The ultimate aim on the football pitch is to score goals, which is why strikers and other attacking players are very cherished. But the role of creative players who provide assists can not be overlooked.
These creators — mostly attacking midfielders and wingers — play integral roles in the success of a team. This is most obvious in modern times when teams have a structured system of play.
In fact, some teams are capable of playing without a natural striker. Instead opting for a “false nine” or a “Trequartista”.
These players, sometimes, provide more assists than goals.
In this article, TOP SOCCER BLOG presents you with the top 10 football players with the most assists in history.
However, it is important to note that there are a lot of different assists stats in football according to the record sources.
First of all, why are there different stats for each of these sources?
1. Different sources have different assist definitions
2. It can sometimes be hard to say if an assist meets that definition
3. Sources can be inconsistent in applying their own criteria.
What is an assist?
According to Opta, the definition of an assist in football is the final touch (pass, pass-cum-shot or any other touch), which leads to the recipient of the ball scoring a goal.
If the final touch (as defined in bold) is deflected by an opposition player, the initiator is only given a goal assist if the receiving player was likely to receive the ball without the deflection having taken place.
Own goals, directly taken free kicks, direct corner goals and penalties do not get an assist awarded.
For our list of the footballers with the most assists in football history, we will using stats from the Opta criteria.
1. Ferenc Puskás (404 assists)
Hungarian football legend Ferenc Puskas is widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all-time and football’s first international superstar.
He led Hungary to the final of the 1954 World Cup and to win the gold medal at the 1952 Olympics.
While playing for Real Madrid, Puskás won 4 Pichichis (La Liga top scorer) and also won 3 European Cups.
In 719 total appearances, Ferenc Puskas incredibly scored 708 and made 404 assists — making him the player with the most assists in football history.
2. Pelé (369 assists)
Regarded by many as the greatest player in football history, Pelé was a hard-working team player and a complete forward.
He had exceptional vision and intelligence. He also had brilliant passing skills as well as the ability to link up with teammates and provide them with assists.
Pelé is the all-time leading goalscorer for Brazil, with 77 goals in 92 games. He led the Selecao to win 3 FIFA World Cups (1958, 1962, and 1970).
At club level, he is Santos’ all-time top goalscorer with 643 goals from 659 games.
In a golden era for Santos, he led the club to the 1962 and 1963 Copa Libertadores and to the 1962 and 1963 Intercontinental Cup.
Pelé’s statistics of goals and appearances differ between sources mostly due to friendly games.
Nevertheless, he is the second player with the most assists of all time, with 369 assists.
3. Lionel Messi (361 assists)
Arguably the greatest footballer of all time, Lionel Messi is a complete attacking player who can do everything that an attacker does perfectly.
The Argentine maestro does not only score goals (lots of them!) but also provides assists abundantly.
On the all-time football assists ranking, Messi currently sits 4th, with 339 assists. Still playing, he may eventually break into the top 3 at the end of his career.
Lionel Messi holds the record for most goals in La Liga (474), most in a La Liga and European league season (50), most hat-tricks in La Liga (36), and the UEFA Champions League (8).
He has the most assists in La Liga (192), a La Liga season (21), and the Copa America (17).
Furthermore, he holds the record for most international goals by a South American player (90).
So far, Messi has made 1036 career appearances, scored 806 goals, and made 359 assists.
He latest batch of assists came against LA FC in the MLS give Inter Miami a 3-1 away win
4. Johann Cruyff (358 assists)
Johan Cruyff is considered one of the greatest players in the history of football, as well as one of the best managers ever.
He is also widely regarded as arguably the most influential figure in modern football.
As a player, he won the Ballon d’Or three times (1971, 1973, and 1974).
In total, Johan Cruyff made 720 official appearances in his career and scored 403 goals. His total of 358 assists ranks him third on the all-time assists list.
5. Luis Figo (283 assists)
Luis Figo is next on this list, with 283 assists.
