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Football’s Greatest Ever Number 10s

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The number 10 shirt number has been worn by some of the best players in world football.

From the legendary Maradona to and Messi, here are the best number 10s to ever play the game.

Dennis Bergkamp

With creativity and vision, Dennis Bergkamp came to define class during his 11 seasons at Arsenal. He scored 120 goals with the club, most notably the one-touch and subtle flick past the Leicester City goalkeeper in 1997, where he also scored his first hat-trick. A true number 10, Bergkamp also recorded 94 assists during his time at Highbury, making him the Gunners top assist-provider to this day.

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Zinedine Zidane

A football legend, Zinedine Zidane led France to its first ever in 1998. Two years later, the majestic midfielder led France to its second Euro trophy where he was named the player of the tournament.

Zizou fell short on penalty kicks in the World Cup 2006 final in which he famously got ejected for the head-butt to Italian defender Marco Materazzi. With 108 caps and countless club trophies, Zidane is an obvious choice for one of the best number 10s of all-time.

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Michael Laudrup

A creative midfielder known for his sharp passing skills and sublime ball control, 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 with Real Madrid and Ajax in the last year of his career.

Best midfielders of 1990s
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Often considered one of the best ever to play the game, the gifted Brazilian dribbler known quite simply as Ronaldinho scored 70 goals for the Catalan side over five seasons. He remains the only player other than Maradona to have received a round of applause from Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabéu.

The smiling superstar won both a Ballon d'Or and FIFA World Player of the year after winning Champions League and second La Liga title 2005.

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One of the best footballers of all-time, Zico played the classic number 10 role as a playmaker for 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.

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Michel Platini

A three-time consecutive Golden Ball winner, the skillful and intelligent French midfielder Michel Platini captained France to the country's first international title in Euro 1984, scoring 41 goals. But his club efforts were far more impactful — he won the Serie A twice, the Coppa Italia, the Cup Winners' Cup, and the 1985 European Cup in which he scored the game's only goal. He netted 68 strikes in his five-year spell at Juventus.

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Johan Cruyff

While he didn't wear the number 10, he epitomized the role as one of the best-attacking playmakers the world has ever seen.  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.

messi photo 2012 Fresh Johan Cruyff

Alfredo Di Stefano

A star forward at Real Madrid for eleven seasons, the Argentine forward Alfredo Di Stefano scored a remarkable 216 goals in 282 games with Los Blancos.

His honors include eight First Division titles, five yet unrepeatable European Cups, and a Copa Del Rey. He kickstarted the elite club that Real Madrid is today. Said Diego Maradona on the Real Madrid legend:

“I think the best was Alfredo Di Stefano, he was superior to everyone – even me.”

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Diego Maradona

A pure genius with the football, Argentina's prime number 10 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.

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The 7-time Ballon d'Or winner has played 171 games for La Albiceleste and scored 96 times, a team record. After helping his side win the gold medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Messi's international career has experienced a mix of ups and downs. He led Argentina to a runner-up in World Cup 2014 and a runner-up in Copa América three times: 2007, 2015, and 2016. After losing the Copa América 2016, he briefly retired and returned to play in the 2018 World Cup.

But Messi's patience and pertinacity have paid off. Messi led Argentina to their first Copa America title in 2021 and is set to appear in yet another World Cup final in Qatar. Can he win it like his predecessor 36 years ago?

messi best goals argentina
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The Brazilian striker Pele was perhaps the best out and out goalscorer, scoring a remarkable 1281 goals in 1363 games. His goal tally remains the highest by any player in the history of the sport.

In addition to numerous trophies garnered at Santos FC, he's also the only player to win the World Cup three times: 1958, 1962, and 1970.

Pele brought the “Joga bonito” to the world stage with his dazzling display of dribbling technique and shooting skills.

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