Football Yesterday & Today selects and ranks the 125 greatest footballers of all-time. Each player has its clickable card with his palmarès and statistics (lightbox). At the end, the player's list and even more rejoicing.
He only lacks a World Champion title to his palmarès (missed the opportunity to win it...in Brazil). Also he has the charisma of a flea. An atomic flea though.
Let's say that if Pelé is the king of football, Messi is the god of it.
So now, what about Maradona ?
Maradona – Chronologically the hyphen between Pelé and Messi. But a career with big lows (did not spare the misfortunes though as with, first, that aggression of which he was the victim at Camp Nou in 1983). The third and last in the ''extra-terrestrial category'', he'll be still remembered for a good time for his more than amazing performance at the Mundial 86 (the big high).
Valdano liked to describe him as the player who encapsulated all the Argentinian football DNA. It would not dispute or belittle this saying that he was maybe even more than that : capable of the most implausible actions, he was assuringly a ''Martian'', as one of his young brothers described him in a T.V report when Diego was himself still a young lad. The most extra-terrestrial player amongst the extra-terrestrial players, definitely.
And his goals were not always the same like with that ''mister num-ber one'', too !
Platini – The more number 10 amongst the number 10's. The personification of what football is in his ideal. A game made of passes, of ''vision'', of goals – free-kicks master, he could also score with the right, the left, the head, all of that even in one single match. He made of France a country that counts on the international scene. He made of Juventus an European Cup winner. The performance of the greatest Juventus player ever on home soil in 1984 remains unmatched in the Euro championship history.
As Cruyff said, simplicity is the most difficult thing to reach in football and Platini certainly has reached this simplicity – and efficiency – more than any other player in the history of the game.
Di Stéfano – A South-American phenomenon definitively consacred as a true great in Europe where he won the five first editions of the European Champions Clubs' Cup for Real Madrid. Omnipresent from the back until the front (or vice-versa), he really constituted a team on his own. The most complete player ever seen until then, who was described as a 9/10 in all the departments of the game, also served, as an individual, as a model for the future generations of forwards, like Cruijff, who was inspired by him to the max, but also all the others, whether they're conscious of it or not. Argentine of Italian and French origins then of Colombian nationality and Spanish, he is the first true ''global player''.
Di Stéfano finishes just one place off the top 5 (6th) due to the era into which he played. An era into which still much things had to be developped or invented – he contributed to that – and most of all an era at which the game was generally played at a slow pace. Just off the top 5 so he assuringly deserves more lines. Well, just to say that it would have been maybe interesting to see him play elsewhere than in Colombia (so seeing him play in short) from 1950 to 1952, thus at his prime as a striker ; he became that complete player with that ultra-tactical function only after he joined Europe from his own words anyway.
A pioneer. But from the original Millonarios of River Plate to the Millonarios of Bogota then at Real Madrid, a pioneer who knew where he set foot.
Ronaldo – Another phenomenon from South-America, another phenomenon from Brazil, a striker who represented the answer to the ultra-defensive football of the 90s. This weapon was sharpened in Europe that he joined at a very early age to very soon become here the ultimate weapon. But it had a price and it was severe injuries that kept him away from the fields and from the eyes of the lovers of the sport during a very long time. He then managed to come back and knew a second career, in a more conventional role of finisher at the image of a Puskas as we will see (soon). Once fit and from now on as a Real Madrid player (after PSV, Barça and Inter Milan), he even became a World Champion, scoring the highest number of goals into the competition. Assuringly his biggest feat, that also had the merit to definitively prove his love for the game which for manys was not so obvious due to on one hand, his ''cyborg playing style'', if that makes sense, and on the other hand an apparent nonchalance, which was human, it. He then played for Milan AC and ended his career with Corinthians.
No need for a number 10 into a team with him, but he can't rank higher than his glorious predecessors for his too repetitive and serious injuries that prevented the world to watch him into all his splendour more than two or three years. The Project Icarus of football.
Zidane – The ball gave back to him the love he had for her. Endowed with a brilliant technique, the one who, before Messi, was described as the best controller of the ball ever with Maradona (or since), also knew, like the Argentine, putting himself at the service of his team even if technically capable in the absolute of making the decision all alone. Master of the ball and great master of the matches, especially the great matches, he just seemed to control the space and also, even more incredible may we say, the time, so everything seemed to be in slow-motion around him when he was in possession of the ball, while he also made some of the greatest players of his era looking like average players at the same time. If all the critics that can be made about his game (precisely ''slowed down the game'' rather than ''controlled the game'', ''too much altruistic'' etc. ) and about his sometime violent behaviour on the pitches (the multiple red bookings, feared and respected in general there was still that possibility to get him out of the matches, by provoking him) are receivable, he was, once again like his Argentine elder, a player full of contradictions or (even) paradoxes, a complex person and player, extraordinary dribbler but who knew playing for the others and make them better (surely even more than Maradona here) and finally, one way or another, was the player who was able to decide of the fate of his team in the greatest competitions.
A ''hot-blooded ballet dancer'' all in all (being a ballet dancer and a hot-blooded person being not necessarily anthetical by the way) but as a conclusion, let's call him the ''Master of ceremony''. Still is today, as a coach, as the coach of no less than Real Madrid, his last club, his club. Who would have thought such a reconversion from the introverted and especially little talkative Zidane? Like what for ZZ, nothing is impossible. A man who has not finished surprising the football's communauty.
Puskas – Boss of the Honved and Hungary teams of the first half of the 50s, years during which he was one of the very best players in the world, Puskas was an inside left from whom it was said that he used his left foot ...''sometimes like a true hand, sometimes like a shotgun''. Very certainly an eloquent maneer to say that we have here a player who was able to treat well the ball and to dictate the game with passes of high precision or to score goals and that from any distance, with shots of an amazing violence and still, with much accuracy. More refined was the goal that he scored at Wembley in 1953 when Puskas and all the ''Magical Magyars'' beat the inventors of football in their temple (Hungary is at this occasion the first team to ever win in England) : a drag-back manœuvre near the goal-post in front of the captain Billy Wright who falls down followed by a less ferocious shot than usually (he generally launched cannonballs, even from the 6 yards... this manœuvre also allowed him to use his left foot).
Olympic champion 1952, winner of England in Wembley in '53 (3-6) and one more time in '54 in Budapest (7-1) and most of all unbeaten since 4 years, the ''Galloping Major'' (Puskas' nickname, eloquent image once again as he barely galloped, right, but truely was the techical leader who sees the game and launches the attack plans from anywhere on the pitch) and the ''Golden Team'' are the clear odds-on favorites to win the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland.
Physically diminished, Puskas misses the quarter-finals and the semi-finals but he is well here for the Final against the West German team that Hungary, still invincible, had already beaten in the group stage.
Under the rain, the magic of the Hungarians seems to fade away and it is well the Germans captained by Fritz Walter (who especially appreciate this weather), this time with all their best elements in the starting-eleven and even an anti-Hidegkuti plan (who played as a withdrawn centre forward) who prevail. Even though injured, Puskas did everything he could, scored one goal (saw another one disallowed) but it was not enough that day. The only defeat known by Hungary between June 1950 and February 1956 (defeat in Turkey) deprived Puskas of a world title that seemed to be promised to what was the most enchanting side since the Austrian ''Wunderteam'' of the 1930's.
A 1-0 win in Moscow in September 1956, that has by the way not convinced everybody, would definitively mark the very end of this eleven of legend. Two months later, the Hungarian revolution erupts in Budapest while Puskas and Honved are abroad to play in the European Cup. He would, like other of his teammates as Czibor or Kocsis, chose to not go back in Hungary after a fundrising world tour (unauthorized by the Hungarian authorities as well as by FIFA). Consequently he received a two-year ban from the UEFA.
Past his 30, physically now heavier, it is finally at Real Madrid that he will sign, in 1958, at exactly 31 years old. Numerous were the ones who believed that Puskas was finished for football. He will prove them wrong and realize an astonishing second career that only adds to his legend. In the Di Stefano's team, still a remarkable technician but now considerably slower, he will specialize as an inside who finishes the actions. European Cup winner with 4 goals scored in the Final against Eintracht (another legendary match of which he was one of the main protagonists) and ''Pichichi'', some would have liked to see him awarded ''Ballon d'or Européen'' but the young Suarez, Spanish champion with Barça and winner of Real in the 1960-1961 European Cup would be the chosen one in the beginning of this new decade. But Puskas would not stop there by being the ''Pichichi'' one more time in '61 and reconquering the Liga title. He would even become a Spanish international for a World Cup play-off against Morocco in November (1-0 win in Casablanca). Thus he participated to the 1962 World Cup in Chile. Without success though, ending his second international career with 4 caps and no goals scored. As for his career with Madrid, he will be the Spanish League top scorer two more times, keeping now the national league title every season and even plays two last European Cup Finals in 1962 then in 1964 alongside a certain Amancio who would be the leader of the immediate next generation of Real Madrid players called ''Yé-yé'' (two finals lost though, against fellow country-man Guttman and Eusebio's Benfica and Herrera's Inter Milan so Puskas won only one in the end as he did not play the 1959 final).
As a true living legend, he stopped a near quarter of a century career by the end of 1965 thus has he played in three different decades (played a last official game in 1967, in fact he did not really chose to stop). He then would go back in his beloved country, in the early 90s. Coach of different teams all around the world between 1967 and 1992 (he lead Panathinaikos to an European Cup Final, in '71 against Ajax), his last appearance on a bench was in 1993 with the Hungarian national team that he could not help to resurrect. Miracles only happen once.
A former midfielder who had scored 4 goals at the 1966 World Cup of which he was the great revelation, he was the builder of almost all the plays of his teams, West Germany and Bayern Munich, with whom he'll know the consecration in the 70s with an Euro Championship followed by a World Cup and three clubs' European Cups.
Big boss well installed at the back but who liked, with allure, to move through the lines in order to influence the battle's fate, he was nicknamed the ''Kaiser''.
With the class that charcterizes him, Beckenbauer bring up the rear of the FYT's top 10, the club of the golden players of which he could not not belong.
And we now attack the ''silver category''. In other terms, after the kings of football, the princes.
Van Basten – The might of a Nordahl sublimed by a touch of the finesse game of a Cruyff, and here is Marco van Basten ! Precocious talent, he was scoring his first goals in the Dutch League for Ajax in 1982 and for the Oranje team in 1983 but he revealed himself to the whole Europe ''only'' at 21-22 years old, in 1986 (in spite of the non-participation of Holland to the Mexican World Cup) as the European golden shoe. And started to convince the sceptics in May '87 by scoring the winning goal of Ajax in the Cup Winners Cup Final. The most sceptics amongst the sceptics were however still not convinced when the Euro '88 started in Germany. This Basten who doesn't seem to have adapted well to his new club, Milan, and who seems to be injury-prone, moreover still had not a formidable goal record at the international level and he was even not a starter for his national team. That would change since the second match in the competition with a hat-trick against England. Kieft finished the job against Ireland in the group stage and MVB could now shine against hosting-nation West Germany (scored the winner) before to conclude this competition with a piece of magic in the Final : that incredible volley that drilled Dasaev, renowned to be a wall.
Tall, strong, first a libero at Haarlem then a forward at Feyenoord and PSV Eindhoven, support forward or offensive midfielder in Italy, equally endowed with technical and athletic means and with an unusual sense of balance for such a sized footballer that made him extremely efficient in every situations and that made that it was extremely difficult to steal the ball from his feet; player with an extraordinary aerial game and canon-shoot, the black man with rasta hair-style and mustache was the archteype for what was once called the''total footballer''.
Since then, his Italian career would now develop in a more successful maneer with a scudetto and most of all, main goal of the Lombard club, two European Cup wins, until 1990.
Successful again in the Serie A in 1992, Basten and Holland had however totally missed their Italian World Cup in 1990 and, in August, would have to bow to Denmark in the semi-finals of the Euro. After a penalty shootoot during which MVB was the only one to miss his shot. Moreover he had not scored a single goal during the competion. On the bright side, he had turned into a more complete forward, able to orientate the game, maybe under the guidance of his mentor, Cruijff and assuringly due the presence of the young and quick Bergkamp and Roy alongside him. He then continued to score in the Serie A and in Europe until that he decided, at the half-time of the 1992-1993 season, to be operated (for the second time since 1986) on this right ankle that never ceased to make him suffer. He'd reappear on the Serie A's fields in April-March '93, scoring one goal in three little matches only as recoverying from his operation shows to be very difficult. He is however on the Milan team that confronts its best enemy in Europe, Marseille, in the Champions League final in May. For the pleasure of every football fans, even if he seems diminished physically, MVB enters well in his match and provides a very good performance. But OM has scored just before the half-time after that Milan missed several chances and the French-men will save the 1-0 win. MVB was subbed out at the 86th minute. Despite some attempts to return, it would be his last match. He was only 28 and fate deprived us of seeing more of this remarkable striker who had just turned into a so complete player that he had for sure still much to give. We'll still content ourselves with what this ''great'' has given.
After a 10 years career as a head-coach - started with the Dutch national team, 2004-2008, then continued at Ajax and Alkmaar – he is now an assistant-manager for his federation.
Not sure if MVB would have ranked higher if not for the injuries, but not sure either why he should rank lower. Even if it was tight, in FYT's mind, with the following player as for the attribution of the 11th place.
Already among the best European players since the early 80s in spite of no highlights on the international scene (Holland missed all the international tournaments from 1982 to 1986 and Gullit played a very few in the club's European football cups), it's in 1987, now as a Milan player, that he will shine as never before. After a period of adaptation, by the end of the year, he'll feature as a serious contender of Maradona for the ''best player in the world'' unofficial distinction. Because of his own talent, a bit because of the inconstancy of the Argentine too, who knows various problems of various nature but remains obvioulsy an incredible talent when on his day.
An inconstancy that Gullit will know his turn after that he was awarded Ballon d'or, with many injuries from his Sacchi's Milan second season to what will be added a mutual incompability with new Milan's coach Capello as from '91.
Gullit would then torment a bit the Capello's team now as a Sampdoria player, in '93, to the point that Milan signs his former star again (whereas van Basen is out). But it would not last long. At the same time, his story with the national team ends just before the U.S. World Cup (mutual incompability with Advocaat). Back to Samp, Gullit then realizes a formidable last season in the Serie A before to end his career at Chelsea, soon in capacity as player-coach (FA Cup '97, he did not play the final).
Near a 20-years career with a peak around the late 80s to the early 90s when he formed a fantastic duo with our #11 in this ranking (when both were in capacity to play). For his ability to pass or cross the ball or to deflect it with the head but also for his strong and extrovert personality, at Milan like in national team, a Van Basten owes him much.
Cristiano Ronaldo – Another athlete after the two Dutch men and an athlete here who has the merit until today at 32 years old to have globally well saved himself from injuries. A model of professionalism this Ronaldo.
Less complete than Basten or Gullit with regard to his unidimensional tactical role, he is in return more constant than these two were. And fiendlishly efficient. First was as a winger, who eliminates his direct opponent with lightning speed dribbles and runs then, more as a striker who start his actions still from the wings, but more upfront, to finally become more and more a player of the penalty area who doesn't stop to score goals thanks to an excellent positioning and a terrific sense of opportunism.
An individuality who loves to be the (only) one who causes the difference, Cristiano Ronaldo holds an absurd record of goals in the Spanish ''La Liga'' and above all in the Champions League. And in spite of a long domination by Barça, he has won everything with Real (understand the CL) after already a first successful stint at Alex Ferguson's Manchester United who used to hire him from Sporting. He even won the Euro, with a Portugal team mix of young and elder players plus himself, the eternal Ronaldo, who did not say his last word yet concerning winning the most pestigious competitions and see the Ballon d'or elections smile on himself again.
Eusébio – Passed into the football legend during his playing career, he was by many aspects a sort of Weah or also, Ronaldo Luis, before Weah and Ronaldo. This to point out Eusébio's qualities of explosivness, speed and skills as well as to speak of his role of pioneer as a striker.
Indeed, such an athletical and feline player was never seen in Europe before he joined Lisbon and Benfica from his native Mozambique (colony of Portugal at this time) during the 1960-1961 season. Arrived in Lisbon in December 1960, he played his first league match for the ''Encarnados'' in May 1961 scoring one goal but will not be used by Guttman anymore for the moment. Thus Benfica plays and wins the European Cup final against Barcelona without him. But it would not take much more time to see things accelerate for the 19 years old prodige that Benfica signed like instead of Sporting as the latter had a partnership with Eusebio's club in Africa, SC Lourenço Marques.
As the 1961-1962 season begins, Benfica meets Peñarol in September in the second edition of the Intercontinental Cup. Not lined up in the two first matches, Eusébio takes part in the decisive match. If he can't avoid his team to loose, he however shows himself by scoring one goal (for the 1-1, final score 1-2 with a penalty scored by Sasia 5 minutes after and just before the half-time). A taster. Eusebio scores goals after goals and in May, Benfica who had confounded all the forecasts 1 year before find themselves again in European Cup final, this time against Real Madrid but also this time with his young phenomenon as a starter.
Eusébio will give the winning goals to Benfica, 4-3 with a penalty-kick that he won himself, 5-3 with a powerful long-range indirect free-kick. Eusebio can't believe his eyes, he is beating the great Real and his own idol Di Stefano, he never ever even dreamt of that. Like a symbol, Eusébio inherates of Don Alfredo's jersey. The Portuguese will later tell that he felt that this was the fact of the night for him more than winning the European Cup.
But he really won it and this will give to him the right to contend with another phenomenon and young phenomenon like him but that we know since 1958 and that is already called ''the king'', Pelé.
Intercontinental Cup 1962, Benfica meets Santos FC. From then on, Eusébio will be always compared to Pelé, as the Portuguese is considered as the European answer to the Brazilian number 10. The best contender, his equal ? To each his view on the matter but anyway this first duel in a competitive match is a true demonstration by the ''Peixe'' from the Sao Paulo state : 3-2 at the Maracaña of Rio with two goals by Pelé, 2-5 at Estádio da Luz of Lisbon with three more goals by Pelé against a little one by Eusébio. The Portuguese will have however the opportunity to redress the balance four years later.
1966 World Cup England. With 7 goals in 6 games, Eusébio has had a preponderant influence into the qualification of Portugal for its first major international finals ever. In the country that invented football, Eusébio is victorious of the reigning champions Brazil and of a pale Pelé, saddle-sore and knocked down by enlisted soldiers now famous (Zhechev had started the task then Morais finisihed it). Portugal is qualified for the quarter-finals but the always fair-play Eusébio can't be triumphant in regards to his duel with Pelé, a second duel that never really happened. With 2 goals and 1 assist, Eusébio is the big man of the match though.
In the next round, Portugal is at half-time behind the unexpected North Korean team that has already beaten Italy in the group stage : 1-3. In a position of hunter, the ''Black Panther'' will feast for three days. With three new goals by him in a handful of minutes (and a last and late goal by José Augusto), Portugal wins the game by 5-3.
In the semi-finals, this time, Eusébio will be unable to do anything (except scoring another penalty-kick) and his dreams of World conquest would vanish in tears as England prevails in all logic by 2 goals to 1. 2 goals scored by the other great rival of Eusébio, Bobby Charlton. A Bobby Charlton who has had constantly counteracted Eusébio's plans in the different international competitions as in the European Cup : already winner of Benfica in the European cup quarter-finals in this same year 1966 with Manchester United and by being more famously winner of the 1968 final between the two clubs, in Wembley ! Then it would be the Ajax of Cruyff in 1969 and a legendary triple confrontation (3-1 for Benfica in Amsterdam then 3-1 for Ajax in Lisbon and 3-0 for Ajax in Colombes). Eusébio would never win the European Cup a second time after 1962. He would never ever play another international tournament either after 1966.
Worn out by the European jousts, the world outstanding striker who was Eusébio would go back into line by the late 60s, early 70s. He'll still manage to win an European golden shoe in 1973 thanks to the 40 goals he scored in the Portuguese League in... 28 matches. Also, the star player who marked a whole slice of the football's History, by his sheer class, his exploits and his sportiness, would always be selected with european or world sides to play charity matches.
His career at Benfica ended in 1975, what coincides with the independance of Mozambique.
It's a thundering international career start, at least in terms of goals scored. But soon, Zico knows some difficulties that a remarkable goal against Italy in the U.S bicentennial Cup or another one against the Soviet Union have not masked (1976). In '77, in spite of goods stats in the end (with an anecdotic quadruplet against Bolivia), the situation has not evolved at all : Zico is still not the true leader of attack of Brazil, did not take the role of boss. From a Rivelino. However the influence of the latter is debated.
1978. Selected to play the World Cup, i.e the revealing competition for any Brazilina ''crack'', and a competiton that Brazil won for the last time in 1970 (with ''o Rei'' Pelé), Zico did not meet the expectations. Relegated to the bench after two disappointing matches (from him and the whole team) he only reappeared as a starter for third place match againt Poland, leaving the pitch after less than 10 minutes. Injured and in any case not at his ease within this Brazil eleven, it is somehow Dirceu who stole the show from him, as to know who was the best individuality in this globally unrecognizable Brazilian team.
Things would go better for Zico four years later in Spain so in the peninsule of his origins (his parents where Portuguese) and far from the too hostile ground that was Argentina. Until one point leastways. And a legendary match against Italy. Until then, the band of Telê Santana had enchanted the crowds by his shimmering way of playing and Zico had been decisive, scoring a beauty of a free-kick against Scotland, a fantastic acrobatic scissor-kick against New Zealand...and delivering a solid performance against... Argentina, scoring a goal full of opportunism and most of all, by delivering one of these wonderful assists of which he had the secret for Junior to conclude. Again, a great performance by the whole Brazilian team this match. And as already said, soon a bad taste in the mouth, the taste of an unfinished buisness.
One year before, Zico used to know his most complete year. With a Brazilian, a continental and even an intercontinental title with Flamengo, to which we must add victories with Brazil in London, Paris and Stuttgart. In May.
After the World Cup, he joined the Italian Serie A in 1983, surprisingly to play for Udinese (with Edinho and in a first time, with the former Italian international player of Juve Causio). He replaces here the former foreign star player of the team, the fantastic Yugoslavian dribbler Surjak. If Zico is not at his top physically, he still manages to feature in good place in the scoring charts and Udinese completes with him a clear progression in the final tables.
He's then, in 1985, back in his lifelong club, Flamengo, where he attends to the rise of the future world champion Bebeto.
The 1986 World Cup in Mexico is the fatal desillusion for a one more time injured at the wrong moment Zico who's here a player who comes in from the bench. In these conditions he misses a decisive penalty-kick against France within the full-time and Brazil is once again eliminated of the race, here after a penalty shootout and at the level of the quarter-finals.
Retired since 1989, Zico then joins Japan in 1991 to soon see the J-League to be developed with him as player of, mainly, Kashima Antlers (until 1994).
Demi-god in the land of the rising sun, the ''White Pelé'' will become here the national coach from the 2002-2003 season thus, just after the World Cup organized by Japan and South Korea, until 2006 and an early exit at the German World Cup.
Elder of the three great number 10s' of the 80s (just a little bit older than Platini, he is 7 years older than Maradona), Zico globally had a slightly more advanced position on the pitch than the French (who dropped back more) and was slighlty less striker than the Argentine, that in order to schematize things a bit.
Was like Platini but also Maradona a master at free-kicks but maybe scored less than them against great keepers (especially compared to Platini) while he has possibly higher totals in that exercise in career than each of them.
Contrarily to a Maradona who could dribble past players with speed from the flanks, Zico was before all, like Platini, a player of the axis. Compared to Platini, Zico was certainly more able to dribble past players himself (and at an appreciable speed) in order to go towards the goals but could ask for a partner to play a ''one-two'' as well. At last, in a Brazilian team full of stars, or even later, like at Udinese, his leadership abilities are not so evident than for the French or the Argentine number 10s' who often had a very perceptible ascendancy on the games.
Also, the one who was nicknamed, amongst other nicknames, the ''King of the Maracana'' (as he has here a record of goals, also a bit for the reason that he was not exactly the same player out of the mythical Brazilian temple) has not the palmarès of his two colleagues with a few to zero major international trophies in his cabinet.
Maybe that playing a World Cup in Brazil (...in Rio) would have helped, although Spain seemed not to be far of the ideal ground for the seleçao (if we make abstraction of fate that wanted Brazil to meet that Italian team since the second round).
A scorer of hundreds of goals and possibly a better passer than ''O Rei'', the palmarès of Zico remains blank. It is although not for nothing that he was one of the favourites of the football fans, like so many young people but not only young. A graceful footballer who constantly played in the direction of the goals, he also had such a name that resonated and still does in the imagination of people all over the world.
If ''only'' he and Brazil had not lost to Italy and that they had played the final (assuming that they would have beaten Poland), Zico would have ranked higher in this list. Much higher.
Ronaldinho – The Garrincha of the 21th century. The greatest entertainter in football since Maradona, his first fan. He has even won the Champions League (in 2006, a title that he had probably celebrated long before to play the final).
Incredible dribbling skills. Very imaginative. The true artist of football. Some of his defining moments ? When he pushed Seaman's head underwater at the 2002 World Cup. Also, the standing o at Bernabeu, in 2005.
Indeed, it is an immediate succes for Rivaldo and Depor in La Liga with 21 goals by the forward and a 3rd place in the table. The success is so huge that in the end of his first season in Europe and Spain, he is signed by Barça that has just lost Ronaldo, hired by Massimo Moratti's Inter Milan. Rivaldo's mission will consist in making forget about the Ballon d'or '97 and to snatch the first place to Real Madrid in La Liga. Mission completed in his very first season in Catalonia and reiterated the next season (his former club, Depor, would be the champion in 2000). Thus Rivaldo, with his new colours, reaches a world class stature, insomuch that he became the number 10 of Brazil with whom he performed very well at the 1998 World Cup (finalist) before to win the Copa America the following year.
And with lack of results on the European stage with Barça, it is well with the mythical selection that he will know his Everest by winning the 5th World Cup for Brazil, in 2002, while being one of the main protagonist of this conquest. Most of the time in a good maneer, by his assists, by his goals, other times in a more disappointing maneer from him, like against Turkey but we will no go back on this.
The following of his career would be at light years of this moment of glory known in Japan, from a transfer to Milan that did not went very well until FC Bunyokdor, passing by the Greek league.
Rivaldo ended his career at the age of 43 years with his first Brazilian serie A club Mogi Mirim, and a promotion from serie C to serie B.
A player who was sometimes judged nonchalent but who was able to create chances or to score goals at any time in a match, and with incredible style (how to forget his bicycle-kick against Valencia in 2000 ?), often decisive, Rivaldo marked the world of football from 1994, or '96 for the majority of the public, until 2002.
Today world-wide known, this man who knew a very difficult youngness in poverty has always played for his father who died when his son, into which he believed much, was not yet a professional player. Not really the most talented at the start and suffering of a poor physical condition (tall and thin), this atypical player compared to the idea of what a Brazilian crack must be, has worked so hard that he became one of the finest Auriverde of all-time. A model, according to fifa.com. Thus we will easily forgive him for his strange behaviour in the match against Turkey in 2002. Even if it remains shocking when re-thinking about it.
The king of the penalty area ? Certainly. Master in the tight spaces, he could down any defense by finding even the smallest cease into them. Another of his assets was that he was one of these strikers who exile on a wing or at the top of the midfield (in the hole) in order to excape a strong marking as well as to better surprise his rivals. By the way, in such situations, with his short touches of the ball, and that low centre of gravity, he could bring Maradona to mind.
