50 Best Dribblers in World Football
Dribbling may not get the attention it deserves as far as footballing skills go, but the flair, speed and skill necessary to do it well can often be found with the game's most entertaining and engaging players. Many players have made names for themselves on expert dribbling: Ronaldo, Jay Jay Okocha, Diego Maradona, Garrincha.
Here are our picks for the top 50 fast and furious dribblers in world football. Chances are, we didn't get everyone, so if you have anyone to add or have anything else you'd like to discuss, by all means, have at it in the comments section.
The Future: Mateo Kovacic
The 17-year-old Croatian prodigy has been setting the footballing world on fire since Europe's biggest clubs began recruiting him when he was 13 and playing for LASK Linz's academy in Austria.
Now eligible for senior play, Mateo Kovacic has given electrifying performances for Dinamo Zagreb's midfield, with impressive dribbling being a cornerstone of his skill set and earning him comparisons to the likes of Lionel Messi and Kaká.
The Past: Ricardo Quaresma
It's been a long time since Ricardo Quaresma was at the top of his game and his brief appearance in Serie A was deemed the flop of flops, but we'd be remiss not to include him in a discussion about the best dribblers at football.
Dribbling and flair-packed tricks have long been the hallmark of Quaresma's game and brought him to the forefront of the footballing world with a star stint at Porto. After loan spells at Inter Milan and Chelsea ended rather quietly, Quaresma has found his footing again at Beşiktaş, where he served as a key impact player in the club's Europa League run and victory in last season's Turkish Cup, in which Quaresma was named Man of the Match.
The Spartak Moscow winger first impressed with his footwork at Celtic, helping them reach the Champions League knockout stage for the first time in history and dominate in the Scottish Premier League, most notably setting up a goal for Scott McDonald on a 360-degree turn in a victory over Aberdeen.
Now, McGeady is impressing in the Russian Premier League and in 2010, he was named the second-best right winger in Russian football despite having just signed with the team not too long before.
He has yet to really make his mark on Serie A, but at River Plate, Erik Lamela and his lightning-quick feet were a force to be reckoned with.
The 19-year-old Argentine phenom is one of the least-tested players on this list, but he's got extremely fast feet, he can stop and turn on a dime with ease and from the looks of this video, his control is getting better. He scored his first goal for Roma at the end of last month, and from the looks of things, there should be plenty more throughout the rest of the Serie A season.
The national team heir apparent to Nigerian dribbling maestro Jay Jay Okocha, Nwankwo Kanu is one of the oldest players on this list at 35, but still manages to impress every once in a while at Portsmouth.
His best years were at Arsenal, however, and despite a rather rocky debut, Kanu's ability to nimbly get past defenders with step-overs and other impressive footwork and deliver the ball into the net made him a fan favorite. He may not be in top form anymore, but for his best years, he still deserves a spot.
Twenty-one-year-old Brazilian starlet Douglas Costa is a great young player who often gets overlooked on a great team that often gets overlooked: last year's Champions League dark horses, Shakhtar Donetsk.
In his time at Shakhtar, the club has seen back-to-back Ukrainian Premier League titles, a Ukrainian Cup, a Ukrainian Super Cup and consecutive trips to the Champions League. Douglas himself has shone thanks to impressive displays of pace and skill; his quick feet and ability to change pace with little warning make him an asset on the wings, and he provides a serious threat in the goal at that.
Defensive players' dribbling skills often go unnoticed, but Inter Milan veteran Javier Zanetti can still hold the ball with the best of them.
"The Warrior," as he is referred to in this video, is helped in this respect by his versatility, as he can operate on the wings or as a holding midfielder. He is strong, tenacious and capable of getting forward, and at 38, he's still got it.
The Lazio midfielder spent most of his career at São Paulo, where he established himself as a force with great vision and clean and persistent possession. He is capable of playing with both feet and his creativity has seen him thrust into a playmaking role.
His talents helped São Paulo win back-to-back Brazilian League titles in 2007 and 2008 and after the second title, he was named Brazilian Footballer of the Year and became one of the hottest transfer prospects in the world.
Lavezzi has been called the "Beast" in the Argentine media, and indeed, the former Estudiantes upstart and other half of one of the best striking duos in Serie A at Napoli (alongside Edinson Cavani), Ezequiel Lavezzi has been compared to the greats of his country like Diego Maradona and Carlos Tévez.
A strong striker who has attracted interest from other European clubs as the transfer window approaches, Lavezzi brings dynamite energy and speed to his dribbling, leading into a seriously lethal finish.
