Playmaker (noun) – a player in a team game who leads attacks or brings other players on the same side into a position from which they can score.
Well, thanks Google. Very helpful.
Without such playmakers the game of football, well…wouldn’t really work, would it? They are the lifeblood of the beautiful game, ensuring that the headline grabbing scorers get their goal bonus.
Though the creative hub of a team was generally conceptualised to be located in central midfield – as this list will show – the 21st century has ushered in an era of diversification for the role of the playmaker.
To show you what you mean, it’s probably best we get started…
So here they are, the 25 best playmakers in the world right now – RANKED.
25. Jack Grealish
Stop Jack Grealish and you stop Aston Villa, that’s been the mantra of teams facing the Villans this season.
24. Dani Parejo
After years of starring in the heart of midfield for Valencia, Dani Parejo finally received a call up to the Spanish national team in 2018, one month shy of his 29th birthday.
He may have been a late bloomer on the international scene but Parejo has been the creative heartbeat of Los Ches for some time, consistently posting fantastic assist numbers.
23. Dimitri Payet
West Ham have been on a downward spiral ever since Dimitri Payet threw his toys out of the pram back in 2017.
The unsavoury way that his tenure in east London ended stung, as the Frenchman had built up cult-like devotion from the Hammers faithful with his flair and pinpoint dead ball delivery.
Capable of creating chances from an array of positions, Isco is a manager’s dream.
He really looks like a playmaker as well. Free flowing hair, diminutive stature and a sexy name that rolls off the tongue, he was born to pull the strings on a football pitch.
21. Nabil Fekir
Once one of the most sought after signings on the planet, more than a few eyebrows were raised when Nabil Fekir opted to move to Real Betis in 2019.
Judging by his impressive start to life in Seville, the Frenchman could still get that big money move that his creativity deserves.
20. Christian Eriksen
Are we the only ones whose life feels a little empty now that the Christian Eriksen transfer saga has finished? We are? Right. Never mind then.
Though he has not hit the ground running at Inter, Eriksen remains a ridiculously talented passer of the ball, capable of creating a chance from nothing.
19. Christopher Nkunku
After struggling to make an impact at boyhood club Paris Saint-Germain, Christopher Nkunku has proved what a talented playmaker he is playing for RB Leipzig this season.
Tactically versatile, the Frenchman he been used in all manner of position by Julian Nagelsmann this season but his creativity has never waned.
18. Martin Odegaard
2019/2020 has been a real coming of age season for Real Madrid’s former teenage sensation Martin Odegaard.
The Norwegian has starred for La Liga surprise package Real Sociedad, helping the Basque-based side reach the Copa del Rey final. With Real in need of a squad overhaul, Odegaard could break into the Los Blancos first team as soon as next season.
17. Hakim Ziyech
Signing a player of Hakim Ziyech’s quality for just
16. Serge Gnabry
Tottenham slayer Serge Gnabry has been a joy to watch this season. World’s away from the player who couldn’t even displace Chris Brunt in the West Brom team a few years ago, the German is now one of the most exciting forwards on the planet.
Stepping into Robbery’s shoes was never going to be easy, but Gnabry has thrived on the pressure, becoming one of Bayern’s most important players.
15. Riyad Mahrez
Standing out among the wealth of creative talent that Manchester City have at the disposal is not easy, but Riyad Mahrez has managed it since arriving at the club in 2018.
The Algerian’s crafty chops and cultured left foot are just two of the weapons he possesses in his extensive, creative arsenal.
14. Paul Pogba
Just as devastating spraying a 60-yard pass as he is jinking his way through a defence, Paul Pogba can create a goal in so many different ways.
His absence from the Manchester United team has been a detriment to both them and the Premier League as a whole this season. Whoever he’s playing for next campaign will be praying that the midfielder can stay fit…and want to be there.
13. Toni Kroos
If Toni Kroos was a cricketer, he’d been an all-rounder. Competent at controlling the game from deep or bursting forward into more advanced positions, the German continues to make Real Madrid tick.
The fact that he has even managed to survive Joachim Low’s cull of experienced players in the Germany squad tells you everything you need to know about Kroos’ continued brilliance.