More than 1000 ? Probably. In any case he has scored 55 times in auriverde. Third-highest goalscorer for the Seleçao (behind Pelé and Ronaldo), he has made the bulk of his stats over three years : 1989 when he offered the Copa America to Brazil, 1994 when he lifted the World Cup trophy and 1997 when he paired with the second-highest goalscorer for Brazil in the ''Ro-Ro attack''.
Rummenigge – First an audacious but not always efficient winger who won the third Bayern's European Cup (with the Müller, Beckenbauer, Maïer...), Rummenigge transformed into a goal-scoring machine in the twilight of the 70s before to become more and more a complete forward and was in the early 80s the definition for the modern attacker, very mobile and endowed with speed and a strong physique. In that sense, he can make think to the recent European champion Cristiano Ronaldo. As the Portuguese, Rummenigge had the habit to start his attacks from the flanks, was good with the head, and was not inferior at free-kicks.
Having exceed his physical limits as by playing injured as at the Mundial 82, the following of his career shown a less dominant player but still capable of some exploits as in the calcio with Inter. And wasn't he one more time a World Cup finalist in 1986 ?
Garrincha – So many quality poems have already been composed about ''Little Bird'' so we won't even try, here (then everybody does what he wants at home).
He's born with bowlegs. Surgeries did not arrange things. That did not prevent him to become a professional footballer. Even though it took quite some time to emerge. He's spotted by Botafogo at the age of 20 years while he was playing for the team of the textile factory for which he worked. They hired him after just one try : opposed to the famous left back Nilton Santos, he immediately impresses. ''He just made me dance so I asked for he was hired and that we put him straight up in the starting eleven. I did not want to ever play against him anymore'', later told the ''Encyclopedia'' (Nilton Santos nickname).
The right winger makes his debuts in 1953 and since then turns the defenders and the supporters heads. He's selected for the first time in the national team in 1955 but has to deal with the concurrency of the established right winger Julinho, an experienced player, extremely talented as well and who has the advantage to be a true athlete and aware of tactics when Garrincha is first of all and quite exclusively an (amazing) improviser. Julinho plays in Italy though and during this time, Garrincha plays with the Seleçao. Also, he shows his talents at the occasion of the club's ''Little World Cup'' (1957). But Julinho should be back for the future maturities.
However, even if not asked for it, Julinho retires from international football, and free it up for someone else to be of the Brazilian 1958 World Cup squad in Sweden. Garrincha will be this one.
Placed on the bench by Feola, like the 17 years old Pelé, for the two first matches of the tournament, he finally makes the team at the insistence of his Botafogo teammates Nilton Santos and Didi who also asked at the same time for the integration of the young Pelé of Santos FC. And to Garrincha to show what he's made of and to be the star of the game against the Soviet Union. Garrincha and Pelé would not leave the team anymore. Pelé scores the only goal of the match against Wales then Brazil and his two revelations, surrounding the centre-forward Vava, eliminates France and beat Sweden in the Final. Garrincha has multiplicated the dribbles and the crosses, Vava has exploited at best the game of his two partners of attack, Pelé has scored amazing goals after amazing goals and thanks to a strong defense (a novelty for the Brazil team) and a newfound inspiration, Brazil is for the first time world champion. The joy of playing of the two magicians has erased the tears of 1950.
Now a footballer of international fame, Garrincha is still of the Brazilian squad that plays the 1962 World Cup, in Chile. He will there take a new dimension as, quite surprisingly, he takes the reins of the Seleçao in the absence of Pelé, showing himself as more than simply an outstanding outside right but also as a player of the inside of the pitch, as demonstrated against England, in the quarter-finals, then against the hosts Chile in the Semi-finals. Amarildo, the replacement for Pelé, would insure the victory fot Brazil in the Final against Czechoslovakia and Garrincha would be now a dual World Cup winner.
By the end of this tournament, Garrincha would be seen as the author of the greatest individual performance in a World Cup ever. A tournament, particularly violent and during which his artistry had the value of a breath of fresh air.
The following of his career would unfortunately be a long way down to hell, in particular due to an alcoholism. He'd be however in England in 1966 in order to play his third World Cup. But the reigning champions since 1958 have not much hopes as they must defend their title in Europe, with a team which is globally rather new and unexperienced. It's even worse when Pelé is physically diminished, since the very first match, victim of the repeated aggressions of the defenders. What was expected. As for our Garrincha, he's only the shadow of his former self and his feints don't feint anybody anymore except maybe himself. In the very first match against Bulgaria though, he still managed to score a formidable goal, on free-kick. Then it was Hungary, that made short work of what remained of the Brazilian team and Portugal, match that Garrincha didn't play after his first lost with Brazil (!) and match during which Pelé was definitly lost after that he missed the second game. Verdict : an early exit since the first round.
At last we'll retain in mind that Brazil remained unbeaten with both Pelé and him on the team sheet – 53 wins and 7 draws.
The pictures of Garrincha that we prefer to keep in mind are the ones of him running at the defenders with his golden yellow jersey on the back, printed with the number 11 or the number 7 depending on wether we are in 1958 (blue shirt in the Final) or 1962. Less the ones with the number 16 (1+6 ?) of 1966. And the pictures of him, when at the heart of his career with an even more malicious or simply more lively face than with Brazil while wearing the Botafogo shirt with the lonely star. However, we can't disregard the pictures of him that were taken after the period of his brightest feasts.
The one who was nicknamed ''Alegria do Povo'' (Joy of the people) died in solitude and poverty at the age of 49 years old. He had been quickly replaced at Botafogo like in the Brazilian team by a new idol of which we'll soon have the opportunity to talk about.
Kopa – Born in Nord-Pas-de-Calais in Noeux-les-Mines where he worked as a miner in his teens (here he lost two fingers in an accident), Raymond Kopaszewski said "Kopa" finally signed his first professional contract as a footballer in the west of France, at SCO d'Angers in 1949 at the age of 18 years, this after that he finished second to ''Le Concours du jeune footballeur'' (national contest of young footballers). He signs two years later to Stade de Reims of which he will built the legend by reaching the final of the first European Cup in History, in 1956, against Real Madrid. Reims leads by 2-0 then 3-1 but finally bows to the Di Stéfano's Merengues by 4-3. Injured, Kopa did not weight like it would have been desirable for the French club. It did not prevent Real president Bernabeu to hire the European rising star, with certainly in mind still, his brilliant performance at Chamartin one year before when France met Spain, the best international match that Kopa ever delivered, according to Kopa himself. There, the one who has prefigured to the number 10s' of the 60s-80s, had shown within the 90 minutes of the game all the extent of his talents : a good protection of the ball, outstanding abilities at dribbling (could dribble past one, two or even more players), his glance and art to find devastating passes for the opponent's defense. He played as a withdrawn centre-forward in club or with the selection until then but will have, at Real, due to the presence or omnipresence of Di Stéfano, the team's boss (and better shooter than him), to take the role of right winger (as he already did with Reims and France but in his beginnings). He'll contribute this way to establish the domination of the Madridistas in Europe.
European champion 1957 and 1958, year of third place at the World Cup with France during which he made shine Fontaine who set here the record of goals in one tournament (13) for a great proportion thanks to his sense of orchestration and his assists, Kopa left Spain as a consecrated European superstar in 1959 to go back to France (that he truely missed, he also had to prepare his after-career and was truly tired of playing the second-fiddle to Di Stéfano at one point) and to Stade de Reims. There he wins two supplementary league titles and a French best player of the year award (1960 and 1962, 1961). He is also at this time in bad terms with the federation, plays less for the national team of which he criticizes the technical directors while he fights for the footballers rights and unfortunately know a familial drama, about what he did not talk and made the necessary for it remained in the intimate domain, for it was not talked in the press.
Stopped his professional football career with Reims in his 35th year after that the club came back in the elite to finally get relegated again.
The first great leader of French football (because he was a leader, an authentic champion with an authentic caracter) continued to play football until around his 75 years. Representative of his own brandmark, some people testify, as Kopa was travelling the whole France, that the Ballon d'or 1958 was sometimes stopping his car along the road to join kids at some stadium or little square in order to kick some footballs with them. The kids did not know with who they were playing and to their parents to be surprised in the evening when their progeniture brang back to the house the professional card that a certain Raymond Kopa had left to them.
Didi – He did not run. He orientated the game in one or two touches keeping his chest straight. He was beautiful. He scored fantastic goals from a long-range distance. He was the master of the 'folha seca'. He was the maestro. He was nicknamed the Prince of Ethiopia.
Laudrup M. – Endowed with an appreciable top speed, it is at the position of forward that this gifted of football began his career. But it was as a playmaker and once he reached Spain from Italy that he revealed all his true talent. In a more open championship, certainly. And it is true that he was not exceptional in the 1992 European Cup final, to the point that he was not titularized two years later, still in the clubs European Final and once again against Italians, by Cruijff. Neither he was of the Dane coronation in the European Championship, as our artist was in disagreement with coach Richard Møller-Nielsen, who preached for a physical and defensive game. But Michael Laudrup will remain like the one who won 5 consecutive Ligas, the last one with the Real who had the good idea to bring him when the latter was in cold with Barça, put another way with Cruijff, of which we have already spoken. With the Dutch man, he shares the genius of the pass, of the intelligent dribbling and up to a certain point in their respective careers, of the acceleration ball at the feet. The author of punctual exploits when he was a striker in the national team (like in the first round of the Mundial 86), or very punctual with Juventus, where he replaced Boniek, always with Platini as a ball feeder during the first two of his three bianconere seasons, Laudrup shown himself as a leader of the game at a real world dimension only at the age of 34, during the 1998 World Cup, his last international competition. How much we would have liked to see him combining this maturity in his game and this ''surplus'' of consistancy with his capabilities of accelearation in the runs and by the dribbles of which he benefited as a young player. That would have been the perfect thing and provided you do this, placing him at the level of a Cruyff (the one who made him a number 10 of the midfield, and let's precise by the way that Laudrup was repostionned a notch higher at Real, just behind the striker, yet for more success), would have been surely far to be impossible.
Once he had became a coach, he set up an interesting footballing style with Getafe then won the English League Cup with the Welsh club of Swansea. But he still does not stabilize in any club and does his job now in Qatar.
One of the few unproven big matches winner of the lot in the 25, he is the object here, let's be honest, of a big push that others will not have in this ranking. Is that FYT finds him very, very special.
One of the few unproven big matches winner of the lot in the 25, he is the object here, let's be honest, of a big push that others will not have in this ranking. Is that FYT finds him very, very special.
Zizinho – ''Pelé before Pelé'', that is how was described a few years after the end of his career the one who traveled the South American pitches all in mazy dribbles from the 40s to 50s making dream thousands of spectators and fantasizing a few Europeans only by the evocation of his name. Much less athletic than the ''King of football'' but very active and capable himself of unthinkable gestures as well as rather good with the head in spite of a very modest size (1 m. 69 against 1 m. 73 for Pelé) he skimmed the whole front of the attack and even participated in the recovery of the ball in addition to the build-up of the game in midfield.
The one who was among the most brilliant insides in the world during the 1940s was destined to the consecration at the 1950 World Cup organized in Brazil. But the most brilliant technician on board during this competition, according to the observers, who were in this occasion literally stunned by his prowesses, had to fail in this quest - for the Cup is not offered, even to the most talented and that it is precisely about a quest - in the Maracana, against the Uruguay team. A national trauma. If he had won with his team, for sure that his legend would have traveled better until today. And perhaps he would rank here something like ten places higher. But as it happens it is more ''Zizi no'' than a charming Zizinho with the accent that echoes in our ears. And impossible to see him at work on video on Youtube (if not for very very short extracts) to persuade oneself that he belongs to the very best players in History.
But it is (or he is) nevertheless our #25.
Kubala – An early talent known as a forward with exquisite technique (excellent protection of the ball and outstanding dribbling abilities) but also endowed with strenght, the Danubian footballer remains famous for his FC Barcelona's career. Before the Dutch men, were the Hungarians and Kubala was the star player of what has to be the first great Barça team, the one of the 50's and especially the one of 1952 with his five titles (Liga, Spanish Cup, Latin Cup and two other copas). As such, he remains as one the greatest legends of the club.
No less legendary is his international career that saw him play first for Czechoslovakia then Hungary and finally Spain. Less productive in terms of results though. And like Di Stéfano, grand rival at a sportive level but also friend, Kubala would never participate in a World Cup tournament.
Considered as one the best players in Europe in the first half of the 50s, Kubala will, by the mid-50s, at an individual level, lost of his speed and at a collective level, it will be more and more difficult for him and Barça to compete with Bernabeu's and Di Stefano's Madrid which they will remain in the shadow until the end of the decade and two new La Liga titles for Barça. This would not erase the domination that Real established over these years, most of all with its 5 European titles, when the Blaugranas had to content themselves with the Fairs Cup (1958 and 1960). In 1961, at near 34 years old, Kubala gets one last chance to win the young but already extremely prestigious Club's European Cup (the first Final without Real Madrid, eliminated by...Barça). But with Kocsis, Czibor and in spite of the young and phenomenal Suarez, he is beaten in the Final by a more realistic, more lucky but also maybe more eager Benfica.
The one who liked to described him as a citizen of the world obviously remains however in the game's History as the first superstar of Barça and in some maneer beyond this, remains in the little History of current life's football for he was a model technician that inspired many educators and their young players, whether they became professional players or not (for the anecdot, Aldo Platini, the father of Michel always referred to Kubala to his son when a young footballer and incited him to work on his protection of the ball, to use both feet, and to practice passing, or imagine matches situations with the eyes closed in order to be able to find his partners even without looking at them, all of that like Kubala, also renowed for his ''blind-passes'' that moreover, he often executed with a ''back-heel''... by passing, another speciality of Kubala that Platini mastered too was the drag-back manœuvre, et voilà).
An artist and a true star on his continent, in the 40s, he certainly had everything of a talent of exception. All of this, and it is well sufficient, makes him landing at rank #27.
In the following of this world champion title, absolute climax in the World Cup History, Rivelino would have to take the lead of a Brazilian team now deprived of Pelé but also Tostao during a whole decade, warranting more or less brilliantly this role of leader in a football that was considerably changing. Captain of a Brazilian team that the national coaches wanted to be more and more ''europeanized'' and that did not show anymore the magic of the precendent eras or now only in a few occasions, Rivelino still managed to lead his companions to a fourth then a third place at the 1974 and 1978 World Cups proving, in spite of the critics about him and about the team, that Brazil was still quite still up there, or not that far (albeit very far from the Holland team even if the latter were not the champions in the end), and that at an individual level he was still featuring in a good place amongst the best offensive midfielers in the world, at least in 1974 - where he had scored two vital goals, thus avoiding a total catastrophy - as well as, in some moments, in-between the two tournaments.
He would not play for Brazil anymore after the World Cup held in Argentina. He was playing since four years for Fluminense with whom he won his only two noticeable titles in club's football with 2 Rio-state championship (Campeonato Carioca). He then moved to Saudi Arabia with his cousins (his face, his tanned skin, his hairiness).
He left a technical heritage as the inventor or developer of the ''elastico'', more recently used by Ronaldo, Ronaldinho or even more recently but in a less perfect maneer by Europeans such as Cristiano Ronaldo or Ibrahimovic (it is with them efficient too but more brutal and less fluid). Neymar does it very well too. By the way another name for it which is more used nowadays is ''flip-flap''. Well, let's say that when it is Brazilian it's an ''elastico'' and that when it's not, it's a ''flip-flap''.
Rivera – In spite of the relegation to serie B in 1980, there will never be a geatest icon of AC Milan than ''Il Golden Boy''.
Less noticed with the national team, he is still the one who scored the winner in ''the match of the century''.
The dandiest of them all.
Suarez – Born in A Coruña, he started his career at Deportivo with whom he played his first Primera Division match in December 1953, in Barcelona. Before being soon hired by FC Barcelona, in the summer 1954 and with whom he'll play his very first match against A Coruña. He's 19 years old and everything goes fast. In the Blaugrana's attack, the young and gifted galician shows himself as a twirling forward. His nerve is only equalled by his sheer class that he fully exploits when the opportunity is given to him. In a first time he most of the time plays when Kubala doesn't. Is that the Barça's attack squad is particularly stacked at that time with, in addition to our #26, his fellow countrymen Kocsis and Czibor but also Eulogio Martinez, Villaverde...
''Luisito'' would impose himself more from the 1956-1957 season during which he then played quite often alongside the Magyar master. Always a dribbler and a scorer of goals, Suarez develops his also innate art of passing and we start talking by then about ''El Galego de Oro''. On January the 30th 1957, Suarez made his international debuts with Spain at the same time of his idol Don Alfredo (Di Stéfano). Against Holland. The latter was soon unstinting in his young teammate's praise that he compares to an architect. By the way, talking about architecture, Suarez would discover and play in the Camp Nou, sprung from the earth that same year 1957, in September. Now, to come back to the national team, the Spanish or naturalized Spanish players would not qualify to the World Cup in Sweden. It would not go better immediately after but the career of Suarez nevertheless would soon fly the nest.
That starts with a Spanish champion title for Barça after 6 years in 1959. The second title for Suarez after that Fairs Cup '58 won against a London XI with 2 personal goals in the final and may we say, his first major title. To which he contributed by playing 26 games and by scoring 14 goals. By far considered as the first Barça player he most of all seems to integrate the circle of the very best European players. Suarez makes that year his first appearance in the Ballon d'or ranking, directly at the 4th place.
1960. If Spain withdrawn from the first Euro Nations Cup under the command of the dicator Franco as the seleccion was supposed to meet Soviet Union in the quarter-finals, it is well Suarez who is awarded Ballon d'or in December. Is that Barça, with a formidable and decisive Suarez had eliminated the quintuple European Cup winner and archi-rival, at least at domestic level until then, Real Madrid, as soon as the first round in the ultimate club competition. Adios Di Stéfano and Puskas, Luis Suarez represents the new generation of European star footballers in those early 60s. He had not played the victorious Fairs Cup Final (unlike in '58) but was also reigning champion in La Liga for 2 seasons with Barcelona. He also had scored in Wembley against England in October.
1961. As Real regained its title in Primera Division, Barça reaches its first European Cup final but the favorite for the win... lost it to its challenger, SL Benfica. On this, Barça must revise its plans and Suarez breaks the transfer fees record as he is signed by Moratti's Inter Milan. The Spanish player, at the top of his art is here welcomed by his former coach at Barça from 1958 to 1960, Herrera, who has for mission to conquer a scudetto won for the last time in 1954 (!) by the Nerazzuro.
In the calcio, the gifted and already much experienced Suarez would be installed at midfield by the French-Argentine coach. He has big beginnings with amongst others, an important goal in a 3-2 away victory in Rome since the day 2 in the Serie A. He'll later be a scorer again (from the penalty spot this time) in a 4-2 win against archi-rival of this era Juventus, in Turin. If he has known quite early a knee-injury during this first Italian season, Suarez was globally successful with an excellent adaptation to his new role in his new team in this new football to him and with still 11 personal goals. Inter is only vice-champion (behind Milan AC) but continues its progression.
4th in 1960 and 3rd in '61 (without him), 2nd in '62 (with him), Inter finally wins the scudetto in 1963, far ahead of Juventus and Milan AC. The new Italian champion, with the best defense and the third best attack behind Bologna and Roma, 4th and 5th in the league, would only confirmate its new dimension in the next European Cup. Everton, Monaco, Partizan, Dortmund : Inter has already a good tally before the final for the first participation ever in this competition of all the team, except for Herrera and most of all Suarez who has him already beaten who has to be their last opponent. An opponent named Real Madrid of course. At Praterstadion, Wien, in front of 70.000 spectators, Inter beats Real by 3 goals against really, just an anecdotical little one (even though a nice one). The clear best won. The Nerazzuro are on the roof of Europe (and soon of the world with a win in the Intercontinental Cup against Independiente). Suarez once again prevailed in a duel with Di Stefano's Real. He scores less but is the true engine of the team. Pugnacious, orientating the game from his playmaker position at midfield (regista), he maybe most of all makes the difference as a mental leader for the Interist ''young guard'' (Corso, ''Mazzolino'' author of two goals in the final, Facchetti). Accustomed to the European jousts and strenghtened by a power of influence that his status of player of the first order confered on him, Suarez had liberated the new Italian talents for they just play their game and beat their turn, as he did himself four years before, those whose the names resonated to their ears as so many legends and who were their idols. Thus, on, and in a certain maneer ''off'' the field, Suarez somehow finally fully justified the transfert fee of which he made the object in 1961 and most of all confirmed acutely his status of great player as now a true team leader (the success of a Herrera too). Successful in the Serie A after la Primera Division, he had simply permitted Inter to win its first European Cup (his personal first, also). And that doesn't stop here. He'd be this ''big plus'' in national team in that same year 1964 as some weeks after the final in Wien, Spain this time can't refuse to meet the Soviet Union (title holder) in an Euro Nations Cup final held on home soil, at Bernabeu stadium and wins the match by 2 goals to 1. Here again, in the absence of a Gento, injured, Suarez at only 29 years old but with all his experience, featured as the elder of the team and as the one who lead them to the success with the now more and more meaningful number 10 in his back.
The winner of the biggest trophies that can be won that year, Suarez would however see himself beaten by Law of Manchester United and of Scotland regarding the Ballon d'or. If it is true that the Spanish player became a very complete midfielder, it is also true that he now doesn't score more in the national team than with Inter (actually he has not scored for Spain since that Wembley match in 1960 and would never do it again). In that sense, Suarez would stay as a ''little Di Stéfano'' who him combined all the qualities at once. Still, this verdict would remain controversial : Law had won nothing, barely played in Europe and scored only once with his national team - against Bank's England for a 3-2 win in Wembley though and he had scored in the ''boxing-day'' against Shilton's Leicester... maybe that's why.
Truly, it remains inexplicable. But Suarez would just continue to prove himself the greater player on the field while filling his already impressive palmarès.
With no more no less than a double in European Cup as in 1965, after Di Stefano's Real the precedent year, Inter of Suarez beats Eusebio's Benfica just after having reconquered the scudetto left to Bologna in 1964, at the goal-difference. This time, Inter has also by far the best attack of the calcio with 68 goals scored. Suarez has reincreased his personal tally with 8 goals against only 3 in 1963-1964 (including one in Turin against Juve for a precious and most of all on that season, a prestigious win). Inter, Herrera and Suarez also kept their ''World champion title of clubs'' by beating CA Independiente again (3-0, 0-0).
The Spanish maestro would win his last Serie A title the next year, year of World Cup in England to which he participates. But like in 1962 in Chile, Spain and Suarez would not go through the first round while in the European Cup, Inter had been beaten by the ''Real Yé-Ye'' at the semi-finals stage (and Real would regain the trophy by beating FK Partizan in the final).
Afterwards, Suarez did not win anything at all and was not selected anymore as well until a final cap in 1972, at 37 years old. He was finishing his career with Sampdoria which had hired him in 1970 against quite a high transfer fee again though naturally a considerably lesser one than in '61.
This skillful Iberian player and tactical chief, true Italian by adoption, achieved his monumental career in 1973. He then became a coach in all his former clubs and some others in Italy (but for only one season with each of them). He most notably took in charge the Spain national team from 1988 to 1991 (World Cup '90) after having been an assistant in 1980-1982. His third career would have been, until recently, the one of an advisor in Milan (for Inter of course) where he has always lived and still lives in.
Sarosi – best defender, best midfielder and best striker of his time, maybe it's him the best Hungarian player ever? Still 2nd to Puskas in FYT's ranking, what seems quite fair (and in the same bracket as a Kubala).
Assuringly one of the most complete player ever, Sarosi Gyorgi combined top technique for his time with great finsishing abilities in attack and a high sense of combativeness like in defense or at midfield. He was also very good with the head - and with what generally resides in it. Thus, Sarosi was not only a centre forward who was feared by all his opponents (like the Italians prior to the 1938 final) as he was able to score at least one goal at every match but he could be also the most formidable centre half, true control tower of his team. He alternated between the two positions displaying the same excellence ; with the consistency of a true lord of football.
Meazza – A centre forward who started to accumulate the goals since the tender age of 17 (1927), it is as an inside right that Meazza of Inter (at the time renamed Ambrosiana) became a double world champion (1934-1938). First with Schiavio of Bologna then with Piola of Lazio wearing the number 9 shirt. Able to dribble, to pass and of course to shoot at the goals, also endowed with a good aerial game in spite of a modest size, Meazza looks like the first trequartista of Italian football. As its first star too. At a time at which marketing, incredibly, already existed, it was not rare that this genuine playboy leant his image for various brands (such as for toothpaste tubes). Two anecdots, a first one : Meazza was the only player of the Nazionale allowed to smoke. The second one : In 1937, the day of the game against Juventus in Milan with only an hour before the game, Meazza had still not shown up. The directors became nervous and sent a masseuse and another trainer in a car to find him. They found him in bed, sleeping profoundly and snoring. Without even washing his face, they dragged him up and rushed him to the stadium. While lying down in the back seat Meazza told them of love filled night and said he felt like a lion. The lion Meazza entered the dressing room and without any squabbling, they quickly gave him his number 9 jersey. He scored two goals that game and was the best on the field. Inter won the game 2-1 and beat Juventus for the scudetto by two points. A last one maybe, he was an admirer of AC Milan in his very young days but was rejected by the club for being too skinny. He'd play for the rossoneri during wartime for two seasons before having stints at Juventus, Varese, Atalanta just after the war then Inter again where he had made the essential of his career (1927-1942) and where he makes his last season as player-coach in 1946-1947 (2 last goals scored for the all-time Serie A top scorer of the time, Inter 10th).
The San Siro stadium was renamed Giuseppe Meazza stadium in 1980 after the death of this one during the precedent year at the age of 69.
Charlton – A member of the ''Busby Babes'', Bobby Charlton made his the Manchester United first team's debuts in the First Division in October 1956 against... Charlton Athletic, just before to turn 18. With a ''brace'', he contributes to the United's 4-2 win in Old Trafford. He scores two more until November then has a hat-trick in February, in Charlton that time. He'd start to impose a bit more hhimself in the Manchester United attack line by the end of the 1956-1957 season. Sometimes used as a centre or inside forward, finally the most often used on the left wing, this young talent of 19 years old was thus of the team that won the third First Division title of United, Busby era, after 1952 and 1956. A starter in the FA Cup Final against Aston Villa, he can't help his side to complete the double though (1-2 loss). On that same season, Bobby Charlton plays his first European game in the second leg match of the European Cup semi-finals against the eventual champion, Real Madrid obviously, against whom he manages to score 1 goal (2-2). Manchester United is the team on the rise in European football.
But on 6 February 1958, on a fly back to England after they had qualified again for an European semi-final in Belgrade (3-3 against Red Star with two goals by Charlton), the team and accompagnators are the victim of a crash in Munich-Riem Airport that would remain in the memories as the Munich air disaster. On the 44 people present on the aircraft, 20 found death, instantly or of wounds sustained. Counted among the dead ones, 8 players. The midfielder Duncan Edwards, 3rd of the Ballon d'or 1957, the Irish inside forward Liam ''Billy'' Whelan, the defender and captain Roger Byrne or the striker Tommy Taylor are the most notorious of them. Bobby Charlton and headcoach and manager Matt Busby, unlike his entire staff, are of the survivors like Foulkes, Gregg or Viollet, still among the 9 players who were spared by fate.
The England team that must play the world Cup would be considerably affected and stricken by the tragic event. Charlton, 20 years old, would be well of the group of 22 in Sweden but would not be used by the coach Winterbottom who declares that he considers that the young forward is still under the shock of what he has just lived some months before. It is also true that Charlton had not fully imposed hismelf in club in the first part of the season still showing some inconstancy but was more noticed since December (when he scored his first league goals of the season) or January. Before that the tragedy happened. On the other hand, though Manchester would comprehensively finish at a 8th place in the League with negative results accumulating from the month of March, the team of Busby and his young protégé had also however shown much caracter in the Cup of wich they played the final again (lost to Bolton) after having beaten West Bromwich then Fulham in the semi-finals each time after a replay and most of all first after having beaten Sheffield Wednesday for the first United game after Munich, by 3-0 on 19 February, a match during which the Mancunian club had shown themselves still strong, as in a start.
