The best dribblers in soccer are players who are adored by the fans. Because of the excitement they bring to the game, those stars are favored by the public. The regular fan watches their every move on the pitch because nobody knows what can be expected at any moment.
Dribbling is not as easy as it seems. In fact, most players can’t actually dribble very well. It requires a specific skill to do so but also some talent you’re born with. Some people would even say it’s not something you’re learning but a skill you have in yourself from birth.
In this article, we will take a look at some of the best dribblers in soccer history. These players brought some incredible excitement to the public during their playing days. All of them are legends of the game, that’s for sure. So, are you ready?
When Diego Armando Maradona scored his incredible solo goal against England at the World Cup in 1986, he changed soccer forever. We have never witnessed such an individual act on such a giant stage before. Maradona won the World Cup in the same tournament and forever became a cult hero for the Argentine nation. Because of his dribbling skills, he was able to navigate through tight spaces when dribblers were not as protected by referees as they are now.
From Maradona, we go straight to Maradona’s heir – Lionel Messi. La Pulga completed soccer when he won the World Cup in 2022 – the only trophy missing from his collection. Like Don Diego, Messi has a low center of gravity, allowing him to use his technique and dribbling ability to get past defenders. In 2007, he even replicated Maradona’s goal against England in a Copa del Rey clash against Getafe. Leo Messi scored some remarkable solo goals during his marvelous career, mainly at Barcelona. Certainly one of the top dribblers in soccer.
El Rey – the King of Soccer, Pelé is arguably one of the most influential players in the game’s history. Having won the World Cup three times in his career, Pelé was a force of nature during his playing days. His Brazilian team revolutionized soccer, presenting a new, funnier way of playing to the public. Brazil proved that you can play for entertainment as well, and Pelé was the heart of this team. His ability to dribble was fantastic, alongside his goalscoring talents.
When discussing natural talent to play the game, George Best is among the most gifted players ever. Born in Northern Ireland but gaining a legendary status at Manchester United, Best was a player you would travel thousands of miles to watch. The sad part is his biggest enemy was not defenders but his addiction to alcohol and women. If it was not about that, George Best could have been even more prominent as a player.
One of the greatest dribblers in soccer history. Many people say that Ronaldinho was the last player of his kind. He was more of an entertainer than a player in his prime years. Don’t make a mistake here – he was dominating the game, beating teams on his own, but he was also playing for the stands. And the best part about that? He was doing it with a huge smile on his face. When the ball was in Ronaldinho’s feet, spectators were ready to expect the unexpected. Will we ever see a player like him again? Maybe not.
When we talk about old-timers who shaped modern soccer as it is, Dutch legend Johan Cruyff is probably the most important name on the list. He was the ambassador of the so-called “total soccer”, practiced by the Netherlands’ national team. And Cruyff was a master when it came to dribbling. He was famous for his “Cruyff Turn”, leaving defenders for dead.
Even today, many people believe that it was not Pelé but Garrincha who was the most spectacular player in Brazil’s golden generation. Playing as a winger, Garrincha was a dribbling machine who was a nightmare for the opposite defenders. Born with one of his legs being shorter than the other, somehow, he found a way to turn this congenital disability into an advantage.
Sir Stanley Matthews, CBE, is the only player in history to be knighted while still playing soccer. And if you wonder if he was good at dribbling, let us tell you that his nickname was “The Wizard of Dribble.” You get the picture, right? Remarkably, he played competitive soccer until he was 50 years old, while in 1956, Matthews was awarded the Ballon d’Or prize. He had terrific close control of the ball while his agility was perfecting his craft.
Another Brazilian legend from Seleção’s golden era, Rivellino helped Brazil win the World Cup in 1970. Playing as an attacking midfielder, Rivellino pioneered the dribbling move “flip-flap”, used later by players such as Romario, Ronaldinho, and Cristiano Ronaldo. Known for his large mustache, Rivellino was a player no defender wanted to see with the ball in front of him.
Zinedine Zidane, one of the greatest European players ever, reminded people that elegance could be a huge part of soccer. There was something magical in the way Zidane played. He was not just effective and brilliant at the same time but also outstanding in the beauty of his movement. Zizzou’s fantastic control of the ball allowed him to beat defenders easily while doing it in the most impressive way.
Honorable Mention: Andres Iniesta
If we have to name one player who really resembles Zinedine Zidane, Andres Iniesta is our guy. Having graduated from Barcelona’s famous La Masia Academy, Iniesta continued Zidane’s legacy of bossing the midfield in the most elegant way possible. His ability to beat defenders was impressive, while his vision made him the complete midfielder.
Honorable Mention: Ronaldo
Ronaldo Nazário, called O Fenomeno during his time in Italy, was certainly one of the best dribblers you can see in soccer. Especially before his knee injuries and at his peak weight, Ronaldo was unstoppable for the opposite defenders. If you don’t believe us, take a look at his legendary goal against Compostela in La Liga. His injuries definitely slowed him down a bit, although it didn’t stop him from becoming the star at the 2002 World Cup.
These are the 10 best dribblers in soccer history. From Pelé and Maradona to Messi and Iniesta, those players used their talents to make people fall in love with the game. And while physicality is getting increasingly important nowadays, the ability to play beautifully will never go out of fashion. At least we hope so.
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