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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

The Madrid born Enrique Ortego is recognised as one Spain's finest football analysts and has published over ten books focusing primarily on Real Madrid and the Spanish national team. In his time as a journalist, Ortego has worked for all major Spanish sports publications and is currently a contributor with Diario AS. Ortego's selection is the fifth in the series following that of former Real Madrid player Álvaro Benito, journalist Santiago Segurola, radio presenter Dani Garrido and AS editor-in-chief Alfredo Relaño, who opened the series.

Goalkeeper: Iker Casillas

Spain’s World Cup-winning captain, Casillas was dubbed ‘Saint Iker’ for his habit of producing miraculous saves, the most iconic of which saw him deny Arjen Robben a seemingly certain goal in the 2010 final against the Netherlands. He was a three-time European champion with Real Madrid, where he established himself as a club great over the course of more than 700 appearances before closing out his career with a five-year stint at Porto.

Right back: Javier Zanetti 

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

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.

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

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.

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: 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.

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.

AS Legends XI: Alfredo Relaño's team

AS Legends XI: Álvaro Benito's team

AS Legends XI: Santiago Segurola's team

AS Legends XI: Dani Garrido's team


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