"10" is one of the most symbolic squad numbers in football, due to the number of football legends that used the number 10 shirt.
Some numbers are just lucky, but 10 isn’t among them. Or maybe it is. Who are the most famous number 10 football players of all time?
Some soccer player numbers have become prominent than others, famous either for the players who have worn it on their backs or because of its connotation with a significant match or event. Number 10 is one of those numbers.
Part of the reasoning for the popularity of the no. 10 goes back to Diego Maradona and Pelé, two of the greatest players that ever lived. They both wore no. 10, so it would be a natural allowance for many of today's best players to choose that number.
In the havoc of the green, there is always the man in number 10 who looks at the game with a desire for tact. This position has been unfazed over the years and for those to come. The architect of the attack loiters behind the number 10 and sets up plays and chances.
Fasten your seatbelts to enjoy an exciting ride over here.
Some of the best players of all time have worn the number 10 jersey, including the man widely regarded as the greatest of them all, Pelé. Yet, he was first given the shirt number by accident. Called up for the 1958 World Cup as a 17-year old, the Brazil Soccer Federation did not submit squad numbers to the tournament organizer.
Instead, they were assigned randomly, and Pelé happened to be given number ten. He finished the tournament with six goals, becoming a global star in the process, and never wore another shirt number again. Pele is among the first and most famous number 10 football players in history.
Zinedine Zidane is regarded as one of the all-time greats, with an air of elegance and style on the field, as well as the capability to harvest world-class goals, such as the winner he scored for Real Madrid in the 2002 Champions League final.
His two goals helped France win the 1998 World Cup final on home soil against Brazil, while he is arguably best-known for his last appearance in a French shirt – sent off in 2006 final for head-butting Marco Materazzi. Zidane is probably one of the most famous number 10 football players in history.
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Ronaldinho was FIFA Player of the Year in 2004 and 2005, and won the World Cup with Brazil in 2002, while it is his spell with Barcelona for which he is best remembered, with his smooth skills, on-field tricks, and elegant playmaking, together with some remarkable goals. He surely is one of the most famous number 10 football players in history.
Often referred to as Er Bimbo de Oro (The Golden Boy), L'Ottavo Re di Roma (The Eighth King of Rome), Er Pupone (The Big Baby), Il Capitano (The Captain), and Il Gladiatore (The Gladiator) by the Italian sports media, Totti is considered to be one of the greatest Italian players of all time, one of the best players of his generation, and Roma's greatest ever player and one of the most famous number 10 football players in history. Totti is also viewed by some as Italy's greatest player ever.
While Totti was a productive goalscorer, he was also well-known for his ball control, vision, creativity, and range of passing, as well as his ability to set the pace in midfield and deliver through-balls and assists for his teammates, often through his characteristic use of the no-look pass or backheel, in particular when holding up the ball or playing with his back to goal. During his career, Totti drew particular praise from experts for his excellent vision, technique, and precise long passing ability, which allowed him to play the ball first-time.
Due to his movement and range of skills, his role has at times been labeled as that of a meticulous, unselfish, and dynamic center-forward, known as a centravanti di manovra in Italian (roughly translated as "maneuvering center-forward")
A classic number 10 and surely, one of the most famous number 10 football players in history, Zico usually played as an attacking midfielder, although he was also able at playing in several other attacking and midfield positions, and was also arrayed as a central midfielder, as a second striker or inside forward, or even as an outright forward; he is observed as one of the greatest footballers of all time.
A diminutive playmaker, with a small, lean physique, although he was naturally right-footed, he was essentially a two-footed player, who was known for his aptitude, speed, extraordinary technique, ball control, and dribbling skills, as well as his use of tricks and ploys to beat opponents with the ball.
He was also a set-piece specialist, who was renowned for his ability to bend the ball and scoring from dead-ball states and is considered to be one of the greatest free-kick takers of all time.
In addition to his footballing skills, Zico was also known for his headship, mental strength, and willpower, as well as his stamina, dedication, and for having an outstanding work-ethic; indeed, he was often known for staying overdue in training to practice and polish his free kicks.
