Redcafe's All-Time Top 30 | Midfield Playmakers | Results are in...

harms

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Post your list of 30 best midfield playmakers of all-time. I'll close the thread on the 1st of April (unless we decide to extend the vote).

Note: since we're obviously facing a problem with individual categorisation, we've decided to classify pretty much every player that we thought of. The vote on categorisation happened earlier, the complete list is under the spoiler. Please, only use players from the first column for this one, players from other columns aren't eligible.


Midfield playmakersNumber 10sForwards
NetzerIniestaPelé
MasopustZidaneZizinho
BozsikPlatiniSavićević
DidiZicoRonaldinho
ScholesMaradonaTotti
PirloRivellinoOmar Sivori
XaviRiveraRoberto Baggio
FalcãoSandro MazzolaFrancescoli
van HanegemRiquelmeBergkamp
Luis SuárezGiresseDel Piero
ModrićBochiniValentin Ivanov
SchusterSocratesMario Corso
GersonDeynaJose Manuel Moreno
KroosMichael LaudrupRuud Gullit
HoddleRui CostaFritz Walter
GilesÖzilRivaldo
BaxterKopaLaszlo Kubala
BlanchflowerKakaFlorian Albert
VeronHagiHector Scarone
FabregasLitmanenNandor Hidegkuti
Xabi AonsoStojkovićKenny Dalglish
BobanGianniniValentino Mazzola
ProsinečkiValderramaTostão
OverathCesar CuetoEric Cantona
CharltonHerbert ProhaskaJohan Cruyff
LiedholmAdemir Da GuiaNedved
BradyNicolae Dobrin
DecoJohny Haynes
PogbaWesley Sneijder
De BruyneEnzo Scifo
David SilvaKrasimir Balakov
AntognoniFyodor Cherenkov
GuardiolaOleksandr Zavarov
Ernst OcwirkHeinz Flohe
Alexei Mikhailichenko
Gerhard HanappiTeofilio Cubillas
Fritz SzepanJuan Alberto Schiaffino
Wilfred van MoerPedro Rocha
RakitićSafet Sušić
Jan Cuelemans
Andreas Möller
Gunnar Gren
Pablo Aimar
Matthew Le Tissier


Note: all discussion goes to this thread - http://www.redcafe.net/threads/redcafes-top-20-by-position.448431/

Note: you can post less than 30 names, but not more

The list should be posted in the required format:

  1. J. O'Shea
  2. P. Jones
...

30.

NB: After careful consideration, only players that had played at least a season after the 1950 WC are eligible.
 
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Physiocrat

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5,574
1. Charlton
2. Luis Suárez
3. Xavi
4. Didi
5. Falcão
6. Scholes
7. Netzer
8. Overath
9. Pirlo
10. Schuster
11. Masopust
12. Modrić
13. Liedholm
14. van Hanegem
15. Veron
16. Brady
17. Gerson
18. Bozsik
19. De Bruyne
20. David Silva
21. Xabi Alonso
22. Fabregas
23. Hoddle
24. Deco
25. Giles
26. Albertini
27. Boban
28. Prosinecki
29. Kroos
30. Blanchflower

Edited - @harms
 
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Enigma_87

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24,437
1. Xavi
2. Didi
3. Charlton
4. Luis Suarez
5. Falcao
6. Van Hanegem
7. Netzer
8. Schuster
9. Scholes
10. Modric
11. Overath
12. Gerson
13. Masopust
14. Deco
15. Pirlo
16. Xabi Alonso
17. Bozsik
18. Veron
19. Prosinečki
20. Giles
21. Liedholm
22. D. Silva
23. Kroos
24. De Bryune
25. Blanchflower
26. Ocwirk
27. Boban
28. Brady
29. Fabregas
30. Antognoni

Edit: most likely to be revised.
 
