Star Soccer Players
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The winger is becoming a dying breed in the game, but there are still players who routinely wreak havoc on the flanks. Here are 10 of the best wingers in the world.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid & Portugal)
One of the greatest showmen on planet soccer, Cristiano Ronaldo has dazzled on the wing for the best part of a decade.
Also capable of playing through the middle as a striker or behind the frontman, Ronaldo’s favored position is on the wing.
Manchester United signed him from Sporting Lisbon as an 18-year-old and he quickly became a fans’ favorite at Old Trafford. His total of 42 goals in 49 games in the 2007/08 season helped United to a Premier League and Champions League double.
But he could not resist the lure of Madrid, and Real signed him for a world record US $131 million in 2009. In 2016, he made 32 million EUR.
He has been prolific in Madrid and continues to bamboozle defenses with his famous step-over and the numerous other tricks he has at his disposal.
Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich & Netherlands)
Arjen Robben has that deadly combination of pace and skill that frightens defenses. He also has end product, with an impressive goalscoring record over the years. Injuries have undermined him, but when on song, there are few better wide players in the world game. Deemed surplus to requirements at Real Madrid, Robben proved an instant hit after a 2009 summer move to Bayern Munich.
Robben has also represented PSV Eindhoven and Chelsea. The major criticism is that the Dutchman tends to fall to ground too easily and his penchant for the theatrical can leave defenders seething.
Gareth Bale (Real Madrid & Wales)
Now the world’s most expensive player, the Welshman is living proof of a player’s capacity to improve out of all recognition. Bale used to be the curse of Tottenham – playing in 25 matches in which the club did not win once – but he was rejuvenated by manager Harry Redknapp who moved him into left midfield. Bale is a valuable source of goals from the wing, and it is his marauding runs and excellent crossing that make him such an asset.
Bale gained European recognition when he scored a hat-trick against Inter Milan in a 2010 Champions League match at the San Siro and masterminded a 3-1 win against the same opposition in the return.
In September 2013, Bale completed a world record 100 million euro move to Real Madrid.
Eden Hazard (Chelsea & Belgium)
The Belgian has the potential to reside amongst the world’s very best players for several years to come.
Fast-tracking through the Lille youth sides until making his debut for the first team at the age of just 16, Hazard won Ligue 1’s Player of the Year award twice in a row before joining Chelsea in 2012.
His stunning form for Lille helped deliver the title in the 2010-11 campaign, while 20 goals and 15 assists fired the team to the third Champions League qualification place the following season.
Hazard has pace to burn, an abundance of tricks, and vitally, the end product. Accused of over-confidence in some quarters, Hazard’s record of producing goals and assists in the early years of his career stands up to the toughest scrutiny.
Angel Di Maria (Manchester United & Argentina)
The Argentina international emerged as one of Real Madrid’s key players after joining the club from Benfica in 2010 for US$30 million. Man-of-the-match in the 2014 Champions League final victory over neighbors Atletico, many observers were surprised that he was sold after that summer’s World Cup. In reality, Real needed to balance the books, having parted with a large sum for James Rodriguez. Di Maria boasts lightning pace, quick feet and the sort of trickery that leaves defenders’ heads spinning. A world under-20 championship winner, he is now set to see out the best years of his career in a Manchester United shirt.
Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich)
The highly coveted Ribery signed a new contract with Bayern Munich in June 2013. No wonder the Bavarians were so desperate to keep hold of him. The Frenchman has an abundance of skill and trickery, as well as an ability to break into the box and score goals from his left-wing position.
Theo Walcott (Arsenal & England)
One of the best finishers in the Premier League, Walcott has also improved his crossing and is a far more well-rounded player in his mid-20s. Walcott may lack the technique of a Ronaldo or Hazard, but his speed and movement make him a nightmare for defenses and he weighs in with his fair share of goals.
Pedro (Barcelona & Spain)
Together with Lionel Messi, Pedro is the only player to score in six competitions (La liga, Champions League, Copa del Rey, European Super Cup, Spanish Super Cup and the World Club Championships) in one year as Barcelona swept all before them in the 2009-10 season. The Tenerife born wide man has the happy knack of being in the right place at the right time. His transition from reserve team player to first team regular happened extraordinarily quickly and he is now a regular in the Barca squad despite intense competition from the club’s glittering array of stars.
Raheem Sterling (Liverpool & England)
The Reds winger can go as far as he wants in the game. Blessed with the sort of natural technique that has been too rare in England players over the last few years, Sterling could star for club and country over the next decade. He has pace to burn, good delivery and scores a lot of goals for one so young.
Jesus Navas (Manchester City & Spain)
Traveling to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa was a big step for Navas who previously suffered from chronic homesickness and used to walk out of training camps with Spain because they were too far away from Seville.
It was with some surprise, then, when Navas swapped Sevilla for Manchester since in 2013 as he embarked on a new chapter in his career.
He can beat defenders for fun and regularly features high up in the assists chart. His nervous mental state reportedly cost him a move to Chelsea a few years ago.