50 Greatest Dribblers in World Football History
Dribbling is an art in football and expert dribblers are so invaluable to their team.
That being said, a footballer can be an expert dribbler, but that doesn't necessarily mean he’ll be a great footballer.
This article will list the 50 greatest dribblers ever.
The only prerequisite for the list is the player in question has to be retired, so don’t expect to see the likes of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, Ricardo Quaresma, Ryan Giggs, Franck Ribéry or Ronaldinho.
50. Fernando Redondo
Fernando Redondo was one of the most elegant footballers ever.
He used his dribbling ability to drag opposing players out of position before threading a through ball.
His football IQ was high, he could man mark (as Rivaldo once found out), and he understood his role perfectly.
Yet, the very role he made his name in, is actually labelled the Makélélé role.
There's no doubting Claude Makélélé was one of the greatest defensive midfielders ever, but he had nothing on Redondo as a technician.
49. Oktay Derelioğlu
Oktay Derelioğlu may never have had the success of compatriot Hakan Şükür, but Şükür could never dink his way past six or seven players like Derelioğlu.
48. Chris Waddle
Chris Waddle produced magic week in and week out with his loping, meandering runs through opposing defences.
He was the benefactor of one of the greatest gestures of sportsmanship during the 1990 FIFA World Cup semi-finals.
In the background of ecstatic German celebrations, Lothar Matthäus chose to console Waddle after he just missed the crucial penalty sending Germany into the World Cup final.
47. Mágico González
Mágico González's loyalty to Cádiz was a detriment to his legacy because for such a gifted footballer, he should have played for a bigger club.
46. Steve McManaman
Steve McManaman was a defender's nightmare because he could tear them apart with his close dribbling, and then split the defence open with a great pass.
It's a testament to his pedigree that Real Madrid signed him.
He was a two-time UEFA Champions League winner, and he came up big during the 2000 Champions League final when he scored a memorable acrobatic volley.
45. Pierre Littbarski
Pierre Littbarski was a Köln stalwart and he frustrated opposing defences to no end with his tight dribbling.
He was involved in three deep runs by the Germans in the FIFA World Cup.
He reached the finals in 1982 and 1986 before winning it in 1990.
44. Matt Le Tissier
How does Emile Heskey play 62 games for England whilst Matt Le Tissier only played eight games?
Le Tissier's loping and mazy dribbling, coupled by his vision and superb finishing, elevated him into becoming a world-class footballer.
Do you know who Xavi's boyhood idol was?
43. Michael Laudrup
Michael Laudrup's dribbling ability was talismanic.
He made his teammates look better and play better because they knew they were playing with a genius.
It wasn't just his dribbling but his passing, specifically his mastery of the blind pass, something that would do Lakhdar Belloumi proud.
42. Brian Laudrup
Brian Laudrup's brother, Michael, was calculated, whereas Brian dared to dribble even if it was into a blind alley.
He took more risks and was more flamboyant than Michael.
Though his career wasn't as successful as Michael.
In a way, Brian and Michael are like Peyton and Eli Manning.
It's remarkable how two brothers can be world class because, generally, it's one brother who makes it big, whereas the other brother doesn't.
Juan Carlos Valerón was a great dribbler, but his teammate, Djalminha, was explosive and a sight for sore eyes.
The problem with Djalminha was his temperament. Forget about the red cards, but headbutting your manager gives you some insight on how mentally unstable the Brazilian was.
He was too gifted, and perhaps God evened out the playing field by making him undisciplined.
By 34, he was out of professional football.
People rave about how great Neymar will be, but he is displaying the same tendencies as Djalminha.
40. Kurt Hamrin
If not for Vicente Feola's great Brazilian side and a kid named Pelé, Kurt Hamrin would have been a FIFA World Cup winner.
With 190 goals in 400 games, he's currently Serie A's seventh higher goal scorer of all-time.
39. Vassilis Hatzipanagis
Vassilis Hatzipanagis dedicated his career to Greece, and by doing so, he sacrificed his international career and never reached the upper echelons of European football.
