Top five right midfielders of all-time

The penultimate post in my all-time positions series is upon us and it is my top five right midfielders ever.

Up first is probably the most recognizable footballer in history as his football career has led him to be a global superstar and brand in his own right.

David Beckham is one of the greatest set-piece takers of all-time and as well as his dead ball expertise he also has an amazing crossing and passing ability. Beckham has played for Preston, Manchester United, Real Madrid, LA Galaxy, AC Milan and he currently plays for Paris Saint-Germain, he has accumulated over 700 club career appearances so far and 129 goals, many of which come from his famous free-kicks.

He has won six Premiership titles, two FA Cups, four FA Community Shields, one Champions League, one Intercontinental cup, one La Liga, one Supercopa de Espana, two MLS cups, two MLS Supporters’ Shield and the MLS Western Conference. He was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2009, he also won the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Lifetime Achievement award in 2010. He is currently England’s all-time record appearance holder for an outfield player with 115 caps. He is also credited with scoring the best England goal of all-time after his 2001 stoppage time free-kick against Greece which enabled England to qualify for the 2002 World Cup.

David Beckham playing for England

David Beckham playing for England

Second up is a player who is one of very few to play for both Barcelona and Real Madrid after signing for Los Blancos in 2000 for  a world record fee of £37million. Luis Figo is one of Portugal’s most famous exports and is famous for his dead ball ability and his ability to take on defenders with consummate ease.

Figo played for Sporting Lisbon, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Inter Milan, accumulating 795 club career appearances, scoring 133 goals. Figo’s decision to join Real Madrid from Barcelona was receieved with much hatred from the Barcelona faithful, when he returned to the Nou Camp in 2002 he got a heated reception from the faithful who started throwing objects at him, including a pig’s head. During his career, Figo won one Taca de Portugal, four La Liga titles, two Copa Del Rey titles, three Supercopa de Espana titles, one UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, two UEFA Super Cup titles, one Intercontinental cup, one UEFA Champions League, four Serie A titles, one Coppa Italia and three Supercoppa Italia titles.

Internationally, Figo is the most capped Portuguese player in history with 127 caps, he also scored 32 goals. Individually, Figo won the Portuguese Player of the Year six years in a row, he won the Balon D’or in 2000 and a year later he won the World Player of the Year.

Luis Figo

Luis Figo playing for Real Madrid in the ‘Galacticos’ era

Third up is thought by many pundits and experts as the greatest dribbler in history. Garrincha was known for his remarkable control and dribbling skills which he combined with his cat-like agility, he was also dead ball specialist who was known for taking free kicks and corners with the outside of his foot.

Garrincha was born with several defects to his legs (his right leg bent inwards, his left leg bent outwards and was shorter than his right) and instead of hindering him, Garrincha’s defects managed to help him. The fans in Brazil knew him as Anjo de Pernas Tortas (Angel with Bent Legs) and it is his defects that seemed to aid Garrincha in his right wing exploits.

Garrincha spent the majority of his club career at Botafogo, with spells at Corinthians, Flamengo and Olaria. He accumulated 348 career club appearances, scoring 103 goals. Garrincha won two National Brazilian Championships, two Rio-Sao Paulo Championships, three State Championships and one Interstate Cup.  Internationally, Garrincha was part of Brazil’s 1958 and 1962 World Cup winning sides, he was named top scorer and Player of the Tournament in the 1962 tournament and he also won World Player of the Year that year as well. Garrincha played 50 times for Brazil, only ever losing once, scoring 12 goals, creating a formidable partnership with Pele up front.

Garrincha

Garrincha playing for Brazil

Fourth in the right midfielders of all-time list is Garrincha’s natural successor to Brazil’s right wing position, Jairzinho. At the 1970 World Cup, Jairzinho was one of Brazil’s best players, making history by scoring in every game he played in the campaign.

Jairzinho’s club career, like his hero, was spent mainly at Botafogo; he also had spells at Marseille, Cruzeiro, Portuguesa and Noroeste. He made over 430 club career appearances, scoring 198 goals. He won one Copa Libertadores Americas, three Torneio de Caracas, one Taca Brasil de Futbol, two Rio-Sao Paulo Tournaments and two State Championships.

