Diego Maradona and Michel Platini, two great playmakers of the 1980s.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Outisde of Argentina, there have been plenty of players who have been labelled as the alternative Maradonas, but Hagi, as the "Maradona of the Carpathians", is probably the most famous, and the most fitting.
Whilst he would shine brightly at a global level in the 1990s he would also light up the 1980s with some phenomenal performances for both club and country, most notably in the Steaua Bucuresti team that would become a feared opponent in Europe for the continent's wealthy and established elite clubs. They'd famously won the European Cup against the odds in 1986 when they beat Terry Venables Barcelona side on penalties. In the 1988-89 season they were at it again, romping through the rounds with goals flying in, Hagi scoring six goals in the eight games that lead up to the final, whilst team-mates Marius Lacatus and Ilie Dumitrescu also contributed eleven goals between them. It was this run to the final that really elevated Hagi to the attention of fans and media across Europe. Unfortunately, in the final, Hagi and Steaua came up against a Milan side that was at the very peak of its form, a team that had demolished Real Madrid 6:1 in the semi-finals, so a 4:0 defeat at the Camp Nou was a disappointing end to their European campaign.
Clubs in the 1980s: Sportul Studentesc (1980-87). Steaua Bucuresti (1987-90)
The 1980 European Championships were the first Euros that CF Classics can really remember, and whilst it wasn’t the best tournament, with small crowds and trouble on the terraces, it was worth watching just to see a couple of young midfield playmakers showcasing their talents. Given that we’d been led to believe that West Germany’s style would be all functional and practical rather than flair and imagination, it came as something of a surprise that the two players in question were German, one being the dark-haired Hansi Muller and the other, with a mop of blond hair, Bernd Schuster. Unfortunately, it would be the highlight of both their international careers. Yet, whilst Muller would struggle to recapture that form at club level, Schuster would go on to have a stellar career in Spain with all of the big three LA Liga clubs; Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid.
Schuster was a great passer of the ball, and played as both an attacking midfielder and a deep-lying playmaker, indeed he would also sometimes play even deeper, as a libero, his trademark passes starting off move after move. Schuster was a free-kick specialist and scored plenty of great goals, plenty of long range ones as you’d expect but some great subtle ones too. As well as his expertise with the dead-ball he was fantastic running with the ball too, surging forward dangerously time after time, especially during his time at the Camp Nou. In the swan song of his career he got first, second and third goals of season in West Germany!
Unfortunately, like so many really talented footballers there seemed to be something inbuilt in to his character to have trouble follow him wherever he went, and Schuster's time at most of his clubs would eventually result in a fallout and a transfer.
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One of those great players who never truly got to fulfil his talent because of injury problems. The 80s saw him making a real name for himself in the then Yugoslavia as one of Europe’s brightest prospects, first with Radniski and then Red Star. As well as triumphing on the domestic scene Stojkovic was in great form on European nights. In 1987 they were desperately unlucky to go out to Real Madrid, and then 2 years later Stojkovic gave Milan the fright of their lives, losing on penalties after two 1:1 matches. As Milan cruised through rest of tournament who knows if Stojkovic could have lifted trophy if penalties had gone their way. Beautiful footballer, always looking to create, always demanding ball. Stojkovic was a great leader too, which is not always the case with playmakers. The 1990s would see him really suffer with injuries but he still produced great moments of pure magic, such as his sublime goals at Italia '90.
Whilst Liam Brady is best remembered in England for his seven years at Arsenal in the 1970s, we're also including him in the 1980s playmakers list because of his time in Italy. As is often the case with the British media, once he'd left these islands it was almost as if he'd stopped playing football, as hardly anything was heard about him in the mainstream newspapers, but for those of us reading the likes of World Soccer and avidly following the European competitions and Serie A, we were well aware of how well he was doing over in Italy.
Brady's elegance on the ball in the hustle and bustle of the English game had made him stand out more than any other midfielder in the late 1970s, and he was on the radar of a number of Italian clubs as Serie A decided to open itself up once again to foreign signings at the end of the decade. Juventues scout Gigi Peronace was one of those who'd been impressed with the Irish midfielder's fantastic vision and passing range, and his performances against the Turin giants in the semi-finals of the 1979-80 UEFA Cup Winners Cup sealed his move to the club. He would also go onto play for Sampdoria, Inter and Ascoli in Italy, before returning to England for a career swansong at West Ham Utd.
