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All soccer lovers idolize the winger position and few things excite fans like a bit of speed or a skillful dribble. With skills that defy the limits of physics and an ability to electrify entire stadiums, the best wingers of all time doesn’t just run the sidelines; they redefine the moments that make soccer the world’s most beloved sport.

Historically, the best wingers of all time was seen as a mere provider of crosses, expected to accelerate down the wings and serve the center forwards. However, as soccer has evolved, so has the role of these dynamic players.

The evolution in formations and tactics over the years has seen winger play in different positions, often acting as wingers in five-man defensive lines or as strikers on the flanks in an attacking trio.

Among the best wingers of all time, names like Garrincha and George Best personify the golden age of classic dribblers. Garrincha, with his supernatural dribbling ability, was a key part of the Brazilian team that won two consecutive World Cups, in 1958 and 1962. His dribbling was so effective that it was said that he could give a defender a “neck ache” trying to keep up with his quick and unpredictable movements.

George Best, on the other hand, combined technique, speed and an impressive ability to score goals, which made him a legend at Manchester United and beyond. His career, although marked by personal challenges, still resonates as an example of pure talent and charisma on the pitch.

In the modern era, figures such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have taken the role of best wingers of all time to new heights. Ronaldo, with his lethal combination of speed, technique and physical ability, has transformed himself from an agile right winger at Sporting Clube de Portugal and Manchester United into one of the most feared strikers in the world.

Messi, although often centralized in his performances, began his career as a right winger, where his ability to dribble past opponents in tight spaces and his vision of the game immediately stood out.

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But who are the best wingers of all time? Join us for this list!

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Lionel Messi wingers soccer

Meet the 20 best wingers of all time

  1. Garrincha

Titles: World Cup (1958 and 1962), several state titles with Botafogo.

History: Garrincha, born Manuel Francisco dos Santos, was born in Pau Grande, Brazil, in 1933. He began his soccer career playing for Botafogo, where he quickly made a name for himself.

Curiosity:  Nicknamed the “Angel with Crooked Legs”, Garrincha was known for his exceptional ball skills, despite his crooked legs.

  1. George Best

Titles: UEFA Champions League (1967-68), English League (1965, 1967)

History:  George Best was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1946. He began his career at Manchester United, where he quickly became a sensation.

Curiosity:  In addition to his talent on the field, Best was known for his extravagant life off it, and was often associated with the celebrity culture of the 60s.

  1. Ronaldinho

Titles: World Cup (2002), UEFA Champions League (2005-06) and two FIFA World Player of the Year awards.

History: Ronaldinho, born Ronaldo de Assis Moreira, was born in Porto Alegre, Brazil, in 1980. He began his career at Grêmio before making a name for himself at Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona.

Curiosity: Ronaldinho Gaúcho had a unique moment in 2006 during a match against Villarreal. When he took a free-kick, he struck the ball with such precision and effect that it entered the goal through a small hole in the net. Initially, no one realized it was a goal due to the peculiarity of the shot. The game continued until replays confirmed that the ball had indeed gone in.

  1. Stanley Matthews

Titles: England Cup (1952) and twice European Footballer of the Year.

History: Stanley Matthews was born in Stoke-on-Trent, England, in 1915. He began his career at Stoke City and also played for Blackpool.

Curiosity: Matthews is remembered for his longevity in soccer, having played professionally until the age of 50.

  1. Paco Gento

Titles: UEFA Champions League (1955-56), (1956-57), (1957-58), (1958-59), (1959-60), (1965-66).

História: Francisco Gento, conhecido como Paco Gento, nasceu em Guarnizo, Espanha, em 1933. Ele passou a maior parte de sua carreira no Real Madrid, onde se tornou uma lenda do clube.

Curiosity: Gento is considered one of the greatest players in the history of Real Madrid and one of the most successful players of the Champions League era.

  1. Dragan Dzajic

Titles: Euro Cup (1968)

History: Dragan Dzajic was born in Ub, Yugoslavia (now Serbia), in 1946. He spent most of his career with Red Star Belgrade.

Curiosity: Dzajic was known for his dribbling skills and ability to score decisive goals at important moments.

  1. Luis Figo

Titles: UEFA Champions League (2001-02) and twice FIFA World Player of the Year.

History: Luís Figo was born in Almada, Portugal, in 1972. He had a brilliant career, playing for clubs such as Barcelona, Real Madrid and Inter Milan.

Titles: World Cup (1970).

Curiosity: Figo is remembered for his refined technique and his ability to play in various positions on the pitch, becoming a central figure in many of the teams he played for.

  1. Jairzinho

History: Jair Ventura Filho, known as Jairzinho, was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1944. He began his career at Botafogo and stood out as one of the key members of the legendary 1970 Brazilian national team.

Curiosity: Jairzinho earned the nickname “Hurricane of the World Cup” due to his impressive performance during the 1970 tournament, in which he scored in every game he played.

  1. Mohamed Salah (active)

Titles: UEFA Champions League (2018-19), Premier League (2019-20) 

História: Mohamed Salah nasceu em Nagrig, Egito, em 1992. Ele ganhou destaque no futebol europeu jogando pelo Basel, Chelsea, Roma e, posteriormente, Liverpool.

Curiosity: In addition to his skill on the pitch, Salah is known for his charity work and support for underprivileged communities in his native Egypt.

  1. Lionel Messi (active)

Titles: Eight FIFA Ballon d’Ors, ten La Liga titles with Barcelona, Copa América (2021), FIFA World Cup (2022).

