The magisterial dribbling skills of players like Neymar, Lionel Messi and Angel Di Maria are revered the world over. These players are commonly heralded as masters of the ball, dribbling wizards who require the attention of multiple defenders in order to be stopped or at least contained.
After any given weekend, social media will be crawling with vines and GIFs of these superstars flat-out embarrassing opposition. Outside of this prevailing common knowledge, who are some of the world’s best dribblers?
Flying under the radar, due to playing for “lesser” clubs or for not having a more complete skill set, these six players share one common, indomitable trait: a mastery of dribbling and a desire to beat any defender in their way.
6 Of The Most Underrated Wizards Of Dribbling
#1: Karim Bellarabi
Winger for Bayer Leverkusen and Germany | 25-years-old
Karim Bellarabi is perhaps best known for scoring the fastest goal in the history of the Bundesliga, registering in just under nine seconds for Bayer Leverkusen. He was also involved in an undignified scuffle with teammate Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, requiring the intervention of referee Mark Clattenburg to separate the pair.
However, Bellarabi is a seriously talented German international. He's been capped 10 times and scored a single goal for Die Mannschaft at only 25. The 2015/16 season has also seen Bellarabi register 4 goals and 5 assists in 23 appearances for Leverkusen.
According to Whoscored.com, Bellarabi averages three successful dribbles per game and draws nearly two fouls every match. Between 2013 and 2015, Bellarabi completed 206 dribbles. That's more than Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben and Raheem Sterling managed during that same time period.
#2: Raffael Caetano de Araújo
Attacking Midfielder for Borussia Monchengladbach | 30-years-old
Raffael Caetano de Araújo, known simply as Raffael, is a 30-year-old Brazilian who completed the fourth most successful dribbles in Europe's top five leagues between 2013 and 2015. His effective play for Gladbach (Raffael score 26 goals over two seasons for the Borussians) has reportedly drawn the interest of Bayern Munich.
Raffael's fine form has continued this campaign. He's scored 6 goals and provided 8 assists in 17 Bundesliga appearances for Gladbach, establishing himself as one of the finest playmakers in all of Germany.
Raffael's ability on the ball is highlighted by how infrequently he loses possession or is guilty of a bad touch. Frequently at the center of the action and charged with taking attacking risks, Raffael averages only 1.1 dispossessions per game. Statistically, that's at a level comparable to Andres Iniesta.
#3: Hatem Ben Arfa
Winger for Nice and France | 28-years-old
The start-stop nature of Hatem Ben Arfa's career has seen one of the most prodigiously talented players of his own generation arrive in Nice, France after capitulating at Marseille, Newcastle United and Hull City. Back in his native France, Ben Arfa seems to have recaptured the form that made him one of the most exciting prospects in world football.
Through the 2015/16 season, Ben Arfa has averaged four successful dribbles per game. That's four times, on average, that he takes on defenders and successfully beats them over the course of 90 minutes. Staggering. That's the kind of indefensible form that has ushered him back into the national team frame. Ben Arfa has accumulated 15 caps and two goals for France, numbers he'll be hoping to add to this summer.
#4: Sofiane Boufal
Attacking Midfielder for Lille | 22-years-old
Sofiane Boufal is the most fearless dribbler on this list, for better or for worse. While the Parisian averages 4.3 successful dribbles per game, a number that puts him near the top of Europe, he also loses the ball 3.8 times per game. He's equal parts genius prodigy and infuriating. Defenders are also usually infuriated with Boufal, as he's fouled 3 times per game.
Boufal is one for the future. He's registered five goals for Lille thus far, a sign that his final product is developing to go along with the plethora of tricks and skills.
#5: Yacine Brahimi
Winger for FC Porto and Algeria | 25-years-old
Yacine Brahimi has been an exciting prospect since his time in the PSG youth system. He's gone on to gain 22 caps whilst scoring four goals for Algeria as a senior international. Now playing for FC Porto in Portugal's Liga Sagres, Brahimi has scored 4 goals in 18 appearances this term.
If you've had the chance to watch Porto in the Champion's League over the past two seasons, you'll know just how good the African Player of the Year nominee really is. Six goals in 16 appearances, for a winger no less, is an outstanding achievement.
#6: Yannick Ferreira Carrasco
Winger for Atletico Madrid and Belgium | 22-years-old
Yannick Carrasco is another major talent in Belgium's seemingly endless pipeline. He came to prominence during the 2014/15 season, turning in some stellar performances for Monaco. His talent was duly spotted by Atletico Madrid and his transfer was complete on July 10, 2015.
He experienced a slow start to life in Spain but has now registered three goals in La Liga and two assists in the Champion's League. More importantly, he's got a roulette turn that would make Zinedine Zidane weep with joy.