20 Greatest Playmakers in the History of World Football
The playmaker is one of the primary attractive factors of world football. His exuberance, imagination and creative play help to enthral those who watch and play alike.
Although there seems to be quite a definitive idea of a playmaker, eloquent authors have diluted the playmaker into two separate ideas. He is sometimes likened to an orchestrator, the conductor to the team's orchestra, directing all that happens on the pitch. The other idea is that of a saviour, one who can turn a drab, quashed game into majestic, open football in a single moment.
Away from the melodrama, the existence of the playmaker is very pragmatic. As British teams in Europe have found out over the years, a creative player can prove to have the keys to open any defence. This is because of the imaginative, instinctive nature of the playmaker. Any defensive plan, no matter how sophisticated, cannot legislate for their waywardness.
"We can spend all the time on the training ground planning for Real's tactics, but then something special happens that you cannot plan for and in this case it was Zidane's goal"
One of the greatest playmakers in the history of football, the "Great Dane" was an integral part of Johan Cruyff's "Dream Team," which achieved significant domestic success as well as winning the European Cup in 1992.
The Dane was significant in that he played for both sides in the Spanish Derby "El Clasico," and featured in both winning sides in the following fixtures: Real Madrid 5-0 Barcelona, Barcelona 5-0 Real Madrid.
Zico was a very talented attacking midfielder. He played mainly for Flamengo in Brazil (very successfully), and for Udinese in Italy (less successfully). A dribbling playmaker, Zico is commonly hailed as the greatest striker of a dead ball in the '80s along with Michel Platini.
He also had a great international career, forming part of the Brazil 1982 side which was unluckily eliminated by Enzo Bearzot's Italy.
The Fulham man is part of that rare breed of English playmakers. He was known specifically for his passing ability. In anecdotes, he is described as sort of a 1960s David Beckham, who had an obsession with passing with unerring accuracy.
He also captained England in the early '60s.
Valdir "Didi" Pereira was a Brazilian playmaker who played, notably, for Botafogo in Brazil and for Real Madrid in Spain. Domestic success with Botafogo got him selected for the Brazil national team in 1958.
He was outstanding at World Cup '58, earning the player of the tournament award for his contribution from midfield. He also featured in the '62 World Cup win in Chile.
In 1990, there seemed no end to what Gascoigne could do. He had a successful World Cup with England, reaching the semifinal.
He also played for Lazio, Glasgow Rangers, Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United during his career.
El Pibe de Oro is considered by many to be the greatest player of all time. Blessed with a deadly combination of ball control, speed, agility, vision and a low centre of gravity, Maradona could better any team in history.
Platini was an exquisite player. He combined deadly passing with silky dribbling skills. A consummate dead-ball expert, Platini was one of the definitive players in the '80s. He won Euro 1984 with the French national team and the Champions League in 1984-85 with Juventus.
Zidane possessed an extraordinary elegance. His touch, ball skills and turn frequency were bordering on inhuman. Another dribbling playmaker, he won two Champions Leagues, one with Juventus and one with Real Madrid in 2002. He also won the World Cup with France in 1998.
Famous England manager Sir Alf Ramsey described him as "10 years ahead of his time." The Tottenham midfielder was creative with good movement and was a wide midfielder in Ramsey's 4-1-2-1-2 system, slightly behind Bobby Charlton.
He played with distinction for West Ham United and Tottenham Hotspur, winning two European trophies and two league titles. Not a complete playmaker, but certainly one of England's best creative players ever.
The Montenegrin played in the ''segunda punta" position to great success for many clubs. He featured in AC Milan's 4-0 defeat of FC Barcelona in 1994. He was famed for his skill, short passing and ability on the ball.
The Croatian was famous for his run at Real Madrid, where his intelligent passing made him invaluable to the club. He also played a part in the Croatia squad for World Cup 1998, which reached the semifinals of the World Cup.
The Dutchman played in the hole behind a main striker, called a second striker or shadow striker position. This position suited his abilities very well.
Bergkamp was once a prolific goal scorer, but his game was so based in the Dutch Total Football ideals of passing and adaptability that he could also turn provider. This duality in abilities led to him defining that "shadow striker role," playing in a "provider" position just behind the main striker.
He started off at Ajax, under the training-ground guidance of Johan Cruijff, a Dutch football legend and Bergkamp's personal idol.
Totti has defined the role of the "trequartista," a specific role in the Italian paradigm of formation. In effect, the "trequartista" is a static player who plays in a very narrow formation, and which renders the team dependent on his play, as the play goes through him.
Shut the trequartista down, and then the team stops playing.
Pirlo is another Italian who plays in a differently orientated Italian playmaking position. In this case, this role is that of the deep-lying distributor, the Italian "regista," or conductor. Pirlo has has a long and glittering career in this role for both Italy and Milan.
Pirlo is something of a jack of all trades, with tremendous passing accuracy from deep tempered with prodigious positioning skill and tackling ability.
Rivelino is one of the most recognized players in the 1970 World Cup champion Brazil team. He is widely regarded as one of the most graceful footballers ever.
He was famous for his extremely potent left-footed shot, thunderous long-range free kicks, excellent long passes, quick thinking, distinct way of handling the ball and large moustache.
Manuel Rui Costa
Rui Costa is regarded as the greatest playmaker to play for Fiorentina and Portugal national team. He was well-known for his extraordinary vision and short-pass accuracy. He started his reputation with playing in the popular Portugal golden generation team that was FIFA World Youth champion three times.
Despite the heavy competition with the best midfielders of Italian Serie A in the time such as Zinedine Zidane, Costa was named the best playmaker in the league, even while playing with talented playmakers in his team, like Kaka, Andrea Pirlo and Clarence Seedorf.
Xavi's chief accomplice, Iniesta was once an underrated talent until the arrival of Pep Guardiola at Barcelona. In a playmaking sense, Iniesta is slightly different to Xavi in his approach. He seeks to dribble and more directly create rather than control the tempo.
Socrates De Souza
Socrates. A true great of the Brazilian game.
He was born Socrates de Souza, and his rise to the top of the Brazilian game was swift. Prodigious dribbling skill and a surgical slide-rule pass marked him out from the rest. He also joined the Selecao, where he achieved an international recognition which still exists today. He dazzled a generation with his bittersweet campaign at Spain '82.
Xavi Hernandez is indisputably the greatest passer of the ball in the game today. He is one of the rare breed of ideological players, players who symbolize a certain system or a certain philosophy. In this case, Xavi symbolizes everything that is good about Guardiola's Barcelona side; both are understated, extremely talented and extremely effective.