchester City.

City signed him to a contract, which sparked a mass protest with over 20,000 people congregating to show their displeasure with the team’s decision to sign a former German soldier. Trautmann was booed by fans, who hated him early on, but his exceptional performances as a goalkeeper quickly turned their opinions around. He drew a standing ovation from both Man City players and fans for his performance against Fulham, and from there grew to be a popular player in the eyes of the club faithful.

He was tall and athletic and made some excellent saves. In the 1956 FA Cup Final, Trautmann threw himself at the feet of a Birmingham striker -- suffering an injury in the process. He continued to play and completed the game with multiple saves that helped City win the final. It was later confirmed that he had broken his neck during the collision.

Trautmann was named the FWA Footballer of the Year for the 1956 season, and he’s still considered the greatest Manchester City goalkeeper in club history.

  1. Kevin De Bruyne

Position: Attacking Midfielder
Years at Manchester City: 2015 to Present
Awards at Manchester City: Premier League Title (2018, 2019, 2021, 2022, 2023), Champions League Title (2023), Premier League Player of the Year (2019-20, 2021-22), FA Cup Championship (2019, 2023), League Cup Championship (2016, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021), English Super Cup Championship (2019, 2020)

Kevin De Bruyne has been one of the longest-serving players during the past decade of success that Manchester City has enjoyed. 

He was originally brought to England by Chelsea, who signed him from his boyhood club, Genk, in his home nation of Belgium. However, he became an outsider and was shipped out to Germany on loan.

He was eventually sold to Werder Bremen, where he would win the German Bundesliga Player of the Year award, piquing the interest of Man City. They signed him to a six-year contract in 2015 for a then-club-record fee of £55 million ($84 million).

Since his signing, De Bruyne has been one of the club’s top performers year after year. He has twice been named the Player of the Year in the Premier League. His passing has been a key to Pep Guardiola’s offense for years, and his quick feet and ability to shoot with immense power using either foot has led to a wealth of Man City goals.

As of summer 2023, De Bruyne had scored 96 goals and managed 152 assists in all competitions for Man City. In fact, his career total of 102 assists makes him one of just five players to manage over 100 in the English Premier League, ranking fourth behind Ryan Giggs, Cesc Fabregas, and Wayne Rooney.

  1. Vincent Kompany

Position: Center Back
Years at Manchester City: 2008 to 2019
Awards at Manchester City: Player of the Year (2011-12), Premier League Title (2012, 2014, 2018, 2019), FA Cup Championship (2011, 2019), League Cup Championship (2014, 2016, 2018, 2019), English Super Cup winner (2013, 2019)

Vincent Kompany was among the early additions to the Manchester City roster that would become one of the most competitive teams in soccer. Signed in 2008, when Mark Hughes was manager of the club, Kompany would go on to spend over a decade commanding the back four for the Citizens.

Kompany was a standout club captain who embodied everything it meant to play for Man City, and he proved to be one of the Premier League’s best defenders year after year. He is one of the few Man City international players who embraced the club's culture as if it were his own, giving everything he had to the Citizens during his time with the team. 

In the 2011-12 season, Kompany had the captain's armband. He scored a crucial goal late in that season against Manchester United. That goal would set the stage for the miracle finish on the final day against Queens Park Rangers, and led to City lifting the trophy over rivals United. The Belgian defender was named the Premier League Player of the Year for 2011-12. A key to the club’s success that season, Kompany was the first Man City player to claim a Player of the Year award some 17 years after that honor was established in 1995. 

Kompany continued to be a staple of a defense that won four Premier League titles and a wealth of domestic cups, making him one of the most decorated players in Manchester City history.

  1. Colin Bell

Position: Striker
Years at Manchester City: 1966 to 1979
Awards at Manchester City: First Division Title (1968), Second Division Title (1966), FA Cup Championship (1969), League Cup Championship (1970, 1976)

Before the cash injection of the 2000s, when the Abu Dhabi group took ownership of Manchester City, the club had never had a player greater than Colin Bell. One of the best Man City players of all time, his career with the team was phenomenal.

