Dribbling is an art and a science in football. It is without a doubt the most difficult skill one has to master in the world's most popular sport. In its most rudimentary explanation, Its the ability of a player to "beat"/go past another or others. In the current age of football, there is sadly a confusion between dribbling and tricks.
Tricks are gimmicks used to make dribbling past a player easier, or more entertaining, In other words, Tricks are a subset of dribbling. The confusion can be attributed to Ronaldo's extensive use of tricks in the middle 90s, where he made popular the double step over at PSV Endheivon, the elastico and reverse elastico at Barcelona and several other tricks. In addition, the popularisation of other Tricks such as the Zidane Roulette( originally by Maradona ) completely blurred the difference between the two. And a product of the confusion was one player called Cristiano Ronaldo, who seemed to have been affected by watching the Brazilian Ronaldo and Denilson perform tricks. CR7, as he is commonly referred to has amazing pace and power and a good understanding of how to perform tricks. But he is not a great dribbler and even his execution (leaving aside his performance) of most tricks is quite frankly average when compared to the greats.
In the current world of football, we have players that perform tricks but are not even good dribblers and even their performance of these tricks is below par.
But we can all thank one Amazing footballer who some argue is the greatest ever for saving the definition and true nature of Dribbling; LIONEL MESSI
And so here below I present the top 10 greatest dribblers in La Liga, in order and the teams I think they dribbled best in;
1. Ronaldo Da Lima Nazario. ILL PHENOMENON. BARCA
The trickery of Garrincha, the precision dribbling of Maradona and the speed of errrr....Zeus??. Trying to define him would be an insult to his dribbling ability. Thats why the best name the public could think of was the Phenomenon.
One thing about Ronaldo was that he was 6ft tall but could ghost past defenders. He was very tricky and could fool opponents with his body movements, quick feet, bursts of speed and most noticeable of all, his tricks. He is responsible for blurring the line between dribbling and tricks as he would combine the two most of the time. The most amazing thing about him is that watching him playing in Cruzeiro at the age of 15+, his dribbling could match if not beat that of the current World Player of the world, Messi. His exploits for Barca at the age of 20yrs old are only remembered for his goals. But his dribbling at that tender age can only be described as PHENOMENON.
Zidane once said that Ronaldo had the best 1st touch in football. And he was right as their is a video of R9 beating a player with a 1st touch from his groin area.(Just look for Ronaldo Barca dribbling. The 5 min vid)
A quote from Zidane about who he considers the best he played with or against "without hesitation Ronaldo is no.1 not only because of his on pitch exploits, but what we footballers were able to witness in training. He would do something new every day. It was just Phenomenon. He is without a doubt no.1 "
I cannot continue describing his dribbling because the best way to describe it is to see it. So youtube him or something.
2. DENILSON OLIVIERA. THE RAZOR BLADE.
If you ever make a list of dribblers and you do not put Denilson in the top 4, you have no Idea what Dribbling is all about. Denilson, along with R9 and Romario were the force that blurred the line between dribbling and tricks, in other words, they advanced it to the next step.
Denilson was given the nick name of Razor Blade in my home country of Uganda or in the local language, "Gilita"(comes from Gillette, the shaving razor blades). Arguments about who the greatest dribbler of all time have been brewing in Uganda for the past 10 yrs about who was better between Denilson(The razor Blade), Ronaldo(The Phenomenon) and Maradona(The God).
Denilson was named Razor Blade for his total annihilation of opponents. Just like the Phenomenon, but worse, he would totally embarrass defenders and anyone that tried to take the ball away from him. His performance and execution of tricks was unimaginable. His precision dribbling was unbelievable. He could beat players without using tricks with ease too and his ability to "juggle dribble" is unparalleled. Not even the great Ronaldinho can come close to this guy's juggle dribbling.
3. TIE MARADONA AND JOHAN CRUYFF. BARCA
truly unbelievable. Trying to describe his dribbling will make you sound like your trying to Belittle him. He too I think needs to be called Phenomenon. His ability to dribble with minimal trickery but just quick feet is unbelievable. Messi currently does something similar to Maradona's dribbling but Messi uses body movement alot to fool and beat his players. Maradona on the other hand used a bit of body movement but mainly just counted the number of players he was up against and used his quick feet and speed to fix the ball in any space that was available. Again, Messi uses the golden rule of dribbling which is to move away and into space, but Maradona would go into the toughest situations and come out. He also used a rare variation of bespoke tricks to fool his opponents. His use of the Maradona 360, elastico and step over were ingenious and unique, and they worked.
Another difference that makes Maradona a better dribbler, is the ease with which he beat Serie A players. Its not right to compare two generations but one thing is for certain. The Serie A in the 80s and 90s was at its Prime. Watching how defenders tried to Stop R9 and Maradona just makes current La Liga look like Child's play.
Johan Cruyff THE PHANTOM DRIBBLER
Watching this man play will help you understand how Messi dribbles. His use of body movement alone could put down a defense. He would fool opponents into going into a different direction and then would beat them. Along with his quick feet, speed,amazing ball control and intelligence, He was just unstoppable. At 1.80m tall he would zoom through defenses like a breeze. I could watch Johan Cruyff go past defenders the whole day. Most people attributed his dribbling to speed for which he answered them "Some people confuse speed with intelligence and insight". His trademark move, the Cruyff turn was just one of many tricks in his arsenal. But sadly he didn't perform alot of them on pitch. But you could find them in his practice videos.
