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Best Italian Footballers of All Time

Giacinto Facchetti, Roberto Baggio, Francesco Totti, and more! This article is about the best Italian footballers of all time.

They have always been one of the football giants over the decades. Serie A has always been one of the best leagues in the world, and some of the biggest European clubs play there. Azzurri has won four World Cups and two European Championships so far. Italians own one of the wealthiest tactical schools in the world, and some of the greatest coaches in football history come from this nation.

But what about superstars on the pitch? What names do come to mind when it comes to the best Italian footballers of all time? Who is the best Italian footballer in history? We want to talk about the matter in this article.

Best Italian Footballers

Best Italian Footballers of All Time
Credit: Getty Images

We’ve compiled a top-ten list of the best Italian footballers of all time.

Considering the small number of ten, many great Italian players are left out of this list. We are very sorry about this, and we ask God for forgiveness!

Although many greats are left behind, many greats are still here. So let us remember them.

Forget about the best Italian footballers current. The history was far more richer.

Honorable Mention

  • Sandro Mazzola
  • Silvio Piola
  • Paolo Rossi
  • Fabio Cannavaro
  • Alessandro Del Piero

Dino Zoff

Dino Zoff
Credit: Getty Images

Let’s start with one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time. Dino Zoff is the only Italian to win both the World Cup and the European Championship. Zoff was the captain of the champion’s side in the 1982 World Cup. He is widely considered one of the best Italian footballers of all time.

Zoff launched his career at Udinese. He then played for Mantova, Napoli, and Juventus for the rest of his career. With 570 appearances in Serie A, Dino Zoff is the sixth most-capped player in the Italian league. Zoff won six Serie A titles with Juventus. He also reached the European Cup final twice with the club, losing both of them. At the time, he was one of the best Italian footballers in Serie A.

Dino Zoff has been named by IFFHS as the third-greatest goalkeeper of the 20th century, behind only Lev Yashin and Gordon Banks. He came second in the final Ballon d’Or rankings in 1973, behind only Johan Cruyff.

With 112 international appearances, Zoff is the eighth most-capped player for the Italian national team. Captaining his side, Zoff led Azzurri to the 1982 World Cup final. They beat West Germany in the final to become world champions after 44 years. Dino Zouf was selected as the best goalkeeper in this tournament. He was forty when he lifted the trophy. Zoff holds the record for the oldest player ever to win the World Cup.

Read More: Best Players of the 1970s

Franco Baresi

Best Italian Footballers
Credit: Getty Images

Franco Baresi is one of the greatest defenders in football history and one of the best Italian footballers of all time. He was AC Milan’s captain for fifteen years. They have retired his number 6 jersey forever.

Baresi was a Milan player from 1977 to 1997. With 719 appearances, he’s the second most-capped player in Rossoneri’s history, behind only Paolo Maldini. He won 17 major trophies with the club, including six Serie A titles and three European Cup titles. Baresi won the runner-up of the Ballon d’Or in 1989. He was selected as AC Milan Player of the Century in 1999.

He was an international player from 1982 to 1994, playing 81 matches for his country. Baresi was a member of the champion squad in the 1982 World Cup. He also reached the final in 1994, losing to Brazil in a penalty shootout. Baresi missed the first penalty for Azzurri.

Read More: Best Players of the 1980s

Giacinto Facchetti

Giacinto Facchetti
Credit: Getty Images

Angelo Moratti was an Italian oil tycoon in the sixties. Founder and owner of the Saras company. With a fancy and expensive suit. With a huge amount of capital. But this was Giacinto Facchetti, whom everyone loved.

He played for Inter for all his career. And remained popular and respected by the fans of all three great Italian clubs. And for all of Italy. The man who when died, Massimo Moratti wrote: Eyes that always laughed…

Facchetti played for 18 years for Inter Milan and 14 years for the Italy national team. He won the European Cup twice with Inter. Facchetti was a left-back and known for his effective runs and tactical overlaps, with stamina and speed together. A modern full-back, misfortunately born out in the classic era.