Fiorentina's "New Roberto Baggio" has helped revitalize the Viola, and among the highly rated 22-year-old's greatest assets in shaking up Serie A is his masterful dribbling, marked by precise and close control.
He's faced some of the biggest teams in Europe in the Champions League and scored on them, and prior to joining Fiorentina, he became Partizan Belgrade's youngest captain ever at the age of 18. A born leader, Jovetic possesses skill and leadership beyond his years, and it's no wonder some of the top clubs in Europe have been trying to court him, among them Chelsea and Arsenal.
The energetic Dutch star, who recently joined Juventus, generated excitement upon his arrival in the footballing world for his dynamism, skill and speed on the pitch. His quick feet and top-notch dribbling have earned him admirers all over Europe, and he should do great things with Juve.
Hatem Ben Arfa
The rebellious Newcastle United winger is most comfortable when dribbling, and as he showed during a successful run at Marseille, he is capable of doing so with strength and speed as well as impressive accuracy and control.
Check out the video for many impressive examples of Ben Arfa's work, from his energetic runs to managing to deliver on a pass through his opponent's legs and continue maintaining possession.
One of many explosive young talents on this list (the game is getting younger by the minute, we reckon), Danish prodigy Christian Eriksen set Europe ablaze with a stellar season at Ajax and has contributed to the club's successes in this year's Champions League tournament.
Fast, tenacious in his attacking and creative, Eriksen is one of the most technically gifted upstarts out there, exercising great vision with his dribbling and shooting.
Still not sold? Check out this praise from Dutch master Johan Cruyff:
"Christian Eriksen is a derserved winner, but also a player I really like with all my heart. This prize is just the beginning, a stimulus to get the maximum out of his career. The talent is there, the recognition also; now it is up to the player himself. He is a typical product of the Danish school. You can compare him with Brian and Michael Laudrup. Only time will tell if Eriksen can reach the same level as them."
It's been a long time since he set the world ablaze at Camp Nou and with the Selecão, but Ronaldinho is still Ronaldinho. His footwork on the pitch was as captivating as his samba skills from the sidelines—when he dribbled and handled the ball, it really did appear as though he was dancing with it. His flair for tricks and daring, energetic plays have always made him fun to watch.
Now 31 and still wowing crowds at Flamengo, he scored a hat trick in a come-from-behind win over Santos late last season and has returned to the Selecão, and his dribbling skills are just one attribute that keeps him in business.
Lucas Rodrigues Moura Da Silva
Arguably the most exciting player in Brazil right now after Neymar, São Paulo midfielder Lucas Moura has impressed with his talent and become one of the most sought-after names for a transfer to Europe after the new year.
His control is top-notch and he is willing to confront defenders with a tenacity, calmness and vision well beyond his years and experience level. Couple that with deadly finishing capabilities and you've got the makings of a teenage attacking midfielder who will make headlines wherever he ends up.
The creative spark in FC Basel's attack, Xherdan Shaqiri has emerged as one of the game's most exciting young talents with his rapid-fire feet and finishing capabilities. The 20-year-old winger has shone in domestic competition and the Champions League, asserting himself as a hot transfer prospect for the likes of Arsenal and Hamburg.
Shaqiri, an energetic presence, gifted dribbler and visionary in the midfield, was one of the driving forces in Basel's back-to-back Swiss Super League wins and impressed for the national team as well, scoring four goals so far in the Euro 2012 qualifiers.
The Bosnian-born German international has become one of the brightest stars of the Bundesliga since his arrival, and the Werder Bremen star's speed and dribbling prowess have earned him comparisons to the likes of Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
He is capable of outrunning defenders, navigating those tight turns and scoring a few impressive goals as a result.
The AC Milan star has remained a fixture due to his agility, strength and free-flowing approach to play. "Ibracadabra," as the Rossoneri's supporters call him, has sported some impressive footwork and continues to be a key impact player in Milan's attack.
He scored the goal which gave the Rossoneri the Supercoppa Italiana at the beginning of the season, and more recently has been making waves in the Champions League, netting a goal and assist over Viktoria Plzen and helping Milan qualify for the knockout stage.
In Robinho's absence, 22-year-old Brazilian starlet Alexandre Pato, who possesses one of Serie A's quickest pair of feet, has had an opportunity to shine. He scored one of the fastest goals in Champions League history in AC Milan's competition opener against Barcelona.
As for his nimble dribbling, the promising wunderkind has no trouble getting past defenders, although as you can see from the video, sometimes they can give him some seriously hard knocks. But he just gets back up again.
