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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.

Have your say...
Nobody can not be compared with BAGGIO. He is the Best at all times.
on the 9th March, 2014 at 6:52pm
First off I think Totti and del piero were and are better then zidane. IMO a lot of people are sheep and rate zidane purely because "experts" say he is good. Watch him and form your own opinion. He was good but not better then Alex.
on the 9th March, 2014 at 6:30pm
Not sure if you want to add Ronaldhino and a regista but what the hell Pirlo?
on the 9th March, 2014 at 6:12pm
No Totti No Party
on the 9th March, 2014 at 5:33pm
Sorry I don't have words for baggio,....ufff too much!!
on the 9th March, 2014 at 5:08pm
Totti great in Rome, Del Piero great in Turin, Baggio great in the world!
Totti and Del Piero's performance for the Azzurri throughout their careers were most of the time extremely disappointing whereas Roby Baggio's were sensational and inspiring for the whole of the team!
on the 9th March, 2014 at 4:52pm
Zidane and Gullet are not 10s. Zidane is clearly a central midfielder and Gullet could play any position, but a piece (article) on authentic serie a number 10s should include authentical serie a number 10s. The greatest interpretation of this role IMO was Baggio. Not just at the Viola but at all the teams he played for. Of course Maradona deserves recognition, but through a tinted glass of cheating with drugs.
on the 9th March, 2014 at 4:36pm
Dario your constant blabbing about how Juve are favoured is really getting boring.Why not just jump off a cliff and get it over with...Back to the article,Roberto Baggio was my favourite number 10 until the emergence of Pinturicchio..Looking back at how it all started just makes me shed tears of joy that I was present right from the start to see Alex the phenomenon..He was the epitome of class,elegance,humility,sacrifice and skill. What can't be debated is that he was the perfect gentleman amongst all those mentioned
on the 9th March, 2014 at 3:21pm
Great players in this list. My personal favorites are Alessandro Del Piero and Roberto Baggio, simply because of the way they conduct themselves both on and off the pitch. True gentlemen and football legends.
on the 9th March, 2014 at 3:06pm
come on a list which includes the words maradona and best what other answer can there be? he is the best player of all time for me. I would say after that baggio/zidane in 2nd place
on the 9th March, 2014 at 2:45pm
Maradona best of all time... when he played it was like having an extra man on the pitch although some could argue Juve do it all the time ...the extra man being the referee!!
on the 9th March, 2014 at 1:48pm
what about Wesley? The only one of the above to win the treble
on the 9th March, 2014 at 1:27pm
One of my all-time favorite 10's is Rui Costa. I'm not claiming anyone on this list is less worthy, but Rui Costa... What elegance!

It is also an entertaining thought to wonder if young Ricky Kaka could have made it up there with these guys if he had never left for Madrid. Shoulda, woulda, coulda, of course, but still...
on the 9th March, 2014 at 12:45pm
Baggio is the best player in the Italy history.
He is my love.
on the 9th March, 2014 at 12:18pm
Baggio will always be my favourite. What he did at Brescia was extraordinary. Whilst he was there, he helped them get into Europe; as soon as he retired they got relegated. Then we have all his amazing moments, for Italy, Juve, The Viola, & Bologna. It really is scary to think what he could have achieved had he not damaged his knee (so badly) as a teenager. IMO he was just as talented as Maradona, Messi, & Zizou: he just didn't have as much good fortune.
on the 9th March, 2014 at 11:28am
Baggio is no. 1
on the 9th March, 2014 at 11:10am
I saw little of Maradona but much of Zidane, Totti and Del Pierro. They are all super players but Zizou will always be my all time best number 10. He was simply a master-class.
His touches, passes, shots, turns and control always makes me yearn he should never have retired
on the 9th March, 2014 at 11:09am
Roby Baggio is the best NO 10
on the 9th March, 2014 at 10:42am
Forza Roby Baggio
on the 9th March, 2014 at 10:41am

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