Among different positions in soccer, the place of a midfielder enjoys significant importance. It’s because a midfielder doesn’t just have to attack but it also needs to defense to make the game. The history of football has seen many midfielders. Here, in this post, I will enlist the best midfielders of all time in world football.
“If you have control of the midfield, you have control of the game, and you have more chances to win.” – Xabi Alonso
This famous quote by Xabi Alonso clearly states how important the role of a midfielder is in football. Not only does a midfielder saves goals for his team but also creates opportunities for the win of his team.
Hence, teams focus on selecting the best midfielders on their sides. And they pay a great emphasis on choosing the best defensive, attacking, and central midfielders to win matches.
The soccer world has seen many greatest midfielders of all time. They have impressed the football fans with their art and left a strong legacy behind them. So, without further ado, let’s discuss the popular midfielders in the football world.
Before enlisting the all-time best midfielders in the football arena, let’s discuss various categories of midfielders. Here are the sub-divisions:
- Central Midfielders
- Defensive Midfielders
- Holding Midfielders
- Midfielders (Left and Right)
- Attack Driven Midfielders
Best Midfielders of All Time
Read below to know about the best midfielders in the world of football. These names have gained a reputed place in the soccer world. Hence, football fans remember them for their achievements.
How can anyone forget the final goal by Andreas Iniesta in the 2010 world cup final? Phew! it really changed the entire match by the sheer efforts of the Spanish midfielder, Andreas Iniesta.
Iniesta shows fine skills on the football field and impresses everyone with his passing skills. Moreover, his combined efforts with Xavi as the central midfielder attract people’s attention even today.
- Goals Scored – 57 Goals
- Achievements – Won 4 Champions League for Spain and 2010 World Cup
- Played for Teams – Barcelona and Vissel Kobe
- Popular Skills – excellent passing ability and sound coordination with a team
Xavi is one of the best central midfielders of all time in the soccer world. He is the name behind the success of Spanish teams and Barcelona for over a decade.
During his football career as a midfielder, the Spaniard has won gained huge recognition for his exceptional talent. Xavi is the only player from the Spanish club to play 150 European Cup and FIFA World Cup matches combined.
- Goals Scored – 85 goals
- Achievements – 8 LaLiga titles and 4 Champions League title (UEFA)
- Played for Teams – Played for the national team of Barcelona and Spanish
- Popular Skills – passing skills, positioning, vision, and ability to pick the right pass
For Germany, Lothar Matthaus has made intense efforts in his football career as a midfielder. Known for his exemplary midfield performances, Lothar has earned a great reputation among football fans.
In his football career, Matthaus has played for Bayern Munchen and the German national team. Surely, he is one of the best midfielders ever seen by Germany.
- Total Goals Scored – 204 goals
- Achievements – 1990 Ballon d’Or winner, 1990 World Cup winner, and the FIFA World Player of the Year in 1991
- Played for Teams – Bayern Munchen and the German national team
- Popular Skills – Leadership ability, powerful shooting skills, and right positioning at the right time
Andrea Pirlo – One of the Best Midfielders of all Time
Andrea Pirlo possessed the capability to surprise the opponents with his magical football skills. Hence, he enjoys a place on the list of the best European players in history.
Now, Pirlo serves as the Juventus manager and he comes on the all-time best midfielders list. Moreover, his midfield efforts had helped his clubs and country won many matches.
- Total Goals Scored – 73 goals
- Achievements – Winner of the World Cup 2006, Champions League (UEFA), multiple Serie A, and domestic cups
- Played for Teams – New York City FC, Juventus, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Brescia, and Reggina
- Popular Skills – expertise with a dead ball, extraordinary passing skills, and vision
Another name amongst the best midfielders of all time is Ryan Giggs. He has played for Manchester United for some years and contributed to its wins. And people draw comparisons between Giggs and Scholes as both were associated with Manchester United.
- Goals Scored – 162 goals
- Achievements – 13 Premier League winner’s medals, four FA Cup winner’s medals, 3 League Cup winner’s medals, 2 UEFA Champions League medals, a FIFA Club World Cup medal, etc.
- Played for Teams – Manchester United and the Wales National Team
- Popular Skills – passing skills
Can you think of any better midfielder for Liverpool than Steven Gerrard? Certainly, it is not easy to find one. The contribution Steven Gerrard has made for Liverpool is simply remarkable.
