Goalscorers usually take all the limelight. It makes sense, goals in soccer often translate into victories, and the cameras love to follow those who find the net. But players who set up goal opportunities also deserve credit.
Let’s keep in mind that we’re talking about a team sport, and prolific strikers would be nothing without their teammates. Many times, an assist proves to have more importance in a goal than the finish itself. Here, we’ll take a look at the top 10 players with the most assists.
Unsurprisingly, the player who has given the most assists in soccer history is Lionel Messi. One of the best players of all time, there’s nothing the Argentine superstar can’t do. Apart from being capable of finding the net in every possible way, the Paris Saint-Germain winger forged a reputation for being a true team player.
With 350 assists to his name, Messi boasts more goal contributions than any other player the sport has ever seen. The fact that he did it in 281 games also speaks volumes about his talent, as it shows how consistently he created opportunities for his teammates. His record of seven Ballon d’Or awards, in fact, has a lot to do with this aspect. Being the highest assist maker helped Messi stand out from any other soccer player.
Messi showcased his playmaking skills throughout his entire career at FC Barcelona, providing 269 assists in 220 games with the La Liga giants. He took that to the next level at PSG, posting 28 assists across 19 appearances for the Ligue 1 side.
However, Messi’s ability to make those around him better became crystal clear on the international stage. With 53 assists in 42 games, Messi has more assists than any other player that represented the Argentina national team.
Messi leads the list, but there are many other stars who also deserve recognition for their goal contributions. The following players complete the top 10 of best assist providers in the history of the game:
When we talk about Kevin De Bruyne, we’re talking about the player who mostly seems to understand this is a team sport. The Belgian star’s low profile and humility off the field reflects on his style of play on the field. He never tries to do it all by himself, De Bruyne is always looking for the teammate in the best position to score.
His vision and playmaking nature made De Bruyne the brain of Belgium and Manchester City, as he’s the one who pulls the strings for both teams. When he’s absent, their teammates feel it. There is not just one assist fans remember from De Bruyne, as providing goal opportunities for his teammates is usual business for him.
But if we have to choose one, we’ll go with his assist for Ilkay Gundogan in the final matchday of the 2021-22 Premier League. That brilliant pass completed City’s comeback win against Aston Villa to secure the domestic title.
Thomas Muller is one of the players that changed modern soccer with his versatility, being capable of performing either as an attacking midfielder, second striker, striker or even as winger. Even at 33, he continues to be one of the finest playmakers not only in the Bundesliga but in world soccer.
Muller does it all, he can score by himself but his strongest skill is that he gets the best out of his teammates. Of all his assists, the ones we remember the most came at World Cups, first in 2010 vs. Argentina and four years later against Brazil en route to the title.
One of the greatest wingers in French football history, Franck Ribery formed one of the mightiest offenses in Europe during his successful tenure at Bayern Munich. Despite the havoc he always created on the left side of the field, Ribery never was much of a top scorer (though he has 151 career club goals), but instead mastered the art of assisting his teammates.
Of the 228 assists he provided throughout his career, perhaps the most iconic one came in the 2013 UEFA Champions League final, when his backheel pass set up Arjen Robben’s game-winning goal.
Xavi Hernandez was the ultimate team player. In an era when Messi took much of the spotlight because he finished the plays, true soccer fans knew that Xavi (along with his partner-in-crime Andres Iniesta) was key to Barcelona’s success. The midfielder provided countless assists for the Blaugrana, including the cross for Messi’s game-winning header in the 2008-09 UEFA Champions League final against Manchester United.
But Xavi also wrote history for his country, pulling off the perfect assist for Fernando Torres in the Euro 2008 final to give Spain their first continental title since 1964. Four years later, Xavi once again helped the Spanish national team win the European Championship with two assists in the blowout 4-0 win over Italy in the final.
Cesc Fabregas was the perfect fit for teams aligned with the “total football” or “tiki-taka” philosophy. Apart from being born for it, Fabregas developed his ability as an excellent passer at the Barcelona academy before joining Arsenal.
After years showcasing his abilities in the Premier League, the Blaugrana brought him back from north London as he was exactly the kind of player the club was looking for. It didn’t go exactly according to plan, but it didn’t take a toll on Fabregas’ career as he was later shining with Chelsea.
An elegant midfielder, Fabregas’ outstanding technique proved to be crucial for his nation. Of all his assists, the one we will never forget was his pass for Andres Iniesta that gave Spain their first ever FIFA World Cup in a dramatic final in 2010.
Angel Di Maria made a name for himself even in an era where fellow countryman Lionel Messi stole all the headlines. Apart from being clutch on the biggest of stages, Di Maria is renowned for being a selfless team player.
El Fideo is one of the highest assist makers in UEFA Champions League history with 38, just four shy of Cristiano Ronaldo—the top assist provider in tournament history (42). He achieved that feat by providing a stunning hat trick of assists for Juventus in a group win over Maccabi Haifa.
Mesut Ozil may be the perfect example of a player that rose to stardom because of his goal contributions. The German midfielder didn’t use to appear in the front cover too much, but everyone knew that with the ball at his feet, he could put anyone in point-blank range.
We’ve seen it in every team he’s played for: the German national team, Real Madrid, Arsenal, among others. Ozil’s privileged vision was the perfect match for his accurate left foot, a combination that made him one of the greatest playmakers of all time. Ozil really has too many assists to just pick one, making magical passes was his thing.
Yes, even the most prolific strikers in the modern era can assist his teammates. Luis Suarez is most renowned for his ability to find the net, but the Uruguayan star was also a great team player. Lucho put the team on his back when he played for Liverpool, but he continued to provide assists during his time at Barcelona. Of course, he also had plenty of goal contributions at the international level.
But the chemistry Suarez had with Messi was simply impossible for him to find with any other teammate. In fact, he wasn’t much of an assist provider when he left Barca for Atletico Madrid. Suarez’s fantastic backheel assist for Leo in a win over Betis reflects the kind of connection they had on the field.
A man that needs no introduction, Cristiano Ronaldo’s status as one of the all-time greats is also in part due to his strength as an assist provider. It’s not a secret that the Portuguese superstar is the greatest goalscorer in soccer history, but Ronaldo also set up assists for his teammates on multiple occasions. Sporting CP, Manchester United, Real Madrid, and Juventus can tell. Now, Al-Nassr are enjoying having him in their ranks.
Of course, there have been other great assist makers throughout soccer history. Though they didn’t make the list, the likes of Pele, Ryan Giggs, Neymar, and Thierry Henry were also players who helped their teammates to be better.
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