Internationally, Jairzinho played 81 times for Brazil, scoring 33 goals. Seven of these coming in Brazil’s successful 1970 campaign where he scored in every game he played in.

Jairzinho

Jairzinho playing for Brazil

Stanley Matthews

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Top five left midfielders ever!

Up first is a man who is nearly as famous for his facial hair as he was for his wicked free-kicks, telepathic passing ability and trickery. He was the inventor of the ‘flip-flap’ trick which has been so successfully utilized by players such as Ronaldinho, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Cristiano Ronaldo, these are the kind of players which Rivelino was an inspiration to so you can imagine how skillful the man was.

He was widely regarded as the finest midfielder of his generation. He made over 600 career club appearances for Fluminense, Corinthians and Al-Hilal, scoring 217 goals. He also made 92 appearances for Brazil, scoring 26 goals. He was a part of the Brazil 1970 World Cup winning squad.

Rivelino is sometimes credited for having scored the fastest goal of all-time after he scored a goal directly from kick-off.

Rivelino

Rivelino and his famous moustache

Up next is the most famous footballer that Romania has ever produced. Gheorghe Hagi is considered a hero in Romania, after winning Romanian player of the year seven times and he was widely regarded as one of the best footballers of the 20th century.

He made 642 career club appearances, scoring 275 goals, he was one of few players to play for both Barcelona and Real Madrid; he has also played for Farul Constanta, Sportul Studentesc, Steaua Bucharest, Brescia and Galatasaray. He won three Romanian league titles, two Romanian cups, two European super cups, two Supercopa De Espana’s, one Anglo-Italia cup, four consecutive Turkish league titles, two Turkish cups, one Turkish super cup and one UEFA cup.

For his national team, Hagi holds the national scoring record with 35 goals and he is second in their all-time appearance rankings with 124. He also scored one of the greatest goals in World Cup history with a 40-yard lob over Colombia goalkeeper Oscar Cordoba in 1994.

Gheorghe Hagi

Gheorghe Hagi playing for Romania

Up next is a man who was a key part in one of the greatest front lines of all-time. Francisco Gento played alongside Ferenc Puskas and Alfredo Di Stefano to create one of the most fearsome strike forces football has seen.

Gento was known for his blistering speed and being almost as quick with the ball as he was without it, he was also very skillful and his ability to get goals from midfield made him a vital asset.

He made 606 career club appearances and all but 10 of them (when he played for Racing Santander) came for Real Madrid, he also scored 178 career club goals, during his club career he won 12 Spanish league titles, two Spanish cups, a record six European cups and an Intercontinental cup. He won 43 caps for the Spanish national team, scoring five goals.

Francisco Gento

Gento turning out for Real Madrid

The penultimate player in my countdown is one who is one of the best to emerge from the Czech Republic. Pavel Nedved was well known for his energy, tireless running, his dribbling ability and his powerful shot.

He made over 500 career club appearances for Sparta Prague, Lazio and Juventus, scoring 111 goals. He won three Czech league titles, one Czech cup, five Serie A titles (two were revoked due to the 2006 match-fixing scandal), two Coppa Italia’s, four Supercoppa Italia’s, one UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, one UEFA Super Cup and a Serie B title after Juventus’ 2006 relegation.

Indivually, he was named the European footballer of the year in 2003, was named Czech footballer of the year on four occasions and receiving the Czech golden ball six times. He made 91 appearances for the Czech national team, scoring 18 goals. He was a key part of the Czech 1996 Euro squad which got to the final and gained him a lot of media attention, he was later named captain of the Czech national team.

Pavel Nedved

Nedved during his time at Juventus

The last player in my list is probably the greatest player ever to play in the Premiership. Giggs has a list of accolades and trophies the size of me but I will try and note them all down for you!

Giggs has been known for his tireless running, ability to control and pass the ball with little effort and his ability to set up goals for those around him with consummate ease and he’s been doing this week in, week out for Man United since 1990. The man is 39 years old and has shown no sign of relenting having recently made his 1000th career appearance.

