Fantasy football

By Pete Reilly Source: Global Times Published: 2020/12/17 16:23:39

No Ballon d’Or? No problem, as judges name best football team of all time

Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal celebrates after scoring against Sweden during their UEFA Nations League group-stage match on Tuesday in Stockholm, Sweden. Photo: VCG

To say that 2020 has been a strange year for sport would be an understatement. It is the first year that Liverpool were crowned champions of England in 30 years for a start, although rival fans will point to the English Premier League before and after its COVID-19 pause being completely different and asking for an asterisk on that title.

The UEFA Champions League went behind closed doors too, finishing its season in Portugal after becoming another victim of the pandemic. Bayern Munich lasted longest in that, beating out Paris St-Germain in the final, just weeks before this season's campaign started.

Players, teams and tournaments have had to adapt in order to get some semblance of football, which has become a whole new ball game.

It is the same for journalists and awards, as France Football made clear when they decided that there would be no Ballon d'Or this year, for the first time since it was first announced in 1956.

Instead, they polled their panel of 140 journalists from across the world on the best team - asking them to come up with the finest 11 players to have ever played the game.

As you might expect, this has been the subject of much debate since it was announced, not least because of its 3-4-3 formation. But here it is in its full glory: the finest footballers to ever grace the field.

Goalkeeper: Lev Yashin

The Russian goalkeeper should have been a shoo-in as he remains the only glovesman to have ever won the Ballon d'Or and won plenty more individual honors besides. Known for his all-black kit, the "Black Spider" played in four FIFA World Cups for the Soviet Union between 1958 and 1970. He was later named onto the FIFA Dream Team, FIFA World Cup All-time Team and World Team of the 20th Century.

Defender: Cafu

The Brazil right back played a record 142 times for his country, including at four World Cups from 1994 to 2006. Cafu appeared in three World Cup finals, a record that remains his alone, and won two of them - in 1994 in the USA and then in Japan and South Korea in 2002. He also won two Copa Americas with Brazil. Named South American Footballer of the Year in 1994, Cafu spent most of his career in Europe.

Defender: Franz Beckenbauer

"Der Kaiser" as they called the man who defined the role of Libero, Beckenbauer was initially a midfielder of some renown before dropping further back later in his career - and what a career it was. The German lifted the World Cup in 1974 as a player and then as a manager in 1990, becoming the first to do so. He was twice European Footballer of the Year and played more than 100 times for his country.

Defender: Paolo Maldini

The only Italian to make the list is one of the finest defenders to have ever played. Maldini was equally comfortable at left back or central defense at AC Milan, where he spent all of his 25-season-long career. While with the Rossoneri he won five European Cup or Champions League trophies and seven Serie A titles. He reached the final of the 1994 World Cup and Euro 2000 with Italy but could not match his club success with his country.

Midfielder: Lothar Matthaus

The German was captain as they lifted the 1990 World Cup, which came 10 years after he was part of the champion 1980 Euros squad. He proved his longevity by being named German Footballer of the Year in 1999, aged 38. Matthaus had moved from midfield to sweeper by then but he will be remembered as a box-to-box marauder.

Midfielder: Diego Maradona

Sadly passed away last month, Maradona came close to winning back-to-back World Cups with Argentina when he took them to the final in Italy in 1990 four years after lifting the trophy almost single-handedly in Mexico. Maradona never strayed far from the edge but he was beloved everywhere he went, nowhere more than Napoli where he delivered two Serie A titles during a glorious stay.

Midfielder: Pele

A teenage sensation at the World Cup in 1958 as Brazil won it, Pele was the best player in the world by 1970 when they won it again. That was his third World Cup win and he remains the only player to ever do that. Pele has the world record for most goals scored in a career too, most of which came for his Brazilian side Santos. The first truly global football star also played for the New York Cosmos as he tried to help football crack the US.

Midfielder: Xavi Hernandez

The Barcelona man was at the heart of the team's tiki-taka success under Pep Guardiola while doing the same for the Spain side that won back-to-back European Championships and a World Cup in between. A product of the La Masia academy, Xavi played 767 times for Barcelona winning 25 trophies.

Forward: Ronaldo

"O Fenomeno" or "The Phenomenon," Ronaldo was a teen sensation at Cruzeiro, PSV and Barcelona before moving to Inter Milan. By then he had already won the 1994 World Cup with Brazil and was a superstar going into France '98. That World Cup was marred by illness in a career marred by injury, but still Ronaldo won it all for club and country, all with a smile on his face.

Forward: Cristiano Ronaldo

One of only two players still playing, five-time Ballon d'Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo was delighted to make the cut. "I'm very honored to be part of France Football's all-time 11," he wrote on Instagram. "What an amazing Dream Team. They all deserve my respect and admiration and I'm obviously proud to be amongst such extraordinary players. Thank you!"

Forward: Lionel Messi

The other player still playing, Messi is a six-time Ballon d'Or winner. Much like Cristiano Ronaldo, he is not done yet and the description of his career can wait until he finally hangs up his boots.

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