Renowned for his creativity and ability to get past defenders on the wing, Figo is widely regarded as one of the greatest wingers of all time.
His 106 assists are the second-most in La Liga history, only behind Lionel Messi.
He won the Ballon d’Or in 2000 and the FIFA World Player of the Year in 2001.
Luis Figo made 919 appearances during his career, scoring 169 goals.
6. Ryan Giggs (277 assists)
Ryan Giggs is one of the most decorated footballers of all time.
He spent his entire playing career at Manchester United, where he won 13 Premier League titles (more than any other player in history), 4 FA Cups, 3 League Cups, 2 UEFA Champions Leagues, a FIFA Club World Cup, Intercontinental Cup, UEFA Super Cup, and 9 FA Community Shields.
At his peak, he was capable of playing on either flank — due to his versatility — and would take on opposing defenders. His crossings led to a lot of goals for his teammates.
Ryan Giggs played 1,027 matches, scored 180, and provided 277 assists.
7. Angel Di Maria (262 assists)
Due to the calibre of players he always plays with, Angel Di Maria regularly gets underrated. He has played alongside Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Neymar, and Kylian Mbappe, among others.
Credit to Di Maria’s brilliance is the fact that he never looks out of place when he plays with these stars. In fact, he supplies them with loads of assists.
Currently, on the books of Benfica, Angel Di Maria has made a total of 821 appearances, scored 189 goals, and provided 262 assists.
The Argentine is undoubtedly one of the greatest wingers of his generation.
8. David Beckham (259 assists)
David Beckham is one of the best football set-piece specialists of all time. His range of passing, vision, crossing ability, and set-piece mastery enabled him to create lots of chances for teammates.
Beckham played 810 matches in his career and netted 144 goals. He made 259 assists.
He was known for his ability to deliver crosses and free kicks with pinpoint accuracy, which often resulted in goals for his teammates.
The Englishman also scored a lot of free-kicks and is one of the footballers with the most free-kick goals in history.
One of his most famous assists came in the Madrid derby where he set up a goal for Ronaldo.
He is regarded as one of the best passers in football history.
9. Neymar (253 assists)
Due to his creativity, vision, passing, finishing, dribbling, feints, touch, and technique, Neymar is one of the best players in the world.
Although he didn’t reach the heights many expected him to attain as a promising youngster, Neymar has excelled in his career.
The Brazilian has made 710 appearances, scored 436 goals, and provided 253 assists.
10. Luis Suarez (248 assists)
Luis Suarez is regarded as one of the best players of his generation and one of the greatest strikers of all time.
Incredibly, he won two European Golden Shoes, an Eredivisie Golden Boot, a Premier League Golden Boot, and the Pichichi Trophy (La Liga Golden Boot).
Suarez excelled at all the clubs he played at. His peak years were spent at Liverpool and Barcelona — where he warmed his way to the hearts of the fans of both clubs.
Not only can the Uruguayan score goals, but he can also provide assists. He formed brilliant attacking partnerships at all the teams he played — the best being the MSN (formed alongside Messi and Neymar at Barcelona).
Suarez is Uruguay’s all-time leading goalscorer and has scored a total of 524 goals in 875 appearances in his career so far, providing 246 assists.
Other footballers with the most assists in football history are: Kevin De Bruyne (247), Cristiano Ronaldo (241) Mesut Özil (233), Cesc Fàbregas (233), Thomas Müller (237), and Dušan Tadić (235).
Top 10 Active Football Players With The Most Assists (2023)
- Lionel Messi: 359
- Ángel Di María: 262
- Neymar: 253
- Luis Suárez: 248
- Kevin De Bruyne: 247
- Cristiano Ronaldo: 241
- Thomas Müller: 237
- Dušan Tadić: 236
- Cesc Fàbregas: 233
- Zlatan Ibrahimovic: 212.
This article was updated on September 13th, 2023.