Football has seen the birth of great talents, players whose genius and creativity have extended beyond the confines of the field. Among these, midfielders are the playmakers, managing the ebb and flow of the beautiful game. 

The best midfielders of all time have made an indelible effect on the sport, molding its evolution and enthralling fans with their dazzling skills as custodians of vision, creativity, and control.

We go into the history of the sport to pay respect to those whose mastery in the middle of the park has inscribed their names in the pantheon of football legends in this investigation of the greatest midfielders.

Diego Maradona

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Diego Maradona is widely regarded as one of the best footballers of all time. Although he is best known for his ability as a forward, Maradona's influence extended to the midfield as well.

During the quarter-final encounter against England, one of the most famous moments in football history occurred. Maradona scored two of the most memorable goals in World Cup history in the quarterfinals.

The first, dubbed "Hand of God," involved Maradona striking the ball into the net with his hand. The second goal dubbed the "Goal of the Century," featured his exceptional dribbling skills as he navigated around multiple English players to score.

  • Position: Attacking Midfielder
  • Total Goals Scored: 338

Lothar Matthäus

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Lothar Matthäus is a former German footballer and one of the sport's most accomplished midfielders. He began his professional career in the late 1970s with Borussia Mönchengladbach before going on to Bayern Munich in 1984.

Matthäus had tremendous international success. He helped West Germany win the FIFA World Cup in 1990, playing a significant role in their victory in Italy.

He was the team's captain as well as its finest player, receiving the FIFA World Player of the Year award in 1991.

  • Position: Box-to-box midfielder, Sweeper
  • Total Goals Scored: 227

Johan Cruyff

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Johan Cruyff was a football genius known for his inventive style of play, tactical brilliance, and significant impact on the evolution of modern football.

Cruyff rose to popularity as a player for Ajax and then FC Barcelona in the 1960s and 1970s. From 1971 to 1973, he was instrumental in Ajax's domination, winning three consecutive European Cups.

His total football concept, defined by dynamic positional play and player interchangeability, transformed the game.

  • Position: Attacking Midfielder, Forward
  • Total Goals Scored: 327

Bobby Charlton

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Sir Bobby Charlton is a football legend and one of the greatest midfielders of all time. He spent the majority of his playing career with Manchester United, where he was a key member of the team known as the "Busby Babes" under Sir Matt Busby's management.

When the team was involved in the Munich air disaster in 1958, tragedy struck, but Charlton survived and went on to play an important role in the club's rebuilding process.

Charlton was a dynamic midfielder recognized for his goal-scoring ability, superb passing, and leadership on the field. His ability to score from midfield was particularly impressive, and he was instrumental in Manchester United's success in the 1960s.

  • Positions: Midfielder, Forward
  • Total Goals Scored: 260

Zinedine Zidane

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Zinedine Zidane is noted among the top midfielders of all time for his ball-playing grace, vision, and exceptional skill. He had a fantastic playing career that featured multiple individual and team honors.

The 1998 FIFA World Cup in France was a watershed point in Zidane's career. Zidane was instrumental in helping the French national team to their first World Cup victory.

Zidane's success at the club level continued when he joined Real Madrid in 2001 for a world-record transfer fee.

  • Position: Attacking Midfielder
  • Total Goals Scored: 126


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During the 1970s and 1980s, Zico had a huge impact on Brazilian and worldwide football. His career began with Flamengo, a Rio de Janeiro-based team, where he was instrumental in their success.

Zico was a member of the Brazilian national team and competed in three FIFA World Cups in 1978, 1982, and 1986. His skill was on display during the 1982 World Cup in Spain, where he played a major role in Brazil's offensive style of play.

Brazil was ousted in the quarterfinals, but Zico's achievements garnered him significant praise.

  • Position: Attacking Midfielder
  • Total Goals Scored: 240

Andrés Iniesta

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During his incredible career, Iniesta was instrumental in the success of both the Spanish national team and FC Barcelona. He joined FC Barcelona's academy, La Masia, at a young age and made his first-team debut in 2002.

His partnership with another best center midfielders Xavi Hernandez became the heartbeat of the team, and together they played a crucial role in Barcelona's tiki-taka style of possession-based football.

One of the most memorable moments of his career came in the 2010 World Cup final, where he scored the decisive goal in extra time, securing Spain's first-ever World Cup title.

  • Position: Midfielder
  • Total Goals Scored: 71

Andrea Pirlo

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Andrea Pirlo is a retired Italian footballer who was regarded as one of his generation's most elegant and clever midfielders. He began his professional career with Brescia before moving on to AC Milan, where he was instrumental in the team's success.

Pirlo earned two Serie A titles and two UEFA Champions League wins with Inter Milan (2003, 2007).

He represented the Italian national team and was an integral part of their 2006 FIFA World Cup victory. His performances, notably in the tournament's knockout stages, were crucial to Italy's victory.

