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It’s pretty clear at this stage in football that it’s the strikers who gain most of the glory more often than not. To be fair to the goalscorers of the team, it really is their only job to find the back of the net, but have they ever taken a second to think about just how difficult their lives would be without those feeding them the ball?
Where would Lionel Messi be without the likes of Xavi, Andres Iniesta or Dani Alves? Probably still at the top of all the goalscoring charts season after season, but perhaps not as far as ahead as he has been. The point still stands, however, that those eventually finding the net simply couldn’t do it without someone supplying that killer pass, or that ingenious piece of play. But who has the most assists in football history?
Legends of old
Of course, like many other football stats out there, it’s hard to come up with a complete argument for the leaders in their respective fields, given the fact that certain statistics only started being recorded in these latter years of the sport. A large group of former heroes, therefore, sadly will never have their goals, assists, clean sheets and the like on record, simply because the technology and manpower weren’t around in the very early stages of the beautiful game. Perhaps it didn’t even matter back then, but it certainly does now, with modern-day football very much a numbers game.
So, who then would lead the way from generations gone by in terms of the most assists in football history? Just like their contemporary equivalents, here are some former legends who would more than likely be at the top end of the assists leaderboard:
- Diego Maradona
- George Best
- Johan Cruyff
- Michel Platini
They would undoubtedly be right up there when it comes to the most assists in football history.
Modern-day assist kings
But of course, while certain clubs and fans often look back at the golden years, football is very much about the present. The current assist kings still remain at the very top of their game, and will be key once again for the upcoming season when supplying their teammates with the perfect pass. So, who has the most assists in football history? Taking the most recent statistics into account – with some assist figures inevitably off by one or two, depending on how indeed an assist is exactly defined – we take a look at the top five.
Who has the most assists in football history?
*correct as of July 2021
5. Angel Di Maria – 258 assists
Argentina boasts some of the most creative footballers that the world has ever seen, and right up near the very top of the list is Angel Di Maria. Portuguese outfit Benfica plucked the youngster out from his hometown of Rosario, with his displays settling the Primeira Liga alight for a few years.
It wasn’t long, of course, until the big guns came knocking, with Real Madrid securing the services of the gifted attacker. In the Spanish capital, Di Maria’s wicked left foot was truly brought to the attention of the world, with his expert crosses and pinpoint through balls leaving the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema with the simplest of tasks in front of goal.
And while his solo season at Manchester United didn’t quite go to plan, fortunately Di Maria is back to his best at PSG, and continues to be one of their key players in a star-studded squad that is aiming to finally clinch an elusive Champions League trophy.
4. Thomas Muller – 260 assists
German international Thomas Muller may not be known for his glitz and glamour on the ball, but his efficiency, selflessness and knack for being in the right place at the right time is perhaps second to none. Poland striker Robert Lewandowski has been the greatest beneficiary of Muller’s outstanding attributes, with the Bayern Munich duo linking up expertly both domestically and in Europe for many years now.
Now a new generation of stars are tearing up the Allianz Arena, but Muller’s place in the team remains unthreatened thanks to his infallible nature on the pitch. And at just 31 years old, the talented forward will no doubt climb the list of the most assists in football history in the years to come.
3. Cristiano Ronaldo – 270 assists
The footballing superstar may sit top of the all-time goalscoring list, but he still has a few more assists to go if he is to make his way to the top of that leaderboard. However, making his way to the top is something that just comes naturally to a legend like Ronaldo and, despite recently celebrating his 36th birthday, he is absolutely not slowing down.
Another personally successful Euros campaign proved just how crucial he is to the national team, with defenders still feeling the nerves when seeing him just line up in opposition colours. The forward conquered Old Trafford during his time in England, delivering tantalising crosses into the box to a grateful Wayne Rooney for many years.
His set-piece ability may have dwindled slightly over the decades, but it still remains at the very highest level, such was his expertise over a dead ball. He has certainly supplied his teammates at Juventus with more than enough opportunities in recent years, but it is at the Santiago Bernabeu where his incredible assists came to the fore. Ronaldo has left an indelible impression wherever he has been and, as previously mentioned, his story in the final third is by no means finished.
2. Luis Suarez – 273 assists
The mercurial striker has been a menace for defenders all over Europe, with his deadly finishing often single-handedly finishing off games in the blink of an eye. But it is not just his phenomenal goalscoring record that has led him to some of the top teams in Europe, but his selflessness in the final third.
The Dutch league was the first to witness his stunning talents, before Liverpool fans saw firsthand just how lethal he truly was. Aside from his endless stunning strikes and dazzling displays, Suarez will be remembered for forming a strong relationship with midfielder Steven Gerrard. However, that partnership was nothing compared to the Uruguayan’s connection with fellow forwards Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling. The deadly trio’s unstoppable chemistry just fell short of delivering a league title to Anfield, but it was undoubtedly one of the most potent front lines in football.
But even that attack somehow falls short when compared to Suarez’s next venture, linking up with Lionel Messi and Neymar at Barcelona. The triple act took things to a whole new level, slipping and sliding past La Liga defenders with ease. The goals and the assists simply didn’t stop for Suarez at the Camp Nou, with the South Americans sharing the Barcelona burden between them game after game.
1. Lionel Messi – 358 assists
Through the good, the bad, and the ugly at Barcelona, there has been one constant, and that is Lionel Messi. His wand of a left foot has been adored for many years now by the world over, with fans – both young and old – well aware of just how talented the Argentinian really is. Whether it be dribbling in and out of defences and supplying a subtle pass, lofting a delicate through ball over the top, heading it towards a fellow forward, or whipping a cross into the box, there really isn’t anything Messi cannot do when it comes to creating chances.
The aforementioned MSN link up with Suarez and Neymar won’t be forgotten in a hurry, with Messi twisting and turning in and around the box before either unleashing an unstoppable strike of his own, or else putting the ball on a plate for his beloved Barca teammates. It’s fair to say the Catalan club simply would not have won all they have in modern football without their superstar, and their worry of not being able to keep hold of him beyond the summer is palpable. Can anyone overtake the little genius in terms of the most assists in football history?
Most assists in football history – key numbers
21 – Assists for Lionel Messi (La Liga) and Thomas Muller (Bundesliga), the most recorded in a given competition in a single season
42 – Champions League assists for Cristiano Ronaldo, the most of all-time
136 – Major League Soccer assists for Landon Donovan, the most in MLS history
8 – European Championship assists for Karel Poborsky, the most in Euros history
162 – Premier League assists for Ryan Giggs, the most in Premier League history
2017/18 – Season in which the Premier League introduced the Playmaker of the Season award for the player with most assists
13 – Copa America assists for Lionel Messi, the most of all-time
9 – Assists for Liverpool’s James Milner in the 2017/18 Champions League, the most in a single season in the competition
12 – Assists for both Mathieu Valbuena and Dimitri Payet in the 2012/13 Ligue 1 campaign, with Valbuena winning the award by having fewer blocked shots (3 out of 5) among his total