Best Number 8 Football Players of All Time

Sun 17 April 2022 | 7:30

These players didn’t choose to wear flashy numbers like 7 or 10 but let’s take a look at some of the best number 8 football players of all time:

The number 8 in football has never had that romantic or sentimental value that numbers like 7,9 or 10 have but it is nonetheless an important number in football, as well as being a pretty important role in the old-school numbering systems in football since it is usually given to a box to box midfielder who is often the heart of a team’s attack or defense and rallies the team forward.

While our list of

best number 8 football players of all time

certainly has some of those midfielders that we mentioned, since footballers have been free to choose whatever number they want in the past 3 or so decades, there have been a lot of players that do not play the role of a number 8 (a box to box midfielder) but rather play roles such as a striker or an attacking midfielder, some of whom are on this list. So, let’s find out who are these players:

Best Number 8 in Football History

Since the best number 8 in football history don’t really all play the same position or are from a same era, it is hard to rank them but we have tried to name the most impactful players who wore the number 8, with their impact being bigger and bigger as the list nears it end. So here they are:

Juninho Pernambucano (Lyon)

To start off our list of legendary

number 8 soccer players

we have the King of Free-Kicks himself, Juninho Pernambucano, who is actually one of the most underrated Brazilian players ever, perhaps because he played in one of the best eras of Brazilian football that had many great players like Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Rivaldo. So, his achievements as one of the

best Ligue 1 players ever

may have gone unnoticed. But lately with the emergence of Ligue 1 as one of the best leagues in Europe he is being appreciated more.

Juninho was perhaps the perfect number 8 since he was a capable attacking midfielder who could drop deeper to sometimes assist in defense. But he even played as a second striker at times, capable of creating many chances with his great passing skills.

He was the master of dead-ball delivery, whether it was from a free kick or a corner. He developed a technique now known as the knuckleball, which players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Drogba and De Bruyne have used in their free kick delivery. The technique is extremely hard to master and no one could do it quite the way Juninho did, which allowed him to score from seemingly anywhere on the pitch.

Juninho Pernambucano alongside, Sydney Guvou and Gregory Coupet are the only individuals that have won the French league 7 times and hold the record for the most amount of titles won. What is even more impressive is the fact that all 7 of those trophies were consecutively won, in large part because of Juninho’s influence in that great


side in the 2000s. he did play 40 games for Brazil as well but was notably absent from the 2002 World Cup-winning squad. Nonetheless, he is still remembered as one of the best number 8 football players of all time.

Hristo Stoichkov (Barcelona)

The first forward and the first Ballon d’Or winner among our selected best number 8 football players of all time is none other than the legendary Hristo Stoichkov. Born in 1966, the Bulgarian striker became a force to be reckoned with in the 1990s and was one of the key members of Cruyff’s famous “Dream Team” at


and helped them dominate La Liga and Europe for several years.

The 1994 Ballon d’Or winner also helped his country to the 4th place in the World Cup that same year which was a rare feat for


. Hristo Stoichkov is considered by many to be one of the best footballers of all time, although his time at the top was decidedly brief.As a striker, Hristo Stoichkov was the complete package. He had pace and a great physique but also possessed of great technique and vision. All of which allowed him to play a number of roles as a striker, supporting forward, attacking midfielder or even a winger.

His left foot was lethal from range as Stoichkov was keen on taking long shots, curved free-kicks and sometimes score impossible volleys from outside the box. His partnership with Romario in the Dream Team was the key factor in that team being so successful since both players could understand each other well and were very well-rounded players.

Despite being a forward, Stoichkov liked to wear the number 8 both at club level and international level. Which is why he is one of the best number 8 soccer players ever. He was twice runner-up for FIFA Player of the Year award in 1992 and 1994 and won the Bronze Ball in the 1994 World Cup. He won 6 La Liga titles with Barcelona as well as a Champions League title, writing his name in the history as one of the best players of all time.