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harms

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  1. Xavi
  2. Charlton
  3. Luis Suárez
  4. Falcão
  5. Bozsik
  6. Netzer
  7. van Hanegem
  8. Didi
  9. Pirlo
  10. Schuster
  11. Scholes
  12. Modrić
  13. Masopust
  14. Overath
  15. Gerson
  16. Liedholm
  17. Veron
  18. Deco
  19. David Silva
  20. Kroos
  21. De Bruyne
  22. Guardiola
  23. Xabi Alonso
  24. Fabregas
  25. Brady
  26. Prosinečki
  27. Boban
  28. Ocwirk
  29. Blanchflower
 
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2mufc0

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1. Falcão
2. Charlton
3. Suarez
4. Pirlo
5. Didi
6. Netzer
7. Scholes
8. Modric
9. van Hanegem
10. Xavi
11. Bozsik
12. Schuster
13. Masopust
14. Sneijder
15. Veron
16. Gerson
17. Overath
18. Boban
19. KDB
20. Hoddle
21. Kroos
22. Bruno Fernandes
23. Anderson
 
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Indnyc

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1. Charlton
2. Luis Suarez
3. Xavi
4. Falcao
5. Van Hanegem
6. Netzer
7. Scholes
8. Didi
9. Masopust
10. Bozsik
11. Schuster
12. Overath
13. Modric
14. Xabi Alonso
15. Pirlo
16. Gerson
17. Deco
18. David Silva
19. Giles
20. Kroos
21. Fabregas
22. De Bruyne
 
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Šjor Bepo

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1. Xavi
2. Suarez
3. Charlton
4. Falcao
5. Scholes
6. Gerson
7. Bozsik
8. Van Hanegem
9. Pirlo
10. Netzer
11. Didi
12. Schuster
13. De Bruyne
14. Overath
15. Liedholm
16. Modric
17. Veron
18. D. Silva
19. Masopust
20. Deco
21. Xabi Alonso
22. Brady
23. Prosinecki
24. Fabregas
25. Kroos
26. Boban
27. Guardiola
 
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Isotope

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Ole Ole Ole
I don't think a playmaker could score as many as Sir Bobby. But then I'm not sure where's the limit.

anyway.

  1. Xavi
  2. Didi
  3. Charlton
  4. Bozsik
  5. Overath
  6. Scholes
  7. Pirlo
  8. Modric
  9. Albertini
  10. David Silva
  11. Guardiola
  12. Netzer
  13. Xabi Alonso
  14. Van Hanegem
  15. ...
 
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Himannv

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Since when was Luis Suarez a midfield playmaker?
This is Luis Suarez Miramontes. He played in the late 50s and 60s. He was noted for being an elite passer of the ball and played as an AM or inside forward initially before becoming a DLP in Helenio Herrera's Grande Inter team. He's very much an ideal fit as a playmaker.
 

The Boy

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I can't believe that players like Nedved and Veron are making most people's lists but no one has put Zidane yet
 

Himannv

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I can't believe that players like Nedved and Veron are making most people's lists but no one has put Zidane yet
If you read the OP you'll find that he's not available for selection in this category (wrongly in my view).
 

The Boy

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If you read the OP you'll find that he's not available for selection in this category (wrongly in my view).
My mistake, but I agree with you given that Nedved was Zidane's direct replacement at Juve
 
Nedved is out

harms

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You know what, let’s remove Nedved altogether, feck the popular vote. Please, update your lists accordingly.
 

Bondi77

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What about Platini and Zidane and Zico and our very own Captain Marvel.
 

Enigma_87

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What about Platini and Zidane and Zico and our very own Captain Marvel.
They are in the #10 category, whilst Robson is in the B2B category.
 

