The Best XI in Football History

World Soccer Magazine has recently release “The Best XI in Football History”.

The final team was constructed from a ballot from ex-players, reporters and former managers from around the world and are as follows:

All Time Greatest XI


Lev Yashin



Bobby Moore

Franz Beckenbauer

Paolo Maldini


Alfredo Di Stefano

Johan Cruyff

Zinedine Zidane

Diego Maradona



Lionel Messi

Grid of Sports takes a look at the winners and the possible contenders who missed out on the final team.



Lev Yashin (Dynamo Moscow & Soviet Union)

Many would disagree with the man they called “The Black Spider” as the number 1 pick to be the best keeper in history.

During his career with Dynamo Moscow and the Soviet Union, Yashin kept an amazing 270 clean sheets and saved 150 penalty shots.

He’s career consisted of 75 appearances for his country, winning the 1956 Olympics and 1960 European Championship.



Iker Casillas (Real Madrid, Spain)

There is not one piece of Spanish domestic silverware that Casillas has not won.

5 La Liga titles, 4 Spanish Cups, 1 Copa Del Rey, 2 Champions Leagues and UEFA Super Cup.

Casillas has made 145 international appearances, which is the most caps in Spaish history. During those 145 games he only conceded 79 goals, definitely a contender.


Peter Schmeichel (Hvidovre, Brondby, Manchester United, Sporting CP, Aston Villa, Manchester City & Denmark)

Schmeichel was the boss of the goalmouth. He’s quick fire reflexes and powerful presence intimidated strikers all over the world.

3 Danish titles, 1 Danish Cup, 5 English Premier League Titles, 3 FA Cups, 1 League Cup and 1 Champions League title is certainly nothing to sneeze at.


Gianluigi Buffon (Parma, Juventus & Italy)

Buffon has been named Serie A Keeper of the Year an incredible 9 out of 14 times.

He was voted the International Federation of Football History (IFFHS) Goalkeeper of the Decade between 2000 and 2010.

Buffon is the record holder for the most expensive goalkeeper ever after Juventus paid £32.6 million to Parma for his signature.

Buffon has won 4 Serie A titles and 3 Italian Supercoppa’s.


Oliver Kahn (Karlsruher SC, Bayern Munich & Germany)

Kahn is the only keeper in international history to possess the FIFA World Cup Golden Ball for being the Player of the Tournament.

Know for his athletic abilities, Kahn was described as the best 1-on-1 glovemen of his time.

His trophy cabinet consists of 8 Bundesliga titles, 6 German Cups, 1 Champions League and a UEFA.




Cafu (São Paulo, Real Zaragoza, Palmeiras, Roma, AC Milan, Brazil)

Marcos Evangelista de Moraes, better known as Cafu, is the most internationally capped male Brazilian player in history. He appeared in 3 World Cup Finals having won two, 1994 and 2002.

Name a trophy in South America, Europe and at International level, and Cafu probably owns one.


São Paulo: 1 Campeonato Brasileiro Série A, 2 Campeonato Paulista, 2 Copa Libertadores, 2 Intercontinental Cup, 1 Supercopa Sudamericana, 2 Recopa Sudamericana, 1 Copa CONMEBOL.

Real Zaragoza: 1 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup.

Palmeiras: 1 Campeonato Paulista.

Roma: 1 Serie A, 1 Supercoppa Italiana.

AC Milan: 2 UEFA Super Cup, 1 Serie A, 1 Supercoppa Italiana, 1 UEFA Champions League, 1 FIFA Club World Cup.


Brazil: 2 FIFA World Cup, 2 Copa América, 1 FIFA Confederations Cup.


1994 South American Footballer of the Year, 2008 Officer of the Order of Rio Branco.


Bobby Moore (West Ham United, Fulham, San Antonio Thunder, Seattle Sounders, England)

Born Robert Frederick Chelsea Moore, Bobby Moore (OBE) captained West Ham United for more than 10 years and was captain of the England national team that won the 1966 World Cup.

His domestic honours consist of an FA Cup and a UEFA Cup Winners Cup during his time at the Hammers. Amazingly, he won the International Soccer League title playing in America with West Ham United, but that’s another story in itself.

He is widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, and was cited by Pelé as the greatest defender that he had ever played against.

He won a total of 108 caps for England, which at the time of his international retirement in 1973 was a national record. This record was later broken by 125-cap goalkeeper Peter Shilton.

Moore’s total of 108 caps continued as a record for outfield players until 28 March 2009, when David Beckham gained his 109th cap.

However, unlike Beckham, Moore played every minute of every one of his caps.


Franz Beckenbauer (Bayern Munich, New York Cosmos, Hamberger SV, Germany)

The 2-time Ballon d’Or winner was well known for his toughness, marksmanship and leadership.

