Ranking the best Italian midfielders to ever play football: Who is the best of them all?

Ranking the best Italian midfielders to ever play football: Who is the best of them all?

Helix Odhiambo
updated at December 20, 2023 at 5:46 AM
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Italy is one of the most prosperous countries in football. The country has produced some of the best players in the sport, including midfielders who have helped them succeed. Most Italian midfielders are known for their all-rounded skills and ability to dominate the game.

Best Italian midfielders
Italian players celebrate with the World Cup trophy after beating France on penalties in their 2006 final on 9 July 2006 at Berlin stadium. Photo by Alessandro Sabattini
Source: Getty Images

Football midfielders are crucial in creating goal-scoring opportunities and controlling the game. They also act as links between defenders and the forwards. This article ranks the most outstanding midfielders Italy has ever produced, including their clubs, achievements, and social media handles.

Best Italian midfielders of all time

Italy is a respected nation in football, having won four FIFA World Cups and two Euros. The country boasts legendary playmakers like Roberto Baggio, Andrea Pirlo, Gennaro Gattuso, and Marco Verratti.

Our rankings are based on a combination of objective and quantifiable criteria. The data includes official statistics from SportMob.com with the latest updates from Transfermarkt. Enjoy our compilation of the top 10 Italian midfielders in history.

10. Daniele De Rossi

Famous Italian midfielders
Daniele De Rossi of Roma reacts during their Italian Serie A match against Parma at the Olimpico Stadium in Rome, Italy, on 26 May 2019. Photo: Matteo Ciambelli
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: Daniele De Rossi
  • Date of birth: 24 July 1983 (age 40 as of 2023)
  • Place of birth: Rome
  • Clubs: Roma, Boca Juniors
  • Honours: World Cup, Italian Cup (2), Italian Super Cup, Argentinian championship
  • Social media: Instagram, Facebook

De Rossi was an outstanding defensive midfielder and a box-to-box player. He ranks among the legendary Roma Italian midfielders, having spent 18 years with the club. Daniele is also the second-highest-scoring midfielder for the national team, with 21 goals at the time of writing.

9. Marco Verratti

  • Full name: Marco Verratti
  • Date of birth: 5 November 1992 (age 31 as of 2023)
  • Place of birth: Pescara
  • Clubs: Pescara, Paris Saint-Germain, Al-Arabi
  • Honours: Euros, French Ligue 1 (9), Trophée des Champions (9), Coupe de la Ligue (6)
  • Social media: Instagram, Facebook, X (Twitter)

The former PSG star, born on 4 November 1992, inked his name among the greatest playmakers in Italy and is among the best Italian midfielders currently playing. Verratti has drawn comparisons with Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta because of his dribbling and passing skills. Marco helped his nation win the Euro 2020.

8. Gennaro Gattuso

Italian midfielders of all time
Gennaro Gattuso in action during an Italy national team training session at FIGC Center at Coverciano on 2 March 2010 in Florence, Italy. Photo: Tullio M. Puglia
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: Gennaro Ivan Gattuso
  • Date of birth: 9 January 1978 (age 45 as of 2023)
  • Place of birth: Corigliano
  • Clubs: Perugia, Rangers, Salernitana, AC Milan, Sion
  • Honours: World Cup, Champions League (2), Serie A (2), Coppa Italia, FIFA Club World Cup

Gattuso is one of the famous Italian midfielders, known for his aggressive football and perhaps one of the best destroyers in history. He played as a defensive midfielder and won dozens of titles in his career, including World Cup Winner in 2006.

7. Marco Tardelli

  • Full name: Marco Tardelli
  • Date of birth: 24 September 1954 (age 69 as of 2023)
  • Place of birth: Careggine
  • Clubs: Pisa, Como, Juventus, Inter Milan, St. Gallen
  • Honours: Serie A (5), Coppa Italia (2), UEFA Cup, UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, UEFA Supercup, European Cup
  • Social media: Instagram, Facebook, X (Twitter)

Tardelli was a hard-tackling and versatile midfielder. He was quick with the ball and a fighter on the pitch. The Italian legend also ranks among the most decorated players in football history. Tardelli helped the Azzurri win the 1982 World Cup by scoring the second goal in the final.

6. Carlo Ancelotti

Top Italian midfielders
Roma's Carlo Ancelotti during an Italian League Serie A match against Fiorentina at Olimpico Stadium on 8 November 1984 in Rome, Italy. Photo: Stefano Montesi
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: Carlo Ancelotti
  • Date of birth: 10 June 1959 (age 64 as of 2023)
  • Place of birth: Reggiolo
  • Clubs: Parma, Roma, AC Milan
  • Honours: Serie A (3), Italia (4), UEFA Cup, European Cup (2), European Super Cup
  • Social media: Instagram, Facebook, X (Twitter)

The experienced manager enjoyed an outstanding career as a midfielder during the 70s and 80s. Ancelotti was part of the Italian national squad, playing in two World Cups and one UEFA Euro. He won two European Cup titles with AC Milan in 1988 and 1989, cementing his place among the best Italian players ever.