He would have accumulated 100 games for Greece, if not, for representing the Soviet Union.
In 2003, he was selected as Greece's Golden Player of the past 50 years.
38. David Ginola
People remark about how good Andrei Kanchelskis was, but he was not in the class of David Ginola.
After being scapegoated for France's failure to qualify for the 1994 FIFA World Cup, he sought solace in the Premier League.
He'd glide past opposing players with ease, yet if you gave him room, he'd punish you by scoring from long range—as Manchester United found out in a 5-0 loss.
37. John Barnes
I always laugh when I watch John Barnes explain how he managed to dribble past six Brazilians:
The Brazilians were shocked, and I supposed that's why they didn't tackle me, because they thought there was no way an Englishman is going to do this. So you know, let him do whatever he wants.
Barnes' exploits for Liverpool would have made Billy Liddell proud.
36. Jay-Jay Okocha
Jay-Jay Okocha is one of the most stylish footballers in recent memory.
It was odd seeing such a exponent of creative football playing for Sam Allardyce.
Unlike Eric Djemba-Djemba, Okocha was so good that they named him twice.
35. Gianfranco Zola
Gianfranco Zola ignited my love of football and is the sole reason why I support Chelsea.
He's easily my favourite player of all-time and since his retirement, I haven't emotionally invested in any other footballer since.
One of my favourite stories is Roman Abramovich finding out about Zola leaving Chelsea.
Abramovich attempted to buy Zola back from Cagliari. When the Italian club rightly resisted, the Russian attempted to buy the club.
It seems Chelsea have unofficially retired No. 25, but they must officially retire it in tribute to Zola's greatness.
Like the rest of the world, Real Betis were captivated by Denílson's exquisite dribbling.
So captivated they were that the Spanish club paid a then-world record £21.5 million for the show pony.
Unfortunately for Betis, the Brazilian was a show pony that didn't produce the goods when it counted.
Romário was a magician in the penalty box, and his thirst for goal scoring was Pelé-esq.
Mind you, you should take his claim of scoring 1,047 goals with a grain of salt, because he counted a lot of unofficial games.
The current version of Romário is Sergio Agüero, who unlike Romário, is proving his worth in Europe.
32. Paulo Futre
Paulo Futre was an immensely gifted footballer who has since entered English footballing folklore.
At West Ham United, he refused to play for Harry Redknapp unless his assigned number (16) was changed to number 10.
People forget that he won a European Cup winner and was 16 points away from winning the 1987 Ballon d'Or.
31. Georgi Kinkladze
Georgi Kinkladze is one of the greatest dribblers in recent memory.
From marauding past six Southampton players, to scoring a missile like free kick against Swindon Town and then crashing his Ferrari—his three seasons at Manchester City were memorable to say the least.
30. Sir Tom Finney
Sir Tom Finney played his entire career at Preston North End and was a constant threat with his brilliant wingplay.
He was a two-time Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year and was included in three FIFA World Cup campaigns.
29. Eddie Gray
Don Revie's quote sums up Eddie Gray's dribbling ability. He said, "When he plays on snow, he doesn't leave any footprints."
There was a reason why some called him the 'Last Waltz.'
28. Patsy Gallacher
There aren't any archival footage of Patsy Gallacher, so I'll have to rely on quotes:
To play alongside Patsy Gallacher in national cup final was a dream. Patsy was the fastest man over 10 yards. He moved at great speed and he could stop immediately sending opponents in all directions. He could win a game when the rest of us were just thinking about it—Jimmy McGrory, Celtic legend
Within 20 yards of goal Patsy Gallacher was the most dangerous forward I have ever seen. You never knew what he would do. Often he would wriggle through, past man after man, with defenders reluctant to tackle in case they gave away a penalty kick—Alan Morton, Rangers legend
27. Flórián Albert
It's unfortunate that Flórián Albert was born in the wrong era because just imagine if he was in the same era as the Mighty Magyars.
He would have been playing with Ferenc Puskás, Sándor Kocsis, Zoltán Czibor and Nándor Hidegkuti.