He won the World Cup with West Germany in 1974. In the final, he had the difficult task of marking Johan Cruyff, who also made the All Time Greatest XI and kept him very quiet.

The man they called “Der Kaiser” was an innovator for the attacking sweeper role scoring 60 goals in 427 appearances for Bayern Munich.

His titles include, 5 Bundesliga titles (4 with Bayern Munich and 1 with Hamburger SV), 4 DFB-Pokal, 3 European Cups, UEFA Cup Winners Cup and an Intercontinental Cup. When I made the move to America he collected the North America Soccer League and Trans-Atlantic titles.

After retirement he went on to manage Marseille, Bayern Munich and West Germany.


Paolo Maldini (AC Milan, Italy)

The 1994-2002 Italian captain was a perfect example of a clubman. He spent 25 years at AC Milan winning just about everything but amazingly won the European Cup 5 times and played in 8 finals.

Maldini also holds 7 Serie A titles, 1 Coppa, 5 Supercoppa Italiana’s, 5 UEFA Supercups, 2 Intercontinental Cups and a FIFA Club World Cup.

He also holds a large list of individual achievements and records, one that stands out is having played 902 appearances in all competitions.



Franco Baresi

Baresi played his whole career at AC Milan and won the European Cup thrice. He won the Serie A six times with Milan.

He was elected Italian and AC Milan player of the 20th century.


Giacinto Facchetti

Facchetti also played for one club in his career, but unlike Baresi he played for Inter Milan.

He was as important in the attack as in the defense. He had a great dribbling ability and excellent tackling skills.


Carlos Alberto Torres

Carlos Alberto will always be remembered for scoring one of the greatest goals at a World Cup.

He scored the fourth goal against Italy in the World Cup final of 1970 after the Brazilian team showed their amazing skill in football.

He was chosen as fullback in the World Team of the 20th Century.


Nílton Santos

Nílton Santos was on of the first attacking fullbacks in the history of football.

The Brazilian won the World Cup in 1958 and 1962 where he played with player like Pelé and Garrincha.

Nílton Santos was chosen as fullback in the World Team of the 20th Century.


 Roberto Carlos

Roberto Carlos won the World Cup with Brazil in 2002.

The attacking fullback had a great shot, but his real trademark was his free kick.

He was able to kick a ball with such an effect and power that goalkeepers would always fail for it.


Djalma Santos

Like he’s namesake Nílton Santos, Djalma Santos was also a great also great Brazilian defender.

He is in three World Cup All-star teams (1954, 1958, 1962), winning the World Cup in 1958 and 1962.


Fabio Cannavaro

Cannavaro played 136 games for Italy, where he won the World Cup with in 2006 and became runner-up for the golden ball. He also became FIFA World Player of the Year 2006.




Alfredo Di Stefano (River Plate, Huracán, Millonarios, Real Madrid, Espanyol, Argentina, Colombia, Spain)

Alfredo Stéfano di Stéfano Laulhé, Real Madrid legend, had been known to play as a forward but he played more as a midfielder, helping in the defense and setting up an attack.

Di Stéfano had a great stamina, tactical sense and vision. He was very successful with Madrid winning five consecutive European Cups (1956-1960).

Nicknamed “Saeta rubia” (“blond arrow”) Di Stéfano was born in Argentina in 1926, he surprisingly played international football mostly for Spain (where he became a citizen in 1956), but he also played for Colombia (not recognised by FIFA) and his homeland Argentina.

He never played in a World Cup as Argentina refused to participate in 1950 and 1954; Spain failed to qualify in 1958.


Johan Cruyff (Ajax, Barcelona, Los Angeles Aztecs, Washington Diplomats, Levante, Feyenoord, Holland)

Hendrik Johannes Cruijff, known as Johan Cruyff, was considered as the total footballer. His main position was central/attacking midfield but could play anywhere on the field.

He organised the attack, had great vision and an amazing dribble. He lost the final of the 1974 World Cup with Holland, one of the best teams that never won the World Cup.

After his playing days he became manager of Ajax, Barcelona and the Catalonis Football Team.

Cruyff’s trophy cabinet consists of an incredible 9 Evrdivisie titles, 6 KNVB Cups, 3 European Cups, 2 UEFA Super Cups and many more.

Individually he won the Ballon d’Or 3 times, Dutch Footballer of the Year award 5 times and World Soccer Awards Manager of the Year, just to name a few.

In 1996 the Dutch Supercup was named the Johan Cruijff-schaal.


Zinedine Zidane (Cannes, Bordeaux, Juventus, Real Madrid, France)

Zinedine Yazid Zidane was a mesmerizing playmaker. With his vision he would set up an attack, dribble around some players and score goals.

Zidane scored 2 goals in the 1998 World Cup final for France in which they defeated Brazil.

