Top 10 Italian Soccer Players

Italy has produced many superb soccer players over the years. Here is a list of the best 10.

1. Paolo Maldini

Arguably the greatest defender of all time, Maldini operated as a left-back and Centre back during his career with AC Milan, spanning 25 years. With Milan he won a record 5 European Cups and 7 league titles.

He came third in the Ballon d’Or voting in 1994 and 2003. Although he never won a major tournament with Italy he still won 126 Caps, reaching the World Cup final in 1994. As he was the  Milan and Italy captain for many years he was considered a leader by fellow soccer players, leading to the nickname “Il Capitano” (“The Captain”).

Paolo Maldini, 2008: Wikimedia Commons

2. Franco Baresi

Baresi is a giant of Italian soccer and considered by many to be among the greatest central defenders in history. A centre back or sweeper of the highest calibre, Baresi spent his entire career with AC Milan.  He won many honours throughout his career.

Among them were 6 league titles and 3 European Cups as well as the 1982 World Cup. He was also winner of the 1982 World Cup .  Baresi is held in such a high regard at the San Siro that the number 6 has been retired.

In 1999 he was voted as the club’s Player of the Century. Initially he was nicknamed “Piscinin”, Milanese for “little one” due to his skill. Later however, he was known as “Kaiser Franz” in reference to Franz Beckenbauer.

 

Franco Baresi, 2012: Wikimedia Commons

3. Gianluigi Buffon

One of the best goalkeepers of his generation, Buffon was the main catalyst who guided Italy to World Cup victory in Germany in 2006. His outstanding performances were one of the main reasons Italy only conceded a goal until the final. An outstanding shot stopper, Buffon is known for his positioning and his ability to make exceptional reaction saves.

He has made over 900 Career club appearances, winning the league 9 times.  With 176 appearances for Italy, he is the most capped Italian player. Buffon holds the record for longest streak without conceding in Serie A history, where he went over 12 matches without conceding.

Gianluigi_Buffon,2014: Wikimedia Commons

4. Andrea Pirlo

Nicknamed the ‘architect’, Pirlo is considered to be one of the best deep-lying midfielders of his generation. Once described as a “genius” by Johan Cryuff due to his superb vision, creativity and intelligence.

Pirlo has been controlling games from midfield for over 2 decades. He is also known as a free-kick specialist, scoring the joint highest in Serie A history with 28. Initially starting at Brescia, he has had spells at Inter Milan, AC Milan and Juventus.

Throughout his career he has won multiple honours including the World Cup, 2 Champions Leagues and 6 league titles as well as 116 Italy caps.

Andrea Pirlo, 2011: Wikimedia Commons

5. Fabio Cannavaro

Along with Franz Beckenbauer and Matthias Sammer, Cannavaro is one of only 3 defenders to have won the Ballon d’Or. Doing so in 2006, this was the year he guided Italy to World Cup glory.  Cannavaro played in every minute of Italy’s encounter, with Cannavaro’s performances earning him the nickname “The Wall of Berlin.”

Italy only conceded 2 goals in the whole of the tournament. His outstanding performances earned him a move to Real Madrid where he won 2 league titles in three seasons. Although not the tallest of defenders he relied greatly on his ability to out jump his opponents and his defensive timing, at which he was second to none.

Fabio Cannavaro, 2011: Wikimedia Commons

6. Alessandro Del Piero

Del Piero is considered to be the symbol and icon of Juventus, spending the vast majority of his career there. With over 700 appearances he tops the club’s appearance list, and is also the club’s all-time leading goalscorer with 260 goals.

He was known for his superb technique and incredible desire for goal. His signature strike was from outside the box, where he would put the ball onto his famed right foot, curling them into the top corner, an area known in Italian as Il Sette.

7. Gianni Rivera

Perhaps one of Italy’s greatest midfield playmakers, Gianni Rivera was a Milan legend, who played for the club for 2 decades in the 60s and 70s. He was an intelligent and creative play maker with an eye for goal, possessing  excellent vision and technical ability.

Regarded as one of the best passers of his generation, he won the 1969 Ballon d’Or, finishing ahead of Johan Cruyff and George Best.  At Milan he won multiple honours including 3 European Cups and 3 league titles.

Gianni Rivera, 1971: Wikimedia Commons

8. Giuseppe Meazza

One of the great prewar soccer players, Meazza won two World Cups for Italy in 1934 and 1938. Along with Giovanni Ferrari and Eraldo Monzeglio he is one of only three Italians to have won 2 World Cups.

A prolific goalscorer, Meazza scored 242 goals from just 348 appearances between 1927 and 1940, winning 3 league titles. Widely considered as one of the best players of his generation, he was given the nickname “Il Genio” (“The Genius”) by the Italian press for his goal scoring, technical skill and creative ability.

Giuseppe Meazza, Wikimedia Commons

9. Roberto Baggio

Nicknamed “Il Divino Codino” (divine ponytail) is a legend who played for most of the top teams in Italy.  A technically gifted soccer player, Baggio was known for his attacking play, dribbling and vision. He was also a set piece specialist, renowned for his curling free kicks.

A great goalscorer,  Baggio was the first player in over 50 years to score over 300 goals. He was also a great provider of many goals for teammates.  Unfortunately, however one of the most infamous moments in Italy’s history was down to him when he skied over his penalty kick against Brazil in 1994 World Cup Final.

Roberto Baggio, 1990: Wikimedia Commons

10. Francesco Totti

One of the true icons of modern soccer and a player that has stayed loyal to Roma throughout his long career. Known for his world class vision and powerful shot, Totti made over 700 appearances for Roma.

He is the second highest scorer in the Italian league with 250 goals and the 6th highest scoring Italian in all competitions with 316 goals. A player that is immensely adored by Roma fans, it is hard to imagine a Roma side without the presence of their charismatic captain.

Francesco Totti 2013: Wikimedia Commons