Best Passers in Soccer History
Passing is an art form in soccer. Although the game can have many strategic variations, passing the ball is a fundamental skill for every player on the field, as successful passes lead to scoring chances and goals.
Those who master the art of passing develop into more than just assist artists. They become heroes and legends.
These are the greatest passers in soccer history.
(Note: All stats updated through June 1, 2023)
25. Xabi Alonso
Teams: Real Sociedad (2000-04), Liverpool (2004-09), Real Madrid (2009-14), Bayern Munich (2014-17)
Bottom Line: Former Spanish international Xabi Alonso played for the world’s biggest football clubs — Liverpool, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.
The bulk of his success came at Liverpool and Real Madrid. Alonso was one of the heroes of Liverpool’s historic 2005 UEFA Champions League win, dubbed the "Miracle of Istanbul."
When it comes to his passing game, Alonso was an incredible playmaker, and with Steven Gerrard, he was near unstoppable, providing Fernando Torres with some amazing goals to score.
Alonso won the UEFA Champions League a second time with Real Madrid. He also won La Liga once with Los Blancos and the Bundesliga three times with Bayern Munich. With Spain, he won the World Cup once and the Euro Cup on twice.
This is one incredible record for a classy midfielder like Alonso.
24. Bastian Schweinsteiger
Teams: Bayern Munich (2001-15), Manchester United (2015-17), Chicago Fire (2017-19)
Bottom line: Bastian Schweinsteiger has been an incredible force in midfield for both Germany and Bayern Munich and later with Manchester United and the Chicago Fire.
Bayern Munich is where he became known for his passing skills, creating over 100 goals, and his accomplishments are second to none.
He won the World Cup once with Germany, UEFA Champions League once with Bayern Munich, and a staggering eight Bundesliga wins with his boyhood club.
Germany is known to produce some of the best soccer stars over the years, and Schweinsteiger is one of them.
With the Chicago Fire, he’s now showing his impressive passing skills in Major League Soccer.
23. Michel Platini
Teams: AS Nancy (1972-79), Saint Etienne (1979-82), Juventus (1979-87)
Bottom line: Back in the golden era of soccer in the late 1970s and '80s, Michel Platini was a global superstar. Known for his creative playmaker heroics with France and Juventus, he became the standard-bearer of what a playmaker should be in his time.
He won the UEFA Champions Club Cup (now known as the Champions League) once and the Seria A twice with Juventus. He was voted the UEFA best player in Europe for three straight years between 1983 and 1985.
Platini was one of soccer’s brilliant playmakers, and his passes and playmaking ability remain an inspiration to today’s top soccer talent.
22. Johan Cruyff
Teams: Ajax (1964-73, 1981-83), Barcelona (1973-78), Los Angeles Aztecs (1978-79), Washington Diplomats (1979-81), Levante (1981), Feynoord (1983-84)
Bottom line: What can we say about the late, great soccer legend Johan Cruyff? In a career that spanned the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, this incredible passer did it all.
He played for some of the world’s most renowned clubs, FC Barcelona and Ajax, and remains one of Ajax’s heroes after helping them win the UEFA Champions Club Cup (precursor to the Champions League) for three straight seasons between 1971 and 1973.
He also won the Dutch Eredevisie with Ajax an incredible eight times With Barcelona, he won the Spanish La Liga on one occasion.
Cruyff was from the golden era of soccer and continues to inspire today’s top soccer stars.
21. Roberto Carlos
Teams: União São João (1991-93), Palmeiras (1993-95), Inter Milan (1995-96), Real Madrid (1996-2007), Fenerbahce (2007-09), Corinthians (2010-11), Anzi Makhachkala (2011-12), Delhi Dynamos (2015)
Bottom line: Roberto Carlos played left-back only in terms of position, but he was an effective all-around player who was great on the attack and defense.
This former Brazilian international is one of the greatest passers to wear the yellow jersey for his national team. He was among the elite that included Luis Ronaldo and Ronaldinho. He is a World Cup winner with Brazil and became a global superstar in his 11 seasons for Spanish giants Real Madrid.
He won the UEFA Champions League three times and the Spanish La Liga four times with Real Madrid. These are huge achievements for a left-back, and it's all due to his creativity with the ball, creating chances and scoring goals, too.
20. Eden Hazard
Teams: Lille (2008-12), Chelsea (2012-19), Real Madrid (2019-present)
Bottom line: Eden Hazard was one of the world’s biggest soccer stars in the 2010s, rivaling the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Just like those two icons, Hazard plays forward and is excellent at scoring and creating goals.
His most success was with Chelsea, winning the Premier League twice. He recently transferred to Real Madrid for a staggering 150 million euros ($164.9 million). He’s proved to be an incredible force on the left wing, thanks to his speed and passing ability.