England is eliminated since the first round of the World Cup (after a play-off match against Soviet Union) like in 1950 and after a quarter-final in 1954. As for the Manchester United team, they would corroborate that reaction displayed against Wednesday by finishing vice-champion in the league in the 1958-1959 season, while the Wolves win the title for the second time in a row. A second place acquired much thanks to the young Charlton who, that being, must shoulders much responsabilities, both in club and from then on in the national team.
After that extraordinary result given the circumstances, United then would be however a mid-table team for several seasons. At the same moment, in those early 60s, Charlton still shows himself on the international stage as he piles up the goals for England. His smashing left foot (he even has actually both feet) is now renowed in the whole Europe where he is considered as a big hope of international football.
Unfortunately he would not really make the guns talk at the 1962 World Cup except in one occasion, in the first round against Argentina. Without weighing much, he would have to bow to the reigning champion Brazil since the quarter-finals. 3-1, thus ended the Bobby Charlton and England's Chilean adventure. A certain Garrincha had crossed their way.
In the shadow of Haynes in 1961 then of Greaves since 1962, Charlton reappears as the England number one player only in the 1964-1965 season. As he reconquers the First Division title with Manchester United. The ones that we now call the ''Red Devils'' (a Matt Busby's creation in the beginning of the decade) re-found the ressources to compete during a whole season (and not only by fits and starts like in '63 when they won the Cup but finished 19th in the league, on 22 teams and 2 relegated clubs at the time). Also, following an evolution that started, since now some years, Charlton is decidedly not anymore the young outside left that shown first of all qualities of explosiveness and a good assortment of feints, is not anymore that player that shone, how brilliant they were, only in some scattered moment of brilliance, but presents himself, as a now very composed player of the centre of the field, organiser and still, scorer of goals (with double figures again after a quite quiet period on that aspect since about three years, what he'd continue to do afterwards yet by scoring in more big matches). He had become, like his idol Di Stefano, that he met in 1957, the true mastermind of his team. He's a winner again and it would not stop yet. A new start, at one year from a World Cup held in England.
Wembley, July 11th, 1966. The Three Lions team starts its World Cup in an open game against Uruguay. There will be no revenge against whom who had eliminated them in 1954 : 0-0 against the double champion (1930 and 1950). The enthusiasm around the team can take a hit. There are two matches remaining to qualify though and it should be ok. In the must-win match against Mexico, with the number 9 in his back, Charlton shows the way by scoring the first English goal in the tournament. He drives the ball from the centre circle, moves on and on, and on, and scores a characteristic goal from more than 20 yards. With the right foot. Hunt adds another in the second half, 2-0. England keeps its first place in the group 1 by beating France in the third game. 2-nil again with 2 new goals by Hunt of Liverpool.
It's Argentina in the quarter-finals for a match that would remain in the World Cup History but not for good reasons. Let's skip this. Here's the result : 1-0 for England that meets Eusébio's Portugal in the semi-finals. A skilled team as a whole, certainly the skilliest on that tournament. Now that's a big game.
As a consequence, England raises its game and if the Portuguese have the leading goal scorer on their side, that match would be the Bobby Charlton's property. 30th minute : from the 16-18 yards, on a ball lost by a cornered Portuguese defense, with the right foot, Charlton doesn't miss the opportunity to push the ball which unshakably ends its course in the back of the nets. 1-0 at half-time. England has controlled the midfield, the defense did not allowed to the Portuguese strikers to find good spots near its goals and it's a frustrated Eusébio who goes back to the lockeroom. As for Charlton, he has only made half of his work. 80th minute : on a back-pass by Hurst, from the 18 yards line, on the right of the box, Charlton, without control and with the right foot again, smashes the ball which follows a diagonal course that ends in the right side-netting of a hopeless Pereira. A mgnificient goal from its conception with a preparaton on the right side by the full-back Cohen who found Hurst until that the latter turned its defender and crossed the ball for that brilliant finishing. Not only his teammates but also several Portuguese go in front of Charlton to shake his hand, including of course Eusébio. Eusebio would score from the penalty spot 3 minutes later but in spite of a manifest fatigue, England would keep its advantage. Charlton 2, Eusebio 1. 2 goals that go with a performance at midfield caracterized by a great activity in both offense and defense. Charlton simply delivered here the most beautiful match that could be expected from the central-piece of the team. With this game, he had already brilliantly entered the World Cup legend as he qualified England to its first World Cup final ever. It only remained to win it to be sure to feature in it in the best place. England would face West Germany.
On 30 July, Charlton would be less prominent as he was asked to mark the young but stratege like him, Beckenbauer who, himself was asked by his coach, Schön, to mark the opponent's best player. As was his practice, Charlton spare no effort which results in that both him and Beckenbauer neutralize each other. Though deprived of the two outstanding talents, it is however a final with 6 goals and that one by Hurst at the 101st minute for the 3-2 which has obviously crossed the line. Or maybe not. Anyway, England would add one in the last minute as the Germans were after an equalizer and the essential is here : the inventors of football are World champions. For Bobby Charlton, the emotion is as great as deep. He shares it with his brother Jacky, the centre back of the team, as they embrace each other kneeling on the Wembley's pitch, sacred land.
It is not the hero of the semi-finals and humble yet wonderful servant of the cause in the final but another Bobby, the charming centre half Bobby Moore of West Ham, as the captain, who would be the first to lift the Jules Rimet trophy before to be given a triumphant however and quite regretfully.
The heart and the soul full of the deepest feelings, Charlton follows the cup rising to heaven with watery eyes. It is then the lap of honour. Charlton looks like detached from the group but at the same time accompanied.
He finally lifts the cup in front of a portion of the crowd. The tears have not dried yet whilst his face gives a hint of a smile.
In the following season, Charlton, Ballon d'or 1966, wins its third league title with United. Still surrounded by the unexpected Ballon d'or 1964 but undoubtly talentuous Scottish striker Denis Law and by the 20-21 years old Northern Irish dribbling marauder George Best who was playing his first full season in 1964-1965 and now demonstrates more and more how a genius he is. Number 10 and leader of this wonderful trio definitely made magical triangle thanks to the fantasy of the two strikers, the 30 years old Charlton still occupies the front of the international football stage as he collects a new title in brilliant fashion. Of the 84 goals scored by these true Devils of Manchester United United, 23 were scored by Law, 16 by Herd, 10 by Best and 12 by the World champion from midfield.
The triumvirat soon sets out to conquer Europe. The final will be played in Wembley. A meeting that Law will miss but not Charlton and Best. Opposed to Eusebio again as Manchester United faces Benfica in the Final, it is Charlton who opens the score. With a header, a rarity from him. Charlton, without exagerating much, must have scored only a couple of headers : this one and that other one that he scored in a 1-0 win over Scotland, in 1959, in Wembley, at the occasion of his 7th cap. On a cross by Douglas. This time, it was Sadler who crossed the ball. It was the 53rd minute and a quarter of an hour later, Graça would score an equalizer that pushes the match to extra-time.
The players stay on the field for a brief pause then United doesn't need much time to take the lead after the whistle thanks to Best, who on a long ball played by his keeper Stepney, toys the whole Benfica's defense with a control of the ball of which he has the secret, followed by a body feint movement and a hook in front of the keeper before to push the ball into the nets. Kidd adds one imediately after (94th minute) and Charlton scores a last one at the 99th minute.
10 years after the Munich air crash, Manchester United is an European champion lead by Busby, Charlton and Foulkes. Unlike 1966, as the captain this time, Charlton can proudly lifts the European Cup trophy. The first won by an English club.
At 31 years old, Charlton has won everything in both international and club football. Individually too, as he won the Ballon d'or in 1966. By the end of this year 1968, even though he could legitimately pretend to a second France Football trophy to feature to his palmares, he would come however second in the voting process behind his teammate Best, at the peak of his art, assuringly a beautiful winner and deserved but who did not win by a large margin (61 points and 7 times voted first for Best, 53 points and 5 times first for Charlton).
After the Champions Cup win, Charlton had also helped England to obtain a 3rd place at the European Nations Cup, notably by scoring one goal against the Soviet Union team. And here is maybe the only trophy that lacks to him though this competition was still in development. That 3rd place had in any case the virtue to ensure a certain continuity in the national team and with some new players progressively integrated to the squad, England could feature as one of the favorites for the next World Cup.
The team that is sent to Mexico is judged even better than the 1966 one. Quite good news before to confront a vengeful Brazil, far from Europe, as soon as in the group stage. But with still Banks in the goals, Charlton, Moore, Ball, a Mullery who proved himself at the last Euro and ''newcomers'' like the left back Cooper, it might be true. A bit everywhere, everyone agrees that the match that will certainly be the final for the group also would be possibly worth of being an actual final.
It is indeed a great match. Very balanced, tactical but with opportunities from both sides. Also, Banks makes here ''the save of the century'' (on a Pelé's header). Moore makes the tackle of the century on Jairzinho and Jairzinho scores a goal at the end of an action for ages initiated by Tostao and relayed by Pelé. The only goal of the game. Just after this one, around the hour of play, Bobby Charlton and Francis Lee were replaced by Colin Bell and Jeff Astle who him would remain in History as the one who missed clear chances to equalize.
England however qualifies to the quarter-finals. Here they meet no less vengeful Germans who, after another fantastic match, would prevail in extra-time by 3 goals to 2. It was 2-0 then 2-1 for England when a trend observed during the first round was confirmed around the hour of play. A bit later this time, at the 70th minute, Alf Ramsey decided to subbed out Bobby Charlton. A mistake in this precise case, maybe (though Beckenbauer was the first German scorer). Without Banks, ''The Bank of England'' who did not play because he was ill (Bonetti replaced him in goals) and without the experienced midfielder with more than 100 caps for England but only the defender Moore as boss on the field, England was more subjected to be overwhelmed by the German assaults. Charlton could only assess the damages done as he was leaving international football through the back door. It was his 106th and last appearance for England. The footballers' careers, how much exemplary they can be, rarely ends well. On that aspect, Bobby Charlton's career would not make an exception. Even though it did not fully mean the end of his professional career. But he woud never play again the first roles with his club after this, finishing far from the top-five in the following three seasons.
The Red Devils and Three Lions legend would play his last First Divison game on 28 April 1973 in Stamford Bridge, where he had the habit to train alone after the Wembley matches with England. The score : 2-0 for the Blues, but the matter was about to celebrate an immense champion and man who would become the best possible ambassador of his club as well as one of the greatest ambassador of the beautiful game through the entire world where he is known absolutely everywhere. He also still works towards the clearance of the anti-personnel mines through his fundation amongst other numerous causes that he serves such as education projects and programs.
As a player, ''Sir Bobby'' was already much respected as he was highly talented but never showing off, was a leader more by his exemplary behaviour on and off the pitch rather than by speaking much, as well as of course for he overcame the terrible tragedy of February 1958 then won everything for both club and country. He also held all the records of goals scored. Until that Rooney broke it.
Sindelar – Leader of attack of the Wunderteam that enchanted Europe (1931-1932), the one who guaranteed fluidity and efficiency to the marvelous Austrian eleven was probably the most famous footballer of the inter-war period. Yet much more than for example Meazza, with who he had in common to be known to live a ''disorderly life''.
Known as ''Der Paperiene'' (''The Paper-man'') for his slight-built, for his art of dodging that he accordingly developped and this ability to go through the defenses like elusive but also, to go back on his physical caracteristics, for he was particularly fragile (so that permanent bandage at the right knee), Sindelar earned, in addition to that, the nickname of ''Mozart of football'' (for a set of reasons that it is not necessary to explain).
Like the composer (born in Salzburg, while Sindelar is born in the current Czech Republic in Kozlov), the Wunderteam star would die young (at 35 years for Mozart, 36 for Sindelar). His death (in 1939) would be subject to all the imaginable interpretations, making him enter directly into the legend. The mystery around his death remains unsolved and will remain so.
For more details, there are several good articles to be found on the matter here and there on the net (FYT also recommend the DVD box set called ''The Beautiful Game'' which includes the interview of an Austrian historian who provides different possible and interesting angles of view as well as some non-negligible details which are not often told. That can be found for a paltry amount).
Now, not that it will be otherwise until the end of the list, but especially here, we completely stay in the beautiful game (since we've talked 'bout it) with... George Best.
Best – A legend that goes beyond football. The Belfast boy revolutionized British football and world football by the mid 60s to the early 70s by his very showy way of playing, his dribbles, his goals, his way of life. Soon half-footballer pro, half-rockstar it is another phenomenon who would finally become the European or even world number one footballing talent in Johan Cruyff, another young super-talent sometimes seen as a rock-star him too : same long-hair, more globally the affirmation of a personality and the idea of freedom that animate the youngness of these years. Maybe more buisnessman than truly a rocker regarding Cruyff as for what has to do with the ''other part of himself''. More manager.
It is anyway George Best, who was the first to write his legend : by winning the European Cup with Manchester United at Wembley stadium, in 1968, so ten years after the Munich air disaster. George Best's notoriety as an outstanding football talent, reinforced by his symbolic dimension as the young gifted who breathe new life to the Manchester United team and for he broadly became a social phenomonan and an undeniable icon was set. He was occupying place on the roof of the world at the speed of light like a sudden and inspired electric guitar lick, or descending from the sky like a thunderous drums fill, rewriting the rule book or just throwing it off. There could not be a better Ballon d'or recipient than him in that year 1968. 1969 would have suited the player's name and reputation too.
Still perfomant as a footballer in the very beginning of the 70s, after some ups and downs that soon started to appear more and more frequently after the European win, his career then declined considerably.
Assuringly the most skilled British footballer ever, he still has enchanted the football fans during a bit more than half a decade. Precocious, his outstanding talent and spirit of freedom allowed him to make fantastic runs and other individual actions on the pitches which were very new at the time, most of all in such a flashy maneer (with hallucinating close control and... change of course). The counterpart of it was that sometimes, knowing perfectly what he was able to do, very confident on his individual skills, and never doubting about the fact that he could beat any defender and preferably two, three or more in a row, he sometimes forgot about an unmarked partner for what could have been a sitter. But when it worked...
Georgie Best. The player, the man of an epoch. Those were the years.
Baggio – ''Il Divino Codino''. The player that the tiffosi of the whole Italy were waiting for since Meazza. A ''fantasista'' scorer of goals. A striker but who navigates between the lines to suit his whims and fancies. The gem who infuse a little more soul to the very codified ''calcio'' whereas he makes dream the crowd by recalling that football is before all a game, but also forces the admiration of the most harden amateurs by recalling that it is also an art, an aesthetical act of creation.
He could have never played in the elite football but hopefully the gods will be a bit with him at the start though. Handicaped by repeated injuries that happened very early in his footballer's life (with Vicenza in Serie C1 and with whom he played between the age of 16 and 18 years old), he was however signed just after a new and particularly severe wound by Fiorentina. Thus, Baggio will start his career in serie A at only 20 years old, what remains however a rarity for a striker in Italy. After some remarkable and remarked debuts of the with ''La Viola'' and a goal of anthology against Czechosovakia at the 1990 World Cup held on home soil (he's not on the team at the kick-off of the match against Argentina in Napoli, come-in a bit late and Italy will miss the Final) the ''fuoriclasse'' is signed by Juventus whe he is still only 23 years old. A promess for the future for the Bianconeri who want to reconnect as soon as possible with their glorious past. It's time. Baggio will offer an UEFA Cup to the club in 1993 and the serie A title would only arrive in 1995, season during which Baggio get seriously injured again and during which a new ''fuoriclasse'' steal the limelight from him : a certain Alessandro Del Piero, who will take over his elder's fetish number 10, both at Juve and soon in the national team.
Baggio is then hired by Berlusconi's Milan but in spite of a domestic league title since his first season, Juventus is well the team which is on the rise (European Cup Final). Sportively, the balance of power is soon inverted between the Rossonero and the Bianconero clubs and it would be the last victorious season for Baggio who, moreover, although he is benefiting of all the affection from the supporters and from his teammates is rarely used as a starter by his three different coaches over two years and is more likely to come in from the bench. Thus, Robby, as he is affectuously nicknamed, will change of colours one more time. Direction Bologna and an interesting 1997-1998 season with 22 league goals scored (11 pen.). He's back in Milan after one season in the north-east of Italy but to play for Inter, this time. After the one with ''Mister George'' George Weah that sometimes produced a fantastic show (and with Boban behind them two) he will form a new quite sensational pairing with Ronaldo fenomeno this time. But same scenario : he's not considered as a starter in the team and after a last blaze for glory at Bernabeu in the Champions League, our trequartista will finish his career at Brescia, this time associated with Dario Hübner and a young and very promising midfielder named Andrea Pirlo.
Along a particularly up and down career, we'll remember about his 1994 World Cup as a sort of peak when, after a moribound first round from himself and his team but a qualification in spite of everything, he finally takes up the reins of the Nazionale from the game against Nigeria in the round of 16 (he scored the equalizer at the 88th minute and the winner from the penalty-spot during the extra-time) until a qualification to the final by beating Bulgaria (2 personal goals as well) and after a win over the latin cousin Spain (scored the winner with a formidable solo goal that resulted of a great abnegation). So we try to close it on a positive note. Zen. But in the Final, after three outstanding performances that he certainly accomplished by playing beyond of his real physical capacities, the azzuro golden player could not cause the decision within the full-time of the match. Neither did Romario for the Auriverde side and it was the cruel penalty shootouts (a first at this level). Baresi (just back from injury to play the final) misses the first in the serie, imitating Marcio Santos of Brazil, Massaro misses another one and the Baggio's fail is synonymous of a fourth title for Brazil (against three for Italy) and of a pale silver medal for Italy.
Avowedly, he is still haunted by the outcome of that final. And we'll take his word for it.
One of this princes of football who, with regards to his natural talent, may have been a king, but who never became it. We will, however, forever remember about him as a true outstanding talent and as a prince of football in the most noble sense of the term. Of a brilliant conductor, dribbler and finisher, excellent free-kick taker and specialist of the one against one with the goalkeepers - generally.
Sivori – Noticed as a member of the ''Angels with Dirty Faces'' who won the Copa América 1957 (starring Angelillo, Maschio... Sivori), ''El Cabezon'' (as he was nicknamed for he was stubborn as well as a big head, a champion in sum) was directly after that signed by ''La Vecchia Signora'' (all these nicknames...). Against a fine transfert fee for the ''Millonarios'' of River Plate.
In the Piedmont, the native of Buenos Aires would soon form an astonishing duo of strikers with the Welsh John Charles. Did someone see play Muggsy Bogues and Manute Bol together ? Visually, it's about the same. The short and vivacious Sivori turns around the pivot and battering ram Charles. Impetuous dribbler who braves the fiercest defenses of the calcio, Sivori can pass or score himself at the end of his slaloms.
The surprising partnership but very efficient, as complementary, permits to Juventus to be champion in 1958, '60 and '61. 1961, year of Ballon d'or for Sivori (who beats the Spaniard Suarez, by a short head). But things are more difficult in Europe for Juve and Sivori as they're eliminated by CDNA Sofia since the first round in 1960-1961 (Sivori only played the first home leg and Juve was severely defeated in Bulgaria) then by Di Stéfano's Real Madrid in 1962 in the quarter-finals in spite of two goals by the Argentine (and now Italian international player as oriundo). In three games, as a tie-break match was needed. But Real prevailed, finally without worrying much. This constituted the second chance to Sivori to assert himself against the greatests and a second fail after that he was beaten by the Santos of Pelé in the Torneio Italia of the summer '61. He would not be more fortunate in the summer '62 at the World Cup in Chile where he plays two matches without scoring, also without losing but Italy had been beaten, without Sivori, by the hosting nation Chile in their initial match (''The Battle of Santiago'' it was) thus were eliminated early in the competition.
Sivori stopped here his international career and the future would not be brighter for him on the European stage as well as in the Serie A with Juventus as Charles returned to Leeds, before coming back but at Roma when the playmaker and soul of the team Boniperti who supported the duo, him had retired in '61).
Weary of his failures (even though he had his revenge on Pelé and Santos in 1963) and of his duels with the Italian defenders as well as with the referees and the calcio authorities that suspend him sometimes for long periods as especially in 1964, Sivori is transferred to SSC Napoli in 1965, for the statisfaction of everyone including of course the fans of his new club.
Thus he was, 20 years before Maradona, the first great actor of the San Paolo Grand Theatre. Here, if the wings that allowed him to fly above the defenses in the beginning of the decade did not grow back, he still helped the club (just back from Serie B) to reach the third place in the league in the company of the Brazilian and oriundo like him, Altafini. Naples then finishes 4th in '67. Afterwards, if Naples continues the good performances (vice-champion '68), it would not be thanks to Sivori who get a crippling injury in the summer '67 during a Colombian tour that deprived him of playing during almost the entire season. Failing to truly recover from his injury, he only plays his third Serie A match on December the 1st 1968, a Napoli-Juventus. It would be his last appearance on the fields as he is suspended after this match during which he once again answered to the provocations with violence (his victim tbeing this time a forward like him). On this, he decides to stop his career and to go back to Argentina what he'd quite promptly do. After that he had announced his decision on TV on December the 21st (his interview in Naples is broadcasted during the show Canzonissima, on the Rai).
Like later for his fellow countryman and heir Maradona, even if it's not exactly for the same reasons, the San Paolo first had to be the theatre where would be played the Sivori's fall.
The ''Flying Dutchman who did not fly'' (phobia of taking a plane), started his career at Ajax where Cruyff launched him in December '86 when he was still not 18 (against Roda JC).
Used as a winger or striker, he immediately shows outstanding abilities (what a goal against Marseille in the 1988 Cup Winners Cup Semi-finals) and definitely imposes himself in attack in 1990, '91.
Winner of the UEFA Cup in 1992 against Torino (with a personal great campaign, but a less good prformance in the finals) and triple Eredivisie top scorer (1991-93), and author of three nice goals at the Euro '92 of which he was semi-finlist, Bergkamp makes a move to Inter Milan (did he take the train or a car or something else to join Italy ? Good question.).
His career in Nerazzuro (as striker or attacking midfielder) would be difficult with however a second place in the Serie A (behind the great rival AC Milan) and some nice goals in his first season, a few assists (maybe that something interesting started here) in the second but most of all many painful moments. If he wins a second personal UEFA Cup in 1994 (once again being excellent into that competition, except for the final), the Bergkamp's ''Italian nightmare'' would have to end in 1995, after a 13th place in the league. New president Moratti will then build a whole new team and Arsenal and its coach Rioch are the happy recipient of the Dutch talent who only asked to leave in order to express himself better. If English football is physical and even often tough, the average quality of the defences should allow him to find again the way to the nets more often.
After a first season with 11 goals but also 8 assists and a 5th place, Bergkamp sees himself joined by the Fench of Alsace coach Arsène Wenger who rallies London from Nagoya. With the former coach of AS Monaco who had at this time a certain Glenn Hoddle in his team, Arsenal and Bergkamp quickly make considerable improvements to finsih 3rd in '97 then champion in '98, 7 years after the last title and in a complete different style than the George Graham's ''boring Arsenal''. At an individual level, Bergkamp has definitely conquered English football, combining 16 goals and 11 assists (after 12 plus 9 the precedent season) and displaying quantities of fantastic actions. On the rise since his arrival in England, the former Ajax and Inter player is in seventh heaven.
Wenger, sensible to the genius of Bergkamp was convinced that the Dutch man would be a smash bit in the Premier League and with him as the main animator of his attack, he knew how to silence the numerous septics and detractors who were seeing the signing of a J-League coach quite like a bad idea from Arsenal 2 years earlier. Arsenal is not only a champion again but a beautiful champion. Bergkamp is not only a regained talent but the pilot of his team (that wins).
Then, Wenger would not cease to insist on the profits that can bring the passing abilities of his Dutch genius by postionning him even a bit more deeper on the pitch when after Anelka the centre forward of the team would be Henry (and as Bergkamp is taking some age, in 2000). The duo works perfectly, like in a dream. With Bergkamp as conductor and Henry at finishing, Arsenal would continue to be minimum second in the League until 2005 with Bergkamp being still an important element of the team in 2003-2004, the season of the invincibles, in spite of being late in life (in his footballer's life at least). In the Champions League, it was a bit more complicated.
Bergkamp stops his career at the end of the 2005-2006 season and a Champions League final finally reached but lost to Barcelona and in which he did not participate.
With the Holland team, Bergkamp had first shown himself at the occasion of the Euro '92 in Sweden. Alongside a pivotal and very obliging centre forward named van Basten the then young striker of Ajax could make the demonstration of his explosiveness and running speed as well as of his speed of execution with 3 brilliant goals on top of everything. But as seen previously, he would only finish semi-finalist.
2 years after, at the World Cup, Bergkamp is the main star of the Oranje in attack and of the whole team in the absence of Gullit. The 1988 champions Rijkaard and Koeman are still there but are not performing at their best anymore since some times. Thus, much lean on Bergkamp who by the way is most of the time isolated at the front of the attack. And he has just had a tiring season himself with Inter. In the US stadiums, Bergkamp alternates the good and the less good. He's one of the main stars of thournament in the end but not amongst the very best as Holland can't go through the quarter-finals with a defeat to Brazil : one of the best games of the tournament, certainly the most entertaining and assuringly the best prestation of Bergkamp.
At the Euro England, so in the country where he's now playing in club, Bergkamp is this time very disappointing. Holland has a team of transition.
In 1998, the Dutch team presents itself in position of strenght with a generation of players arrived to maturity in every line. In this context, Bergkamp would be better. After an average first round (0-0 with Belgium, that can happen, the Belgians had even beaten Holland 4 years earlier and even earlier on the road to the 1986 World Cup, 5-0 against South-Korea and finally 2-2 with Mexico as already qualified), Bergkamp helps his team to beat Yugoslavia in the round of 16 by scoring the opener in a game globally mastered (2-1 at the final whistle, Yugoslavia could have equalize in the last minutes though) then more famously eliminates Argentina. In the last minute of a game that has entered the World Cup's History, Bergkamp signs a true masterpiece to give the victory to his country. It's a long-ball that traverses the whole pitch in diagonal from Frank de Boer to Bergkamp positionned on the right hand of the penalty area. Bergkamp controls it in the air as he advances in direction of the goals following an opposite diagonal before to wrongfoot the central defender Ayala and to finally beats the powerless keeper Roa on his right with the outside of the foot. Three touches for eternity.
In the semi-finals, it's a new clash with Brazil for once again, like in 1994, one of the summits of the tournament in terms of quality with stars all over the pitch (Ronaldo of course and Kluivert, Davids, Rivaldo, Roberto Carlos... Bergkamp). One more time Holland is eliminated by Brazil and once again, after the last Euro, failed to reach a final after a penalty-shootout (1-1, 2-4). Holland will have to content themselves with a 3rd place. In the eye of many specialists, a semi-final against France could have been fatal to the local team and open the way to the final to Holland. Maybe.
His last international rendez-vous would be in 2000 at 31 years, in Holland. He'd be here of the pack of the great number 10s, all at their peak during this tournament, among the Zidane, Totti or Rui Costa. He asserts himself here as a true maestro. But he doesn't score anymore. Holland is eliminated in the semi-finals by Italy : 0-0, 1-3 in a penalty shootout in which he did not particpate as he was subbed out a bit before the 90th minute.