Milos Krasic has been one of several stars to shine at Juventus this season as the Bianconeri ascend to the top of Serie A. The Serbian international and rumored hot transfer prospect (though he denies rumors that he will leave Juve) has turned heads with his impressive dribbling and versatility, the likes of which helped him earn the Serbian Player of the Year award in 2009 and comparisons to former Juventus great Pavel Nedved.
Known as the "Derry Pelé" for his skills, the Celtic star has had cult status for a long time thanks to cracking performances with Derry City and now in Glasgow, with dribbling abilities being the biggest source of praise for him.
But McCourt, 27, made headlines not just for his well-executed dribbling, but for his "wonder goal" from Northern Ireland's win over the Faroe Islands back in August. McCourt took a well-timed winding run past the Faroe Islands' defense before calmly, effortlessly landing the ball into the goal. The press ate it up, with the Belfast Telegraph comparing his performance to the great George Best.
Iker Muniain's early performances at Athletic Bilbao earned him comparisons to Lionel Messi—he made headlines in his debut season that even saw him breaking the record for the youngest-ever goal scorer in La Liga. Over the past several seasons, the 18-year-old phenom has asserted himself as one of the best dribblers in the Spanish league.
The "Basque Wayne Rooney" has some of the fastest feet in the game and his dribble completion record is in league with Eden Hazard's, yet his name is not discussed nearly as much. He is also handy with assists and has scored quite a couple great goals so far this season. A handful of Premiership clubs are reportedly interested in bringing him on, but for now, he sure is a star at Athletic.
The Turkish winger was made captain of Galatasaray at the age of 22—a huge vote of confidence for such a young player—and despite his age, he already has nearly 50 caps for the Turkish national team under his belt.
One of the attributes that has made Arda Turan such a highly rated young player is his dribbling. He is quick and well controlled on the ball, utilizing turns, step-overs and other tricks to maintain possession even when the defensive pressure is high. His performance slowed at the end of last season due to injuries, but now that he's fit again and with Atlético Madrid for the moment, we should expect to see more top-notch footwork from the Turkish international.
Chelsea's white-hot playmaker, brought on as a complement to heavy-hitter Fernando Torres, may be the Blues' best buy in the era of Andre Villas-Boas. Already a star at Valencia and with a World Cup title under his belt, Mata has asserted himself as one of the most technically gifted all-around players, with speed, skill and creativity that make Chelsea's attack a force with which to be reckoned. Also, with his fast feet, he can dribble quite well.
He can sometimes struggle with maintaining possession as his size can sometimes mean defenders get the better of him, hence his not being higher on the list, but his technical skill and ability are world class. Just watch this video for a good example.
Also, keep in mind that this video was taken during training. If he can pull that kind of move off when merely practicing, imagine what he's capable of during a match.
A focal point of Real Madrid's midfield and one of the brightest young stars in the world, Mesut Özil is able to make a small play go a long way. Creative and pacy in his dribbling, Özil shows vision in his passing and decision-making on the pitch and his lightning feet are usually quick to follow.
He impressed in the 2010 World Cup and should be a force for Germany in Euro 2012 as well.
Porto's superhero striker is known for his deadly finish and his explosive performances the last couple of seasons have earned him some big fans among Europe's top clubs, and his name has certainly been thrown around a bit in terms of transfer rumors.
That being said, Hulk can also dribble—he's more gifted with speed than control, but his powerful bursts in getting forward, ball in tow, remind fans that there's substance to back up such a formidable nickname.
The latest magician of the Barcelona midfield, Thiago is the son of Brazilian great Mazinho and before hitting his 20th birthday, his stock is already rising.
And this video, in which he expertly swerves the ball past a waiting fleet of Real Madrid players, is a perfect example of why he's on this list. And there's plenty more where that came from.
Pedro's role in the Barcelona first team has been a gradually increasing one, in part due to his knack for dribbling and ball control. He may be known more for his passing game and finishing capabilities, but his speed and ability to play with both feet make for an ideal combination for his dribbling as well.
His international profile is also rising: After never receiving a cap for Spain, he was chosen for the 2010 World Cup squad and even started in the final, from which Spain emerged victorious. With Euro 2012 approaching, expect Pedro to play more of an impact role for the Furia Roja as well.
There's a reason Sir Alex Ferguson was ready to tap Wesley Sneijder as the heir apparent to Paul Scholes.
