Sunday March 9 2014
Italy's All-Time No 10s

Dave Taylor suggests FIFA magazine’s recent list of all-time No 10s could easily have been completely compiled from Serie A.

After watching the Azzurri play Spain, what was needed was someone who could change the game in an instant. Once upon a time Serie A overflowed with that sort of player, the fantasista, the No 10 who thrilled fans domestically and internationally, capable of spotting the window of opportunity to unlock a back-line. Taking that into account and following on from FIFA’s own list of greatest No 10s in the game, I have made my own XI of purely Serie A fantasisti who could change a game in the blink of an eye.

Apart from Nils Liedholm, Gianni Rivera and Sandro Mazzola, I have been fortunate enough to see them all and accordingly I believe these players match FIFA’s selection and more.

First off here is FIFA’s list: 1. Pele, 2. Diego Maradona, 3. Zinedine Zidane, 4. Ferenc Puskas, 5. Michel Platini, 6. Roberto Rivelino, 7. Lionel Messi, 8. Lothar Matthaus, 9. Roberto Baggio, 10. Gheorghe Hagi, 11. Mario Kempes.

And here is mine with the unforgettable Il Pibe de Oro first and the rest in no particular order.

Diego Maradona’s fantasy for Napoli between 1984 and 1991 inspired them to two remarkable Scudetti, two second place finishes and a UEFA Cup. The city’s living deity was absolutely unplayable in that time and could only be stopped by foul means. He grabbed Napoli and Argentina by the scruff of the neck and with the strength of his sheer willpower and sublime skills dragged them to the very forefront of European and world football.

Zinedine Zidane was one of Juve’s best ever players, winning two titles and an Intercontinental Cup while also leading them to the Champions League Final twice. According to legendary Real Madrid striker Alfredo Di Stefano, Zizou was “a walking spectacle who plays as if he had silk gloves on each foot.” And although he never actually wore the No 10 shirt with the Bianconeri, he was to all intents with his magic touch, fabulous balance, control and exquisite 360 roulette move, a real playmaker featuring in over 200 games.

Juve also had the most iconic of all fantasisti, the untouchable Roberto Baggio, who exuded an aura of effortless elegance. Although he was most successful with Juventus, he also played for Inter and Milan. Yet it was with Fiorentina between 1985 and 1990 that he felt at home and claimed he ‘bled purple’. His impeccable balance, control, flair for stunning rivals with his acceleration and change of speed saw him score 204 goals in 452 games.

The magical Alessandro Del Piero played over 700 games for Juventus while scoring 290 goals taking over Baggio’s No 10 shirt when his mentor left for Milan in 1995. With his beloved Bianconeri, Il Pinturicchio won the European Cup in 1996 and ‘eight’ Scudetti. Meanwhile, his magic feet, brilliant poise and superb extra-time goal in the semi-final against Germany helped the Azzurri win his most treasured triumph, the 2006 World Cup.

Francesco Totti became Giallorossi captain early in his career in 1998 and won his first Scudetto in 2001. The following year he took over the Azzurro No 10 shirt from Del Piero who volunteered it, claiming “only the best player should wear it.” In 2004 Maradona added “Totti knows how to make the team play well and more than Zidane is the best player in the world.”  Currently Totti is Serie A’s second all-time scorer with 232 goals and still one of its best players. 

Giancarlo Antognoni was the all-time Fiorentina bandiera and the symbol of a winner. Other clubs may have had winning teams, but Viola fans had Antognoni, the eternal illusion of a winning future. The fans’ chorus of: “Voi vincete lo Scudetto, ma noi abbiamo Antognoni” - you may win the title but we have Antognoni - was completely unanswerable. With the Azzurri Antognoni won 73 caps and as a classical ‘regista’ his cohesion and quality led the team right up to that legendary 1982 Final.

Ruud Gullit was another of Serie A’s complete players of the 1980s. Arriving in Milan in 1987, ‘The Black Tulip’ was utterly mesmerising and adept in almost every role. His fantastic athleticism, exceptional steadiness, elegance and poise had a massive impact on the Milan dream team of that era helping them win three titles, two European Cups and two Intercontinental Cups.

Michel Platini moved to Juventus in 1982 and his partnership with players like Paolo Rossi inspired Juve to two League titles and two European Cup Finals. His sublime passing was an art in itself and apart from his playmaking duties he was also a potent goalscorer, winning the Capocannoniere award three times.