He has made 932 club appearances so far, all coming for Manchester United, he is an example of a one-club man. His behaviour off the pitch has been questioned in recent years but his professionalism on the football pitch can never be doubted.  He has scored 168 club goals, again, all coming for Man United. He has won a record 12 Premiership titles, four FA Cups, four League Cups, eight Community Shields, two Champions League titles, one UEFA Super Cup, one Intercontinental Cup and a FIFA Club World Cup. He has made 68 international appearances (four for the GB Olympic team) scoring 13 goals.

Individually he was the first player to win two PFA Young Player of the Year awards consecutively, won a PFA Player of the Year award, the only player to have scored and played in every Premiership season. He was elected into the PFA team of the century as well as the FA Cup team of the century. He also holds the record for the most assists in Premier League history with 271. He was appointed with an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list in 2007 as well as being named in a poll as Manchester United’s greatest ever player. Ryan Giggs, ladies and gentlemen.

Ryan Giggs

Ryan Giggs

Top five attacking midfielders ever!

The title’s of the posts are starting to speak for themselves now. My top five attacking midfielders ever!

Up first is one of my favourite all-time players and a player who could control games and win them almost single-handedly. Zinedine Zidane was made famous for his notoriously early receding hairline but his style of play was as elegant as his French nationality suggests.

He made 681 club career appearances, scoring 128 goals spanning four different clubs in Cannes, Bordeaux, Juventus and Real Madrid. He won two Intertoto cups, two Serie A titles, one Supercoppa Italia, two UEFA Supercups, two intercontinental cups, one La Liga, one Copa del Ray, one Supercopa Espana and a Champions League. Zidane’s most memorable goal came when he hit a stunning volley with his weaker foot to win the Champions League final for Real Madrid in 2002.

Zidane also had an excellent international career, making 108 appearances for France and scoring 31 goals, two of them coming in the 1998 World Cup final, helping France to beat Brazil 3 – 0. Zidane was also a part of the Euro 2000 Championship winning squad.

Individually, Zidane won the Balon D’or in 1998 and was named World Player of the Year on three occasions. Zidane’s last ever professional match will forever be in the memory when he infamously headbutted Italian defender Marco Materazzi in the chest.

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Zinedine Zidane training with Real Madrid

Second up is considered as one of the most skillful player of all-time. Ronaldinho seemed to just have skill and trickery in his nature, from his futsal footballing roots to the big step into the European 11-a-side game, his play just manages to scream flair.

He has unprecedented composure with a ball at his feet and provides a scintillating mix of goals, assists and tricks. Ronaldinho shot to fame across the world during Brazil’s successful World Cup 2002 campaign, English fans started to take notice of him as Ronaldinho assisted and scored the two goals which dumped England out of the quarter final stage, his long range free-kick infamously lobbing David Seaman.

Ronaldinho has, to date, made 100 appearances for the Brazil national team, scoring 33 goals and he has won a Copa America, World Cup and a Confederations Cup with his national team.

In a club capacity, ‘Dinho has never managed to bottle it from success either. So far he has made 651 club career appearances, scoring 254 goals; he has played for Gremio, Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona, AC Milan, Flamengo and he currently still plays for Atletico Mineiro. He has won a Brazilian South cup, Rio Grande Do Sul State Championship, UEFA intertoto cup, two La Liga titles, one Supercopa Espana, one Champions League, one Serie A title, one Taca Guanabara, one Taca Rio and one Campeonato Carioca.

Ronaldinho

Ronaldinho during his most successful spell – at Barcelona

Up next is a man who was so skillful, he has his own turn named after him! Johan Cruyff is a player who epitomised Holland’s ‘total football’ approach during the 1970’s. His elegance, poise and balance were unopposed and Cruyff was also known for his speed, dribbling and also his almost telepathic vision among his Holland team-mates.

Cruyff made 662 club career appearances, scoring 368 goals; he played for five different clubs in Ajax, Barcelona, LA Aztecs, Washington Diplomats and Feyenoord. Cruyff won nine Dutch league titles,  six Dutch cups, one La Liga title and three consecutive European Cups.

