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What Is Total Football

Total football, is described as a style where every player contributes in all areas of the outfield game. As a regular integral player in the team, a total footballer will score goals, tackle, make clinical passes & assists, they make successful runs and their shots are accurate and on target. Collectively we've compiled these attributes into a database and have identified the top 100 total footballers of 2019/20 from across the major football leagues.

The Total Footballer For 2019/20 is Lionel Messi

The data in this study has been compiled from league performances for the 2019/20 season.

Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi Club: Barcelona
Position: Attacker
Rank: 1
Score: 507

The stats don't lie and it's no surprise that our most prolific total footballer for the 2019/20 campaign was Lionel Messi. Messi is a phenomenon! He is a hurricane of God-given talent who would have flourished and amazed in any era, for any team. As our unique system shows he is the total footballer. Read on to see who came in at 2,3,4 & 5 and check out our top 100 total footballers below.

SKIP TO READ: From front to back and back to front: The story of Total Football by Stephen Tudor.

Saïd Benrahma

Saïd Benrahma Club: Brentford
Position: Attacker
Rank: 2
Score: 490

Eberechi Eze

Eberechi Eze Club: Queens Park Rangers
Position: Midfielder
Rank: 3
Score: 451

Jed Wallace

Jed Wallace Club: Millwall
Position: Midfielder
Rank: 4
Score: 433

Kevin De Bruyne

Kevin De Bruyne Club: Manchester City
Position: Midfielder
Rank: 5
Score: 407

Top 100 Total Footballers 19/20

Strts Goals Assts Tckls Drbl Pass % Att-Pass Shot OT Score
1 Barcelona Lionel Messi 32 25 21 20 173 82 84 70 507
2 Brentford Saïd Benrahma 42 17 7 49 139 76 97 63 490
3 Queens Park Rangers Eberechi Eze 46 14 8 45 131 86 80 41 451
4 Millwall Jed Wallace 43 10 12 73 90 68 100 37 433
5 Manchester City Kevin De Bruyne 32 13 20 45 48 81 137 31 407
6 West Bromwich Albion Matheus Pereira 38 8 17 41 65 79 118 35 401
7 Lazio Luis Alberto 36 6 15 47 73 82 108 28 395
8 Norwich City Emiliano Buendía 28 1 7 82 102 79 83 11 393
9 Swansea City André Ayew 45 16 7 67 93 76 40 48 392
10 Wolverhampton Wanderers Adama Traoré 27 4 9 33 183 75 48 12 391
11 Crystal Palace Wilfried Zaha 37 4 3 43 163 80 37 17 384
12 Leeds United Jack Harrison 45 6 9 48 81 73 87 23 372
13 Atalanta Alejandro Gómez 34 7 16 25 59 85 105 40 371
14 Nottingham Forest Joe Lolley 37 9 8 73 76 73 63 27 366
15 Eintracht Frankfurt Filip Kostić 33 4 11 57 82 65 85 28 365
16 Benfica Pizzi 33 18 13 46 40 79 95 39 363
17 Reading John Swift 40 6 10 45 66 81 90 23 361
18 Deportivo La Coruña Ager Aketxe 34 7 4 44 72 86 63 50 360
19 Udinese Rodrigo De Paul 33 7 6 62 61 82 76 30 357
20 Barnsley Alex Mowatt 44 3 8 84 34 74 87 18 352
21 Juventus Cristiano Ronaldo 33 31 6 13 52 85 51 80 351
22 Aston Villa Jack Grealish 36 8 6 29 73 84 91 23 350
23 Leeds United Mateusz Klich 45 6 5 78 31 80 79 24 348
24 Rayo Vallecano Oscar Trejo 36 5 0 76 81 80 58 12 348
25 Liverpool Sadio Mané 31 18 7 44 69 82 59 36 346
26 Chelsea Willian 29 9 7 45 65 82 77 29 343
27 Real Betis Nabil Fekir 31 7 4 37 98 81 42 41 341
28 Brentford Ollie Watkins 49 26 2 24 41 74 72 52 340
29 Parma Dejan Kulusevski 33 10 8 35 74 80 74 25 339
30 Porto Otavinho 29 2 9 89 66 81 55 7 338
31 Fulham Tom Cairney 41 8 3 53 48 89 79 16 337
32 Elche Iván Sánchez 28 1 3 45 133 83 34 10 337
33 Napoli Lorenzo Insigne 34 8 6 20 56 83 86 44 337
34 Reading Ovie Ejaria 36 3 5 47 110 83 37 15 336
35 Sheffield Wednesday Barry Bannan 42 2 8 55 39 79 98 13 336
