Top 10 Best Italian Players In History

Best Italian Players In History: Italy is a country that will be forever linked with the history of football. The catenaccio, the fierce defence and the claw of the Italians has been legendary from the first moment. This, in part, thanks to the great players who have worn the team’s blue jersey. Some of them can not only be considered great national legends, but also some of the best in history.

For this reason, in this article we have prepared a ranking of the Italian players who have stood out the most in more than 100 years of the national team’s history.

These players, in addition to successfully standing out with the national jersey, have also written their names in the football book thanks to their great contributions at the club level.

Best Italian Players In History:

In this way, we have ordered this ranking not only by the impact of these players or their historical importance. But also for those who have won, their leadership, international presences, goals and individual titles. Thus, you will be able to know the success of Italian football through the most important players in the history of “azzurri”.

10. Franco Baresi:

  • Full Name: Franchino Baresi
  • Date of Birth: 8 May 1960
  • Place of Birth: Travagliato, Italy
  • Height: 1.76 m (5 ft 9 in)
  • Position(s): Defender

Franco Baresi is a former Italian player born in the city of Travagliato in 1960. From the beginning of his professional career, Baresi showed his love for the AC Milan jersey from a very young age. For this reason, after his debut in 1977, the central defender defended the Milan shirt for 20 years, thus being one of the most historic players of that institution.

As a professional player, he played 719 games for the club where he scored 33 goals and won 18 titles in total with his club. It was linchpin one of the best teams in history, the AC Milan of Arrigo Sacchi, where he played and won virtually all thanks to his physical portentous and sacrifice.

Thanks to his talent, his good head and his innate defensive ability, he was considered to play for the Italian national team for more than 12 years. With the azzurra, Baresi played a total of 81 games, where he scored a goal and won a title: the 82nd world cup in Spain.

In general, a historical and unique player is usually referred to when he leaves a permanent mark on the history of a club or a national team. For this reason, Baresi’s legacy continues to this day and he is still remembered as one of the best defenders in history. Not surprisingly, AC Milan withdrew its number, the 6th, to honor its years of sacrifice and love.

National Team Record:

YearsMatchesGoals
1982–1994 Italy811

National Team Honours:

HonoursYears
FIFA World Cup1982, Runner-Up
FIFA World Cup 1994, Third-Place
FIFA World Cup 1990

9. Francesco Totti:

  • Full Name: Francesco Totti
  • Date of Birth: 27 September 1976
  • Place of Birth: Rome, Italy
  • Height: 1.80 m (5 ft 11 in)
  • Position(s): Attacking Midfielder, Forward

Francesco Totti, is the idol of an entire city, a country and a generation. For many, the perfect example that there are still players who love colors and are capable of giving up everything for their club. For others, simply an extraordinary player who could play for any club in the world and continue to score goals thanks to his talent.

What is clear is that Totti is a player for the history books. Both for his contribution to the Italian team and for his indelible contribution to Roman history. The Italian is, and will always be remembered for giving up the best opportunities to continue defending the ambitions of a modest club, which always outnumbered him for his great talent.

Therefore, it is important to note that Francesco Totti achieved what many do not even imagine: being the best player in the world in a modest club. Yes, although it sounds exaggerated, at a certain point Totti was considered the best and most promising player on the international scene. Not in vain, Real Madrid tried to sign him on more than one occasion.

However, Totti’s intense love for Roma convinced him to play for the club for 25 uninterrupted seasons. Where he also became the club’s historical top scorer and a fixture of the Italian team.

With the Azzurra, Totti was part of the generation of the late 90s and early 2000s. He played from 1998 to 2006, participating in two World Cups and two European Cups. In his record, that world cup of 2006 stands out, where he was also a figure.

National Team Record:

YearsMatchesGoals
1998–2006 Italy 589

National Team Honours:

HonoursYears
FIFA World Cup2006

8. Roberto Baggio:

  • Full Name: Roberto Baggio
  • Date of Birth: 18 February 1967
  • Place of Birth: Caldogno, Italy
  • Height: 1.74 m (5 ft 9 in)
  • Position(s): Forward, attacking midfielder

Roberto Baggio is a former Italian player who played in the forward position, born in 1967 in Caldogno. Thanks to his talent and his scoring ability, he was nicknamed Il Divino from a very young age. However, his true contribution to the history of Italian football is both negative and positive.