Michaelf7777777

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  1. Jozsef Bozsik
  2. Bobby Charlton
  3. Didi
  4. Paulo Roberto Falcao
  5. Bernd Schuster
  6. Nils Liedholm
  7. Josef Masopust
  8. Xavi
  9. Paul Scholes
  10. Luis Suarez Miramontes
  11. Ernst Ocwirk
  12. Giacomo Bulgarelli
  13. Luka Modric
  14. Wolfgang Overath
  15. Xabi Alonso
  16. Wim van Hanegem
  17. Gunter Netzer
  18. Danny Blanchflower
  19. Liam Brady
  20. Johnny Giles
  21. Deco
  22. Kevin De Bruyne
  23. Andrea Pirlo
  24. Giancarlo Antognoni
  25. Jimmy Baxter
  26. David Silva
  27. Gerhard Hanappi
  28. Gerson
  29. Pep Guardiola
  30. Fritz Szepan
 

Joga Bonito

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  1. Xavi
  2. Sir Bobby Charlton
  3. Luis Suárez Miramontes
  4. Didi
  5. Gunter Netzer
  6. Falcao
  7. van Hanegem
  8. Bernd Schuster
  9. Nils Liedholm
  10. Paul Scholes
  11. Andrea Pirlo
  12. Joszef Bozsik
  13. Luka Modric
  14. W.Overath
  15. J.Masopust
  16. Gerson
  17. J.Veron
  18. Deco
  19. David Silva
  20. Toni Kroos
  21. Kevin De Bruyne
  22. Xabi Alonso
  23. Johnny Giles
  24. Liam Brady
  25. D.Albertini
  26. R.Prosinečki
  27. Pep Guardiola
  28. Z.Boban
  29. Jim Baxter
  30. Danny Blanchflower
 
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Jim Beam

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  1. Xavi
  2. Falcão
  3. Luis Suárez Miramontes
  4. Sir Bobby Charlton
  5. Joszef Bozsik
  6. Andrea Pirlo
  7. Didi
  8. Paul Scholes
  9. Bernd Schuster
  10. G. Netzer
  11. Luka Modrić
  12. van Hanegem
  13. Nils Liedholm
  14. W. Overath
  15. Kevin De Bruyne
  16. J.Masopust
  17. David Silva
  18. Xabi Alonso
  19. Ernst Ocwirk
  20. Deco
 

Gio

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Rangers
  1. Xavi
  2. Falcão
  3. Luis Suárez Miramontes
  4. Joszef Bozsik
  5. Bobby Charlton
  6. Andrea Pirlo
  7. Didi
  8. Juan Sebastian Veron
  9. Kevin De Bruyne
  10. Gerson
  11. Josef Masopust
  12. Luka Modrić
  13. Wim van Hanegem
  14. David Silva
  15. Wolfgang Overath
  16. Gunther Netzer
  17. Paul Scholes
  18. Robert Prosinecki
  19. Xabi Alonso
  20. Jim Baxter
  21. Glenn Hoddle
  22. Nils Liedholm
  23. Ernst Ocwirk
  24. Bernd Schuster
  25. Cesc Fabregas
  26. Toni Kroos
  27. Danny Blanchflower
  28. Deco
  29. Bobby Murdoch
  30. Liam Brady
 

Synco

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Messages
4,061
  1. Xavi
  2. Luis Suárez
  3. Charlton
  4. Didi
  5. Falcão
  6. Bozsik
  7. Netzer
  8. Pirlo
  9. Liedholm
  10. Overath
  11. Van Hanegem
  12. Schuster
  13. Scholes
  14. Modric
  15. Masopust
  16. Gerson
  17. Ocwirk
  18. Albertini
  19. Kroos
  20. Deco
  21. Xabi Alonso
  22. Sneijder
  23. D. Silva
  24. Ancelotti
  25. Giles
  26. Hoddle
  27. De Bruyne
  28. Guardiola
  29. Prosinecki
  30. Blanchflower
 

BlackShark_80

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Messages
473
  1. Didi
  2. Charlton
  3. Bozsik
  4. Xavi
  5. Falcão
  6. Ocwirk
  7. Masopust
  8. Suarez
  9. Van Hanegem
  10. Netzer
  11. Gerson
  12. Overath
  13. Liedholm
  14. Schuster
  15. Hanappi
  16. Pirlo
  17. Scholes
  18. Modrić
  19. Blanchflower
  20. Szepan
 

