Best Italian Soccer Players of All Time
Italian football has been one of the most successful in the sport’s history both on the International level, where Italy has won 4 World Cups and a Euro in 1968, and the club level, where clubs like Inter Milan, AC Milan and Juventus have won numerous Champions League and Europa League titles. add to these the competitive nature of Serie A, which has always been one of the greatest football leagues in the world, and you’ll end up with a long list of great footballers whom have helped these Italian teams achieve success.
So we thought it would be a great idea to see the impact that some of these players had on their respective teams an Italy’s national team as well, to see who are the best Italian soccer players of all time. There could have been at least 30 players who deserved to be on this list but we have tried to narrow it down to 10, so let’s find out who these players are:
Best Italian Football Players of All Time
As always with these kind of lists, since the best Italian football players of all time have achieved success in different eras, we have tried to list them in no particular order. So let’s find out who found their way onto our list:
Sandro Mazzola, who is one of the greatest Italian footballers of all time and an Inter Milan legend, is a part of those illusive one-club players since he spent his entire career at Inter Milan. Mazzola was an Inter player in an era of the club between 1960 and 1967 which is known as the Grande Inter, where under the management of Helenio Herrera, Inter Milan dominated Serie A and rose to European prominence.
A very versatile player, who was capable of playing in different attacking roles, Mazzola broke out into the first team in the 1962-63 season and soon he won his first Scudetto that same year, a feat Internazionale would repeat 3 times between 1962 and 1966. Perhaps the thing that Mazzola is known for the most is the 2 goals that he scored in the final of 1963-64 European Cup (now known as Champions League) which won them the match 3-1 against Real Madrid. He would also help Inter win it a 2nd time the following season.
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Sandro Mazzola represented Inter in 565 matches and scored 158 times for them, helping them win 4 Serie A titles and 2 European Cups. He represented Italy’s national team 70 times and won the 1968 Euros with them as well as helping them reach the 1970 World Cup final, although they were beaten by Brazil. On individual level he has won Serie A top goal scorer in 1964-65 and came in 2nd for the Ballon d’Or in 1971. All of which cements his place as one of the best Italian soccer players of all time.
One of the greatest goalkeepers of all time, if not the greatest, Buffon is pushing 42 and is still playing today, almost as good as any goalkeeper half his age. This has allowed him to break records like the most appearances by a player in Serie A with 649 appearances and the most amount of clean sheets by a goalkeeper with a staggering 296 number of clean sheets and a 45.6% clean sheet ratio.
Buffon, who started his career at youth levels of Parma, won the Coppa Italia and UEFA Cup with Parma’s first team, before joining Juventus in 2001 for €52 million, which was a record transfer fee for a goalkeeper. He has since played for Juve for 17 consecutive seasons before joining PSG in 2018-19 season for a single year after which he rejoined Juventus again. He has won 10 Serie A titles, 4 Coppa Italia titles with the Bianconeri and appeared in 3 Champions League finals, all of which he has lost.
Known for his agility and good aerial abilities, Buffon excels in organizing the back-lines and is capabale of great saves, even now. he was also a constant in Italy’s national team throughout his career and helped them win the 2006 World Cup by keeping 5 clean sheets in the tournament. Buffon will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the best players of all time, as well as one of best Italian soccer players of all time. and who knows, even now that he is42 years of age, he can still add to his silverwares and improve all his records!
One of the best Italian football players of all time and Inter Milan highest goal scorer ever, Giuseppe Meazza is the man that Inter and AC Milan’s home ground is named after, since he played for both Inter Milan and AC Milan during his career. capable on the ball with great technique, Meazza was known for his elegance with the ball which allowed him to dribble past many opponents.
He also had a great eye for goal and he showed it by becoming the youngest player to reach 100 Serie A goals, being 23 at the time, an impressive record that he still holds today. He ended up scoring 216 goals in 367 Serie A matches for Inter and becoming their all-time highest goal scorer.
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Meazza won 3 Serie A titles and a Coppa Italia with Inter Milan as well as winning the award for best Serie A goal scorer, 3 times. He also excelled in Italy’s colors as he became one of the best World Cup players of all time by winning two World Cup trophies with Italy in 1934 and 1938. he is also Italy’s second highest goal scorer, behind Luigi Riva, with 33 goals in 53 games.
