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Soccer is a sport that arouses passions around the world, and one of the most crucial positions on the pitch is that of the midfielder. These players are the maestros of the game, responsible for controlling the pace, distributing precise passes and even scoring decisive goals.

They are true architects of the play, dictating the flow and dynamics of matches, which is why they are recognized as the greatest midfielders of all time.

From the legendary Ronaldinho Gaúcho to the iconic Zinedine Zidane, each of the greatest midfielders of all time has transcended the boundaries of the pitch to become true legends of the game.

His achievements at the highest levels of world soccer, his inspiring life stories and even his controversies are woven into a fascinating narrative that continues to captivate fans of all ages.

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greatest midfielders of all time

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Who are the greatest midfielders of all time

In this article, we’re going to delve into the careers of the 25 greatest midfielders of all time, who shaped the sport with their talent, vision and unparalleled achievements. From the legendary names who dominated the pitch in decades gone by to the contemporary stars who continue to inspire generations, each player on this list has made a unique contribution to the evolution and magic of soccer.

Get ready to immerse yourself in the history of the greatest midfielders of all time and discover the lasting impact they have left on the world of soccer.

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  1. Michel Platini

Titles: Euro Cup winner (1984), three times winner of the Ballon d’Or.

Main teams: Juventus, AS Saint-Étienne, Nancy.

History: Born in France, Platini was a midfield maestro known for his vision and precision passing.

Curiosity: Platini is the only player to score in every game of a European Championship.

  1. Andrés Iniesta

Titles: World Cup winner (2010), Euro Cup winner (2008, 2012), UEFA Champions League winner (2009, 2011, 2015), among others.

Main teams: Barcelona, Vissel Kobe.

History: Iniesta is a Barcelona legend, known for his ability to control the game and for his precise passes, he joined La Masia when he was just 12 years old.

Curiosity: his goal in the 2010 World Cup final gave Spain their first world title.

  1. Zinedine Zidane

Titles: World Cup winner (1998), UEFA Champions League winner (2002), three times FIFA World Player.

Main teams: Real Madrid, Juventus.

History: Born in France to Algerian parents, Zidane is revered for his elegance and technical ability.

Curiosity: his volley in the 2002 Champions League final is considered one of the most beautiful goals in the history of the tournament.

  1. Diego Maradona

Titles: World Cup winner (1986), UEFA Cup (1989), Serie A with Napoli.

Main teams: Boca Juniors, Barcelona and Napoli.

History: Born in Lanús, Argentina, Diego Maradona began his career at Argentinos Juniors, where he stood out as a young prodigy. His genius led him to Boca Juniors and then to European soccer, where he shone at Barcelona.

Curiosity: Maradona is remembered for his controversial “Goal with the hand of God” in the 1986 World Cup, as well as his magnificent goal against England in the same tournament, known as the “Goal of the Century”.

  1. Xavi Hernández

Titles: World Cup winner (2010), UEFA Champions League winner (2006, 2009, 2011).

Main teams: Barcelona, Al-Sadd.

History: Xavi is revered for his tactical intelligence and passing ability, and is a fundamental part of Barcelona’s style of play under Pep Guardiola.

Curiosity: He holds the record for the most completed passes in a La Liga match, with 219 correct passes. He also has the most games played for Barcelona, with over 750 appearances.

  1. Paul Scholes

Titles: 11 Premier League titles, UEFA Champions League (1999, 2008).

Main teams: Manchester United.

History: Born in Salford, England, he is an icon of English soccer, known for his mastery in midfield. He spent his entire career at Manchester United.

Curiosity: He is the player with the most yellow cards in Premier League history, with 97.

  1. Johan Cruyff

Titles: Three-time Ballon d’Or winner, European Championship winner (1988).

Main teams: Ajax, Barcelona.

History: Born in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, he is a soccer legend known for his revolutionary role in the game. He began his career at Ajax before shining at Barcelona. Cruyff was one of the first players to incorporate the total game philosophy.

Curiosity: He was Pep Guardiola’s mentor as a coach, profoundly influencing Barcelona’s style of play.

  1. Ronaldinho Gaúcho

Titles: World Cup winner (2002), UEFA Champions League (2006).

Main teams: Barcelona, AC Milan.

History: Born in Porto Alegre, Brazil, he began his footballing journey on the streets of his hometown. His talent soon caught the eye, leading him to excel in the youth ranks of Grêmio, where he began his professional career at the age of 18, before shining on the global stage.

Curiosity: He was the first player to win the FIFA World Player award while playing for Barcelona.

  1. Andrea Pirlo

Titles: World Cup winner (2006), UEFA Champions League (2003, 2007, 2010, 2017).

Main teams: Juventus, AC Milan.

History: Born in Flero, Italy, he took his first steps in soccer at Brescia. His exceptional vision and precision passing led him to excel at AC Milan and in the Italian national team, becoming one of the greatest midfielders in history.

Curiosity: He is one of the few players to have won the Champions League for two different teams.

