AS LEGENDS XI

Greatest soccer team of all time: Alejandro Gómez

The head of AS Mexico/US Alejandro Gómez chooses his greatest ever football team as part of our Legends XI series.

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Over the past fortnight, AS has been asking prominent journalists and experts to pick their best football team of all time, as we try to pin down the 11 greatest players to have ever taken to the field. Once every team has been named, a final AS Legends XI will be drawn up, based on which players were included the most times across all the sides.

Alejandro Gómez's XI

The head of AS Mexico/US Alejandro Gómez is the next member of the jury to choose an all-time XI.

Goalkeeper: Gianluigi Buffon

Conceded only twice, an own goal and a penalty, as Italy captured the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Among his heroics were stops from Lukas Podolski in the semi-final and then from Zinedine Zidane in the final. Buffon had another great tournament at Euro 2012, captaining Italy to the final only to lose 4-0 to Spain in Kyiv. In the summer of 2001, the legendary shot-stopper became the world's most expensive goalkeeper, with Juventus signing him for over €50m. He landed the Scudetto in his first term in Turin.

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. He recently grabbed his 100th goal for Madrid, the most famous of which was the 93rd-minute equaliser that set up a 4-1 Champions League final win over city rivals Atlético 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.

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.

Midfielder: Lothar Matthäus

One of just three footballers to play at five World Cups, Matthäus skippered West Germany to victory at Italia ’90, his dominant displays at the tournament also leading him to collect that year’s Ballon d’Or award. His country’s most-capped player, Matthäus amassed 150 appearances over the course of a 20-year international career.

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

One 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 650 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: Johan Cruyff

An Ajax and Barcelona great, Cruyff is one of the game’s most influential figures. The genesis of the legendary Barça side managed by Pep Guardiola can be traced back to the Dutchman’s arrival at the Camp Nou - first as a player, then as a coach. Captain of a Netherlands side among the finest not to win the World Cup, he was named the best player at West Germany ’74 after leading the Dutch to the final. It was a tournament where he also introduced the world to his eponymous turn.

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: 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.

Take a look at the other Legends XIs:

Alfredo Relaño's team

Álvaro Benito's team

Santiago Segurola's team

Dani Garrido's team

Enrique Ortego's team

Áxel Torres' team

José Samano's team

Kiko Narváez's team

Luis Nieto's team

Manu Carreño's team

Vicente Jiménez's team

Aritz Gabilondo's team

Cristian Arcos' team