Best/Greatest 'Playmaker/s' Ever

Discussion in 'The Beautiful Game' started by PDG1978, Nov 17, 2016.

  1. lessthanjake

    lessthanjake Member+

    May 9, 2015
    Club:
    FC Barcelona
    I think the answer to this question depends on what type of playmaker you're talking about. Broadly speaking, I think there are three different types: (1) the player who sets the tempo for the team and controls the midfield (someone like Xavi), (2) a player who doesn't necessarily set the team's tempo but instead makes the final ball (someone like Laudrup, Messi, Ronaldinho, etc.), and (3) a winger who creates chances by beating his man and/or crossing the ball in (someone like Dragan Dzajic or even David Beckham).

    Some players have combinations of the above three things. But they typically mostly fall into one of those boxes, because those three roles require being in different parts of the pitch. I think it is a bit hard to compare playmakers of different types. For instance, how can I compare Xavi as a playmaker to a great winger as a playmaker? It is basically apples and oranges. So perhaps it would be helpful to split this up into subgroups.

    For me, Xavi is the best ever playmaker at the first type of playmaking. The second type has a lot of players that have an argument, with Laudrup, Maradona, and Messi standing out for me off the top of my head. The third type is a bit tougher and I honestly don't know who I think is the best playmaking winger.
     
  2. PDG1978

    PDG1978 Member+

    Mar 8, 2009
    Club:
    Nottingham Forest FC
    I get what you're saying I think mate, although I guess you'll understand from my earlier posts I feel there's room for some multi-tasking to be considered if you like (and maybe personally I'd see those that can do that - mix in different playmaking characteristics and attributes to a great level - to be prime contenders). Maybe that's why I'd place a Cruyff over a Xavi (especially when others and possibly the author of the piece linked might see dribbling as being part of or aiding playmaking too), but yeah I can see what you're getting at too.

    I see what you mean with Dzajic too (from what I saw and know) as he, like Beckham, could place the ball where he wanted and play plenty of pass-like crosses too designed to maximise the opportunities of the recipient.
     
  3. Once

    Once Member+

    Apr 16, 2011
    Enrique Macaya Marquez is an argentinean football journalist and has covered all WCs since 1958. According to him, the best "conductor" he ever saw at the biggest of stages was Cruyff in 1974. Not just because of that, but Cruyff is a must mention in any conversations about playmakers/orchestrators/team's brain imo, however the topic gets sliced.
     
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  4. PuckVanHeel

    PuckVanHeel Member+

    Oct 4, 2011
    Club:
    Feyenoord
    If you talk about 'playmaking' after his active career, then Cruijff would fit nicely too (next a handful other names).

    Jurgen Klopp said famously that (counter)pressing is the best playmaker.

    No other figure is (in)directly linked to so many Ballon d'Or winners (also if you leave out LM10 for convenience, and perhaps include Sneijder, Iniesta instead). Remarks by e.g. Stoichkov and Figo - both from countries who're not particularly likely to create these type of players - speak for themselves. Figo also deviates from Eusebio and Cristiano in the sense that sheer athleticism doesn't define his quality.

    See also this list:
    http://forums.bigsoccer.com/threads/is-england-a-world-power-in-soccer.1984541/page-26#post-32532509

    Is that reflected in various individual players lists? Clearly not. It's other things that made it happen.

    It is also not like that the Dutch game haven't had (contrived, conspired) setbacks during the years - by the money spinners. Especially 1973, 1995, 1996 and 2001.

    Recently I saw on twitter this article linked. It's not super great but it's decent and a good try certainly, with some great quotes.
    https://footballpink.net/2016/12/13...ruyff-and-the-resurgence-of-catalonian-pride/
     
  5. PDG1978

    PDG1978 Member+

    Mar 8, 2009
    Club:
    Nottingham Forest FC
    Yes, I would think he must've influenced Laudrup's playmaking for example. I was thinking of playing qualities really ofc, but yeah I follow what you mean.
     
  6. PuckVanHeel

    PuckVanHeel Member+

    Oct 4, 2011
    Club:
    Feyenoord
    #81 PuckVanHeel, Dec 30, 2016
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2016
    Yes, Laudrup is another one from a country that's not likely to receive Ballon d'Or type of recognitions or close (although he was close-ish in 1985, helped by the national team form).

    What I really hate to see is that e.g. Romario and Luis Suarez just get a free pass, compared to other outstanding players in the league (and Suarez was very much part of Ajax their lean/barren years). The clearest proof of nationality/language bias.

