Top 20 Showboaters in Soccer History

The showboaters in sport always divide opinion, and soccer is no different in that respect. Some see the showboat as an art form, an expression of footballing freedom, humiliating one's opponent and emphasizing your superiority over them. Others see showboating as unsportsmanlike, unnecessary and showing a distinct lack of respect for the opposition. Whichever side of the fence you sit on, here are 20 players you're likely to either love or hate.

Showboating is essentially showing off. Most often done when a team is in the lead, often an emphatic one; it is attempting a move, skill or technique that is intended for style over substance. The showboat rarely has a functional use, it is more often than not easier to play a simple pass, shot or cross. In the modern game, showboating is most commonly done by attempting a wild trick/piece of skill.

As such, many of the games greatest showboaters were very technical players renowned for their flair. However, that is not the only attribute required to make a showboater. Technically fantastic players such as Pele, Maradona and Messi rarely showboated/showboat, and as such miss out, while much less gifted players with more audacity and eccentricity are included. Here are the top 20 showboaters in soccer history:

20 Thierry Henry

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

An incredibly gifted player with an added element of 'Va Va Voom', it should come as little surprise that Thierry Henry was no stranger to the occasional showboat. France and Arsenal's all-time top scorer, Henry was a force of nature in his prime. With electric pace and all the technique one can imagine, Henry used to glide past players before opening up his body and slotting the ball past the goalkeeper.

19 Nani

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

An often frustrating player, the natural ability Nani possessed was clear for all to see, but his work rate and desire were often called into question, unlike his compatriot and former teammate Cristiano Ronaldo. At his best though, the Portuguese winger was capable of humiliating defenders, and he was known to do just that.

18 Robinho/Denilson

17 Cristiano Ronaldo


16 Theyab Awana


15 Rivelino


14 Rodrigo Taddei


Aged 35, Rodrigo Taddei currently plies his trade in Serie B with Perugia, having spent much of his career in the Italian top flight with Siena and Roma. A versatile player, Taddei has played in every position on a football pitch except central defender, including as a goalkeeper.

13 Douglas Costa

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Current Bayern Munich star Douglas Costa previously spent five years in Ukraine, where he won 12 trophies with Shakhtar Donetsk, including five league titles. The tricky winger is renowned for his pace and dribbling abilities, and is known to pull of tricks most players would not even attempt.

12 Tommy Murray

11 Ronaldo


10 Yannick Bolasie


Crystal Palace star Yannick Bolasie comes from humble footballing beginnings, having started his career in non-league football, as well as playing in Malta. His far from illustrious footballing education hasn't stopped Bolasie from becoming one of the Premier League's most skillful players. The Congo international has a freedom about his play and is never afraid to try eccentric pieces of skill on the biggest stage.

9 Johan Cruyff


Some of Johan Cruyff's skills may seem mundane today in comparison to the more wild moves attempted by the likes of Robinho and Douglas Costa, but at the time in which Cruyff was playing, they were far more revolutionary. The Cruyff turn is of course now considered one of the basics of the game, but the world watched on in awe when Cruyff first perfected the move.

8 Gerrie Muhren


A fellow Ajax and the Netherlands star and a teammate of Cruyff's, Gerrie Muhren is often considered one of the unsung heros of that great Ajax team of the early 1970s and highly unfortunate to win only 10 caps for his country. Muhren spent eight years at Ajax, where he played more than 250 games and won 12 trophies, most notably three Eredevisie titles and three European Cups. A fine technical player, Muhren was no stranger to the odd showboat, but his crowning moment came in the European Cup semi-final away at the Bernabeu against Real Madrid.

7 Kerlon


There was a time when Kerlon was the most sought after and highly-regarded prospect in world football. At the 2005 South American U-17 Championships he looked a class apart every other player at the tournament, including future stars Marcelo, Anderson and Denilson. Kerlon was the top scorer and best player as Brazil won the competition, and amid interest from Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United and AC Milan, he eventually joined AC Milan.

6 Cuauhtémoc Blanco


A Club America and Mexico legend, Cuauhtémoc Blanco had a remarkable 23-year career which only came to and end this year. In that time, Blanco won nine trophies and 120 caps for his country. His finest years came with Club America in Mexico, although he also had two excellent seasons in the MLS with Chicago Fire.

5 Neymar

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

4 Jay-Jay Okocha


3 Rene Higuita


Who would have thought a goalkeeper would make an appearance on a list of the greatest showboaters and make the top three? Well, anyone who's heard of Rene Higuita. The Colombian goalkeeper was aptly named 'the Madman' for his eccentric style of goalkeeping. A sweeper 'keeper in the most extreme use of the term, Higuita would often vacate his goal completely dribbling towards and sometimes beyond the half-way line.

2 Len Shackleton


One of the original showboaters and without doubt one of the greatest, Len Shackleton was only ever interested in putting on a show, humiliating his opponents and entertaining his own fans. It was an approach which saw him sadly overlooked by the England national team selectors, who once said "we play at Wembley Stadium, not the London Palladium", in reference to the former Newcastle and Sunderland forward who was nicknamed the 'Clown Prince of Soccer'.

1 Ronaldinho


The greatest showboater of all-time has to be Ronaldinho. The Samba-star is a man without peer in the history of the game when it comes to invention and flair. Not only did Ronaldinho pull off tricks and pieces of skill most players wouldn't even attempt in training, he also combined them with end product, becoming - in his prime - one of the greatest players of all time. His finest years came in the early-mid 2000s with PSG and Barcelona, and although his prime was rather brief, it was absolutely majestic.

Ronaldinho won 17 trophies with club and country, including the World Cup, Champions League and league titles in Brazil, Spain and Italy. He won the Ballon d'Or once, World Player of the Year twice and is arguably the most skilful player of all time. Among his repertoire were the flip flap, nutmegs, back heels, rabona's, rainbow flicks, blind passes and perhaps the most eccentric of all, passing the ball with his back.

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Top 20 Showboaters in Soccer History