  • Position: Central Midfielder
  • Total Goals Scored: 74

Xavi Hernandez

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Xavi contributed significantly to the success of both FC Barcelona and the Spanish national team. He progressed through the Barcelona La Masia junior system before making his first-team debut in 1998. He became the heartbeat of Barcelona's midfield throughout the next 17 years.

He earned numerous local and international awards during his career at Barcelona, including eight La Liga crowns and four UEFA Champions League trophies.

In midfield, his connection with Andres Iniesta was crucial to Barcelona's domination, both in Spain and in European games.

  • Position: Central Midfielder
  • Total Goals Scored: 91

David Beckham

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Among the best midfielders ever, David Beckham is a retired English footballer, now an owner of MSL club Inter Miami, who became a global sports and fashion star as well as one of the most iconic football players of his generation.

He had a successful and high-profile career and was known for his outstanding crossing ability, free-kick proficiency, and flashy off-field demeanor.

He was a vital figure in Manchester United's late-90s domination in English football, winning multiple Premier League titles as well as the UEFA Champions League in 1999.

Beckham joined Real Madrid in 2003, where he continued to find success and added a La Liga title to his resume.

  • Position: Right Midfielder
  • Total Goals Scored: 114


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Ronaldinho is one of the best soccer midfielders known for his dazzling dribbling, innovation, flair, and infectious smile, his career began in Brazil with Gremio when his talents drew the interest of European clubs.

Ronaldinho joined Barcelona in 2003 and played a key role in the team's success under manager Frank Rijkaard. He led Barcelona to their first La Liga win in six years in 2004-2005.

Ronaldinho led Barcelona to the UEFA Champions League victory the following season, earning him the FIFA World Player of the Year award in 2005 and 2006.

  • Position: Attacking Midfielder, Winger
  • Total Goals Scored: 238

Paul Scholes

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Paul Scholes is one of the most respected and best soccer midfielders of all time. He spent his whole professional career at Manchester United and became a club legend.

He rose through Manchester United's development system and made his first-team debut in 1994.

His connection with other midfield legends like Roy Keane and Ryan Giggs became a defining feature of Manchester United's domination in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

  • Position: Central Midfielder
  • Total Goals Scored: 121

Michel Platini

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Michel Platini is a former French footballer who is regarded as one of the game's best midfielders. Platini began his professional career in France with AS Nancy before moving on to AS Saint-Étienne, where he was successful and helped the club win the French league title.

Michel Platini played for France's national team and during the 1980s, he played a prominent role in France's golden generation.

Platini led France to victory in the UEFA European Championship in 1984, scoring nine goals in the tournament.

  • Position: Attacking midfielder
  • Total Goals Scored:269

Frank Lampard

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Frank Lampard began his professional career with West Ham United before moving to Chelsea in 2001. Lampard reached the pinnacle of his career with Chelsea, where he became the club's all-time leading goal-scorer from midfield.

He was well-known as a midfielder with a remarkable goal-scoring record. During the same era, his chemistry with fellow midfielder Steven Gerrard was an important aspect of the England national squad.

Lampard has represented England in some important tournaments, including the UEFA European Championship and the FIFA World Cup.

  • Position: Central Midfielder, Attacking Midfielder
  • Total Goals Scored: 222

Xabi Alonso

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Xabi Alonso is one of the best defensive midfielders of all time as began his professional career in Spain with Real Sociedad before joining Liverpool in 2004. His time at Liverpool was marked by success, including a UEFA Champions League title in 2005.

He moved to Real Madrid in 2009. He won La Liga and the Copa del Rey with Real Madrid before joining Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga in 2014.

He was instrumental in Spain's victories at the UEFA European Championships in 2008 and 2012, as well as the FIFA World Cup in 2010.

  • Position: Central Midfielder
  • Total Goals Scored: 49

Steven Gerrard

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One of the best midfielders in soccer Steven Gerrard joined the Liverpool youth academy and made his first-team debut in 1998. He then became the heartbeat of the team, demonstrating a remarkable combination of technical skill, vision, and goal-scoring ability.

He guided Liverpool to multiple victories throughout his tenure, including the UEFA Champions League in 2005.

He also assisted Liverpool in winning two FA Cups and three Football League Cups. Gerrard is considered one of the best Premier League midfielders.

  • Position: Central Midfielder
  • Total Goals Scored: 146

Luka Modric

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Luka Modric is a top Croatian footballer and one of the best midfielders in the modern era. He has had a distinguished career at both the club and international levels.

He began his professional career at Dinamo Zagreb, where he soon established himself as a competent midfielder. His achievements drew notice, and he joined Tottenham Hotspur in the English Premier League in 2008.

He made a high-profile move to Real Madrid in 2012 and is thriving. Modric is currently one of the best midfielders in the world.

  • Position: Central Midfielder
  • Total Goals Scored: 102