Edgar Allan Pillow

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  1. Xavi
  2. Charlton
  3. Pirlo
  4. Bozsik
  5. Masopust
  6. Luis Suárez
  7. Falcão
  8. Didi
  9. van Hanegem
  10. Schuster
  11. Gerson
  12. Netzer
  13. Modrić
  14. Scholes
  15. David Silva
  16. De Bruyne
  17. Blanchflower
  18. Brady
  19. Xabi Aonso
  20. Overath
  21. Liedholm
  22. Veron
  23. Guardiola
  24. Deco
  25. Fabregas
  26. Ernst Ocwirk
  27. Boban
  28. Prosinečki
  29. Wilfred van Moer
  30. Kroos
 

harms

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Will try to get this done later today or tomorrow. Don’t wait long if you still haven’t voted!
 

Himannv

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  1. Xavi
  2. Pirlo
  3. Bozsik
  4. Charlton
  5. Masopust
  6. Luis Suárez
  7. Didi
  8. Netzer
  9. Modrić
  10. De Bruyne
  11. Scholes
  12. Falcão
  13. Gerson
  14. van Hanegem
  15. Schuster
  16. David Silva
  17. Fabregas
  18. Xabi Alonso
  19. Overath
  20. Liedholm
  21. Deco
 

harms

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44. Juninho Pernambucano — 1 point


Juninho was the catalyst for Lyon's unprecedented success — before his arrival in 2001, the club had never won the French championship, and after he came they've won 7 in 7 years. He was a good an excellent shooter and an accurate passer of the ball in action, but the real Juninho appeared when a free kick was awarded... a few second-long delay and an inevitable goal. He didn't have "the spot", his free kicks flew in from every angle and any distance, and many consider him to be the single greatest free-kick taker in all of football's history.
 

harms

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41. Bobby Murdoch, Wilfred van Moer, Juninho Paulista — 2 points



Bobby Murdoch


Jock Stein once said that Bobby Murdoch was the best player he ever managed, and remarked to esteemed journalist Hugh McIlvaney that Murdoch was the most comprehensively gifted player in the side (an amazing compliment when you take in that this side included Jimmy Johnstone). Jim Craig's quote "When Murdoch plays,Celtic play!" is an indication of how important Bobby was to the team.

Soon after Jock Stein had taken over Celtics as a manager, he made the inspired decision to move Murdoch from his originally favoured 'inside-right' to 'right-half', where he became the midfield brain of the side throughout the 1960s. He wasn't mobile enough for a striker even though he possessed all the other attributes needed plus more.
This enabled Murdoch to play at his best, and his ability was so great that it belied his podgy build. His passing was said to be so perfect that one of his colleagues remarked with no real exaggeration that "he could land the ball on a thrupenny bit". Jim Craig highlighted the importance of Murdoch's playing ethos in that no matter how hard a time he was having in a match, he'd always be there for a pass or to help out. He was more than just a player in the Lisbon Lions. The Lisbon Lions players themselves (including Jimmy Johnstone who was voted "The Greatest Ever Celtic Player") generally held the opinion that Bobby Murdoch was the best footballer of the Lisbon Lions.

Must add that when you first see him, it's hard to believe that he could be so skilful. He had a large frame and compared to modern footballers would seem unfit. However, he was anything but and the big teddy bear appearance just endeared him more to the fans. One story is said that Stein sent him to a health farm to lose weight only to come back heavier than before. The experiment was never repeated.



Wilfred van Moer

Slim, diminutive and just 5ft 6in, Van Moer was the ultimate box-to-box midfielder – strong and fearless in the tackle, and full of energy and drive with the ball at his feet. Such was his incredible progress that he was voted Belgian Player of the Year in his debut season in the top flight aged 21. He soon became known as the Little General, partly because he resembled Napoleon Bonaparte but also due to his leadership qualities. The Little General was named Belgian Player of the Year twice more, in 1969 and 1970, and was superb as Standard defeated Real Madrid in the European Cup. He also starred for the national team at the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, scoring twice. In short, Van Moer had so much potential that many thought he could develop into one of the best players of his generation.