At Real Madrid, he is touted as a replacement for Cristiano Ronaldo, who transferred to Juventus in 2018.
19. Clarence Seedorf
Teams: Ajax (1992-95), Sampdoria (1995-96), Real Madrid (1996-99), Inter Milan (1999-2002), AC Milan (2002-12), Botafogo (2012-14)
Bottom line: Clarence Seedorf had a storied career lasting over 20 years. The former Netherlands international played for some of the world’s top soccer clubs, including Real Madrid, Inter Milan and AC Milan.
His accomplishments are proof he was one of the best midfield players in history. He won the UEFA Champions League once with Ajax, twice with Real Madrid and AC Milan, respectively. He won the Dutch Eredevisie twice with Ajax, Spanish La Liga once with Real Madrid, and the Italian Seria A twice with AC Milan.
His passing earned him quality assists and allowed his teammates to score some wonderful goals. Playing for several different clubs and maintaining performance can be challenging, but Seedorf made it look easy with his incredible creativity with the ball.
18. Dennis Bergkamp
Teams: Ajax (1986-93), Inter Milan (1993-95), Arsenal (1995-2006)
Bottom line: Dennis Bergkamp nad his other Invincible teammates at Arsenal rocked the Premier League in the early 2000s. What other team can boast the likes of Bergkamp, Thierry Henry, and Patrick Vieira at the time?
Bergkamp is an absolute legend, known for his passing and playmaking abilities as well as scoring. Arsenal fans will never forget his contributions as one of its greatest players ever.
Despite producing fewer than 100 assists, his tremendous ability in midfield allowed his teammates to create chances and score goals. Such was this man’s talent and why he deserves a place among the best here.
Teams: Real Madrid (1995-2010), Besiktas (2010-11)
Bottom line: Guti spent most of his club career at Real Madrid and retired from soccer while playing for Besiktas.
At Real Madrid, he was a force to be reckoned with, winning the UEFA Champions League three times and the Spanish La Liga five times. He was the team's best homegrown star and a total boss in midfield.
Guti was a rock on the field, and his killer passes turned into superb strikes on goal as he played with the biggest superstars, including Zinedine Zidane and David Beckham at Real Madrid.
Guti will forever be a club legend.
16. Frank Lampard
Teams: West Ham (1995-2001), Chelsea (2001-14), Manchester City (2014-15), New York City FC (2015-16)
Bottom line: Frank Lampard is known for his time at Chelsea, where he showed his creative abilities in passing. He was quite influential in midfield and would control the play, allowing his teammates to score 178 times.
He played with such Premier League greats as Didier Drogba, Eden Hazard and Arjen Robben, among others. Lampard won the Premier League three times and the UEFA Champions League once. He also was one of the highest goal scorers in Premier League history.
All these achievements for the club may not have been possible if not for his passing abilities. Now he’s influencing his teammates on the touchline as the Chelsea manager where he is hoping to produce a new breed of passers in the blue jersey.
15. Paul Scholes
Teams: Manchester United (1994-2011, 2012-13)
Bottomline: Along with Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes formed a killer combination in Manchester United’s midfield. Clever plays turned into awesome goals.
Scholes was blessed to play with the likes of David Beckham, and later Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo, in his 20-year storied career for Manchester United.
Although not a part of the famed class of 1992, Scholes is associated with them since he played with the same stars at Old Trafford.
14. Luis Figo
Teams: Sporting CP (1989-95), Barcelona (1995-2000), Real Madrid (2000-05), Inter Milan (2005-09)
Bottom line: Portugese sensation Luis Figo was among Real Madrid’s Galactico signings alongside David Beckham and Luis Ronaldo.
Figo played right winger primarily and has more assists to his names than goals. That’s not a bad thing because it proves he was such a phenomenal passer of the ball. His heroics earned him a Ballon d’Or as well.
He also has the distinction of playing for both FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, a rarity in modern club soccer. It's even more rare to see a player today transferring from Barcelona to Madrid, as Figo did back in the summer of 2000.
He won the Spanish Liga twice with both clubs, respectively. With Real Madrid, he also won the UEFA Champions League.
It’s an exemplary record for such an excellent passer of the ball.
13. David Beckham
Teams: Manchester United (1992-2003), Real Madrid (2003-07), LA Galaxy (2007-12), AC Milan (2009, 2010 on loan), Paris Saint-Germain (2013)
Bottom line: David Beckham needs no introduction.
While the England and Manchester United legend mostly played as a midfielder, he never hesitated to come forward to score and scored memorable goals from distance. His goal against Wimbledon in 1996 from the halfway line is unbelievable even today.
Besides scoring goals, he was an incredible passer and playmaker who played with soccer’s greatest legends and icons such as Zinedine Zidane, Luis Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos as a Galactico in Real Madrid and won the La Liga one time.
