AS Legends XI: AS selects the best XI in football history
Diario AS reveals the 11 legends who make up the greatest football team of all-time as chosen by a panel of AS journalists and columnists.
Diario AS can now reveal the 11 players who form part of the AS Legends XI. During 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 - goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders and forwards. Team selections which have prompted much debate on Twitter over the past few days.
Now that all of the teams have been named, we have a definitive AS Legends XI, based on which players were included the most times across all of the sides.
Following the selections made over the past few days by Alfredo Relaño, Álvaro Benito, Santiago Segurola, Dani Garrido, Enrique Ortego, Axel Torres, José Sámano, Kiko Narváez, Luis Nieto, Manu Carreño, José Sámano, Vicente Jiménez, Aritz Gabilondo, Cristian Arcos, Alejandro Gómez, Sarah Castro and José Luis Garci, the moment has arrived when we can name the final AS Legands XI: Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Franz Beckenbauer, Roberto Carlos, Xavi Hernández, Johan Cruyff, Diego Armando Maradona, Pelé, Lionel Messi, Alfredo Di Stéfano and Cristiano Ronaldo.
AS Legends 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.
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
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
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: 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.
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.
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: 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: 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.