36 Nottingham Forest Sammy Ameobi 37 5 7 58 95 70 39 23 334
37 Fulham Joe Bryan 42 3 7 106 34 77 51 13 333
38 Borussia Dortmund Jadon Sancho 25 17 16 13 80 83 70 28 332
39 Cádiz Álex 38 13 6 34 58 81 82 19 331
40 Crotone Junior Messias 32 6 5 46 69 75 58 38 329
41 Sassuolo Jérémie Boga 28 11 2 12 131 87 36 21 328
42 Queens Park Rangers Bright Osayi-Samuel 34 5 8 29 105 84 45 17 327
43 Leicester City James Maddison 29 6 4 59 51 81 79 18 327
44 Sheffield Wednesday Kadeem Harris 40 3 4 37 85 82 49 25 325
45 Queens Park Rangers Ryan Manning 41 4 7 75 34 71 76 17 325
46 Liverpool Mohamed Salah 33 19 10 16 50 76 61 59 324
47 Real Madrid Karim Benzema 36 21 8 16 38 85 60 60 324
48 Villarreal Santi Cazorla 29 11 9 44 50 85 72 24 324
49 Brentford Joshua Da Silva 36 10 4 35 63 84 68 23 323
50 Tenerife Luis Milla 33 8 6 56 45 85 74 16 323
51 Karlsruher SC Marvin Wanitzek 34 5 11 42 38 70 100 22 322
52 Bayern München Robert Lewandowski 31 34 4 17 57 73 36 69 321
53 Nottingham Forest Matty Cash 40 3 4 107 42 69 46 10 321
54 West Ham United Declan Rice 38 1 3 116 49 84 21 9 321
55 Leicester City Ricardo Pereira 28 3 2 119 60 77 27 5 321
56 Southampton James Ward-Prowse 38 5 3 92 14 79 63 26 320
57 Stoke City Sam Clucas 44 11 4 81 17 76 62 25 320
58 Leeds United Stuart Dallas 45 5 3 94 25 78 43 26 319
59 Lazio Ciro Immobile 36 36 9 9 23 76 59 71 319
60 Racing Santander Enzo Lombardo 31 3 3 20 117 78 47 19 318
61 Huddersfield Town Lewis O'Brien 36 2 4 116 43 75 36 6 318
62 Burnley Dwight McNeil 38 2 5 47 77 78 57 14 318
63 Wolverhampton Wanderers João Moutinho 34 1 5 93 15 85 79 6 318
64 Fulham Ivan Cavaleiro 36 6 6 45 60 80 66 18 317
65 Juventus Paulo Dybala 25 11 7 18 62 87 70 36 316
66 Extremadura UD Nono 32 6 2 61 68 77 46 24 316
67 Everton Richarlison 36 13 3 70 61 66 34 32 315
68 Bayern München Serge Gnabry 26 12 10 35 55 81 54 41 314
69 Bayern München Alphonso Davies 24 3 5 71 82 86 37 5 313
70 Fiorentina Gaetano Castrovilli 31 3 2 58 90 81 37 11 313
71 Derby County Tom Lawrence 37 10 3 52 49 81 51 29 312
72 AZ Alkmaar Oussama Idrissi 25 13 2 28 81 83 46 34 312
73 Liverpool Roberto Firmino 34 9 8 37 52 79 53 39 311
74 Leeds United Pablo Hernández 27 9 9 41 41 77 80 25 309
75 Celta de Vigo Iago Aspas 37 14 3 30 52 76 57 40 309
76 Fiorentina Erick Pulgar 32 7 6 67 10 88 84 14 308
77 Milan Hakan Çalhanoğlu 34 9 9 39 29 83 70 34 307
78 Sassuolo Domenico Berardi 29 14 10 31 40 78 59 46 307
79 Arminia Bielefeld Marcel Hartel 32 1 11 24 60 80 87 12 307
80 Sturm Graz Otar Kiteishvili 31 6 5 59 76 73 40 17 307
81 Birmingham City Maxime Colin 44 1 6 109 34 71 40 2 307
82 Levante Campaña 35 2 7 36 64 80 74 8 306
83 Valencia Dani Parejo 35 8 3 64 37 85 58 16 306
84 Real Sociedad Mikel Oyarzabal 36 10 11 32 67 77 50 22 305
85 Sevilla Lucas Ocampos 31 14 2 50 68 80 24 36 305
86 Wolverhampton Wanderers Raúl Jiménez 37 17 6 20 62 71 48 44 305
87 Leeds United Hélder Costa 33 4 5 57 60 80 47 19 305
88 Real Betis Canales 36 6 5 22 50 87 82 17 305
89 Alcorcón Stoichkov 35 16 4 25 69 64 58 33 304
90 Heidenheim Niklas Dorsch 32 1 4 77 64 88 28 10 304
91 Crystal Palace Jordan Ayew 37 9 2 48 73 81 30 24 304
92 Wolfsberger AC Michael Liendl 31 8 17 15 14 70 119 30 304
93 SC Heerenveen Chidera Ejuke 24 9 4 19 100 82 40 26 304
94 Fiorentina Federico Chiesa 31 10 6 36 51 76 48 45 303
95 Liverpool Trent Alexander-Arnold 35 4 13 55 21 75 87 13 303
96 Manchester City Riyad Mahrez 21 11 9 28 52 88 62 32 303
97 Wigan Athletic Antonee Robinson 38 1 1 80 81 68 30 3 302
98 Real Zaragoza Raúl Guti 39 5 3 63 49 82 47 14 302
99 Fuenlabrada Hugo Fraile 38 13 3 50 39 71 60 28 302
100 Paris Saint Germain Ángel Di María 23 8 14 15 61 79 78 24 302

