Greatest soccer team of all time: Santiago Segurola's best XI
The celebrated journalist Santiago Segurola chooses his greatest ever team, with Maradona, Sergio Ramos, Messi and Alfredo di Stefano among his picks.
Over the coming days, leading Spanish journalists and football experts will be giving their best team of all time in this newspaper, to try and pin down the 11 greatest players to have ever graced a football pitch. Once all 11 teams have been named, a final will be drawn up, based on which players were included the most times across all the sides.
Santiago Segurola's XI
The Barakaldo born Segurola is widely recognised as one of the finest sports journalists in Spain. The 63-year-old came to prominence with his sport and culture articles in leading Spanish daily El Pais. The Basque journalist has become a regular contributor for AS since his 'signing' in 2016 and is a regular LaLiga analyst for Movistar +. Segurola's selection is the third in the collection following that of former Real Madrid player Álvaro Benito and AS editor-in-chief Alfredo Relaño, who opened the series.
Goalkeeper: Sepp Maier
Capped by 95 times by West Germany, Josef Dieter 'Sepp' Maier lifted the 1974 World Cup on home soil following the 2-1 win over the Netherlands in Munich. It was with the Bavarian giants that Maier established his playing career and wore the Bayern shirt in 536 appearances (from 1962-1980) with the Bundesliga side and in his time as a player won four domestic cups, five German league titles and three European Cups for Bayern. 'The Cat from Anzing' as he was dubbed was synonymous with spectacular saves and became famous for his sharp reflexes and agility between the posts.
Right-back: Carlos Alberto
The captain of the legendary Brazil 1970 World Cup winning side, the right back made his initial breakthrough with Rio de Janeiro based Fluminense but it was with Santos where the player consolidated his career playing in over 440 games for 'O Peixe'. Carlos Alberto made 53 appearances for the Brazilian national team and after retirement from the game moved into management and has overseen the likes of Flamengo Botafogo, Fluminense along with jobs with the Oman and Azerbaijan national teams.
Central defender: Franz Beckenbauer
Beckenbauer or 'Der Kaiser' (The Emperor) as he was known for his assured style of defensive play secured over 100 caps for West Germany from 1965-1977 and was captain as the host nation secured the 1974 World Cup with a 2-1 win over The Netherlands. Beckenbauer would later repeat the feat as head coach of the German side at Italia '90. The defender made over 400 appearances with Bayern Munich before winding down his career as a player in the. NASL with New York Cosmos.
Central defender: Sergio Ramos
A World Cup winner with Spain and his country’s leading appearance maker, Real Madrid stalwart Ramos is now the highest-scoring defender in the history of both LaLiga and international football. The 34-year-old recently grabbed his 100th goal for Madrid - and there can be little argument over which is his most famous: that would be the 93rd-minute equaliser that set up a 4-1 Champions League final win over city rivals Atlético Madrid in 2014.
Left-back: Roberto Carlos
Best remembered for goals such as this angle-defying howitzer and, of course, THAT free-kick, Roberto Carlos went down as a Real Madrid great in an 11-year stay at the Bernabéu that brought three Champions League triumphs. Until December, his tally of 527 appearances for Madrid was a record for a non-Spaniard. Part of Brazil’s 2002 World Cup-winning side, the 125-time capped left-back is, together with Maldini, one of a select band of defenders to have finished in the Ballon d’Or top three.
Central midfielder: Xavi Hernández
String puller-in-chief for two of the finest teams the men’s game has ever witnessed, he is, alongside Andrés Iniesta, arguably the leading exponent of the possession-based ‘tiki-taka’ style of play that defined the all-conquering Barcelona and Spain sides of the late noughties and early 2010s. With 767 Barça appearances to his name, Xavi - who is now coach of Qatari side Al-Sadd - has played more games for the Catalan giants than anyone else.
Attacking midfielder: Pelé
Known as ‘O Rei’ (‘The King’), Pelé won three World Cups with Brazil after bursting onto the international stage as a 17-year-old at Sweden ’58. A wildly prolific goalscorer, he remains Brazil’s leading marksman with 77, while his total of 643 strikes for Santos was a record single-club haul until Barcelona’s Lionel Messi surpassed the figure in December.
Attacking midfielder: Diego Maradona
Maradona, who died at the age of 60 in November, is best remembered for dragging what was widely considered a run-of-the-mill Argentina side to World Cup victory in 1986. His five goals at the tournament in Mexico included perhaps the cheekiest of all time, followed four minutes later by perhaps the greatest of all time. This tribute from Gary Lineker, whose England team were on the wrong end of those two strikes, really sums up just how good he was.
Attacking midfielder: Lionel Messi
The other half of the individual duopoly that has dominated men’s football over the past 15 years or so, Messi has plundered an eye-watering, club-record 648 goals for Barcelona since his first-team debut in 2004 - including 455 in LaLiga, more than any other player - and has helped the Catalans to four Champions Leagues and no fewer than 10 Spanish titles. Winner of an unprecedented six Ballons d’Or, 'La Pulga' is also the Argentina national team’s all-time leading marksman with 71 goals.
Forward: Cristiano Ronaldo
A five-time Ballon d’Or winner, Cristiano Ronaldo has, together with Messi, been the defining men’s footballer of his era. Now at Juventus, the Portugal star is Real Madrid’s all-time top scorer and this month overtook Czech striker Josef Bican’s world-record tally of 759 career goals for club and country. He became only the second male footballer to reach 100 international goals in September.
Forward: Alfredo Di Stéfano
Los Blancos’ greatest ever player, Di Stéfano was the leader of the Real Madrid side that won each of the first five European Cups between 1956 and 1960. Often referred to as a ‘todocampista’ (‘whole-fielder’) because of his all-encompassing influence on games, he led Sir Bobby Charlton to exclaim: “I’d never seen anything like it before […], everything went through him.”
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