History: Lionel Messi was born in Rosario, Argentina, in 1987. He moved to Barcelona at a young age to join the club’s famous youth academy.

Curiosity: Messi is considered one of the greatest players of all time, with an incredible ability to dribble, pass and score goals, as well as an enduring devotion to Barcelona throughout his career.

  1. Ryan Giggs

Titles: Thirteen times Premier League champion with Manchester United, UEFA Champions League (1998-99), (2007-08).

History:  Ryan Giggs was born in Cardiff, Wales, in 1973. He spent his entire professional career at Manchester United, where he became a club legend.

Curiosity: Giggs is known for his longevity in top-level soccer, having played until the age of 40 and set several records during his career.

  1. Cristiano Ronaldo (active)

Titles: Five FIFA Ballon d’Ors, five UEFA Champions Leagues (four with Real Madrid and one with Manchester United) and seven Serie A titles with Juventus.

History: Cristiano Ronaldo was born on Madeira Island, Portugal, in 1985. He began his career at Sporting Lisbon before moving to Manchester United and then Real Madrid, where he achieved worldwide fame.

Curiosity: Ronaldo is known for his relentless work ethic and his commitment to physical excellence, which has helped him become one of the most successful and recognized players in soccer history.

  1. Julinho

Titles: World Cup (1958 and 1962).

History: Julinho Botelho was born in São Paulo, Brazil, in 1929. He had a successful career playing in Brazil and Italy, standing out as a talented striker.

Curiosity: Julinho was known for his speed and technical ability and was an important part of the Brazilian national team during its golden years in world soccer.

  1. Eden Hazard

Titles: Twice Premier League champion with Chelsea and a UEFA Europa League.

History: Eden Hazard was born in La Louvière, Belgium, in 1991. He began his career at Lille in France, before moving to Chelsea, where he made a name for himself as one of the best players in the world.

Curiosity: Hazard is known for his dribbling ability and vision, often being compared to great players like Messi and Ronaldo in their prime.

  1. Rivaldo

Titles: World Cup (2002), La Liga (1998-99), (1999-2000).

History: Rivaldo Vítor Borba Ferreira was born in Recife, Brazil, in 1972. He was one of the leading Brazilian players of his time, shining at European clubs such as Barcelona and Milan.

Curiosity: Rivaldo was known for his ability to score spectacular goals and his versatility on the pitch, being able to play both as a striker and as a midfielder.

  1. Tom Finney

Titles: Football Writers’ Association Player of the Year (1954 and 1957), Football League Footballer of the Year in 1954. Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1961 in recognition of his services to soccer.

History: Sir Tom Finney was born in Preston, England, in 1922. He spent his entire career at Preston North End, where he became a legend of the club and the England national team.

Curiosity: Finney was known for his loyalty to Preston North End, turning down transfer offers from other clubs during his career, and for his lasting impact on English soccer.

  1. Neymar

Titles: UEFA Champions League (2014-15), Copa Libertadores de América (2011).

History: Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior was born in Mogi das Cruzes, Brazil, in 1992. He began his career at Santos before moving to Barcelona and then Paris Saint-Germain.

Curiosity: Neymar is known for his exceptional technical skill and his ability to dribble past opponents with ease, and is often compared to Brazilian soccer legends such as Pelé and Ronaldinho.

  1. Gareth Bale

Titles: UEFA Champions League (2013-14), (2015-16), (2016-17), (2917-18), FIFA Club World Cups.

History: Gareth Bale was born in Cardiff, Wales, in 1989. He had an outstanding career with Tottenham Hotspur before moving to Real Madrid.

Curiosity: Bale is known for his impressive speed and his ability to score decisive goals in the finals of major competitions, making him a key player in Real Madrid’s achievements. In 2023, Bale made his debut in golf.

  1. Arjen Robben

Titles:  UEFA Champions League (2012-13) and multiple German Bundesligas.

History: Arjen Robben was born in Bedum, Netherlands, in 1984. He had a distinguished career at clubs such as PSV, Chelsea, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.

Curiosity: Robben was known for his characteristic move of cutting from the wing to the middle, using his left leg, and for his decisive goals in important games.

  1. Kurt Hamrin

Titles: An Italian Serie A with Milan, UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup (1963).

History: Kurt Hamrin was born in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1934. He had a long and successful career in Italian soccer, playing mainly for Milan and Fiorentina.

Curiosity: Hamrin was known for his skill as a striker, especially for his ability to dribble and finish efficiently, making him one of the leading Swedish players of his generation.

Cristiano Ronaldo best wingers

List of the 20 best wingers of all time

  1. Garrincha
  2. George Best
  3. Ronaldinho
  4. Stanley Mathhews
  5. Paco Gento
  6. Dragan Dzajic
  7. Luis Figo
  8. Jairzinho
  9. Mohamed Salah
  10. Lionel Messi
  11. Ryan Giggs
  12. Cristiano Ronaldo
  13. Julinho
  14. Eden Hazard
  15. Rivaldo
  16. Tom Finney
  17. Neymar
  18. Gareth Bale
  19. Arjen Robben
  20. Kurt Hamrin

The ability to adapt and evolve with the game is what distinguishes the best winger of all time. The best wingers of all time didn’t just follow the changes in tactics and style of play; they led them, influencing generations and changing the way we think about soccer.

By studying the best wingers of all time, we see not only the evolution of a position, but the evolution of the sport itself. They are more than players; they are innovators who have pushed and continue to push the boundaries of what is possible on a soccer pitch.

Now that you know some of the best wingers of all time, tell us who your favorite winger is! Anyone missing from the list?

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