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Maradona, Xavi, Zidane : Ranking the Top 10 Best Midfielders of All Time

Best Midfielders
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A midfielder enforces their action plan for helping the defense in securing their lines. They also provide support to the forward lines whenever the situation should arise. Thus, midfielders can be termed as enforcers. We also termed them as such due to their physical nature, which involves a lot of physical work and defensive duties.

But, similar to a defender, their role can also change depending on the versatility that they possess.

In the world of football, many players have started in a central role in the middle of the park. Then they slowly advance from the middle of the park on account of the years of experience that they accumulate.

The midfielder is a general term, and we can classify them into sub-divisions. Central midfielders, defensive midfielders, holding midfielders, midfielders (left and right), and attacking midfielders make up the sub-divisions.

A famous player who has emulated a change in a role like this is Lionel Messi. After his integration into the Barcelona squad in the year 1992, the Argentine played as a central midfielder for his first four years in the Barcelona jersey. Soon, with time and the departure of other players, he received a promotion to the forward line and remains there.

This list will talk about players who have made the midfield role their own and helped their team in crucial moments. But, before that, a few names have to be mentioned who could not make their way into the main list.

Honorable mentions:

1. Ronaldinho:

The Brazilian maestro Ronaldinho’s legacy is what Lionel Messi has undertaken at Barcelona. For Messi, to do that, Ronaldinho has impressed the Argentinian wizard to a certain extent.

After all, the world saw the Brazilian as a superstar long before Messi’s arrival. Dinho’s record of 94 goals and 71 assists in two hundred and nine appearances during his five years at Camp Nou is a testament to that.

2. Michel Platini:

True football fans would know that the executive persona (UEFA President) of Michel Platini is just a facade. In truth, the Frenchman dazzled the fans in the late ’80s with his ability on the ball as a midfielder and recorded 128 goals and 20 assists in two hundred and sixty appearances overall at club level, thus winning the Ballon d’Or three times in 1983, 1984 and 1985.

In addition to that, he added 41 goals and 21 assists in seventy-four appearances for the French national side and won Les Bleu the 1984 UEFA European Championships.

3. Lothar Matthaus:

When Germany played as two divisions in the FIFA World Cup (West Germany and East Germany), Lothar Matthaus played as the skipper for the West German side at the international level. The German recorded 23 goals and 10 assists in hundred and fifty appearances, thereby winning the 1990 World Cup with Die Mannschaft.

Additionally, he scored 201 goals and assisted 61 times in seven hundred and eighty-five games at club level and came in second to FC Porto and Manchester United in the 1986-87 and 1998-99 seasons with Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

Now, without further ado……

Top ten midfielders of all time:

#10. Zico:

Whenever an all-time list is made, it usually consists of a few Brazilian players. This time it’s South American legend Zico who makes his way into the list. The reason behind Zico’s inclusion is that he was impressed as a footballer in football during the Golden Era.

During his time with the Brazil national team, he recorded 26 goals and one assist in the forty-five appearances, which helped him take the Selecao to the Semi-Finals of the 1978 and 1979 World Cup and Copa America. The Canarinho, unfortunately, succumbed both times during their run in the prestigious tournaments and ended up taking third place on the rankings.

Brazilian football star Zico (Photo by Daily Mirror/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images)

Brazilian football star Zico (Photo by Daily Mirror/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images)

Zico kept up his consistency at the club level, too as he recorded 67 goals and 4 assists in hundred and thirteen appearances and won many individual domestic achievements as well.

#9. Paul Scholes:

A list of all-time great midfielders cannot be completed without Scholesy taking his rightful place in it. The Manchester United great is a name that no player, manager, or fan can easily forget (rather, he will not let you forget it due to his constant reminders)

But, onto serious matters, there just one other player (shall be revealed soon) who Sir Alex Ferguson could confidently entrust his trust on over Paul Scholes in the entire United squad during his twenty-eight years at Old Trafford.

Manchester United's Paul Scholes (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/EMPICS via Getty Images)

Manchester United’s Paul Scholes (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/EMPICS via Getty Images)

Scholes rightfully deserves the praise as he recorded 152 goals and 73 assists in seven hundred and ten games in the Premier League. By doing this, he guided the Red Devils to two Champions League trophies in the 1998-99 and 2007-08 season.

#8. Ryan Giggs:

Ryan Giggs became that one player who earned the respect and adoration of Sir Alex over Scholes, despite both the players having an equal number of years in the Red and white jersey of Manchester United.

Giggsy (sounds similar to Scholesy, right?) and Scholes took turns captaining the Red Devils. But the Welshman is better because he spent more time with United as a player and manager (for a short time).

In his time at Old Trafford, he recorded 162 goals and 249 assists in nine hundred and thirty games winning the UCL title with United alongside Paul Scholes.

Giggsy, similar to Scholes, could not do much for his national side. The Wales national team constantly struggles in international tournaments, and he alone could not win then laurels (after all, he is a human being).

#7. Andrea Pirlo:

Speaking of human beings, Andrea Pirlo belonged to the category of players who played in contradiction to that. The Italian played for six teams in Serie A/Serie B, and his consistency for each team he represented is why he cannot be seen as human.

In all the six clubs Pirlo played at, he made the mementos during his AC Milan and Juventus journey. AC Milan, in particular, honors Andrea because he recorded 73 goals and 119 assists for the Red Devils in seven hundred and fifty-one games. Through his contributions, the living Italian legend took Milan to two UCL titles in the year 2002-03 and 2006-07.

