Maradona, Maldini, Ronaldo, Totti: Who is the greatest Serie A player of all-time?

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We’ve ranked 35 of the greatest Serie A players ever from ‘legend’ to ‘The Godfather’.

The Italian top-flight has played host to countless world class footballers throughout its illustrious history.

Diego Maradona, Cristiano Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane and Marco van Basten are just a few household names that have graced the iconic league.

And that’s before you even get onto the homegrown talent championed by the likes of Paolo Maldini and Francesco Totti.

But who among them are the very best?

We’ve used Tiermaker to assign 35 of the league’s biggest names in recent history across five categories that range from ‘legend’ to ‘The Godfather’.

Legend

Daniele De Rossi, Dennis Bergkamp, Hernan Crespo, Pavel Nedved, Frank Rijkaard, Patrick Vieira, Antonio Di Natale, Andriy Shevchenko, Gennaro Gattuso, Samuel Eto’o, Christian Vieri

Vieira and Bergkamp, two Arsenal legends, also excelled in the Serie A. The Dutchman played for Inter Milan between 1993-1995. Meanwhile, Vieira enjoyed spells at both Milan clubs as well as Juventus.

Although Nedved and Shevchenko headline this category having claimed the Ballon d’Or whilst in the Italian top-flight and so they can count themselves pretty unlucky not to make the ‘true great’ section.

Shevchenko of AC Milan
AC Milan shevchenko goal

We have three iconic Serie A strikers in the form of Crespo, Vieri and Di Natale. The three old fashioned ballers were made for scoring goals and did so expertly for many years in Italy.

Whilst Rijkaard, Gattuso and De Rossi provide the muscle as three of the league’s finest midfield enforcers of all-time.

De Rossi of Roma

True Great

Fabio Cannavaro, Cafu, Clarence Seedorf, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Javier Zanetti, Giorgio Chiellini, Gabriel Batistuta, Alessandro Del Piero, Ruud Gullit

Plenty of elite defensive specialists find their home within the ‘true great’ section which is probably testament to the style of play in Italy over the years.

Cannavaro – the last central defender to claim the Ballon d’Or – as well as Chiellini, Zanetti and Cafu would all walk into pretty much any team in the world right now when at their peak.

Whilst you could say the same for Ibrahimovic, Batistuta and Del Piero in attack. All three were frightening for large swathes of their career, nearly unstoppable at times and scored goals by the bucket load.

Del Piero

Gullit also claimed the Ballon d’Or when playing for Milan in 1987; a feat his compatriot and fellow Milan legend Seedorf could never come close to doing.

Although he is still the only player to lift the Champions League with three different clubs, which isn’t too shabby either, ey?

Seedorf

Immortal

Francesco Totti, Andrea Pirlo, Franco Baresi, Dino Zoff, Gianluigi Buffon, Marco van Basten

Nearly all players within the ‘immortal’ section spent their entire careers in the Serie A.

Totti is the second highest scoring player in the league’s history with his tally of 250 goals, second only to Silvio Piola (275), who played far too long ago to be considered for this list.

The ultimate one club man, he once famously said: “winning one league title with Rome, to me, is worth more than winning 10 with Juventus or Real Madrid.”

Francesco Totti of Roma

Baresi was much the same as Totti in terms of his loyalty to one club. He captained the Rossoneri for 15 consecutive seasons and led the club through one of the most successful periods of its history.

But of all the players within the ‘immortal’ section, none can lay claim to being as graceful as Pirlo. The Italian playmaker was a revelation across spells with Milan and Juventus.

We also have one of world football’s greatest, but at the same time saddest stories in the form of Van Basten.

Injuries cruelly forced the Dutchman to call time on his career aged just 28, although he still managed to claim a monumental three Ballon d’Or trophies in his short time on the pitch.

And last but not least, we have two of the game’s finest ever shot stoppers in Zoff and Buffon.

Buffon, now aged 44, has enjoyed a glittering career that has spanned nearly 30 seasons in Italy’s top-flight.

Buffon Juventus

Blessed

Zinedine Zidane, Diego Maradona, Ronaldo Nazario, Ronaldinho, Cristiano Ronaldo, Roberto Baggio

So, we’ve gone a bit of an unorthodox route here, because we’re not claiming that every player within the ‘blessed’ category is more of a Serie A legend than those in the ‘immortal’.

However, the six members enjoyed such magnificent careers as footballers and were so frighteningly good, that they simply had to get special recognition.

For example, Ronaldinho didn’t enjoy his best years at Milan, not by a long chalk. But his status in the game and the popularity he maintains amongst the Italian fan base means he warrants a spot here.

We also have three players that won the Ballon d’Or in the Serie A within this category in Zidane, Ronaldo and Baggio.

Zinedine Zidane Juventus

Baggio spent his entire career in Italy’s top-flight and remains one of the country’s biggest cult heroes.

Meanwhile, whilst Zidane and Ronaldo won the Ballon d’Or whilst at Juventus and Inter, they’re arguably more renowned for their spells in Spain with Real Madrid.

Cristiano Ronaldo also finds his home here for obvious reasons. He’s one of the greatest players ever and the Serie A were proud to have him in their midst.

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But of course, we can’t round off this category without talking about Maradona.

Adored by the Napoli fans – hailed like a god even – yet a pariah to the Italian public at the time.

Maradona’s time with Napoli between 1984-1991 might be the most remarkable spell any footballer has ever had with a club.

Diego Maradona

From transforming the ultimate underdogs to two-time Serie A champions despite the might of Milan, to drug addiction, to tangling with the mafia, it was prime Maradona.

View the full Tiermaker here:

The Godfather

Paolo Maldini

The worthiest of winners. Maldini spent 25 seasons at the heart of the Rossoneri’s defence, making 902 appearances for the club and earning 26 major honours. The family name has become royalty in the city, with his son Daniel now a third generation Milan player.

Maldini in action

Although primarily a left back, Maldini formed a quite unbelievable central defensive partnership with Baresi throughout the late 20th century.

The duo played 196 games together and conceded just 23 goals.

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