He was a gentleman. On the left side. Close to the heart. At the heart of Italian unscrupulous defense. A knight in the age of Caesars.

Read More: Best Serie A Defenders of All Time

Francesco Totti

Best Italian Footballers
Credit: Getty Images

It is said that Nero, the emperor, set Rome on fire, sat on the top of the palace, watched it turn to ashes, and played the violin.

But he, year after year, at the Olimpico, embraced the flames of Rome. He let Rome sit on the stand and watch him turn into ashes, and he himself stood in the middle of the green rectangle and played the violin. Poignant, continuous, glorious…

There was once a dream that was Rome. In the heart of its starry bright nights, he was sprinkling silver dust on Olimpico, when love in his eyes was bright like a day. Behind the screams of happiness and the frowns that shadowed a penetrating look, love had settled down.

Maybe that day, when Rome was burning, a Phoenix was born from the ashes of the city’s flames and flew away. And centuries later sat on the roof of Olimpico. To herald the good tidings of his coming.

He… Drank milk from the breast of Capitoline Wolf. The Eighth King of Rome. Il Capitano. Francesco Totti.

Read More: Francesco Totti Biography                

Gianni Rivera

Gianni Rivera
Credit: Getty Images

Gianni Rivera was one of the best midfielders of his generation. And, of course, one of the best Italian soccer players of all time.

After a season playing for Alessandria at the start of his career, Gianni Rivera joined AC Milan in 1960 and played for Rossoneri until the end of his career in 1979. He is one of the biggest legends in the club’s history. With 658 games played, Rivera is the fourth most capped player in AC Milan’s history.

Gianni Rivera, a delicate and creative attacking midfielder, played 526 Serie A matches, scoring 128 goals and providing 105 assists. His manager, Nereo Rocco, described him as a genius. Rivera won three Serie A titles and two European Cup titles with Milan. He won the Ballon d’Or in 1969. Rivera also came in second in 1963. The IFFHS named him the greatest Italian player of the 20th century.

At the international level, Gianni Rivera played for the Italy national team from 1962 to 1974. Rivera scored 14 goals for his country in 60 international caps. One of these goals was one of the most historic goals of all time. Rivera scored the final goal in a thrilling match between West Germany and Italy (known as the Game of the Century). They won the match 4-3 to reach the final. They lost to the legendary side of Brazil in the 1970 World Cup final and became runners-up.

Read More: Best Players of the 1960s

Andrea Pirlo

Best Italian Footballers
Credit: Getty Images

Pirlo is one of the greatest midfielders in football history and one of the best Italian footballers of all time. He was a delicate and dignified regista who set new standards for creativity, vision, and passing. Few can come to his level when it comes to the role of Deep-Lying Playmaker.

Andrea Pirlo spent the early years of his career at Brescia, Inter Milan, and Reggina. He joined AC Milan in 2001 and played for Rossoneri for ten seasons. Pirlo won two Serie A titles and two Champions League titles with the club. He then joined Juventus and spent four magnificent seasons with the Bianconeri. He won league titles in all four seasons. Pirlo was named Serie A Player of the Year three times during his tenure at Juventus.

Andrea Pirlo made 493 appearances in Serie A, scoring 58 goals and providing 101 assists. He scored 26 goals from direct free-kicks. Pirlo was the expert and specialist of set pieces, and his corners were hazardous.

Pirlo was an international player from 2002 to 2015. With 116 appearances for Azzurri, he is the country’s seventh most-capped player. Pirlo was part of the 2006 World Cup champion squad and one of the tournament’s best players. Italy’s only goal in the final match was from Pirlo’s corner. He was chosen as the Man of the Match in this final.

Who is the best Italian player now? Whoever he is, he’s far away from the past generation’s standards. The best Italian footballers in 2023 are incomparable with Pirlo’s generation.

