The beautiful game has produced some of the most talented and gifted footballers to walk the earth. In their midst, however, is an exclusive list. A select group of players whose wizardry and mastery of the round leather has left many opponents spellbound. Today, we look at the greatest geniuses to ever grace the football pitch. These are some the greatest footballers who have been called geniuses.
There are many words soccer pundits use to describe football players. However, a very select few have called a genius. A genius footballer is one who does things others can’t see, that creates magic out of nowhere, and leave you at the edge of your seat. Let’s find out these footballers.
1. Edson Arantes do Nascimento
Born on 23rd October 1940, Pele, as he is popularly known, has sometimes been called the greatest football player in history. Apart from his goal-scoring exploits, the 3-time World Cup-winning Brazilian legend was also widely admired for his skill, vision, and dribbling skills on the football field. Pele’s performances at the 1958 and 1970 World Cups live long in the memory, with some describing them as some of the best individual exploits in World Cup history. Until recently, Pele held the record most goals scored for one club, netting 643 times for his beloved Santos FC. Former England and Real Madrid manager, Fabio Capello often called Pele a genius.
2. Diego Maradona
Described by many as the greatest footballer of all time, the iconic number 10 was a genius on the pitch as much as an enigma off it. Maradona, who sadly passed away recently, was known for his breathtaking skills, dribbles, and goal-scoring ability. Maradona will be best remembered for his stand-out performance at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. His best display was against England in the quarterfinals. Diego scored arguably the greatest goal in World Cup history, dribbling 5 English players on his way to scoring the second and decisive goal for Argentina. Maradona later inspired the Argentines to their second world cup win.
Diego was also well-loved at Italian side SSC Napoli where he achieved cult status scoring 81 times in 188 appearances. Maradona died on 25th November 2020, aged 60. Cafu, a legendary Brazilian full-back, described the late Argentina great as a genius.
3. Johan Cruyff
The Dutch master was an iconic midfielder who played in the 1970s. The Ajax Amsterdam and FC Barcelona legend was known for his great technical ability and innovation on the football pitch. One of his famous move sets, which was named after him, is called the Cruyff turn. Cruyff featured prominently for the Dutch national team at the 1974 World Cup, where they lost 2-1 in the final to hosts and eventual champions Germany. Cruyff won numerous domestic and European titles while playing for Ajax and Barcelona. John passed away in March 2016, aged 68.
Johan Cruyff was not just a genius player, but also a genius manager who revolutionalized the style of the teams he coached.
4. Zinedine Zidane
Zizou, as he’s popularly called, is arguably the greatest player to come out of France. During his time as a footballer, the now 48-year-old Real Madrid manager was known for his flair, dribbling skills, and graceful movement on the pitch. The 3-time FIFA player of the year award winner achieved great success with club and country, winning a World Cup, European titles, and domestic leagues and Cups.
5. Lionel Messi
Messi is undoubtedly one of the greatest modern football geniuses of our time. The 33-year-old, over the past 14 plus years, has captured the imagination of soccer fans worldwide. The 6-time Ballon D’or has been entertaining fans with his amazing dribbles, frequent goal scoring, and artistic displays on the pitch. The Argentinian great is his country’s highest goal scorer with 71 goals. Messi plays for FC Barcelona, with whom he has won multiple leagues, cups, and UEFA Champions League titles.
Brazilian football legend, Kaka was one of the many footballers, journalists and pundits who called Lionel Messi a genius. He said: “He’s a genius, a pure talent. The way he plays is incredible.”