1984. Zico and Ray Wilkins. Milan vs Udinese.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Whilst South America was already well aware of Zico's talents in the 1970s (he'd been named runner-up in the South American Footballer of the Year in 1976, and then won it in 1977), it was the 1980s when the Brazilian's phenomenal talents really came to prominence to the rest of the world.
A product of Flamengo's youth-system, Zico helped propel the cub to the best period in its history in the 1980s, winning three Campeonato Brasileiro Série A titles, the Copa Libertadores and then famously demolishing Liverpool to win the 1981 Intercontinental Cup.
It was with Brazil though, for which Zico became best known to a whole generation of football fanatics, and his part in that fabulous 1982 World Cup team. In those three weeks Zico showcased his entire array of playmaking talents. Deadly free-kicks, pinpoint long-range passing, defence-splitting through balls, incredible dribbling, combination play, inventive flicks and dummies. It was so creative, so imaginative, so beautiful that you were desperate to get outside and try it yourself. And there can be no greater compliment to pay to a footballer than youngsters desperately wanting to imitate them.
Scifo was a midfield playmaker who seemingly had a bit of everything to his attacking game. He was equally adept at playing in an advanced attacking midfield role, on the right, or further back as a deep-lying playmaker, dictating the tempo of his team's play. It goes without saying that his passing was one of his strongest assets, be it his short game, linking up play and stitching moves together, or his precision on his cross-field balls or deeper passes to start quick counter-attacking moves. Scifo was fantastic carrying the ball too, his dribbling and darting runs proving a constant menace for the opposition. And to top it all, Scifo knew where the back of the net was. He may not have scored as many free-kicks as others in this list, but he was deadly in open-play from around the edge of the box, his trademark goals were often low drilled shots arrowing low into the corner of the net.
Whilst the 1970s had seen a plethora of maverick talent gracing the English league, the 1980s was the opposite, which is why the elegant style of Glenn Hoddle made him stand out like a sore thumb. We often wax-lyrical about how left-footed footballers seem to hit the ball more sweetly than their right-footed counterparts, yet here was a right-footed player whose touch almost made him look like he was caressing the ball. A number of spectacularly beautiful goals and a reputation for lazer-guided passes and deft touches propelled him to the forefront of English football and a growing clamour ensued for him to be a regular member of the national team. However, as has often been the case with creative English footballers, national team managers Ron Greenwood and Bobby Robson both struggled to get the best out of him in their systems. One manager who did though, was Arsène Wenger. Having just been installed as the new manager of Monaco, Wenger made Hoddle one of his first signings, taking the 30 year-old to the south of France on a free transfer. It would prove to be an absolute masterstroke by Wenger for both Monaco and Hoddle. As the creative fulcrum of the team, Hoddle was a revelation in France, playing with the sort of freedom that many England fans over the years had been screaming out for. His assists and eight Ligue 1 goals saw him named as the Foreign Player of the Year as he inspired his new team to the Ligie 1 title. The stylish performances and assists kept coming in his second season in France but now he added more goals to his game too. Playing in a more advanced creative role he scored an incredible 18 Ligue 1 goals in just 32 matches, finishing as the league's second highest scorer, with only Marseille's Jean-Pierre Papin ahead of him. Sadly, having set the league alight for two years with his creativity and goals, Hoddle's time at the club came to an abrupt end as a serious knee injury meant that he only played three more games for the club. Hoddle left France with not only a Ligue 1 winners medal, but also with the knowledge that he'd helped change the perception of English footballers in France. So, after the success of an ageing Hoodle, it was then no real surprise that Marseille were so keen to sign one of his former team-mates, Chris Waddle, and that the winger would also have such a successful time in the south of France.
Clubs in the 1980s: Tottenham Hotspur (1975-87). Monaco (1987-91).
Clubs in the 1980s: Roma (1980-85). Sao Paulo (1985-86).
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You can find more information and detail on some of these great playmakers and number 10s on our football player profiles section, and please feel free to contact us if you feel like we've missed someone out who you think deserves to be on the list.