Gennaro Gattuso (AC Milan)

Let’s move on to possibly the most defensive-minded player on this list and that is the former AC Milan player and manager, Gennaro Gattuso. Regarded as one of the best defensive midfielders of the past two decades, Gennaro Gattuso’s inclusion in our list is a no brainer since he is one of the best Italian midfielders of all time. Gattuso joined AC Milan in 1999, having prior played for the likes of Perugia and Salernitana.

At Milan, he immediately established himself as a world-class defensive midfielder and went on to form one of the most balanced midfield partnerships ever with Andrea Pirlo, both at Milan and at Italy’s national team which culminated in them winning the Serie A, World Cup and the Champions League.

When he started his career, Gennaro Gattuso was part of a new breed of defensive midfielders in Europe, like Roy Keane and Claude Makelele, who didn’t particularly have strong physical attributes, such as height or a strong build, but made it up with their tenacity, tireless nature and in Gattuso’ case ferocity as well as his winning mentality. As a

defensive midfielder

, Gattuso was perhaps the best destroyer in the history of football. His chaotic and highly aggressive style of playing coupled with Andrea Pirlo’s calm and composed demeanor, struck the perfect balance of defensive and creative quality which led AC Milan to several major trophies.

Gattuso spent 13 seasons at AC Milan, playing 468 times and scoring 11 goals. he helped

AC Milan

experience a Renaissance and was able to win 2 Serie A titles, 2 Champions League titles, 1 Coppa Italia trophy and a FIFA Club World Cup with AC Milan. An important part of Italy’s 2006 World Cup squad that won the competition, Gattuso has gone down in history as one of the best number 8 football players of all time.

Marco Tardelli (Juventus)

Next up on our list of legendary number 8 soccer players is Marco Tardelli. The former Juventus midfielder is one of the few players in history that has won every major European trophy as well as winning everything there is in Italy during his time with the Old Lady. In addition to that, Tardelli has also won the 1982 World Cup with Italy. One of the most decorated players in football history, Tardelli started his career in the Serie C side, Pisa and later went on to play for Como in Serie B, before joining Juventus in 1975.

He spent the majority of his career with the Turin club, winning many trophies, before he joined their rivals


in 1985. Tardelli is widely considered to be one of the most complete midfielders of all time. Capable of playing in several positions, Tardelli was a hard tackling midfielder who was very quick with the ball as well as being technically gifted.

In fact, he was used in all outfield positions throughout his career except playing as a striker. In the 80s, an era defined by Italy’s catanaccio football, Tardelli was the perfect player as he was defensively solid as well as being quick enough to initiate counter attacks.



and Italy found huge success by utilizing Tardelli in that manner and he was able to help Juventus win 5 Serie A titles, 2 Coppa Italia trophies, 1 UEFA Cup, UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, 1 UEFA Supercup and a European Cup (now known as Champions League). he was also a key figure in Italy reaching the 1982 World Cup final and ended up scoring Italy’s 2nd goal in the final. To this day his celebration for that goal remains as one of the most memorable moments in World Cup history. As far as the best number 8 football players of all time go, you can’t find many who are better than Tardelli.

Sandro Mazzolla (Inter Milan)

We go from a Juventus legend to an Internazionale one, Sandro Mazzola, who is also one of the best Italian players ever as well as being another one of those illusive one-club players, having spent the entirety of his career at Inter Milan. A symbol of the Grande Inter, an era of the club between 1960 and 1967 where under the management of Helenio Herrera Inter Milan dominated Serie A and rose to European prominence, Mazzola is synonymous with glory for Inter Milan fans which is why he is still a beloved figure at Giuseppe Meazza stadium.

An extremely versatile midfielder, who was also capable of playing in different attacking roles as well as playing as a striker, Mazzola broke out into Inter’s first team during the 1962-63 season and pretty soon won his first Scudetto in his debut season, 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 the Champions League) which won them the match 3-1 for Inter Milan against a legendary

Real Madrid

side that were at the time, the Kings of Europe. He would also help Inter win it a 2nd time the following season.