Then disaster struck. Belgium faced Italy in the quarter-finals of the European Championship in 1972, which was technically a qualifying game to decide who would compete at the four-team tournament proper. The first leg at San Siro ended goalless, before Van Moer put the Red Devils ahead in the return leg in Brussels. But by the time Belgium could celebrate their progression to the final four, Van Moer was in hospital after a dreadful tackle by Mario Bertini fractured his leg in multiple places.

The widely held view was that Van Moer would never fully recover from the horrific injury. He left Standard in 1976 when his position as a starter was thrown into doubt, joining a small outfit called Beringen who spent most seasons battling against relegation. With his days looking numbered at the age of 31, Van Moer opened a coffee shop as he began to contemplate his post-retirement options.

Such thoughts proved premature. Three years on, when Belgium were in trouble in the qualifiers for Euro 1980, manager Guy Thys was persuaded by famous TV commentator Rik De Saedeleer to give Van Moer a call. “Your team doesn’t have a leader,” De Saederleer told Thys. “You need a guy like Wilfried.” While many considered Belgium to be the weakest team at the tournament, they still possessed a promising squad that contained talented players such as Jean-Marie Pfaff, Eric Gerets, Rene Vandereycken and Jan Ceulemans. Van Moer soon became the side’s most important figure, though, his passing as sublime as before and his leadership qualities clear for all to see. They've reached the final, narrowly losing to West Germany — after a young enigma Bernd Schuster produced one of the greatest performances in competition's history. Van Moer's performances was highly praised all over Europe — and the 34 y.o. midfielder finished 4th in that years Ballon d'Or vote, behind Rummenigge, Schuster & Platini.




Juninho Paulista

It seems preposterous now, but not so long ago the most exciting player in England played for Middlesbrough. Juninho had three spells in the north-east, where he endeared himself to the city and the rest of the country. He was known as the TLF (The Little Fella) to locals, who would often see him playing football with kids in the streets near the house he shared with his parents. The little Brazilian really seemed to care about the club. He cried on the pitch when Middlesbrough were relegated in 1997, the season the club lost the League and FA Cup finals. When he returned and won the League Cup with Middlesbrough, he said the achievement meant more to him than winning the 2002 World Cup with Brazil.
 

harms

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40. Carlo Ancelotti — 7 points



Before becoming a legendary manager, Ancelotti had a very successful career as a player as well. After an early success with Parma (young Carletto led them to promotion) he was bought by Roma, a club (and a city) that would have a special place in his heart for the rest of his (still on-going, thankfully) life. In the 80's Roma lived through its golden era, and even though they've only managed to win 1 Serie A title and 4 Italian Cups, they truly were one of the best teams in the world (and unlucky not to win 1984 European Cup and another league title), with players like Falcão, Cerezo, Vierchowod and Conti playing alongside Ancelotti. Sven-Göran Erikssen, that succeeded Nils Liedholm as Roma's manager, decided to make Ancelotti club's captain, and, before leaving said to Dino Viola, Roma's owner, that Ancelotti may not be the most talented player in the squad but he is, without a doubt, the most important one and he shouldn't be sold in any circumstances. Obviously, he was sold the same summer — Arigo Sacchi was building his own team and needed midfield reinforcements. The transfer worked out pretty well for a player that was supposedly past it — in 5 years he had won 2 Serie A titles, 2 European Cups and a bunch of other stuff.
 

harms

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39. Giancarlo Antognoni — 8 points


Antognoni holds Fiorentina's record for all-time Serie A appearances, with 341 games under his belt. His professional career started at Asti, when he was just 16, and 2 years later Nils Liedholm convinced a young prodigy to sign for Fiorentina, a club that Antognoni would become synonymous with. In 1981/82 season, just before winning the World Cup with Italy, he came the closest to winning the league — Fiorentina lost out to Juventus by a single point on the final match-day. For a player of such talent, his trophy hall looks almost non-existent — aside from the World Cup win, where he had played in 6 games, but had to miss the final due to an injury, his only major trophy was 1974/75 Coppa Italia. But that was the price he was willing to pay for staying at his beloved club and city.

