The Guardian have announced the World Cup’s top 100 footballers of all-time, carefully chosen by their assembled panel of experts – and it’s no surprise that playmakers feature heavily in the comprehensive list.
Led by Zico, Lothar Matthäus and John Barnes – themselves, players who graced the number 10 shirt with such distinction – the international panel of 40 experts compiled a list of the players they feel had the biggest impact on the globe’s greatest sporting event.
No fewer than seventeen bona fide number 10s made the cut, which you can read below (with accompanying snippets provided by The Guardian writers), in their voted positions.
92: Dragan Stojkovic – Yugoslavia (WC 90/98) 9 apps/3 gls
“A playmaker of rare vision and finesse, he was chief conductor in two exquisitely talented teams.”
86: Alessandro Del Piero – Italy (WC 98/02/06) 12 apps/2 gls
“A winner in 2006, he was less than prolific at World Cups scoring only twice.”
84: Wesley Sneijder – Holland (WC 06/10) 11 apps/5 gls
“Voted Man of the Match in FIFA’s online poll despite losing the final in 2010 versus Spain. Helped dump Brazil out at the quarter-final stage, scoring a header – the first of his career. That was one of 5 goals scored in the tournament.”
80: Gianni Rivera – Italy (WC 62/66/70/74) 9 apps/4 gls
“Played in four World Cups but famously remembered for 1970 when he shared the stage with Mazzola.”
78: Jay-Jay Okocha – Nigeria (WC 94/98/02) 9 apps/0 gls
“So good they named him twice, Jay-Jay was a wonderfully original footballer, capable of taking the breath away with the kind of improvisational skill that was beyond the majority of players; at times he seemed to be inventing new tricks as he went along. Despite his undoubted quality, he perhaps lacked a crucial level of consistency or decisiveness that might have elevated him to the top, although he helped Nigeria reach the second round twice.”
66: Paul Gascoigne – England (WC 90) 6 apps/0 gls
“The dash of fantasy in Bobby Robson’s England side culminating in tears in Turin. The clown with extravagant skills, capable of running rings round opponents with the ball glued to his instep.”
65: Andres Iniesta – Spain (WC 06/10) 7 apps/2 gls
“Key member of Spain’s victorious 2010 side, crowing his Man of the Match performance in the final with the winning goal.”
63: Fritz Walter – West Germany (WC 54/58) 10 apps/5 gls
“Captain of the winning 1954 team, a wonderfully talented goalscorer and creative lynchpin in attacking midfield. Was almost 34 at the final in Berne but returned four years later to lead them to semi-finals in Sweden.”
61: Gheorge Hagi – Romania (WC 90/94/98) 12 apps/3 gls
“Charismatic with a temper to rival his outrageous skill. Scored all 3 of his goals in Romania’s run to the quarter-final in 1994 – the pick of the a ridiculously opportunistic shot from the touchline which made a fool of the Colombian keeper.”
51: Lionel Messi – Argentina (WC 06/10) 8 apps/1 gl
“For all his brilliance at club level he is yet to shine on the international stage and some people believe he must take a World Cup by storm before he can be spoken of in the same terms as Maradona. Used sparingly in 06 and was below par four years later.”
27: Rivaldo – Brazil (WC 98/02) 14 apps/8 gls
“A part of the attacking trident that also featured Ronaldo and Ronaldinho, Rivaldo was sensational in Japan and South Korea scoring five goals which helped Brazil claim the trophy for a record fifth time.”
24: Roberto Baggio – Italy (WC 90/94/98) 16 apps/9 gls
“It is one of football’s great injustices that a missed penalty shall always be remembered as the iconic moment of Baggio’s career. It was he who dragged Italy to the final in 1994, scoring 5 goals and rescuing them against Nigeria in the last 16. He would later become the only Italian ever to score in three World Cups but will never be allowed to forget that lone spot-kick.”
23: Ronaldinho – Brazil (WC 02/06) 10 apps/2 gls
“An absurdly talented forward who comprised one prong of the attacking trident including Rivaldo and Ronaldo in Brazil’s 2002 World Cup win, famously making David Seaman look like a chump along the way. Woefully out of sorts when Brazil flattered to deceive 4 years later.”
22: Zico – Brazil (WC 78/82/86) 14 apps/5 gls
“Zico never won the World Cup but was part of one of the most watchable sides ever to play at a World Cup in 1982.”
10: Michel Platini – France (WC 78/82/86) 14 apps/5 gls
“Platini made his World Cup debut in 1978 but was marked out of the game in a vital group match versus Italy. By 1982, though, he was captain and the central figure in the Carre Magique – the magic square – of four exceptional midfielders who inspired France to the semi-final and their controversial exit to West Germany. Four years later, despite being restricted by an ankle injury, he scored France’s equaliser in the 1-1 draw against Brazil in the quarter-final. Although his kick was saved, France put Brazil out on penalties before losing – again – to West Germany in the semi-final.”
5: Zinedine Zidane – France (WC 98/02/06) 12 apps/5 gls
“A protagonist of two finals, finishing one a national hero and the other in rather a disgrace. Zidane’s first World Cup was a personal triumph in which the midfielder scored two goals in the final versus Brazil. Zidane was cajoled out of international retirement to help struggling France qualify for Germany 2006 and went onto be awarded the Golden Ball before sensationally being sent-off in extra-time for butting Italy’s Marco Materazzi, who had been repeatedly goading him, in the chest.”
2: Diego Maradona – Argentina (WC 82/86/90/94) 21 apps /8 gls
“Aggressive, outrageously skilful and streetwise, Maradona was one of the world’s great playmakers who inspired Argentina to claim the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. He featured in Spain in 1982 and, having been on the end of some brutal tackles from Claudio Gentile of Italy, was sent-off for a foul against Brazil as the team exited from the second group stage. In Mexico, his devious “Hand of God” handball, palming a finish over Peter Shilton, went unnoticed, thought the jaw-dropping 60 yard dribble past five panicked outfield England players and clipped finish moments later sealed his reputation as a great. FIFA voted that the competition’s best ever goal. He scored twice in the semi-final, summoned an assist in for the decisive goal in the final and was voted Golden Ball winner with five goals and five assists. His displays in Italia 90 were hampered by injury, but was voted the tournament’s third best player as Argentina succumbed in the final. He was sent home from the 1994 WC after testing positive for ephedrine.”
Number 1 was possibly the most famous player to wear the number 10 shirt: Pele; although, we wouldn’t class him as a bona fide playmaker – hence not being included in the above list.
You can view The Guardian’s full list below, or read the full, excellent write-up here, including how they calculated and voted the positions.