  1. Sócrates

Titles: Brazilian Championship (1979, 1982), Copa América (1983).

Main teams: Corinthians, Flamengo.

History: Born in Belém do Pará, Brazil, he was much more than a footballer. In addition to his genius on the pitch, he was also a trained doctor. His intelligence and innovative style of play marked his time with Corinthians and the Brazilian national team.

Curiosity: He was a trained doctor and practiced medicine while playing professionally.

  1. Steven Gerrard

Titles: UEFA Champions League (2005), twice FA Cup.

Main teams: Liverpool.

History: Born in Whiston, England, he was brought up in the youth ranks of Liverpool, the club for which he became an icon. His leadership and unparalleled skill in midfield gave him countless memorable moments.

Curiosity: He is the only player to score in the finals of the FA Cup, the English League Cup, the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League.

  1. Didi

Titles: World Cup winner (1958, 1962), Copa América (1959, 1962).

Main teams: Botafogo, Fluminense.

History: Born in Campos dos Goytacazes, Brazil, he began his career at Americano before shining at Fluminense and Botafogo. Didi revolutionized the midfield with his elegance and precision passing.

Curiosity: He was nicknamed “The Master” due to his incomparable skill in midfield.

  1. Roy Keane

Titles: Seven Premier League titles, UEFA Champions League (1999).Títulos: Sete títulos da Premier League, UEFA Champions League (1999).

Main teams: Manchester United

History: Born in Cork, Ireland, he began his soccer career with the Cobh Ramblers before making a name for himself at Manchester United. Known for his intensity and leadership on the pitch, Keane was a key player in winning numerous titles.

Curiosity: He is often cited as one of the best captains in Manchester United’s history.

  1. Luka Modrić

Titles: World Cup winner (2018), UEFA Champions League (2014, 2016, 2017, 2018).

Main teams: Real Madrid, Tottenham.

History: Born in Zadar, Croatia, he began his soccer career at NK Zadar before making a name for himself at Dinamo Zagreb. His vision and technical ability led him to shine at Tottenham and Real Madrid;

Curiosity: He was the first player to break Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo’s hold on the FIFA World Player award since 2008.

  1. Clarence Seedorf

Títulos: UEFA Champions League (1995, 1998, 2003, 2007), Campeonato Italiano (1998, 2004).

Main teams: AC Milan, Real Madrid.

History: Born in Paramaribo, Suriname, he began his career with Ajax when he was just 16. His vision of the game and ability to influence the pace of the match cemented him as a soccer legend.

Curiosity: He is the player with the most appearances in Champions League finals, with eight in total.

  1. Paulo Roberto Falcão

Titles: Gaucho Championship (1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976), Brazilian Championship (1975, 1976), Italian Championship (1982), among others.

Main teams: Internacional, Roma.

History: Born in 1953 in Abelardo Luz, Brazil, he began his professional career with Internacional in 1972, where he stood out as a leader on the pitch and a fans’ idol.

Curiosity: he was nicknamed ‘The King of Rome’, leaving a lasting mark on the hearts of Roman fans and admirers of the sport all over the world.

  1. Gianni Rivera

Titles: World Cup winner (1978), two-time Serie A winner.

Main teams: Milan.

History: Rivera was one of the first attacking midfielders in the history of Italian soccer, known for his technical ability and vision.

Curiosity: He is the only Italian player to win the Ballon d’Or award.

  1. Bastian Schweinsteiger

Titles: World Cup winner (2014), UEFA Champions League (2013).

Principais equipes: Bayern de Munique, Manchester United.

History: Admired for his versatility and leadership on the pitch, Schweinsteiger was born in Kolbermoor, Germany, and grew up in the youth ranks of Bayern Munich, the club for which he became a legend;

Curiosity: He is the player with the most World Cup appearances for the German national team, with 24 games played.

  1. Frank Lampard

Titles: UEFA Champions League (2012), three times Premier League champion.

Principais equipes: Chelsea, Manchester City.

History: born in Romford, England, he began his career at West Ham United, a club where his father was also a prominent figure. Lampard is Chelsea’s all-time leading scorer and one of the Premier League’s greatest midfielders, known for his goalscoring ability and leadership on the pitch.

Curiosity: He is the only midfielder in Premier League history to score more than 150 goals.

  1. Cesc Fàbregas

Titles: UEFA Euro (2008, 2012), twice Premier League champion.

Main teams: Arsenal, Barcelona.

History: Born in Arenys de Mar, Spain, he came through the youth ranks at Barcelona before moving to Arsenal. He became known for his vision and passing ability.

Curiosity: He is the youngest player to debut for Arsenal in the Premier League, aged just 16.

  1. Graeme Souness

Titles: Three times UEFA European Cup champions, five times First Division champions.

Main teams: Liverpool, Sampdoria.

History: Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, he is an iconic figure in British soccer. His career as a midfielder stood out at Liverpool, where he was a key player in their achievements.