At the image of a Laudrup, a player that is particularly difficult to rate. A genius who, from a deep position, mastered the art of the pass like a few others. After having been, still like the Dane, or a Luisito Suarez at his time (Luis Suarez-Miramontes), a very dynamic forward.
A Genius. With his torments. The second part doesn't concern the forementioned Spanish player though. Like what all these greats have also different personalities of course and this, even though it must counts in the final result of a ranking exercise, in itself, it assuringly can't be judged.
Bergkamp winds up at the 38th place. And why not ? He had in any case, with a big ''sure'', to feature in the top 50. The magnificient footballer even makes the top 40. It was a minimum, based on his talent.
Two Bergkamp's goals recommended : Argentina '98 (but where was Ayala at the beginning of the action?) and Newcastle 2002. And there would be others.
Müller – Nicknamed ''Der Bomber'', Gerhard Müller (''Gerd'') was a curious little fat man who banged goals on goals during a bit more than 10 years, from the mid-60s to the mid-70s, on behalf of Bayern and the West German team. With a low center of gravity, he was before Romario the king of the penalty-area, able to score in all the positions (as in the 1974 World Cup final, in a pivotal move) and with all the surfaces of the body. If not a dribbler of the class of the Brazilian, it would be however unfair to limit his portrait to a number 9 who accumulated the ''tapped-goals'' : first, he was able to score from mid to long range with equal success and he was also a wonderful player of ''one-two's'' (as in the 1972 Euro final, with Netzer) and able to protect the ball at 30-40 meters of the opponent's goals in order to permit the start of a counter-attack.
But as noted above, his task was mainly to finish the actions of his teams, what he did repentlessly, international finals included. In that sense, Bayern and the German team owe to him as much as they owe to Beckenbauer. The little Bavarian was also in the right teams at the right moment to fully exprimate his big talent, what permitted him to enter the legend and the History of the game and in the sports' history in general. His name is simply synonymous of scoring goals.
Iniesta – It was not without sadness that the little Andrés left his family and his village Fuentealbilia (Castilla-La Mancha) in order to integrate La Masia as a young boy. He'd do more than his duty of footballer for both club and country.
A painstaking midfielder able to perforate the lines with his fantastic science of passing but also thanks to a marvelous sense of dribbling, Iniesta was before all a servant of the collective who did not score much but get the others to score. However, he has proven in some quite memorable matches that he was also such a clutch player.
After that he won everything with his teams (but at an individual level only accumulated ''silver and bronze medals'' that will never be worth a Ballon d'or that the Spanish midifleder would have deserved) an observation that was commonly made was that he was downgrading a bit when not a 30 years old yet. But if Iniesta was less impressive after 2012 or 2013, he still was one of the leaders of a Barça that won his fourth Champions League in that XXIth century in 2015 (his personal fourth as well) and was also, at the Euro 2016, the unique leader of a Spanish team knowing a period of transition, which thanks to him, has been quite well belayed.
Today nearer of the end of his career than ever, he remains, at a technical level, an irreproachable player. Until 2012, he formed with Xavi an utterly complementary duo at midfield. Of the two, Iniesta was the most ''vertical player'' (and once again the one who was able to eliminate in dribbles in addition to the exquisite passing abilities that both him and his partner shared).
Iniesta will remain as the player loved as well as by the children as by their fathers and mothers. And by the specialists. Because he embodied football as everybody wants to see it played.
Socrates – If Zico captivated all the imaginations and continues to do thanks to his stats on his wiki page and highlights on Tube, it is well Socrates (today a bit ''forgotten'') who captained Telê Santana's Brazil. The iconic player of the Corinthians of Sao Paulo was, like the ''Prince of the Maracana'' Zico (Flamengo), a playmaker and an attacker. And a playmaker of first order. Watching or re-watching that Brazilian side of the 80's is assuringly a great enjoyment and in terms of leading the team, it will show that Socrates was maybe more brilliant than our #15 in this ranking, even though they constituted a tandem, not easily dissociable, the reason why the gap between them in this list is pretty unfair or simply shows the difficulty (the absurdity?) of making a hierarchy between individuals when it comes to a collective sport if not... in human life as a whole.
Socrates who was able to score goals, was a skilful but a very collective player, and the brain and figure of the Corinthians democracy movement certainly would have not disagreed with such a thought. Indeed, he always refused to rank players when asked about it, quickly dismissing the matter, but not without arguing against, not kicking the question into touch, but answering it like he would have played a one-two with a smooth but quick and precise back-heel with a teammate (for example Zico), but here with his interlocutor.
At the heart of the seducing Brazilian game of the 1982 World Cup he was still the lead partner of the team in 1986 in spite of a considerably lesser form. Brilliant since the years '79, '80, his move to Italy in 1984 (at the age of 30 years) marked a halt in his career at a sportive level. He was leaving a technical football full of fancies but in a country with dicatorship to a democracy but with athletical, tactical football as a first commandment. And with no less corruption than in his country.
Physically inapt to adapt to the calcio, cruelly missing his homeland, he never imposed himself in Italy, went unnoticed as far as the pitch was concerned. Here he had lost his football and even, at the same time, of his famous charisma.
The 1986 tournament was the last occasion to watch him play for Brazil, and to captain the national team. The second Mexican World Cup seemed to give him back his colours and to restore all of his aura. Without being as brilliant as in the 1982 edition (to which he had prepared himself physically), in a tournament which was by the way globally less brilliant than the one played in Spain, Socrates and Brazil would only reach the quarter-finals, no more. And his footballing career, even though he always claimed that he was not making a career in football, and that can be surely defended so, more exactly maybe, his spell in the game, definitively ended here with a missed penalty-shot. He had taken it with only one step before shooting, with a pendulum swing like he usually did (no superfluous efforts in his game in general but always class gestures and pinpoint). Zico, coming from the bench as he usually did during this World Cup had missed one within the 90 minutes. Inseparable tandem including into failure.
A blank palmarès. But a blank palmarès which doesn't sound void though. Maybe more Merlin the magician rather than any Greek philosopher, he has enchanted world football in his time and continues to make dream the real enthusiasts for the game.
Kaka – An excellent passer with an exquisite control of the ball and a forward starting his actions from far at dazzling speed, Kaka was unarguably a standout talent of the years 2004-2009. The offensive midfielder or second striker, the ''number 10'', who started his career at Sao Paulo FC, was a key-element in the 2006-2007 Champions League's Milan winning side that took its revenge against Liverpool, two years after the legendary final of Istanbul that saw the Reds to win after a sort of... ''remontada''. At 25 years, Kaka seemed like on the roof of the world. But his transfer to Real Madrid in 2009 will be synonymous of a stop in his career. Also, he never shone in the World Cup. Squad member in 2002, he did not play a single minute. Then, as a starter in the team and expected by the observators in 2006, he failed to make a big impression since the start of competition until its end for Brazil when the champions Auriverde were elminated since the quarter-finals by France. After a good Confederation Cup in 2009 (that finally costed him repetead injuries), he was once again only quarter-finalist and once again without being brilliant, in 2010. In his prime of 5 years, he was still one of the best players in the world, and by his style of play, announced in some maneer the arrival of a Messi.
Schiaffino – Born in Montevideo in 1925 of an Italian father and of a Paraguayan mother, Juan Alberto Schiaffino was a rangy player with exceptional vision of the game that would make Cesare Maldini say that he had ''a radar in brain's place''. Endowed with an uncommon sense of anticipation, the Uruguyan is a player prone to take the good decisions in all the situations, that is on or off the ball, at midfield or in attack. A fine passer, he is able to score goals as well thanks to the high precision of his shots (that somehow compensate for a lack of power). His scope of action extends to collecting balls in the feet of the opponent (still in spite of a lack of physical strenght). As for the basis of the basis i.e the control of the ball, this lefty naturally handled it perfectly so that in addition to his vision and intuition of what happened behind his back, it was almost impossible to get the ball off from his feet.
Started his career at Peñarol where he was signed in 1943 jointly with his young brother Raúl who would make the first team the first and who would become the Uruguayan league top scorer in 1945 as well as an international player. Juan Alberto would impose himself one year later but his career would drive him further when Raúl had to stop football very early due to a baddy injury.
Inside forward of the highest quality since his debuts, J.A Schaffino is soon compared to the legendary centre forward of the Carboneros Piendibene of the 1910s-1920s (who himself mastered every aspect of the game) even though he would win the title over El Nacional ''only'' in 1949. It is also in Aurinegro that Schiaffino also soon earns the nickname of ''El Pepe''.
One year after his first national league title, ''Pepe'' is of the short travel to Brazil to play the World Cup. Here, he would be one of the two main protagonists that would be responsible of the saddest page in Brazil's football history. In a tournament without actual k-o stages but a final pool, the last day match Brazil-Uruguay is naturally considered as the Final even though the Brazilians only needs a draw to be sacred World champion in their temple of Maracanã. Brazil must wins it, it is even sure, the shimmering brazilian football will finally be crowned with a World success. The celebrations start before the match starts itself.
What has to be a ''grand final'' becomes more complicated than expected though as it's 0-0 at half-time. The Brazilian team orchestra sounds odd. But everything seems to get back to normal, in some way, when Brazil scores as soon as at the 2nd minute of the second half thanks to a goal made by Friaça, even if it is true, it's a goal made out of nothing and a particularly lucky one as the usually safe enough Maspoli was not beyond reproach on this one. And the disillusionment would be even greater.
Less than 20 minutes later, Schiaffino is at the reception of a cross from Ghiggia : 1-1. Then, less than 15 minutes after this equalizer, Schiaffino returns the courtesy to Gigghia. No goals would be added and certainly not by a Brazilian team totally desoriented on his own pitch. Schiaffino has conquered the second Jules Rimet trophy in the Uruguayan national team history, 20 years after the initial edition of the World Cup held in Montevideo. If the title is celebrated at some kilometers from here, it is most of all reported that the entire Brazil is thrown in the deepest sorrow.
Four years after, Schiaffino, now widely known as the brightest star of the Celeste, would naturally be again of a World event this time held in Switzerland. He would confirm here his talents scoring two goals including one in a 4-2 win over England in the quarter-finals. During this time the Brazilians lost themselves in a battle against the ''Mighty Magyars''. The Uruguayan team would lost to the same Magyars in the next round but as a semi-finalist has more or less, through good times and bad times (like loosing Schiaffino on injury at the half-time of the semi-finals), consolidated his status of major country of football.
But the important is not here as for our ''Pepe'' Schiaffino. Taking advantage of the Uruguayan's visit to their Swiss neighbors, AC Milan thinks about preparing a contract for the number 10 and signs him during the competition. At 29 years old, Schiaffino quits Peñarol, where he is already a legend, for the Rossonero club where he'll keep an equal status.
In Lombardia, Schiaffino immediately wins the scudetto and adds a Latin Cup to his palmarès the next year. Two more scudetti follow in 1957 and 1959. In between, he and Milan would be the opponent of the Great Real in an European Cup final during which he scores 1 goal. The opener. Milan competes equally with the double-champion of Europe but it is well Madrid that prevails again. 3-2 after extra-time for a magnificient match of which Di Stéfano would declare that Milan was the moral winner. But this ultimate club title, Milan would have to wait 1963 to actually win it. With Gianni Rivera that ''Pepe'' had not hesitated to take under his wing before to serenely let him the number 10 as he was flying to Rome where he would no less quietly finish his career, sometimes playing as libero.
Now, the FYT's Top 125 greatest players of all-time in tabular form :
If a ranking of the nations was made by allocating points (125 pts for the player #1, 124 for the #2 etc. to then cumulate the totals by country), it would show that for having a Suarez (Uru), you'd need a Robben plus a Rensenbrink. Absurd ?
Keegan – It is after four seasons and more than 140 matches in the Fourth Division for Scunthorpe United that Keegan becomes a Liverpool FC player a bit before his 20 years (1971). Here, Shankly transforms the little midfielder into a forward who turns and leaps around the Welsh giant centre forward Toshack. The combo is as astonishing as promising but it would start to gain fame a bit later. After blaring debuts with one goal in his first league match (against Forest), and whilst Toshack is often injured, Keegan doesn't meet the expectations. One begins to talk about the transfer fee of which he was the object for a young player who comes from a low league : 35 000 £. ''Way too much'' one would say, ''he's even not worth it''. ''A robbery with violence'' had assured Shankly before the start of the season.
All the critics about this new face in the English top football would not disappear as Liverpool wins its first First Division title in seven years and prevails in the UEFA Cup in 1973 for its first continental trophy ever. But an European star well and truly was born. Winner of M'Gladbach with two personal goals in the first leg at Anfield, the name of Keegan starts to resonate.
Only vice-champion the two next seasons, The Reds of the now feared and respected duo Toshack-Keegan still manage to win the FA Cup in '74 (Shankly's last game). In the Wembley final, Keegan scores two of the three goals of his team against the club of the city where he was born, Newcastle United (3-0). The same year, he becomes an international player in his own right whilst England has just failed to qualify to the German World Cup.
The 1975-1976 season is the one of a new double League-UEFA Cup. Champion with 1 point more than Queen's Park Rangers, Liverpool arguably most of all impressed in Europe like by eliminating the Barça of Cruyff in the semi-finals. Keegan did not find the back of the nets against the Catalans but as he did 2 years erlier in Wembley, he scored twice again in the E3 final, once in each leg to ensure the Reds victory (the winner at home from the penalty spot, 3-2 and an equalizer in Brugge, 1-1). He is now more and more a player who navigates between the front of the attack and the centre of the midfield where he was initially set up for this final (though he still could be used as a pure forward) and for the whole of his work he is now for everybody a solid value, as there's nobody to disagree on his abilities anymore, first like at Liverpool for sure, where he is more than ever the ''King of the Kop'' but also for manys in the whole country for whom he represents a real enjoyment to watch. Nobody or just a few. Always.
The best would arrive the next season when The Reds are close to make the treble. Champion but defeated in the FA Cup final they win the European Cup. The real one this time ! Keegan has been fantastic in a final where Liverpool and M'Gladbach met again. Present at every corner of the field, in attack like at midfield, on the right and through the centre, still also a bit on the left where he was expected but where it was finally Heighway who occupied the zone, Keegan drove his marker mad. The name of the anti-keegan weapon : Vogts. The guard dog could go back to the kennel. If he has not scored in this 3-1 victory, Keegan displayed a high-leveled performance. In the absence of Toshack since some weeks, his game has evolved. Nominally a forward like in this final, he links more than ever with the midfield from this starting position and appears like a leader for the team that he doesn't hesitate to help in the defensive phases. Technically very reliable at the minimum, as he already shown, very active but also tactically perfect, the European Cup winner 1977 is a so complete footballer. Thus he integrates the circle of the true great players. During that European campaign, he also had scored one of his best goals, in the quarter-finals, against Saint-Etienne. Absent of the first leg match in France through injury (1-0 for ''Les Verts''), Keegan, from the left winger position that he held into that match, scored a lobbed goal against the Yugoslavian keeper Curkovic in the very first minutes of play for a 3-1 win in the end. The mark of a genius – who all in all had quickly learned all of what has to be learned in order to impose himself in top football, we would say, when re-thinking about the critics made in his early days.
After this European triumph in Rome, this lover of the caravan life packs his bags and breaks camp. Direction : Hamburg (nobody knows what means of transport it took however), where he joins an ambitious HSV. The transfer fee : 500 000 £ (do the maths in order to see how his value has multiplicated since he was signed by Shankly coming from Scunthorpe). One of the few British and even fewer English footballers to play outside of Great Britain, Keegan will confirm his international dimension in the very exposed Bundesliga where by the way, he'd form another duo with a big target-man whose the name is Hrubesch this time.
In a first phase, the English man has to adapt to his new team just like the latter have to do regarding its new teammate when they had not the habit to work around a designated star. Only 10th at the end of this 1977-1978 season with Hamburg, Keegan would however get personal consecration by the end of year as he is designated best player of German league and most of all finally awarded Ballon d'or. Since the arrival of Netzer as the general manager in February, Keegan coincidentally started to provide more and more frequently the great services. He was again, like at Liverpool, the central piece of his team, for the benefit of all. In spite of the fact that he did not play the World Cup in Argentina with England, Keegan is officially crowned number 1 of European football. This time he beats for a few points Krankl, who shone during the mont of June, like he was beaten himself for a few by Simonsen the precedent year. A Simonsen that he had beaten in the European Cup final but who had still scored a beautiful goal in it and who was still delivering great performances in the Bundesliga while Keegan was knowing some difficult four first months in his new country of residence. 2nd in '77 in a tight election, already amongst the very best ones in '76 when Beckenbauer was rewarded more for the body of his work rather than for his year, it was time to put Keegan at the very top. Behind Krankl and 3rd, Rensenbrink, who had hit the post at the Monumental.
Champion at the end of the 1978-1979 season, Keegan would be a Ballon d'or for a second time in a row. The time for compensations is over, the Ballon d'or '79 is then the best elected one in History. More than ever, Keegan is the superstar of the European football. And of Top of the Pops with his single ''Head over wheels'' which meets a big success, not only in the UK but also in Germany and in Austria. Liverpool, Hamburg... that doesn't make you think of something ? Such as the Beatles a few time before, the beautiful and talentuous Kev' represents a true social phenomenon. Who doesn't lack of contracts to make advertising. Everything he touches turns to gold.
Keegan and HSV continue their ascent in 1979-1980 as they reach the European Cup Final. The only title that the club misses after a victory in the Cup Winners Cup three years before when Their English star was winning the big one. With him in the team and after that they have swept-off the prestigious Real Madrid in the semi-finals, it should be a done deal. Unfortunately, Keegan is beaten by his fellow countrymen and best ennemies Nottingham Forest who create a new sensation by winning a back-to-back European title (HSV 0, Forest 1, at Bernabeu). Thus, the number 7 sees the opportunity to win a second European Cup with a different and foreign club fading away.
Though we can doubt that they would have consoled with it, Keegan and HSV also fails at the second place in the Bundesliga with the same goal difference than Bayern but with two points late on them at the end of the race.
On the other hand, Keegan, the one that some wanted to see banned from the national team when he left England to Germany, has qualified England for the Euro '80 finals held in Italy. For the matter, it is even as the captain of the team that he lead his team to their first major tournament since... 1970 ! Exemplary during the qualifiers as the chief but also as the best teammate, he would however show poor form in June and England would not go through the first round. Is that Keegan did not economized himself for both clubs and country since some years now : with the different European campaigns for both Liverpool and Hamburg but also with England for whom he had spared no efforts, especially since '77, when he was the main protagonist in a win over Italy in the World Cup qualifying stage but in a too late awakening for England can make the travel to Argentina.
That year 1980 with all these titles in view but unsuccessful would mark the end of the reign of Keegan on European football which was maybe never really or not fully a reign as him and England never performed very well and whilst for instance, Liverpool was able to conquer a new European title without him (but with Dalglish) immediately after his departure from Anfield.
1980 would mark his come-back to England as well, in the newly promoted club of Southampton. With old stars Channon, Charlie George and most of all Ball but also with his England national side teammate Watson at the back, he would qualify to an UEFA Cup in his first season then, as a striker, would finish as the First Division top scorer for the first time in his career at the end of his second one. Also, isn't he still the captain of the national team that has qualified to the Mundial '82 ? But injured, he'd only play the last 25 minutes of a match against the hosts that ends in a 0-0 and sees both teams eliminated as soon as the first round.
On this, Keegan, recently made OBE makes a last move (for 100 000 £), to his city Newcastle where he finsishes his career with two seasons in the Second Division. He scores here many goals that only reinforce his popularity among the supporters of the Magpies. Newcastle United would come back at the top level in 1984 after 6 seasons of purgatory. But the young Beardsley or Waddle would discover the First Division without the former Ballon d'or who had announced his retirement since February.
Installed in Spain and living his life without worrying much about football during 8 years, Keegan reappears in the game in 1992 as the coach of Newcastle. A complete return to the roots, hence.
With his former Liverpool and Newcastle teammate McDermott as an assistant, he permits to the team to rejoin the elite, the brand new Premier League in 1993 (as the First Division champion... the former Second Division...). Under Keegan, the Magpies display brilliant performances and obtain excellent results since their first season (3rd with Beardsley, Lee, Cole, Albert, Hottiger...). Confirming and showing themselves as a favorite for the title the following season, Newcastle only finishes 6th as Andy Cole left to Manchester United during the winter market. The battle still rages on with Manchester United and Alex Ferguson in the 1995-1996 season during which Newcastle still propose a fantastic show (with Ginola and Ferdinand) but they finally lost their place of leader at the end of March and finish only vice-champion. Keegan signs Newcastle-born and double PL top scorer Alan Shearer of Blackburn Rovers for the next season but King Kev', as he is now nicknamed by the fans of the Meyerside club, will know series of defeats in winter and will be replaced by... Dalglish. This one would end vice-champion his turn in May. An end of the story that strongly looks like a repeat.
After a short stint at Fulham, he's called to succeed to Hoddle as the Three Lions coach in February 1999. He will be replaced by Eriksson after an early exit at the Euro 2000.
He then coaches Manchester City from 2001 until 2005 when he announces his definitive retirement. In January 2008, he goes back to Newcastle where he replaces Allardyce and manages to keep the team in the PL. He quits in september of the same year as he has not obtain to reinforce the team as he would have wanted during the summer market window. Involved in legal proceedings with Newcastle United, he'd obtain 2,2 million euro 11 years after from new president Mike Ashely for wrongful dismissal.
Main European footballing star in the second half of the 70s, Kevin Keegan was a formidable all-rounded player whose the technical qualities have been and still are underestimated by English people of which we could say that they are fussy on this. No-one is a prophet in his own land as it is well known and Keegan has shown it well.
Also, his image in English football has suffered from the fact that he left England and Liverpool to play abroad while his replacement, Dalglish, who was Scottish, had an immediate success with the Reds and for his maybe more fluid game, appeared more like a ''natural talent'' what would suppose that in contradiction, Keegan would have been more of an average to good player who would have worked hard. The long-term story of Dalglish (himself despised by the Celtic fans once he had left their club) with Liverpool would not arrange things for Keegan as for how he would be remembered by some or even manys but who are not everybody. In Newcastle, that's certain, like anywhere else in Europe and even sometimes in South America, Keegan, the player, generally remains in the memories as a fantastic footballer. For his tyipically British qualities but also for all of his other skills that maybe not so much British players had before him.
A good compromise between the ''insular'' and the ''latin footballer'' and able to make the difference alone as well as able to put himself at the service of the team, he represented for sure the dream player for many coaches.
Schuster – A comet. The native of Augsburg is hired by the German champion FC Köln for the 1978-1979 season. He has never played for the FC Augsburg first team in the the Second Division but he is an international junior player (U-18) that was much talked about and that many teams wanted. He makes his first appearance for Cologne in October '78 and since that moment will play all the matches of the season with the number 10 in his back. He's from then on considered like the true heir of Overath who had stopped his career in '77. Participant in the European Cup where they are eliminated in the semi-finals by the eventual champion Nottingham Forest, Cologne and the young Schuster only finish 6th in the league. At an individual level, Schuster has already convinced Derwall to select him in the senior national team thus, the midfielder makes his two first full international appearances in May '79 against Ireland then Iceland. He'd play play three more times in the Nationalmannschaft from September to December. He's only 20 years old.
In 1979-1980 Köln this time finishes 5th and European. Still behind Bayern and HSV (the biggest teams of the time), Vfb and K'lautern but before Dortmund, M'gladbach, Schalke, Eintracht...they're also runner-up in the pokal. Schuster has continued his progression and he is called-back by Derwall two months before the Euro. In Italy, he's not of the team that is confronted by the reigning champion Czechoslovakia in the first day match of the group stage. A not easy match that West Germany however quite serenely wins 1-0 thanks to Rummenigge. The team has well started its tournament and the 20 years old and half with blond hair can be launched in the arena. His supply will be huge. In the second match against the Dutch neighbours, Schuster is everywhere on the pitch : in defense, at the transition, on the right wing from where he offers the third of the three goals scored by Allofs. Leading by 3-0 at the 65th minute, West Germany wins the match by 3-2. Schuster has even somehow assisted the first goal by hitting the crossbar with violence (Allofs was in ambush). Also yellow-carded, he will not play the last group stage match against Greece : 0-0, West Germany was already qualified to the final. Impressive against Holland, Schuster will have a very good final (this time as left midfielder when he was more on the right in his precedent match, though that's all only about starting positions, most of all when talking about players like him, not only a bit ''wild horsie'' but anyway very complete and omnipresent on all the area of the field). Against Belgium, from a central position, with a brilliant pass, Schuster finds Hrubesch who scores the opener with his right foot (10th min.). Belgium equalizes from the penalty spot (75th min.) but before the final whistle, Hrubesch is found in the box on a corner-kick by Rummenigge. For the win, the number 9 scores this time with the head (88th min.). Schuster is European champion as well as he is of course the revelation player of the tournament. Saying that he'd have ''exploded'' at this occasion is a term that would fit quite well.
In September, after 5 day matches in the Bundesliga, a deal is sealed between Cologne and a Barça always in search of super-talents : Schuster is a Catalan. In November, he has the good idea to score in his first league match against Real for a 2-1 win at home. With their new star, FC Barcelona are second in the League in March (behind Atlético) when their striker Quini is kidnapped. Their results dropped after this (they finished 5th). They still managed to win the Copa in the end of the season, with 2 goals by Quini (such a happy end). That was against Gijon. Willing to reach the tops in Europe, Barça would know here a prompt outcome. Schuster had started the season with Cologne and he had just joined Barcelona when they met...FC Köln, in the 2nd round of the UEFA Cup. He did not play. Köln won. So he never played in Europe in that 1980-1981 season. However the Barça's European objectives were only postponed and that first Spanish year of the German player boded well for the next season.
Indeed, everything started well in 1981-1982 for Schuster and Barça as the midfielder scored goals (13 matches for 8 goals, 1 red card too) and that the team was first in the League. They were also still in the race in the Cup Winners Cup after two rounds. So really, everything went well. When arrived the 12th December. Against Bilbao in Bilbao, Schuster has his knee broken by Goiko. Some days after, Schuster makes the podium of the Ballon d'or for the second time in a row but he won't play anymore until the end of the season. Barcelona finishes only vice-champion in April and he won't be on the side that wins the Cup Winners Cup at Camp Nou against Standard de Liège. More importantly he misses the World Cup held in Spain.
Turned around for the start of the 1982-1983 season, Schuster founds himself in company of the new acquisition of the club who is no less than Maradona. With these two, Barça hopes well to conquer it all including the European Cup. The team is however eliminated in the third round of the Cup Winners Cup to start with (by Austria Wien). Only 4th in the Primera Division with bad debuts in the season and a bad ending, they win together another Copa for Barça and a Copa de la Liga. Against Real on both occasions. A consolation prize which remains too little when you have the two most gifted of the new generation in your ranks though. The team has not progressed, maybe that one of the two stars is one too many though they both affirm in the press that they can play together.
What can appear like a problem will be soon solved when Maradona his turn is the victim of Goiko in September '84 (on the 24th). Now under Menotti (after Kubala, Herrera, Lattek and Romero), Schuster will have to lead the team alone again. Injured himself just after Maradona, he misses 7 matches then knows a difficult winter until that he finds back the way to the nets in February-March. But Barça this time lose to Real and if Schuster has offered the victory to Barça at Real Sociedad on the 29th day match, it would be his last appearance of the season due to a new injury. Barça has the best attack and the best defense but finishes 3rd at 1 point of Athletic Bilbao (Dif. +23) and Real Madrid (+22) and lose the Copa against... Athletic Bilbao who completes the double. Runner in Europe but always in the Cup Winners Cup only, Barcelona is this time eliminated as soon as the second round by the Manchester United of Bryan Robson, stronger than Schuster+Maradona on these matches. Due to the foramentioned reasons, no need to precise that Schuster misses the Euro '84 played in France. In other words, he misses his second international tournament in row. Breitner, who was back to international duties after the Euro title and with who Schuster was directly in conflict, what caused reluctance to him to responds to his call-ups in the national team until then, had retired of football since one year though.