38. Fritz Szepan — 12 points



I actually asked not to include pre-TV era players, but it's too late now, I guess. Szepan was, quite probably, the greatest German footballer of the pre-war era. He spent his whole career at Schalke 04, with whom he had won 6 national championships and 1 German Cup. That team's playing style was known as the "Schalker Kreisel" — it was later compared to Michel's totaalvoetbal. He wasn't the most athletic player, but he compensated for it with his incredible technique and football intelligence. For a player who mostly played as a center half (although he was capable of playing as a forward as well), he has insane goalscoring numbers — 199 goals in 265 league appearances for Schalke (albeit a slightly less impressive 8 in 34 for Germany).

In his book Helmut Schön described Szepan like this:
One from the gallery of great playmakers, not markedly pacy, but talented to make the game pacy. He knew how to play directly but also capable of great solos - all that while being strong enough defensively to have played as a stopper. A commander.
37. Paul Pogba — 18 points



Such a polarising figure, Pogba is rarely judged on what he actually did but more on what he didn't do. But when you look at his achievements to this day, which include multiple Serie A titles and the World Cup, and his role in those achievements, you have to admit that he is a pretty special player. But, on the other hand, a player who combines a world-class technique, vision, shooting, passing and athleticism in a way that Pogba does, should probably aim to be at the very top of his list, and it doesn't look likely that he'll end up there even after he retires.

35. Jim Baxter, Giacomo Bulgarelli — 19 points



Jim Baxter was probably the most gifted, outrageous and celebrated player in Scotland's football history. In an era when footballs were heavier and boots less dynamically designed, his ability to swerve shots and passes, delivering the ball to team-mates with a touch that made it appear to be weightless, was quite astonishing. When Baxter, a wing half, took control of a match, he dictated its entire shape. Alex Ferguson described Baxter as "arguably the best player to play in Scottish football" and "the greatest player I ever played with ... He had touch, balance, vision and just this wonderful aura ..."

However, as with contemporaries like George Best and Jimmy Greaves, Jim’s love of life off the field proved to be his downfall. When Baxter arrived at Ibrox on £22 per week plus bonuses - the same rate as the other Rangers squad players - the first thing he did was buy a Jaguar, for no other reason than to attract the women who would be as integral a part of his life as football itself. From his earliest days at Ibrox, he would be seen in the shower in the mornings, sucking on peppermints - trying to rid himself of the effects of serious drinking even before training began. Still, even though Baxter often got falling-down drunk the night before a match, this did not seem to hamper his play, and team managers took little notice of his drinking.



Giacomo Bulgarelli was another on of those Italian geniuses that put loyalty to their clubs ahead of their trophy aspirations. He had spent his entire career at Bologna, for whom he is still the record all-time appearance holder — although, unlike Antognoni, he had actually managed to won Serie A once, in 1963/64 season. He was not a trequartista — but rather a very complete and hard-working central midfielder who was able to win the ball as effectively as he was conducting Bologna's play. Fabio Capello, a man who knows a little bit about Italian football, described him as Italy's greatest ever midfielder — that is some praise, considering the competition! For his country, Bulgarelli had technically won the 1968 Euros, but he was only a squad member at that point and he didn't make any appearances in the final stages. Still, it is said that his experience and leadership helped that team a lot off the field.
 

harms

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34. Gerhard Hanappi — 20 points



One of the finest midfielders of his generation, Hanappi was nominally a goalscoring wing half, however his versatility allowed him to successfully play in almost all positions. Hanappi's technical abilities and creativity allowed him to play as an effective play-maker. He was also very intelligent with an excellent sense of anticipation which made him very useful in defensive duties, and also enabled him to make well timed runs in the box. This along with his accurate shot enabled him to be a prolific goalscorer, even once being league top scorer.

