Best playmakers in football history

Thu 12 November 2020 | 6:30

A look at the Best playmakers in football history from French legend, Zidane and Dutch mastermind, Johan Cruyff to the great Brazilians like Ronaldinho and Pele.

In football, playmakers are the ones who control the rhythm of the team's offensive play with their vision, technique, ball control, creativity, and passing ability.

The playmaker's role in football has many variations. The usually play as attacking midfielders and their role is to help the team create goal scoring opportunities. Another variations of the playmaker's role is the deep-lying playmakers who dictate the tempo of the game, usually from a position far from the opposition's goal.

Pele and Maradona are perfect examples of attacking midfielders while the likes of Pep Guardiola and Xabi Alonso excels as deep-lying playmakers.

Until a few years ago the role of the playmaker was of utmost importance in the football field. The best playmakers of the world often wore the popular number ten jersey and were loved around the world because of their ability to change the tide of the game at any instance.

However, with the evolution of football tactics in recent years and the emergence of full-backs and false nines, the role of playmakers has decreased dramatically. Nowadays great football teams often play without the traditional number nines and tens.

Having said all that, playmakers are still among the most popular players in the world. It's their creativity and artistry on the field that make the beautiful game, well, beautiful! They are the ones who most often inspire the next generation. Now let's have a look back at the history of football and see which players can be considered as the Best playmakers in football history.

Introducing the Best playmakers in football history

In the following article we present you with an entertaining list of the Best playmakers in football history which includes Brazilian legends, Ronaldinho and Pele as well as Argentinian magicians, Maradona and



Michel Platini

Let's forget the fact that the French legend had a woeful career as an administrator and remember that MicheI Platini was simply one of the

Best playmakers in Football History

. Platini was football's greatest talent for most of the 80s and helped


and French national team to win many trophies.

an expert in passing and set pieces, Platini was the main force behind France's success in international tournaments and he guided his national team to 1984 European Championship and 1986 World Cup glory. In total he scored 41 goals in 71 appearance for France.

Certainly one of the

Greatest Playmakers in the History of Football

, Platini spent most of his playing career at Juventus, scoring 312 goals in 580 appearances for the Old Lady. He won the Serie A twice and the European winner's cup once with Bianconeri. Platini is one of the few players in the history of the game with three Ballon d'Or wins and more amazing is the fact that he won them consequently from 1983 to 1985.

Johan Cruyff

Johan Cruyff was one of the most influential figures in the history of the game. He revolutionized football both as a player and a manager with his popular and exciting tactical brand, the Total football.

In total football, every player has a bit of the role of the playmaker. Everyone has to participate in offense and defense. Cruyff was the one who came up with the idea of using strikers as the first line of defense and the goalkeeper as the first line of attack. 

The Cruyff's main idea was that the team with the ball always has an advantage over its rivals. And for keeping the ball in the game, the players have to pass the ball a lot. For this reason any team which plays the total football system has to have great playmakers.

The Dutch mastermind was one of the best playmakers in football history. His possession-based tactics influenced modern football more than any other figure and inspired some of the greatest players and coaches who dominated football after him.

One of the Best playmakers in football of all time, Cruyff has a hugely successful career as a player and manager. He is among the few who have won the

Champions League

both as a player and manager. He is also one of the few players with 2 Ballon D'ors. In total Cruyff scored 435 goals in 750 games throughout his career, while his win percentage as a coach was 61%.


Spain's Barcelona's engine during their recent historic spell, Xavi was one of the

Best playmakers in football of all time

. He orchestrated the midfield line perfectly and dictated the tempo of the game at will.

Nicknamed as the metronome, Xavi played his entire career at


, winning absolutely everything with his club and country. He was a perfect example of a playmaker in Cruyff's footballing philosophy. Alongside his team mate, Andres Iniesta, Xavi formed one of the best midfielder dues in the history of football.

Xavi is the only player in our list of the best playmaker in football history who mainly played as a deep-lying playmaker. Such was his importance for Barcelona and Spain national team that after his retirement, neither of them could reach the height they experienced with Xavi on the field.

Xavi scored made many assists during his two-decade years career as one of the

top football playmakers in history

, his main specialty was setting up his team mates for one on one opportunities against the keeper. His 212 Assists is testament to his greatness as a playmaker.

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Andres Iniesta

Andres Iniesta is without a doubt one of the

Best playmakers in Football History

. The creative genius was absolutely amazing as a playmaker for Barcelona and Spain with his dribbling abilities and his breathtaking final passes around the opposition's box.

Despite Performing as an attacking playmaker, Iniesta scored very few goals but he had a habit of scoring the most important ones. Like Spain's world cup winning goal scorer in 2010 and Barcelona's equalizer against


in the Champions League.