Prior to that, he was a product of the now-legendary Manchester United class of 1992, winning six Premier League titles and the club’s first UEFA Champions League championship in 1999.
Thanks to his passing heroics, he elevated Manchester United into one of the world’s biggest clubs in the 1990s and early 2000s.
12. Steven Gerrard
Teams: Liverpool (1998-2015), LA Galaxy (2015-16)
Bottom line: Steven Gerrard spent most of his career with Liverpool, where he became a club icon and legend. As a club captain, he was well-respected and had a commanding presence on the field.
He made formidable partnerships with some of the Premier League’s best strikers ever such as Fernando Torres and Luis Suarez. His partnership with Torres made them unbeatable in front of goal, and Gerrard supplied Torres and Suarez with some superb passes that the converted into amazing goals.
Gerrard was great with Xabi Alonso in midfield, and both were a crucial ingredient in Liverpool’s 2005 "Miracle in Instanbul" UEFA Champions League final win.
11. Andrea Pirlo
Teams: Brescia (1995-98), Inter Milan (1998-2001), AC Milan (2001-11), Juventus (2011-15), New York City (2015-17)
Bottom line: Andrea Pirlo has been Italy’s greatest export to the game of soccer. Until his retirement in 2018, he only played for Italy’s top clubs — Inter Milan, AC Milan, and Juventus.
His list of silverware includes six Seria A wins, four with Inter Milan and two with AC Milan. He won the UEFA Champions League twice as well.
Hailed as one of football’s greatest of all time by fans and critics, this man was a lieutenant on the field, dominating play and constantly assisting with goals, and scoring them.
He was great on set plays as well, scoring goals from free kicks. Pirlo played mostly as a defensive midfielder, but he inspired his teammates to win thanks to his incredible passing and creativity.
10. Patrick Vieira
Teams: Cannes (1993-95), AC Milan (1996), Arsenal (1996-2005), Juventus (2005-06), Inter Milan (2006-10), Manchester City (2010-11)
Bottom line: Patrick Vieria was a part of Arsenal’s Invincibles squad that went unbeaten and won the Premier League in 2004.
Playing with the likes of Thierry Henry and Dennis Begkamp, he showed tremendous ability with his passing.
Thanks to his skills, Arsenal won the Premier League three times, and he's even a World Cup winner with France.
But it was with the Gunners that he solidified his status as one of the greatest midfielders in soccer.
Teams: Barcelona (1997-2015), Al-Sadd (2015-19)
Bottom line: Xavi is forever be remembered for his time in Barcelona, where he formed an incredible partnership with Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta.
Xavi was constantly involved in creating chances for Messi to score and ably assisted by Iniesta. Xavi won the Spanish La Liga eight times and the UEFA Champions League twice.
He’s also a one-time World Cup winner and two-time Euro Cup winner with Spain. He was Barcelona and Spain’s anchor in midfield, and his passing abilities were second to none.
8. Andres Iniesta
Teams: Barcelona (2001-18), Vissel Kobe (2018- 23), Port F.C. (2023-present)
Bottom line: Andres Iniesta, together with Xavi and Lionel Messi, has scored some incredible goals for Barcelona.
Before Iniesta's recent move to Vissel Kobe in Japan, he played his entire career with Barcelona. He also played for Spain and has a World Cup and two Euro Cup wins for his country.
With Barcelona, he’s won the Spanish La Liga nine times and the UEFA Champions League four times. He would patrol the midfield with Xavi and provide many assists for Messi, as this trio became legendary at the Nou Camp.
7. Francesco Totti
Teams: Roma (1992-2017)
Bottom line: Francesco Totti was one of the top soccer stars of the world from the mid-1990s all the way into the new millennium.
As a former Italian international, he won the World Cup with the national team in 2006.
He played only for Roma in his club career, and that’s where his heroics became known to soccer fans all over the world. With 128 assists, Totti was as much a playmaker as he was a forward. While known for scoring goals, he made several excellent passes that were converted into goals.
Loyal to his club and nation, such players are far and few in modern soccer today.
6. Mesut Ozil
Years Played: 2006-present
Teams: Schalke 04 (2006-08), Werder Bremen (2008-10), Real Madrid (2010-13), Arsenal (2013-21), Fenerbahce (2021-22), Istanbul Basaksehir (2022-23)
Bottom line: Former Germany international Mesut Ozil is one of the most well-known soccer stars in the world today. With Germany, he won the World Cup in 2014.
He also has played for some of the world’s biggest soccer clubs, including Real Madrid and Arsenal. He's won the Spanish La Liga once with Real Madrid.
While he has not earned a Premier League winner’s medal with current side Arsenal, he’s won three FA Cups, the biggest domestic cup competition in Europe.