Two years later in 2000 he helped France win the European Championship.

He was one of the modern day spectacles, winning the FIFA World Player of the Year award 3 times, a Ballon d’Or, player of the league in Ligue 1, Serie A and La Liga, and has the 2006 Fifa World Cup Golden Ball.

Zidane’s individual and team achievements are truly amazing and is too long to post in this article.


Diego Maradona (Argentinos Juniors, Boca Juniors, Barcelona, Napoli,  Argentina)

Diego Armando Maradona was a class above everyone of his time. Some describe him as the greatest ever. Those who appose would say it is Pelé. They were so close that they were both awarded FIFA Player of the 20th Century.

He had great dribbling ability and perfection passing. He helped Argentina win the 1986 World Cup almost single handedly.

During this tournament, the most talked about goal in history was born. It was against England in the Quarterfinal, it wasn’t the one voted as “The Goal OF The Century” in which he scored by dribbling passed 5 English defenders from 60m out. It was the second goal in which he used his hand to put the ball in the net whilst jumping for a header. Now known as the “Hand of God”.

He’s main advantage as a midfielder were he’s attacking qualities, however he’s lack of defending skills is what keeps the greatest player of all time debate continuing.

Maradona has just about every team and individual award there is known in football, has retired numbers at clubs and would have enough golden/silver boots to use as doorstops.




Garrincha is widely seen as one of the greatest dribblers of all time.

He won the World Cup with Brazil in 1958 and 1962. His left leg was six centimeters shorter than his right. This might have given him the ability to have such a great acceleration that no defender could follow.


Michel Platini

Platini helped France win the 1984 European Championship.

He was a brilliant playmaker with an amazing free kick. He is one of the midfielders in the World Team of the 20th Century.


George Best

Man United legend George Best was one of the greatest wingers of all time. Best was a brilliant dribbler, he had a great acceleration which helped him get past defenders easily.

He scored 138 goals in 361 appearances for Manchester United and helped them win the European Cup in 1968.



Zico played three World Cups with Brazil (1978, 1982, 1986), but never won the tournament.

He scored 66 goals in 88 matches for Brazil. He is often referred to as “The white Pelé”.

He was a great free kick taker and a great dribbler.


Francisco Gento

Gento was one of the players of the Real Madrid that dominated the 50s and 60s.

He is the only player that won the European Cup six times and one of the two players that played eight European Cup finals (Paolo Maldini is the other).


Bobby Charlton

Bobby Charlton is widely regarded as one of England’s greatest players ever. As one of the few survivors of the Munich air tragedy Charlton went on to help Manchester United win the European Cup ten years later in 1968.

He won the World Cup with England in 1966 and the golden ball for best player of the tournament.




Pelé (Santos, New York Cosmos, Brazil)

Edson Arantes do Nascimento, known better as Pelé, has scored 1281 goals in 1363 games, a number which hasn’t, and may not be, been repeated by any player.

Pelé never had a weak foot, used the bicycle kick at every chance he could, had a great record for heading goals (even though he was short) and had great accuracy with free kicks.

Born on October 21, 1940 according to his birth certificate – Pelé claims that is incorrect and was actually born on the 23rd.

In 1999 he was voted Football Player of the Century by the International Federation of Football History and Statstics (IFFHS) and voted Athlete of the Century by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

According to the IFFHS he is the most successful league goal scorer in the world with 541 league goals.

He is a political advocate to improve social conditions of the poor and even dedicated his 1000th career goal to the poor children of Brazil.

Many were unable to come to an agreement on an official nick-name so titles like The Black Pearl, The King of Football, The King Pelé and The King where often used and for good reason.

Pelé was trained by hus father at birth and made his debut for Santos at the age of 15, played for Brazil at 16 and won his first World Cup at 17.

Despite numerous offers from Europe; he could not leave Brazil because of a law keeping him there. In 1961 President Jânio Quadros had Pelé declared a national treasure, thus enabling Santos to keep Pelé for almost two decades until 1974.


Lionel Messi (Newell’s Old Boys, Barcelona C, Barcelona B, Barcelona, Argentina)

Lionel Andrés “Leo” Messi serves as the captain of his country’s national football team, Argentina. By the age of 21, Messi had received Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year nominations.

The following year, in 2009, he won his first Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year awards. He followed this up by winning the inaugural FIFA Ballon d’Or in 2010, and 2012. He also won the 2010–11 UEFA Best Player in Europe Award.

At the age of 24, Messi became Barcelona’s all-time top scorer in all official club competitions. At age 25, Messi became the youngest player to score 200 La Liga goals.

Messi is the first football player in history to win four FIFA/Ballons d’Or – all of which he won consecutively – as well as the first to win three European Golden Shoe awards.

Messi has won six La Ligas, two Copas del Rey, five Supercopas de España, three UEFA Champions Leagues, two Super Cups and two Club World Cups.

