Aside from the aesthetics of great goalscoring abilities and techniques on the pitch of play, the passes which birthed those goals are also worth reveling in.
Passing is undoubtedly one of the basic skills in the football game, and only a few players were able to perfect every aspect of it as per its accuracy, weight, and timing.
A great pass in football ranges from forward through-balls, crosses, short defense-splitting passes, long range-passes, or lobs.
And as you know, the beautiful game has witnessed players who were masters of the art of passing.
In today’s piece, you will find out who the best passers in football history are.
Top 10 Best Passers In Football History
In no particular order, below are the ten of the best passers in football history:
1. Andrea Pirlo (1995 – 2018)
The Italian football legend to date is regarded as one of the game’s greatest of all time in the passing business, as he was a specialist in set pieces, domination of play, and even scoring goals.
He was a deep-lying playmaker who could dictate the pace of the game and create scoring opportunities for his teammates.
Pirlo won numerous titles throughout his career, including six Serie A titles and the 2006 World Cup with Italy.
His success on the pitch was a result of his ability to read the game and make precise passes that set up his teammates for success.
He retired in 2018 but his incredible passing abilities and creativity has been praised by active players.
2. Mesut Özil (2005 – 2023)
After playing for eighteen illustrious years as a professional footballer, the former Arsenal, Real Madrid, and World Cup winner with Germany called it quits in March 2023.
However, the sad truth about this wonderful playmaker is that he could’ve played for a few more years at the top level.
Özil is regarded by many as a player who revolutionized the attacking midfield role, making those pretty difficult aspects of passing and playmaking in general very easy and effortless.
Another aspect in which the midfield dynamo stands ahead of others on this list is his use of crosses which is one area of passing that definitely isn’t a certainty, but he almost always gets his targeted teammate.
He had a unique talent for finding space and exploiting it with his passing, often delivering perfectly weighted and timed passes that set up his teammates for scoring opportunities.
Özil’s passing accuracy, particularly his ability to deliver key passes and assists, was consistently among the best in the world during his prime.
3. Lionel Messi (2003 – to date)
With a doubt the greatest football player of all time, Messi deservedly makes the kiai.
Messi is surely one of the deadliest goalscorers in the game, but he also creates goals too.
Passing is another aspect of the game in which Messi absolutely excels.
The strikers who played alongside the 2022 World Cup winner at club and national team levels enjoyed the provision of passes and assists from the Argentine wizard.
Messi’s control of the ball, brilliant vision, and instinct for picking out his right teammate in the opposition’s defense is one of the many ways the 35-year-old remains unplayable.
Lionel Messi is regarded as one of the best passers in football history due to his exceptional vision, technique, creativity, and ability to read the game.
He has the innate ability to deliver precise passes with both feet, often using his left foot to create space and his right foot to deliver the final pass.
Messi’s passing range is also impressive, as he can deliver short, medium, and long-range passes with equal accuracy.
He is known for his ability to create scoring opportunities for his teammates, often looping the ball over on the left side of through tight spaces and around defenders.
4. Cesc Fàbregas (2003 – 2022)
Naturally, Spanish players are exceptionally talented passers of football which could be attributed to the system through which the Spanish national teams have thrived – the tiki-taka style of play.
Fàbregas had a 10-year trophy-laden spell with the Spanish national team from 2006 to 2016, winning two European Championships and one World Cup.
Fàbregas was quite instrumental for La Roja and was one of the best midfielders and passers in the game all through those years.
At the club level, he had his best years at Arsenal and Chelsea, where he became the fastest player to reach a century of assists and the first to record at least 15 assists in two successive seasons in the English top-tier league.
5. Francesco Totti (1993 – 2017)
Players like Totti are very few in modern football; as talented as he was as an all-round player, he was only committed and loyal to just one club (Roma) and his nation, Italy.
He became known to world football while playing for Roma, where he achieved lots of success.
He was one of the youngest captains in football history.