Read More: Best Midfielders of All Time

Giuseppe Meazza

Giuseppe Meazza
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Giuseppe Meazza is one of the greatest Italian footballers of all time, for sure. Meazza was the star of Inter Milan and the Italy national team in the thirties. He led Azzurri to two consecutive World Cup titles in this decade.

Giuseppe Meazza played 367 games in Serie A and scored 216 goals. He is the fourth top scorer in the history of the competition. With a tally of 33, Meazza is the second top scorer for the Italy national team. He is an Inter Milan legend. Meazza won three Serie A titles with the club. They named their stadium after him.

Azzurri won the second and third editions of the World Cup in 1934 and 1938, thanks to him and his heroic performances. The Times named him the fourth greatest player in World Cup history.

Read More: Inter History – All about the Club

Gianluigi Buffon

Best Italian Footballers
Credit: Getty Images

Gianluigi Buffon needs no introduction. He is one of the greatest goalkeepers in the sport’s history and one of the best Italian footballers of all time.

Buffon holds the record for the most appearances in Serie A history. He is the most-capped player for the Italy national team. Buffon also holds the record for the most Serie A title wins. He is the only keeper to win the UEFA Club Footballer of the Year award. Gigi Buffon was named the Serie A Goalkeeper of the Year 13 times and the Best European Goalkeeper three times.

Buffon played for three clubs, Parma, Juventus, and PSG, during his long career. The legend played 24 seasons in Serie A, winning the title on 10 occasions. He kept 299 clean sheets in his 657 appearances in Serie A.

With a tally of 176, Gianluigi Buffon holds the record for the most appearances for his country by some heavy distances. He wore the captain’s armband eighty times. Buffon was one of the pillars of Azzurri’s championship in the 2006 World Cup, conceding only two goals in the entire tournament. He won the runner-up in the Ballon d’Or that year.

For many years, Buffon’s goal was a football stronghold, impenetrable.

Read More: Best Juventus Players of All Time

Roberto Baggio

Roberto Baggio
Credit: Getty Images

I dreamed about that penalty repeatedly. And each time, I scored it…

But life was not a dream. He hit the penalty to the sky. Even if he scored it, Brazil would still be the champion by scoring the final penalty. But history doesn’t remember such small details. His failed picture, hand over the waist and head down, was a frame that history will not forget. Never ever.

He was Azzurri’s first penalty taker. The man was the best penalty-taker in the world. He stood behind the penalty kicks eight times in the Azzurri shirt, and scored seven of them. Only one…

Maybe this was the prank of the gods with Il Divin Codino. Maybe years ago, a gypsy in Florence cursed him. Whatever it was, Winter had come for Italy. And his frozen heart was broken in the fish pond, drowned in dreams, hopes, and sorrow. His head was low, and the eyes of a nation were beating his chest.

Once he raised his head, he was not the same person. The one who came out of the storm was no longer the one who stepped into it.

He… The man who hit the ball into the sky, with millions of unbelievable stares. Now he’s gotta struggle with his dreams.

He… A man with the sad green eyes. Roberto Baggio.

Read More: Roberto Baggio Biography

Paolo Maldini

Best Italian Footballers
Credit: Getty Images

Let’s finish the list of the best Italian footballers of all time with Il Capitano.

We all love Maldini. He was so adorable. He tackled like an artist and looked like a knight—nothing but class.

Paolo Maldini spent his entire glorious career at AC Milan. He is an icon of the club. He has a jaw-dropping record: 902 official appearances for Milan. Maldini played eight times in the European Cup finals, a record he shares only with Paco Gento. He won the title on five occasions.

With 126 international appearances, Paolo Maldini is the third most-capped player for the Italy national team. Maldini reached the final of the 1994 World Cup and the 2000 European Championship, losing both of them.

Widely hailed as the greatest full-back of all time, Paolo Maldini was in a different league. Recently, Lionel Messi asked Zinedine Zidane who was the toughest player he has ever played against. You can guess Zizou’s answer.

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Steve Reyne
Steve Reyne
He is a senior writer and journalist. He's interested in the history of the game and his focus is on the Premier League.
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