For someone who had played mostly in the 50's, he has an insane amount of caps — he has represented Austria on 93 occasions (scoring 12 goals), a record that was broken only in 1998. We often compare playmakers with conductors or architects, but, in Hanappi's case, the latter tag can be applied to him quite literally — after he retired, he had a successful career as an architect, even building his own stadium in Wienna (originally it was called Weststadion, but after his death it was renamed as Gerhard Hanappi Stadium).

33. Wesley Sneijder — 24 points



A regular feature of redcafe's transfer forum for a decade, Sneijder's name can still trigger PTSD in some overinvested muppets. Personally, I wouldn't call him a genius, but Sneijder was an immensely talented and all-rounded attacking midfielder with a great shooting & passing and more than decent tactical discipline and workrate. His best year came under Mourinho, where he had first led Inter Milan to a treble (arguably being their best player) and then helped Netherlands to reach a World Cup final by scoring 5 goals (joint best with Müller, Forlan and Villa) and providing a historic performance in the quarter-final against Brazil. Who knows, if his brilliant through-ball to put Robben one-on-one with Casillas in the final would've led to a goal, he might've won Ballon d'Or.

32. Glenn Hoddle — 39 points



Glenn Hoddle was the complete opposite of an archetypical English midfielder — a Riquelme-esque magician that could seemingly do anything with the ball without ever breaking a sweat. Due to the nature of English game at that time, he never got to fully express himself, as he was usually played as a part of a midfield duo in 4-4-2 or on the wing; he also never won the league in England and his trophy hall is ridiculously small for a player of his talent. Still, throughout the 80's he was picked in PFA's Team of the Year 5 times — and he is considered as one of the greatest players to ever play for Tottenham. There's also this nice little story: in October 1983, he helped Spurs win 6–2 on aggregate against a Feyenoord Rotterdam side containing Johan Cruyff. Cruyff was dismissive of Hoddle before their first match, but after Hoddle's performance, Cruyff swapped shirt with Hoddle as a sign of respect.
 

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31. Zvonimir Boban — 47 points



Yet another brilliant technician from ex-Yugoslavia (although he probably prefers to be associated with Croatia) — the one with arguably the most impressive credentials at a top-club. In the times of a harsh foreign players restriction, AC Milan immediately sent him on loan to Bari, but Boban had proven himself to be quite valuable and suitable for Capello's vision and spent 9 seasons with Rossoneri, winning 4 Serie A titles and a Champions League. Although originally a flair player, who loved to dribble, he transformed into a true box-to-box midfielder under Capello, maintaining his creativity but mixing it with aggressive and energetic approach.

A great article on his (in)famous kick that made him one of the symbols of Croatian Independence (hopefully I'm not mixing anything up @Šjor Bepo).

29. Danny Blanchflower, Johny Giles — 54 points



Twice FWA Player of the Year and one of the greatest players in Spurs history, who captained them to 4 major trophies, including the famous double of 1960/61. Danny Blanchflower was a central midfielder with seemingly unlimited passing range and a decent engine on him. He had an ability to dictate and change a game at an instant, linking up with the likes of Jimmy Greaves, Cliff Jones and Bobby Smith. He brought guile and vision to any team he played for. Much of Blanchflower’s continuing allure is because he was a thinker as well a player — he can take credit for surprisingly deep wisdoms like:
“Everything in our favour was against us.”
“If we don’t know what we’re going to do, how can the other side?”
“He is a self-made man who worships his creator.”



One of Manchester United greats... he had signed for us at the age of 15, where Busby Babes were the best team in the country, but only broke into the team after the Munich tragedy. Sadly, he felt like he had lost manager's trust and asked Matt Busby for a transfer — and went on to become a Leeds United legend, winning 2 league titles and multiple other trophies with them. Not a tough player by nature, he had grown up to be one of the football's hard men in order (by his own words) to fulfil his potential and protect himself from being targeted. His international career had not been unproblematic — like many players of that era that weren't lucky to be born in a football heavy-weight, he had missed out on every major tournament, coming very close to qualifying for the 1978 World Cup, but ultimately coming a little short.
 