This was a Golden Team that revolutionised the game.
Albert would play his entire career at Ferencváros.
26. László Kubala
Prior to Lionel Messi, László Kubala was considered Barcelona's greatest ever player.
Kubala would have been sensational for Hungary if he hadn't defected to Spain.
He scored 243 goals in 329 games for Barça.
25. Paul Gascoigne
If you didn't watch the video, it was Sir Alex Ferguson recounting how a then-21-year-old Paul Gascoigne spurned the opportunity to sign for Manchester United.
Tottenham Hotspur had bought a house for Gascoigne's parents.
As you probably know, Gascoigne didn't take football seriously enough to buckle down and work hard.
Years later, both Gascoigne and Ferguson regret not working with each other.
Gascoigne regrets the decision more given Ferguson went on to win eight Premier Leagues, a UEFA Champions League and four FA Cups during Gascoigne's career.
24. Robert Prosinečki
Robert Prosinečki was part of that Croatian golden generation that included Davor Šuker, Zvonimir Boban, Igor Štimac, Robert Jarni and Mario Stanić.
All six had represented Yugoslavia.
Prosinečki was in the business of humiliating anyone who attempted to tackle him.
23. Roberto Baggio
It's sad someone of Roberto Baggio's stature still has that missed FIFA World Cup penalty hanging over his head.
It shouldn't tarnish his reputation because he was fantastic footballer.
In a way, it's like Bill Buckner's 2,715 hits and .289 batting average overlooked because of his error during the World Series.
22. Enzo Francescoli
Enzo Francescoli had such an impact on Zinedine Zidane that the Frenchman named his son Enzo in tribute to Francescoli.
If Francescoli had stayed at Marseille for two more seasons, he would have won the UEFA Champions League.
21. Omar Sívori
Omar Sívori could beat defenders with pace, but, at times, he chose to walk past them, such was his dribbling potency.
Sívori played eight seasons with Juventus, scoring 134 goals in 215 games.
20. Giuseppe Meazza
Giuseppe Meazza was so great that he had a stadium name after him.
Meazza was so adept at dribbling that he'd even attempt to dribble past the goalkeeper for good measure.
Zico showed the world his class during the 1981 Intercontinental Cup, where he was instrumental in Flamengo's 3-0 win over Liverpool.
Perhaps his biggest regret was not winning a FIFA World Cup when most had expected them to win the 1982 World Cup.
If there is any consolation, that 1982 team managed by Telê Santana, is considered one of the most aesthetically pleasing teams ever.
18. Dragan Stojković
Even though Dragan Stojković never transitioned into an all-time great, he's considered one of the greatest Serbian footballers, as well as a pioneer of J-League football.
Not only did he play eight seasons for Nagoya Grampus, but he's now managing them.
Do you know which French manager signed Stojković at Nagoya?
Rivelino claims he invented the elastico, but it's been around for decades and it was only him that thought to name the move.
Either way, he was a marvelous dribbler, who played 92 games for Brazil.
16. Luís Figo
Luís Figo was a member of the Portuguese Golden Generation, one that ultimately failed to deliver a major title, but he was the pick of the bunch.
Such a high football IQ, great vision, efficient shooter and a mazy dribbler.
I wonder what Jairzinho did to piss Pelé off.
It's deplorable that El Hadji Diouf is on Pelé's best 125 living players, yet someone as impeccable as Jairzinho isn't.
Jairzinho scored in every game of the 1970 FIFA World Cup—not even Pelé achieved that feat.
14. Marc Overmars
With the exception of Ronaldo circa 1993-98, I can't think of any footballer that was as lethal as a dribbler as Marc Overmars was.
In retrospect, Barcelona should have bought Overmars five years prior to when they did buy him.
He never lived up to that humongous €40.6 million transfer fee.
13. Nicolae Dobrin
Like Pelé, Nicolae Dobrin was so important to his country, that the higher powers intervened when Dobrin was set to sign for Real Madrid.
We'll never know how good Dobrin could have been since he never played in a top league.