He made his debut in 1982 and played until 2004 in Italian professional football. In these years, the player was part of the roster of the most important clubs throughout the country. Among them, his time at Juventus, Inter, Milan and Fiorentina stands out.

Baggio is sadly remembered for that penalty he missed against Brazil in the USA 94 world cup final. However, the Italian striker is the player who has scored the most goals in important tournaments in the history of the Italian national team and is the fifth historical scorer for the Azzurra. He was also awarded the Ballon d’Or in 1993.

National Team Record:

YearsMatchesGoals
1988–2004 Italy 5627

National Team Honours:

HonoursYears
FIFA World Cup Runner-Up: 1994
FIFA World CupThird Place: 1990

7. Paolo Rossi:

  • Full Name: Paolo Rossi
  • Date of Birth: 23 September 1956
  • Place of Birth: Prato, Italy
  • Height: 1.74 m (5 ft 9 in)
  • Position(s): Striker

Paolo Rossi is a former Italian player who played in the position of center forward born in 1956 in Tuscany. Currently, he is remembered as one of the best strikers in the history of the Italian national team and of Italian football in general. This, in part, thanks to his excellent participation in the World Cup in Spain 82.

From a young age he began to stand out at the Cattolica Virtus in Florence, his training center. For this reason, he was signed by Calcio Como, a club where he made his debut in 1976. There he played only one season, since he played consecutively for a year also at Vicenza. Then, he stood out in Perugia until his signing in 81 by Juventus.

In the year 82 Rossi signed one of his best years as a footballer, being the best player of the Italian team that lifted the world cup over the sky of Madrid. That same year he won the Golden Ball and immortalized his legacy.

National Team Record:

YearsMatchesGoals
1977–1986 Italy 4820

National Team Honours:

HonoursYears
FIFA World Cup1982

6. Paolo Maldini:

  • Full Name: Paolo Cesare Maldini
  • Date of Birth: 26 June 1968
  • Place of Birth: Milan, Italy
  • Height: 1.87 m (6 ft 2 in)
  • Position(s): Defender

Paolo Maldini is a former player born in Milan in 1968. Since he was little, following his father’s legacy, Paolo already knew that he wanted to wear the AC Milan shirt one day. For this reason, he made an effort from a very young age to achieve his debut in 1985 with the first team, a club in which he played until his retirement in 2009.

In all these years, Maldini was a player who showed his love for the club from minute 1. That is why he was a participant in the worst and best moments in the club’s history. Not surprisingly, he was a decisive player in the five UEFA Champions League that Milan won during those years. In the same way, the local titles also contributed to enlarge his legend.

He is the player with the most games in the club’s history and the third player with the most games in the history of the national team. However, despite his greatness at club level, the absence of titles with the Italian team places him so high in this ranking. In FM we are clear, only Franz Beckenbauer would be ahead of Maldini as the best defense in history.

If the individual level were taken into account, we are talking about one of the best players in history, especially in terms of central.

National Team Record:

YearsMatchesGoals
1988–2002 Italy 1267

National Team Honours:

HonoursYears
FIFA World Cup Runner-Up: 1994
FIFA World Cup Third Place 1990
UEFA European Championship Runner-Up: 2000
UEFA European Under-21 Championship Runner-Up: 1986

5. Gianluigi Buffon:

  • Full Name: Gianluigi Buffon
  • Date of Birth: 28 January 1978
  • Place of Birth: Carrara, Italy
  • Height: 1.92 m (6 ft 4 in)
  • Position(s): Goalkeeper

Gianluigi Buffon, one of the best goalkeepers not only in the history of Serie A, but one of the best in the history of football. For many, Gigi Buffon is the best goalkeeper to ever play the sport. This, in part, thanks to his longevity, excellent level, charisma and talent.

He made his debut at a very young age at Parma, in 1995. From those years, you could already see the talent he had in his gloves. For this reason, in 2001, Juventus signed him, making him not only the most expensive goalkeeper in history but also the highest signing of that moment.

He played there consecutively until 2018, when after a short adventure in France, he decided to return to the Turin discipline in 2019 to the present.

With the Italian team he became the European player with the most appearances in the national teams, however, this record is at risk since it was recently tied by Sergio Ramos. In total, there are 176 participants in which he managed to win a World Cup in 2006.