Steven Gerrard is one of the best premier league midfielders of all time. How he made Liverpool the 2005 UEFA Champions League winner is simply impressive.
- Goals Scored – 191 goals
- Achievements – UEFA Club Footballer of the Year and Ballon d’Or Bronze Award winner in 2005
- Played for Teams – Liverpool, LA Galaxy
- Popular Skills – excellent passing skills and leadership ability
Michael Laudrup (DEN)
Michael Laudrup is another midfielder in the soccer world known for his excellent midfield. Owing to his exceptional skills, Michael Laudrup made a big name for himself. Moreover, he comes among rare footballers who have played for both Real Madrid and Barcelona.
- Goals Scored – 165 goals
- Achievements – Serie A Title, 5 La Liga titles, a Dutch League title, a Spanish title, a Dutch Cup, and a European Cup winner.
- Played for Teams – Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Vissel Kobe
- Popular Skills – dribbling ability
Paul Scholes – A Great Central Midfielder
Paul Scholes enjoys his place among the top 10 midfielders of all time. And the simple reason behind it – his consistent football performances. Known as ‘Ginger Genius’, Scholes contributed a lot to Manchester United’s win.
Hence, he received a powerful response for his excellent football talent. Because Scholes helped Manchester United become a popular European Club, he is remembered by his peers for his efforts.
- Goals Scored – 152 goals
- Achievements – 2 Champions League trophies and 11 English League titles
- Played for Teams – Manchester United
- Popular Skills – accurate passing
While talking about the best midfielders in the world ever, one cannot forget Didi. Waldyr Pereira, popularly known as Didi, was the player of the tournament at the 1958 World Cup.
Thanks to some of the best football performances, the Brazilian midfielder helped his team won both the 1958 and 1962 World Cups.
- Goals Scored – 114 goals
- Achievements – Golden Ball winner in the 1958 and 1962 World Cups
- Played for Teams – Brazil national team
- Popular Skills – free-ball free kicks
Frank Lampard is one of the best attacking midfielders of all time. The former England footballer helped Chelsea emerge as a European superclub. He is an excellent box-to-box midfielder who has contributed to his team’s win.
- Goals Scored – 177
- Achievements – 13 trophies with Chelsea and second place in the 2005 Ballon d’Or standings.
- Played for Teams – Chelsea, Manchester City, Major League Soccer club, New York City, etc.
- Popular Skills – Accurate penalty and set-piece taker
Joshua Kimmich – A Popular Name Among the Best Defensive Midfielders
Whenever you search for the best defensive midfielders of all time, you will come across “Joshua Kimmich.” Besides being a versatile player, he is a great defensive midfielder.
While associated with Bayern Munchen, Joshua Kimmich has made a lot of contributions to the team. Moreover, the defensive midfielder has always tried to improve his game in every possible way. And it is what makes him a reputed name on the best midfielders of all time.
- Goals Scored – 36
- Achievements – UEFA Team of the Year, the FIFA FIFPro Men’s World11, and the UEFA Champions League Defender of the Season
- Played for Teams – RB Leipzig and Bayern Munchen
- Popular Skills – Versatile play, passing, shooting, aggression, and tackling
Diego Maradona – All-Time Best Midfielder
The Argentinian footballer, Diego Maradona, has earned respect for his midfield. No one can ignore his contributions to his teams. Therefore, he has gained popularity among football fans.
During his football career, Maradona displayed remarkable skills as a midfielder. Hence, he enjoys his place among the best midfielders of all time. Last year, Maradona’s death sparked controversy and left the football world in a deep shock.
- Goals Scored – 153 goals
- Achievements – FIFA Player of the 20th Century
- Played for Teams – Argentino Juniors, Boca Juniors, Barcelona, Sevilla, Newell’s Old Boys, and the Italian national team.
- Popular Skills – passing, ball control, and dribbling
Ronaldinho – One of the Best Midfielders Ever Existed in Soccer
Brazilian footballer Ronaldinho has ruled as a footballer for a long time. Known as a great midfielder, Dinho has left a legacy with his excellent football skills.
