Competition
  • Europa League

L’Equipe honours Real Madrid

To mark the 60th year of the European Cup (or the Champions League as it’s known today), L’Equipe has compiled a top 100 list of the greatest players to have ever graced the competition. As expected, Real Madrid feature very heavily on the role call, boasting the first and second spots (Di Stéfano and Gento), a further four in the top ten (Cristiano, Puskas, Rial and Raúl), plus another 19 in the overall countdown. Trailing behind them are Barca, with 17 inductees, and AC Milan, with 15. Among those representing the Serie A side is Paolo Maldini, who sits third. This serves as quite a welcome bit of flattery for Madrid at a time when La Liga seems like a bleak landscape they must trundle through with nothing to play for other than holding onto third place and staving off the challenge posed by Villarreal. Finishing fourth would mean having to take the qualifying phase route to next season’s Champions League.

Unsurprisingly there are many who have found holes in this list. These kinds of lists always spark debate and although all the names were gathered using objective criteria, I too was perplexed when at first glance I noticed 67th place was occupied by none other than Luis Suárez, who enjoyed two marvellous editions of the tournament with Barca (59-60 and 60-61) and then went on to become a flagship player at Inter Milan, scooping the title on consecutive occasions, among a whole host of other achievements. One could argue that of the twenty five ‘madridistas’ that feature, not all of them deserve to be there for their accomplishments with Los Blancos, but rather while with other teams, as are the cases of Breitner and Kaká. The same is true of Cruyff, whose crowning glories in the competition came during his time with Ajax Amsterdam.

But the list reflects the names and the order of the best players to have ever partaken in the competition. It’s also fair that Real Madrid stand at the top of the podium, an honour that is extremely befitting of the club. However, it’s equally fair to recognise that among the list of madridista inductees, there are many more who plied their trade during the last century compared with this one. L’Equipe has showcased the credentials of the Best Club of the Twentieth Century, as crowned by Fifa. Nonetheless, by fixing your gaze solely on those who have competed in the competition during the twenty first century, you will notice that Barcelona players feature far more prominently than their Madrid counterparts. A disastrous coincidence. Florentino took charge of the Real Madrid at the turn of the century. Since then Madrid have been losing ground slowly but surely.