1984-1985. Maradona leaves Barcelona and Spain where he is not well-looked upon since his heated reunion with Goiko under the eyes of the King Juan Carlos (if he has ever been well-looked upon since he had arrived) and thus Schuster is the only master on board. This year will be the good one as Schuster leads Barça to the title in a Spanish League which seems now on the way to free herself of the demons of violence that caracterized her since years whilst coincidentally, the Basque clubs, Athletic and most of all Real Sociedad are declining. As for Real Madrid and its new generation, the ''Quinta del Buitre'', they were not ready to compete for the title yet (it would change soon). Champion with only two defeats, 10 points more than the second Atlético, 12 more than Athletic and Gijon (3rd and 4th) and leaving Real Madrid (5th) at 17 points, with 69 goals scored in 34 matches, Barça sees his brilliant playmaker take to the podium of the Ballon d'or for the third time, that 4 years after. The career of Schuster is already rich of many events and he's only 26 years old. A star seems to have reborn in order to become bigger than ever but it is however the last time that he'll be seen at the top of the best European players' charts.
The next year, Schuster and Barça fail to win the European Cup as after a pathetic 0-0, they're defeated in a penalty shootout by the Romanian champion, Steaua. In Sevilla, the hero of the day is named Duckadam, he's the goalkeeper. His teammates only scored twice but he has not allowed a single Barça player to beat him by making four (consecutive) saves. Schuster did not participate to the exercise as he was subbed out 5 minutes before the extra-time. The dreams of European conquest of Barça vanish again in a final looking like a nightmare, like a quarter of century before, in Bern, against Benfica. Schuster had been very good through the competition until that he totally missed out the final. With his conductor in poor form, the rest of the team of Venables was unable to finish the job by themselves within the 90 minutes. Nor during the extra-time that Schuster did not attend to, since he had left the stadium directly after that he had had to left the field. Already in cold with Venables and his directors since months, that would cost him to be excluded from the team by President Nunez for the whole next season.
This defeat in the European Cup final was symptomatic of an ambiance of divorce between Schuster and Barça that would become effective in 1988 with a transfer to... Real Madrid. In the meantime, Schuster had played a last season for Barcelona (6th in Primera Division, winner of another Copa against Real Sociedad thanks to a goal by Alexanko). But if Schuster has found another prestigious club to continue his career, the year 1986 marks the definitive end of his presence in the elite of the best players in the world as he would not play any other European Cup final and as he most of all refused to join the West German team in order to play the World Cup in Mexico in spite of the insistence of Beckenbauer. He had been capped for the last time in 1984 and he will never be capped again. Thus he has never played for the national team under Beckenbauer who succeeded to Derwall after the unsuccessful Euro '84 and who never wanted to beg to Schuster, in spite of the popular demand, until...'86. Above all, Schuster scraped the possibility of playing one day in the World Cup.
Schuster however will continue running his show in the context of the Spanish football as he greatly participate in the conquest of the 4th and 5th consecutive league titles of Real Madrid in 1989 and 1990 (when Beckenbauer wins the World Cup with Matthaüs as his main player and captain). With Butragueño, Michel & co., he's however swept-off twice in the European Cup by Milan AC. First in the semi-finals : the Rossoneri are too strong, the supporters don't hold it against him. Then in the second round : out for the first leg in Bernabeu (1-0), Schuster stays only 15 minutes on the field in the second leg in Milan (0-2).
After two seasons at Real which release his contract in order to hire Hagi, he naturally joins Atlético where he'll be a hero in company of the young prodige Paolo Futre. Barcelona took over Real in La Liga and Atlético takes the Copa del Rey (the speciality of Schuster with 6 wins, maybe a record) in 1991 (against Mallorca) and in 1992. The latter is won by the ''Colchoneros'' over the ''Merengues'' by 2-0 with one goal of each of their two artists Schuster (on free-kick) and Futre (with the left foot). Not a small satisfaction for their president and no less artist Gil y Gil.
After a 6th place in La Liga (2nd in '91, 3rd in '92) and a semi-final in the Cup Winners Cup in 1993, Schuster, 34 years old, goes back to Germany that he had left 13 years earlier and where he only counts about 60 matches played in Bundesliga.
At Leverkusen of the pharmaceutical giant whose the name starts with the letter b, Schuster is still, in terms of technique at least, a footballer who is one class above the rest. In the first of his three seasons here, he helps his team to reach a 3rd place. The next season is less brilliant in the league and he must bow in the semi-finals in Europe like he did with Atlético already against Parma, this time in UEFA Cup and as a libero. Not a success (0-3 in the second leg in Italy). On a brighter note, his ''traumtor'' scored against Eintracht in the beginning of the season, a lob on Köpke from the top of the centre circle, was before that awarded ''Tor des Jahres'' 1994.
Everything went quite well globally when in 1995-1996, Schuster has once again difficult relationships with his coach, Ribbeck, who has replaced Stepanovic after the game in Parma, as well as with his teammates like Völler whilst he has also maybe less good performances. He is dismissed as captain early in the season, excluded of the team in early November and released from his contract in March.
He then finally travelled to Mexico where he ended his career by playing 9 little matches for the ''Pumas''.
An all-rounded midfielder in his early career, true ''box-to-box'' who combined endurance, quickness, power and technical fineness, Schuster became more specifically an attacking midfielder when he joined Barça. After his injury of 1981, he focused more on a role of playmaker though he was still able to help in defence and to spring up in attack by enforcing the opponent lines from time to time. At the heart of his career in Spain, if he still was one of the best midfielders in Europe (and in the world) he was not anymore the player who had terribly impressed Platini circa 1980 at the occasion of a Barça vs Rest of the Europe which was another Cruyff's jubilee match : ''...there was Schuster, and I fell on my arse. He made a 40 meters pass... but he was at the receipt of it ! It was crazy.'' said the triple Ballon d'Or. After his injury, under the sun of Spain (when the best players were competing in the calcio), Schuster was not as explosive in attack and impassable in defense as he was when he took Europe by storm in the very beginning of the 80s. He then held a role of playmaker who, with age, positioned himself deeper and deeper on the pitch (like at Real already and then even more especially at Atlético) to the point that precisely, it was reproached to him that he was doing nothing but launching 40 meters passes at the end of the end of his career at Leverkusen.
Equally adored by the rival fans of Barça, Real and Atlético in Spain where the role of playmaker is particularly well appreciated, popular in Germany where he barely played and where he was very desired when the national team was orphan of a great playmaker in the mid-80s, Schuster was a huge talent who has never plenty fulfilled his potential at the scale of a career. To start with, maybe that what he hinted during that Euro '80 through two matches went too much beyond his real physical capabilities, though these were naturally exceptional. The bar was set high as well as the expectations about this player, champion of Europe at 20 years old and already influent on his team who seemed by then able to make the most beautiful feats through a decade that had just started. Then, the knee-injury that he suffered only one year and half after the final of Rome against Belgium certainly has not helped. Like his legendary behaviour. Rebel... capricious. Bernd Schuster. A hell of a player.
Not stingy when it comes to thumbing his nose, the rebellious Schuster rapidly became a coach after that he stopped his playing career. Noticed for his work at Getafe (2005-2007) he then won La Liga with Real (2007-2008). But he only stood one year in ''La Casa Blanca'' as a coach. He later signed with Besiktas but failed to get results there. He doesn't coach anymore since 2013.
Weah – When he arrives at Wenger's AS Monaco in 1988 from Yaoundé, the Liberian player, apart from the power of his shoots, doesn't impress much his new teammates on the training pitch : ''is that really him who's supposed to be a phenomenon ? What a phenomenon !''. He has however the full confidence of Wenger who sees in him a future world star and in the facts, Weah will not be long in imposing himself on the Divison 1 and European pitches. An unpredictable striker with amazing skills that he quickly found again after an in the end short period of adaptation, his value in the aerial game is also immense. Thus, in the 1991-1992 season, Weah scores more than the half of his 18 goals with the head (a dozen of them).
His repeated exploits with Monaco buys him a transfer to Paris Saint-Germain owned since 1991 by the private TV channel Canal Plus, a club with new ambitions.
With PSG, Weah will shine as never before (he was a finalist of the Cup Winners Cup with Monaco in 1992, still) and as never a French club's striker ever did as well. Semi-finalist of the UEFA Cup in 1993 then of the Cup Winners Cup in 1994, it is most of all his performances in the 1994-1995 Champions League that will make an impression (and stay in the memories for a long time) : PSG is unbeaten over its 6 games in the group stage with a Weah who is the author of 6 goals in 6 games. The last one of these 6, that goal that he made against Bayern Munich, in December. That amazing solo goal that if one has never watched it, it's time to do it thanks to the technology of today. Follows another great performance by our striker against the Cruyff's Barça in the quarter-finals at Camp Nou and one more goal fom him (with the head, on a set-piece kicked by Valdo).
Weah would be less recognizable against Milan (the ones who have already approached him) and a PSG globally inferior to his distinguished opponent would stop its epic through Europe in the semi-finals. Again (three semi-finals in a row in the three different European Cups and in order : E3, E2, E1).
After some negotiations that seems to drag on when the outcome of this affair is clear for everybody, the African star, CL top scorer that year, he's finally officially signed by the Rossoneri.
In the continuity of his European exploits he is awarded, in December, of the first Ballon d'or opened to non-European players (but playing in Europe) after a nice solo-goal against Lazio that came along at just the right time (he had no goals since October and a 2-1 win over Juventus).
In the calcio, Weah seems to quickly recover an appetite that he had lost on the French First Divison fields (from Le Havre to Martigues passing by Sochaux). If he doesn't exceed a total of 11 league goals, the striker finds again the pleasure to play on a bit more constant basis (with more dates marked by a red circle on the schedule) and this is highly profitable to Milan who take back the scudetto to Juventus.
On the other hand, Milan doesn't regain its rank in Europe as they're eliminated by Zidane's Bordeaux in the quarter-finals of the 1995-1996 UEFA Cup deprived for the second leg of Boban, of a once again injured Savicevic after that he had topped hit form in the preceding weeks, lining up an unfit Baggio and an injured... Weah (who will be dangerous but innefective) as well as a young and unexperienced Vieira instead of the usual starter at midfield Albertini. The mark of an overconfidence that did not only show on the scoresheet but also during the pre-match training (2-0 in San Siro, 0-3 in Parc Lescure). Afterwards, in the 1996-1997 Champions League, Milan would only make up the number.
In the same season, in the first day match of the Serie A, Milan crushes Hellas Verona with a more than incredible solo goal by Weah who starts his action from the inside of the Milan's penalty area, crosses the entire pitch by dribbling past the whole opponent team (with that determinant 360 turn in the centre circle) to finally face and beat the keeper scoring there what absolutely remains as one of the greatest goals ever made. But in the following, i.e the rest of the season, the Rossonero would be completely out of their depth. The coaches follow each other whilst Juventus wins two titles and Milan doesn't even make the first half of the table. Sacchi and Capello successively returned to the club : nothing worked. Until Zaccheroni who's appointed AC Milan coach for the 1998-1999 season and finally wins the scudetto while Milan is as we know even ''not European'' anymore since two seasons (phew, it was time to win something). It's the second Serie A title of a Weah on the outs with his new coach who often askeded him to play as a right winger. The position that he held in the first part of his career in Africa but he's not that young anymore. By the way, the Ballon d'or '95 would be transferred to Chelsea during the winter market of the 1999-2000 season. He'd be of the FA Cup winning side then would be transferred to Manchester City where he stays three months before to end his European career for good in Marseille (where he casually finishes among the top assisters of the league). He was officialy 35 years old.
At international level, ''Mister George'' lead a talented generation of Liberian players that qualified to two African Nations Cup final tournaments (with a first in 1996 in South Africa) but failed to qualify to a World Cup (failing for a bit in 2002). In the Liberian national team, he was the big brother, the father, of course the technical leader and played every positions from striker to libero passing by midfield.
By passing, he's now a politician occupying important functions in his country and will be running for president for the third time in October 2017. He already came second. Will it pass this time ?
An improviser of genius, he had some of Eusebio or even of Pelé in him. The last great true African player. And the first African in this ranking.
Henry – Record breaker through work and determination (all-time French national team top scorer with 51 goals in 123 games against 41 goals in 72 games for Platini, Arsenal's all-time top scorer with 228 goals including 175 in the Premier League) but for all that not anything else than a real natural talent who has known how to progress, Henry combined the coldness of a quite mechanical striker with a shimmering technique worthy of the greatests of the sport.
The centre-forward of the ''Invincibles'' of the 2003-2004 season (double PL-Cup) was World champion at 20 years (did not play the final) and European champion at 22, but did not manage to win the Champions League into which he has scored 50 goals (runner-up in 2006, like in the World Cup this same year).
Leônidas – When the Brazilian team arrived in Paris in 1938 with their jazz-like look, one was expecting to see some show. And once they put on their white shirt and blue shorts (Brazil did not already play in yellow and green at the time) they did not disappointed. First soloist of the big band, the star was Leônidas, nicknamed soon the ''Black Pearl''.
At a time at which the black-men are no longer required to be powedered to be authorized to play football in Brazil, and more and more present in the national team, Leônidas incarnates the excellence of the football of his country, a game made of suppleness and of unusual technical skills : dancing dribbling, jump or bicycle-kicks, a technique of his own that made him extremely popular (he was also nicknamed ''Rubber Man''). Another particualrity of him : when Brazil faces Czechoslovakia in the quarter-finals on muddy pitch, he prefers to play unshod and comes back barefoot for the second half. The referee will expressly order him to put on his shoes, to the great displeasure of the Brazilian. That will not prevent Leônidas to score an equalizer (1-1) before that Roberto offers the win to the team in that replayed match. In the Round of 16, Leônidas had already scored three times in a match for ages against Poland : 6-5 on the scoresheet at then end of the match!
The public is under the charm. But strangely, the centre forward is not lined up in the semi-finals against the reigning champions Italy by his coach Pimenta who declares that he prefers to leave him to rest, in the perspective of the final. Brazil was making good progress since the last World Cup (in Italy) but sees his chances annihilated. They're eliminated and the squadra will win a second Jules Rimet Trophy. To the great displeasure of the resident population : manys in the crowd are opponents to the Mussolini's fascist regime and, political questions taken apart, the Brazilians were the ''boys'' of the public. As for the Brazilians themselves, they are obvioulsy the firsts to be disappointed.
After the war, Brazil will have a big chance to finally win the cup, it is even sure, they will win, as the tournament is held on home soil. We know the outcome of this, and they'll have to wait 8 years more for they can lift the trophy. Leônidas, the best player of the 1938 World Cup, 37 years old, was hoping to make the team, which did not happened. Therefore, he stopped his career that year, in 1950. The legend of the man with 21 goals in 19 selections with Brazil, with about 150 goals for Flamengo and about the same for Sao Paulo was already made.
Friedenreich – 1329 goals in 1239 games ? Maybe. 1239 goals in 1329 games ? Maybe. In any case, Arthur Friedenreich has certainly scored much goals. And if the exact numbers will forever remain unknown, what is certain is that he used to convince, in 1925, at the occasion of a tour with his club CA Paulistano, the Europeans who until then had never seen him play thus were very naturally septics. Well, mainly convinced were the Frenches at least, as 8 of the 10 matches were played against French clubs or selections the last other two matches being played against the Swiss and Portuguese national teams (9 wins for Paulistano and 9 personal goals for the 1919 Copa América winner). During this tour, the Brazilian was celebrated as no less than the ''King of football''. Is that he had amazed the crowds by his unusual playing style and technics : by his swaying (body feints), by the curves that he gave to his shots. That precise type of football would be only consecrated in 1958 but Friedenreich, who was on the first Brazilian national team ever assembled, in 1914, greatly contributed to that as the pioneer amongst the pionneers. He was also one of the first black players allowed to play football in his and for his country. With his mixed origins half Afro-Brazilians, half Germans, the one who was nicknamed ''El Tigre'' by the Uruguayans and the Argentines because of his agility as well as for his never-say-die attitude, had less rice powder to put on his face than others though. And his green eyes made the rest.
Simonsen – There was a few like the Dane dwarf to spread panic in the Bundesliga's defenses as he did all along the second half of the 70s, on behalf of Mönchengladbach. Initially a right winger, he progressively took the reins of the team by going more and more through the centre. Thus, he was in some maneer replacing the former playmaker and star of the team Netzer, gone to Real Madrid in '74 (which coincides with the intronisation of our striker in the team, at 22 years old). He took this new dimension under Udo Lattek who was the coach since '75 coming from Bayern Munich. Weisweiler, for his part, had launched Simonsen – who was at the club since '72, coming from Vejle, where he was born.
Ben Barek – 1937. In a match between the Regional team of Morocco and a France B selection in Casablanca (Morocco was under French protectorate) one player is particularly noticed by the present technicians and journalists : his name is Larbi Ben Barek. The press is unanimous : in spite of a 2-4 loss, he was by far ''the best of the 22 actors'' as it is claimed in L'Auto which would became L'Equipe in 1946. As for the recruiters, its whom of Olympique de Marseille who takes the lead to sign the magnificient player who knew how to astonish everybody. They'd have to wait one year to sign him however.
In 1938, Ben Barek finally makes the trip across the Mediterranean Sea in order to land on La Canebière and discover the professional football. His first match with OM (which was in concurrence with Red Star Saint-Ouen to afford him) is a friendly against Southend during which he shines instanteanously. Mainly used as a centre-half in Morocco, Ben Barek was repositionned at the centre forward position by Eisenhoffer. He'd never play as centre-half anymore nor unshoed as he had the habit to do until then.
Ben Barek makes his official debuts in November against Racing Paris. On the pitch, with his dribbles and skills, the Moroccan makes fun with Giusti Jordan, the Austrian-French international centre-half and scores 2 of the 5 goals of OM. At the half-time, in the corridor of the lockerooms, Jordan went mad and screamed racist insults at Ben Barek but as the result of the match proves it, nothing helped. Immediately after this match, Racing offers 150.000 Francs to get him against the 35.000 originally paid by OM, which refuses the offer.
Ben Barek continues the season as the inside-left of his team associated with Kohut and Aznar, the leader of the attack (number 9). He excites the crowds with his outstanding, spectacular technique even on damp or icy fields. He's also very efficient. His reputation increases each day.
The last day match of the 1938-1939, OM, who has to face Strasbourg, is the favorite to win the title (over FC Sète). Tired, Ben Barek is wounded during the game (at the head). It's a loss 0-1. So his first european season ends up with a second place in the French First Division for the player who is now already widely known in the Hexagone as ''La Perle Noire'' (''The Black Pearl''), a nickname attributed by the newspaper L'Auto after a popular poll. ''The Black Pearl'', as he was already nicknamed since his arrival by some, won over other proposals like ''The Juggler'', ''The Sorcerer'' or ''The French Leonidas''. This poll had been launched after a fantastic match of him against Poland, for his second cap, in January.
He had earned his first blue jersey with the cockerel only one month after his official debuts in France, in December '38, against the World Champion Italians in Naples for a short loss 1-0. He's not ''naturalized'' for the occasion - and will never be. The Italian crowd whistles Ben Barek who responds chanting high La Marseillaise. Thus, he's adopted by the French five months after his arrival in Metropolitan France. He will be selected 3 more times in 1939 so for almost all the games of the national team. His adaptation and progression was lightning. If he's not considered as French by a large majority of people though, including some who would be the football specialists in the country and who argue against his selection in national team, he has become for sure the favorite of the public who, by definition as a whole, remains more ambiguous about his eligibility. He also knew how to poke Pozzo's eye, a reference, who declared : ''I really liked your new inside. Like all the niggers, he's a better technician than tactician but he possesses however some beautiful attributes''.
Ready to play the 1939-1940 season, after some friendlies, the brand new sensation in international football goes back to Morocco. The League will not be played. The world is in war.
Ben Barek is back to USM (who had hired him from Idéal Club in 1935). They win together 4 titles of Champion consecutively from 1940 to 1943 and the North African Championship in 1942. In 1943, Ben Barek plays with the North Africa selection against the French team, exiled in Casablanca (1-1). He scores the equalizer on a cross of his close friend Marcel Cerdan, European Champion and future World Champion in the middleweight category.
In may 1945, a coaches clinic directed by Helenio Herrera settles in Casablanca. Herrera offers to Ben Barek to join his club, Stade Français (Div. 2) now that the war is over. Ben Barek is signed for 1.000.000 Francs (record). All the national press is at Paris-Gare-de-Lyon for the come-back of ''La Perle Noire'' who got off the train wearing his keffieh.
The presence of Ben Barek at ''Stade'', as the club is commonly named, will considerably transforms the team who wins many supporters and by the end of the 1945-1946 season, ''Ben Barek and Stade Français'', as they were proclaimed on posters by the opponent clubs when they played away games, obtain to join the Division 1.
Ben Barek is the additional value of «Le Stade» on a sportive point of view and on a marketing point of view. In all the cities of France the crowd is massive to watch Ben Barek play. 6 years after his last game with the French team, he plays again at international level and cumulates 12 more ''caps'' from 1945 to 1948 while playing for ''Le Stade''. After hard debuts against Austria and Belgium, he shows to be still the great player that he was before the war. At least, he has his teammates admiration whilst his presence in the team is very discussed between 1947 and 1948 due to the fact that he has not the French nationality and that he's supposed to ''blend not in the collective of the team'' according to Gabriel Hanot, former international player, journalist at L'Equipe and member of the (very dense) French NT staff (whose the critics would later target Kopa).
If it's true that he had some average performances at times, especially at an athletic and defensive level, Ben Barek had shown to be precisely a good ''worker'' at midfield for a prestigious victory against the professional national team of England in 1946 (2-1 in Colombes). As for his technique, it was intact since his memorable 1938-1939 season with Marseille and France. In the end, despite everything and above all despite Hanot, his fame is, due to his talents, more and more... international.
In 1948, the president of Stade Français, decides to stop his activity for the club since, from his own words, he has ''invested much money but won no title'' (twice 5th in Div. 1 and quarter-finalist in the French Cup). So the club abandons the professional status and retroceeds. The ambitious team composed of international French players and international foreign star-players like the Hungarian Istvan Nyers who used to form a redoubtable duo with the Moroccan in attack (Ben Barek the inside left and Nyers the ''false outside left'') is disassembled. Nyers joins Inter Milan whilst Ben Barek and the goalkeeper Domingo join Atlético de Madrid. The French press is moved : ''we can sell the Tour Eiffel and Arc de Triomphe but Ben Barek, never !''.
For 8.000.000 Francs, Atlético however has now the famous ''Perla Negra'' in his ranks. The first season results in a 4th place behind Barça, champion, Valencia and Real for the one who is now nicknamed ''El Pie de Dios''. The next one, under Herrera again (coming from Valladolid), Ben Barek wins the title with Atlético (their third title ever and his personal first major trophy, well past his 30) and do it again the next year continuig to be this highly technical player that makes the crowds dream. The partnership that he constitutes with the Swedish Henry Carlsson, the other inside-forward of the team (who also was once a player of Stade Français under Herrera but briefly) makes the joy of the specialists and lovers of football. It's good to watch and very prolific.
Then Atlético leaves the first rows. But at the occasion of a French tour with the Colchoneros going through Paris and Reims, Ben Barek can note that his popularity does not drop.
In 1953, Ben Barek is at a football coaching clinic in Paris. He meets here the son of the OM president who convices him to return in Marseille. The inside forward accepts and the OM directors travel to Spain to buy his contract. He's back in France in December. He has lost nothing of his talent and it restores the punch of the goal scorer Gunnar Andersson. The team improves and reaches the French Cup final. It's against OGC Nice and Abderhaman Mahjoub, another Moroccan player who him currently plays for France. It's tight but Nice prevails 2-1 with his Argentinian defender Gonzales who makes a spectacular save with a... bicycle-kick at the height of the top corner in the last minutes. It's obviously a great deception for Ben Barek (who by the way could or should have obtained a penalty-kick). It's the last final that he'd play in his career.
The 1954-1955 season would be the last of the Ben Barek's professional career and 1954 would mark the end of his presence at the highest level. A ''jubilee time'' alike. This starts in October with a North Africa v France won by 4 goals to 2 by the Maghrebin selection and a Ben Barek who is the star of a match that echoes the one that revealed him in 1937. He's so good that he is selected one last time the next month by popular demand against the World Champion West Germans. Unfortunately, Ben Barek got injured before a half of an hour of play, asks for leaving the pitch and France wins without him in Hannover but with his replacement Foix, the author of two goals, one of them on a pass by the rising star Kopa. The radio commentator of that time, Georges Briquet, had insisted on how good was ''the replacement for Ben Barek'' for one hour. Ben Barek, for his part, always said, after the match and years after through the interviews of which he was too rarely the object in France, that it had been an honour. It was his 17th international game, 15 years and 10 months after the 16th, what makes him the player with the longest career with the French team. He retires from professional football in 1955, immediately goes back to Morocco then continues to play the game in Algeria and Morocco again. Some like Michel Hidalgo also told that he even continedd to play in Belgium in the 60s as a shamateur, as we say (he had ''hasardously'' invested his money during his professional playing career).
Ben Barek should have known his best footballing years exactly during the 5 years of World conflict. Outstanding technician with excellent dribbling (he even invented feints), an aerial game equal in excellence and a player with acrobatic style (bicycle-kicks) so the comparision that was made with Leônidas (Ben Barek even scored like that agianst Belgium in '48 !), the first great idol of Kopa was in his time and for a long time the French football's most spectacular player ever. Until Zidane. Like the 1998 World Champion, he was not that fast, especially since after the war for the obvious reasons of a lack of competition since a long time and for he was already near his 30 years if he was not 30 already (his official birth date says 1917 but he could have been in truth older) but his skill-set was supreme and magical. It was said of Ben Barek that his game was ''all made of arabesques''. At the surface of the text, something like a cliché for sure, but so true (though he was able to play in a direct maneer too of course, but it describes well the aesthetic of his game in his essence, his movements with or without the ball, his gestures).
In 1975, Pelé, visiting Casablanca, paid hommage to our second African greatest and #50 in this ranking with the famous quote : ''If I'm the king of football, Ben Barek is the god of it''. The Brazilian number 10 (who humbly offered a Santos shirt with the number 10 to the Moroccan legend) also regretted that the Ben Barek's career had not coincided with the age of T.V. In 1998, it was FIFA's turn to do something by awarding Ben Barek with their ''Order of Merith award'' (Ben Barek, by the way, in addition to his technical abilities, also had an excellent behaviour towards his teammates, opponents, referees so towards the game). He died in 1992.
Rejected by the French Federation since 1948 and his signing to Atlético, almost totally forgotten in France immediately after that his career had ended and really totally since decades, not associated with the Moroccan federation when they organized the African Nations Cup in 1988 and when they were candidate for the orgnaization of the 1998 World Cup in 1992, he had ended his life far from the professional football world living in modest conditions. He had publicly been celebrated for the last time in 1988 at the occasion of the FLN team 30 years anniversary of which he was a special guest (so in Algeria). The French Federation never paid significant hommage to him to this day and the different main French medias did so few that it is like the pearl that had once been discovered, had just then returned to his shell and plunged into the depths of the sea. An oblivion sea.
