Greatest soccer team of all time: Kiko Narváez
The former Cádiz, Atlético Madrid and Spain player, who now writes for this newspaper, picks his favourite team of all time.
Next up on the list of journalists and football experts to pick their best team of all time is Kiko Narváez, as we 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.
Born in Jerez de la Frontera, Kiko Narváez played for local club Cádiz before moving to Atlético Madrid in 1993 where he was part of the legendary double-winning side of 95-96. He was capped 26 times for Spain, scoring four goals, taking part in Euro 1996 and the 1998 World Cup. He also won an Olympic gold medal at the Games in 1992, scoring twice in the win over Poland in the final (3-2). Since his retirement in 2002 he has been a football writer and commentator.
Kiko Narváez's XI
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.
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.
Right-back: Dani Alves
Throughout his Barcelona career, he accumulated a total of 103 assists and 21 goals as a right-back and is partly responsible for the change in style of the modern day full-back. Alves' telepathic link with Lionel Messi brought joy to Barcelona fans. He held the record – until Luis Suárez broke it - for the most number of league assists made to the Argentine.
Central defender: Fernando Hierro
The Real Madrid legend won five LaLiga and three Champions League trophies in his 14-year spell at the Bernabéu, where he played 439 games. He also played for Spain nearly 90 times. Fully at ease as a central defender, sweeper or defensive midfielder, Hierro combined solid defensive skills with sumptuous passing and a remarkable ability to put the ball in the back of the net.
Central defender: Carles Puyol
One of the outstanding defenders of his generation, Puyol was a one-club man, turning out 392 times for the Barcelona first team, winning six LaLiga titles and three Champions leagues. He also played 100 times for Spain, and was a key component of the squads that lifted the Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010 trophies. His commanding presence in the backline and his utter commitment to the cause marked Puyol out as one of a kind.
Central midfielder: Xavi Hernández
String puller-in-chief for two of the finest teams the men’s game has ever witnessed, Xavi is arguably the leading exponent of the ‘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, he 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.
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.
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 648 goals for Barcelona since his first-team debut in 2004, helping the club to four Champions Leagues and no fewer than 10 LaLiga titles. Winner of a record six Ballons d’Or, he is also Argentina’s all-time highest goalscorer with 71.
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: 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.