In its long and rich history, Serie A has given us some great teams and players. Some of those players left an everlasting impression on the mind of the fans. In this article, let us have a look at the 15 greatest Serie A players of all time.
Considering various factors like longevity, impact, success, consistency, and fans’ opinion, here are the greatest Serie A players of all time.
15. Javier Zanetti
Longevity and steel in defense has been the hallmark of Javier Zanetti since he joined Inter Milan in 1995 and started serving the club as a captain in 2001. Zanetti is the most capped player in the history of Inter and won 16 trophies with the club: five Scudetti, four Coppa Italia, four Supercoppa Italiana, one UEFA Cup, one Champions League, and the FIFA Club World Cup.
Known for versatility, Zanetti has played in both right and left wings, having played in both flank as full-back, as well as a winger. He has also played as a defensive midfielder. Zanetti earned the nickname El Tractor for his stamina and tireless energetic runs up and down the wings to aid both attack and defence. He was well-respected by both his fans and oppositions for his leadership quality, he has received only 2 red cards in his entire 22 years career.
He played 1114 games in his entire career and is the fifth player in football history with the most career appearances. He is, without a doubt, one of the greatest Serie A players of all time.
14. Giacinto Facchetti
Legendary left-back, Giacinto Facchetti spent his entire career with Inter Milan. He is regarded as one of the best players of all time in his position, due to his pace, technique, intelligence, physique, and stamina, and formed a formidable defensive partnership with fellow full-back Tarcisio Burgnich in Inter’s defensive catenaccio system at club level, as well as with the Italian national side.
Facchetti was impeccable in defense but also very potent in attack, scoring almost 50 league goals in his career. He also stood out for his discipline and leadership throughout his career and served both as Inter’s and Italy’s captain for several years. In 2015, he was posthumously inducted into the Italian Football Hall of Fame.
13. Roberto Baggio
Roberto Baggio spent 19 years in Serie A from 1985 to 2004 with stints at Juventus, Fiorentina, AC Milan, Bologna, Inter-Milan and Brescia. The legendary attacker was known as the ‘Divine Ponytail’ due to his hairstyle and was just as adept at putting the ball in the net as he was at setting up his teammates.
Frequently criticized throughout his career, Baggio did most of the talking on the pitch. He won trophies with almost every club he played for and his personal honours include winning the Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year in 1993.
Baggio is the only Italian to score in three World Cups, and with nine goals, he holds the record for most goals scored in World Cup tournaments for Italy, along with Paolo Rossi and Christian Vieri. He was also included in the FIFA World Cup All-Star team in 1994, Azzuri team of the century in 2000. It’s only fair that he is included in this list of greatest Serie A players of all time.
12. Silvio Piola
Regarded as one of the greatest strikers of his time, Silvio Piola is the greatest scorer in the history of Serie A. He scored a record 274 goals in Serie A and played around 537 games. He was regarded as a modern and well-rounded player of his time.
Silvio Piola played in different positions, deploying in the wing, in midfield, creative attacking midfielder as well as a second striker on occasion. Piola was excellent in the air, he scored spectacular goals from volleys and bicycle kicks.
He was the top Serie A scorer in history for Novara, Lazio, and Vercelli and won the league’s Golden Boot Award twice. After his death, a pair of Italian stadiums were renamed after him: one in Novara in 1997 and another in Vercelli in 1998. In 2011, he was posthumously inducted into the Italian Football Hall of Fame.
11. Dino Zoff
Zoff is remembered as a true legend of the game. He was a goalkeeper of outstanding ability, and holds a place in the history of the sport among the very best in this role, being named the 3rd greatest goalkeeper of the 20th century by the IFFHS behind Lev Yashin and Gordon Banks.
On the club level, he played with Udinese, Mantova, Napoli, and Juventus. The legendary Italian Keeper helped Juventus endure one of its most successful periods, winning six league titles. He was an integral part of the 1982 World Cup-winning Italian squad.
Zoff didn’t concede a goal for almost two years for Italy and was voted Italy’s Golden Player by the Italian Football Federation. He also placed second in the 1973 Ballon d’Or, as he narrowly missed out on a treble with Juventus.