Only within this year (100 years from his official birth date), he was the object of a long-lenght T.V documentary broadcasted on the Moroccan T.V called ''Des Cendres de L'Oubli'' (''From the Ashes of Oblivion''...) that came after a fictional movie, close to a biographical movie (some scenes in it are completely invented), by Driss Mrni in 2011, so almost 20 years after his death. This movie was called «Larbi, ou le Destin d'un Grand Footballeur'' (''Larbi, or the Destiny of a Great Footballer''). In 2017 still, Larbi Ben Barek also closes the FYT top 50 footballers of all-time. It could not be otherwise.
A very passionate interlocutor when he was interviewed, he did not count the minutes and spelt it out. Ben Barek' opinion on FYT's #3 : ''He's good but he is overrated''. On the #5 : ''he always fall on the floor. What is that ? A great player always stands on his feet. I can't understand that !''.
Scarone H. – Was of all the Uruguayan team victories from the second edition of the South American championship in 1917, at the age of 18 years old, until the first World Cup ever played in 1930 (only one time, he was not on the Celeste side, in 1920).
Primarily a scorer of goals, Scarone rose to world wide fame for his performances in Paris then Amsterdam in the Olympics of 1924 and 1928 as the orchestrator of the line of attack of the fantastic South-American side (Petrone, Cea, Romano...). Still scorer himself but positioned behind his partners, he mainly amazed the public for his passes with diabolical precision. In 1930 (his last tournament), he was World champion as a player of the midfield who still prevailed by his perfect technique (rich skill-set) and outstanding playmaking abilities.
Héctor Scarone is one of the first South American stars to ever play in Europe making a first short stint at FC Barcelona in 1926 then another one at Inter Milan in 1931-1932 after what he wore the US Palermo jersey for two seasons. In 1934, he went back to Uruguay at Club Nacional, where he had made the essential of his career and where he would end it.
Started his career alongside Garrincha in both the Botafogo and the Brazil lines of attack (1966) then made quickly forget about the double World champion once the latter had finisihed (or almost) his career (cruel law of sport).
Arrived at the Mexican World Cup of 1970 in full form, Jair scored here with the number 7 in his back, at least one goal in each game what earned him the nickname of ''Furação''(the ''Hurricane''). Czechoslovakia, England, Romania, Peru, Uruguay, Italy... they all tasted it.
Then shaked by a quite naughty child lifestyle (at the image of a Ronaldinho that he has himself later discovered), we'd most of all notice of Jairzinho his new Afro hairstyle during the German World Cup, even though he'd score two goals including a decisive one against Argentina (if he became slow and that he played in a now flawed team, hopefully the Argentine defense was not that quick nor very well organized as well). All in all, nothing to make forget about that goal he scored four years earlier against Czechoslovakia, a typical goal of him in its conception : by starting his action in dribbles from the 25-30 meters. In '74, if he tries, that doesn't pass anymore and his goals were nothing more than fluke goals. A pity, where the demi-god of Mexico has gone ?
Afterwards the WM '74, we find him back in Marseille where he joins his fellow countryman Paulo César said ''Caju'' (arrived him, a bit earlier on ''La Canebière'') after a astonishing transfer. Jair starts his season by the end of the month of October and contributes to raise up an OM that ranked in the down of the table in December to a second place behind Saint-Etienne in May. If Saint-Etienne is the champion, the show displayed by the Brazilian duo is magical and amazes the whole French crowds. But the fairy tales have to come to an end and this one is not of the most beautiful : Jairzinho would not play anymore for OM as he reiceives a 1-year ban after he would have punched a referee at the occasion of a French Cup match with PSG, in May. How OM managed to pay for the World champion Brazilian duo remains unclear, but the fact is that after one short year, both of them come back to Brazil.
It is with Cruzeiro that Jairzinho rediscovers the South-American football and the joys of the tackles from behind, as it is more and more frequent in Brazil and especially is in the Copa Libertadores games. And the come-back is quite a success as he wins the latter competition while scoring 12 goals in 10 matches. 10 matches until a final played against River Plate of which he is sent-off in the second leg in Buenos Aires.
He then plays for one different club a year until 1982 when he is capped for the last time. In a match in the shape of a tribute against Czechoslovakia while he was in his 38th year.
Kempes – An inside left for the Argentinian team, he was a playmaker who broke the lines by his passes or runs ball at the feet - his mane blewing in the wind - and was very dangerous in front of the goal, that in the penalty area or from a long-range distance; was, all in all, a full strike force on his own. A centre forward at Valencia (1977-1981), he was here more specifically ''El Matador'', as he was quickly nicknamed in Spain. He could, withal, drift on the left as he paired in general with another centre forward in the Spanish club (which played more in a 4-4-2 instead of the Menotti's Argentina national team 4-3-3 or at times in a 4-3-3 but with Kempes in the attack line and not at midfield as, precisely, Valencia played in a hybrid formation between 4-3-3 and 4-4-2 with a withdrawn right winger while the Argentina team was, again, a 4-3-3, but that became a 4-2-4 when Kempes joined the line of attack).
Kempes, who has started his career at Instituto Cordoba before to join Rosario Central was seen, by some, as a player who was not as elegant as the Argentinian players of the past. Whether this is the case or not, he had anyway much skills to his game including a very good protection of the ball. Then, as they say : ''beauty lies in the eye of the beholder'' (that generation thing also maybe). World champion with 6 personal goals scored, including 2 in the final (top scorer).
Was not cautioned and even less sent-off after a handball on his goal-line against Poland in the second round of the tournament, though. More famous, the fact that Argentina needed a win with at least a +4 goal difference against Peru in order to finish ahead of Brazil (that played its last group match early in the afternoon) and thus to qualify to the final. Against the Peruvians and their Argentine goalkeeper, Kempes had to score 2 of the 6 goals of his team (against nothing).
These facts taken apart as well as because of it, Kempes remains as one of the most remarkable and remarked attacker of the second half of the 70s and in the whole history of the sport.
Dzajic – Anguine dribbling, pin-point curved crosses, good shooting (as on free-kicks), the third ''Star of Red Star'' had to be used as the role model for the left winger position, at his time and beyond.
Star player of the Yugoslavia team in the late 60s (with an almost perfect Euro '68), he then knew some injuries ('73) but was still there at the World Cup '74 and at the Euro '76. In club, he could only see his team being deprived of playing an European Cup Final in '71 from the bench as he could not play any of the two legs of the semi-finals against Panathinaikos through suspension.
A player of Bastia in '75 he greatly helped the club to obtain his highest ranking in the French League with a 3rd place in 1977 but the Corsicans would reach the UEFA cup Final the next year without him, back to Red Star for a last season at 31-32 years old, but with Rep instead.
Top Yugoslavian player over two decades and contemporary of Pelé and Cruyff, Dzajic is the first player from the former country in the ranking.
That being, is Dzajic really the best Yugoslavian player ever ? Some would say no, invoking the names of Bobek or of Mitic (like a Sekularac does, when criticizing the UEFA Jubilee awards selections process in an interview for Blic). For others, probably younger, it would be a Savicevic, winner of the European Cup in 1991 with Red Star then in 1994 with Milan. Very receivable. But. The hyphen between those two very remote generations, the great Yugoslavian talent of the 60s-70s which is Dzajic, has for him, again, a great performance with the national team of which he was the captain at 22 years old at the Euro 1968, a podium at the ballon d'or, in 71 (well like Savicevic or Suker and Mijatovic later, it is true) and as far as the UEFA Jubilee awards process is concerned, had maybe even more if not enough. Possible, given his political career in football.
With the formidable machine that was this Mönchengladbach team and which was like somehow replacing Ajax by affinity of style, Simonsen would win three back-to-back Bundesliga titles (1975-1977) as well as two UEFA Cup (1975 and 1979). Unfortunately, in spite of a wonderful goal in the final, he would bow to the Liverpool of Keegan (who had, finally, fully met the expectations) in the European Champions Cup 1976-1977. However, it is well Simonsen who would be awarded Ballon d'or France Football by the end of the year, by a short head.
1979. Simonsen is the sensational signing of Barça where he must replace the Austrian Krankl who stood only one season in Catalonia. But here, like it had sometimes happened to his predecessor, Simonsen is employed as a classic right winger, so quite like at his former position, when he was still a ''wild one''. Nevertheless, Simonsen will be a player of the Blaugrana during three seasons. Until 1982 and a Cup Winners Cup ''triumph''. No, Barça doesn't succeed in becoming a real top European team. Still not.
Aged 30 by then, Simonsen is de facto replaced by new super-mega-star Diego Armando Maradona as only two foreigners can be on the team-sheet, the other foreign player being Schuster. The Dane is quite pushed out and decides to join Charlton in the English Second Division, far from the Barcelona's madness or from any of the other luxury clubs that were interested in hiring him. After a brief stint (very brief, 1 year), Simonsen goes back to his country and his city, Vejle.
Still an international player, and essential for his national team as the leader of attack, Simonsen travels to France for the Euro 1984. The first major international tournament for this still outstanding player. It is the start of ''Danish Dynamite'' era but also quite the end of the Allan Simonsen's international career as he is blown away by a French defender (native of Bretagne) in the inaugural match. By the end of a first half-time during which he greatly impressed by his presence at the heart of the game of this impressive Danish team, Simonsen is out for the tournament.
He'll still play for Denmark but never again at the level at which he had accostumed the observators of the whole Europe and in the world (through tv), making one of his two last international appearances at the 1986 World Cup, in a very anecdotical way (the very last being in a friendly, against West Germany again, in the same year, but for a reversed result, 0-2). Thus ends the footballing career of Simonsen.
Right winger dribbler and scorer who more and more played through the centre, a player endowed with a sharp sense of the game and a player with an absolutely low centre of gravity, one could not know at the time but he was... the Dane Leo Messi. Or to make things chronolically, there is some Allan Simonsen in Lionel Messi. It's up to everybody.
As a coach, he has alternatively taken Luxembourg and the Faroe Islands in charge.
Blokhin – Born in Kiev of a russian father and of an Ukrainian mother who was a Soviet champion in athletic sports, it is as a swimmer that the young Oleg begins his sportive ''career''. Before to soon make talks his leg speed on the football pitches. It is at the local Dynamo that he would start and make his whole career.
Though Bronze medalist at the 1972 Olympics with his national team and that with six 6 personal goals, it is three years later that his name would resonate in the whole Europe of football. For his fourth full-season for his club, Blokhin marks the History of Soviet football by winning the Cup Winners Cup. By beating Ferencvaros in the Final (after Eindhoven in the semi-finals). First thing. Then, by the end of the year, for Dynamo Kiev beats the mighty Bayern Munich in the Super Cup that sees the Cup Winners Cup and the European Champions Clubs' Cup sides to confront themselves. Dynamo wins by 1-nil in Munich then 2-nil in Kiev. 3 goals by Oleg Blokhin. In the first leg, he had literally torn apart the Beckenbauer's line of defense at the speed of light on a counter-attack played in solo since the half-way line : before that Maïer was strucked, Scwharzenbeck had crossed the way of the fireball twice, once on the wing and one more time in the penalty area as he vainly attempted to stop it in a desperate come-back. As for Beckenbauer, preferring to watch the phenomenon a bit further from here, he remained just as mobile as a lightning rod. The lightning rod has not worked. In an instant, the Dynamo Kiev's number 11 had put everyone in agreement : this trophy would be for his team. The second leg would just be another demonstration of power of the Lobanovsky's 11 with his now reconstitued astonishing duo of attacker Onischenko-Blokhin that had already amazed Europe some months earlier : both natural wingers but both spearheads of the Ukrainian formation, they alternate at will between the roles of passer and the one of scorer, thereby causing the biggest confusion in any defense (and the proof of that is just given one more time but for good against Bayern). In Kiev, the decidedly very complete Blokhin even afford himself the luxury of scoring his last goal on free-kick.
As the brilliant finisher of that quite sophisticated team, Blokhin is awarded Ballon d'or '75. He is only 23 years old. He then would be bring to a standstill all the more brutal way.
Participant in a Champions Cup campaign in 1975-1976, Blokhin reaffirms his status of European star at the occasion of the 1st leg of the quarter-finals against Saint-Etienne. 2-0 for Dynamo, 1 goal by Blokhin. In the 2nd leg, Blokhin is about to definitly bury the French team when in a face to face with the keeper Curkovic, too greedy, he chooses to make a superfluous dribble on Janvion just arrived at the rescue but even not really when he just had to shoot directly or to pass the ball to Onischenko, positionned slightly on his left. Janvion doesn't allow the winger to ridiculize him and at the end of the counter-attack launched by Piazza, Revelli opens the score for ''Les Verts''. The balance has since that moment tipped on the side of the Frenches who will eliminate Kiev by 3 goals to none after extra-time.
3 months after his Ballon d'or, the winger's career takes a turn to the worse and it would be a long dry spell. With his national team, consisting in a majority of Kiev players who are exhausted as employed on all fronts, he would not qualify to any major tournament during the whole decade, nor in 1980.
In those early 80s, Blokhin is finally back though (1981). With a new generation of players, the Soviet Union reappears on the international football scene in 1982 at the World Cup in Spain with a Blokhin who himself seemed rejuvanated though now already 30 years old and playing more in a role of support forward. If he has not changed physically, with that appearance of Soviet football's eternal juvenile lead, his game has evolved. An imperative to regain a place in top football. The USSR team misses his world tournament, what led to highlight only its (really formidable) goalkeeper Dasaev but Blokhin would continue to star in European football during some time from what remains as a new starting point. First in national team with 5 goals in 7 matches in 1983 (but the Soviets would be eliminated by the Lusitanians on the road to the Euro '84) and then most of all with his club that registers the come-back of Lobanovsky in 1984 (so just after his fail as the coach of the national team). Arrives 1986 and it's a second win in the Cup Winners Cup for Blokhin as the leader of a new exceptional generation of Ukrainian players. He even scores a goal in the final again, this time played against Atlético de Madrid (3-0). He was simply on fire in this match. His legs had returned. As they were when he was a 20 years old striker. So naturally, Lobanovsky brings him to Mexico right after that. But here, Blokhin only plays two little pieces of match in the first round (so he did not play the contreversial game against Belgium). His record at the World Cup : 1 goal against New Zealand in 1982 and 1 against Canada, in 1986. Besides, on his 42 goals for the Soviet Union team, Blokhin had as one of his specialities to score against the likes of Mexico, New Zeland, Canada, North Korea... for the most exotic destinations, the other one of his specialities being to score against the satellite countries of the USSR or more generally against the countries of the Eastern and Central Europe, without forgetting the Scandinavian neighbors of course. He did not play much games against Western Europe or South American sides though. Anyway, this 42 goals tally will remain as the record. Another record to his name, the highest number of goals ever scored in the Soviet league with 211 unities. He also holds the records of the most appearances for the Soviet Union national team and in the Soviet league.
Blokhin or the life of a sprinter constrained to run a marathon.
Shevchenko – Revealed himself with a hat-trick at Camp Nou during a Champions League night of November 1997. Quarter-finalist in the CL with Dynamo Kiev that season, he'd be the top scorer at the end of the next one and would win the clubs' major trophy with AC Milan in 2003 scoring the decisive penalty in a penalty shootout (0-0, 3-2 against Juventus). In Italy, if all the doubts were permitted regarding how the eastern striker would adapt to the calcio, this especially as the spearhead of the prestigious club which is Milan, the latter did get everyone to agree in no time. Capocannoniere in his first season in 1998-1999, the Ukrainian, new sensation in the Serie A had become ''Sheva''.
After numerous goals but only one scudetto (2004) and a Champions League Final this time lost in 2005 (to Liverpool, 3-3 then 2-3), Shevchenko is hired by Abramovitch's Chelsea. At the image of his AC Milan best partner Kaka with his move to Real, this transfer would mark the end of his best years in club (marked with a Ballon d'or in 2004) as he doesn't adapt to the Londonian club. The one who played his first match for the Dynamo first team and scored his first domestic league and CL goals in 1994 was in his 30th year.
He'd however continue to do his country great services helping the Ukraine national team to qualify for the 2006 World Cup. Obviously a first and obviously not a small feat even though they topped a qualifying group which was not the hardest with teams of the likes of Denmark, Greece (yes the European Champion) and Turkey. This came after three defeats in barrages for different previous international tournaments : '98, 2000 and 2002 when Shevchenko scored 10 goals in bitterly disputed qualifiers that possibly costed him his 2002-2003 season.
Not content with being present in Germany, Ukraine, coached by Blokhin, would even reach the quarter-finals. But after a quite easy route until then as well as with a good measure of luck, the Ukraine of Shevchenko was swept-off by the eventual final winners and Sheva's old acquaintances, the Italian team (like they were already severely beaten in the groups day 1, by Spain).
During the tournament, Shevchenko did not weigh much, trying to help the team as much as he could by drifting a bit on the left, a bit on the right, but rarely was there in front of the goals to make the decision as he did so well before his move to the Premier League for both club and country. Shevchenko would score his last two international goals (both of them with the head) in a win over Sweden in the group stage of the Euro 2012, in Kiev, as a player of Dynamo again (since 2009). A win for nothing in the end as Ukraine would be eventually eliminated after two losses against France (0-2) then England that would be his very last match in career (0-1).
If he did not show his best in the international tournaments finals, Shevchenko however remains as the one who was the captain of the Ukraine team in the two only major events in which they took part and as the one who first, never did shirk his responsabilities and truly carried the Ukrainian team through no less than 10 years of World Cup or Euro Championship campaigns.
From 1997 until 2005, 2006, first with Dynamo then especially with Milan with whom he knew the glory, Shevchenko was probably one of the purest talents among the group of the best strikers in the world and assuringly one of the most complete. Able to start his actions from quite far from the goals with pace, very good dribbler even while launched at full speed, his shooting was lethal from any position. At short range (he developped his postioning in the penalty area in Italy) like at long range, including on free-kick. Then, right foot, left foot, with the head... no, Shevchenko was not handicaped to score goals. In all competitions, he has averaged 1 every two matches in career.
Whilst the team of Ukraine is not likely to know a new Shevchenko that soon, Shevchenko took his place in the lineage of the greatest AC Milan's centre forwards in a sort of trilogy that would consist in Nordahl, Van Basten and so, finally, himself, the #57 of this ranking.
Blokhin takes the edge on ''Sheva'' in the ranking for he transformed into a quite fine attacking midfielder or support forward and into a builder and passer in the end (what ''Sheva'' did not really do even though he was more of a support forward rather than a centre forward in his last years at Dynamo, in the style of how he was used at his very beginnings by the way). It is fair ? Not sure.
Totti – Firstly a playmaker then playing nearer from the opponent's goals in the last part of his career, the fuoriclasse from Roma stood fidel to AS Roma all his career long (Serie A debuts in 1993 aged 17, last game in May 2017 at 40 years).
A man of records, Francesco Totti is (with Paolo Maldini of Milan) the player who has played at least one match in the most consecutive seasons in the Serie A (25), the one who scored in the most consecutive seasons (23), the one who scored the highest number of doubles (46), the one who has scored the most penalty-kicks, always in Serie A (71) and he is also the oldest scorer in the Champions League (at 38 years and 59 days, against CSKA Moscow), a competition that he never won. At AS Roma, he holds all the thinkable records.
With the Nazionale, the beautiful gladiator was World Champion in Germany in 2006 but is most of all remembered for his performances during the high-end Euro 2000 held in Belgium and Holland (runner-up).
Del Piero – The Bianconero top scorer ever in Serie A revealed himself at 20 years old as a main actor of the Scudetto conquest in 1994-1995. Successor of Baggio (of which he took over in 1994-1995) as the main player of Juve and heir of the number 10 once weared by his idol Platini, Del Piero confirms during the next season in Champions League where he asserts himself as a player of international dimension and wins the trophy. The young talent is however not selected for Euro England, like his peer of Real, the Spanish Raul.
Del Piero continues to afford great displays in the CL 1996-1997 and in spite of some injuries that already appeared and from time to time interrupted his season with Juve, he shines with the Italian national team at Tournoi de France in June.
Unfortunate in the 1997 and 1998 Champions League finals but champion of Italy with 21 goals scored in the last exercise, he features among the expected superstars prior to the World Cup, alongside Ronaldo and Zidane. But not at his top form he knows at this occasion a sort of remake of the Staffetta of the 60s-1970 (Mazzola-Rivera) with the old star, always him, Baggio. The team coached by Cesare Maldini is eliminated by the local team France in the quarter-finals (0-0, 4-3 in p.s.o).
At the Euro 2000, Del Piero is benched. On the fields, the keys are entrusted to Totti who doesn't disappoint, even increases the level of his performances as Italy progresses in the tournament. Del Piero enters at the 53rd minute of the final and his combination with Totti proves to work well with him positionned in a slightly more advanced position on the pitch, nearer of the opponent defense. But after having lead by 1-0, Italy is beaten by France again, by 2-1 (''golden goal''). The state of health shown by Del Piero since months and even a couple of years including a blank 1998-1999 season due to a knee-injury justified that he did not start in the matches.
His best years would definitely belong to the mid-90s and he'll rarely show again in the new century the great player that he was when he just discovered the top level and that the world of football dicovered him as well. He'd continue to score some memorable goals with Juve against Real though, so in the Champions League, his favorite playground. Most of all, though not a starter in the team, he'd become World Champion in 2006 when the Azzuri took revenge on Les Bleus : 1-1, 5-3 in p.s.o where ADP10, who here wore the number 7, scores for the 4-3. In the Semi-finals against the hosts Germany, he had scored a magnificient goal at the 120th minute for the 2-0.
Like Totti he also became Capocannoniere past his 30. In 2008, he succeeded to the number 10 of AS Roma after having been already top scorer the previous year, at the end of a season of purgatory in the Serie B. He'd won the last of his 6 scudetti in 2012 and leave Turin for Sydney on this.
Difficult to choose who to rank first between Del Piero and Totti but it appeared in FYT's mind that Totti was (quite clearly but maybe not by a so large margin) the finest playmaker when both were equal in front of the goals (equal efficiency and equal beauty of many of their goals, like with volley-shots or free-kicks). And the Totti's performances at the Euro 2000 have maybe weighted more than the performances of ADP10 in the Champions League. Difficult one once again, though. We're talking about two obvious huge talents anyway.
Also, that could be underlined that Del Piero was more at the contact of the defenses that he did not hesitate to confront in dribbles, what can explain for a good part his injury-proness. But the fact is that he was not among the best players in the world at one point with that inconsistence due to his diminished physical capacities. This must have definitely tipped the balance for Totti who was globally always true to form. As for an aesthetic comparision between the two ''fuoriclasse'', manys would say Totti and they would be probably right but as already said, Del Piero had maybe, so to speak, a more direct style of play (that fitted well to his club's identity of play, moreover) and that can be appreciated as well.
Albert F. – The worthy successor of the ''Magical Magyars'' of the fifties, with a skill-set of the same quality as the one of his elders and with a fineness in his gestures which was of his very own, Albert Florian imposed himself on the international scene in 1962 during the ebulliant World Cup in Chile (revelation player of the tournament at 21 years old, he was of course nominated 'best young player' as he was simply already one of the very best footballers around, all ages taken in account).
Particularly expected four years later in England, Florian Albert would only confirm his talents. He is once again brilliant, like against Brazil, in his role of conductor of the Hungarian attack line. But he must bow to the Soviet Union team and to Yashin, once again in the quarter-finals, like he had to do in 1962 in front of the Czechoslovakian neighbours, less artists themselves too but winner in the end of the 90 minutes. In between the two World Cups, Albert and the Hungary team had conquered a 3rd place at the European Nations Cup like they used to do in 1960 at the Olympic Games (bronze medal).
In club, Albert mainly distinguished himself with a Fairs Cup triumph over Juventus, in Turin (1965). The one who made all his career at Ferencvaros (putting aside a little infidelity when he played a handful of matches for Flamengo, in Brazil, in 1968, this after that he offered the victory to the FIFA XI over Brazil at Maracanã) was however voted European footballer of the year in 1967. He remains as the unique Hungarian footballer to have been once the recipient of the ''Ballon d'or''.
His playing career was about to stop in June 1969 when he broke his leg in a collision with the Dane keeper Engedal during a World Cup qualifier. He was not 28 years old yet.
After one year of remission, he was back in the national team that played the Euro and reached the semi-finals in 1972. But he was not the same player anymore, had lost his splendour, he the so elegant footballer (maybe the most elegant player of the 60s) with refined technique who, until then, like only ever barely brushing the pitch, often seemed to glide above what more and more looked like a scrum. One of the last football romantics.
Hidegkuti – Nicknamed ''Öreg'' (''The Old'', ''Old Man''), the Hungarian forward was a late bloomer. Britain and the world discovered him in 1953. Yes, it is well that, at the occasion of the historical victory of Hungary or defeat of England in Wembley. November 25 exactly.
Already an international player since 6 years (with a first cap in 1945 actually but a second one only in 1947) but only a regular on the Hungarian eleven since 1952 and the Olympics in Helsinki, Hidegkuti realizes a hat-trick in the 6-3 win of these decidedly unbelievable Magyars. Three thunderclaps in the middle of a true symphony, so well Hungary was playing. The compositor of this score : coach Sebes. The virtuosos had for names : Kocsis, Czibor, Puskas. The conductor : say that, arguably, it was Hidegkuti. Inside forward or centre forward at MTK, Hidegkuti is positionned at the centre of the attack by Sebes, between Puskas and Kocsis, true spearhead forwards, especially the last mentioned. Between them, but dropped back. The term ''withdrawn centre forward'' was born. The role in itself, maybe was not really invented but unearthed and brought up to date. And masterfully interpreted.
In 1954, the 1 year older old man is contested by the public opinion as the ''Golden Team'', always invincible, goes to Switzerland in order to win the World Cup. But there is no ''Golden Team'' without Hidegkuti, Sebes is the first to know it, so Hidegkuti is logically selected as a member of the squad. In the absence of a Puskas injured early in the tournament, Hidegkuti proves to be indispensable like against Brazil then Uruguay.
In the final, Puskas is back. But Herberger makes no mistake : he sets up an anti-Hidegkuti plan. ''He is the central nerve of the Hungarian team so if I shut down their withdrawn number 9, Germany will win the World Cup''.
It did not really work, even not at all but Germany won the World Cup. As for Hidegkuti he would be unoustable until the 1958 World Cup (included) for a new fiasco (because it was already perceived like that by the Hungarian people in 1954) that happened as soon as the first round this time.
The central piece in an innovative tactical system (commonly schematized in a 4-2-4 with our number 9 positionned at midfield) and the first great actor of this ''withdrawn centre forward'' position that would set an example soon copied then quickly developped until to lead a bit later to the number 10 or 9 and half roles, Hidegkuti had not the dribbling and passing qualities of a Kopa but was a more than decent link man and provider of assists, was not as omnipresent on the field as a Di Stéfano but had a high sense of positionning that saw him alleviating any problem of balance at midfield (when his inside forwards teammates, Kocsis the first, concentrated on the attack) and at last, he shared with the Argentine the ability to forcefully shoot the ball and to score goals from the outside of the penalty area.
One more time, he was the first to play that role at such a level. And that wins him the rank #61.
Streltsov – A well-built and technical forward, the young anf gifted Muscovite Eduard Streltsov was, in the years 1955-1957, a big European hope who was imposing himself on the international football stage as well by the outstanding quality of his skillset as by body contact. A ''puncher'', one of the main caracteristics of his game was his propensity to rush at the goals in order to use his powerful and accurate shooting of the ball or to find a teammate (his runs ball at the feet made him look like a stocky player when in reality he was quite tall, a bit more than 1.80). His signature skill : the back-heeled pass. A technique used as well by a Kubala or a Di Stéfano but a skill which illustrated well, in the context of the scientific Soviet football, all the free and creative spirit of Streltsov who did not content himself with displaying some unusual pieces of skills and to propose a show of which he was the main character but also had, outside of the pitch, the behaviour of a capricious boy who was able to refuse to play for the club where he was demanded to play by the regime (he refused to leave Torpedo for CSKA or Dynamo). All of that made of Streltsov a player who particulary distinguished himself. Dangerously even.
