It takes a special type of player to open up an opposition defense. It’s about more than just pace or step-overs, it’s about having the intelligence to see the openings that others can’t and having the flawless passing technique to exploit the tiny, invisible gaps in the opposition’s defense. For obvious reasons, we call these men the playmakers, and below you’ll find the 10 finest playmakers in world soccer today.
10. Dimitri Payet (Olympique de Marseille)
Marseille’s athletic Frenchman is a jack-of-all-trades. He’s got pace and power, is very skillful on the ball, and can pick out a pass. That combination of physical and technical gifts makes Payet a rare breed of player. He goes under the radar in Ligue 1 because, possibly he’s not Zlatan, but at time of writing he has the most key passes of any player in England, France, Germany, Italy or Spain this season.
9. Kevin De Bruyne (VfL Wolfsburg)
You know who’s second in that key passes chart? It’s Wolfsburg’s brilliant Belgian, Kevin De Bruyne. He’s a versatile creator, capable of making things happen whether playing as a winger or a central midfielder. De Bruyne’s composure is what really sets him apart, with a first touch that never fails him, and always gives him plenty of time to collect possession and ponder his best passing option.
8. Toni Kroos (Real Madrid)
Toni Kroos spends most of his time as a deep-lying playmaker, which means that when he’s done intercepting attacks and winning the ball back for Real Madrid, he’s ready to hit inch-perfect passes across the field.
7. Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal)
Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez is a hybrid playmaker. While he’s mainly a dynamic winger who loves to attack, he has the special ability to create chances for his teammates out of thin air. Sometimes he’s able to draw attention of 3 different defenders to himself then have the awareness to pick out the perfect pass.
6. Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)
Most people know that Cristiano is one of if not the best goalscoring threats of all-time. Some people even label him “selfish”. But what makes Cristiano a great playmaker isn’t is dribbling (although that’s pretty undeniable), it’s the unpredictablity of his passes. Just when you think he’s going to break your ankles with a turn, he whips a perfect outside-of-the-foot cross into the box instead. That’s why, for all his goals, Ronaldo is currently fourth overall in assists by players in the top five leagues this season.
5. David Silva (Manchester City)
Manchester City’s diminutive Spaniard is one of the best chance creators in the world and sometimes unselfish to a fault. When it comes to combining quick little passes with teammates around the 18-yard-box he may have no peer.
4. Andres Iniesta (Barcelona)
Andres Iniesta has always been known as the ‘Man behind Messi’. Iniesta was the golden ticket to the “Tiki Taka” show that Barcelona made famous. His ball retention is mind-blowing, dancing around defenders like it is a video game. Go watch one of those fabled Barcelona team goals, I’ll bet you a buffalo nickel that Iniesta made the final pass.
3. Andrea Pirlo (Juventus)
The original Regista. The Legend. Andrea Pirlo personifies class. He can put a Soccer ball where he wants it, when he wants it. Left foot, right foot, it doesn’t matter. Words cannot describle how calm and collected Pirlo is when he receives the ball. He can assess the field and pick out the perfect pass all before the ball has even reached him.
2. Cesc Fabregas (Chelsea)
What makes Cesc such a great playmaker is his ability to pass from deep in the midfield, connect things through the very centre of the pitch, and create as an attacker in the final third—his versatility is a manager’s dream. He links up with his Chelsea teammates and gets everyone in great positions around the field and, just when he’s lulled you to sleep with simple passes, he plays that killer through ball and it’s game over.
1. Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
Lionel Messi is more than just an unselfish player. He’s a player who’s taken a potential negative—the fact that opposition teams are working overtime to down his dribbling—and learned how to maximize it. Messi waits for that perfect moment when the opposition has committed too many defenders to him, and picks that instant to release a teammate into space with a perfect pass that no one saw coming.