Greatest soccer team of all time: Dani Garrido's best XI
The Spanish journalist and host of Cadena Ser's seminal 'Carrusel Deportivo' radio show chooses his greatest ever team, with Maradona, Xavi, Messi and Zidane 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.
Dani Garrido's XI
The San Sebastian born Garrido is recognised as one Spain's finest broadcasters and currently is the host of long running radio show 'Carrusel Deportivo' (Cadena SER). Garrido cut his teeth at Radio Bilbao before moving to the Spanish capital where he has also worked in television working with Movistar and #Vamos. Garrido's selection is the fourth in the collection following that of former Real Madrid player Álvaro Benito, jourlaist Santiago Segurola and AS editor-in-chief Alfredo Relaño, who opened the series.
Goalkeeper: José Ángel Iribar
The Bilbao born goalkeeper is synonymous with Athletic Club. 'El Txopo' as he was known played in over 600 official games for the San Mames outfit winning two Spanish cups as well as the Zamora Trophy in the 1969/70 campaign. Iker Casillas has stated that Iribar is one of the "greatest Spanish goalkeepers of all time". After retiring from the game, Iribar moved into management where he oversaw both the Athletic Club first and second teams. The 77-year-old is now involved in Basque politics.
Right back: Paolo Maldini
The son of AC Milan’s first European Cup-winning captain, Cesare, Paolo Maldini helped the Rossoneri add a further five continental titles to their trophy cabinet during a 25-year career at the San Siro, twice as skipper himself. Italy’s third-most capped player with 126 appearances, Maldini twice finished on the Ballon d’Or podium; only three other defenders have made the top three this century. His son, Daniele, has now become the third generation of Maldini to play for Milan.
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.
Central midfielder: Andrés Iniesta
Scorer of the goal that won his nation’s first and so far only World Cup, Iniesta is another of the 'tiki-taka' pass masters who were integral to the historic Spain and Barcelona sides of around a decade ago. A player who proved that being slight in stature is no obstacle to greatness if you ooze ability, he enjoyed 16 trophy-laden years alongside Xavi in the Barça midfield, winning nine LaLiga titles and four Champions Leagues with the Blaugrana before leaving for Japan in 2018.
Central midfielder: Luis Suárez Miramontes
Born in La Coruña, it was during his spell with FC Barcelona that Suárez established himself as a major talent with his elegant and graceful manner of playing the game. His 61 goals in 122 games for the Catalan side secured a move to the "Grande Inter" team of the 1960s and was a success with the Milanese giants winning three Serie A titles and two European Cups with the 'nerazzurri'. Suarez moved into management and has overseen the likes of Inter, Sampdoria, Deportivo la Coruña along with a spell as Spanish national team manager in the late 80s.
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.
Attacking midfielder: Zinedine Zidane
Zidane’s majestic volley in Real Madrid’s 2002 Champions League final win may well be the greatest goal ever scored in the fixture (although a certain Welshman might disagree). A Ballon d’Or winner once and a FIFA World Player of the Year winner thrice, ‘Zizou’ was the undoubted star of the France team that won Les Bleus’ first ever World Cup in 1998, heading in two goals in a 3-0 demolition of Brazil in the final. His next appearance in the World Cup's showcase match was less successful, however.
Forward: Ronaldo Nazário
At his peak, Ronaldo’s combination of pace, power, skill and finishing led him to be described as footballer-meets-Robocop, one memorable solo goal for Barcelona perfectly illustrating such superhero comparisons. Sadly, a succession of injuries took a physical toll on the striker, but he still racked up over 350 goals in a club career that also included spells at Real Madrid, Inter and AC Milan. In 2002, he enjoyed his finest hour (if not his finest haircut) when his eight goals were instrumental in winning Brazil’s fifth World Cup.
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