Ranked! The 10 best playmakers in the world right now

The best playmakers in the world right now
(Image credit: Future)

While strikers will always grab the headlines, the best playmakers in the world are usually the most revered in a team. 

The world's great lock-pickers are a rare and mythical breed, capable of seeing angles and shafts of light we mortals can only dream of. When these guys play well, the whole team seems to dance to their tune, like an orchestra in thrall to their conductor. 

It is with this romantic kernel implanted that we review the greatest playmakers on the planet – in this list, we're looking at the traditional midfield creators that operate as sparks of chance creation… though "playmaker" is a broad term for a player.

The 10 best playmakers in the world right now

10. Thomas Mueller (FC Bayern)

Thomas Muller

Orkun Kokcu of Feyenoord celebrates after scoring against PSV Eindhoven (Image credit: Getty Images)

He might be getting on a bit, but Thomas Mueller continues to be the nucleus around which his Bayern team spins. He's awkward, he's ungainly, he scores terrible goals... but he also picks up spaces around the penalty area no other player can. 

When in possession, the Bavarian inevitably finds the back of the net or a team-mate in a shooting position. His seven assists in the Bundesliga (by the start of April) puts him joint-third in the charts – helping him to pull further into the distance in terms of overall numbers. He's now almost 70 ahead of Frank Ribery, the second most-prolific creator of goals in German top-flight history. The 33 year old is unstoppable. 

9. Piotr Zielinski (Napoli)

Best playmakers in the world

Hakan Calhanoglu celebrates after scoring for Inter Milan against Barcelona (Image credit: Getty)

Much of the credit for Napoli's shock title tilt this season rightly goes to the goalscoring prowess of striker Victor Osimhen, but the supporting cast deserve love too. 

Not least Polish international midfielder Zielinski, who is the only player in the Italian top-flight in the top four for both assists and key passes this season. The 28 year old is the man that makes everything tick in Napoli's hardworking midfield, and Osimhen would not have scored as many goal were it not for the ideas man playing just behind him. 

8. Bruno Guimaraes (Newcastle United)

Newcastle player Bruno Guimaraes celebrates his second goal by pointing to the club badge during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Brentford FC at St. James Park on October 08, 2022 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.

Alex Iwobi scores for Everton against Manchester United (Image credit: Stu Forster/Getty Images)

A different type of playmaker to many on this list, given how deep the Brazilian operates for Newcastle

FFT went into depth about the Magpie midfielder's role in our latest video on the club (see below). He sits primarily in front of the back four, collecting passes and helping his team up the pitch by "beating the press" with his dribbling ability. But he's more than just a deep-lying midfielder. Once in behind the opposition, Bruno has the ability to find team-mates in dangerous positions, as well as the desire to get into the box to finish chances. 

7. Jamal Musiala (FC Bayern)

Bayern Munich midfielder Jamal Musiala celebrates after scoring his team's second goal in Bayern Munich 4-0 Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga on 30 September, 2022 at the Allianz Arena, Munich, Germany

Bayern Munich midfielder Jamal Musiala celebrates after scoring his team's second goal against Bayer Leverkusen (Image credit: S. Mellar/FC Bayern via Getty Images)

We never really knew for sure whether Croydon-bred Jamal Musiala would become a striker, a winger (on the left or right), an attacking midfielder or… whatever Thomas Mueller is. But he's found a home in midfield for Bayern, regardless.

Only 20, Musiala has been outstanding again for Bayern this season and the German juggernaut's answer to Dortmund midfielder Jude Bellingham. His mazy runs, physicality and awareness are all excellent and he's among the most creative and selfless players in the Bundesliga. 

6. Pedri (Barcelona)

Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Pedri celebrates scoring the opening goal during the Spanish League football match between Barcelona FC and RC Celta de Vigo at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on October 9, 2022.

Barcelona's Pedri celebrates scoring the opening goal against Celta Vigo (Image credit: JOSEP LAGO/AFP via Getty Images)

Pedri inheriting Andres Iniesta's No.8 shirt was extremely apt, wasn't it?

The Barcelona star is the centrepiece of Xavi's new star-studded side, offering technical security and forward-thinking passes that could fool you into thinking he was the reincarnation of Barça's iconic midfielder. He's just turned 20 and he's already the cornerstone of this institution and arguably the first name on the Spain's teamsheet. It's scary to think just how good he could become. 

5. Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United)

Bruno Fernandes applauds the Manchester United fans after his side's 7-0 defeat to Liverpool at Anfield in March 2023.

Christian Eriksen of Denmark in action against Croatia (Image credit: Getty Images)

The Portugal international has had a lot to contend with at Manchester United lately – a revolving door of managers and CR7's histrionics, in particular. Yet he has largely remained a consistent performer for his entire Red Devils career to date. 

Bruno ranks among the best in the Premier League in terms of key passes and assists again this term, and there are few players who can find a deadly pass as often as the former Sporting Lisbon captain. Marcus Rashford may be banging in the goals right now, but Bruno will always be United's main man when he's in the mood.

4. Luka Modric (Real Madrid)

Luka Modric

(Image credit: Getty)

Now 37, it appears time is finally catching up with one of the greatest midfield playmakers of all time. Modric might not have the stamina to run teams ragged that he once had, but he stills retains the laser-beam precision, leadership and god-given vision to create chances from anywhere. 

He has tended to be used a little more sparingly this term, making way for younger stars during the grind of La Liga to be as fresh as possible for Champions League tasks. When he plays, there is nobody harder to get the ball off, nobody better at setting the tempo and nobody you'd rather depend on to find a killer pass than the Croatian magician. 

3. Lionel Messi (PSG)

Lionel Messi #10 of Argentina celebrates his goal in the second half against Jamaica at Red Bull Arena on September 27, 2022 in Harrison, New Jersey. Argentina defeated Jamaica 3-0.

Lionel Messi celebrates scoring against Jamaica (Image credit: Elsa/Getty Images)

The GOAT - and there is no debate anymore. 

Lionel Messi has finally completed football after lifting the World Cup with Argentina in December. At 35, he could have been forgiven for being a passenger in his nation's success, but he was the driving force instead. 

He may not have the blistering pace or strength to hold off assailiants, but his finishing, vision and control remain just as spellbinding as ever. He mooches now, strolling across the grass to find pockets of space and weaknesses in opposition defences, before exploding into gear whenever the ball comes his way. Messi has 17 assists and 18 goals in France this season, to go with his Qatar 2022 medal. The GOAT has done it all but he just keeps on racking up those numbers. 

2. Kevin De Bruyne

Kevin De Bruyne of Manchester City looks on during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Southampton FC at Etihad Stadium on October 08, 2022 in Manchester, England.

Kevin De Bruyne looks on during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Southampton (Image credit: Tom Flathers/Manchester City FC via Getty Images)

Wait, he isn't first?! Not putting Kevin De Bruyne top of this list feels like a crime, given his numbers are typically excellent again this term. He tops the field for both key passes and assists in the Premier League, and has run Man City's midfield with his usual robotic perfection. Yet there is a small chink in the armour. KDB seems just a tad slower, a smidgeon more vulnerable and slightly less terrifying than he was a couple of years ago, even with Erling Haaland ahead of him.

The strawberry blonde maestro is arguably the best attacking midfielder England's top-flight has ever seen, but there is one man outperforming even him this term...

1. Martin Odegaard (Arsenal)

Martin Oedegaard of Arsenal applauds fans after the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Tottenham Hotspur at Emirates Stadium on October 01, 2022 in London, England.

Martin Odegaard of Arsenal applauds fans after the win against Tottenham Hotspur (Image credit: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Arsenal captains of the last decade or so don't tend to dominate "best of" lists – they tend to be ignominiously stripped of their armband or semi-permanently on the treatment table. 

Martin Odegaard is bucking the trend and then some. The Norwegian may be young but is inspiring the Gunners to a title tilt with intelligent movement, thoughtful passing and controlling the tempo for Mikel Arteta's side in the final third. In a midfield opposite Granit Xhaka, the pair have been world-class all season and are a big reason that Arsenal are top of the league right now. If they can go all the way, so much credit will go to the man who just quietly sets opposition defences alight with his incredible displays on a weekly basis. 

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Ed McCambridge
Staff Writer

Ed is a staff writer at FourFourTwo, working across the magazine and website. A German speaker, he’s been working as a football reporter in Berlin since 2015, predominantly covering the Bundesliga and Germany's national team. Favourite FFT features include an exclusive interview with Jude Bellingham following the youngster’s move to Borussia Dortmund in 2020, a history of the Berlin Derby since the fall of the Wall and a celebration of Kevin Keegan’s playing career.