Creative, pacy and excellent on his feet, Sneijder was the hero of the Netherlands during the 2010 World Cup and remains one of the highest-rated midfielders in the world now with Inter Milan. He has a tenacious commitment to attacking and the ability to use both feet, which contribute to his dribbling capability. Wherever he ends up in the transfer window, he will most certainly be an asset.
The 19-year-old Borussia Dortmund wunderkind is one of the most sought-after transfer prospects, with his skills making some of Europe's top-flight clubs salivate. His technical ability is among the best in the Bundesliga and he's adept at using both his feet.
Götze exploded onto the scene last season as he helped Borussia Dortmund take home the Bundesliga title and reach the Champions League, and as his side stalls in European competition, he remains a bright spot with loads of potential in his future.
Angel Di María
His nickname is "Fideo," the Spanish word for "noodle," and indeed the Argentine international and Real Madrid winger knows how to curl and twist past the competition while maintaining control of the ball. Di María is a top-notch dribbler loaded with pace and skill and has become a key impact player for the Madrileños.
This video, taken from a match last year between Real Madrid and Levante, is a perfect example of what Di María is capable of. After receiving a pass out wide, he expertly weaves past the Levante defense and slides in between two players to score a goal. Awesome.
One of the creative forces of Manchester City's surging attack, Spanish magician of the midfield David Silva has been putting on quite the show for the fans packing Eastlands.
A dynamic playmaker who can work the quick turns and step-overs in addition to showing great vision, Silva's dribbling is energetic and effective. He contributed to Spain's title-winning spell in the 2010 World Cup and now he's a high-impact player for one of the best offensive starting squads in the Premiership. Few players in the English league are as exciting to watch as David Silva.
We haven't gotten to see much of Robinho in action this season as he's struggled with injury, but when he's fit, Robinho has one of the most impressive sets of feet in Serie A.
He wows the crowd at San Siro with step-overs and back-heels, maintaining control of the ball and scoring some cracking goals along the way. And now, back in the game, Robinho looks ready to reassert himself as one of the Italian league's top talents, scoring in AC Milan's 4-0 routing of Catania over the weekend.
Robin Van Persie
The Dutch master has been on fire in recent weeks, racking up a hat trick in Arsenal's magnificent 5-3 win over Chelsea last weekend and scoring 28 goals in his last 27 appearances. Now, he sits at the top of the Premier League's goal-scoring table with 10 so far this season.
The man who dons the captain's armband at the Emirates may be associated with dead-ball and goal-scoring skills, but his speed and vision contribute to adept dribbling skills as well.
A wizard at Arsenal and now part of the dizzying attack at Manchester City, Samir Nasri was hailed at the beginning of his career as the "new Zidane."
In 2010, he nabbed Arsenal's goal of the season in a match against FC Porto when he expertly dribbled past four of his opponents and landed the ball in the net from a difficult angle. Now, the quick and creative playmaker and his gifted feet are making an impact at Eastlands, as his passing and ability to stay on the ball have made him a promising figure with his new club.
FC Barcelona brought on the dynamic Chilean international in part because of his quick and clever dribbling, and their new arrival, a hot prospect since impressing during the 2010 World Cup for his national team and while on the rise at Udinese, should have no problem delivering.
Unfortunately, we haven't gotten to see much of Sánchez so far this season as he has struggled with injuries, but once he's fit, he's expected to inject energy and mojo into Barça's midfield with his devastating speed and creativity.
Juan Román Riquelme
At 33, the Boca Juniors icon isn't quite at the top of his game in the way he used to be, but his legendary dribbling throughout his career earns him a spot high on this list.
The veteran midfielder has been praised throughout his career for his incredible vision and ability to control the flow of play, hence him being called the "Orchestrator of the Midfield" in this video. After returning to his beloved Boca Juniors in 2008, Riquelme's performance helped the club win that year's Apertura tournament, and he can still make an impact every now and then.
Eden Hazard, the 20-year-old phenom who has set the footballing world ablaze with his dizzying speed and explosive talent, is, among other things, a top-class dribbler.
His combination of breakneck speed, finesse and ability to control the ball at close range makes him a player as dangerous as his surname suggests. And as he prepares to leave OSC Lille at the end of this season, Europe's top-flight clubs will be chomping at the bit to bring him on.
Arjen Robben has been a key impact player at the Netherlands and Bayern Munich, courtesy of his expert passing, speed and vision. His dribbling as well is difficult to stop, and he can get past defenders with the greatest of ease.