    You can also think of 'playmaking' strikers like Henry, Ibrahimovic or Weah perhaps.

    edit: recently I read Uli Hesse his 'superclub' book and he correctly points out how teams were dependent on European games and European revenues (UEFA started giving win bonuses in late 1960s) to keep squad and personnel intact. Then I think of the forced demotion of Holland to the level of Greece, Iceland, Denmark in 1973 (fact!) and think "what a screwjob".
     
  7. lessthanjake

    lessthanjake Member+

    May 9, 2015
    Club:
    FC Barcelona
    I think there are players that are quite capable of playing multiple roles that I mentioned. Certainly Cruyff is a great example of that, as he arguably demonstrated a very high level at all three types of playmaking I mentioned, over the course of his career. But I think the truth is that no one is really doing all of those things at once, because the roles and positions on the field are very different. So, for instance, I believe Cruyff was quite capable of being a great midfield conductor and also a great playmaking winger. But, even with the total football philosophy, he wasn't really doing substantial amounts of both in any given match. As I see it, he steadily moved from playing mostly on the wings early in his career to playing mostly in central midfield for Barcelona. In the process, he proved he could be great at both roles. But it's just not possible to truly dominate BOTH of those roles in one given match, because it would require being in two places at once. The closest you can do is roam around and basically spend half the game doing one thing and half the game doing another. But that's not the same as being highly dominant in the one role. You can't do that unless you play that role in a dedicated fashion, but if you play that role in a dedicated fashion, it essentially precludes you from fulfilling those other roles. So, for instance, I don't really think you can be a dominant central midfield conductor if you spend a lot of the game as a winger. To be a dominant central midfield conductor, you need to stay in a position to make yourself the central pivot of the attack. But if you do that, you obviously can't be a dominant playmaking winger.

    With that said, I don't have a problem with ranking someone more highly overall as a "playmaking" when they've demonstrated capacity to fulfill multiple playmaking roles at a very high level. I just think it's worth noting that these are roles that cannot truly be filled simultaneously by one player, so it seems perhaps helpful to split them up.
     
  8. Once

    Once Member+

    Apr 16, 2011
    Second in a row for him then..
     
  9. Edhardy

    Edhardy Member+

    Sep 4, 2013
    Nairobi, Kenya
    Club:
    Juventus FC


    Deserved too, only Iniesta comes close these days IMO
     
  10. PuckVanHeel

    PuckVanHeel Member+

    Oct 4, 2011
    Club:
    Feyenoord
    Interesting that Neymar (i.e. not Iniesta or Suarez) is 2nd in that stat. Especially since half of these through balls came in the rare moments without Messi (in some without Iniesta too) on the field.
     
  11. lessthanjake

    lessthanjake Member+

    May 9, 2015
    Club:
    FC Barcelona
    It's not like Neymar is particularly far ahead of third place or has a particularly large number of completed through balls though, though. In the end, he's the 2nd biggest playmaking focal point for the league's best team (or at least arguably best team) and is a player who has shown pretty good playmaking ability outside of Barcelona (i.e. for Brazil). Given all that, I'm not sure it's THAT surprising that he is in a narrow 2nd place despite not being some godly passer. Certainly Neymar being in 2nd doesn't somehow negate the fact that Messi had 2.78 times more completed throughballs than any other player. That is an absolutely unreal lead that you can't just explain away by pointing out that the 2nd place player also happens to be on his team.

    And perhaps you weren't trying to do that, but were merely noting that it's curious that Neymar is ahead of Suarez and Iniesta. If so, then disregard the above. I personally think Neymar being above Suarez and Iniesta isn't actually all that surprising. Suarez plays too much of a #9 role to necessarily have tons of throughballs. Meanwhile, under Luis Enrique, Barcelona has really shifted the playmaking focus away from the midfield and to the attackers. The result is that the playmaking attackers (i.e. Messi and Neymar) will have more of the throughballs, compared to a few years ago when Xavi and Iniesta would've been much higher in this stat.
     
  12. leadleader

    leadleader Member+

    Aug 19, 2009
    Club:
    Arsenal FC
    #88 leadleader, Dec 30, 2016
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2016
    There's really nothing surprising nor interesting about the fact that Neymar is 2nd place in that criteria. Real Madrid is too much of a counter attacking team to compete for 'through balls' and for 'playmaking.' And Neymar is, arguably by consensus, one of the Top 4 talents of the modern game - is it interesting or surprising that he is 2nd place for through balls, when the team that plays the most through balls, is the team that Neymar plays for? The result is more or less predictable in my opinion - and again, such statistics aren't needed to know that Messi's playmaking abilities are great at an all time level. Merely watching him in action should suffice.