Now, people see Ronaldinho’s shadow in Lionell Messi who took inspiration from the former. Ronaldinho is amongst the best attacking midfielders of all time. Look at the career stats of the Brazillian footballer.
- Goals Scored – 266 goals
- Achievements – FIFA World Player of the year, 2005 Ballon d’Or
- Played for Teams – Gremio, PSG, Barcelona, AC Milan, Flamengo, Atletico Mineiro, Queretaro, and Fluminense
- Popular Skills – dribbling ability, accurate free-kicks, no-look passes, and overhead kicks.
Out of many great players of Real Madrid, Luis Figo is one such name. His decision to move to Real Madrid from Barcelona shocked everyone. However, it turned out to be a good thing for his progress.
The Portuguese citizen had earned a special place as a midfielder in the early 2000s. After joining Real Madrid, Figo grabbed the UCL for the maiden time in 2002.
- Goals Scored – 136 goals
- Achievements – Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year
- Played for Teams – Barcelona, Real Madrid, Inter Milan, and Sporting CP
- Popular Skills – ability to get past against defenders
Luka Modric is a Real Madrid star who consistently improves his football performance. Football fans compare him with Lionel Messi and Real Madrid for his spectacular football skills.
Modric does exceptionally well as a midfielder in every match. Hence, he has maintained his dominance for more than one decade. Winner of the 2018 Ballon d’Or winner, Luka Modric is a prominent player for Real Madrid.
- Goals Scored – 89 goals
- Achievements – UEFA Men’s Player of the Year Award, The Best FIFA Men’s Player, Ballon d’Or, Golden Foot
- Played for Teams – Dinamo Zagreb, Tottenham Hotspur, and Real Madrid
- Popular Skills – known as attacking, defensive, and central midfielder
Johan Neeskens proudly reserves his place on the list of the best midfielders of all time. The former football player had contributed to the wins of Ajax and the Netherlands.
The Dutch midfielder possessed everything a talented midfielder should have. Therefore, he helped other players perform well with his presence. He helped Ajax and Barcelona won many crucial titles with his intense efforts.
- Goals Scored – 17 goals
- Achievements – FIFA World Cup runner up (1974, 1976), UEFA European Cup Championship (3rd place in 1976)
- Played for Teams – Ajax, Barcelona, and the Netherlands
- Popular Skills – tireless runner, technical skills.
Alfredo Di Stefano (SPA)
Want to know the name of an all-around midfielder? The answer is Alfredo Di Stefano (SPA). Known for playing for Real Madrid, he established his presence as a reputed midfielder.
Besides, he very well knew the way to control the entire game with his skills. And that’s what set him apart from his counterparts. In his career, Alfredo Di Stefano won many league titles and cups.
- Goals Scored – 431 goals
- Achievements – Ballon d’Or winner in 1957 and 1959.
- Played for Teams – River Plate, Argentina, and Espanyol
- Popular Skills – versatility, stamina, and vision
Zinedine Zidane – A Famous Attacking Midfielder in the Soccer World
If you had watched the 1998 World Cup final, you surely know Zinedine Zidane. He is the one who made France clinched the title against Brazil. His two-headed goals completely helped the French national team register a historic win.
- Goals Scored – 125 goals
- Achievements – 1998 Ballon d’Or winner and 3 time World Player of the Year.
- Played for Teams – Cannes, Bordeaux, Juventus, and Real Madrid
- Popular Skills – dribbling skills, use of feints, and creativity with the ball
Zico is one of the best midfielders of all time known for his attacks. Known as “the White Pele”, Zico was known for his excellent free kicks and playmaking.
- Goals Scored – 469 goals
- Achievements – most goals with direct free-kicks
- Played for Teams – Flamengo, Udinese, Sumitomo Metals, and Kashima Antlers
- Popular Skills – direct free-kick ability and playmaking skills
Some Other Greatest Midfielders of All Time
So, these are some of the best midfielders ever seen in the football world. These midfielders have left a strong mark with their excellent football skills. Hence, they have also inspired everyone with their football capability.
Besides these names, I have enlisted some other popular midfielders in football history. Here are the names in this context:
- Michel Platini
- Johan Cruyff
- Kevin De Bruyne
- David Beckham
- Cesc Fabregas
- Frank Rijkaard
- Ruud Gullit
- Raymond Kopa
- Bobby Charlton
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