La Grande Inter of the 1960s was blessed with the visionary Sandro Mazzola, who sat in front of the fabulous Luis Suarez, influencing every aspect of the game. The son of the legendary Valentino, he helped Inter win four titles, two Intercontinental Cups and two European Cups. His finest hour came in the 3-1 defeat of the mighty Real Madrid in 1964’s European Cup Final when he scored twice.

Gianni Rivera was a superlative creative midfielder who could also score. Seen as one of Italy’s greatest players, the Golden Boy’s inventiveness, immaculate dribbling and distribution helped Milan win every available honour, while he won several prestigious awards himself. Equally at home as a deep lying playmaker or up front in his highly individual, free roaming role.

Nils Liedholm along with fellow Swedes Gunnar Gren and Gunnar Nordahl  - Gre-No-Li - led Milan to four titles in the 1950s. Liedholm was the assists-master who contributed massively to Nordahl’s club-record 225 League goals. For over a decade almost everything revolved around his playmaking vision and passing accuracy. Legend has it that it was two years before he misplaced his first pass in front of home fans and that it was greeted with a standing ovation out of sheer shock.

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Have your say...
. Roberto Baggio - The Greatest Player in History
. Roberto Baggio - The Most Complete Player Ever

on the 5th May, 2018 at 4:35pm
10.Del Piero 9.Ronaldo

7.Platini 8.Maradona 21.Zidane 11.Nedved

3.Maldini 2.Baresi 5.Cannavaro 4.Gentile

on the 15th March, 2014 at 8:56pm
FIFA's list is literally a list of players who wear the #10. If we're going by the classic #10 template, then that's different from a fantasista. But your list was great.
on the 14th March, 2014 at 1:22am
here is my list of fantasista,,, you dont have to wear 10 to be one

1 Baggio
2 maradonna
3 platini
4 zola
5 recoba
6 seedorf
7 recoba
8 miccoli of 3 years ago
9 veron
10 zamarano
on the 13th March, 2014 at 6:27pm
i wont even get started on how rediculous this list is,, baggio is the true king, even above diego, he had much more intelligence and graze,,,, id have donald duck in there before totti which u have him above gullit and platini which goes to show what u know,,,, and remember a fantasista is not an attacking midfielder nor a striker, maybe check it out in the dictionary, baggio as platini said was a 9 1/2 which is pretty much what it really is
on the 13th March, 2014 at 6:19pm
How could you exclude Baggio? Crazy. Let me see, how many players have taken a team to a world cup final practically on their own ... Maradona, yes. Zidane, yes. Oh and then there's Italy's greatest player, BAGGIO!!
on the 13th March, 2014 at 10:07am
on the 12th March, 2014 at 10:26am
on the 10th March, 2014 at 11:36pm
@palomao definitely not a fan of Milan, Inter or Juventus! @cry baby inter only that we know or could prove. I wonder if the statue of limitations did not exist how much more we would have found out about cheating Juve and Inter!

Again Maradona definitely the number 1!
on the 10th March, 2014 at 11:08pm
thats the goal all of Italy has been waiting for!

@ @Lupi, thanks for the video.

Unfortunately the no. 10 has vanished from our game. I had hopes that several players would fill the void left by Baggio, Del Piero and Totti.

Giovinco and Insigne are the closest we have! neither have ever been played as a fantasista in these days of the wing for either club or country!

Prandelli insists on Monty and Giach!!

Lets hope Hachim Mastour is played as a no.10
on the 10th March, 2014 at 9:02pm
The best! Can you see balotelli doing and of that?!! Im no fortune teller but I can guarantee balo will never be able to score, play or show the professionalism that baggio did!
Baggio one of the greatest, a true professional, a true great from start to finish.
on the 10th March, 2014 at 8:55pm
Heartbreaking to think that the future of azzurri is balotelli, under prandelli it wont be likely that verratti, insigne, ses or any other promising youngster will get much of a chance in this world cup.
Its no coincidence that our best hopes of creating game changing moments are pirlo and I hope totti, coz relying on balo is really going to end in with alot of unhappy fans!
on the 10th March, 2014 at 8:48pm
@Adam, have you seen footage of Hachim Mastour? He reminds me a lot of Rui Costa, the way he manipulates the ball is very similar. It's great to see much appreciation for Roberto Baggio on here. When people, here in England, speak of all-time greats; Baggio is rarely mentioned. So to see all these kind comments towards Baggio, restores a little of my faith in the judgement of my fellow football fan. Great video Lupi, I discovered it 2 years ago. The Vincenza footage was a real highlight.
on the 10th March, 2014 at 6:19pm
Agree with RUI COSTA!!! what a player...
on the 10th March, 2014 at 2:31pm
Baggio, Pirlo, Rivera and Antognoni. Just absolute greats. Mazzola wasn't bad but no where near as good as the four mentioned. They were absolute sublime.
on the 10th March, 2014 at 1:49pm