    Not that it adds anything to the above - but I think that certain type of stats are over-used and over-valued in the modern game, I mean where does it stop? For instance, I've seen in-game narrators drool over fairly ordinary easy passes - such relatively easy passes then get defined as "key passes." The love for misleading stats is getting a bit out of hand, in my opinion. Why can't we have stats that actually tell us if an assist is an easy square-pass for the tap-in, or if it's a standard cross (and not some highly difficult visionary pass), etc. Such stats would be helpful - but instead, the game is saturated by misleading stats such as, key passes, through balls, assists, goals, etc.
     
  13. lessthanjake

    lessthanjake Member+

    May 9, 2015
    Club:
    FC Barcelona
    The problem is that the usefulness or difficulty of an assist cannot really be measured objectively. It hinges on subjective evaluations. I agree that key passes are a fairly useless metric, but I suppose it is used because it can be defined objectively: It is simply a pass in which the recipient takes a shot (or rather, a shot that isn't a goal, because in that case it would be an assist).

    In the end, it really is hard to measure football with stats. At some point, I think there will be a giant database of very detailed second-by-second information about what happened in matches. People will then be able to use that to make somewhat better statistics than we have now. For instance, if you had enough information, you might be able to say that, generally, when a player receives the ball in a certain situation (which could include location on the pitch, but also other information, such as general location of teammates and opponents), teams have x% chance of scoring a goal during that possession. Then, depending on what the player does with the ball, his actions with the ball could increase or decrease the statistical chance of a goal in that possession. You might be able to aggregate someone's value in a match by adding up all those tiny effects they had on the chance of scoring a goal in a given possession each time they got the ball. I think such a thing would be better than anything we have now. Of course, even that kind of statistic would have some fairly important flaws. For instance, it wouldn't be able to measure the value of a great off-the-ball run that draws defenders away from someone else. Similarly, it would undervalue strikers who excel at anticipation and positioning (those types of players receive the ball in very favorable positions, but they are often a good portion of the reason for that). I'm also not sure how defensive contributions could be mapped onto that. And I'm sure I could come up with a ton more flaws if I thought longer about it. In the end, subjective evaluations will always have their place in the game because statistics will always be flawed. But they certainly could be much less flawed than the very rudimentary stats we have now.

    With that said, I do think there is some value in looking at even rudimentary stats when one player completely dominates it. Stats aren't perfect, but when one player gets 25 of something and the 2nd highest player got only 9, it's hard to argue that the difference is just statistical noise or attributable to some random factor. So I do think the throughballs stat is interesting. But I wouldn't put much stock on it if Messi were first but with like 12 throughballs instead of 25.
     
  14. PDG1978

    PDG1978 Member+

    Mar 8, 2009
    Club:
    Nottingham Forest FC
    I see what you're saying. I think he is a good example of someone who could make plays and open things up in various ways and from various areas of the field. I think he did also have a big effect on the cohesion and rhythm of the play of the Dutch side in 1974 for example, from a roaming false 9 position. I looked for just the Sweden game to post but not sure whether it's even been removed, so I'll just add this summary video but of course the videos can be found for individual games and I guess you've already watched most of them lessthanjake anyway:

    But yes, he didn't play the same way as Xavi, or Deyna, or Falcao or midfield playmakers who genereally dictated from deep (Pirlo as another random example). In his own way he was very much a midfield playmaker back in the Netherlands in the 1980's though so probably is about as good an example as anyone of someone who excelled in the 3 roles you picked out, though not normally/often with a wingers starting position in his career but just as the video shows the capabilities of a great winger (and someone who scores pretty highly generally on the attributes and functions I picked out initially I would think certainly). I think having the various 'playmaking' capabilities would be a plus for candidates too of course, but yes specialists in a certain 'playmaking' role can be considered too, and it's debateable how we should separate dribbling ability out for example, or pace, which can be things that help playmakers at times, but aren't strictly playmaking. So maybe it depends on the definition in that way too.
     
  15. leadleader

    leadleader Member+

    Aug 19, 2009
    Club:
    Arsenal FC
    I agree with most of the above - the crucial part where I disagree, is in that I believe that it is more or less objective to know what a 'standard cross' is, or to know what an easy 'square short pass' is, compared to a pass that cannot be defined as 'relatively easy' (even if it isn't exactly super difficult). That type of fairly simple-to-measure data is more helpful than statistics such as 'key passes' in my opinion. Of course, 'key passes' are useful and should always be included - I define those as 'potential assists' myself e.g. a potential assist is an exceptionally high-conversion opportunity, as compared to a 'key pass' which to me is a relative 55-45% opportunity. But yes, the difference between so-called 'potential assists' vs. 'key passes' is inherently subjective, but I consider it a more consistent measure than the misleading 'key passes' statistic: where you have no idea about the type of opportunity, the type of pass, etc. For instance, a 'potential pre-assist' could easily be defined as a 'key pass' - but the 'key pass' measurement itself would give you close to no insight into the nature of the pass.
     