In March 2012, Messi made Champions League history by becoming the first player to score five goals in one match. He also matched José Altafini’s record of 14 goals in a single Champions League season.

Messi became the first player to top-score in four successive Champions League campaigns. He set the European record for most goals scored in a season during the 2011–12 season with 73 goals. In the same season, he set the current goal scoring record in a single La Liga season, scoring 50 goals.

On 16 February 2013, Messi scored his 300th Barcelona goal. On 30 March 2013, Messi scored in his 19th consecutive La Liga game, becoming the first footballer in history to net in consecutive matches against every team in the league.

Messi was the top scorer of the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship with six goals. In 2006, he became the youngest Argentine to play in the FIFA World Cup and he won a runners-up medal at the Copa América tournament the following year, in which he was elected young player of the tournament.

In 2008, he won his first international honour, an Olympic gold medal, with the Argentina Olympic football team. SportsPro has rated Lionel Messi as the second-most marketable athlete in the world.

His playing style and stature have drawn comparisons to compatriot Diego Maradona, who himself declared Messi his “successor”.



Cristiano Ronaldo

Ronaldo is considered as one of the best footballers in the world and as one of the greatest players in the history of the game.

He holds numerous former and current scoring records, including records for most goals scored in a season for Real Madrid, most goals scored per minute in La Liga, first top European league player to reach 40 goals in a single season in two consecutive years, fastest Real Madrid player to reach one hundred league goals, and the first player ever to score against every team in a single season in La Liga. In January 2013, Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 300th club goal.

Ronaldo became the most expensive footballer in history after moving from Manchester United to Real Madrid in a transfer worth £80 million (€93.9 million/$131.6 million). In addition, his contract with Real Madrid, in which he is paid €12 million per year, makes him one of the highest-paid footballers in the world, and his buyout clause is valued at €1 billion as per his contract.

Ronaldo was the first player to win all four main PFA and FWA awards, doing so in 2007. In 2008, Ronaldo won the Ballon d’Or. He placed second in the Ballon d’Or in 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2012. He was awarded the European Golden Shoe in both 2008 and 2011.


Ferenc Puskás

Hungarian player Puskás was a great striker, he had one of the best shots in football history. This helped him score a lot of goals, he scored 513 goals in 528 matches.

As a captain of Hungary Puskas scored 84 times in 85 matches, helping them win a gold medal at the 1952 Olympics, and a place in the final of the 1954 FIFA World Cup.



Ronaldo was the greatest striker of the late ’90s and early ’00s. In this period he was just unstoppable, he could score from any position at any moment.

The Brazilian always scored a lot of goals at any team he played with. At the 2006 World Cup Ronaldo scored his 15th World Cup goal and became record holder of scoring the most goals at World Cups.



Eusébio, nicknamed “The Black Panther” was the first big player born in Africa. He is Benfica´s all-time top scorer with 638 goals in 614 matches.

Eusébio impressed with Portugal at the 1966 World Cup where he became top scorer with 9 goals.


Marco van Basten

Ajax and Milan hero, van Basten was a great striker. He won the European Championship with Holland in 1988, becoming top scorer of the tournament with 5 goals.

He was a very talented player but was forced to retire his career early at age 30 due to an ankle injury.


Gerd Müller

Müller won the World Cup with West-Germany in 1974 , he scored a total of 68 goals in 62 matches for the national team.

He was nicknamed “Der Bomber” because of his incredible scoring ability. He scored 401 goals in 441 matches as a striker of Bayern Munich.


Fernando Peyroteo

Few will have heard about him, but Fernando Peyroteo is the player with the highest goals per game ratio (1.68). Compare this with Pelé who has a ratio of 0.96 goals per game.

Peyroteo played as a striker of Sporting during the 40′s where he scored 331 goals in 187 games. Although it was a different time without European football, he remains one of the greatest strikers ever.


Arthur Friedenreich

Friedenreich played even before WWI, from 1909 to 1935. There is not much footage of him but his number of goals is amazing.

There is confusion about the exact number, some say he scored 1239 goals in 1329 games, while others suggest it were 1329 goals in 1239 games.

Friedenreich was nicknamed “The King of Football” before Pelé took this title.



He is one of the few players that scored more than 1000 goals.

He was the striker of Barcelona’s dream team during the early 90′s that was coached by Johan Cruyff.

He won the World Cup with Brazil in 1994, winning the golden ball for best player.

This article is mostly based on facts from a collection of information, some, opinions. 

If you think there is someone missing from this list (of contenders) that is worthy of a mention, your input is more than welcome. Football (Association Football) was first played on December 19, 1863, so I’m sure there are others worthy to be mentioned. 

Information from:

- Wikipedia

- bestfootballplayersever. com


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