Curiosity: He was the first player to lift the UEFA European Cup as Liverpool captain on three occasions.

  1. Lothar Matthaüs

Titles: World Cup winner (1990), UEFA European Championship (1980), FIFA World Player (1991).

Main teams: Bayern Munich, Inter Milan.

History: Born in Erlangen, Germany, Matthaus was a versatile midfielder known for his stamina and leadership on the pitch.

Curiosity: He is the player with the most World Cup appearances, with 25 games played.

  1. Wolfgang Overath

Titles: World Cup winner (1974), three times Bundesliga champion.

Main teams: Colony.

History: Born in Siegburg, Germany, he entered the world of soccer in the youth ranks of Siegburger SV 04. He gained recognition very quickly, eventually joining 1. FC Köln, where his career took off. Overath was one of the most influential players in West Germany.

Curiosity: He is remembered for scoring the winning goal in the 1974 World Cup semi-final against Poland, taking Germany to the final of the tournament, where they eventually beat the Netherlands to win the title.

  1. Mário Coluna

Titles: European Cup Winner (1961, 1962), Portuguese Championship (1960, 1961, 1963).

Main teams: Benfica.

History: born in Inhaca, Mozambique, he began his footballing journey at Desportivo de Lourenço Marques, before making a name for himself at Benfica. Coluna was a legend for Benfica and the Portuguese national team, known for his leadership and skill in midfield.

Curiosity: He captained the Portuguese team at the 1966 World Cup, where Portugal finished third.

  1. Johan Neeskens

Titles: World Cup winner (1974), UEFA European Championship (1988), three-time Champions League winner.

Main teams: Ajax, Barcelona.

History: born in Heemstede, Netherlands, had a remarkable career in soccer. He excelled in the youth ranks of Ajax before becoming a central figure in Holland’s legendary “Oranje” team in the 1970s;

Curiosity: He was instrumental in the famous Ajax team of the 1970s, known as the “Clockwork Orange”.

List of the greatest midfielders of all time

  1. Michel Platini
  2. Andrés Iniesta
  3. Zinedine Zidane
  4. Diego Maradona
  5. Xavi Hernández
  6. Paul Scholes
  7. Johan Cruyff
  8. Ronaldinho Gaúcho
  9. Andrea Pirlo
  10. Sócrates
  11. Steven Gerrard
  12. Didi
  13. Roy Keane
  14. Luka Modrić
  15. Clarence Seedorf
  16. Paulo Roberto Falcão
  17. Gianni Rivera
  18. Bastian Schweinsteiger
  19. Frank Lampard
  20. Cesc Fàbregas
  21. Graeme Souness
  22. Lothar Matthaüs
  23. Wolfgang Overath
  24. Mário Coluna
  25. Johan Neeskens

The greatest midfielders of all time in World Cup history

Now that you’ve seen the 25 greatest midfielders of all time, let’s take a look back at some of the names that have left their mark on World Cup history: check out the greatest midfielders of all time in World Cup history!

  1. Diego Maradona

Maradona shone at the 1986 World Cup, leading Argentina to the title with memorable performances, including the famous “Goal of the Century” against England.

  1. Zinedine Zidane

Zidane was France’s maestro at the 1998 World Cup, leading his team to the world title with stellar performances, including two goals in the final against Brazil.

  1. Johan Cruyff

Cruyff was one of the stars of the 1974 World Cup, leading the Netherlands to the final with his revolutionary style of play and exceptional vision.

  1. Andrés Iniesta

Iniesta was instrumental in Spain winning the 2010 World Cup, scoring the decisive goal in the final against the Netherlands and being one of the highlights of the whole competition.

  1. Michel Platini

Platini was the top scorer at the 1982 World Cup, leading France to the semi-finals with his genius in midfield and ability to score important goals.

  1. Didi

Didi was a key player in Brazil’s World Cup triumphs in 1958 and 1962, being one of the best midfielders of the time, known for his elegance and precision passing.

  1. Lothar Mathhaüs

Matthäus had a brilliant World Cup career, especially in 1990, when he led West Germany to the title as captain and was voted the tournament’s best player.

  1. Marco Tardelli

Tardelli is remembered for his iconic goal in the 1982 World Cup final against Germany and for his fundamental contribution to Italy’s victory in that tournament.

  1. Xavi Hernández

Xavi was a central figure in Spain’s midfield during their 2010 World Cup triumphs, exercising masterful control of the game and dictating the pace of matches.

  1. Sócrates

Socrates was an iconic figure at the 1982 World Cup, leading the legendary Brazilian team with his elegant style of play and tactical intelligence, leaving an indelible mark on the tournament.

List of the greatest midfielders of all time in World Cup history

  1. Diego Maradona
  2. Zinedine Zidane
  3. Johan Cruyff
  4. Andrés Iniesta
  5. Michel Platini
  6. Didi
  7. Lothar Matthäus
  8. Marco Tardelli
  9. Xavi Hernández
  10. Sócrates

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