Totti was such a great playmaker as well as a goalscorer, scoring 250 goals, and he made numerous scintillating passes that were turned to goals. Overall, 46-year-old Totti registered 128 assists.
6. Zinedine Zidane (1990 – 2006)
Younger football fans may only recognize Zidane as the first manager who orchestrated back to back to back UEFA Champions League triumphs for Real Madrid. But as a player, Zizou was much more.
Zizou’s trademark in his days was the ability to provide those killer passes and score lots of goals for his French national team and every club he played for.
Zidane’s “vision, touch, and technique” allowed him to “dictate the tempo of games with his passing.”
He was known for his ability to deliver passes with astonishing accuracy and precision, often making use of his exceptional range to pick out teammates from long distances.
The Athletic notes that he was also capable of playing “delicate through-balls and clever flicks.
Even after he has retired, the former Galactico and Real Madrid manager is still regarded as a living legend and one of the best passers to have graced a football pitch.
Apart from being one of the greatest passers in football history, Zidane is also one of the best dribblers football has ever seen.
7. Andres Iniesta (2001 – 2018)
The second Spaniard to feature on this list is no other than the Barcelona legend and passing specialist, Iniesta.
In his days, he didn’t exhibit the same kind of long-range passing ability as some other playmakers, but he was able to do more of the lobs and through-balls.
Iniesta thrived tremendously on shorter distances. He could dribble pretty well and still deliver those exquisite passes to destabilize even the most impregnable defense.
Like Fabregas, he also played during the time for the Spanish national team — which were one of the best soccer teams of all time — who dominated Europe and the world for years before his retirement from international football in 2018.
8. Xavi (1998 – 2019)
A list of the best passers in football history would never be complete without mentioning the one and only Xavi Hernandez.
Xavi’s passing ability was exceptional, and he was widely considered a deep-lying playmaker who could find and exploit space with ease. He once said, “That’s what I do: look for spaces. All day. I’m always looking.”
His remarkable ability to control the tempo of the game and dictate the play from deep midfield made him an indispensable part of Barcelona’s success during his time at the club.
The Spaniard’s well-weighted through balls and pinpoint diagonals were a treat for the soul, and his passing accuracy was second to none.
Moreover, Xavi’s stats perfectly embodied Barcelona’s tiki-taka style of play, which relied heavily on possession and quick, short passes to move the ball up the field. Xavi was truly the embodiment and engine of this style of play.
Xavi had a move he was famous for called the la pelopina. It was a 360-degree turn that he used to get away from his opponents while keeping control of the ball. This move gave him more time and space to decide where to pass the ball next.
9. David Beckham (1992 – 2013)
David Beckham played mostly as a wide midfielder and was able to score as many goals as possible.
In his prime, the Englishman was a world-class midfielder who was “famous for his ability to pass the ball with pinpoint accuracy and range.
However, besides scoring goals, Becks was an accurate passer of the ball and a taker of set pieces.
His ability to deliver crosses and set pieces with incredible precision was known and feared by any opposition. This cemented his status as one of the best passers in soccer history.
Beckham’s passing skills led him to become one of the soccer players with the most assists in soccer history.
As a Galactico, the English football legend was privileged to play alongside other football playmaking icons and legends like Zidane, Figo, Ronaldo De Lima, and Roberto Carlos.
David Beckham is also one of the soccer players with the most free-kick goals in history
10. Juan Roman Riquelme (1996 – 2015)
Unfortunately, Riquelme wasn’t given much credit he deserved during his playing days, so much so that Andres Iniesta spoke highly of the playmaking abilities of the former Barcelona and Argentine midfielder.
“The five players with whom I most enjoyed playing on the field were: Xavi, Neymar, Eto’o, Busquets, and Román,” Iniesta said.
“With Riquelme, we exchanged messages. We have maintained that contact. It was special to be with him in the locker room and watch him train and play,” he added.
Riquelme’s vision and creativity brought about incredible assists for a number of the players he teamed with. By and large, Riquelme was a joy to behold as a playmaker.