Despite his ability, his career was overwhelmed by injuries.
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Apart from the right foot, Rivaldo had everything. His wiry strength allowed him to bounce off defenders, he was an outstanding dribbler, and he had a left foot that was both educated and thuggish, subtle and a sledgehammer. Brazil's bandy-legged genius was the most unstoppable footballer since Maradona.
— Rob Smyth writing for The Guardian on Rivaldo in 2008.
Regarded as one of the best players of his generation and one of the most famous number 10 football players in history, and one of the greatest Brazilian footballers of all time, Rivaldo was a critical, adroit, and creative player, known for his dribbling ability, use of maneuvers, balance, and close ball control. Despite his height, he was also extremely agile. A dead-ball specialist, Rivaldo was famous for his bending free kicks, and penalty taking, as well as his ability to score from distance with powerful strikes. Left-footed and enjoying excellent technique, he was also known for his ball striking from volleys, and for having a desire for scoring from bicycle kicks.
Former Dutch international Ruud Gullit thought that Rivaldo's ability and qualities were often unnoticed, as "he played in the same era as Brazilian counterparts Ronaldo and Ronaldinho."
So synonymous was Diego Maradona with the shirt number ten in Italy that they retired it when he left the club. The little Argentine helped the Italian side win Serie A for the first time in their history (twice), and was renowned for his close control, dribbling ability, vision, and technique. Stared, along with Pelé, as one of the greatest players of all time, he scored some great goals, not the least of which was his second in the World Cup quarter-final against England in 1986, the year that Argentina would go on to seal the trophy.
His first in the same game exemplified the other side of his character. Tipping the ball over the goalkeeper with his hand, he would notoriously later refer to it as the “Hand of God.” Diego Armando Maradona is among the most famous number 10 football players in history.
Next on our list of the greatest number 10s in soccer history is Leo Messi. Lionel Messi is the modern equal of Maradona, an Argentine small in stature, but immense in talent. Voted the Best FIFA Men’s Player for 2019, he has won 5 Ballon d’Ors, 6 European Golden Shoes (awarded for the top scorer in European football), and has been recognized as the best player in La Liga eight times. A one-club man, he has scored 602 times in 692 appearances for Barcelona, in 2012, he achieved the remarkable feat of scoring 91 goals in a single calendar year. With Messi on their side, Barcelona has enjoyed a degree of success unmatched in their history, winning ten league titles, 6 Copa del Reys, 4 Champions Leagues, and the World Club Championship on three occasions.
An early advocate was his then-manager Pep Guardiola, who, as early as August 2009, declared Messi to be the best player he had ever seen. In the following years, this opinion expanded greater acceptance among experts, managers, former and current players, and by the end of Barça's second treble-winning season, Messi's dominance, ahead of Maradona and Pelé, had become the seeming view among many fans and analysts in continental Europe.
In Argentine society, Messi is generally held in lesser regard than Maradona, a consequence of not only his supposed patchy performances with the national team, but also of differences in class, personality, and background. Messi is in some ways the contrast of his predecessor: where Maradona was an extroverted, controversial character who rose to fame from the slums, Messi is reserved and unassuming, an unremarkable man outside of football. Messi is considered as one of Football's Greatest Ever Number 10s.
Among one of the best number 10s in football history in Sweden, Ibrahimović has been defined by ESPN as being "good in the air, quick, tall, strong and agile, he plays well with his back to goal and brags some of the best finishing, vision, passing and ball control around”.
While naturally right-footed, Ibrahimović is a commanding and accurate striker of the ball from both inside or outside the penalty area with either foot and is also known for his exactness from penalties and dead-ball situations.
A precise finisher with his head as well as with his feet, his stature, elevation, and strength often give him an advantage at winning aerial challenges, and also allow him to function as a "target man".
Considered to be a highly talented player in his youth, due to his inexhaustible goalscoring, steadiness, and remarkable strikes, Ibrahimović came to be regarded by many in the sport to be one of the best players in the world during his prime, and as one of the greatest and most complete strikers of his generation; he has also drawn admiration from managers and teammates for his management and longevity, as well as his fitness, professionalism, and dedication in training.