Cruyff played 48 games for the Dutch national team, scoring 33 goals and was a vital part of the 1974 team that managed to get to the final but just fall short, being beaten 2 – 1 in the final by West Germany, Cruyff was named player of the tournament.

He was named player of the year three times, a feat only matched by Marco Van Basten and Michel Platini, he was voted IFFHS European player of the century and came second in player of the century only to Pele. After his retirement, Cruyff went onto have successful managerial spells at Ajax and Barcelona.

Johan Cruyff lining up for Ajax

Johan Cruyff lining up for Ajax

Penultimately we have, in an England fan’s mind, the most hated man in football ever, but you still can’t deny he was one of the greatest players ever to set foot on a pitch. Diego Maradona epitomised his career in that one fateful match against England in 1986, Maradona scored his infamous ‘hand of God’ goal but four minutes after that goal he scored the greatest individual goal in World Cup history after embarking on a run in which he beat six England players before scoring.

Maradona made 91 appearances for the Argentina national squad, scoring 34 goals and during Argentina’s successful 1986 World Cup campaign, Maradona was the player who was most influential in the whole tournament, scoring five goals and assisting five in a tournament where he captained his country to the title.

Maradona’s compact physique and low centre of gravity meant he was near impossible to shake off the ball with a dynamic mix of balance, speed and strength; Maradona’s ability to maintain full control of the ball while running at full speed made him such an effective playmaker.

Maradona made 589 club career appearances, scoring 311 goals, he played for Argentinos Juniors, Boca Juniors, Barcelona, Napoli, Sevilla and Newell’s Old Boys. During his club career he won one Metropolitano Championship, one Copa del Rey, one Copa De Liga, Supercopa Espana, two Serie A titles, one Coppa Italia, one Supercoppa Italia and a UEFA cup. He won footballer of the year once and also was named joint FIFA player of the century alongside Pele.

Diego Maradona captaining Argentina

Diego Maradona captaining Argentina

My final pick in my top five attacking midfielders ever is, you’ll be pleased to hear, an Englishman. Bobby Charlton is widely regarded as England’s best ever player. Charlton was known for his attacking instincts, passing ability and vision from midfield and most of all his magnificent technique while striking a ball.

He suffered highs and lows in football to the extreme after being one of the few survivors of the Munich air disaster, Charlton went on to become Man United’s highest ever goalscorer (a record he still holds) and highest ever appearance maker, which has since been passed by Ryan Giggs.

Charlton played almost all of his career at Manchester United, making 758 appearances and scoring 249 goals, he also went on to make 38 appearances for Preston and three appearances for Waterford United. Charlton won three football league titles, one FA cup, four charity shields, three FA youth cups and 10 years after the Munich air tragedy he helped Manchester United to a European cup.

Charlton made 106 appearances for the England national team which was a record which has since been passed by Peter Shilton, Bobby Moore and David Beckham, he also scored a total of 49 goals which still remains a record. He was a vital part in England’s only ever World Cup success in 1966 and he was honoured individually that year with the FWA footballer of the year and European Player of the Year.

Bobby Charlton

Bobby Charlton

Top five defensive midfielders ever!

Hello everybody and I’m back with another one of my top five’s, continuing with defensive midfield. Sorry about the lack of material as I’ve been quite under the weather recently but I’m near to something resembling a human now!

My first defensive midfielder in the countdown is probably one of the most immediately recognizable footballers of all-time. Due to his dreadlocks and orange bright orange protective glasses, Edgar Davids wasn’t exactly a footballer whose talent meant he needed to shy away from the attention his appearance brought.

His style of play was very typical of a defensive midfielder, breaking up opposition attacks and launching effective ones for his own team. His reputation was enhanced once his boss at the time, Dutch manager Louis Van Gaal, gave him the nickname ‘The Pitbull’.

In a fine career which has so far spanned over two decades, Davids has made 537 appearances for nine different clubs so far including Ajax, AC Milan, Juventus, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Tottenham, Crystal Palace and he most recently came out of retirement in 2012 to be player-manager of League Two side Barnet.