Meazza career was severely hindered because of the blood clot he suffered at age 29, but even now there are few players who could rival his achievements which just shows why he is considered to be one of the best Italian soccer players of all time, if not the best!
Giacinto Facchetti’s athleticism, pace, stamina and physicality along with his great technical ability as a left back has made him one of the best Italian players in football history. Facchetti is another player who played for Inter all his career and in his time there was rarely a player who could rival him in his position.
As a left back, Facchetti was capable of great shots with both his feet and tended to cut inside the box to take a direct shot at the goal, a rare talent for a fullback at the time. he spent 18 seasons at Inter before he retired in 1978. Like Mazzola, he was also part of the famous Grande Inter era and managed to help Inter win 4 Serie A titles and a Coppa Italia, but their crowning achievements were the back-to-back European Cups they won in 1964 and 1965.
Facchetti represented Italy in 95 games, 70 of which he captained them, and helped them win the 1968 Euro before also helping them reach the 1970 World Cup final, which they eventually lost to Pele’s Brazil. Because of all his achievements with both Inter Milan and the Italy’s national team and the part he played in leading those teams to glory, not to mention him being one of the best left backs ever, Facchetti is rightfully considered to be best Italian soccer players of all time and therefore deserves a spot on our list.
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The King of Rome, who was one of the finest strikers of the modern game, in his 25-year career at AS Roma has become one of the best Italian soccer players ever. Totti, who made his first appearance for Roma in 1992 as a 16-year-old, won 2 Coppa Italia, 2 Supercoppa Italiana and a solitary Serie A title in 2000-01 season with AS Roma.
One of the most technically gifted players of all-time, Il Capitano was, capable of dribbling past even the best defenders. He was capable of both being a playmaker and a striker, and he excelled at both, which consequently allowed him to play as a “false-9” striker, a role which allows the player to both create and score goals by moving between the opposition’s lines of defense and midfield, which Lionel Messi later perfected at Barcelona.
A symbol of loyalty and dedication in football, Francesco Totti, who spent his whole career at Roma, is one of the most decorated Italian players on individual level, scored 250 goals in 618 Serie A appearances and became the 2nd Serie A top scorer of all time. He also became the World Cup champion in 2006 with Italy and helped redefine the role of a striker in the modern game. with several Serie A Player of the Year or Goal of the Season awards as well as 1 European Golden Shoe award in 2007, Totti has well earned his place among the best Italian soccer players of all time.
Alessandro Del Piero
We previously wrote about Del Piero’s career at Juventus when we named him the best Juventus player of all time. Del Piero spent almost two decades at Juve and helped them achieve unsurmountable success, like winning the Champions League and several Scudetti. He even stayed with Juventus in the aftermath of Calciopoli scandal, where the club was relegated to the Serie B, and helped them come back up and eventually win the Serie A again.
Much like Totti, Del Piero always played a role in between an out-and-out striker and a playmaker, a kind of supportive striker which had to play alongside a more natural finisher. Del Perio was technically gifted and excelled at scoring goals from free-kicks or penalties which he did 106 times during his career.
Del Piero has has won 6 Serie A titles, 1 Coppa Italia and a Champions League title with Juventus and won the World Cup with Italy in 2006. He is also Juventus’ highest goal scorer with 290 goals in 705 appearances, 188 of which were in 502 Serie A appearances, which makes him the joint 8th highest goal scorer in Serie A history. All of which make him one of the greatest Italian soccer players of all time.
Pinturicchio, who played alongside players like Baggio and Vialli, and led Juventus to a new era of success in the mid-90s, carried that winning mentality with him throughout the years and led Juventus to success in the two decades that followed after. For his impact on the Italy’s most successful team as well as Italy’s national team, Del Piero is undoubtedly one the best Italian soccer players of all time.
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We previously named the legendary Paolo Maldini as the best left back ever here, and now he deservedly found a place amongst the best Italian football players of all time. though a left back by trade, Maldini who was a complete defender, who possessed every ability that a defender should have. He spent his entire 25-year career at AC Milan and was part of several successful eras of Milan. He also helping Italy reach 3 important tournament finals by having a really long career at international level.
Maldini, who made his debut for AC Milan in 1984 when he was only 16, achieved great success under Arrigo Sacchi and later Fabbio Cappelo’s management, in teams that were known as the Immortals and the Invincibles. There he won 7 Serie A titles, as well as 5 Champions League titles and a Coppa Italia. He also holds the record for most Champions League final appearances with 8.