5. TIE LIONEL MESSI and ROMARIO .BARCA
This was tough but it had to be done. I was more inclined to Lionel Messi since I have watched more of his games. The reason for me making it a tie between the two is because of watching their matches. Clips alone could deceive one into thinking Messi was better or Romario was better. But watching their full plays vs teams left me undecided
Romario de souza
He along with Denilson and R9 led the force that used trickery on top of basic dribbling to beat players. He could get past several players and just like Messi and Maradona, was gifted with a low centre of gravity. His ball control and body movements could sway defenders the other way. A member of the dream team that won Barca's 1st Champions League, he was truly unbelievable
This one is the only current great still playing. He has every attribute to be compared to Pele, Maradona, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Romario, Zidane. He is truly unbelievable. His dribbling style is based on Johan Cruyffs IMHO. The reason most people attribute it to Maradona's is because of their low centre of gravity, great ball control and quickness with the ball. Thats alot of stuff in common. But Messi's greatest dribbling skill is his body movement. He moves and turns his body to fool the opponent and then goes past them. He cannot beat players like Maradona did. It is just too difficult. What may appear as Messi just being fast is actually "intelligence and insight", Just like Johan Cruyff. Maradona on the other hand used body movement minimally , especially in his spell at Napoli. Messi on the other hand is very disciplined in his dribbling just like Johan Cruyff was. He does not do any conventional tricks and never beats a player out of anger or aiming to humiliate. He dribbles like a legend born in the 1960s(Paul Gascoigne, Roberto Baggio, Michael Laudrup, Savicevic, Hatzpinagis). He without a doubt did not follow the Cristiano, Nani bandwagon that tried to copy Ronaldo, Denilson and Romario's way of dribbling. IMO Messi has many great years of dribbling ahead of him. But unless he completely overhauls his dribbling(which he can but most likely will not), there is no way he is going to climb this list of mine and go past the aforementioned.
7. MICHAEL LAUDRUP
If you think Xavi and Iniesta are the best dribblers after Messi in the Barca midfield, boy are you wrong! Michael Laudrup is just slightly not as good as Messi when it comes to dribbling. Infact I am going to say it here. Michael Laudrup could have been the greatest dribbler of all time. Johan Cruyff had this to say about him " He has never hit close to his 100%. If only he was born in Brazil and had only a ball as a way out of poverty , maybe he would have hit 100%".
Laudrup was tall and deadly with the dribble. He had "eyes everywhere" according to Johan Cruyff. He knew how many defenders were around him and how to get rid of them. His body movement was to say the least, magical. Every thing he did in his dribble was aimed at confusing the defender. He would beat defenders with simple touches only to mix them up later with several more advanced touches. He rarely used tricks and mainly focused on Basic dribbling. The reason I put him above Zidane is because when their plays in Juve are compared, Laudrup was truly a better dribbler. And in Barca he scaled down a bit on the dribbling but maintained his dominance of the pitch with calm but precise dribbling. Something Zidane IMHO emulated from Laudrup
8. ZINEDINE ZIDANE ZIZOU MADRID
This is one man who some claim to be the greatest of all time. Zidane without a doubt was a great dribbler. His emphasis was on ease and execution. He never did a trick to scare a defender into thinking he was a good dribbler( Yes Cristiano am still talking about you). He had solid basic dribbling but could not beat as many players as all the aforementioned, especially when there was no space. It was just not a part of his classy calm game. His was like Laudrup but without the urgency/ know how to beat several players. I think it could also be attributed to him not having feet as fast as the aforementioned. But nevertheless he is an all time great even when it comes to dribbling
9. RONALDINHO GAUCHO BARCA
If there is anything to say about Ronaldinho, its that he did what Cristiano will never be able to do(Beat players convincingly with tricks). Ronaldinho did not have the best basic dribbling in his arsenal, but could deform the shape of a team's defense just with his trickery. This does not mean Ronaldinho didn't have great basic dribbling. He just did not have the ability to go through a defense of 4+ players. He could though, go through a very very spaced defense, or one that had lost its shape. His solo goal against Madrid being a representation of this. Most of the time Ronaldinho would stop at the edge of the box and perform his magic. If there is a word to describe this Brazilian, its MAGICAL. His use of trickery to go past players and make passes was magical, his ability to execute tricks with mastery and Ginga(body movement) was magical. He made his dribbling look like a song that he was dancing too. I feel sorry for all the kids out there with ponytails that tried/try to be Ronaldinho. There will never be another Ronaldinho. On a side note; His elastico was not as effective as Ronaldo da Lima's. Video clips can prove what I mean. And also he is the 3rd best juggler(freestyler) on this list behind Denilson and Maradona.
10. LUIS FIGO
This is one man who does not get the credit he deserves. It can be attributed to being in the most talented generation of football and the lethargy that surrounded it(Ronaldo, Zidane, Denilson). Luis Figo's dribbling was just unbelievable. His step overs, and basic dribbling were unstoppable. He was good at one on ones, one on twos, one on threes,..you get the picture. When he was one on one with a player, that player was destined to fall down. His ability to fool defenders with body movement was on par with any of the top 5 on this list. But his lethargy on the pitch is truly unforgivable. I just wonder what levels he would have reached if he and not Cristiano Ronaldo was competing against Messi right now. He could have learnt alot from Messi's determination and also challenged Messi's reign.
And so this is my list. All in all, all these players are in the same category. This is just one big category of players at the same talent level. But with some being better than the others when it comes to dribbling. THIS IS NOT A POST ABOUT THE TOP 10 GREATEST LA LIGA PLAYERS. Its about the dribbling.
comment and tell me what you think about the order or about unfair omissions.