Sandro Mazzola represented Inter in 565 matches, scoring 158 goals and 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 Pele’s Brazil in that final. On individual level, Mazzola has won the Serie A top goal scorer award 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 number 8 football players of all time


Toni Kroos (Real Madrid)

Another World Cup winner on our list who has occupied Real Madrid’s number 8 for more than half a decade now and is definitely one of the

top 10 best number 8 in the world in 2022

as well as being one of the best midfielders of his generation is Toni Kroos. The German midfielder who is a product of Bayern Munich academy, made a name for himself playing for Bayer Leverkusen and Bayern and was already a World Cup winner in 2014 when he decided to join Real Madrid to wear the number 8.

A deep-lying playmaker who is the organizer in Real Madrid’s extremely attacking sides over the past 7  or 8 seasons, Toni Kroos’ greatest attribute is in delivering consistent reliable performances. Unlike many of the players on this list, Kroos isn’t a player that dazzles football fans with his technique but he is nonetheless one of the most important players behind Real Madrid and Germany’s success over the past decade, since he is the beating heart of the team and links the defensive line to attack and initiates the build-up play.

Considered to be one of the best deep-lying midfielders in the past decade, Toni Kroos’ versatility in midfield as well as his great partnership with Modric and Casemiro has allowed Real Madrid to win 2 La Liga titles, 3 Champions Leagues and 4 Club World Cup. Add to that his 2 Bundesliga titles and a Champions League title with Bayern Munich as well as the 2014 World Cup winners’ medal with Germany and you end up with one of the most decorated German footballers of all time who happens to be one of the top 10 best number 8 in the world in 2022.

Socrates (Brazil)

The infamous Doctor Socrates needs no introduction to the older generation of football fans but to the younger generation he may be a bit unknown. Simply put, Socrates was a living legend even in his playing days. A practiced physician, a professional footballer and a political activist and journalist, Socrates was a key figure in both the sports and political scenes of Brazil in the 1980s but as a footballer, he was a damn good midfielder who is now remembered as one of the best of his generation and the leader of the possibly best Brazil team of all time that sadly never won a World Cup.

A highly charismatic figure both on the pitch and off it, Socrates was the brain behind that excellent Brazil team of 1982. His vision, passing ability and reading of the game allowed him to orchestrate much of what happened on the pitch for Brazil, while his height (1.92m), shooting ability and his forward runs made him a goal threat too. A highly disciplined player on the pitch, Socrates was exactly the opposite off it as he drank and smoked excessively.

Although he spent a season abroad at


, much of Socrates’ career was spent in his beloved Brazil at various clubs, namely Corinthians and Botafogo. Despite being part of a team that had the likes of Zico, Falcao and Eder, Socrates won nothing of import at international level but he will always be remembered as one of the most unique players of all time as well as being one of the best number 8 football players of all time.

Frank Lampard (Chelsea)

Starting with Frank Lampard, the last 3 players on this list could all be called the best player to have ever wore the number 8, depending on your perspective. Super Frankie is possibly one of the best central midfielders of the last 25 years. His hunger for success and his ability to score goals as well as creating them, made him one of the most dangerous players of his generation. Although at Chelsea he was usually used in a more attacking role, he could also play deeper in more defensive roles if it was required of him, which boasts of his versatility as a player and why he is one of the

best number 8 in football history


He is a club icon at Chelsea where he used to manage for a while, but his playing days didn’t start there as he, like his father, was a West Ham United player before that. His uncle, Harry Redknapp, who was at the time the manager of West Ham gave him his debut and soon he became a regular at West Ham. 6 seasons and 148 games later, Lampard had become an established young player in the Premier League and was drawing a lot of attention at which point he decided to move to a bigger club,



After Abramovic took over Chelsea, he decided to invest heavily in the club by buying an insane amount of players every year but Lampard and John Terry were the players that were constantly there, even if managers changed or the whole team around them changed. His consistency in producing match-winning performances slowly became a culture at the club which led Chelsea to many trophies which is the reason he is such a beloved character at the club.