May 1958. As the fame of the young prodigy was established in the whole country and had even quickly get through the Iron Curtain due to the international matches into which Streltsov continuously greatly impressed (like since his debuts against Sweden when he scored 3 times and gave 3 assists), it is time for the regime lead by Khrushchev to react, at 1 month from the next World Cup, in Sweden. Once considered in order to serve the image of the party – an idea which was quickly abandoned – the disturbator Streltsov must disappear.
As pleasure-seeker on the pitch as in his life (alcohol, women), Streltsov sees himself accused of rape. His supposed victim, Marina Lebedeva, who is no less than the daughter of a general of the Red Army, retracts but one year ago, the footballer who was becoming too much of a star had had an alleged relationship with the 16-year-old daughter of the first female Politburo member Ekaterina Furtseva, Svetlana, who was besotted of the champion and the latter, at the end of this new ''misadventure'' had already made a big mistake. Furtseva suggested to Streltsov that he should marry her daughter, what he refused with desinvolture in his words. Subsequently, he would have even made insulting declarations regarding the young woman. The accumulation of all these troubles would lead to quickly see Streltsov finally convicted of the rape of Marina Lebedeva who has been actually violented but can't affirm by who. Two Streltsov's teammates involved had been rapidly released. Was Streltsov guilty or innocent, it is still difficult to know but what is certain is that he was clearly targetted.
The national team coach Kachalin tries, through his relations, to obtain that Streltsov can at least be of the team that will go to Sweden. Thousands of supporters and workers who believe in the innocence of their favorite manifest against this conviction. Nothing can be done. Streltsov, 20 years old was condemned to 12 years. He will be deported and his name deleted from all the registers without forgetting, of course, the scoring charts. In prison, through the intermediary of a convict, they break his legs.
The one who had, arguably more or less consciously outdared the regime, returns from the gulag in February 1963 as his sentence is shorten for good conduct. Between the day of his condemnation and the one of his realease, in Moscow, Furtseva had been ousted from the Politiburo.
In a first time only authorized to play in the lowest divisions, the right to play in the first league again is given to Streltsov in 1965. By Brejnev who became the new leader in the party. Thus, Streltsov comes back in the Torpedo first team which became the Soviet league champion in 1960 ans was 2nd in '61 without him but with Valentin Ivanov.
It is not the blond-haired beautiful athlete that we used to know who rediscovers the Russian pitches but a bald and now really stocky man as if he had lost in addition to his hair, also some centimeters. Of his speed, he has lost everything. But the technique is always there. In his first year since his release, he contributes to a second champion title for Torpedo with 26 matches and 12 goals. Two years after, he was designated Soviet player of the year when he had already obtained the second place the year he was champion (behind his teammate Voronin). In that year 1967, he is a regular player of the national team again. That was 10 years. In 1966, he still had not a visa, could not play for country and did not participate to the World Cup, in England. A World Cup that Soviet Union would have had certainly more chances to win in 1958 with on the team the one who, probably rightly, is considered as the greatest Russian player ever. Did not Pelé, even though he was hismelf still at the state of promess, said of Streltsov that he was even better than him back in 1957 ? Technically as complete, Streltsov had no doubt the advantage of being physically stronger than the Brazilian at the time. Already amongst the top players in the Ballon d'or ranking that year, saluted by many observators from many countries, not sure if Streltsov would have then reached the same heights than the Auriverde number 10 but without the tragedy of May 1958, certainly that he would have been one of the best players in the world during that 7th decade of the 20th century. The said ''golden age'', but not for everybody and certainly not for Streltsov, probably not consolated by his new '"Soviet player of the year" title obtained in 1968 after he had scored 21 last goals (3rd top scorer with two players at 22 goals).
He ended his career in 1970 after two years during which he played way less matches and did not score anymore, confined to the role of a playmaker, more for he had exhausted his second breath than by real choice. He was 33 years old.
He has played all his 222 league games and scored all his 99 goals for Torpedo (for one unit not enough to be of the Grigory Fedotov club). He would have liked to play for Spartak of which he was a supporter.
In the absolute a ''more complete'' player than Blokhin, if Streltsov features here as the Russian number one, he cannot surpass the Ukrainian who hismelf knew his peak very early but also had the advantage, at his time, Ballon d'or-wise, to have less competition to be comfortably elected as the European top player and most of all had of course also a longer career though him, for different reasons which are not comparable by the way, was divided in two distinct parts with a blank period in between as well (and we'd talk more of a 'dark period' for Streltsov). Two different players of two different eras, with equal but different talents, FYT will justify the positionning of Blokhin as the Soviet best player for he was more modern... faster...and in advance on his time with that dribbling at lightning speed... and for his actual records and palmarès, which can't be challenged with ''ifs''. But Streltsov has the prize for the most tragic life, for sure. And Sindelar for the most tragic death.
Gérson – A young prospect to eventually make the 1962 World Cup Brazil squad, it is finally in 1966 that Gerson will be of the team "auriverde". For the early exit that we know.
But four years later, this midfielder will be the brain (but not really the lung) of the team that made history by winning the first World Cup in Mexico with brilliant style, ultimate consecration for the king Pelé.
If Pelé was ''the King'' (''O Rei''), a world superstar and holding a central position amongst this constellation of Brazilian stars, it is well Gerson, set back behind the four celestial bodies of the attack, who was the one who dictated the tempo of the games : temporizing here, passing there at short or long distance, choosing to run at the goals here, shooting there - most of the time from the entry of the penalty area, as in the final against Italy with his personal goal which is, like every of the four goals scored by Brazil that day or even all the 19 Brazilian goals scored through the tournament, a goal for eternity.
This world title rewarded a talent which was recognized since the early 60s. At club level, he built during a fifteen-years career a consequent palmares with different clubs from Rio (first part of his career) to Sao Paulo (in the 70s). A fly on the ointment, he also built the reputation of a player with sometimes violent behaviour, especially in the last part of his career.
Mazzola A. – First used in attack as an arrow by "Mister H.H" Helenio Herrera in his counter-attacking system, Alessandro "Sandro" Mazzola then found again his natural position of midfielder and playmaker by the end of the French-Argentine coach's era. The former pacy forward who used to be Mazzola would continue to execute his role of orchestrator until 1977 at the age of 35 years old when he stops his career with somehow the feeling of having done his duty. 17 years of service for Inter (2 European Cups and 4 scudetti) and 11 years of adventures with the Nazionale (1963-1974) with which he greatly contributed to win the Euro 1968 title against Yugoslavia, unlike the other ''fuoriclasse'' of that era, Giovanni ''Gigi'' Rivera, of Milan AC, who did not play the final(s).
2 years after, in Brazil, Mazzola was preferred to Rivera in order to play the first 45 minutes with Rivera to replace him for the second half. This system, imagined by the national team coach Valcareggi, was called the ''Stafetta'' (the relay). But contrarily to the semi-finals where this ''tradition was respected'' and that has seen Italy to beat West Germany in extra-time, in the final against Brazil, Mazzola would play all the 90 minutes whilst Rivera would enter the pitch only for the last 6 minutes when it was already 3-1. Too late and Brazil would add one with a last superb collective goal finished by Carlos Alberto for a 4-1 win. Italy was unable to complete a double Euro then World Cup that would have been a first in History.
That being, or not being, Italy certainly owes these formidable results for a great part to Mazzola who knew how to contradict the critics made about his game like towards Rivera, always him, by his fellow countrymen journalists but also abroad like in England (they were called ''exhibition matches players'' and ''too tender, like all the boys of their generation''). Indeed, he carried the Italian team with efficiiency through his role of ''regista'' and that for many years again after these two summits of the 1968 and 1970 years. And still in the facts, the number of signs of admiration for his game has never ceased to increase, overwhelming the number of critics.
Looking like exclusivley a runner and a dribbler at first (and it is of course well-known that it can be difficult to get rid of an image that bedevils us) Sandro Mazzola had developped his innate talents to become a true lord of football. Himself his turn.
Rivera #29 and Mazzola #64 ? The difference between a bright genius and a genius which is more veiled. But which is still very real.
Susic – One of the best players in Europe at the turn of the 70s-80s as a player of FK Sarajevo and of the Yugoslavia team, sort of World Champion of the friendlies, it is at the age of 27 years that Safet Susic said ''Pape'' obtains the right to go play football abroad.
Guilty to signing a contract with Torino FC after having already "sealed a deal" with Inter Milan, Susic would never show his talents of artist in the Italian football, recent World Champion. The young in the French elite PSG of the president Borelli sniffs the bargain and in 1982, Susic makes his debuts with the Ajax style jersey but in red and blue at the Tournoi de Paris. However, the Yugoslavian federation would block his transfer until December. He is repatriated in a first time. Then, in the Parisian winter, the big story of Susic with PSG can begin. For his first match in the league, he enters at the 53th minute but can't avoid a 0-1 loss against the reigning champion Monaco. Just after this first, Susic finds efficiency and scores 8 goals in 18 matches that permits to PSG to finish on the podium. Most of all, he wins the second in a row and second ever French Cup of the Parisians that deprives the Nantais of a double, while having a major role in what was a somptuous final with one goal and one assist coming from his magical feet.
Less prominent afterwards (as performing less constantly, the magician also amuses himself in disappearing), he regains influence in a 1985-1986 season at the end of which PSG wins its first league title ever. This peak is followed by another period during which Susic shows himself only sporadically. But he is not finished. By the end of the decade, for the great pleasure of all his fans in Paris and in the whole France, Susic is back on the scene, for the good of the show, and for the good of his club (vice-champion in '89). He's by then not the player who runs at the defenders anymore (like he did with Sarajevo or Yugoslavia with the number 7 in his back and still did during a while with PSG) but a player who concentrates on his playmaking abilities, which were huge. At a statistic level, he still holds the record of assists at PSG (95 in all competitions).
The glance, the art of passing, the shots, the dribbling, quick off the mark, Susic had everything! Apart from consistency. Had sometimes blank matches, was also sometimes transparent during 85 minutes... but preferably after a dribble, with one pass or one shot, he was still the one who often decided of the outcome of a game. The true eastern footballer of genius.
Deceptive with a Yugoslavia team that lacked of cohesion at the World Cup '82 and at the Euro '84, he was still on the team that reached the quarter-finals in Italy in 1990. At this occasion, the Bosnian was saluted as ''the best of us all'' by his teammates of the young and last Yugoslavian generation, the one of the Serb Stojkovic, of the Montenegrin Savicevic and of the Croatian Prosinecki.
Pedernera – Centrepiece of River Plate's ''La Maquina'' he was nicknamed ''El Maestro''. Enough said.
Falcão – Star player of the beautiful sides that were the 70s SC Internacional and the AS Roma of Liedholm in the first half of the 80s where he formed a remarkable duo of playmakers with the Austrian Prohaska, Falcão knew the best eras of each club and can be seen as the best player ever of both of these two clubs (assuringly the best ever at Internacional then, maybe we have a tie with Totti regarding Roma).
Not selected to play the 1978 World Cup as Internacional was knowing a less good period after having conquered every titles they could conquer in Brazil but most of all for tactical reasons with a Rivelino still on the team among other offensive midfielders so the need of having ''true defensive players'' at midfield, Falcão would be however well of the World Cup squad in 1982. Thus, the injustice of his no-selection in 1978 was repaired. One of the very best players in Spain with this legendary '82 Brazilian side which is still considered by some as the one that should have won and still by manys as one of the assuringly most seductive in history, he would have however to suffer from the law of the Italians and of their little devil and eventual World Champion Pablito Rossi (thus, he would not join his illustrious predecessors who definitvely won that Jules Rimet trophy sewn on his chest and... somewhat outdated in 1982).
Scudetto winner in 1983, also the year of all the personal honours, the handsome one who was nicknamed the ''8th King of Rome'' would have to fail in the 1984 European Cup final at ''Stadio Olimpico'' after a penalty shootout gone down in legend and history – and into which, by the way, he refused to take part. In 1980, before his move to the Eternal City, he had already lost a Copa Libertadores final (0-0, 1-0 against Club Nacional).
But he would not loose everything by adding many trophies of another kind to his palmarès, for instance named Moana Pozzi.
Matthaüs – Member of the West German European champion squad '80 (one appearance in the first round) then of the World Champion squad in 1982 (2 appearances in the first round) as a player of Mönchengladbach (UEFA Cup runner-up '80) and, back then, as a midifelder with first, defensive duties, Lothar Matthaüs became at Bayern Munich a player with more and more offensive responsabilities which, combined with his determination to impose himself and his determination to win, made him a very complete and a very remarked midfielder.
In Bavaria, the young go-getter would win his first titles. With his new and young leader, Bayern dominates German football but Matthaüs and his teammates would have to see the players of Porto to lift the European Cup in May 1987 as they were dominated in the second half of the final by the trio Futre, Madjer and Juary.
In international football, after a personal good Euro '84 (but a 1st round exit), Matthaüs had to finally fully reveal the player he was at the occasion of the 1986 World Cup. Solid, decisive on a long-range shot against Morocco in the round of 16 (1-0), he had also shown far from negligible technical abilities - especially until the quarter-finals. West Germany reached the Final again but he misfortune of 1987 of which we already talked about was just a repeat as he had here to bow to Maradona's Argentina (2-3). The ambition was here but the trophies remained evasive when he approached them.
After a spoilt Euro '88 on home soil (only semi-finalist, beaten by archi-rival and eventual winner Holland) but armed with much experience, Matthaüs joined the mighty and very prominent Italian Serie A as he was signed by Inter Milan.
Under the orders of Trapattoni, Matthaüs wins the national title in his first season with the number 10 in the back. Thanks to his performances that lead to that scudetto conquest (after almost a decade without any title for Inter excpt for an Italian Cup), the German becomes a true global star.
Arrives then the World Cup tournament, held in the country of which he has fully adopted the local life style, where he met glory, where in sum, Matthaüs blossomed. In this context, everything can happen and he'd meet glory again by winning the supreme title.
Not at the marking of Maradona this time unlike the '86 final (the task apportioned to Buchwald who perfectly made his job), Matthaüs sees his team winning over the reigning champion and beater of Italy (in Naples) thanks to a penalty scored by his Inter teammate Brehme.
Once again, like in 1986, Matthaüs had quite impressed... until the round of 16, after what he was content with a simple role of conscientious midfielder. But the essential is not here but rather there : 16 years after his headcoach Franz Beckenbauer in Munich, as the captain, Lothar Matthaüs lifts up the World Cup trophy in the skies of Rome.
In the following of this triumph, Matthaüs and Brehme were joined by Klinsmann at Inter. A third world champion for the Nerazzuri like an answer to AC Milan and its Dutch trio (Gullit, Basten, Rijkaard) that won the last European Cup. If Inter would never re-conquer the scudetto again, they still won the 1990-1991 UEFA Cup. During this European campaign, Matthaüs is the author of 6 goals including 1 in the final against AS Roma. Thus, he remained spotlighted. The attacking midfielder of Inter also scored 16 league goals (including 6 penalty-kicks) like against the last champion Naples and against a Maradona who would finish the season sooner than others.
After 1 title then 2 third place in the Serie A followed by a 8th place and after an Euro tournament to which he did not participate in as he had a severe knee-injury (knee ligament rupture), in April, it's time for Matthaüs to go back to Germany, at Bayern.
The 31 years old started in that place that he knew well, his second career. No, that injury did not mean the end. In September, he'd be back on the fields. Now as a libero. In October he'd be back in the National Team.
Bundesliga champion '94, he was of the German team which had to defend its world title in the United States. Matthaüs doesn't play very well in the beginning of the competition. Then, libero before the defense, less defender than first organizer of the team, also taking some personal initiatives as to go forward with the ball at the feet, the Bayern captain at times raise up his playing level and contributes for Germany reaches the quarter-finals. But subject to inner rivalries (between the former trio of Inter to start with but also involving Möller, Sammer and inevitably Effenberg), rivalries that would never be putted aside like in '90, the group of Vogts could not make illusion anymore (if they ever succeed in it through the tournament as they mainly won against Belgium thanks to the duo Völler-Klinsmann in the round of 16, for instance rather than altogether) at the quarter-finals' stage where they're beaten by hungry for glory Stoichov and Letchkov's Bulgaria (1-0 at half-time with a penalty-kick by Matthaüs, Germany is then overwhelmed in the second half, 1-2).
The next German team of Euro England '96, would be organized around and win with Sammer, himself converted as a libero around 1995, year during which his rival of Bayern this time had to suffer an Achilles tendon rupture. Most of all, Matthaüs had left, since December 1994, a Nationalmmanschaft where is leadership was highly contested.
By the way, the former East German international player probaly excelled in that mythical role of libero more than Matthaüs would ever do.
However, it was well Matthaüs who would be the libero of the German team in France in 1998 as this time, it was Sammer who suffered a new injury since the beginning of the year after having been already often injured just after the Euro of which he was the star. For his last World Cup, Matthaüs couldn't do better than a quarter-final again, like in '94 (swept-off by another surprising team full of dynamism, Croatia this time) but he equalized here the record number of participations to the tournament of Carbajal (5) and set the new record of games played : with 25 appearances thus far ahead from the 21 of Maradona, banned from this previous U.S tournament after two matches (they were, until, '98, co-leaders).
If the Lothar Matthaüs' career seemed to arrive at an end with all these records, it was however still not the case. With Bayern he still could win the trophy lacking to his palmarès i.e the European Cup, now Champions League. After having eliminated Kaiserslautern then Dynamo Kiev, Matthaüs and Bayern rediscover the European final again in May 1999 so that 12 years after. They met at Camp Nou the runner-up of their group in the first stage, Manchester United.
Bayern opens the score early in the game thanks to a free-kick by Basler. Kahn had almost nothing to do when the 38 years old defender Matthaüs left the field at the 80th minute. It's still 1-0. From the bench he'd assist to the two goals scored by the Red Devils in the overtime. Man United wins its second trophy after 1968. If Matthaüs won the UEFA Cup with Bayern 20 years after the last exploit of Beckenbauer and co., in 1996, he couldn't help to bring back the ''real European Cup'' in Bavaria and at a personal level had just to face the fact that his last opportunity to win it was definitely flying away.
He then played his last season with Munich appearing only 15 times in the league as he signed at Metrostars (New York) in March 2000. This did not prevent him to be... selected for the Euro in Belgium and Holland. For his last international tournament, 20 years after the Euro in Italy (and it is really true that it is his last tournament, no trick intended), he played in all the games of his team. All three games. For a last place in the group 1 behind Portugal, Romania and England.
Some months later, he won't renew his contract with the American franchise after a defeat in the MLS conference finals and thus finished a playing career started in August 1979 in October 2001. By the end of this year, he was designated Honorary Captain of the German national team after Fritz Walter and Beckenbauer (he'd be joined by Wiegmann in 2004 and by Prinz in 2013).
A player more physical than technical even though not maladroit at all, he'll forever symbolizes the footballer of the 90s (or more exactly, if we want to, of the early 90s) in spite of having been individually at the peak of his powers in the previous decade.
Xavi – Arguably the purest product from la Masia, the Catalan Xavi made his debuts in the Barça first team in 1998 with Van Gaal as the headcoach (1998-1999 season, season of the club's centenary) and imposed himself step by step by following a minutious program that makes him a central piece in the Blaugrana system in 2001. After what is his first full-season (in terms of games played and relatively to the quality of his performances), he's selected to play the 2002 World Cup with Spain in South Korea and Japan. The young midfielder of 21 years would never see a Japanese stadium though as Spain is eliminated by South Korea in the quarter-finals. 0-0, 3-5 on penalties. Xavi had scored his.
In the following of this bitter World Cup elimination, Xavi would know some difficult times with FC Barcelona under Luis Van Gaal (back to the club in 2002) then Radomir Antic. Hopefully, everything would change once Frank Rijkaard would be intronised as the coach in summer 2003. With less defensive responsabilities into a team that takes the form that would be its for the full next decade and with more offensive responsabilities as one of the true playmakers of the team from his right midfielder position in that 4-3-3, Xavi definitely imposes himself as one of the best player of La Liga in 2004. Arrived at maturity and now inhabited of a high sense of the game which find the whole place to exprimate, the little midfielder starts to do real wonders. After a bad Euro with Spain in Portugal (1st round exit) Xavi and Barça continue their ascent but early hit a snag in the Champions League (named Chelsea, in the 2004-2005 round of 16). They're however champion of Spain again, 6 years after.
And that's the crash ! For Xavi. FC Barcelona wins the Champions League without him, injured for the whole season, by beating Arsenal in the final (a final that gaters the two most attractive teams of the season). Back on the fields since a few weeks only he was left on the bench for the whole 90 minutes (Iniesta at half-time then Larsson at the hour of play when it was still 1-0 for Arsenal and who are respectively the authors of the pre-assist and of the assist for the Eto'o's equalizer then Belletti, who scored the winner, were the three men used by Rijkaard in order to beat an opponent reduced to ten).
Xavi would be however of the Spain squad in Germany. But here, La Seleccion is eliminated as soon as the round of 16 by the French team of a Zidane that Spain wanted to sent to retirement. Missed !
We'd rediscover Xavi (or discover for the non-specialists) in 2008. Hub of the team and constituing a formidable duo with Iniesta, Xavi wins here the Euro with a Spain team that it will be agreed to not call La Seleccion anymore but from now on La Roja. Also is he not designated best player of the tournament by the UEFA. Modeled on the playing style of Barça this Spain team impressed by the quality of his game and Xavi was the catalyst of it.
He and Barça would re-conquer the Liga title only in the wake of this European championhsip success, so three years after their last national title as their game made of mathematical field-grid, possession, clever passes would now reach the perfection with, it also true, the incalculable benefit coming from the awakening of a Leo Messi who finishes the actions when he does not just score by himself. With the Argentine, himself a product from la Masia, Barça also manage to finally beat Chelsea and to re-conquer the Champons League title. This time, Xavi is on the team during the whole competition including the final.
The experience stored up during the Euro (during which, by the way, Villa and Torres were the finishers) also constituted a considerable profit to the ''Xaviniesta'' and Messi's Barça which would dominate La Liga then, in a bilateral stream, greatly benefit to the National team again as Spain realizes the double Euro-World Cup in 2010 with this time Xavi filling a more central position at midfield, positioned like a true number ten. It is then time for Barça to add a third Champions League trophy to his cabinet (2011) and, because it's not over, to Spain to make an incredible double, treble or whatever one can name that, by winning the Euro 2012. With a great Xavi. A Xavi with maybe with less prominent displays than in 2008 but better than in 2010. In that 2011-2012 season, he had never scored as much goals : 9 in La Liga and 14 in all (1 in the CL, his average score).
His last great feat of arms accomplished, Xavi plays and wins a third personal Champions League final in 2015 coming from the bench at the 78th minute when it was 2-1 for Barça in order to replace captain Iniesta (3-1 for Barça in the end against Juve).
It was time to salute one of the most exquisite playmakers ever seen, with formidable protection of the ball (his 360 turn skill, puta madre !), high tactical intelligence and with that milimetric passing (that to find a partner at 10 centimeters from him but also many times a bit more).
Pirlo – What a face, what an attitude, what a man ! What a player ! How not to admire Pirlo ? See, didn't he manage to be loved by AC Milan then Inter and Juve fans ? Yes, he did.
At last, the best Italian player at the 2006 World Cup in FYT's opinion... no ? Yes he was.
Still nice to watch at the Euro 2012 too.
Netzer – The most famous bachelor of West Germany in the 60s is one of the finest playmakers ever produced in his country. An image printed in mind : the long-haired blond man and his shoe size 47 kicking a long ball in a pendulum movement. Not to blindly clear the ball, but more certainly in order to find a partner launched to the assault of the opponent. The speciality of Netzer, true general of the Borussia Mönchegladbach's midfield and grand rival with his club of the Beckenbauer's Bayern Munich from the late 60s to the early 70s.
Not selected for the 1966 World Cup, nor in 1970 although he was champion of West Germany with his club, Netzer would reach the peak of his career in 1972 when he finally became the Nationalmannschaft number 10 instead of another of his grand rivals but also friend, Overath of FC Köln. Author of a great European Nations Cup campaign (passing by England) and of a great final, he would finish 3rd at the Ballon d'or that year, behind an also excellent Gerd Müller, 2nd, with who he formed a brilliant partnership in the national team and a Franz Beckenbauer, awarded number 1, who without being exceptional was still quite fidel to the qualities he had shown since some years and who was the captain of the team.
One year after, Netzer would play his last game for M'gladbach in the DFB-Pokal final, one month after an UEFA Cup final lost to Liverpool. It would be against FC Köln...of Overath.
Well present but against all odds as he is in mourning, Netzer doesn't make the starting eleven nonetheless. From the bench, with a quite detached air as regards to what happens on the pitch, the M'gladbach star attends impassive to the equalizer of Cologne by Neumann just before a half-time during which Weisweiler would ask him to come into play but without success. Netzer is thus still a simple spectator during the second half. 1-1 after 90 minutes. Nothing is lost for M'gladbach but the midfielder Kulik seems to be severely diminished by an injury. Netzer asks his future ex-teammate about how he feels and, while unzipping his tracksuit jacket, communicates his decision to enter the pitch to Weisweiler. Like Superman drops his office suit in a telephone booth to soon only wear his super red and blue suit and fly to the innocent's rescue, near the very modest bench of wood onto which he was sitting since 1 hour and a half, Netzer does the same with his tracksuit letting appear his superb BMG kit to join the battlefield for the extra-time with a rapid step.
94th minute, it is the second touch of super Netzer who takes the ball near the center circle, slightly on the left... a few strides cutting through the middle in order to solicit a one-two to a partner, a few strides more towards the goals...and in one touch with the left foot, Netzer propels the ball in the back of the net ! 2-1, final result. He actually failed to properly shot the ball but the final outcome is here.
It would be the last grand gesture of this player of exception who under the sun of Spain, seems to drop off, far from the image of a player who still a short time before was able to run at the goals hell for leather and now, a second choice behind Overath again, would only participate in the loss to D.D.R at the 1974 World Cup. About that event, he'd tell : ''thanks to my awful performance, we've been drawned in the easiest of the two groups » (by loosing to the East Germans, the West German team inheritated of the group B in the second round with Poland, Sweden and Yugoslavia instead of the group A with The Netherlands, Brazil and Argentina. Then, to the West Germans, on home soil, to beat the Dutch team in the Final in Munich).
If Netzer has added some lines to his palmarès with Real Madrid (Cup 1974, double 1975 and another league title in 1976) he did it without flamboyance while his former club was becoming a true machine in Europe with always an increasing speed of execution, with now the forward Simonsen as the chief of the attack. UEFA Cup winner in 1975 they would however fail to win the European Cup, one more time beaten by Liverpool, in 1977, when Netzer was ending his playing career with an unique and unsucessful season in Zürich with Grasshopper.
But he would quickly find success again, as soon as in February 1978, now as a general manager of Hamburger SV, what he will be until 1985. It is during the Netzer years that Hamburg would built the essential of its palmarès, an European Champions Club's Cup captured against Juve topping the list of all the accumulated titles.
Mazzola V. – Equally great at midfield from which he organized the game but also shown himself as a complete midfielder able to take up defensive duties and bring the ball forward in the maneer of a box-to-to box player as in attack, where he could deliver the last pass as well as he could score himself, Valentino Mazzola was the leading figure of ''Il Gran Torino'' side that marked the immediate post-war era.