National Team Record:

YearsMatchesGoals
1997–2018 Italy 1760

National Team Honours:

HonoursYears
FIFA World Cup 2006
UEFA European Championship Runner-Up 2012
FIFA Confederations Cup third place: 2013

4. Luigi Riva:

  • Full Name: Luigi Riva
  • Date of Birth: 7 November 1944
  • Place of Birth: Leggiuno, Italy
  • Height: 1.80 m (5 ft 11 in)
  • Position(s): Forward

Luigi Riva is a player who is not so high in this ranking due to his abundant titles or contributions to Italian history books. Rather, this legendary striker is at number 4 thanks to the legend he has on his back. He was a player of modest origin who never played for an Italian great.

However, the scoring ability of this forward allowed him to break records and stand out from a very young age in Serie A. Where he collects more than one individual title for being a capocannoniere. Similarly, he is the top scorer for the Italian team with 35 goals in 42 games, in which he achieved a world runner-up and a European Championship.

National Team Record:

YearsMatchesGoals
1965–1974 Italy 4235

National Team Honours:

HonoursYears
UEFA European Championship1968

3. Fabio Cannavaro:

  • Full Name: Fabio Cannavaro
  • Date of Birth: 13 September 1973
  • Place of Birth: Naples, Italy
  • Height: 1.75 m (5 ft 9 in)
  • Position(s): Centre-back

Fabio Cannavaro is one of the most legendary players in the history of Italian football, and as usual in this ranking, he is another talented Italian defender. From the beginning, he aimed at the top with a cool head, an innate defensive capacity and a lot of claw to win every ball that was disputed.

Therefore, it was slowly climbing in importance and popularity within the Series. After his debut at Napoli in 1992, he defended the Neapolitan shirt until 1995, when he signed for Parma. This was one of the best decisions Fabio could make, since it was there that he played the most, he shined the most and he liked the most.

He played for 7 seasons at Parma where he won 3 titles and played more than 200 official matches for the club. However, in 2002, he made the leap to one of the most important clubs in Italy, Inter Milan. There, he played two seasons until Juventus became interested in hiring his services.

Under the Bianconera discipline, Fabio achieved what seemed something impossible: to win the golden ball as a defender. This was in 2006, when, in addition to signing a good year with Juve, the defender was a key player in the World Cup that Italy won. It was then that he received the call from Real Madrid from the ‘Galacticos’ where he played alongside Zidane, Beckham, Figo and other stars.

Fabio is the second player with the most appearances in the history of the national team and one of the best defenders in the history of football today.

National Team Record:

YearsMatchesGoals
1997–2010 Italy 1362

National Team Honours:

HonoursYears
FIFA World Cup2006

2. Silvio Piola:

  • Full Name: Silvio Piola
  • Date of Birth: 29 September 1913
  • Place of Birth: Robbio, Italy
  • Height: 1.78 m (5 ft 10 in)
  • Position(s): Striker

Silvio Piola evokes us to the past, although his records are still valid today. He ranks second as we consider him one of the best players in the history of Italian football. He stands above many Italian legends despite being born more than 100 years ago, speaks highly of his football talent.

Piola is the fourth historical scorer of the Italian team, with which he also won a World Cup being a figure in the final against Hungary. In addition, he is the all-time top scorer in the Italian league, with a staggering 290 goals.

National Team Record:

YearsMatchesGoals
1935–1952 Italy 3430

National Team Honours:

HonoursYears
FIFA World Cup1938
Central European International Cup1933–35

1. Giuseppe Meazza:

  • Full Name: Giuseppe Meazza
  • Date of Birth: 23 August 1910
  • Place of Birth: Milan, Italy
  • Height: 1.69 m (5 ft 7 in)
  • Position(s): Forward

Giuseppe Meazza was a player born in 1910 in the city of Milan. He made his debut in 1927 at the tender age of 17, thanks to his great talent and scoring ability. He went through big clubs in Italy, among which Juventus, Milan, Inter and Atalanta stand out. He is the third top scorer in the history of the Italian league (262 goals) and the second all-time top scorer in the Italian team (33 goals).

He consecutively won the world cups in 1934 and 1938 with the Italian national team. Being he in charge of lifting the second world cup, since he was the captain. His legacy allowed him to be a respected player throughout the country, eventually transporting his legacy to the name of the stadium of one of the largest clubs in Italy.

National Team Record:

YearsMatchesGoals
1930–1939 Italy 5333

National Team Honours:

HonoursYears
FIFA World Cup1934, 1938
Central European International Cup1927–30, 1933–35
Central European International CupRunner-up: 1931-32

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