From the magic of Zinedine Zidane to the tiki-taka of both Xavi and Iniesta, here are the best midfielders of all-time.
The talisman, Zinedine Zidane sparkled in his five years in Turin winning the Scudetto in his first two years with the club. He earned the Ballon d’Or in 1998 following his historic World Cup for France and was named the Serie A Footballer of the year twice. Perhaps the greatest ever, he dazzled fans with his majestic play and legendary vision.
Considered one of the best footballers ever, the dynamic attacker left a legacy of the total footballer at Ajax. He played 365 games with the Ajax side where he won 8 domestic championships and 3 European Cups before moving on to Barcelona in 1973 for a then-record transfer fee of $2 million where he won both La Liga and Copa del Rey.
A creative visionary, Xavi epitomized the short pass and move philosophy of the tiki-taka. In his 17 year spell for the Catalonia side, he won 8 Spanish titles, 6 Copa Del Rey, and 4 Champions League trophies. With 133 appearances for Spain, Xavi also played an instrumental role in helping his country win its first title since 1964 with the UEFA Euro 2008. With his incredible vision — he dished 599 passes with a 91% success rate — and his ability to get stuck in, Xavi also helped power the team to the 2010 World Cup.
The versatile and inventive midfielder Andres Iniesta played an essential role in the Catalan side that won the treble in 2009 and 2015. His whopping 33 trophies over 16 years in the first team include 9 La Liga titles and 4 Champions League. He received runner-up to Messi in the 2010 Ballon d’Or. The Barcelona man famously scored the winning goal for Spain to seal the 2010 World Cup against Holland, the country’s first World Cup trophy ever.
A pure genius with the football, Maradona took the sports world by storm in the 1980s. Both a prolific scorer and passer, Maradona shined in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico where he scored 10 of his team’s 14 goals, including the infamous ‘Hand of God’ goal and the ‘Goal of the Century’ four minutes later that helped beat England in the finals. He peaked with his club side Napoli, after that, winning 2 Italian championships, a UEFA Cup, and an Italian Super Super Cup.
Sir Bobby Charlton
With 106 caps, the Manchester United striker /attacking midfielder played in four World Cups for England tallying 49 goals. He won the 1966 World Cup on home territory with England, before retiring from international duties after the 1970 World Cup.
Along with Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes played his entire career with Manchester United. In a 700-game Old Trafford career, the midfielder won a total of 25 trophies for the club, 11 of which were Premier League titles, 2 FA Cups, and 2 Champions League trophies. His 155 goals make him the 10th leading club scorer of all-time.
One of the best footballers of all-time, Zico played the classic number 10 role as a playmaker for Brazil and starred on his club side, Flamengo. While the former player of the year in 1981 and 1983 never won a World Cup in three attempts, he scored 48 goals and remains the fifth highest goalscorer for the national team. He bagged 508 goals for Flamengo over 731 matches, winning practically everything including four domestic titles, a 1981 Copa Libertadores and the 1981 Intercontinental Cup.
After an impressive start with Ajax at age 17, Frank Rijkaard went on to be one of the best defensive-midfielders of all time. He guided The Netherlands to its first major international trophy with a victory in Euro 1988. That same year, he joined AC Milan with fellow Dutch countrymen Ruud Gullit and March Van Basten where he won the European Cup twice along with a pair of Serie A titles.
A creative midfielder, known for his sharp passing skills and balance on the ball, Michael Laudrup excelled as part of Johan Cruyff’s “Dream Team” at Barcelona. From 1991 to 1994, Laudrup played with an arsenal of other talented players including Pep Guardiola, José Mari Bakero, and Txiki Begiristain to lead the Catalan side to a 1992 Champions League along with four La Liga titles. He also achieved a league championship with Real Madrid and Ajax in the last year of his career.
Celebrated for his lengthy one-club career at Manchester United, the 90s version of Ryan Giggs was remarkable. A dynamic midfielder, he was ultra-competitive and set high-standards both on the field and off. The most decorated footballer in Premiership history won the Premier League 13 times along with four FA Cups, three League Cups, and two Champions League titles. He’s also the holder of the Premiership most assists all-time with 271.