There aren’t many greater sights in football than a player using his trickery and guile to get the better of his opponents on the pitch. The art of dribbling has become increasingly rare in the modern game with players and coaches more inclined to playing safe and minimising risks. Having said that, it must be noted that there are still a handful of individuals who don’t conform to modern football’s safety-first approach.
Much to the contrary, these individuals stand out thanks to their bravery on the ball, which sees them take on opposition defences. One of the game’s best dribblers in recent times, Eden Hazard may have endured a difficult campaign by his own admission last season. However, here we look at the top five dribblers from across Europe based on their displays over the 2019-20 season.
Even though injury restricted him to just 15 appearances for Paris Saint-Germain in Ligue 1 last season, Neymar still managed to find the back of the net on 13 occasions and also provided six assists. PSG were handed the league title after the Ligue 1 campaign was cancelled but not before the Brazilian superstar showed us just why he’s considered one of the greatest dribblers in the world. His ability to breeze past defenders with tricky footwork is not a secret to many. He averaged 5.8 dribbles per game last season and was a thorn in the side of opposition defences. Not only does his courage with the ball at his feet put defences under pressure, but it also strikes fear in their hearts every time the Brazilian is on the attack.
No list on Europe’s top dribblers will be complete without a mention of Lionel Messi. The six-time Ballon d’Or winner scored 34 goals and provided 24 assists in what he himself described as a poor season for Barcelona.
The Catalans finished second to Real Madrid in the La Liga title race, but Messi was still at his mesmerising best and a nightmare for defenders. His goal contributions aside, Messi completed 5.9 dribbles per game to the dismay of opposition defenders.
The 2019-20 Premier League campaign can be considered the coming of age season for Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Adama Traore. The 24-year-old has always been a threat thanks to his explosive pace and his ability to beat a man.
However, Traore added the end product to his game last season and finished the campaign with four goals and nine assists. Last season also saw him become the first player since Hazard in 2014-15 to complete 180 successful dribbles in the Premier League and he finished the campaign with 183 dribbles completed.
Allan Saint-Maximin has become an instant hit at Tyneside ever since his arrival at Newcastle United. The 23-year-old has drastically improved Newcastle’s attacking threat and played a key role in the team’s fight against relegation last season. His deft touches in the final-third have left more than one defender red-faced. Saint-Maximin’s penchant for showboating saw him entertain supporters with his quick feet and direct approach.
The Frenchman completed 121 dribbles in the Premier League last term and also took more shots than any other player in the league after completing take-ons.
A regular feature in most dribbling lists, Wilfried Zaha had another good campaign as far as getting past his man goes. The pacey wideman is a menacing presence on the left flank and despite enduring somewhat of an underwhelming campaign in terms of goals contribution, he still managed to beat his man in one-on-one situations without much fuss. He completed 163 dribbles in the Premier League last season and played his part in keeping Crystal Palace in England’s top-flight.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Franck Fife