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Which was the best football team of all time?

An impossible question to answer, but one that football fans the world over love to argue about, perhaps just because there is no right answer, so anyone’s opinion is as valid as any other.

Do you choose from club sides or only international teams? What do you mean by “the best”? Is the team that won the most trophies definitely the best there was? And how can you compare teams from different eras, when levels of fitness, diet, and even the rules of the game were not the same?

So having agreed you can’t compare effectively, let’s do it anyway!
Here is one attempt at a Top 10, and no one can prove it is (or is not) correct. I have left it to you to put my chronological 10 into your own rank order......


Hungary (1954)
Grosics, Buzanszky, Lantos, Bozsik, Lorant, Zakarias, Toth, Czibor, Kocsis, Hidegkuti, Puskas
Every now and again a team comes along that breaks new ground and takes football to the next level. Hungary, led by the magnificent Ferenc Puskas, should have won the World Cup in Switzerland in 1954, but they were beaten 3-2 in the final by West Germany.

Real Madrid (1960)
Dominguez, Marquitos, Santamari, Pachin, Vidal, Zarraga, Canario, Del Sol, Di Stefano, Puskas, Gento
With Puskas and Di Stefano in the same team, the Real Madrid side of 1960 was always going to be among the contenders for best team ever, and unlike many European Cup winners they managed to go on to be crowned the best in the world that season by winning the Intercontinental Cup against the South American champions.

Brazil (1970)
Felix, Brito, Piazza, Carlos Alberto, Everaldo, Clodoaldo, Gerson, Jairzinho, Tostao, Pele, Rivelino
Brazil has won the World Cup more times than any other country, so surely the best Brazilian team must be the best team in history? In 1970 Pele was playing in his last World Cup, and the team scored one of the best goals ever in beating Italy 4-1. This was football as art, and the players are still revered in that football-mad country.

Holland (1974)
Jongbloed, Krol, Rijsbergen, Suurbier, Haan, Van Hanegem, Jansen, Neeskens, Cruyff, Rensenbrink, Rep
The same fate as Hungary in 1954 befel Johan Cruyff’s team of “total football” stars in the World Cup of 1974. Most neutrals recognised that this team had found a new and attractive way to play “the beautiful game”, and wanted to see them win the trophy in the final, but West Germany had other ideas, beating them 2-1.

West Germany (1974)
Maier, Vogts, Breitner, Schwarzenbeck, Beckenbauer, Overath, Hoeness, Bonhof, Hölzenbein, Grabowski, Müller
Germany is one of the most successful footballing nations in terms of trophies, having won the World Cup three times and the European Championship three times. Led by the incomparable Franz Beckenbauer, the West German team of the early 1970s won both the European Championship (1972) and the World Cup two years later, which was held in West Germany. Beckenbauer played as a sweeper behind the defence, and the midfield of Overath, Hoeness and Bonhof was reckoned to be one of the strongest in the world. Gerd Müller scored in the final, his 14th World Cup goal – a record that stood until 2006. With possibly two teams in the top 10 of all time making the last two, was this the best World Cup Final ever?

Liverpool (1984)
Grobbelaar, Neal, Kennedy, Hansen, Lawrenson, Whelan, Dalglish, Lee, Rush, Johnston, Souness
No list of great sides could do without a Liverpool team of the 1970s or 1980s, and this group of European Cup and domestic double trophy winners could claim to be the best. With Rush and Dalglish to score the goals, the immaculate partnership of Hansen and Lawrenson defending in front of the brilliant but erratic Grobbelaar in goal, and Souness controlling the midfield, Liverpool had one of the most effective units of all time.

France (1998)
Barthez, Thuram, Leboeuf, Desailly, Lizarazu; Karembeu, Deschamps, Zidane, Petit; Djorkaeff, Guivarc'h
In 1998 the World Cup was held in France, and this talented group of players had the task of going one better than Platini’s 1984 European Champions. With Zidane at his best ever they managed it, beating the holders Brazil 3-0 in the Final. Two years later they added the millennium European Championship to their trophy collection.

Manchester United (1999)
Schmeichel, Neville, Stam, Johnsen, Irwin, Beckham, Keane, Scholes, Giggs, Yorke, Cole (subs Sheringham, Solskjaer)
If winning trophies proves a team great, this must be one of the best club sides of their era. Sir Alex Ferguson’s carefully assembled team of internationals did “the treble” in 1999, winning the English Premier League, the FA Cup and the UEFA Champions League. Playing in front of one of the best goalkeepers ever in Peter Schmeichel, and with the legendary referee Collina in charge, they refused to be beaten by Bayern Munich in the final in the Nou Camp, and scored two goals in three minutes’ added time to claim a trophy that had seemed out of reach on 90 minutes.

Spain (2008)
Casillas, Ramos, Marchena, Puyol, Capdevila, Senna, Iniesta, Xavi, Silva, Villa, Torres
In an era dominated by the technical excellence of Spanish football, their European Championship winning team of 2008 stands out. The midfield of Senna, Iniesta, Xavi and David Villa could compare with the best of Brazil, and they went on to win the World Cup in South Africa in 2010, beating the Netherlands 1-0 in the final.

Barcelona (2009)
Valdes, Puyol, Yaya Toure, Pique, Sylvinho, Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta, Messi, Eto’o, Henry
With the magic of the Argentinian Lionel Messi, widely acknowledged to be the best player of his generation in the world, alongside the skill of the core of the Spanish national team, this Barça group of players is thought by many to be the best ever assembled. Under coach Pep Guardiola they won the Champions League and every one of the other cup competitions (5) they entered, including the Club World Cup. In 2010 the club’s youth policy was given the ultimate accolade when Xavi, Iniesta and Messi, all home-grown players, were the three FIFA Ballon d’Or finalists. Manchester United having been beaten again two year’s later, 1-3 at Wembley in the Champions League Final of 2011, Sir Alex Ferguson declared this team to be the best he had ever faced.

 

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