First there is Baggio. Then there is Baggio, followed by Baggio, Baggio Baggio and Baggio. ; and this is against the calibre of players he played against and not the schmucks Messi and Ronaldo call opponents.
on the 10th March, 2014 at 10:56am
Baggio and Laudrup. They could make me laugh and cry. I miss them so much...
on the 10th March, 2014 at 10:48am
on the 10th March, 2014 at 8:33am
Decent guys like Zidane, Del Piero or baggio (or any other player) should not be linked to Juventus cheating. It was all backroom, grey suits. Unfortunately it was the players and fans that suffered.
on the 10th March, 2014 at 7:03am
Unusually for a fantasista, Zidane is good with his head......!!
on the 10th March, 2014 at 2:10am
Hey Dario, who do you root for?
on the 10th March, 2014 at 12:47am
Dario, perhaps you should read the actual findings of Calciopoli before you accuse anyone of cheating. I know you won't because you are obviously a fan of the filthiest and most wretched organization in world football.

In any event, Maradona is the best player i've ever seen, but Baggio is just behind him, and my favorite player. He was poetry on the field, and his feet were blessed by god. It is a shame that there is no one on the horizon for italy that can ever approach Baggio.
on the 10th March, 2014 at 12:45am
Sure he had some very good team mates but not of the calibre of Baresi, Matthaus, Donadoni, Scires,Cabrini, Laudrup, Maldini, Van Basten, Rikjaard etc. Anyways I would like to mention some number 10s that were not included. Zico was a great and comparable to Baggio and Platini if not better. Rui Costa was sublime with Fiorentina. I liked Giannini of Roma tho Totti has usurped him. Zavarov was very good;Kaka was great 4 a period;Savicevic,Zola,Ronerto Mancini was gr8;Veron.
on the 9th March, 2014 at 11:53pm
All great players and not just great no. 10s. Maradona 4 me was on another planet. When he came to Italy in 84, he was up against Juve with Italy 82 side and best player in Europe, some say world, Platini. He managed to go toe to toe wiv them and win. Up against arguably the best ever club side in Milan with Dutch players that won Euro88 to add to great Italian players. He was also up against Inter that had W. Germany's 90 world cup team and he managed to come 1st or 2nd with modest mates TBC
on the 9th March, 2014 at 11:36pm
Baggio Better Than Evrybody...
on the 9th March, 2014 at 11:24pm
Mustaafaaaa Baggio was and will always will be a hundred times better than Del Piero.

In my humble opinion, Baggio was a true genius and never fully appreciated.

Juve should never have let him go to Milan. Also some of his play whilst at Bologna and Brescia was mesmerising.
on the 9th March, 2014 at 9:17pm
Alex Del Piero is my all-time No 10 in the history of Italy. He broke every record possible there to be broken. He won every championship. Better than Baggio in my view.
on the 9th March, 2014 at 8:45pm
How about the Azzurri number-10-wearing? Osvaldo. You should've included him there.
on the 9th March, 2014 at 8:42pm
@ use...boring only if you are a rubentus fan! A good article but the difference is that all these players played in great teams except maradona who single handily (excuse the pun english fans) won the WC surrounded by nobodies and a Napoli team of mostly ordinary players (except for Bagni, Careca, Alemao, Ferrara). All those Juve players who are in the list will always have their domestic titles tainted by Calciopoli Because their Team cheated!
on the 9th March, 2014 at 7:46pm
Baggio i love you more than words can say. You are my hero and in my eyes will always be the greatest.
on the 9th March, 2014 at 7:34pm

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