10. Andrea Pirlo
Midfielder maestro, Andrea Pirlo kicked off his pro career with Brescia in 1994 and also played with Inter Milan, Reggina, AC Milan, and Juventus before heading to New York City of MLS in 2015.
Pirlo in his career won two UEFA Champions League, two UEFA Super Cups, six Serie A titles, a Supercoppa Italiana, a Coppa Italia. A very versatile player, Pirlo could play as an offensive midfielder, central midfielder, supporting striker, defensive midfielder. Sometimes he has also played as a winger due to his ability to provide accurate crosses. He is known as one of the best free-kick takers that the world has ever seen and has been praised by the pundits for his ability to create chance and score goals from a dead ball situation.
He was part of the 2006 World Cup-winning squad and was also included in the FIFA World XI that year. Pirlo has also won dozens of individual awards and was named Serie A player of the year on three occasions.
9. Fabio Cannavaro
The only defender to win the coveted Ballon D’or, Cannavaro is easily one of the modern greats in football. A product of the Naples Academy, Cannavaro started his career at Napoli before moving to Parma. He was an excellent central back and was having the ability to read the game. As a defender, Cannavaro was well known for his anticipation, awareness and positioning. He has won UEFA Cup, Copa Italia, Supercoppa Italiana, Serie A in his career time.
Cannavaro then played for Inter and Juventus where he was respected by fans and players alike. He captained Italy to World Cup glory in 2006 and also won the Ballon d’Or the same year. He has been included in the FIFA World XI twice and has also won Serie A defender of the year a couple of times.
8. Gunnar Nordahl
Gunnar Nordahl was a highly prolific, powerful, and physically strong Swedish striker with an eye for goal. He scored 43 goals in just 33 international appearances for Sweden, convincing AC Milan to bring the forward to Italy.
Nordahl’s transfer to Milan forced him to retire from the national team, as the rules at the time prevented professionals from the Swedish national team, but it did not influence his goalscoring charts as he scored 210 goals in just 257 league games for Milan.
Impressively, he was the Serie A top scorer five times, winning the Serie A title twice. He stayed at Milan until 1956 before heading to Roma for his final season. But before leaving Milan, Nordahl was crowned the club’s all-time leading scorer, helped them win two league titles, and also led the Serie A in scoring for a record five seasons.
He scored a further 15 goals in his short stint at Roma, before retiring in 1958. Nordahl is widely regarded as one of the greatest Serie A players of all time.
7. Franco Baresi
One-club man, Baresi served at AC Milan for two decades before retiring in 1997. Considered one of the best defenders ever, Baresi was the heart of the Milan defense. Baresi won six Serie A titles, three European Cups, three European Super Cups, and four Coppas Italia. His defensive performances helped Italy win the 1982 World Cup.
In the 1994 World Cup, he recovered from tearing the meniscus in his right knee in Italy’s second game to return in time for the final – just 25 days later, after an operation – to restrict a Romario-led Brazil to penalties after 120 minutes without a goal.
Baresi is one of the greatest Serie A players of all time. After his retirement, AC Milan decided to retire his shirt number, the number six, such was his impact on their history.
6. Giuseppe Meazza
Meazza was one of the most versatile and prolific forwards in the Serie A scoring 347 times for club and country in just 564 appearances. Meazza won the Serie A top-scorer award on three occasions in his career; with 216 goals in Serie A, he is the fourth all-time highest goal scorer in Serie A, alongside José Altafini, and with 33 goals, he is also the second-highest goalscorer for the Italian national team.
He won the Serie A three times with Inter and won the Coppa Italia once for both Inter and Milan. His name will forever be linked with the 1930s when the Italian national team dominated world football.
In 1980 the San Siro was, posthumously, named in his honour. In 2011, he was inducted into the Italian Football Hall of Fame.
5. Diego Maradona
It’s impossible to exclude from this countdown one of the most talented men to ever play the game. Maradona only played in Europe for 10 years out of a career that spanned 20, but the majority of that time was spent with Napoli. Maradona is the first player in football history to set a world record transfer fee twice.
He moved to Napoli at a record fee of £6.9 million. Maradona’s vision, reflex, reaction, dribbling skill, and ball control with a combination of 5.5ft height giving him low central gravity allowed him to maneuver better than other footballers. He would often dribble past multiple opponents with ease. Due to his talent, he was given the name “The Golden Boy”, which stuck to him throughout his career.
