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Most assists in a season of all time in football history



What is an assist in football?

In broad terms, an assist by one player that leads directly to a goal scored by another.

However, what qualifies as an assist varies by country and by league, which makes exact comparison difficult. The recording of assists is not an official part of the laws of the game, and it is only in the past two decades or so that statistics have been collected for the metric.

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That means that, whilst there may have been many players in the past who contributed plenty of assists, their contribution is largely lost to history.


Who has the most assists in football history?

With the caveat that records only began to be collected comparatively recently, the player with the most assists in his career is Lionel Messi, who has notched up 388 for his country, Argentina, and the two clubs for whom he has played so far, PSG.


He also holds the record for the most assists in La Liga (193).

Messi could break the 400 barrier by the end of this season, as he continues to set benchmarks that others just cannot match.


Second on the list is Thomas Müller for Bayern Munich and Germany, who has 294, 12 ahead of Luis Suárez, the Uruguay striker, who has just joined the Brazilian club Gremio, having previously played for the likes of Ajax, Liverpool, Barcelona and Atlético Madrid.


Fourth on the all-time list is Angel dí Maria, who is now with Juventus, who has 272, six more than Cristiano Ronaldo.


The most assists in a season

When it comes to the most assists in a season, Messi and Müller share top honours with 21 each to their name.


1. Lionel Messi (21)

Whilst Messi enjoyed almost continual success in his Barcelona career, from an assist point of view his best campaign was in the 2019/2020 season when he provided 21 assists, in the process breaking the previous Spanish league record set by his erstwhile team-mate Xavi.

Given that he also scored 31 goals in 4 appearances that season, it meant that he totalled 52 direct goal involvements.


Given also that the Spain uses one of the purest definitions of an assist – they define it as a pass that leads directly to a goal – his contribution was almost unparalleled that year.

Despite his efforts, Barcelona failed to win any silverware that season.


2. Thomas Müller (21)

That same season Müller was breaking the Bundesliga record, which had previously been set by Kevin de Bruyne in his Wolfsburg days by providing 21 assists. He scored eight times into the bargain, and helped his side win the Bundesliga title for a record eight times in a row.

Known as the Space Invader, Müller continues to be an important player for his club, even though he never seems to play in a defined position.


3. Thierry Henry (20 assists)

The 2002-2003 season was a disappointing one for Arsenal, as they just missed out on the Premier League title. That was despite the best efforts of their French striker, Thierry Henry, who set a new Premier League record of 20 assists in a season. He also scored 24 times.

The top goalscorer of all-time for the Gunners, he won the Golden Boot four times, and is remembered primarily for his prowess in front of goal. However, he also had an eye for an incisive pass, and formed a fine combination with Dutchman Denis Bergkamp.


4. Kevin de Bruyne (20 assists)

In 2019/2020 de Bruyne equalled Henry’s record playing for Manchester City, where Pep Guardiola uses him in an advanced playmaker role. In the process, he also became the fastest player to reach a half century of assists in the Premier League.

Read: The best free kick takers of all time

Chelsea must bitterly regret having failed to unlock his potential when he played for them earlier in his career, because they have never had a player since who has matched his productivity.


5. Angel dí Maria (18 assists)

Another player who had an ill-fated spell with a Premier League club – in his case Manchester United – dí Maria has played for Real Madrid, PSG and Juventus among others. In his final season in Spain he managed 17 assists for Real, but went one better with PSG in the 2015/2016 season.

He also chipped in with 15 goals as PSG won a domestic treble.


6. Alejandro Gomez (16 assists)

Gomez set the record for the most assists in a Serie A season when he managed 16 for Atalanta in the 2019/2020 season.

That helped his side reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League, and achieve their best ever finish in Italian top flight football.

Read: Most assists in a calendar year – Top 5 players including Tadic, Messi and Di Maria

That was not the winger’s most productive campaign for the club, though. That had come three years earlier when he notched up 16 goals and 10 assists.


Differing definitions and systems

Most commonly, an assist is credited to somebody who crosses or passes the ball to another player who then scores. It can also be awarded to a player whose shot rebounds off a post, goalkeeper or defender for another to score. Some leagues award an assist to a player who wins a penalty or a direct free kick from which a goal is subsequently scored.

Some systems also allow for two assists in the creation of a goal.


The importance of assists

Apart from their obvious value on a football field, assists are routinely now collated as part of a Player’s Overall Performance, and are a valuable metric in the data collected by all clubs across leagues now. And they are a staple in terms of various fantasy football competitions, as well as part of the armoury of statistics used by popular online games like FIFA.


They also form the basis for prestigious awards like the Premier League Playmaker of the Season, which was first inaugurated for the 2017 – 2018 season.

Players who regularly provide assists can also see their transfer value inflated.

I'm a sports enthusiast, love writing about football. I have been writing about top teams in Europe, the Premier League and La Liga.

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