When we’re talking of top 10 dribblers in football you sure know we’ll mention Messi. You might have seen Jeremy Doku taking on man after man this season and thought, ‘Wow, what a player!’ And ‘Wow’ is exactly right. He possesses that aura of a dribbler that emerges once in a decade—think Ronaldinho or Arjen Robben.
Top 10 dribblers in football
But are they the most effective dribblers of all time? Join us to find out.
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1. Lionel Messi
Let’s start with the absolute king of dribbling Lionel Messi. Since bursting onto the scene in 2004, he has proven himself as one of the greatest footballers of our time. Messi’s low center of gravity, akin to his predecessor Diego Maradona, grants him exceptional agility on the field. With lightning-fast direction changes and a blazing pace, he deftly evades tackles while gliding through the opposition’s defense.
Now, Let’s relive some of his most memorable dribbles.
In a Champions League match against Real Madrid in 2011, Messi surprised everyone, breezing past the entire Madrid defense as if they were mere training dummies. Casillas’s expression after the goal said it all.
Another remarkable moment in the Champions League was when he humiliated one of the era’s best defenders, Jerome Boateng. A single swift move left Boateng on the ground, an image that will linger in the defender’s memory.
But here’s the main delight. Possibly, one of his greatest-ever goals was scored by Messi in a match against Athletic Club. Starting near the halfway line on the right side, he displayed his incredible pace and dribbling, gliding past eight players before beating the keeper at his near post.
2. Eden Hazard
Eden Hazard too once impressed everyone with his footwork. Despite his disappointing stint at Los Blancos, Eden Hazard’s remarkable talent shines through, as he sits second on the list.
Hazard at Chelsea was just unstoppable. Some of his memorable dribbles include the 2017 Arsenal goal, where he dashed from the halfway line, outmaneuvering Coquelin and Koscielny before finding the net. Additionally, in 2016, he mesmerized nearly half of Liverpool’s team, including Milner, on his way to a superbly slotted finish past Mignolet.
3. Franck Ribery
There was a time when Franck Ribery used to dominate the game, especially when Robben was on the other flank. Bayern in the Champions League was a nightmare for opponents.
Despite being right-footed, he preferred playing on the left side. This allowed him to utilize his acceleration to cut inside, outmaneuver defenders, and make crucial decisions between shooting with his right foot or delivering crucial passes to teammates.
Remember when in his last game for Bayern in 2019 against Frankfurt, Ribery showcased his brilliance by scoring the 4th goal with a sensational faint touch and a chipped finish? It was a truly memorable moment.
And during the 2013 Champions League semi-final against Barcelona, Ribery’s prime year, he humiliated Messi with a simple trick, making the Argentine superstar fall to the ground and getting a taste of his own medicine.
5. Sergio Aguero
During his prime, Sergio Agüero was an unstoppable force, effortlessly evading tackles. During the 2012/13 season, he proved his worth with a fantastic goal against Manchester United. Receiving the ball from Yaya Toure, he skillfully outmaneuvered three United defenders, including the legendary duo of Rio and Vidic.
On another occasion against Wigan Athletic, though he didn’t score, Aguero’s dribbling was a sight to behold. Single-handedly taking on three defenders and the goalkeeper, he artfully deceived them with fake shots and shoulder drops, leaving them helpless like a puppet master controlling the strings.
6. Cristiano Ronaldo
CR7 is widely known for his incredible dribbling skills and stylish tricks, such as his signature step overs During his early days at Manchester United, Ronaldo was a true dribbling sensation.
In a game against Benfica in 2006, he stunned everyone by displaying 20 dribbles, leaving the opposing midfield and defense struggling to keep up. And who can forget his solo goal against Almeria in 2010? With a clever shoulder drop move, he expertly maneuvered past three defenders, leaving them in his wake.
7. Joaquin Sanchez Rodriguez
A lesser-known dribbling success story belongs to Joaquin Sanchez Rodriguez, simply known as Joaquin, a Spanish professional soccer player who played as a winger for Real Betis.
He was renowned for his speed, agility, excellent dribbling, and passing skills. Throughout his career, Joaquin predominantly played for Betis and Valencia, featuring in 622 La Liga games over 20 seasons, scoring 78 goals, and providing 68 assists. He also represented Spain’s national team on 51 occasions, taking part in two World Cups and one European Championship.
One of his memorable dribbles occurred during the 2008 Super Cup against Real Madrid. Joaquin displayed his exceptional ball control, bossing the midfield, and wrong-footing Madrid’s midfielders with a great dribble in the 14th minute. In the 47th minute, he left Miguel Torres and Diarra on the ground with a swift move combined with his pace. Though he almost created an excellent assist, David Villa missed the chance to score.
8. Hatem Ben Arfa
Many could recall Hatem Ben Arfa for his magic with the ball. A footballing genius, his goals are simply out of this world. One unbelievable solo goal during a 2-1 win against Blackburn Rovers in the 2011/12 season left at least four opposition players in disbelief, mesmerized by his footwork.
In another remarkable moment, during a home match against Bolton, the tricky midfielder scored yet another wonder goal. Ignoring Gutierrez’s advice, he began his run well inside his own half, defying expectations. Beating at least four players on his way to the goal, he expertly buried the ball, leaving spectators in awe.
While Iniesta is renowned for his creative plays, some overlook his skillful dribbling. Zidane once remarked that Iniesta reminded him of himself. One memorable instance was his incredible dribble against Spartak Moscow, where he stole the show while playing alongside Messi.
Receiving the ball near the left touchline, Iniesta expertly maneuvered around defenders with precise footwork, dodging them with ease. He calmly rolled the ball backward through a hapless Spartak opponent’s legs not once, not twice, but three times, leaving them bamboozled in awe.
Neymar needs no introduction as a modern-day dribbling sensation. One instance that stands out is Neymar’s crazy dribble against River Plate during the 2015 Club World Cup. After receiving the ball from Jordi Alba, he swiftly avoided his marker and proceeded to nutmeg four defenders, displaying his exceptional skills. However, he was ultimately brought down in the penalty box.
Moreover, during the 2022/23 season against Troyes, Neymar had arguably the assist of the year, if not one of the best ever. After winning a duel, he dribbled past at least five Troyes players, who were attempting to take the ball away. Neymar then provided a backheel pass to Kylian Mbappe, who would have converted one of the best assists ever if he had curled his shot. Lastly, with typical Brazilian flair, Firmino excelled as a top-level dribbler during his time with Hoffenheim and Liverpool.
Graceful in possession, his pace and spatial awareness allow him to burst through even resolute defenses with force. For instance, in a goal against Arsenal in 2018, he made defenders tumble like legos. The commentator marveled, “He just kept dancing,” before he calmly shot the ball past the fallen Arsenal defenders.
In another instance, he embarrassed Villareal player Soldado with a sublime flick, shifting him the other way and leaving him humbled in front of the Anfield crowd.
So, there are plenty of things we admire about footballers, and dribbling is certainly one of them. Replacing these legendary dribblers might be a challenge.