Andrea Pirlo, AC Milan (Photo by Mike Egerton/EMPICS via Getty Images)

Andrea Pirlo, AC Milan (Photo by Mike Egerton/EMPICS via Getty Images)

After his move to Juventus in the year 2011, Pirlo did not win the Champions League. But his rec0rd of 19 goals and 38 assists for I Biancoeri helped them to four consecutive Serie A title wins.

Additionally, Mozart (a name he got for the way that he dribbled) made a name for himself with the Italian national team and recorded 13 goals and 23 assists in hundred and thirteen appearances.

During this period, he won the 2006 World Cup and became the recipient of the Top Assist provider and Bronze ball award.

#6. Steven Gerrard:

If there is a team on the verge of losing hope in the league (cough…Arsenal cough…Liverpool), then Steven Gerrard becomes the one who provides them with a solution and the resolution to fight on.

If there are any doubts about his ability to do that, one must simply look to the 2005 Champions League final when Gerard’s team took on AC Milan and returned from 3-0 nil down to equalize the game at 3-3.

Steven Gerrard of Liverpool (via Getty images)

Steven Gerrard of Liverpool (via Getty images)

Gerrard scored the game’s first goal and showed fans why former Reds manager Gerard Houllier named him as skipper of the Anfield side in the year 2003. Consequently, Gerrard has done more with Liverpool as he recorded 191 goals and 158 assists in seven hundred and ninety-eight appearances for the Merseyside Reds.

But, despite all this, he never won a major trophy at the national level with England.

#5. Luis Figo:

Real Madrid have had many greats who graced the Santiago Bernabeau and are deservedly known as Galacticos. Of these players, Luis Figo finds himself close to the top of the list.

The Portuguese international made a controversial move from Barcelona to Real Madrid that awarded him a chance to record a 53 goals and 93 assists in two hundred and ninety-three appearances and a pigs head.

His time at Madrid became a blessing for the former number seven as he won the UCL for the first and last time in his career in the year 2002. Figo has to give due credit to Los Blancos, since he won the prestigious Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year during his tenure with the Madrid giants in 2000 and 2001 respectively.

Unfortunately like many other players on this list, he did not achieve anything at the national level.

#4. Andreas Iniesta:

Five words….2010 World Cup final goal.

There is no better way to introduce Spanish midfield maestro Andres Iniesta than those keywords. Iniesta, like Lionel Messi and Xavi Hernandez, graduated from the world-famous La Masia academy. Since joining the Blaugrana, he recorded 57 goals and 158 assists in seven hundred and forty-nine appearances for the Nou Camp side.

Andres INIESTA - 11.03.2009 - Barcelone / Lyon - Champions LEague 2008/2009 - (Photo : Quinho / Icon Sport via Getty Images)

Andres INIESTA – 11.03.2009 – Barcelone / Lyon – Champions LEague 2008/2009 – (Photo : Quinho / Icon Sport via Getty Images)

In addition to the World Cup, the Spaniard won the Champions League four times in the 2005-06, 2008-09, 2010-11, and 2014-15 seasons with Barcelona. Winning the CL and the World Cup ranked him in second place of the 2010 Ballon d’Or.

#3. Zinedine Zidane:

If Iniesta is remembered for a glorious goal for Spain, the thought of Zinedine Zidane is associated with a headbutt for fans of the French national team whose hopes of a World Cup title ended on account of the current Real Madrid manager.

But, fans forget that Zidane played a crucial part in taking Les Bleus to the finals. The Frenchman recorded 3 goals and 1 assist in seven appearances for Les Bleus. Additionally, Zizou’s penalty in the finals gave France the lead before his infamous sending off.

Real Madrid's Zinedine Zidane (l) goes past Deportivo La Coruna's Valeron (r) (Photo by Tony Marshall/EMPICS via Getty Images)

Real Madrid’s Zinedine Zidane (l) goes past Deportivo La Coruna’s Valeron (r) (Photo by Tony Marshall/EMPICS via Getty Images)

Though Zidane had done his part for France, he made an impact at the club level as well with Real Madrid by recording 37 goals and 51 assists in hundred and fifty-five appearances and won the Champions League with the Madrid giants in the 2001-02 season.

#2. Xavi HernandezĀ 

Xavi Hernandez makes his way into number two, and he deserves it as well. Another graduate from the Barcelona academy, and interestingly, played for the Blaugrana six years before Leo Messi entered the squad.

The Spanish international won the World Cup in the year 2010. After which, he secured the euros consecutively in 2008 and 2012 for La Roja Blanco. Xavi’s performance for Barcelona became noteworthy as well.

He played as a midfielder for twenty-seven years at the Catalan club. In that time, he recorded 84 goals and 187 assists in seven hundred and fifty-four appearances for Barcelona.

Xavi’s time at Barca won him the Champions League and the La Liga title (eight times).

#1. Diego Maradona:

In comparison, Diego Maradona has only won one major trophy with Argentina. But he makes his way at number one for recording 26 goals and 11 assists in seventy appearances for La Albiceleste.

A few other players could only imitate this goal record throughout Argentina’s international competition history. Though Maradona did all he could in his seventeen years in Argentina, he alone could not help them to back-to-back WC titles (sounds similar to someone else?).

Diego Maradona of Argentina (right) (Photo by Bob Thomas Sports Photography via Getty Images)

Diego Maradona of Argentina (right) (Photo by Bob Thomas Sports Photography via Getty Images)

On the other hand, the attacking midfielder added 153 goals and 30 assists in his entire club career. This career spanned from the nations of Argentina (Newell’s Old Boys) to Spain (Barcelona), then a Pitstop at Italy (Napoli), and then back to his home nation (Boca Juniors).

Of the two players, Xavi does have more awards. Still, Maradona grasps the Spaniard title because of the overall goals and individual contributions made by him as a midfielder to win the award.

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