12. Angel Di Maria
Since escaping his Manchester United nightmare in 2015, Angel Di Maria has played a starring role for Paris Saint-Germain.
The Argentine has a box of tricks that David Blaine is envious of, and lays on chances for the Parisians’ incredible frontline with ease.
11. Thiago Alcantara
It takes big balls to walk out on a club like Barcelona, but Thiago’s decision to trade Catalonia for Bavaria in 2013 has definitely been vindicated.
The creative hub of Bayern Munich’s midfield for many seasons, the Spaniard’s sixth sense to spot a teammate’s run is a little bit scary.
10. Eden Hazard
Injuries have prevented the Belgian from showing his generational creative talent for Real Madrid thus far, but once he returns to full fitness La Liga defences will be quaking in their boots.
Capable of dribbling his way out of the deadest of dead ends, it is only a matter of time before Eden Hazard begins to justify his hefty price tag. That’s why he kicks off our top ten.
Yes, yes, yes. We know he can be a bit selfish at times, but when he’s in the right mood Neymar is one of the most potent creative forces in world football.
Before niggling injuries took a hold on his career, the forward regularly posted double digit assists per season, proving he’s not always a greedy bastard.
8. Luis Alberto
Ciro Immobile’s ludicrous scoring exploits may have been stealing the headlines, but just as important to Lazio’s surprise success this season has been the performances of attacking midfielder Luis Alberto.
Immobile would not have got anywhere near the amount of goals he has this season without the Spaniard slipping him through, and the pair should be on the radar for anyone looking to bolster their squads in the summer.
. Alejandro Gomez
Atalanta are the most exciting team in Europe and a significant reason for that is the unpredictability of Papu Gomez.
The wee midfielder loves to drift between the lines and is constantly looking to probe the opposition defence, either with a devilish piece of skill or a cutting through ball.
6. Bruno Fernandes
Never before has one signing had such a dramatic impact on the mood of a football club – at least not in a positive way…
Since arriving for Sporting CP in January, Bruno Fernandes has transformed Manchester United into top four contenders with his leadership and creativity influence. Turns out that two year transfer saga was worth it in the end.
5. Thomas Muller
If you are going to make up a position for yourself, you better be bloody good. Luckily for Thomas Muller, he is.
When asked what his role was on the pitch in 2011, Muller responded “Ich bin ein Raumdeuter,” meaning “interpreter of space.” It’s an apt description to be fair to the German.
Drifting into pockets around the space and laying on chances for his teammates, he is every manager’s dream…except Niko Kovac maybe; those two didn’t seem to get on.
4. Trent Alexander-Arnold
Prior to Trent Alexander-Arnold bursting on to the scene, a right-back being on a list of the 25 Best Playmakers would have been unthinkable. Now, it would unthinkable not to include Liverpool’s number 66.
Alexander-Arnold’s passing range is scarily good and will surely facilitate a move into central midfielder in the latter stages of his career. For now though, he will he to content himself with dictating the game from full-back.
3. Jadon Sancho
Seriously, what were Manchester City thinking letting Jadon Sancho slip through the net for a mere £8m in compensation?
Since departing for Borussia Dortmund in 2017, the Englishman has put in one match winning display after the next. BVB face another tense summer of transfer speculation surrounding their assist king.
2. Kevin de Bruyne
Kevin de Bruyne manipulates a football in ways previously thought unimaginable. Able to pick out a teammate from pretty much anywhere on the pitch, some of his passes seem to defy the laws of physics.
With Manchester City banned from the Champions League for two seasons, the Belgian’s right foot could be absent from the grandest stage of them all until 2022 – which is a horrible thought.
1. Lionel Messi
Who else was going to be number one really?
There’s having good vision and then there’s Lionel Messi’s vision. Time seems to stand still whenever the ball is at his feet, as if he’s crafting a detailed map of what everyone on the pitch is doing and will be doing for next three seconds.
Then there’s his passing. Outside of the foot, inside of the foot, short or long, it really doesn’t matter. You know as soon as the ball leaves his foot it’s finding its intended target.
A skillset like this makes it easier to comprehend how he’s managed over 250 assists to his career to date and he shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.