Nicknamed "Magic Chris", football journalist Luke Ginnell wrote that Waddle was "widely acknowledged as one of the finest attacking midfielders in Europe". During his professional career, which lasted from 1978 to 1998, he played for several clubs, including Newcastle United, Tottenham Hotspur, Olympique de Marseille and Sheffield Wednesday. In 1989, his transfer from Tottenham to Marseille for £4.5 million made him the third most valuable player in the world, and he won three successive Ligue 1 titles with the club and played in the 1991 European Cup Final. While playing for Wednesday he was voted FWA Footballer of the Year for his performances in the 1992-93 season. Waddle earned 62 caps for England between 1985 and 1991, which included being a member of the teams which reached the quarter-finals of the 1986 FIFA World Cup and the semi-finals of the 1990 World Cup. He also played for England at UEFA Euro 1988.
In his fifties, he continued to play at semi-professional level for Northern Counties East League side Hallam, and is still being contracted to BBC Radio Five Live as part of their Premier League and Champions League team.