5. Sandro Mazzola

Inter Milan Italian midfielders
Italy's Sandro Mazzola poses during a photo shoot in Italy on 1 July 1971. Photo: VI-Images. He is one of the best Italian midfielders in history.
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: Sandro Mazzola
  • Date of birth: 8 November 1942 (age 81 as of 2023)
  • Place of birth: Turin
  • Clubs: Inter Milan
  • Honours: Serie A (4) European Cup (2) Euros

Mazzola is among the top Inter Milan Italian midfielders, if not the best. The legendary footballer spent his entire career at Inter, establishing himself among the club's legends. He finished as the Serie A top scorer in 1964-65 and came second in the 1971 Ballon d'Or.

4. Adolfo Baloncieri

Top 10 Italian midfielders
Adolfo Baloncieri lived with his family in Rosario, Argentina, for 12 years during his childhood before moving to Italy. Photo: @AdrianoStabile, @torostory (modified by author)
Source: Twitter
  • Full name: Adolfo Baloncieri
  • Date of birth: 27 July 1897
  • Date of death: 23 July 1986
  • Place of birth: Alessandria
  • Place of death: Genoa
  • Clubs: US Alessandria, Torino FC
  • Honours: Serie A (2), Coppa Internazionale, Olympic bronze medal

Adolfo is among the greatest footballers ever because of his incredible talent and achievements. He was an outstanding midfielder during the early 1900s. Baloncieri played most of his career at AS Alessandria and Torino FC. He is Italy's sixth all-time highest goal scorer with 25 goals, alongside Alessandro Altobelli and Filippo Inzaghi.

3. Gianni Rivera

Italian midfielders
AC Milan's Gianni Rivera (R) celebrates by lifting his Ballon d'Or ahead of their game on Stadio Giuseppe Meazza in Milan, Italy. Photo: Alessandro Sabattini
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: Adolfo Baloncieri
  • Date of birth: 18 August 1943
  • Place of birth: Alessandria
  • Clubs: US Alessandria, AC Milan
  • Honours: Serie A (3), Coppa Italia (4), European Cups (2), European Cup Winners' Cup (2), Intercontinental Cup, Euros

Rivera ranks among the most successful Italian midfielders in Serie A history. He was the second Italian player to win the Ballon d'Or (1969) after Omar Sivori (1961). Gianni was the golden boy of Italian football, considered by many as the greatest playmaker of his generation. He guided AC Milan and Italy to success during the 1960s and 70s.

2. Andrea Pirlo

  • Full name: Andrea Pirlo
  • Date of birth: 19 May 1979 (age 44 as of 2023)
  • Place of birth: Flero
  • Clubs: Brescia, Inter Milan, Reggina, AC Milan, Juventus, New York City FC
  • Honours: Serie A (8), Champions League (2), FIFA Club World Cup, Coppa Italia (2), World Cup, Olympic bronze medal, UEFA Super Cup, Supercoppa Italiana
  • Social media: Instagram, Facebook, X (Twitter)

Andrea Pirlo was an exceptional playmaker known for his superb ball control, technique, passing skills and the ability to read the game. He made history at AC Milan before becoming one of the best Juventus midfielders ever. Besides his skills and leadership, the legendary footballer won nearly every title he competed in, including the Italian Super Cup in 2021.

1. Roberto Baggio

Juventus midfielders
Roberto Baggio of Italy during the 1994 FIFA World Cup final match against Brazil at Rose Bowl on 17 July 1994 in Los Angeles Pasadena, California. Photo: Onze
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: Roberto Baggio
  • Date of birth: 18 February 1967 (age 56 as of 2023)
  • Place of birth: Caldogno
  • Clubs: Vicenza, Fiorentina, Juventus, AC Milan, Bologna, Inter Milan, Brescia
  • Honours: Serie A (2), Coppa Italia, UEFA Cup
  • Social media: Instagram, Facebook, X (Twitter)

The legendary Roberto Baggio is the best among the top Italian midfielders ever. Baggio played as a striker and attacking midfielder during his 16-year career. He won the Ballon d'Or and the FIFA World Player of the Year award in 1993.

Many remember Baggio for his great crosses, brilliant free-kicks, long-range stunners, and volleys. He is also the only Italian player ever to score in three World Cups.

Final word

Other legendary Italian midfielders include Giancarlo Antognoni, Roberto Donadoni, Fabio Capello, Giampiero Boniperti, and Demetrio Albertini. Their impact and contributions have inspired the younger generations who look up to them. Some legends retired to focus on coaching, while others ventured into different fields.

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Helix Odhiambo
Helix Odhiambo is an award-winning Kenyan journalist and content creator with over 6 years of experience. In 2016, he won the Goal Blaze Correspondent Award for young writers.