12. Dejan Savićević
Clearly Dejan Savićević had magnets in his boots.
As good as his dribbling was, many remember him for 'that goal' he scored against Barcelona.
The Barça player that made the mistake was Miguel Ángel Nadal, the uncle of tennis great of Rafael Nadal.
11. Jimmy Johnstone
Jimmy Johnstone proved size didn't matter.
At 5'2", he wreaked havoc against bigger, taller and stronger players due to his incisive dribbling.
He's immortalised in Celtic's history and the 1967 European Cup makes it hard for any future Celtic player to surpass the achievements of Johnstone.
10. Dennis Bergkamp
Dennis Bergkamp arrived at Arsenal after a tumultuous tenure at Inter Milan, where he was hated.
Technically perfect, he could see the field of play as if he was watching football on the TV because his vision was extraordinary.
He lulled defenders into a false sense of security, and would then pull something out of the hat and score.
Roberto Ayala can testify.
9. Alfredo Di Stéfano
Alfredo Di Stéfano is the most complete footballer ever.
Five successive European Cups with Real Madrid, and he was the core of that team.
Aside from defending, creating and scoring, his dribbling was excellent.
8. Johan Cruyff
Johan Cruyff was a genius and he's the only player on this list that has a move named after him—the Cruyff turn.
7. Sir Stanley Matthews
Sir Stanley Matthews' disciplined lifestyle like abstaining from alcohol and drugs allowed him to play football into his 50s.
It wasn't as if he was just clinging on because he won the Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year at 48.
Nicknamed the 'wizard of the dribble,' Matthews embodies what a professional footballer should be like.
6. Zinedine Zidane
Zinedine Zidane's footballing C.V. seems fictional because he won everything there is worth winning.
A FIFA World Cup, a European Championship, a UEFA Champions League, various league and cup titles.
Since he was so strong and technically gifted, he was able to foxtrot his way past opposing players.
That stamp on Fuad Anwar during the 1998 World Cup foreshadowed what was to come eight years later.
A young Pelé would waltz his way past five or six opposing players before expertly finishing.
I suspect that due to the savage hackings and the injuries, Pelé decided to abandon the extravagant dribbling.
4. George Best
George Best was so gifted that he boozed, slept around and partied his way to a European Cup, two First Division titles and a Ballon d'Or.
His lifestyle caught up, and he left Manchester United at just 27.
3. Diego Maradona
If you’re a football aficionado, you’ve probably seen the goal of the century, so let’s explore the story behind one of the most iconic FIFA World Cup photos.
It’s the first match of 1982 FIFA World Cup and 95,000 people have packed the Camp Nou to watch reigning World Cup champions Argentina take on Belgium.
The main attraction is a 21-year-old Diego Maradona, who was left out of César Luis Menotti’s 1978 World Cup winning squad.
According to teammate Ossie Ardiles, Menotti’s decision ‘damaged’ Maradona, who couldn’t match Pelé’s achievement of winning a World Cup as a teenager.
The photo gives you the impression that Maradona’s spellbinding dribbling had the Belgians in sixes and sevens.
The Belgians were actually caught off-guard by a quick Ardiles’ free kick to Maradona, who then gave the ball away.
For your information, the Belgians won the game 1-0.
It's so disrespectful of Pelé to say he won three FIFA World Cups when he sat on the sidelines and watched his teammate Garrincha single handily win the 1962 World Cup.
Garrincha expressed his flippant lifestyle by the way he dribbled.
Nut-megs, feints, an array of turns and shimmeys.
If anything, his deformities, like a bent right leg and a shorter left leg made disguised which way he was going to go.
Now there is no way you can deny that Ronaldo is the greatest dribbler ever.
He could have turned into an alcoholic and retired from football after reaching the crushing realisation that he would never be the Ronaldo of old.
Instead, he worked his backside off to win a FIFA World Cup, and then have a few solid years of European football.
The Ronaldo of old (1993-98) was stronger and quicker than Lionel Messi and had more heart than Cristiano.
God forbid that Messi or Cristiano go through the pain Ronaldo went through.
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