Despite his size and physique, Ibrahimović owns excellent technique and ball control, which, joined with his steadiness, power, and physicality, enables him to hold up the ball well with his back to goal, hold possession, and link up with other players.
Time to talk about the next player on our list of the greatest No.10s in football history.
Among one of the greatest No.10s in football history is Lothar Matthäus, a figure whose relevance to 20th-century sport becomes much clearer when viewed temporally. His career began at a time when Bobby Moore, George Best, and Johan Cruyff were still playing, and ended almost a quarter of a century later with Luís Figo, Thierry Henry, and Zinedine Zidane the big names alongside him.
One of the most famous number 10 football players in history, such remarkable durability is the smallest part of Matthäus’ story. This neglects so many other aspects; the attitude, the goals, the leadership, the titles, and the reinvention of positions. When comparing careers of footballers, few can compete with the German.
Matthäus embodied the complete midfielder. A terrifying combination of two-footedness, power, speed, technical ability, and set-piece expertise, he could play as the number 10 he wore throughout the majority of his career, but also sit deeper as a plotter capable of making late runs into the box. In simple terms, he was unplayable.
In a transfer synonymous with the high times of Serie A, Matthäus announced, before captaining his country at Euro 1988, that he would be joined Internazionale. Giovanni Trapattoni had been entrusted with bringing the Nerazzurri the first trophy in seven seasons, and he knew just the man he wanted to lead his revival.
One of the most famous number 10 football players in history, Baggio was a tactically versatile player, with a good understanding of the game, and was comfortable attacking on either flank or through the center of the pitch; this allowed him to operate anywhere along the front-line.
His preferred position was in a free playmaking role behind the forwards, as a creative attacking midfielder, although he was rarely deployed in this position throughout his career due to the prevalence of the 4–4–2 formation, in which he usually functioned either as a main striker or – more frequently – in a supporting role as a deep-lying forward. It was only in later years that he was able to play in this free role more frequently. He was also occasionally deployed out of position as a left-winger in an attacking trident, as a wide midfielder, or even in central midfield as a deep-lying playmaker on rarer instances.
Although naturally right-footed, Baggio was comfortable using either foot and often began dribbling with his left foot. Not particularly imposing physically, or in the air, due to his diminutive stature and slender physique, he was known however for his pace and acceleration over short distances, which, along with his movement, anticipation, technical ability, quick feet, low center of gravity and resulting agility, allowed him to lose his markers when making offensive runs into the area, both on and off the ball.
Regarded as one of the greatest dribblers ever, and as one of the most technically accomplished players of all-time, Baggio possessed an excellent first touch and was renowned for his skillful dribbling, ball control, and balance, as well as his spatial awareness, speed of thought and execution, reactions, close control at pace, and ability to beat opponents with flair, body feints or sudden changes of pace or direction.
He for sure is, one of the most famous number 10 football players of all time.
One of the most famous number 10 soccer players ever, Del Piero is widely regarded by players, pundits, and managers as one of the greatest players of his generation and as one of the best Italian players of all time, An intelligent talent, in his youth, Del Piero played in the "trident-attack" of Lippi's 4–3–3 formation, along with veterans Vialli, Baggio, and Ravanelli, as a striker, or more frequently as an outside forward on the left-wing.
Due to his creative style of play, eye for goal, flair, and technical skill, Del Piero was known as a "fantasista" in Italy. His hard-working playing style was regarded by critics as creative in attacking, assisting many goals as well as scoring himself, as opposed to just "goal poaching".
Because of his technical features, link-up play, and ability at one-twos, Del Piero usually played as a supporting-striker, which was his preferred role, although he was a tactically versatile forward, with good movement and clinical finishing, who was capable of playing anywhere along the front line, and who also established himself as a inexhaustible goalscorer throughout his career.
He was also occasionally arrayed between the midfield and the strikers as a playmaking attacking midfielder, known in Italy as the trequartista position, due to his vision, passing range, ball control, dribbling ability (in particular in one on one situations) and creativity, although he often stated that this was not his preferred position.
Surely, one of the most famous number 10 football players in history.
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