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Soccer's 18 Best Wingers of All Time

Peter WebsterContributor IIIFebruary 3, 2012

Soccer's 18 Best Wingers of All Time

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    Wingers can make a team.

    They can be creative, fancy, explosive and clinical.

    They entertain and excite whilst simultaneously being an important cog in the football wheel.

    So who's the best ever?

    It would be easy to do this list from a medal and trophy perspective, but that would be unfair on the great players who performed so well for lesser teams.

    Here's my list, let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

    Enjoy.

     

Andrei Kanchelskis

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    Andrei Kanchelskis played for a number of clubs throughout his career, but he was perhaps better known for his time at Manchester United.

    Blessed with a sparkling pace, Kanchelskis ultimately fell foul of manager Alex Ferguson and was sold to neighbouring club Everton.

    Kanchelskis' trophy haul reads one USSR Cup, two Premier League titles, one FA Cup, one Football League Cup, two FA Charity shields, one European Super Cup, two Scottish Premier League titles, three Scottish Cups and two Scottish league Cups.

David Ginola

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    Suave French midfielder David Ginola was one of the most exciting wingers ever seen in the English Premier League.

    Blessed with fantastic balance and a great flair for the game, Ginola was a fan favourite—although he was not always popular with his manager due to his tendancy not to bother playing defense.

    Ginola could create something from nothing and the video above shows one of his finest goals in the 1999 FA Cup.

John Barnes

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    John Barnes was born in Kingston, Jamaica, but was capped 79 times for England.

    Barnes rose to fame for his graceful performances on the wing for Liverpool FC in the 1980s, but he was always tainted with critics who said he never performed as well for his country as he did for the Merseyside Reds.

    Barnes won two League Championships, two Charity Shields, two FA Cups and one League Cup in his distinguished career.

     

Hristo Stoichkov

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    Hristo Stoichkov was a character whose burst of pace could only be beaten by his burts of rage.

    Stoichkov is considered to be the best Bulgarian footballer of all time and plyed his trade at a multitude of clubs over the years.

    Barcelona probably saw the best of his playing days, as the Bulgarian notched up three Bulgarian League titles, four Bulgarian Cups, one Bulgarian Super cup, five Spanish League titles, three Spanish Supercups, one European Cup, two European Super Cups, one Copa Del Rey, one Europeans Cup Winners Cup, one Asian Cup Winners Cup and one U.S. Open Cup.

    He also stomped on a referees foot once.

     

Marc Overmars

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    Marc Overmars has pace to burn, as shown in the clip above when the little winger outpaces Cristiano Ronaldo, even after giving him a head start.

    Now that IS quick.

    Overmars is perhaps most famous for his spells at Ajax, Arsenal and Barcelona, where he won plenty of silverware, including three Eredivisie titles, one KNVB Cup, two Johan Cruyff shields, one UEFA Champions League, one European Super Cup, one Intercontinental Cup, one Premier League, one FA Cup and one FA Charity shield.

David Beckham

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    In comparison to Marc Overmars, David Beckham is a completely different type of winger.

    Beckham was blessed with possibly the most accurate right foot in the world, and his crosses and free kicks are absolutely deadly.

    Beckham's game was never about pace which has given him the longevity to play until this day.

    He is currently 36 years old.

    Beckham was won six Premier League titles, two FA Cups, four FA Community Shields, one FA Youth Cup, one UEFA Champions League, one Intercontinental Cup, one La Liga title, one Supercopa de Espana, two MLS Supporters Shields and one MLS Cup.

Johan Cruyff

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    On top of being one of the best wingers, Cruyff is one of the best players that has ever lived.

    You could argue Cruyff was a striker by trade, but such was the system of total football employed by his former club Ajax back in the 60s and 70s. He often switched to the wing to confuse opponents and was equally as devastating there.

    The man has his own move named after him—what more can be said?

    Cruyff won eight Eredivisie titles, five KNVB Cups. three European Cups, one Intercontinental Cup, two UEFA Super Cups, one UEFA Intertoto Cup, one La Liga title and one Copa Del Rey.

    You can enjoy the Cruyff turn in the video above.

Robert Pires

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    Robert Pires was in his prime when he linked up with Thierry Henry at Arsenal in 2000.

    Nicknamed D'artagnan after once sporting some chin hair similar to the infamous musketeer, Pires was influential in Arsenal's success in winning two Premier League titles, three FA Cups and two FA Community Shields.

    Pires also won one Coupe de la Ligue, one UEFA European Championship, two FIFA Confederations Cup and one FIFA World Cup. 

Stanley Matthews

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    A few of Stanley Matthews nicknames were Wizard of the Dribble, and The Magician, which gives you an idea of the man's ability with a football.

    Matthews made his name at Stoke City and Blackpool respectively, and has been inducted into the English Hall of Fame as recognition for his amazing contribution to football.

    Matthews won one FA Cup and two League Division II titles.

Luis Figo

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    Luis Figo is one of the few players who dared move directly from Barcelona to Real Madrid.