  16. PuckVanHeel

    PuckVanHeel Member+

    Oct 4, 2011
    Club:
    Feyenoord
    The Times had a slightly negative end of the year obituary:

    JOHAN CRUYFF

    Footballer, was born on April 25, 1947. He died of lung cancer on March 24, 2016, aged 68

    The Dutch footballer was a revolutionary figure, a visionary obsessed by the game. When his wife was pregnant with their first child in 1974, he asked her to have a caesarean so that he could play for Barcelona against Real Madrid. She obliged and Barça won 5-0, a historic victory in the Bernabeu stadium. It was typical Cruyff. A chain smoker and a multilinguist, he created controversy wherever he went. Often argumentative, always intense, he clashed with sponsors and club directors.

    Not everyone realizes that it was maybe necessary to let the teams he played for (and himself) punch above their natural weight.
     
  17. PDG1978

    PDG1978 Member+

    Mar 8, 2009
    Club:
    Nottingham Forest FC
    From what I know his relationship was very respectful/loving so I wouldn't be surprised if that incident was being a bit mis-portrayed there. But I don't know exactly what happened of course - whether it was her idea, what the full reasoning would be. They almost make it seem like she was coerced though which I would doubt, and it's known that protecting his family from potential harm was partly behind his decision not to play the 1978 WC isn't it?

    Maybe the portrayal as always intense would be a bit misleading too?
     
  18. Louis Soccer

    Louis Soccer Member

    Flamengo
    Brazil
    Apr 17, 2017
    A playmaker is a player who controls the flow of the team's offensive play, and is often involved in passing moves which lead to goals, through their vision, technique, ball control, creativity, and passing ability.
    First, you have to differentiate an Advanced Playmaker (Pele, Cruyff, Maradona, Messi, etc.) from a Deep-lying playmaker (Didí, Gerson, Xavi, Pirlo, etc.)
    The advanced playmaker, can operate both in central positions of the attacking midfield as in wider positions in the wings and even inside penalty box, they are fast, agile and highly technical players with vision of game, excellent pass, shot (out of area), crossing and dribbling; They are known for scoring goals in addition to providing assists, passes and starting offensive plays. In the story we have: Di Stefano, Schiaffino, Pele, Rivera, Cruyff, Zico, Platini, Maradona, Laudrup, Hagi, Baggio Zidane, Bergkamp, Ronaldinho, Kaka and recently Messi, Hazard and Neymar.

    The Deep-lying playmaker, can operate from a deep position, on or even behind the main midfield line, where they can use space and time to dictate the rhythm of game, orchestrate the movements and create opportunities for the team, not just the attacks on the goal. They are known for their vision of play, technique, ability to change the play or provide long passes to players making offensive runs, as well as their ability to hit from a distance.

    Among the best in history we have: Didi, Gerson, Falcao, Tigana, Guardiola, Beckham, Xavi, Pirlo and recently Kroos and Modric.
    In Italy, the deep-lying playmaker is known as "regista", in Brazil, as a "meia-armador".

    Great national teams have had a deep-lying playmaker and advanced playmaker: Brazil 1958 had Didi-Pelé, Brazil 1970 to Gerson-Pele, Holland 1974 to Van Hanegen-Cruyff, Brazil 1982 to Falcao-Zico, France 1986 to Tigana- Platini. In the club level, Barcelona's "Dream Team" had Guardiola-Laudrup, at the beginning of the century Milan AC had Pirlo-Kaka, and recently Barcelona had the Xavi-Messi duo.
    There were also important national teams that had only one Playmaker, England 1966 to Bobby Charlton, Argentina 1986 to Maradona, Italy 1994 to Baggio and Italy 2006 to Pirlo.
     
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  19. PDG1978

    PDG1978 Member+

    Mar 8, 2009
    Club:
    Nottingham Forest FC
    Interesting read, thanks, and I understand what you mean. I don't think my ideas are in disagreement with yours in general, but I understand that you like to have two categories.

