They might not be jetting off for this winter’s World Cup in Qatar, but there’s no disputing that Italy are still one of the biggest powerhouses in the global game.
The Azzurri are the reigning European champions, in addition to being four-time World Cup winners. In terms of sheer talent, few nations have ever produced the sheer amount of talent that Italy has over the years.
With that in mind, the task of ranking the 10 very best players the country has ever produced is not an easy one.
The folks over at FourFourTwo, though, recently decided to have a crack at that very challenge and we’ve taken a look at their countdown below.
Crucially, players have been ranked on their overall achievements in the game, as opposed to solely their contributions at international level. That said, all included did make a considerable impact with the Azzurri.
The 10 greatest Italian players of all time ranked
10. Alessandro Del Piero
The first of Italy’s 2006 World Cup-winning squad on this list, Del Piero’s 290 goals in 705 games for Juventus rightly earned him legendary status in Turin.
Del Piero’s game was about far more than his goalscoring, however.
His superb technique and sublime ability from dead-ball situations made him a massive asset for both club and country.
9. Dino Zoff
Zoff became the oldest goalkeeper ever to lift the World Cup at the age of 40 when his Italy side bossed the 1982 tournament.
His club career was no less noteworthy – collecting nine major trophies with Juventus.
Voted the third-best shot-stopper of all time by the IFFHS, Zoff was also recognised as Italy’s most outstanding player of the past 50 years for UEFA’s Jubilee Awards in 2004.
8. Andrea Pirlo
A footballing magician. No individual has quite put their stamp on the deep-lying midfield role like Pirlo.
Ice-cool at all times, Pirlo could unpick defences at will. He was also a wizard from set-piece situations.
That world-class skill set saw him bag six Serie A crowns, two Champions League triumphs and a 2006 World Cup winners medal with Italy.
7. Franco Baresi
A part of one of the most renowned defensive units in the history of the game, Baresi starred for AC Milan for two full decades.
Spending much of that time alongside Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Costacurta and Mauro Tassotti, Baresi won back-to-back European cups with the Rossoneri and also landed a treble of Serie A titles between 1991 and 1994.
In the 1993/94 season, he marshalled a backline that conceded just 15 goals in total.
6. Francesco Totti
While most on this list enjoyed success with multiple employers, Totti famously spent his entire 15-year senior career with Roma.
His 250 league goals in the ‘Eternal City’ still sees him rank as the second most prolific player in Serie A history.
Totti also played a vital role in Italy’s 2006 World Cup glory, contributing four assists during the tournament.
5. Giuseppe Meazza
The Stadio Giuseppe Meazza might be more commonly known as the San Siro, but its namesake was quite the player.
Representing both AC and Inter Milan during his career, the decorated frontman fired Italy to back-to-back World Cup triumphs in 1934 and 1938.
4. Gianni Rivera
Making his debut for Italy at just 17 after leaping into the spotlight with AC Milan in 1962, Rivera won three Serie A titles and a pair of European Cups at the San Siro.
Midfielder Rivera was an exceptional talent, frequently making the game look effortless. The 1969 Ballon d’Or winner was just as comfortable in the international arena as he was for his club, starring for the Azzurri at multiple World Cups.
3. Gianluigi Buffon
One of the greatest goalkeepers ever to pull on a pair of gloves, Buffon has won everything there is to win at club level – with the exception of the Champions League.
Eyebrows were raised when Juventus parted with €52 million for his services in 2001. In hindsight, it was an absolute steal.
Buffon went on to become Juve’s leading appearance maker of all time, winning 10 Serie A titles in the process.
The 44-year-old, who is still playing today with Parma, also starred in Italy’s 2006 World Cup triumph, keeping five clean sheets as he claimed the tournament’s Golden Glove award.
2. Paolo Maldini
Spending an entire quarter of a century at AC Milan, Maldini is the very definition of a club legend.
Helping the Rossoneri to seven Serie A titles and five European Cups, the left-back-turned-central defender was no stranger to silverware.
Unfortunately, Maldini couldn’t replicate his trophy-winning success on the international stage. He failed to raise win a single tournament during his 14-year run in the Italian set up.
1. Roberto Baggio
The very first inductee into the Italian football Hall of Fame, Baggio heads up FourFourTwo’s countdown – and it’s hard to argue with their decision.
A technical genius, Baggio was beloved in his homeland for his unbridled creativity. A winner of Serie A on two occasions (first with Juventus and then AC Milan), the ‘Divine Ponytail’ was recognised for his brilliance when he scooped the 1993 Ballon d’Or prize.
A year later, fate would deal Baggio a cruel hand as he missed the penalty that saw Brazil win the 1994 World Cup at Italy’s expense.
Regrettably, many now remember Baggio more for that skied spot-kick than his exceptional skills. At his best, though, he was borderline unplayable.
Champions League quiz: 20 questions on the all-time records
Chelsea & Liverpool get MASSIVE Tchouameni boost (Via The Football Terrace)