    The Portuguese winger was obviously given some stick by Barcelona fans when he returned to play against his former club, with one fan throwing a pig's head at the player.

    Never the quickest winger, Luis Figo made up for it with some of the best technical play you ever could have seen.

    The video attached is entitled Luis Figo Tribute—The Best Winger Ever, which shows his popularity.

Ronaldinho

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    Whilst Roberto Rivelino invented the "flip flap", Ronaldinho certainly perfected it.

    In his heydey at Barcelona, Ronaldinho was one of the most feared players on the planet.

    His skills whilst running at full speed were unbelievable and no one knew what he was going to do next.

    Ronaldinho eventually lost some of his explosive speed, but he still played for a top European club in AC Milan before moving to Flamengo.

    Ronaldinho has won one South Cup, one Rio Grande Do Sul State Championship, one UEFA Intertoto Cup, two La Liga titles, two Supercopa de Espanas, one UEFA Champions League, one Serie A title, one Taca Guanabara, one Taca Rio, one Campeonato Carioca, one Copa America, one FIFA World Cup, one FIFA Confederations Cup, one Superclasico de las Americas and one Ballon d'Or.

    The video above really does justice to some of the amazing things Ronaldinho has done on the football pitch.

Tom Finney

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    Tom Finney only played for one club for the whole of his career, and that beneficiary was Preston North End.

    Former Liverpool legendary manager Bill Shankly once said about Finney, "Tom Finney would have been great in any team, in any match and in any age...even if he had been wearing an overcoat."

    Despite his fantastic talent, Finney never won a thing.

Dragan Dzajic

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    Former Red Star Belgrade winger Dragan Dzajic is perhaps one of the most underrated wingers in world football history.

    Pele once was quoted as saying: "Džajić is the Balkan miracle—a real wizard. I'm just sorry he's not Brazilian
    because I've never seen such a natural footballer"

    Dzajic playd in the 60s and 70s and won five Yugoslav First League titles, four Yugoslav Cups, one Mitropa Cup, one Santiago Chile, one Racing Paris Tournament, one Iberico Trophy Badajoz, one Teresa Herrera Trophy, one Trofeo Costa Del Sol, one Trofeo Naranja, one World of Soccer Cup and one Mediteranean Games Trophy.

Ryan Giggs

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    Manchester United winger Ryan Giggs is currently 37 years old and still features regularly for the English club.

    Giggs is the most decorated footballer in England after winning 12 Premier League titles, four FA Cups, four Football League Cups, eight FA Community shields, two UEFA Champions Leagues, one UEFA Super Cup, one Intercontinental Cup and one FIFA Club World Cup.

    Pretty impressive trophy cabinet for the Welsh winger.

    Giggs is also the all-time appearance record holder for the club with 897.

Roberto Rivelino

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    Anybody who invented the "flip flap" or "elastico" ought to be high up on the list of impressive footballers, never mind wingers.

    Roberto Rivelino has certainly earned his place on this list.

    Rivelino was notorious for his large moustache and spent his playing days at Corinthians, Fluminense and Al-Hilal.

    He made 92 appearances for Brazil and you can enjoy some of his skills in the video above.

Cristiano Ronaldo

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    Real Madrid winger Cristiano Ronaldo is considered to be one of the best players in the world right now, and few would argue with this claim.

    Signed from Manchester United for a record £80 million, Ronaldo is one of the most prolific winger forwards that has ever lived.

    Ronaldo has one Primeira Liga title, one Taca de Portugal, one Supertaca Candido de Oliveira, three Premier League titles, one FA Cup, two League Cups, one FA Community Shield, one UEFA Champions League, one FIFA Club World Cup, one Copa Del Rey and one Ballon d'Or.

George Best

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    "The Boy from Belfast" is considered by some to be the best winger of all time, but here he finishes a close second.

    Best was a true legend of the game and one of the finest British footballers that has ever graced a grass pitch.

    Best always had to deal with inner demons off the pitch, as his battle with alcoholism ultimately ended his life early aged 59.

    Best won two Football League titles, one European Cup and the Ballon d'Or.

Garincha

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    Brazil winger Garincha is the best winger in world football history.

    Garincha could do just about everything from hit a powerful shot, use deadly ball control, explode with rapid pace and demonstrate amazing skills.

    Garincha was the catalyst for two of Brazils World Cup victories in 1958 and 1962.

    You can enjoy some of his greatest moments in the video above.

Afterthoughts

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    I'm quite sure there will be plenty of people who disagree with my rankings, and also some people who disagree with the player content as well.

    The thing about football is that it is very subjective, particularly when it comes to a player's ability.

    If you just don't like someone, then you're never going to consider them the best in the world, no matter what they do on a football pitch.

    There were a few players who didn't make this list that perhaps should have, had I made the list based on trophies alone.

    That's not what it's about for me though—individual brilliance needs to be measured against great teams that can carry players through their careers.

    Leave your comments below—I know you've all got something to say! Tell me who you think I missed or tweet me your thoughts @petercwebster.

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