Maradona joined Napoli in 1984 and played till 1991. He appeared in 188 league games and scored 81 goals in his seven years at the San Paolo, and despite some controversy surrounding him off the field, he was so influential to the side that they took the unusual step of retiring his No. 10 shirt when his career was done.
4. Valentino Mazzola
Mazzola was the captain and symbol of the Great Torino side of the 40s. He is considered to be one of the greatest number 10s in the history of football. He died at the age of just 30 in the Superga air disaster.
Mazzola became known during his spell at Venezia, where he played as a midfielder, a playing position he held throughout his career that allowed him to expand his fame beyond Italy. Due to his outstanding performances in his three years at Venezia, interest in taking the quick, skillful attacking midfielder to a bigger club was high and so it was that, in 1942, Torino president Ferrucio Novo spent the handsome sum of 1.2 million lire on bringing Mazzola to the Granata where he was to become an icon and, undoubtedly, the greatest player that has ever pulled on the claret jersey. Not only that but Mazzola could also be considered to be one of the most complete football players of all time.
Mazzola won five Serie A championships with Torino in seven years with Torino FC. On 4 May, on the return journey from a game in Lisbon, the aircraft carrying Mazzola and the rest of the team crashed, killing everyone on board and leaving only one first-team player at Torino alive.
3. Francesco Totti
Totti is known as the ultimate symbol of AS Roma. He spent his entire career at Roma, winning a Serie A title, two Coppa Italia titles, and two Supercoppa Italiana titles.
A Prolific goalscorer, Totti was also renowned for his ball control, vision, creativity, and range of passing. He also had the ability to set the pace in midfield and provide through-balls and assists for his teammates. He primarily used to play as a second striker or attacking midfielder but he could also play as an attacker or winger. Totti is the top goalscorer and the most capped player in the club’s history.
Totti won a record eleven Oscar del Calcio awards from the Italian Footballers’ Association, five Serie A Italian player of the year, two Serie A footballer of the year, two Serie A Goal of the year, one Serie A Goalscorer of the year, one Serie A young player of the year.
One of the greatest Serie A players of all time, Totti spent more than two decades in AS Roma and appeared in more than 600 matches almost scoring 250 goals. On July 17, he took retirement from professional football and accepted an offer from AS Roma to become the director of the club.
2. Gianluigi Buffon
Arguably the greatest goalkeeper of this century, Gigi Buffon holds the record for the most clean sheets in Serie A. Even at the age of 43, his reflexes, positioning, agility & handling are top-notch. He acts as a vocal organizer while the game is on and key personality in the dressing room.
As a 17 years old teenager he made his debut on 19th November 1995 for Parma against the eventual champion AC Milan and kept it clean sheet. In the summer transfer window 2001, Juventus paid an astronomical sum of 52 million for Buffon’s service. He returned to Parma in the summer of 2021.
With Juventus, he won 10 Serie A titles, 5 Coppa Italia, and 6 Supercoppas. He has won Serie A Goalkeeper of the Year twelve times. He was also voted IFFHS Best goalkeeper of the decade: 2000–2010 and also the IFFHS Best Goalkeeper of the 21st Century[2000-2020].
1. Paolo Maldini
Paolo Maldini was the ultimate one-man club. He spent all his two and a half-decade of his football career in Serie A with Milan. Widely regarded as one of the greatest defenders of all time, Maldini won 23 trophies for Milan including UEFA Champions League, Serie A, Coppa Italia, Supercoppa Italiana, European Supercups, and Intercontinental Cups.
Although Maldini played most of the time being a left-back but naturally he was right-footed and began playing right-back for Milan. This was made possible because of his tactical versatility and ability with both feet, which made him play at any position in the backline. Maldini was renowned because of his stamina, sliding ability, athleticism, and fast energetic forward run as a left-back. He was also an excellent crosser, setting attacking threat, scoring and assisting several goals throughout his career.
Maldini finished as the runner-up for FIFA player of the year in 1995 and also won the best defender trophy at the UEFA Club Football awards in 2007. The number three jersey was retired in his honour at Milan as he became a symbol of the club.
Antonio Di Natale
Alessandro Del Piero
Daniele De Rossi