The 10 Most Unselfish Players in World Football
Everyone likes having unselfish players in their team. A good, creative player who is more interested in his teammates' success than his own is an essential cog in the engine of any successful side.
What makes these men so valuable is that they are so very hard to find. It is a special sort of mental skill to look for players in better positions rather than just go for the glory yourself.
Especially in today's game, which places a higher emphasis on creative skill and intelligent midfielders, having a selfless player conducting the orchestra is the first ingredient for success.
Let's take a look at 10 of the best in the world.
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Christian Eriksen is a rapidly rising star in football, and he will certainly be on the move to one of Europe's elite before too long.
For club and country, he has blossomed into a fearsome creative midfielder, and he has already established a reputation for terrorizing defences at the age of 20.
He always looks to find men around him with wonderful vision and a tremendous passing range.
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Giovinco is that classic No. 10 that every team wants but few have.
What he lacks in height he makes up for in pure footballing ability. Defenders face a tough task in marking him because he is always on the move and looking to dart into pockets of space to create for others.
You have to be alert when watching Giovinco play because there are a lot of passes pinging around the pitch, and many emanate from his right foot.
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The only thing slicker than Mikel Arteta's hairdo is his play in the heart of Arsenal's midfield.
He is the metronome who acts as the oil in the Gunners' engine, and it is no coincidence that Arsenal only won a single game when he was injured at various points during the season.
Arteta always seems to find time on the ball, and once he works himself into a good pocket of space, he'll look to give the ball to a teammate in a better position or even make that killer pass once in a while.
One thing you will never see is Mikel Arteta hogging the ball or refusing to give it up.
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Few players have the ability to keep possession virtually every time they touch the ball, but Bastian Schweinsteiger does.
That's because when he receives the ball, his head is always up trying to pick out a teammate to give the ball to, and Schweini has the instincts to make the pass his mind wants him to.
You'll never see him keep the ball to go on a long, mazy run like Franck Ribery, who he plays with at Bayern Munich. Rather, Schweinsteiger feeds Ribery and others and allows them to work their individual magic.
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Unlike many of the players on this list, Mesut Ozil frequently takes the ball and tries to make something happen by himself.
The difference between him and his teammate Cristiano Ronaldo, though, is that the former has an uncanny instinct for when and how to play a killer ball when others are open, rather than pushing his luck too far.
Ozil always has his eyes open, even when he doesn't have the ball, so he can play even a simple pass to someone else when he gets it.
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Pirlo is the definition of a player who does not seek any sort of glory for himself, but earns it by proxy through his outstanding play that always forms the life blood of whichever team he plays for.
The Italian is the type of player who thinks multiple passes ahead of the action, so when he picks up the ball in a very deep area, he has already determined where to place an inch-perfect 40-yard pass.
His teammates may capitalize on the myriad chances Pirlo creates, but they all know that they have the ageless maestro to thank for the team's success.
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Xabi Alonso is a player cut in much the same mold as Pirlo: a mostly stationary deep-lying playmaker who dictates the flow of the game.
For club and country, he has become an indispensable member of some of the best squads in the world. Few others in the world possess his passing range, composure on the ball and confidence in possession.
That confidence does not morph into arrogance, though, and Alonso always plays the same metronomic role of distribution and creation from deep in midfield.
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Xavi is, in many ways, the most selfless player in all of football. In fact, the main purpose he serves in whatever team he plays for is to give the ball to others as much as he can.
You will never see any player make more passes than Xavi. All he does is look to find space for others and play them into advantageous positions without keeping the ball for too long.
Sure, he'll occasionally have a shot, but only after touching the ball seven different times in a single move to eventually work himself into a spot where he could have a go.
Arguably, no player has been more important to the recent success of Spain or Barcelona.
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For someone who scored 73 goals last season, Lionel Messi is a remarkably unselfish player who is as creative as he is deadly in front of goal.
His 15 assists in La Liga last season tied for second place with another creator in Angel Di Maria and were only two behind Mesut Ozil.
Because of the stunning rate at which Messi scores goals, people tend to forget how much he looks for his teammates.
There are often situations in which multiple defenders converge on him, but instead of trying to beat them (which he often can), he finds an open teammate who is in a better position.
It is what makes him so versatile and even more valuable for Barcelona and Argentina. And it also adds another layer to the best-in-the-world debate between him and Cristiano Ronaldo.
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The thing that has made Andres Iniesta the best midfielder in the world is his unique ability to perfectly blend a diverse set of skills.
He uses his other-worldly ball control to take defenders on himself, which might make him seem a bit selfish at first. But he always knows when to halt and lay the ball off for others in tight spaces using sublime vision and passing skill.
It is this combination that has earned Iniesta the accolades he's received, the latest of which is the title of best player at Euro 2012, an honor that he thoroughly deserves.
If Iniesta used his skills in a less balanced way, he would be more of an individual player. But, paradoxically, because he incorporates an element of selfishness into his game, he is one of the least selfish men in football.