In 609 EPL appearances, Lampard has scored 177 goals as well as assisting 102 times and despite being a midfielder, he is one of the best goal-scorers in the Premier League history which is incredible as a midfielder. He has won 4 FA Cups, 3 Premier League titles, 1 Europa League and a Champions League trophy with Chelsea and has become a legend of the club as well as one of the greatest English players of all time and because of all this he will always be remembered as one of the greatest midfielders ever.

Andres Iniesta (Barcelona)

Don Iniesta really needs no introduction but we would be remiss if we didn’t include him as one of the best number 8 in football history. The former Barcelona captain is undoubtedly one of the greatest midfielders of all time and with 35 major trophies he is one of the most decorated European footballers ever, too. A player that excelled at everything a midfielder does, Andres Iniesta played a huge role in both Barcelona and Spain’s success during his career and will go down in history as possibly the best Spanish player of all time.

A product of Barcelona’s La Masia academy, Andres Iniesta grew up watching Cryuff’s Dream Team and admiring the likes of Michael Laudrup, whom he modeled his game after. Although he started his career playing as a defensive midfielder, his quick feet, great vision, outstanding passing ability and the hunger to be involved in creating and scoring goals made him transition into more of an attack-minded midfielder. An extremely versatile player, Iniesta was able to play anywhere in the midfield or even in attack behind the main striker.

His legendary partnership with Xavi made the pair an almost perfect set of midfielders that could do everything on the pitch, from defending to controlling the heartbeat of the game. This allowed Barcelona to have a Golden Age, spearheaded by Lionel Messi, as well as the Spain national team to win two European Championship as well as a World Cup. In fact, Iniesta was the player that scored Spain’s winning goal in dying minutes of extra time in the 2010 World Cup and for that alone he will be remembered as one of the best Spanish players ever!

Add to that his 9 La Liga trophies, 6 Copa del Reys and 4 Champions League and you end up with one of the best number 8 football players of all time, one that will be talked about for years to come either because of his achievements or because of the way he played football which resembled art more than anything else!

Steven Gerrard (Liverpool)

Last but certainly not least is the greatest Liverpool player of all time, Steven Gerrard. To become the Reds’ best player is no small as the Reds are the most successful team in England, but Steven Gerrard has deservingly earned that title in his 17 years of playing at Liverpool. Despite playing in a period of Liverpool that did not bear any domestic success, Gerrard helped his team reach 3 European finals, 2 of which they won largely thanks to him. And he did all that by rising through the ranks from


’s own youth system

The Englishman was a powerhouse in the midfield, physically strong and tactically intelligent to read opposition’s game. By possessing a great striking ability, he was able to score from seemingly impossible distances, a feat he did in 3 Cup finals. His qualities and versatility as a midfielder have led to praise from the likes of Zidane and Pele, who both called him “the world’s best player” in 2009.

But above all, Gerrard was a great leader who at times seemed to single-handedly drag Liverpool to success, namely in their 2005 Champions League Final against Milan where after finishing the first half 3-0, Liverpool drew the match 3-3 and won in the penalties. Gerrard seemed otherworldly in the second half as he scored a goal and won a penalty. He did the same a year later in the FA Cup final against West Ham, where he scored 2 and made the game 3-3, only for Liverpool to win it in the penalties.

His career was full of those performances as he helped Liverpool win 3 League Cups, 2 FA Cups, 1 UEFA Cup and 1 Champions League. He helped them reach another Champions League final in 2007 which they lost. In 2013-14 season, Gerrard who was 33, had one of the best seasons of his career where he scored 13 and assisted 13 more as he helped Liverpool mount their strongest title challenge in 2 decades which they lost in the end by 3 points. But despite losing out on the trophy Gerrard will always be remembered as one of the

best number 8 football players of all time

and the greatest English midfielder in history.



source: SportMob

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