Messi, Neymar, & Vinicius: Who is the dribbling king among the three superstars?

Messi, Neymar, & Vinicius: Who is the dribbling king among the three superstars?

Messi, Neymar, & Vinicius: Who is the dribbling king among the three superstars?

Kolawole Babatunde 14:08 - 07.06.2024

Among the current generation of soccer players, three names consistently rise to the top when it comes to dribbling: Lionel Messi, Neymar, and Vinicius Jr., as each possesses a unique style that leaves the opponents bamboozled and the spectators wowed.

Going by the conversation among fans of the sport, the art of dribbling is arguably the most enjoyable part of the sport for spectators. But there is always the argument about who is the king of the dribble.

In the older generation, there were names such as Ronaldinho Gaucho, Ronaldo De Lima, Garrincha, Diego Maradona, Pelé and several others. However, among modern fans, Messi, Neymar, & Vinicius are at the top of the list when it comes to dribbling. 

Pulse Sports takes a dive into the dribbling skills of these three players to see who might come out on top as the best dribbler of this generation. 

Lionel Messi

Messi, Neymar, & Vinicius
Lionel Messi with the World Cup trophy | Imago Lionel Messi with the World Cup trophy | Imago

Lionel Messi needs no introduction. A living legend with a trophy cabinet overflowing with accolades, Messi's dribbling prowess is one of the reasons why he is so difficult to mark for defenders. His low centre of gravity allows him to glide past defenders like an orchestra, and his dribbling is further aided by his close control, which is unmatched. The sight of Messi weaving through tight spaces with the ball seemingly glued to his foot is one that several modern fans are familiar with. 

Unlike other dribblers that rely on tricks, Messi's dribbling is based on a deceptive change of pace, leaving defenders flat-footed as he explodes past them. His mastery of the "La Croqueta" move, a quick change of direction with the ball remaining between his legs, is a signature weapon. The brilliance of Messi’s dribbles lies in the efficiency and effectiveness of his dribbling.

While Messi's dribbling remains magical, age has taken a slight toll on his raw pace. Defenders can now get closer to him, forcing him to rely more on his vision and passing to unlock defences.


Messi, Neymar, & Vinicius
Al Hilal star Neymar | Credit: IMAGO

Neymar is the perfect description of a showman in soccer, as he focuses primarily on tricks and dribbles compared to Messi. He has the classic flair of a Brazilian and entertains fans with his array of tricks and flicks. From rainbows and stepovers to the "Rabona," he executes each trick with audacious flair. Neymar's dribbling is about entertainment as much as it is about progression. He relishes beating multiple defenders, leaving them dizzy in his wake.

His agility is phenomenal, allowing him to turn even in tight spaces and change direction with lightning speed. His dribbling is a constant threat, forcing defenders to commit, opening up space for teammates. Neymar's dribbling is not always about brute force either; he uses his sharp feints and body movements to deceive defenders before gliding past them.

However, Neymar's dribbling can occasionally be criticized for being wasteful. Sometimes, the desire to showcase his skills can lead to him taking on unnecessary risks, losing possession in crucial moments. Injuries have also hampered his consistency, but at his best, he remains a jaw-dropping dribbler.

Vinicius Jr.

Messi, Neymar, & Vinicius
Vinicius Junior playing against Bayern Munich | Imago

Vinicius Jr. is the young gun, the heir apparent to the dribbling throne. Possessing an electrifying pace and raw athleticism, he is a nightmare for defenders to handle. He uses his speed to burn past opponents, leaving them grasping at shadows.

His dribbling style is more direct than that of Messi or Neymar. He never shies away from taking on defenders with brute force, using quick changes of direction and his low center of gravity to exploit space. While Vinicius does not boast the same bag of tricks as Neymar, he is constantly improving his technical skills, adding more finesse to his explosive dribbling.

Vini is still growing, as he is now learning when to go on the inside and dribble centrally, rather than the touchline dribbling he is used to. 

The Verdict

Choosing the undisputed king of dribbling amongst Messi, Neymar, and Vinicius Jr. is a close call, as each of them have a unique style of dribbling.

For technical mastery, Messi edges out the competition here with his close control and efficiency are unmatched, while Neymar takes the crown for creativity and entertainment due to his bag of tricks and flamboyant style.

Meanwhile, for pace and directness, Vinicius Jr’s raw speed makes him a constant threat on the counter-attack and he comes out top here. 

Ultimately though, when it comes down to efficiency and effectiveness, the king is undoubtedly Messi. Since stats recording became a thing in August 2006, the Argentine has completed the most dribbles than any other player in history. He is also the only player as of today that has completed over 2000 dribbles in soccer history. 

Though when comparing Messi, Neymar and Vinicius, the beauty lies in the variety. Each player brings a unique flavor to the art of dribbling.