What makes Ozil so special? Whichever club he’s played for, he’s been the key playmaker on the team, especially in recent years with the Gunners.
His 213 total career assists (so far) is a remarkable figure, and he also scores goals, too.
5. Ryan Giggs
Teams: Manchester United (1992-2014)
Bottom line: Ryan Giggs was a part of the legendary class of 1992 at Manchester United with the likesof David Beckham and Nicky Butt.
With the Red Devils, Giggs won the Premier League a phenomenal 13 times. He also won the UEFA Champions League twice with Manchester United.
His passing and playmaking abilities turned Manchester United into one of England and Europe’s biggest clubs in the 1990s and 2000s.
He was a brilliant passer on the ball, and partnered with Paul Scholes, he was incredible.
There may never be another midfielder like Giggs ever on Manchester United.
Years: 2001-15, free agent until 2018
Teams: Gremio (1998-2001), Paris Saint-Germain (2001-03), FC Barcelona (2003-08), AC Milan (2008-11), Flamengo (2011-12), Atletico Mineiro (2012-14), Queretaro (2014-15), Fluminese (2015)
Bottom line: What can one say about Ronaldinho? This soccer star was a class act. He was fortunate to play alongside some of Brazil’s biggest stars such as Luis Ronaldo, Cafu, Rivaldo and Roberto Carlos.
In his prime, Ronaldinho was known for his heroics with the national team and at the club level.
He is one of the most gifted attacking midfielders who ever graced a soccer field. He is a creative and attack-minded playmaker who can outsmart any opposition with his tricks, ball positioning, and clever passing. He is no doubt a soccer genius.
With Brazil, he’s won the World Cup once in 2002, and that tournament made him a global star. His best time in club competition was with FC Barcelona, where he won the Spanish La Liga twice and the UEFA Champions League.
He was also a mentor to Lionel Messi, who has now become a legend in his own right.
Ronaldinho also played for AC Milan and Paris Saint Germain and found success, but his time with Barcelona will never be forgotten. Whether it was scoring goals or creating them, he was tough to beat in his prime.
3. Zinedine Zidane
Teams: Cannes (1989-92), Bordeaux (1992-96), Juventus (1996-2001), Real Madrid (2001-06)
Bottom line: Younger soccer fans may know Zinedine Zidane as the manager of Real Madrid. However, before he was managing Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos on the touchline, Zidane was making killer passes and scoring goals for France and some of the world’s top soccer clubs.
At Juventus and Real Madrid, he found plenty of success. He was part of the all-star Galacticos side for Los Blancos where he was scoring and creating goals with Luis Figo, Roberto Carlos and David Beckham.
Zidane also was part of the French 1998 World Cup-winning side and won the UEFA Best European Player award for his heroics on the pitch.
He has won the UEFA Champions League and the Spanish La Liga with Real Madrid. He has won the Italian Seria A twice with Juventus as well.
Zizou, as he is affectionately known to fans, is a living legend and one of the best passers the world has ever seen.
2. Cristiano Ronaldo
Teams: Sporting CP (2002-03), Manchester United (2003-09), Real Madrid (2009-18), Juventus (2018-21), Manchester United (2021-22), Al Nassr (2023-present)
Bottom line: Cristiano Ronaldo will go down as one of the greatest players to ever play soccer when he retires.
At 34 years old, he’s still impressive in front of goal. He’s scored over 600 goals and made over 200 assists which goes to show how incredible he is in whatever position he plays.
He usually has played forward as a winger or striker during his time with Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juventus. He’s won the Ballon d’Or five times, a feat only matched by former La Liga rival Lionel Messi.
Ronaldo also won the UEFA Champions League five times, once with Manchester United and the rest with Real Madrid, including the famous La Decima win. He’s won the Premier League three times and the La Liga twice.
Ronaldo is a megastar in the soccer world today, and that’s because he can score from anywhere and even allow his teammates to score, too. And he does it all with style, speed, and finesse.
1. Lionel Messi
Teams: Barcelona (2003-21), Paris St. Germain (2021-present)
Bottom line: There’s no question why so many soccer fans and critics globally consider Barcelona star Lionel Messi to be the greatest soccer star of the world today.
For 15 years strong, this Argentine wonder has scored some of the most prolific goals in soccer history. He’s won a plethora of awards, led goal scoring lists, and thanks to his creativity, he’s been an excellent passer.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner has earned 242 assists in 687 games, which is quite remarkable since he’s mostly known for his goal-scoring prowess.
Messi is a true team player, and with legends like Andres Iniesta and Xavi, he was a force at the Nou Camp. He still is one, even after their departure.
He’s a brilliant team player, and thanks to his passing technique, he continues to created goal-scoring chances for teammates.