World Football: Top 10 No. 10's in the Game Today
An iconic number associated with the game’s greatest players, a team’s No. 10 is looked at a bit differently than the others on the pitch.
Pele, Maradona, Zinadine Zidane, Roberto Baggio and others have made the number infamous, and with that comes great pressure for whoever decides to put on that jersey.
Today, a No. 10 type playmaker is a lot more versatile than before, and having a balanced game sets these players even further apart from the pack. They have the freedom to roam the field and their footballing qualities are unique, allowing a team to take on an identity.
Without a playmaker a team lacks that spark needed to succeed at the highest level, and the names on this list validate why a No. 10-type player is so desirable.
Synonymous with the game's superstars, here are the top 10 players currently wearing the No. 10 jersey.
With so many talented playmakers plying their trade across the globe, it is insanely difficult to narrow down a concrete list. Here are some honorable mentions that deserve just as much recognition as the players who made my cut:
Ever Banega – The Valencia playmaker took a while to get acclimated to European football, but now that he’s comfortable Banega has been pivotal to Valencia’s resurgence in La Liga. The 23-year-old Argentine and former Boca Juniors standout is a slick passer and midfield lynchpin that embodies the South American style of a No. 10.
Edin Dzeko – Although he doesn’t fit the prototypical mold of a No. 10 type player, there are plenty of reasons to include the beastly Bosnian on this list. Dzeko is a strong and powerful striker but has the agility and grace to hold up play when needed.
Ronaldinho – To many, Ronaldinho is on the decline but there is no denying the influence the Brazilian has had on the emerging playmakers of world football. Lauded for his passing, dribbling and audacious flair, Gaucho still plays at a high level and has even reignited his national team career.
Sebastian Giovinco – Italians have coined the term trequartista and the role has been reserved for the game’s cheekiest, and currently Sebastian Giovinco is the next great trequartista to come out of Italy. The “Formica Atomica” plays beyond his less-than-imposing figure and brings innovation for his club and country, drawing comparisons to compatriots Francesco Totti and Alessandro Del Piero.
10. Paulo Henrique Ganso, Santos
Games Played: 20
Games Started: 18
The Santos playmaker, at 22 years old, is being courted by the biggest clubs in world football, and for good reason.
Brazil has produced some symbolic No. 10’s in their county’s cherished history, and experts believe Ganso is the next Brazilian maestro to handle this role. A true playmaker in every facet of the game, his technique, control and vision are deft and he looks ready to take the next step in his developing and meteoric career.
He is an injury-prone player and has his critics due to this, but Ganso oozes potential and it is only a matter of time before he truly establishes himself on the global level. AC Milan appear to have the upper hand when it comes to landing the talented Brazilian, and “The Goose” is aiming to stay out of the treatment room and fulfill his vast hype as Brazil’s next great No. 10.
9. Antonio Di Natale, Udinese
Games Played: 14
Games Started: 14
A man who doesn’t quite get the respect he deserves, Antonio Di Natale flies under the radar and in doing so, has his Udinese side scrapping near the top of Serie A.
Italy is another country known to have produced some exquisite playmakers, and Di Natale covers everything you need from a No. 10. He can distribute, his movement is positive, he has plenty of pace and most notably, he is clinical in front of goal.
And unlike other attack-minded Italians of his generation, the 34-year-old shows no signs of slowing down. Di Natale is dependable in his displays and his playmaking will be called upon even more as Udinese look to upset the likes of Milan, Inter and Juventus for the Scudetto.
8. Arjen Robben, Bayern Munich
Games Played: 9
Games Started: 5
The Dutchman, when available, is nothing short of mesmerizing and Arjen Robben is one of Bayern Munich’s key playmakers.
Blessed with loads of technical ability and blistering speed, Robben is an elusive No. 10 that produces time and time again for his club and country. His creativity is underappreciated at times and his attitude is off once in a while, but there is no questioning his importance to FC Bayern when he is up for it.
He hasn’t been able to stay on the field consistently for the Bavarians and he needs to stay healthy enough to steadily stay in Jupp Heynckes’ rotation. FC Hollywood is fighting off hungry competition atop the Bundesliga and their cherished No. 10 will prove to be the X-factor as the campaign continues.
7. Wesley Sneijder, Internazionale
Games Played: 10
Games Started: 9
Another diminutive Dutchman, Wesley Sneijder has propelled himself to the upper echelons of world footy and is regarded as one of the best playmaking No. 10’s in the game today.
After a stellar 2010 calendar year, where he led Holland to a runner-up medal in the World Cup and Inter to a treble, there was not much left for the midfielder to do. He is about as all-around of a player as you can get, and the pulse of any side he plays.