    IMO Platini had at least some of the functions of a deep-lying playmaker, as well as the advanced playmaker. And not all the attributes you associate with an advanced playmaker (he wasn't especially fast for example), as well as liking to receive the ball deep even when in the zona mista as the 'free' playmaker. For France in the 1984 Euros, he'd mainly be deemed an advanced midfielder I guess indeed, but actually with playmaking not as absolute main function I'd say in that tournament.

    Zidane I would class as a midfielder rather than forward for sure, but 'advanced playmaker' still, yes I think so too.

    Totti would be another advanced playmaker who wasn't especially fast I'd say.

    Going back in history, I'd say Hidegkuti was an advanced playmaker too in essence - actually in his case probably it would be fair to say he was 'fast' too (compared to the average player) although it wasn't his main attribute.
     
  20. PDG1978

    PDG1978 Member+

    Mar 8, 2009
    Club:
    Nottingham Forest FC
    I do prefer the teams with two playmakers in for sure to be fair too (not that I can't enjoy a 4-2-3-1 that plays great football but has just a 'number 10' as main playmaker say).

    Probably as I remember Forest teams that had two such players fondly: Webb/Clough, or Bohinen/Roy! (in those cases a CM/AM and a support striker/trequarista I guess you'd say so the midfielder closer to a Platini than a true deep-lying playmaker like Pirlo, but operating in a 4-4-2 or perhaps 4-1-3-2).
     
  21. poetgooner

    poetgooner Member+

    Nov 20, 2014
    Club:
    Arsenal FC
    Italy 1994 had Albertini as the deep playmaker, and 2006 had Totti as the advanced playmaker.

    Both Barcelona and Milan are very interesting cases of playmakers usage.

    In Ancelotti's Milan, there was a time when he packed in 4 players who could be considered playmakers. There was Pirlo and Kaka as you say. However, there was also Rui Costa. Most interestingly, there was Seedorf who had the technical ability of a playmaker (and played as a no.10 in his younger days) but had the athleticism to play as a no.8 alongside Pirlo.

    At Barcelona, while there's a clear distinction between Messi and Xavi, where does that leave someone like Iniesta? He was like a playmaking no.8. Busquets has the abilities of a playmaker, with his ability to control tempo, but he was also the holding midfielder.

    This bleeds onto Spain, who was able to add even more playmakers to the list. Spain 2008 lined up with Xavi, Iniesta, Cesc, and David Silva. They were able to replace Cesc and Silva with Alonso and Cazorla.

    Spain 2010 lined up with Alonso, Xavi, Iniesta, and Busquets.

    In 2012, Spain packed all of Alonso, Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets, Cesc, and Silva in the lineup!
     
  22. PDG1978

    PDG1978 Member+

    Mar 8, 2009
    Club:
    Nottingham Forest FC
    I was just about to come back and say there can be examples with 3 bona fide playmakers:
    - Brazil 1982 (Falcao, Socrates, Zico as I suppose deep-lying playmaker, advanced playmaker and ponta de lanca or D-LP, central midfield playmaker and advanced playmaker maybe)
    - France 1982-1986 (Tigana, Giresse, Platini)
    - Barcelona Dream Team (Guardiola, Bakero, Laudrup)
    - Pep Barcelona (Xavi, Iniesta, Messi.....and indeed that leaves out Busquets so differenciates him from Tigana in terms of the cut-off for qualifying as true or outright playmaker I suppose)

    But PoetGooner beat me to it and upped the ante!
     
  23. PuckVanHeel

    PuckVanHeel Member+

    Oct 4, 2011
    Club:
    Feyenoord
    The deeper 'playmaker' (with the wide definitions applied) of England 1966 was arguably Bobby Moore. He had more passes and touches than anyone else, and did create on average 2 chances per game, which is unusually high for a ball playing defender, even next to the greats as Beckenbauer, Baresi etc. He was also among the top five through ballers per game IIRC but cannot find that tweet now (so don't pin me on it).

    Argentina 1986 is more difficult to highlight. Had they included Juan Barbas then he would have been one of the options. Maradona was the 3rd or 4th most frequent passer of his team, and the 2nd or 3rd most frequent 'midfielder'. I can understand the call that this team had in effect only one playmaker, with Burruchaga more of a supporting #8 player (in the KO stages he was the 3rd most advanced player in general).
     
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  24. poetgooner

    poetgooner Member+

    Nov 20, 2014
    Club:
    Arsenal FC
    One of the most interesting teams I've ever watched (but my blind hate prevented me from actually 'enjoying' them) was Chelsea's Mourinho.

    Are they the only elite level team of the modern era (I can't speak for older teams) without a single classic playmaker of any type? I can't think of another one. This is especially true when it's Duff and Robben wide, and not Joe Cole.
     

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