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Who is the king of dribbling skills in football?

Argentine superstar Lionel Messi is regarded as the king of dribbling skills in football. Messi has won the Ballon d’Or for being the best footballer in the world over a calendar year seven times over the course of his career, which is the most in the history of world football.

Dribbling is said to be an art and the team whose players are masters of that art, is easily said to have the upper hand in a football game. Football managers and coaches often rely on intrinsic formations and systems in order to help their side function smoothly and build up towards the goal.

They can do that in a few different methods, with either a short pass, a long pass, or by running past the opposition. While great passing and a relatively smooth buildup from the back involving several players is what most managers try to achieve with their systems and pre-match tactics, they often have to rely on the best dribblers in the team when those ideas don’t work.

A great dribbler knows how to weave his way through the opposition and either open up gaps for his teammates to make a run into in front of goal or cause chaos in the opposition half and go for goal himself and/or attract a foul in the box.

Successful dribbles can often prove to be factors that completely change the course of the match as they are extremely difficult to defend against. A great dribbler is always aware of how to best utilise body feints, movements, speed, close control of the ball as well as quickly change direction in order to confuse the opposition dribblers.

With the sport of football being more and more systematic in the current era as managers try to exert as much control over a game as possible and try to limit the freedom of their players to try new things, dribbling is becoming a lost art.

With that being said, let’s talk about the player who is regarded as the king of dribbling skills in football.

Who is the king of dribbling skills in football: Top 5

PlayerCareer NationalityMajor Club(s)Titles won 
Lionel Messi2004-presentArgentinaBarcelona, Paris Saint GermainChampions League, La Liga, Copa America
Diego Maradona1976-1997ArgentinaBarcelona, Napoli, Boca JuniorsFIFA World Cup, UEFA Cup, Serie A
Neymar2009-presentBrazilBarcelona, Paris Saint Germain, SantosChampions League, La Liga, Ligue 1
Ronaldinho1998-2015BrazilBarcelona, AC MilanChampions League, FIFA World Cup, La Liga, Serie A
Johan Cruyff1964-1984NetherlandsAjax, BarcelonaEridivisie, European Cup, La Liga

Lionel Messi is not only widely regarded as just the king of dribbling skills in football, he is also a contender for the greatest player in the history of football. While he is just about brilliant at every facet of the game, from passing to running at full tilt, from shooting and converting chances to getting assists, it is Messi’s dribbling ability that is the most eye-catching aspect of his game.

The Argentine superstar has won four UEFA Champions League titles with his former club FC Barcelona and has multiple La Liga and European trophies to his name. One of the most decorated athletes in world football history, Messi was gifted with incredible ball control ever since he was a little kid.

Clips of him dribbling past players bigger and stronger than him while he was still at Barcelona’s famed La Masia youth academy often go viral on social media. Even as a professional, Messi still relies on the same style of dribbling to beat opponents.

He prefers to keep things simple and Messi uses his rapid pace, smart thinking and quick change in directions to anticipate the defender’s movements and try to go the other way. His dribbling stats also reflect just how great he is at the art and Messi has recorded the most successful dribbles in the world by a long distance ever since he made his professional debut in 2003.

Over the course of his career, Lionel Messi has completed 2975 dribbles across the major leagues and the UEFA Champions League (2302 in leagues and 673 in the Champions League). He averages 4.65 successful dribbles every 90 minutes which is a tremendous record for any player. It becomes even greater when you compare it to the fact that Messi’s long-time rival Cristiano Ronaldo averages less than half – 2.17 successful dribbles per 90.

Even at this late stage of his career and when he has lost most of his pace at 35, Messi continues to be a force to be reckoned with the ball. In the first few matches of Ligue 1 2022/23, Messi has averaged 4 successful dribbles per 90 with a success rate of 75%!

The greatest aspect of Messi’s dribbling ability stems from how fast he can outthink and outmaneuver the opposition defender. Being short in stature like his fellow countryman Diego Maradona, Messi generates plenty of body balance because of his low centre of gravity.

Despite being one of the smallest players on the pitch, Messi also has the uncanny ability to dodge tackles aimed at him by defenders. For a footballer his size, he also has excellent body strength to hold off challenges and throw defenders off their toes while contesting duels and dribbling past them.

