Greatest soccer team of all time: Enrique Ortego's best XI
The Spanish journalist and celebrated author chooses his greatest ever team, with Maradona, Ramos, Casillas and Zanetti among his picks.
We continue our series as leading Spanish journalists and football experts offer their best team of all time and 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.
Enrique Ortego's XI
Goalkeeper: Iker Casillas
The Buenos Aires native broke through with domestic sides Talleres and later Banfield before being spotted by Inter Milan. It was at the Serie A side where he consolidated his position as one of the finest right backs in world football winning five Serie A titles and four Coppa Italia's with the 'nerazzurri'. Under coach Jose Mourinho the Argentine was instrumental in helping Inter lift the 2009-10 Champions League at the Santiago Bernabéu. Capped over 140 times by Argentina, Zanetti is currently Inter's Vice President.
Central defender: Sergio Ramos
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 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.
Left-back: Roberto Carlos
Attacking midfielder: Diego Maradona
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.
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.
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.”
Forward: 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: Paco Gento
Born in Cantabria in 1933, Francisco Gento aka 'La Galena del Cantabrico' (The Gale of the Cantabrian sea) moved to Real Madrid after one season with local side Racing Santander. He became captain of the famous Real Madrid 'ye-ye' side that lifted six European Cups between 1955 and 1966 featuring the likes of Di Stefano, Amaro and Grosso. Gento alos secured 12 domestic Spanish league titles at Real Madrid and was capped 43 times with the Spanish national side and was renowned for his vision, distribution and goal scoring ability.