Although he was naturally right-footed, Maldini played as a left-back and later in his career in center-back and is considered to be one of the best of all time in both positions. players like Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Baggio have all described him as the best defender they ever faced. This was due to the fact that he was both physically big and strong as well as being agile and technically gifted but also because of his precise tackles. He was also an excellent passer and crosser of the ball.
Maldini’s gentleman-like behavior both on the pitch and off it has made him the subject of adoration by many, even AC Milan’s rival fans. His leadership and technical prowess as a left back and his unbelievable longevity at the top of the game makes him one of the best Italian soccer players of all time and a true legend of the game of football.
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Roberto Baggio, was also known The Divine Ponytail, played for many big teams like AC Milan, Juventus and Inter Milan and became one of the best Italian players in football history as well as one of Serie A best strikers ever, which we highlighted before. Baggio won both the Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year in 1993 and was widely considered to be one of the best players of his generation.
Baggio started his career in Serie A at Fiorentina, after joining them from the Serie C1 side Vicenza. he stayed with Fiorentina for five seasons before Joining Juventus in 1990 where he, alongside Vialli and later Del Piero, helped Juve win Serie A, Coppa Italia and UEFA Cup. He then joined AC Milan where he won another Serie A title in 1995-96 season. After spells at Bologna and Inter Milan he eventually joined Brescia in 2000 at the age of 33 and stayed with them until he retired in 2004.
Baggio was more a playmaker rather than a striker and he could dribble past multiple defenders and end up scoring by walking the ball into goal. He was a great crosser and a free-kick taker and could score from long range shots and volleys. He showcased all these abilities the best in the 1990 and 1994 World Cups where Italy became 3rd and 2nd respectively, with the 1994 World Cup in particular being called by some Baggio’s World Cup which ended up in heartbreak as Baggio himself missed his penalty in the final as Italy lost to Brazil in the penalty kicks.
Baggio scored 318 goals in 698 appearances for club and country, and was one of the reasons Italy once again came to the forefront of European football in the 90s. he is undoubtedly one of the greatest Italian soccer players of all time.
The 2006 Ballon d’Or winner and the only defender ever to be named FIFA Player of the Year, is the former Italy’s captain, Fabio Cannavaro. He is considered to be one of the greatest defenders of all time as well as being one of the greatest Italian soccer players ever. Throughout his career Cannavaro has represented numerous prestigious clubs like Inter Milan, Juventus and Real Madrid. Although he started his journey as a footballer in Napoli and then gained fame at Parma.
Known for his ability to read the game and intercept attacks, Cannavaro was not very tall, considering that most center backs are usually taller than other outfield players, but his height did not hinder his defensive abilities as his great jumps aided him in aerial duels. On the ground however, he was one of the most gifted players in his position as he had great technique and passing ability.
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Although he did win several silverwares with Juventus, all were revoked because of the Calciopoli scandal, so most of his honors came with Parma and Real Madrid. He won 2 Coppa Italia with Parma and 1 UEFA Cup as well as winning 2 La Liga titles with Real Madrid. With 132 games, Cannavaro is also one of the most capped Italian players and led Italy as a captain to World Cup glory, which earned him a Ballon d’Or award. As such he is considered to be one of the best Italian soccer players of all time.
Another one-club player and an AC Milan legend, Franco Baresi is the name that first comes to mind when one considers greatest Italian footballers of all time. much like Maldini, Baresi was part of the great success Milan and Italy’s national team achieved during the 70s, 80s and the early 90s. Baresi mainly operated as either a central defender or sweeper and represented AC Milan for 20 years, 15 of which he was captain.
Alongside Maldini, Costacurta and Tassotti, Baresi formed a defensive line in Milan that seemed almost impenetrable. He was very much a ball playing center back, capable of great passes and possessing considerable technique. His leadership skills in defense both for Italy and AC Milan was the reason that both teams achieved so much success during his playing time.
Baresi helped AC Milan win 6 Serie A titles, 3 Champions League titles and even 2 Serie B titles and represented the club in 719 matches, scoring 33 goals. he also helped Italy’s national team win the 1982 World Cup as well as a 2nd and a 3rd place finish in the 1994 and 1990 World Cups respectively. He was the runner-up to the 1989 Ballon d’Or award and was also named the greatest Italian player of the 20th century. So it’s only fitting that we end our list of the best Italian soccer players of all time with him.