Davids has won three Eredivisie, two KNVB cups, a Champions League, a UEFA Super, an Intercontinental cup, three Serie A titles, one Coppa Italia, two Suppercoppa Italia and an Intertoto Cup. Davids made 74 appearances for the Dutch International team and was also briefly appointed captain.

Edgar Davids sporting his famous look

Second up is the successful former French captain Didier Deschamps. Deschamps was the member of the winning France 1998 midfield who would do all the ‘dirty-work’, mopping up play and giving the ball to headline makers Zinedine Zidane and co. But Deschamps work never went unnoticed by his team as he was named captain for the World Cup winning 1998 campaign and was also named captain for the successful Euro 2000 campaign two years later.

At the time of his retirement, Deschamps was the highest capped French player ever, having made 103 appearances. He made 557 career club appearances which spanned over seven clubs; Nantes, Marseille, Bordeaux, Juventus, Chelsea and Valencia.

As well as his international accolades, Deschamps won two Ligue 1 titles, two UEFA Champions League titles, three Serie A titles, one Coppa Italia, two Suppercoppa Italia, one Intercontinental cup, one UEFA Supercup, one Intertoto cup and an FA cup. He has also gone on to have a very successful managerial career.

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Deschamps captaining France

My next pick is currently Man City’s Footballing Development Executive, Patrick Vieira. The lanky Frenchman rose to prominence when he signed for Arsenal in 1996 and he went on to become one of the greatest midfielders Arsenal and perhaps the Premiership has seen.

Vieira’s style of play was so elegant considering his sizeable frame that he became a nightmare for most opposition (apart from maybe a Mr. Roy Keane?) who came across him. Vieira made 651 career league appearances for six different clubs; Cannes, Milan, Arsenal, Juventus, Inter Milan and Manchester City.

He won six Serie A titles (one was revoked from his time at Juventus after the match-fixing scandal), two Supercoppa Italias, three Premiership titles, 5 FA cups, 4 FA community shields and he was also part of the France 1998 World Cup winning squad and a part of the successful Euro 2000 squad too. He was also Arsenal’s captain during their ‘Invincibles’ campaign and for the rest of their 49 game unbeaten run. Vieira also made 107 appearances for the French national team.

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Vieira celebrating an Arsenal goal

Next up is the third Frenchman on my list but you will see why, not very players get their positional role named after them. Claude Makelele is football’s ultimate unsung hero, for years he was under appreciated until Chelsea snapped him up after Real Madrid refused to raise his wage.

It was at Chelsea where Makelele finally became appreciated tactically, he was the perfect foil for the beginning to Chelsea’s lavish spending. Simply sweeping in front of the back four, making a tackle and making a short pass with minimal fuss. He was such a hit in his time at Chelsea, that it then became dubbed ‘The Makelele Role’.

Makelele made 802 club career appearances for six different clubs; Nantes, Marseille, Celta Vigo, Real Madrid, Chelsea and PSG. During his career he won a Ligue 1 title, one Coupe de France, one Champions League, two Supercopa Espana, one Intercontinental cup, two La Liga titles, one UEFA super cup, two Premiership titles, two League Cups, one FA cup and a community shield. He also made 71 appearances for France, helping them to the 2006 World Cup final.

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Makelele during his stint at PSG

The final defensive midfielder on my countdown is the most capped German of all-time, Lothar Matthaus. Matthaus was well known for being a complete and versatile player – great vision and passing, good positional sense, well-timed in the tackle and he had a ferocious shot.

Matthaus made 595 career club appearances which spanned for four different clubs; Borussia Monchengladbach, Bayern Munich, Inter Milan and MetroStars. He won seven Bundesliga titles, two UEFA cups, four DFB-Pokal, three DFB-Ligapokal, one DFB Supercup, one Serie A and one Supercoppa Italia.

Matthaus is the highest capped German player ever with 150 caps, he has won the 1990 World Cup and 1980 European Championship with the German National Team. He is the only player to have played in five World Cups, he holds the record for the most world cup appearances from an outfield player with 25.

He is the player who won the first ever World Player of the year and remains the only German to do so and to show his longevity he was named German footballer of the year at the ripe age of 38.

Lothar Matthaus

Matthaus lining up for Germany