From front to back and back to front
The story of Total Football


The story of totaalvoetbal begins with its chief architect Rinus Michels, a taskmaster and a visionary who changed the landscape of football forever, making it infinitely more beautiful in the process.

Messi, Guardiola & Cruyff


It’s a story that continues to the present day with the greatest player of his generation Lionel Messi bamboozling opponents and breaking records for fun while in England, Germany and Catalonia the greatest coach of his generation Pep Guardiola has installed a bewitching blueprint that will be copied by inferior sides for years to come.

Running through the whole gripping yarn, as its main protagonist and leading light, is a cleaner’s son from Amsterdam by the name of Johan Cruyff. He was a maverick. A chain smoking Mozart in boots. A bona fide genius. Take the conception and construction of Total Football out of the picture and just keep Cruyff in the frame and it would still be utterly compelling.

Like any great story it contains triumphs, tragedies and ultimately salvation and it is made up of a series of rip-roaring adventures with quite a few misdemeanours thrown in along the way. There were some brilliantly flawed characters that kept the plot moving forward and important too are the doubters of which there were many; critics who believed the new Dutch way of abandoning rigid formations in favour of players interchanging at will to be sheer lunacy. By the late Sixties you heard less from them. By the early Seventies they were silenced; the first and only casualties of Michel’s tactical revolution.

How it began, with the Austrian Wunderteam


Before we turn to page one of toaalvoetbal’s development however and how it shook up the world let’s first debunk a myth, one that has accompanied the legend for too long. For Rinus Michels may have had the gumption and imagination to redesign the game from scratch but he didn’t invent the philosophy that enabled the seismic change.

He was no pioneer. Instead he found inspiration from the Austrian ‘Wunderteam’ of the 1930s, led by the slight and silky Matthais Sindelar and was heavily influenced too by the Hungarian ‘Mighty Magyars’ who enraptured all who saw them in the decade that symbolized a new beginning following the cessation of the Second World War. Mostly, on taking charge at Ajax in 1965 Michels built on the template laid down by his predecessor Vic Buckingham, an English coach who, more than anyone, was responsible for introducing a high level of professionalism and progressive thinking into Dutch soccer.

These two great teams and criminally under-valued manager dared to do things differently; looking beyond the conventional systems that were seemingly set in stone and instead embrace the wonderful truth that as much as football is a science it is also an art-form. They should never be forgotten.

Ajax dominate the Eredivisie


Michels took these ideals and embellished them further, then further still and in doing so enjoyed enormous and instant success. His Ajax creation completely dominated the Eredivisie, winning the league on five occasions in his six years there and in 1969 they became the first Dutch team to reach a European Cup final. This was all achieved by Total Football.

What helped the reformist coach – and significantly so – was that his implementing of a whole new way of playing coincided with the emergence of a rare gift and unique mind; a teenager in Cruyff who wholeheartedly bought into the lofty ethos that footballers should not be restricted to a single role; one area of the pitch in which to parade their talents.

Indeed, it could be said that the opinionated, magnetic, and razor-sharp Cruyff perfectly encapsulated the model on which Ajax, Holland and later Barcelona would all abide by. With his skinny verve and mesmerizing ability he could play anywhere. He could do anything. He was a team in his own right.