Messi is perhaps, one of the very few players at the highest level in football history, to have scored once-in-a-lifetime goals by dribbling past four players or more and then beating the goalkeeper several times over the course of his football career. Goals against Getafe in 2007, Real Madrid in 2011, twice against Athletic Bilbao in 2013 and 2015 and even for Argentina are evidence of exactly that.

Lionel Messi is also perhaps the greatest goal contributor the sport has ever seen and he has notched 1106 goals and assists over his career – assisting or scoring goals every 72 minutes in a match. Messi has also won 41 trophies over his career and is only behind his former teammate Dani Alves as the most successful player in the sport of football.

With only the prestigious FIFA World Cup lacking from his trophy cabinet, there will be no doubts that Messi, who recently delivered the Copa America and Finalissima for Argentina, will go all guns blazing in Qatar towards the end of the year.

King of dribbling skills in football: Other contenders

Diego Maradona

Speaking of the World Cup, Diego Maradona’s success in 1986 was one of the most triumphant moments in football history as the Argentine number 10 looked virtually unstoppable during that World Cup campaign.

It won’t be surprising to claim that Diego Maradona is regarded by majority of the football fanbase to possess the best ball control seen by anyone in the sport. The Argentine maestro could do keepy-uppys and tricks with the ball even with his laces untied and was an expert and halting and suddenly accelerate past defenders with his wonderful body movement and control.

No mention of Maradona can ever be completed without talking about his outrageous goal in the 1986 World Cup against England. Maradona was in God mode during that game and he dribbled past four players while rounding off the finish against England keeper Peter Shilton to score what was chosen by FIFA as the Goal of the Century.

Along with Messi and Pele, Maradona is also said to be the greatest footballer in history.

Neymar

The tag of being the best dribbler after Lionel Messi in the current generation, belongs to Messi’s former Barcelona and current Paris Saint Germain teammate Neymar. The Brazilian forward seems to be one of the last players to provide joy to fans with their exceptional ability to glide on the pitch and pull off artistic and skillful moves of an exhibition with their feet.

Players like Neymar make the beautiful game what it is. The Brazilian show-stopper is one of the most famous players in the world and has enjoyed a successful and dramatic career so far in world football. He has won La Liga, Champions League, Ligue 1, the FIFA Confederations Cup and also has an Olympic gold with Brazil. With his national team, Neymar is the second-highest goal-scorer of all time, only behind Ronaldo.

Ronaldinho

One of the most entertaining and show-stopping players in football history, Ronaldinho is credited for putting Barcelona on the map once again during the modern era and ushering in their golden era.

At Barcelona, he was the king of the world and was the most must-see player in world football. Every single match, it seemed that Ronaldinho was capable of pulling off something new and exuberant that would mesmerise the thousands of fans in the stadium.

Of course, Ronaldinho’s most famous trick was the ‘Elastico’ where he would fool defenders by pushing the ball sideways but suddenly pulling the ball back the other way.

Ronaldinho is also one of only three players in Barcelona history alongside Diego Maradona and Andres Iniesta to receive a standing ovation from Real Madrid fans at the Santiago Bernabeu during an El Clasico. In November 2005, he left several defenders of Real Madrid for dead including Sergio Ramos and Fabio Cannavaro and scored two iconic goals in a game that ended 3-0 in Barcelona’s favour.

Johan Cruyff

One of the most philosophical and innovative personalities in the game’s history, Johan Cruyff enjoyed an immensely successful career as both a player as well as a manager. As a player, he was one of the best of his generation and he won the Ballon d’Or on three occasions.

He was great and sharp with the ball at his feet and was considered to be the greatest dribbler of the 70s. His famous Cruyff Turn move named after him was simplicity at its very best as it involved nothing but a quick body feint and using the movement of the opposing foot to fool the defender.

FAQs

Who is the king of dribbling skills in football in 2022?

Paris Saint Germain and Brazilian superstar Neymar is the king of dribbling skills in football in 2022.

Who is the best dribbler in the world?

Lionel Messi is easily the best dribbler in the world. His ball control and ability to drive past defenders are beyond outstanding.

Who is the best dribbler in the Premier League?

Before his transfer to Real Madrid, that tag belonged to Chelsea’s Eden Hazard who was known to dribble past defenders quite easily with his gliding skills on the ball. Now the honour belongs to Wolves winger Adama Traore who relies on his incredible pace to beat defenders.

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