Ryan Giggs has been in the game for more than 20 years, serving all of them at Old Trafford under Sir Alex Ferguson. In those two-plus decades, Giggsy has had more than his share of impressive moments on the pitch, although his 1999 FA Cup semifinal replay goal stands out: After a mazy marathon down the pitch, he bursts between two Arsenal defenders, ball still intact, to fire one into the net. And then his shirt came off.
Giggsy turns 38 at the end of the month, and he's still proved he's capable of serving the attack well, maintaining control of the ball and getting past defenders for some stunning goals.
Manchester City's Kun Agüero's profile began to rise while he was at Atlético Madrid, where he was praised for his deadly strike and dribbling skills. Now at Eastlands, the Argentine has just exploded, becoming one of the club's top goal scorers and a fan favorite.
Gifted with impressive control, strength and a lethal and effective finish, Agüero has dismantled some of the best defenses in the Premiership and continues to impress with his attacking prowess.
The French international veteran has been a resurgent force in the Bundesliga this season with Bayern Munich, giving his side some serious skill and attacking prowess on the wing. One of the best dribblers in the game, Ribéry is a rock star with the ball at his feet, exercising top-notch control and speed.
Now edging ever closer to 30, Ribéry has proved over and over again this season that he's still a force, most notably getting a brace and an assist in Bayern's 7-0 win over SC Freiburg, and his impressive footwork remains the cornerstone of his performances.
Kaká may not be the powerhouse he was at the height of his career, but in terms of dribbling skills, the man Pelé once called "the best in the world" is still near the top.
Explosive with his pace and blessed with the gift of a graceful and resonant first touch, Kaká can still play with the best of them at Real Madrid, outrunning defenders and maintaining control to make for some show-stopping goals. For a fantastic example from his time with the Brazilian national team, check out the video. What a run.
Liverpool's Uruguayan assassin is arguably his home country's best player right now and one of the game's most effective dribblers.
A crafty striker with speed and a deadly finish, Luis Suárez became an instant fan favorite at Anfield for his attacking prowess, evasive footwork and ability to apply all of that to putting goals in the back of the net.
One half of arguably the best midfield pairing in football, Xavi is perhaps better known for his passing game and being the master of the "tiki-taka" alongside partner-in-crime Andrés Iniesta, but his dribbling skills are top class, too.
His precise, tight ball control is essential to Barcelona's attack and allows him to orchestrate his innovative plays from all over the pitch. A fantastic playmaker and a great dribbler.
The sought-after Santos striker may be only 19 and has yet to be tested in Europe, but Neymar has already asserted himself as one of the most gifted players in the world, and one of the game's most fantastic dribblers. Quick, skillful and incredibly self-assured, Neymar's footwork is top-notch and has manifested itself in a string of strong performances and cracking goals, like the four he scored for Santos in one match last week.
Now that Neymar is reportedly ready to hit the big time in Europe when he joins Real Madrid next season, we can only expect more great things from Santos' teenage dream.
Manchester United fans like to comment about how much their Portuguese genius looks like Michael Jackson ("Nani are you okay? Are you okay? Are you okay, Nani?"), and the winger certainly has a quick and captivating set of feet to match his King of Pop label.
A bundle of speed and energy topped with a crafty mind, Nani will willingly leap over defenders (as seen in the video) to maintain possession and use his wits to outsmart opponents.
He's not quite the showman he was at Manchester United, but CR7 can still move crowds at the Bernabéu with his fast and furious feet. The quick changes, zippy turns and lightning touches still make appearances every once in a while, and when they do, you can guarantee Los Blancos' fans are on their feet.
Barcelona and Spain's midfield genius got the attention of fans all over the world when he scored the goal to give La Furia Roja the 2010 World Cup title. But what sets Iniesta apart is not his goal scoring, but his impeccable footwork.
Possessing incredible finesse and grace on the pitch, Iniesta has helped Barcelona become one of the top clubs in the world with every backheel, step-over, flick and leap to maintain control of the ball. You kind of have to hate him in that he makes it look so easy.
Barcelona is more than a club, Lionel Messi is more than a player and Lionel Messi's dribbling is, well, pretty great.
Messi is arguably the best in the world right now, making it look easy with his enviable goal-scoring skills. But his dribbling—sometimes gutsy, sometimes acrobatic, nearly always engaging—is what sets him apart as he nimbly slides the ball past defenders and charges it toward the goal. Like his teammate, Iniesta, he has skill coming out of his ears, but his speed and tenacity when taking on defenders while dribbling set him above the rest. A more magical pair of feet you'd be hard-pressed to find.