While football is all about putting the ball into the back of the net, most fans would agree that watching players perform skills with the ball at their feet is very entertaining to watch and comes as a close second to the art of goal-scoring.
At the end of the day, football has a lot to do with entertainment and those players that tend to perform skills with the ball at one’s feet courtesy of mazy dribbles and smart flicks tend to endear themselves to fans a lot easier than others.
After all, who doesn’t love to see skillful players leave opposition players floored with their quickness of thought coupled with unerring execution of skill moves that not all talents are capable of pulling off.
Many players have become synonyms with their skill moves. Some moves have even been christened with the player’s name who has been associated with it the most.
One such example is the Cruyff turn which has been immortalised by Netherlands legend Johan Cruyff. The Cruyff turn basically is a dummy move where the initiator of the skill move pretends to pass or shoot only to fake the action by dragging the ball behind their standing feet to get away from defenders.
Similarly, the skillful panenka penalty is named after Antonin Panenka after he was the first to try and dare chip a penalty straight down the middle of goal in a shootout.
Brazilain Ronaldo, meanwhile, is known for his stepovers while Ronaldinho is the master of the elastico where he drags the ball in both directions in one motion with his right foot.
Zinedine Zidane’s famous Marseille turn is another move synonymous with the legendary Frenchman, while the Rabona kick is a skill move generally associated with South American talents.
Such flair players are considered the soul of football and in the modern-day era, the likes of Neymar, Vinicious Jr, and Lionel Messi are some of the great dribblers.
Neymar, in fact, is considered the King of the Rainbow Flick. However, judging who is the best skilled player in football history is purely subjective and left up to debate.
That said, here are the top five players who the majority of fans believe to be the most skilled players to have ever graced the game.
Best skilled player in football
Brazil legend Ronaldinho is considered by most as the best skilled player in football. In his prime and when in the mood, no defender would touch Ronaldinho as he dazzled the world with what seemed like magic on his boots. His tricks and flicks with the ball coupled with his mesmeric close control made him a nightmare for opposing defenders. He could also run at great speed with the ball stuck to his feet, which is a hallmark of all great dribblers. Furthermore, his chest control and ability to use practically any part of his body to bamboozle defenders made him the most entertaining dribbler to watch.
Zinedine Zidane wasn’t just an imposing and physical presence at the heart of midfield, he was also extremely gifted when it came to dribbling as well as close control. As already mentioned, Zidane’s trademark Marseille turn left plenty of defenders for dead during his playing days. He could also run through the heart of midfield while dribbling beyond players and had exceptional close control which meant that opposing players had to resort to fouls more often than not to dispossess him.
There’s a school of thought that fervently believes that irrespective of what skill we see today, Pele was the first to execute it on the football field. A three-time World Cup winner, Pele is considered the greatest player of all-time. He scored several goals for Brazil during his time with the national team but when looked at closely, it can be asserted that Pele was a pioneer of outrageous dribbling. This can be said with good reason as there’s genuine video evidence that suggests Pele did moves like the Cruyff turn, stepovers and even the elastico before they became famous in the mainstream.
The modern-day GOAT there seems to be nothing that Lionel Messi isn’t capable of achieving on the football field. A one-of-a-kind dribbler who can get out of the tightest of spaces with the drop of a shoulder, sometimes it seems like the ball is literally glued to Lionel Messi’s feet. Capable of singlehandedly running with the ball from his own half and beating several defenders on his en route to finding the back of the net, Lionel Messi’s ability with the ball remains unparalleled in the modern era.
Before Messi became Argentina’s favourite son, a certain Diego Armando Maradona was dazzling fans and opposition players alike with his incredible footwork. The epitome of what a flair player is all about, Maradona could do it all and was different from his contemporaries, starting from the way he warmed up to how he played the beautiful game. Way before Messi, it was Maradona who ran with the ball glued to his feet from his own half and went past numerous England players prior to dribbling the goalkeeper as well and scoring into an empty net. A true maverick of the game, Diego Maradona will feature in most fans’ top picks for best skilled players in football.
Photo credit: Alamy