For some, volleyball is an activity that is casually enjoyed on the beach. For others, it is a well-paying professional sport that requires strength, agility and power to be at the very best.
These days, professional volleyball has a regulated structure featuring countless national leagues. Aside from the domestic tussles on the volleyball courts, the top teams in the world compete against each other in the CEV Champions League, the World Cup and on the greatest stage of all, the Summer Olympics.
As with all sports, there are pro volleyball players who are naturally gifted. Guys who know how to play the game with finesse and style. Let’s take a look at three volleyball players widely regarded as being amongst the best in the world:
Ricardo Lucarelli - Brazil
Ricardo Lucarelli struts his stuff in the Brazilian Superliga. He is also a central figure in the national squad. Along with his team mates and compatriots, Lucarelli has been a dominant force in a national team that has dominated the sport for quite some time.
The 27-year-old outside hitter is fast, agile and mean on-court. He is known and feared for the unplayable rockets that he sends down at breakneck speed, directly at his opponents.
Lucarelli is a dynamic player for both EMS Taubaté Funvic
and the Brazilian national team. He has tasted victory at the very apex of competition. Along with an Olympic gold medal, he has World Cup gold carefully stashed away in his trophy cabinet.
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He is the kind of player who regularly tops the stats in digging, scoring and
serving. Although his best years may already be behind him, Ricardo Lucarelli is still a major force to be reckoned with.
Ivan Zaytsev - Italy
Ivan Zaytsev is a giant of a man. He is also one of the best right-hand hitters in the professional game. The Spoleto-born Russian plies his trade for Modena Volley in Italy’s Serie A1. He also captains the side and has been an integral member of the Italy national team for more than a decade.
Over his long and successful career, Zaytsev has played for professional leagues in Qatar, Russia and Italy. His spell with Dinamo Moscow in the Russian League was arguably his steepest learning curve, as he faced some of the best players in the sport, playing in the strongest league in the world.
The man known as The Tsar was a vital member of the Italian team that won silver at the Rio Olympics in 2012 - behind Ricardo Lucarelli and the rest of the Brazilians!
Zaytsev won the CEV Cup with Dinamo Moscow, the Emir’s Cup with Al Arabi and the Italian Cup and Super Cup during his stint with Perugia.
His most recent honours include the Best Attacker and the Fastest Serve awards at the 2018 CEV Champions League. The burly Italian of Russian descent may be 31 years of age but he is most definitely not past his prime.
Earvin N’Gapeth - France
Earvin N’Gapeth may have a reputation of being the bad boy of volleyball but he has more gold in his cabinet than black marks against his name.
Besides bagging gold at the European Championships, the big hitting athlete has two World League gold medals. The talented Frenchman is currently doing his thing in the Russian Super League, where he is a regular on court for Zenit Kazan.
Despite a blip on the radar when he was dumped from the national side, N’Gapeth has been a consistent performer in first, the Italian Serie A1 and later, the Super League.
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