Lionel Messi (left) and Luka Modric (right)
Football is popularly known as the ‘beautiful game’. Watching world-class footballers get the better of each other with their nimble footwork, inventiveness and vision will never get old. The terms ‘graceful’ and ‘elegant’ are extensively used when describing a lot of footballers.
Over the years, several players have helped define these terms in a footballing context. Zinedine Zidane is a player who is viewed as one of the most graceful and elegant footballers of all time.
He always seemed to glide through the football pitch with his exquisite technique, making it look like he had more time and options on the ball than anyone else. There are quite a few players of the same ilk plying their trade in Europe right now.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at five of the most graceful footballers in the world right now.
#5 Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
Manchester City v Liverpool – Premier League
Kevin De Bruyne is one of the greatest attacking midfielders of the modern era. He is as creative and technically blessed a player as any we’ve seen in recent times and possesses a well-rounded skillset.
It’s a joy to watch De Bruyne gallop through the heart of the pitch, flitting past challenges before looking up and picking out a teammate in space. His passing range is quite remarkable and the Belgian international is capable of playing passes that are inconceivable to most of his peers.
In 37 appearances across all competitions so far this season, the 30-year-old has scored 14 goals and eight assists.
#4 Thiago Alcantara (Liverpool)
Manchester City v Liverpool – Premier League
Thiago Alcantara is one of the most efficient central midfielders of his generation. After a wonderful seven-year stint with Bayern Munich, where he won numerous trophies and signed off with a continental treble, he joined Liverpool in the summer of 2020.
Thiago is a lot like the archetypal Spanish midfielder of the 21st century. He is an excellent dribbler. His first touch and ability to execute quick turns make him an elusive presence in the center of the pitch.
He thrives in the role of a deep-lying playmaker and his flighted diagonal passes into the wings are a sight to behold. After a shaky start to his Liverpool career in the 2020-21 season, Thiago is back to his best now. He has pulled the strings for the Merseysiders in midfield to great effect this season.
He has scored two goals and provided three assists in 30 appearances across all competitions so far this term.
#3 Lionel Messi (Paris Saint-Germain)
Real Madrid v Paris Saint-Germain: Round Of Sixteen Leg Two – UEFA Champions League
Lionel Messi is one of the most elegant footballers of all time. He is among the greatest dribblers to have graced the game. However, Messi does not do flashy stepovers or use a lot of fancy footwork. He leaves defenders on his trail with a simple drop of the shoulder, deft touches and the ability to execute swift turns.
Messi has scored some of the best solo goals in the history of the sport and his technique is immaculate. However, the Argentina international has not been at his very best this season. He is usually a prolific goalscorer but has scored just three goals in Ligue 1 so far this season.
In 29 appearances across all competitions so far this term, he has scored eight goals and provided 13 assists.
#2 Pedri (Barcelona)
FC Barcelona v Sevilla FC – La Liga Santanders
It’s not common for even the very best midfielders in the business to be likened to all-time greats like Xavi and Andres Iniesta. It’s even rarer for teenagers to be compared to the Spanish legends. But 19-year-old Barcelona midfielder Pedri has managed to earn that rare distinction with his performances since the start of the 2020-21 season.
Pedri was named the ‘Young Player of the Tournament’ at Euro 2020. He was the standout performer for Spain in their journey to the semi-finals of the competition.
He is technically gifted and has all the traits that are associated with world-class playmakers. Pedri navigates tight spaces with ease and grace and maintains his composure even in high-pressure scenarios.
At the age of 19, he is already such an unhurried and graceful presence on the football field. In 22 appearances across all competitions this season for Barcelona, Pedri has scored five goals and provided one assist.
Unfortunately, Pedri’s season has been cut short by a hamstring injury he picked up in a Europa League encounter against Eintracht Frankfurt.
#1 Luka Modric (Real Madrid)
Paris Saint-Germain v Real Madrid: Round Of Sixteen Leg One – UEFA Champions League
Luka Modric is the only player other than Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi to win the Ballon d’Or in the last 13 years. The Real Madrid midfielder is, without a doubt, one of the most complete midfielders of all time. He is also one of the most graceful and elegant footballers in the history of the sport.
Modric, similar to the legendary Zinedine Zidane, has the ability to glide past opponents thanks to his incredible close control and tactical intelligence. He can also play a wide variety of passes and has mastered the ‘trivela’ or the outside-of-the-boot pass.
He produced a great example of this in the second leg of Real Madrid’s Champions League quarter-final tie against Chelsea.
After drifting into space in the opposition half, Modric looked up and saw Rodrygo Goes making a run to the far post. He then delivered an inch-perfect trivela to pick out the attacker who had no trouble putting the ball in the back of the net.
It was one of the best assists we’ve seen in recent times and the pass was an ode to the greatness of the Croatian international. In 38 appearances across all competitions for Carlo Ancelotti’s side so far this term, Modric has scored three goals and provided nine assists.