The 10 best midfielders in history, ranked

“Dominating the midfield is the most important thing in modern football,” says German Toni Kroos, but it is not a new phenomenon, great teams in history have been propelled by their midfield . The West Germans of the 90s, the Spanish trio of Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets, the Brazilian quartet winning the 1970 World Cup or the French “Magic Square” of the 80s all had talent to burn.

Here we pick our 10 best midfielders of all time. We used a number of achievements to quantify our ranking, as well as a player’s overall contribution to the game in history. So who is in our top 10?

All statistics are taken from www.transfermarkt.co.uk and are correct as of the date posted.

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10) Luis Figo

Clubs: Sporting Lisbon, Barcelona, ​​Real Madrid, Inter Milan

  • 8 national titles
  • 1 Champions League title (European Cup)
  • 0 European Championship
  • 0 World Cup

Portuguese playmaker Luis Figo (second in assists in La Liga history behind Lionel Messi) was a winner everywhere he went. After leaving Sporting for Barcelona, ​​he helped Barca win back-to-back Spanish titles. Controversy then followed when that year’s Ballon D’Or winner moved to Real Madrid, but he played in a squad made up of new signing Claude Makélélé as well as Steve McManaman, Roberto Carlos, Raul and Fernando Morientes who won Real Madrid’s first title in four years. His stint at Inter saw four more league titles enter his trophy cabinet.

9) Andrea Pirlo

Clubs: Brescia, Inter Milan, AC Milan, Juventus, New York City FC

  • 6 national titles
  • 2 Champions League titles (European Cup)
  • 0 European Championships
  • 1 World Cup

You could forgive Roy Hodgson (not to mention Joe Hart) for having nightmares every time Andrea Pirlo’s name comes up in the conversation. The former England boss has seen his side ripped apart by the deep playmaker in back-to-back Euro 2012 and Brazil 2014 tournaments. Ridiculously gifted passer, Pirlo has led the Italian midfielder for 13 years and has won Serie A with AC Milan before adding four consecutive titles with Juventus.

8) Didi

Clubs: Americano, Madureira, Fluminense, Botafogo, Real Madrid, Sporting Cristal, CD Veracruz, Sao Paulo

  • 0 national titles
  • 1 Champions League title (European Cup)
  • 2 world cups

A player at the 1958 World Cup tournament, Didi nearly had his right leg amputated at the age of 14 when he contracted a serious infection from an injury. But the Brazilian has won two World Cups in gold and green, scoring 20 goals in 68 appearances for his country, 12 of them thanks to his trademark free kicks.

7) Lothar Matthaus

Clubs: 1.FC Herzogenaurach, Borussia Münchengladbach, Bayern Munich, Inter Milan, MetroStars

  • 8 national titles
  • 0 Champions League titles (European Cup)
  • 1 European Championship
  • 1 World Cup

Most capped German player of all time, Lothar Matthaus also holds the record for most World Cup matches played by a single player, with 25. Only Rafael Marquez can equal the German’s record by playing five Cups. of the world. The midfielder led Die Mannschaft to glory at England’s expense at Italia ’90 and won the Ballon d’Or that season.

6) Xavier

Clubs: Barcelona, ​​Al-Sadd SC

  • 9 national titles
  • 4 Champions League titles (European Cup)
  • 2 European championships
  • 1 World Cup

Arguably part of the biggest international club and midfielder in football history along with Andrés Iniesta (see below) and Sergio Busquets, Spaniard Xavi has pulled the strings throughout the era of tiki- taka who won two euros and a World Cup victory. Winner of 25 major trophies at Barcelona, ​​the midfielder returned as manager of the Catalan squad in November 2021 just six years after leaving the club as a player.

5) Ronaldinho

Clubs: Gremio, Paris St Germain, Barcelona, ​​AC Milan, Flamengo, Atletico-MG, Queretaro FC, Fluminense

  • 3 national titles
  • 1 Champions League title (European Cup)
  • 1 Copa America
  • 1 World Cup

Frank Lampard knows a thing or two about the midfielder and he said this about Ronaldinho: “I’ve never seen a player like that. It was my first shots in the Champions League and seeing him play was like, ‘Wow, this player is from a different planet than ours.’ One of the funniest players to watch in history, in large part because he looked like he was having fun, the Brazilian made blind passes and won the Ballon d’Or in 2005.

4) Zinedine Zidane

Clubs: Cannes, Girondins Bordeaux, Juventus, Real Madrid

  • 3 national titles
  • 1 Champions League title (European Cup)
  • 1 European Championships
  • 1 World Cup

Vision, accuracy and Gallic elegance, the Frenchman Zinedine Zidane had it all (he also maneuvered his head). “He was as elegant as a dancer – he even used the soles of his boots effectively,” legendary Italian center-back Franco Baresi of the 1998 Ballon d’Or winner said. “Everything was easy for him; he was making such movements that if I tried to copy them I would break my legs.

3) Andrés Iniesta

Clubs: Barcelona, ​​Vissel Kobe

  • 9 national titles
  • 4 Champions League titles (European Cup)
  • 2 European championships
  • 1 World Cup

“The press often ask me if Messi or Ronaldo is the best, but for me something is very clear: Andrés Iniesta is number one,” said David Silva. “He’s able to do even more difficult things on the pitch. He’s magical with the ball and so influential. Still plying his trade in Japan at the age of 37, Iniesta was the maestro behind Barcelona’s historic triplets in 2009 and 2015 and Spain’s international dominance from 2008 to 2012, often giving the impression he was playing in slow motion.

2) Michel Platini

Clubs: AS Nancy, Saint-Etienne, Juventus

  • 3 national titles
  • 1 Champions League title (European Cup)
  • 1 European Championship
  • 0 World Cups

Only Lionel Messi (seven) and Cristiano Ronaldo (five) have more Ballon d’Or trophies than the three of Frenchman Michel Platini (tied with Johan Cruyff and Marco van Basten). It was Ronaldo who, at Euro 21, broke Platini’s record of nine goals in Euros. It took the Portuguese star 25 games to score 14 times, Platini came all in the 1984 tournament (five games). According to Pelé, “the way he shone with France and Juventus, and his ability to take free kicks, made it the European footballer of the 80s.

1) Diego Maradona

Clubs: Argentinos Jrs, Barcelona, ​​Naples, Seville, Newell’s, Boca Juniors

  • 3 national titles
  • 5 Champions League titles (European Cup)
  • 0 European Championships
  • 1 World Cup

Although Peter Shilton still disagrees, Diego Maradona is the most gifted midfielder in football history. “The best of the bunch, without a doubt,” said Brazilian great Zico. “In my generation, my time, he was just the best. I saw Maradona do things that God himself doubted were possible. He always had someone tagging him, he always had someone clinging to him, and yet he could still conjure up wonderful bits of magic. A genius.”


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