By Nicholas Spiller
Soccer is clearly a team sport, however, sometimes the strikers get all the credit, and it’s also hard to grasp the entire team effort when you just watch highlight reels of amazing goals. Below, for your viewing pleasure, are the ten greatest long passes made by some of the best distributors in the game, from Platini to Beckham to Fabregas. The world-class strikers in the game would be nothing without the passes they receive from players like these:
10. Robert Pires – The talented Frenchman was known at Arsenal for making mazy runs and great assists. He was exceptionally quick and smart. Fellow countryman, Thierry Henry, used to love being on the receiving end of his artistry. This pass from Pires in the Champions League was just one of many great passes between the Frenchmen (Start at 2:05):
9. Michel Platini – Another talented Frenchman shows us that you don’t necessarily have to kick the ball with immense power to set a striker free on goal. Playing for Juventus in Italy, this lovely through ball resulted in a penalty against AC Milan. Clearly it was a smart play from a smart man who is now the President of UEFA (The Union of European Football Associations):
8. Xabi Alonso – The creative Spaniard dropped this bomb on Arbeloa in the Madrid derby and gave the striker splendid entryway to the goal. Real Madrid is happy to have purchased the midfielder from Liverpool as he can orchestrate a plethora of long passes to the players up front. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t even looking when he kicked this one:
7. Juan Sebastian Veron – The talented Argentinean didn’t have the best spell of his career at Manchester United, but this pass to David Beckham was like a dagger through the hearts of Birmingham City fans. Beckham nearly trumped the lovely ball with his own cheeky finish that seems to be merely routine of the talented Brit:
6. Frank Lampard – Another impressive Englishman directed this lovely ball just around the reach of a defender for superstar Didier Drogba to fire home. Chelsea has long enjoyed the splendid play of Lampard and this assist was simply “Brilliant”:
5. Cesc Fabregas – Soon to be the greatest distributor of the ball at Barcelona, the player made many a fine pass at Arsenal where he was made captain of the side at the young age of 21. This highlight reel shows many of his incredible assists, but the long pass to Niklas Bendtner shows his great vision and precision as the great Dane barely had to break stride to bring down the ball and score (Start at 3:15):
4. David Beckham – Goal scorer turned distributor with this great pass in his Real Madrid uniform. The way he lifts the ball over the helpless defender’s head is flawless, placing the ball directly into the striker’s path. Was there any doubt that Brazilian great, Ronaldo, would guide such a beautiful cross into the back of the net?
3. Joe Cole – Didier Drogba again gets on the end of a fantastic pass, this time from Joe Cole. Facing Valencia in a Champions League match, Chelsea was again able to deliver a work of pure majesty. The ball rolls perfectly onto Drogba’s feet behind the defender, who is terribly stranded and left for waste in the striker’s wake (Start at :20):
2. Kaka – The Brazilian playmaker made the best pass of his career in the UEFA Champions League final as AC Milan beat Liverpool on one of the greatest stages ever. The last defender slides in desperation and vain, and the ball rolls gracefully onto Hernan Crespo’s foot in one of the most pleasing long passes to the eye of football fans around the world:
1. Frank de Boer – The biggest stage of all is the World Cup. In the quarterfinals against Argentina, Dutchman Frank de Boer made the biggest pass of his life. In the dying moments of a tie game, this 60 yard pass to Dennis Bergkamp signifies why the long ball can be the most dangerous weapon in the game. Somewhere in the tulip fields of Holland, this Dutch commentator is still yelling “Dennis Bergkamp!!” His control and finish of the pass was truly world class:
Honorable Mention: Jose Enrique – The ex-Newcastle man plays an incredible ball directly into the path of his striker. An absolute beauty of a pass, but the striker’s got to score to get you on this list!
Nicholas Spiller is a freelance soccer writer and can be reached at: email@example.com