Inter has struggled to start this season and it is due to the influential Sneijder’s lack of playing time. He has battled the injury bug so far, which forces me to put him so low on this list, but there are few who can match what Inter’s No. 10 does on the pitch.
6. Eden Hazard, Lille OSC
Games Played: 23
Games Started: 20
The next Messi, the next Cristiano Ronaldo, even the next Zidane—the comparisons for Eden Hazard are pretty lofty, but from the looks of it the young Belgian is living up to the hype that surrounds him.
Hazard is being targeted by the biggest clubs and his future in Ligue 1 appears to have run its course. The young winger is a coveted prospect who possesses a sublime touch, killer instinct and a competitive personality.
He was orchestral in Lille’s title run last year, and his skill sets are noticeable; Hazard can be an effective supplier and his assist ratio is as heralded as his scoring touch is. Lille have a monumental task ahead of them come January as they hope to keep their prized No. 10, but his production and contributions will not drop regardless of where he plays.
5. Juan Mata, Chelsea FC
Games Played: 18
Games Started: 15
The young Spaniard came into a crowded midfield upon arriving to Chelsea, but all Juan Mata has done this year is solidify his role and importance to Andre Villas-Boas’ side.
Juan Mata is the true No. 10 player Chelsea lacked and he looks comfortable handling the rigors of Premier League football. He is an astute midfielder who makes remarkable passes, long balls and interchanging play look much too easy.
Mata has been vital to CFC’s turnaround and he will eventually bag 20 or more assists before this season wraps. A game-changer in every way, he is extremely creative and looks to have a bright future at Stamford Bridge.
4. Wayne Rooney, Manchester United
Games Played: 23
Games Started: 21
Not an archetype No. 10 player at first glance, Wayne Rooney is looked at more as a brooding center forward more than he is a playmaker.
Truth is though, Rooney can and has played in the center of the park for Manchester United and showed signs of brilliance in the process. Of course we will always associate the England international with his goal poaching exploits, but Rooney truly showed off his versatility when he was employed as a midfielder.
Manchester United has been looking for a replacement for Paul Scholes, and although Rooney isn’t necessarily the long-term solution, he has demonstrated his intelligence as a playmaker and if need be, can provide some cover for Sir Alex. Rooney has always supplied plenty of scoring for United but can equally dictate a match from a playmaking standpoint.
3. Robin Van Persie, Arsenal
Games Played: 20
Games Started: 17
Currently the hottest player in the EPL, and possibly Europe, RVP can’t seem to stop scoring at the moment and has singlehandedly saved Arsene Wenger and his men.
The left-footed Dutchman is the talismanic captain of Arsenal and right now, he does no wrong. And with the form he is experiencing, it is natural for huge clubs to come knockin’ and Wenger must do everything in his power to keep Van Persie at the Emirates.
Van Persie is a patient, selfless, team-first player and exhibits quality playmaking capacities when he is called upon. His game parallels his attitude on the pitch—he constantly deflects praise to his teammates—and RVP has finally put his injury-prone ways to rest en route to leading his revitalized Gunners squad week in and week out.
2. Mesut Ozil, Real Madrid
Games Played: 27
Games Started: 22
One of the brightest players in world football today, the 23-year-old German international persuasively burst onto the scene at the 2010 World Cup and hasn’t looked back since.
Ozil sealed a dream move to Real Madrid after putting in impressive shifts in South Africa, and the measly price they paid for him can be considered the coup of that summer. His first season in the Spanish capital saw him overwhelm La Liga with his smooth passing and unselfish play, as the young playmaker ended his campaign with 25 assists.
And after tormenting Europe’s backlines, he solidified his starting place in a powerful Madrid lineup, and Jose Mourinho is leaning on Ozil to be the anchor and inventive genius of his midfield. A true must-watch player whenever he is on the pitch, the praise heaped upon the young German is greatly deserved and fans of the Merengues know they have their playmaking crown jewel in Mesut Ozil.
1. Lionel Messi, Barcelona
Games Played: 24
Games Started: 23
When it comes to the stars of today, people want to talk about “the next Maradona” or “the next Zidane”; but to be honest will there ever be another Lionel Messi?
Barcelona’s No. 10 rarely disappoints and his stats over the last couple seasons are nothing short of historic. His style of play is so fluid, it pays homage to his South American roots and at the same time he is about as efficient of a player this game has ever seen.
Many argue that the Messiah fails to show up for his national team, but there isn’t much left for the 2-time Ballon d’Or winner to accomplish. There really are limitless superlatives you can use to describe the Argentine, so to keep things simple, I’ll leave you with this.