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28. Demetrio Albertini — 55 points



While Capello's AC Milan is often unfavourably compared to Sacchi's version and (probably rightly) labeled as an ultra-defensive and uber-efficient team, they were capable of producing some brilliant attacking performances — the most famous one would be the nights when they completely annihilated Cruyff's Barcelona in Athens. They were often relying on a rather mercurial talent of Dejan Savićević, but at the heart of that side was another creative genius — Demetrio Albertini, a quiet conductor, who operated with unmatched composure and elegance. From his youth days he was considered one of the brightest talents in Italy and at the mere age of 20 years he had already established himself as a regular starter for the Rossoneri. Ancelotti's legs were gone, which allowed Albertini to secure a place next to Rijkaard — and the success quickly followed, not only would they win Scudetto that season, they would also finish that league season undefeated. He would remain integral for AC Milan for a decade, until the emergence of Andrea Pirlo, winning 5 Serie A titles and 3 Champions Leagues — an incredible trophy collection by any standards. But ultimately, you have to ask yourself if he had reached the heights he was expected to, especially after he got eventually outshined by his successor. In his younger days Albertini was seen as the reincarnation of Gianni Rivera, Italy's golden boy (the similarly childish-looking face certainly helped with the comparison), but he had spent most of his very successful career in the shadows rather than as an undisputed star.

27. Pep Guardiola — 57 points



Before turning modern football upside down as a manager, Pep Guardiola had a very successful career as a player, redefining the role of a holding midfielder. Johan Cruyff, undeniably the biggest influence on him, famously said that Guardiola and Koeman can't defend in traditional sense of that word, but they created a new understanding of defensive game. You don't defend by tackling, you defend by keeping the ball and controlling the space — and in that aspect Guardiola was outstanding. Funnily enough, if not for Cruyff, Pep would've been sold for being "too skinny, bad defensively and poor in the air" — try to imagine how different Barcelona's history would've been if that actually happened. Pep's teams today are often (unfairly) criticised for pointlessly recycling possession, but the football associated with Cruyff's Dream Team was different — it was very direct and aggressive, and Guardiola played a huge part in that. His ability to spot forward's movement and send a long ball forward, often breaking 2 lines of defense with 1 pass, was immaculate.

His career choices are quite endearing to a football fan. In 2001 he decided to leave Barca — he was disappointed by the toxic management and constant Figo bashing (and the emergence of a certain Xavi Hernández). He didn't think much about his destination — there was only one choice for him, Juventus, a club where his boyhood hero Michel Platini had won 3 Ballon d'Ors. Everything was set in motion — and Guardiola had rejected all other offers, including the one from Sir Alex. But he was wrong to trust Luciano Moggi — he had sacked Ancelotti (who was a huge fan of Guardiola), sold Zidane and appointed Marcello Lippi, only to notify Guardiola that he isn't needed there anymore... in the very last days of August. Guardiola tried to cash in on the offers that he had received in June, but it was too late — Inter had signed a new manager, in AC Milan Albertini returned to fitness sooner than expected, Lazio had signed Mendieta, Arsenal had managed to keep Vieira and Sir Alex was deeply offended that Pep didn't even meet him earlier that summer.

The pool of remaining options was quite shallow and Pep went with his heart — he went to Brescia, a club that had only 1 advantage — they had Roberto Baggio. I'm not going to go further into details — he had played relatively well there, although his Italian stint was interrupted by the doping allegations. He had lost a hearing and was disqualified for 4 months, but kept filing appeals — until he was finally sentenced to 7 months of imprisonment in 2005 (doesn't mean much in Italy if it's your first one). However, in 2007 new studies came forward and Pep was cleared of all charges — both by Italian football federation and by the criminal court.