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.
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.
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.
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.
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.