Definitely one of the greatest soccer playmakers in history, Andres Iniesta is one of the few players who were applauded by

Real Madrid

diehard fans at the Santiago Bernabeu. He played 16 years of his career in his beloved club, Barcelona. Iniesta is spending his final seasons as a player in Japan's A-League.

Francesco Totti

Francesco Totti was simply one of

best playmakers in soccer history

. He had everything a manager would want from a playmaker, dribbling, shooting and the ability to send the perfect pass in the final third of the field.

 The prince of


was one of the most consistent and faithful players in the history of football. He spent the entire of his two-decade career in AC Roma. Although he never achieved the individual and collective trophies he deserved in his club career, he won the 2006 World Cup with Italy.

Totti scored a total of 307 and has provided 183 assists in 785 games for AC Roma and Italy National Team. In his time he was considered as one of Europe's best playmakers and many big giants of European football tried helplessly to lure him out of Roma.

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Seriously! Who would possibly disagree with the inclusion of Ronaldinho as one of the best playmakers in football history? The Brazilian legend was a complete package of a playmaker and had a habit of doing the impossible with a childlike enthusiasm. 

 The Poet of Football was an excellent playmaker for Barcelona and Brazil. He is among the few players in the history of the game to win all the prestigious awards in football including the Champions League, the World Cup and the Ballon d'OR.

Ronaldinho's signature move was his famous no-look pass. As a playmaker, he inspired many players and fans with his artistry and joyful attitude on the field.

His best club game was perhaps the 2004-5 el Clasico in which he terrorized Ramos and cos. In a 3-0 win for Barcelona in the Santiago Bernabeu.  His performance as a winger-playmaker was so complete that even Real Madrid fans couldn't help but to stand and applaud the Brazilian Magician.

Ronaldinho played 543 games as a playmaker, scoring a total of 197 goals and providing 162 assists along the way.

Zinedine Zidane

As a playmaker, Zidane was always the man with the final solution on the pitch. His playing style was unique and he was a natural-born winner both as a player and as a manager.

Zidane won all the three most important footballing titles in his career: the Champions League, the World Cup and the Ballon d'Or. He is also the only manager in the history of football to win three Uefa Champions League titles in a row, a feat he accomplished from 2016 to 2018 with his beloved Real Madrid.

Zidane's stats as a playmaker were legendary. He scored a total of 125 goals and registered 171 assists to his name in 680 Games throughout his career as a player. As a manager he has registered a win percentage of almost 60. It's fair to say that Zidane was indeed one of top football playmakers in history.


Pele is truly the best in many of the footballing categories, including the list of

best playmakers in football history

. The Brazilian magician achieved everything in football and many of his records, like winning the world cup three times and scoring more than a thousand goals are yet to be beaten.

Pele is most known for scoring more than a thousand goal during his career, but he was also one of the best playmakers in football history as well. No one know exactly how many assists he was amazing both as a playmaker and a striker. His most memorable moment as a playmaker was his assist to Carlos Alberto as the defender scored Brazil's fourth goal against Italy in the 1970 World Cup final.

Diego Maradona

One of the best playmakers in football history, if not the best, Diego Maradona has a god-like status in Argentina ever since he guided his homeland to World Cup glory in 1986 by scoring 5 goals and bossing the field in every game.

Maradona's most memorable game as a playmaker was against Germany in the final of 1986 World Cup. Although did not score himself, it was his heavenly through pass to Borruchaga which lead to Argentine third goal.

Maradona was a perfect number ten. He linked up defense with attack like never seen before. As a playmaker, He single-handedly guided Napoli to the Serie A title and was exceptional for some other big clubs like Barcelona and Boca Juniors as well. Diego Maradona scored 310 goals and provided 187 assists in 590 games during his career.

Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi is a rare case as he has elevated he role of the playmaker in football. Before Messi, playmakers usually had a higher stats in providing assists than scoring goals. However, Messi has scored more than two times than his the average of the best playmakers in football history.

Messi started his prolific career as a right back and later performed as a false nine. He has played in every position playmakers have played throughout the history of the game. Especially In recent years as he has been used more as a playmaker by Barcelona coaches, Ernesto Valverde, Quique Setien and now Ronald Koeman. His passing range is so complete that no one can argue against him being in the list of

greatest soccer playmakers in history


Messi is the only player to have won six Ballon Do'rs and Six Golden Shoes, his 325 assists in 892 games clearly shows what a great playmaker he is.

Honorary Mentions:

Many great players have graced the field with their playmaking skills and it is a hard task to choose 10 of them. The following players are some of the best playmakers in soccer history whom we did not include in our list, but not mentioning them would be a crime against the beautiful game.

Roberto Baggio, Michael Laudrup, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Socrates, Gheorghe Hagi, Carlos Valderrama, Didi, Zico, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Luis Figo and Guti

So here it was! SportMob's list on the Best playmakers in Football History. Which player you like best? Who should have been in the list? And who's the best of them all? Let us know in the comments.

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