In time other great players burst through the Ajax ranks; all imbued with the sincere belief that positions were mere suggestions and nothing more. Total Football dictated that only the goalkeeper had a specialist role while the ten outfield players swapped places freely, with forwards dropping deep and full-backs advancing and midfielders slotting into anywhere left vacant. It was fluid. It was poetry. It was an array of attacking and defensive patterns that perplexed the opposition.

Arie Haan, Ruud Krol & Johnny Rep


Homegrown stars such as Arie Haan, Ruud Krol, Johnny Rep and the always magnificent Johan Neeskens were deployed in unfamiliar positions as kids, all the better to get to know how every component of a team best functioned and all too treasured the concept of space, making the pitch as big as possible when with the ball and – via a tremendous work-rate and capacity to close opponents down – as small as possible when deprived of possession.

This was football as chaos theory. This was an array of luminous colours splashed across a drab world previously informed by grey architecture, veg boiled to within an inch of their lives, and four four two.

It is difficult to pin down and accurately describe the likes of Haan, Krol, Rep and Neeskens; as difficult as it presumably was to mark them at the time. Krol was a sweeper but also a left-back. He was tough but also elegant. Neeskens was principally the energy of his side, as liable to take a rolled pass from his keeper and begin an attack as he was to close down an opposing centre-half up field. Together with Cruyff this quartet played a huge part in Ajax winning three European Cups in a row. They had versatility in their bones.

The 1974 World Cup


Unsurprisingly, all of them too became a core of the Dutch side that ignited the 1974 World Cup. This was Total Football taking the global stage and their free-flowing, inventive fare that beat Argentina and Brazil on route to the final stunned the masses. Think David Bowie playing Starman on Top Of the Pops in 1972. In a pre-internet age with little information to prepare them for the sight, the Dutch rebellion of formerly sacrosanct ideas blew our dad’s minds.

In the final though against West Germany, the downside to this extraordinary new way of playing revealed itself because to Cruyff and co Total Football was not simply a concept based on pretty designs but an actual cause; a crusade. And causes are usually undermined by a good dose of piety or, if we’re being unkind, arrogance.

Two minutes in the Dutch took the lead following a typically mazy run by Cruyff resulting in a penalty. The Germans were there for the taking but it was not enough to simply beat them: they had to be humiliated. Until the equalizer inevitably came Holland toyed with their foe, taking liberties and prioritizing style over substance. They were punished accordingly.

It was Michels who presided over that World Cup campaign, having departed Ajax three years earlier to transplant his vision to the Camp Nou and Barcelona, a much bigger vehicle for his grand and laudable project. Later in the Catalan capital he would be reunited with Cruyff and history tells us of how profound this revived partnership was in the shaping of the game we know and love today.

From Netherlands to Camp Nou


Without the DNA of Total Football running through Barca’s bloodstream would we have ever marveled at the glorious tiki-taka era of Iniesta, Xavi and Messi? Absolutely not, even if Guardiola’s all-conquering team and Spain’s Golden Generation allied themselves to a refined version of the philosophy that became known as ‘juego de posicion’ (a theory that has many similarities with Total Football but relies more on the retention of possession and the creation of overloads). Without one there would not have been the other, and just consider the goals, and the moments, and the unadulterated joy we’d have been deprived of.

History also makes clear the lineage that runs through the last sixty years, that has always ensured there is at least one team competing at the top of the sport that plays fluid, intelligent and attractive football.

From being Michels’ star apprentice Cruyff eventually became the grandmaster of the cause, taking to the dug-out and leading Barcelona to their first European Cup success in 1992. And who was stationed in midfield that evening as Sampdoria were downed and Barcelona claimed the honour of being continental champions? None other than Cruyff’s trusted executioner of Total Football excellence Pep Guardiola.

It is now of course Guardiola with his name in bold on the philosophies family tree: it is he who is the grandmaster and just as Michels was blessed to possess a formidable and fully formed genius to encapsulate his vision in Cruyff, Guardiola in turn had Messi. And so the dynasty will surely continue. Messi is a phenomenon. He is a hurricane of God-given talent who would have flourished and amazed in any era, for any team. As our unique system shows he is the total footballer.

Yet without Michels seeing the big picture, and Cruyff painting it in vivid orange, and Guardiola framing the masterpiece the diminutive superstar would have surely been plonked on the wing. Informed that his only function was to beat his full-back and whip in an early ball. What an enormous waste that would have been.