Bell led the line as the club’s most clinical striker in the 1960s and 1970s, helping them to win the Second Division in his first season with the team. Two years later, he scored 14 league goals to help them win the First Division title, which included a special goal scored during the famous “Ballet on Ice” game against Tottenham.

During his club career, Bell scored 117 league goals for Manchester City in 394 appearances. He regularly teamed up with Mike Summerbee to form one of the game’s most exciting attacks, which often overwhelmed defenses.

Bell is at the very top of any list of Man City legends, and he has a stand named after him at the Etihad Stadium.

  1. David Silva

Position: Attacking Midfielder
Years at Manchester City: 2010 to 2020
Awards at Manchester City: Premier League Titles (2012, 2014, 2018, 2019), FA Cup Championship (2011, 2019), League Cup Championship (2014, 2016, 2018, 2019, 2020), English Super Cup Championship (2013, 2019, 2020)

David Silva started to attract international attention while playing for Valencia in his home nation of Spain, and he won the World Cup as a member of the Spanish national team in 2010.

That same year he arrived at City under Roberto Mancini, who worked him into the lineup as an attacking midfielder. Silva was a wizard with the ball, as he could beat defenders with precise control and quick feet as well as being able to make some of the cleanest-looking passes in the game.

City had originally tried to sign Silva in 2008 along with Spanish teammate David Villa, but the price was set too high at the time. They finally got their man in 2010, and not a moment of his Manchester City career disappointed. He was consistently one of the most influential players on Manchester City’s squad, always ready to provide a moment of magic when the team needed it most.

When David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne were on the field together, one of them typically found a way to break down even the best defenses in the game. Pep Guardiola has a glowing opinion of David Silva, who spent a decade performing at the highest level while playing for City.

  1. Sergio Aguero 

Position: Striker
Years at Manchester City: 2011 to 2021
Awards at Manchester City: Premier League Goals Leader (2014-15), Premier League Title (2012, 2014, 2018, 2019, 2021), FA Cup Championship (2019), League Cup Championship (2014, 2016, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021), English Super Cup Championship (2013, 2019, 2020)

Sergio “Kun” Aguero arrived in Manchester as a young forward in 2011, unable to speak a word of English but with the best years of his career in front of him. He would go on to spend those prime years in Manchester, scoring countless goals for City as the club's front man. 

City had built an ever-strengthening team, and Aguero was the man up front who fed off fabulous through-passes from the likes of David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne. When Aguero got through to the goal he rarely missed, and never was that more important than in the dying moments of the 2012 season.

City had fought back to tie its season-ending game with Queens Park Rangers at 2-2 and needed a win to steal the Premier League title from Manchester United. Aguero found himself on the end of a Mario Balotelli pass in the box and, in perhaps the most crucial moment in Manchester City history, he proved to be the calmest man in the stadium -- taking a touch beyond one defender before putting one past the goalkeeper. He then ripped off his shirt in the famous “Agueroooooo” moment that is enough to give any soccer fan chills.

That moment alone would be enough reason to crown him the greatest Man City player of all time, but his goal scoring prowess and dedication to the team meant everything to City fans over the years.

Aguero went on to have over a decade of success at the top of the English game, earning the Premier League top-scorer award in the 2014-15 season and winning five Premier League titles along with 10 other domestic cup trophies. 

The Argentinian forward ranks fifth all-time in Premier League history with 184 career goals scored, and he is No. 1 on the Manchester City career list with 260 goals in all competitions, 83 ahead of second-place Eric Brook. His Man City player stats are off the charts, and the club might never have a better goal-scorer than Kun Aguero. 

Related: Top 10 Greatest Man City Managers of all 

Parameters for Ranking

This ranking of legendary Manchester City players was based on each player’s notable achievements with the club, the awards he won, the records he holds, and the significant impact he had on the team.

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