The team with garnet-coloured jersey which, as well as Mazzola aligned Lorenzi, Gabetto, Loik in attack would disappear in the Superga air disaster, in 1949, as they had just left Turin in order to join Lisbon for an umpteenth exhibition match. There would be no survivors.
Thus, the population of Turin lost a brilliant team which beyond football symbolized new hopes. At a strict sportive level, the national team also had to be fully rebuilt.
Gren – In order to get an idea, there was some Platini in Gren : the subtle feints, the ability to orientate the game in one or two touches, with any area of the foot, the shooting precision. Trapattoni preferred to compare Platini to Schiaffino though.
Back to the Swedish player, he was one of the most respected European footballer in the 40s, then joined Milan in the boiling calcio for the 1949-1950 season when near his 30 and where he played with his fellow country-men Nordahl and Liedholm. With the trio called ''Gre-No-Li'', the Rossoneri won the domestic league and the Latin Cup in 1951. Nordahl was the battering ram, Liedholm the linkman or ''two-ways midfielder'' and Gren, the eldest of the trio, the great orchestrator. Small but courageous, he was most of all renowed for his perfect technique that earned him the nickname of ''professor''.
Gold medalist in London in 1948 with Nordahl and Liedholm, he would be runner-up of the World Cup held on home soil 10 years after, still with Liedholm but without Nordahl. He was then 38 years old.
Stojkovic – Has started his career at Radnicki Nis with whom he became an international player before to know an inevitable move to Red Star Belgrade who welcomes the gifted child in 1986. With Red Star, if not for the fog, he was about to eliminate Milan in the 1988-1989 European Cup. Excellent at San Siro stadium with a stunning goal that sees him to left both Maldini and Baresi and finally also Rossi on the bottocks, Stojkovic, Savicevic & co. are then leading 1-0 in the second leg at Marakana when the match is stopped and cancelled after one hour of play - and the expulsion of Virdis. In the replayed match, Stojkovic is the author of another splendid goal, a shot just under the crossbar for an equalizer but Milan would be the winner after a penalty shootout. Only a first missed opportunity to taste the glory, for Stojkovic.
Right after the Italian World Cup of 1990 (we'll come back to this), he joins the western football, in the south of France, at the ambitious OM club (Marseille). Unfortunately his knee ceded early in the season. He'll be technically available for his team by the end of the season and an European Cup final that OM will play against... Red Star, his former club, where he is already a legend. But Goethals doesn't pick him (in spite of a very good performance one week earlier against Nice), making him enter as a sub only in the last few minutes of the extra-time. Red Star wins it after a dull 0-0 match and a penalty shootout into which Stojkovic refused to take part in.
After a loan at Hellas Verona in the Seria A where he wanders with his bandaged knee, Stojkovic effectuates a very good second half of season 1993-1994 with OM that he soon must leave again (OM-VA affair). Thus ends the club's European career of Stojkovic. A career which was not at the level of his talent.
Still, here's a player who's been present at the Euro 1984 as well as in the Euro 2000. Passing by the World Cups 1998 (1 nice goal against Germany) and most of all 1990. Stojkovic was a true ray of light into that Cup. He was the best of his team against Spain in the round of 16 with two magnificient goals including one free-kick and first, a goal full of mastery in the penalty area : at the receipt of an aerial cross, he smoothly controls the ball and beats Zubizarreta with the inside of the foot (that must be seen to be believed) and was the best again against Argentina in the quarter-finals (although he missed his penalty-kick in the penalty shootout, like Maradona) but that has finally seen the South Americans to qualify.
The accursed football genius had started his international career with Yugoslavia in 1983 and finished it 18 years later with Serbia and Montenegro of which he was the captain from 1994 to 2001. He was by then, on that same period, a player of Nagoya Crampus Eight, coached by Arsène Wenger in a first time, and of whom he'll become the coach his turn, from 2008 to 2013, after having been the Red Star president, but during a short time, between 2005 and 2008.
Stojkovic is the 5th Star of Red Star after Mitic, Sekularac, Dzajic, and Petrovic (the 6th is the 1991 European Cup winning team). In the land of the rising sun, this magnificient prince of football was and still is considered as a king. In spite of the few matches that he has played, he has been voted in the 11 of the century of OM by the club fans (internet poll), remembered in Marseille as a true magician.
As a dribbler (specialist of the hooks) and as a passer (specialist of the long passes and crosses, also of the set-pieces, always pinpoint), Stojkovic was second to none over the period 1988-1990.
Riquelme – Like a Zidane, Riquelme learnt football in the street. A ''classic number 10'', understand a number 10 of the midfield (and who deals with situations in the small spaces), he was, like the French man, a sort of UFO in the football of the years 90s-2000s as the role had globally disappeared when every team had his 10 in the 60s-80s, especially in the early 80s. Like his fellow country-man Bochini of the Independiente 70s-80s, Riquelme was a player of the last pass, the true ''assist man''. A Boca Juniors player from 1996 to 2002, the native of San Fernando in Buenos Aires then joined Europe at a Barça coached at the time by Luis Van Gaal. Here he'll have to respect the role of an attacking midfielder who, most of the time, must stick to one side of the pitch. A Failure. After one season in Catalonia, Riquelme joins on loan the more modest club of Villareal where he'll find the ideal context to show his talents. 3rd in La Liga in 2005, he is only then definitively transferred. Freshly awarded best foreign La Liga player and released from his situation of a player who is on loan, Riquelme would even manage to reach the semi-finals of the Champions League with the "yellow submarine" the next season. An idol at Villareal, the Argentine would however only play the first half of the next season in Europe as he returns to Boca in January 2007. He would, here too, consolidate his status of idol by winning a third personal Copa Libertadores after 2000 and 2001. Passer but also scorer, he scores the amazing number of 8 goals in 11 games within the competition including 3 of the 5 goals of his team in the final played in two legs against Grêmio. A return to the country like a renaissance. Riquelme is happier, and that shows.
Often compared to Maradona who before him shaked La Bombonera but only one year, in 1981 (compared as a playmaker, as a free-kick taker, as both wore the number 10 and as both played that football that can be only learnt in the street, and in Argentina), Riquelme is the one who is considered by manys, if not all, as the greatest player of all times of the club with yellow and blue colors. However, Riquelme would not know the same success as his elder with the Argentina team. At the level of the World Cup or of the Copa América, in spite of numerous... assists, that placed him at the top of the individual charts at the end of the tournaments, Riquelme tended to disappear at the hour of the big matches, which was already reproached to him when playing in Spain.
Cubillas – Revelation of the Mundial '70 with the Peru team of Didi and their magnificient kit, white with that red diagonal band crossing the jersey from the left shoulder to the right kidney, the inside left with great passing and great shooting particularly marked the World Cup history. After this quarter-final in Mexico (2-4 loss to Brazil) and 5 personal goals through the tournament, Cubillas added 5 others 8 years later in Argentina including a free-kick for ages scored against Scotland from the right corner of the penaly area, with the outside of the right foot, in the right top corner of the goals.
He had also won the Copa América with Peru in between, in 1975. At this occasion, if he only played the third and decisive match of the final missing a penalty-kick in it, he had scored in the semi-finals, already on free-kick, a very beautiful and important goal in the first leg in Brazil : with an authentic ''folha seca''. No need to say who gave him the inspiration.
At club level, Cubillas travelled to Europe in 1973 in order to play for FC Basel where he stood a few months before to draw closer to the Atlantic sea by joining FC Porto. Soon captain and idol of the Dragoes, he would not win any title here however. Though he was the author of 28 goals as the centre forward of the team in the 1975-1976 season, he would not even know the joy of being crowned top scorer as Rui Jordao and Nené, both Benfiquistas, topped the scoring charts with respectively 30 and 29 goals.
The next year, he goes back to Alianza Lima by whom he was hired at 16 years old and for whom he had scored his first goals at 17, finishing top scorer of the league in his first season (that was in 1966). A succesful come-back, as Alianza returns to success whilst Cubillas wins his first Peruvian league titles (1977, 1978). His last ones also.
In 1979, at 30 years, he signed for the NASL franchise of Fort Lauderdale Strikers where he played with Gerd Müller and George Best. He'd play continuously there until 1983 and just after a third and last World Cup participation during which, this time, he would not score.
He then played until the late 80s between Florida and Peru where he notably helped his club of forever after the plane crash of which they were the victims in December 1987.
Raul – Like Del Piero, Raul was at an early age one of the main stars of the Champions League in the nineties and even a bit after (the first cited at Juve and our boy, even younger, for Real). On the other hand, he never shone in international tournaments with La seleccion : the object of all the expectations in '98 (after an Euro '96 for which he was, so to speak, unfairly not selected), Raul, like Spain, disappoint. Afterwards, his international career would continue in the same tone until 2006, his last year whith the red shirt on his back and also the start of a new era for the national team. In sum, he has only been brilliant in the different qualifiers.
By the end of the nineties/ start of the 2000s he had, with what became quite like his club (even though we are talking of such an institution), however shown the great player he was in a withdrawn striker position : the left-footed, non-content of being that clinical finisher, that he still was, was also the builder of the decisive actions in the last third showing here the extent of his wonderful technique (and he never was as near to win a Ballon d'or than in 2001).
This fan of Atlético de Madrid made all his career at Real of which he is a legend. Once considered as arguably the best Spanish player ever in spite of poor collective results at international level, such a statement is for sure now quite outdated. But he remains as the finest striker that his country ever produced.
Neymar – To rank a player who is still active and moreover is only 25 years old is something quite dubious. Let's say that he lies there for now as he should not downgrade from this spot and only can rise in this ranking. If he continues to ridiculize the defenders and to score goals (he has already more than 50 for Brazil) and in addition to that get some defining moments in his career, he will for sure make minimum the top 20 here. In truth, he is already obvioulsy on par with this club of players from the point of view of his individual technique, is even better than a big part of them, still from this point of view which his about individual skills. The next World Cup should be already very interesting and could permit him, if he's not savagely assaulted again (like in 2014) to make this big jump. His effectivness and eventual leadership in general should allow this, even for lack of world champion title in the end. A final win would allow him to already feature in a good place in this top 20 or top 15. And what would happen next in his career would only be some bonus whereas even in the case of bad performances, a mallus should not be applied to him thus affect his ranking (his FYT's ranking).
A PSG player since that summer (if one, improbable case, had not notice) after having played for Santos and Barcelona.
Suarez – Started to be talked about as a player of Ajax Amsterdam then confirmed in the Pemier League with Liverpool before to join Barcelona to form here the famous ''MSN'' with the Argentine Messi and the Brazilian Neymar (2014-2015 Champions League win, without forgetting a Liga title and a Copa del Rey, but also a Club World Cup and an UEFA Supercup, all of this in his first Catalan season, after he had been second in the PL one year before, with the Reds).
One of the most deadly finisher, an excellent passer and a true combatant in the spirit of the Uruguayan ''garra charrúa''. A Striker with much bite.
Andrade J.L. – In 1924, at the Olympic Games of Paris, the Uruguayan team revealed to the world its highly technical football made of an excellent control of the ball, of precise passes and of prodigious skills. Without forgetting the outstanding physical qualities and that commitment that finished to make them invincible. All these assets were incarnated in one man : their right half Andrade. A particulary athletic footballer (quite strong and really fast) with astounding skills and flexibility, excellent in defense (all in anticipation) and as a player of transition (fluid technique), able to make the last pass (he had several assists during the tournament), the one who was the main star of this Olympic Champion Celeste team had to be soon called ''La Merveille Noire'' (''the Black Marvel''). Long before Pelé, Andrade was the first black-skinned international footballing star.
Although he was declining, this musician and night owl who prolonged his journey in Paris after the Olympic final, would tie another gold medal around his neck four years after in Amsterdam, that after he accepted to join the team only 4 days before their departure to Europe and this time against advised oppositions and also globally of a better quality, especially in the final. More importantly, he would inaugurate the World Cup palmarès with another win over Argentina in Montevideo in 1930. Less feline and dominant as he was again in 1926 when he was awarded ''Best player of the South American championhsip'', Andrade still was however an important piece of the Uruguayan eleven and was included in the ideal team of the tournament. In the final, he had saved a ball on his goal-line (when it was 2-2, Uruguay won 4-2).
Near a quarter of a century after his last sportive exploit, syphilitic and alcoholic since his glory days, he's found in a hovel by a German journalist in such a physical and mental state that he is placed in an asylum to die in here by tuberculosis in the following year at 55 years old (1957). He had been subject to the melancholy since his playing days as well when for instance he went back to Paris in 1925 abandonning his team (Club Nacional) during an European tour when he was told that he had the syphilis and was then found in a depressive state back to Montevideo. Possibly that this tendency was part of his caracter since ever but it is also probable that his life episode in this Paris of ''Les années folles'', of which he was once one of the most prized personalities, facilitated his definitive downfall.
In contrast with the tormented side of Andrade, the few footage of him as a footballer that can be found shows an extremely dynamic player. Also very technical, apparently very complete and very visibly, even though it is only about a couple of actions, way ahead of his time. Indeed, the effect that it causes is a bit like seeing a player of today who would have travel with a time-machine in order to play in these 1920s (what is really unfair for the opponents). A player with a life and a career made of big ups and big downs, he used to be often at his best for the grand occasions, was, at times like this, showing an even surreal talent. After him, the presence of black men in football would become more and more a reality. Andrade remains, no need to say all races confunded, as one of the best players in history. At his prime, he was one of the best in the world if not assuringly the best for those who saw him play because by far. A true phenomenon, he is, according to Stanford University professor Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, the one who ''is responsible for putting football on the international map of sports''. At the image of what later happened with the Santos and Brazil of Pelé, it was especially to see him play that the crowds gathered by several tens of thousands when Uruguay was playing the Olympics or when El Nacional was touring in Europe.
The texts for the players are not meant to be complete but here are a few more infos on José Leandro Andrade :
- in 1916, with Isabelino Gradin, he was one of the two first black men to ever participate in an international tournament (the South American championship).
- in 1924, Andrade was the first black footballer to participate in the Olympics.
- still in 1924, just after the Olympics, stones were thrown at him during a match played in Argentina. He was regularly insulted in South America where Uruguay was the first team to use black players.
-Andrade did not play the 1924 South American Championship won by Uruguay at home (by the end of the year).
- as seen previously, Andrade hesitated to go play the Olympic tournament of 1928 in Amsterdam. The insults of which he was the victim in the European stadiums are one possible reason to this. These are the reasons that are sometimes presented.
- Andrade had an eye-injury after a collison with a goal-post during the semi-finals of the 1928 tournament (played against Italy). In 1930, he was half-blind in one eye, was almost one-eyed.
- in the Parisian nights, he was ''knighted'' by the French writer Colette. Andrade had a proven story with the American then French cabaret dancer and singer Joséphine Baker who is often considered as the first black celibrity.
Francescoli – In the category of the ''princes of football'', we ask for ''El Principe''. The elegant Enzo Francescoli he is.
World champion in the junior category in 1979, the Uruguayan starts his career at Montevideo Wanderers at the begining of the 80s at 19 years old. In his first season, he permits to the club which is not El Nacional nor Penarol, the club of which he is a fan, to obtain his best ranking ever in the league with a second place.
3rd in 1981, 5th in 1982, Francescoli then is signed by the Argentine giant but who recently missed to win titles and who is at entirely building a new team (adios Alonso, Passarella, Ramón Díaz, Kempes...), River Plate, in 1983.
South American champion that year with Uruguay (with one personal goal scored against Brazil), Francescoli did not know the same fortune with his new club where he knows difficult beginnings. River finishes in the down of the table.
1984 doesn't start better under the coaching of his fellow countryman and former player of River (and Penarol) Luis Cubilla, who has one day the idea to line up our number 10 as number 8 (''volante derecho''). In August, after a terrible loss against Union Santa Fé (1-5) Cubilla must leave the place. The offensive midfielder is then turned into a forward by Hector Veira and becomes the Metropolitano top scorer in 1984. With also the come-back of the veteran Norberto Alonso at the club, the results get better as River was finally able to reach a 4th place in the Metro and a 2nd place in the Nacional, behind Ferro Castril Oeste and Marcico.
Francescoli, who only played once with Uruguay in '84, is awarded ''South American player of the year'' by El Mundo (Venezuela). He succeeds to Socrates in the palmarès.
In 1985, Francescoli is elected ''Futbolista Argentino del año'' but if the champion title was in view, he can't win an Argentinian league now organized in a new formula (groups then play-offs with k-o stages since the quarter-finals) as he and River are eliminated by Velez in the semi-finals (by 3 to nil).
However, River is following the right track and the year 1986 would be the one of the consecration as they win an Argentinian League this time organized on the mould of the European Leagues with 10 points more than NOB's and CDE. Champion five day matches from the end, River takes his revenge on Velez in the last match (3-0) with one goal from the penalty spot of Francescoli who is the League top scorer and thus has greatly contributed to make River being at the top again. But this come-back in the foreground will be brief as the one who finally managed to become their true star will soon cross the Ocean to go play in Europe.
After a World Cup at which Francescoli (still a number 10 in national team) was the only footballer worth of the name in a La Celeste team which at this occasion globally looked more like coming straight from the depths of hell (violent behaviour of the defenders and midfielders) and was finally eliminated by Argentina in the round of 16 (0-1) after having been given a good hiding by Denmark in the groups (1-6), the recent Argentinian champion (who has not shined that much in Mexico except for some short moments) settles in Paris. He'll play there for the new and ambitious club, owned by Jean-Luc Lagardère (medias, industry), that was built on the ashes of Racing and now is called Matra Racing.
In spite of the millions invested with the signings of numerous famous names such like Bossis in a first time when still in D2 then Luis Fernandez from PSG, Littbarski or... Francescoli, the project turns ludicrous as the team is unable to play the first roles, far from it. If Littbarski did not stay long at the club, Francescoli would him knows the entirety of this true epic.
As ''second striker'' who likes to drift on the left, as a number 10 positionned behind the front-two or as a ''false left winger'', Francescoli is the best scorer of (Matra) Racing but can't help his team to make better than 13th in '87 (he's awarded best foreign player by France Football though), 7th in '88 and... 17th in '89 (what could have been worse). During these three seasons Francescoli amazes by his class but he is also inconstant. The quality of his goals and of his skills were however exceptional enough to stick in people's minds.
The President Lagardère announces that his group will leave football in April '89 (the club would take the amateur status again, like in 1967-82, in 1992) and sells all his best-paid and very well paid players at the end of the season. Francescoli has caught the eye of another business man and very ambitious for his club, the president of the recent champion Olympique de Marseille, Bernard Tapie. Good news for Francescoli and at all the levels really pin-point as his wife and himself where unhappy to live in the capital, them who can't live well without the sun and nearby the beach.
At OM, the double South-American champion (1983 and '87) will be used as a side attacking midfielder in order to feed the focal point of the team with the ''Droit au but'' motto (''straight to the goals''), the centre forward Jean-Pierre Papin. The combination, which is actually a trio with Waddle, works wonders and Marseille is champion of France for the second time in a row. However, the European ambitions of the forementioned president are thwarted. After a first leg match in the European Cup semi-finals against Benfica that OM has dominated but won only by 2-1 at home, the Portuguese qualify in Estadio da Luz. Francescoli, very noticed, has tried everything : 360 turn, bicycle-kick... but nothing went in. Benfica wins 1-0 with a goal probably, certainly scored with the hand (Vata).
On this, Tapie estimates that it is time to sell the Uruguayan 30 years old as he was not able to cause the difference as well as for in his view, he doesn't suit to the type of football that would be played in this new decade. The performance of Francescoli at the Italian World Cup would give reason to him without talking about what would happen three years after with the Uruguyan's replacement in the team, the Ghanean Abedi Pelé, a more dynamic player who returned to the club after a stint at Lille.
That's how the Uruguyan left Marseille and joined Sardinia in the summer '90. Number 10 like with La Celeste, but with the defensive responsabilities that comes with playing in the Serie A, depending on the matches sometimes used as a forward, Francescoli would mark the history of Cagliari Calcio in spite of modest collective results. He participates in the qualification of the club to the UEFA Cup with a 6th place in 1992-1993 but he is not on the team that would reach the semi-finals of the european competition as he signed for Torino FC for the 1993-1994 season. In Turin (where there the sun doesn't blaze down much and where there is even less a beach) Francescoli knows a nightmarish season, because also too much restricted by tactical orders that wants him to participate in all the duties of the midfield. With the Uruguyan national team, he fails to qualify to the U.S World Cup. At 32 years (and half), it's time to go back to South America. In Buenos Aires, at River Plate of course, where he had earned the nickname of ''Principe''.
Greeted as hero, Francescoli will have a successful second career with the ''Millonarios'' adding a Copa Libertadores to his palmarès (in 1996 with two goals by the young Crespo in the final against America Cali) after having added a ''Tornero Apertura'' title and a honorific title of ''Torneo Apertura'' top scorer to his curriculum vitae (in '94). With the celestial jersey, he also knew a sort of resurrection (of himself as well as of his team) as in 1995, he was winning his third continental title by beating Brazil in the final (1-1, 5-3 p.s.o).
At near 35 years old, he was still a class above the other players in South American football. At 36, he retired from the football pitches, leaving the image of a good-looking technician but elusive.
Dalglish – Started his career at Celtic FC before to win all the titles with Liverpool with whom he reigned over Europe during a long time frame (1978, 1981 and 1984 European Cups). Here he quickly replaced the former star of the club Kevin Keegan, gone to make money of his talents at Hamburg. Efficient and playing with style, also isn't he quickly named ''King Kenny'' by the kop that his turn, employs a nickname he had earned first at Celtic.
Less brilliant in the World Cup with Scotland than on the British pitches and through Europe like with the ''Reds'', he still managed to score two goals in the most prestigious international tournament : one goal in Argentina against Holland (in a 3-2 win but for nothing) and another one in Spain, against New Zealand (Scotland would be once again eliminated in the first round as after a 1-4 against Brazil, Dalglish, out for the last match, could not help his team to beat the Soviet Union (2-2).
He would however (when sometimes completely forgotten before that) make his best Ballon d'or ranking the next year (2nd behind Platini) as the partnership that he forms with the young Welsh centre forward Ian Rush impresses the whole Europe weeks after weeks, and this now since about one year.
An inside right or main striker at Celtic, Dalglish had more specifically turned into a support forward at Liverpool to become more and more of a ''number 10'' (starting his actions from the ''hole'') in the 80s. His ability at finishing combined with the quality of his last passes that represented minimum 50% of the finished work, made the attacker with more than 100 goals in both the Scottish and the English leagues and unquantifiable (as unquantified) assists one of the all-time finests of the British Isles.
After the last one of his three wins in the European Cup, Dalglish completed his work at Liverpool FC with a ''double'' as player-coach in 1986, so that's one year after the Heysel stadium disaster, then two last league titles in 1988 and 1990. The coach with also multiple individual prizes then joined Blackburn Rovers in 1991 where he broke the Manchester United hegemony in the Premier League the time of one season (1994-1995) or more exactly, pipped them at the post (in the last day match). In January 1997, he's signed at Newcastle United where he takes over... Kevin Keegan.
Between 1999 and 2012 he was a director at Celtic then Liverpool, having one brief spell as coach in each club.
Figo – Powerful, technical and generous in the defensive tasks, Figo was a clearsighted midfielder or winger of which he was like the last of the Mohicans between the mid-90s and the early years of the new century.
The player with the number 7 who recalled the great outside forwards of a distant past like at the same time the best playmakers of the 80s, after his formative years in Portugal with Sporting, was the heyday of FC Barcelona, with whom he won a Cup Winners Cup, then of... Real Madrid, with whom he won the Champions League. At the same time, he was also one of the main assets of the exceptional Portuguese generation, U20 World Champion in 1991 and that raised high the national colors through many tournaments from 1996 to 2006. Unfortunately, at the hour of the big matches, Figo was unable to tip the balance in favor of his team like his number 10s' and also illustrious teammates Rui Costa then Deco, failing at the semi-finals stage in 2000 against France of Zidane or more sadly in the final of an Euro 2004 held at home, against Greece. Of Rehhagel and Charisteas.
40 years after Eusébio, in 2006, with the rising star Cristiano Ronaldo for the second time by his side, captain Figo manages to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup in Germany. But Portugal is eliminated by France once again. Figo has however steadily carried his nation to the group of the best footballing nations in the world and he would be avenged by Ronaldo and most of all Eder 10 years after. Figo knew how to open the way for Portugal makes the greatest conquests.
The former ''Galactico'', sometimes scorer, often passer, ended his career at Internazionale with whom he collected 4 Serie A title from 2005 to 2009 when Italian football was knewing that new affair known as ''Calciopoli''. Figo then became an ambassador for the Nerazzurri, what he still must be today. In January 2015, he initiated a campaign to run against incumbent Sepp Blatter for the position of FIFA president. Before to withdraw from the race four months later.
Hagi – With Stojkovic, he shares the feat of having been of the Euros 1984 and 2000. And as his Yugoslavian brother, as artist of the same vein, Hagi illuminated one World Cup of his genius (until the quarter-finals). It was in 1994 in the U.S.A and at this occasion, Hagi probably made an even bigger impression than Stojkovic did in Italy in 1990. Because Hagi, as for him, has beaten a Colombian team announced as a contender to the title (but a Colombia under pressure, it is true), because against Switzerland... no, forget about Switzerland... because he wins against no less than the hosting country and because most of all he beats Argentina (it is true, orphan of the great Diego but still!). Well, because he was arguably a bit more constantly good. And frankly not that expected with his team. A suprise we like it. And that dramatic game with Sweden... one of the most intense game of the tournament. That counts a lot, too.
In December, the Ballon d'or jury is convinced about this : Hagi is the 4th best european player of the year. Joint with Thomas Brolin.
At club level, he began as a very offensive midfielder or support forward with Sportul then Steaua, before to become that fantastic playmaker. In spite of an average World Cup, he catches the eye of Real Madrid who signs him for the 1990-1991 season. In spite of good individual performances, globally, he is transferred to Italy in 1992 thus discovers the best League in the World. With Brescia. He plays his second Italian season in Serie B and happens the World Cup's miracle : before to convince the Ballon d'or jury, Hagi has convinced Cruyff who gets hims at Barça. The football fans expect much of the Hagi's second career but it is finally on the side of the Bosphorus Strait, at Galatasaray that Hagi will be really able to play his football. Yes in Turkey. But also in Europe : Hagi, and his brother-in-law Popescu, and the Brazilian keeper Taffarel, and an army of Turkish international players honour their commitments in the final of the UEFA Cup, in 2000, and wins it at the expense of Arsenal. A first for Galatasaray where the Romanian is adulated. A first for a Turkish club. Hell, Hagi, he had not said his last word ! But it would be well the last whereas after a painful World Cup '98, Romania lives a painful Euro 2000. And to Hagi to stop his career in 2001, a year without any title.
He was nicknamed ''the Maradona of the Carpathians». It is true that there was a Maradona of something almost all around the world, but certainly that he was the one who was the nearest of the model among them. Wouldn't he have been able to bleed any team at the U.S World Cup? Who knows what would have happened next, with more luck in the penalty shootout against Sweden ? Romania had a 2-1 lead until the 115th minute... at 11 men against 10 though.
2 Hagi's goals recommended : Colombia '94 and Monaco 2000.
Anecdot : Hagi was the first to hit the woodwork in the brand new La Beaujoire stadium in May 1984 in an inaugural match FC Nantes-Romania (is that Football Y & T is a ''Canaris'' follower).
Deyna – Brain of his teams, passer and scorer of decisive goals, he was the perfect number 10 who installed Poland among the best footballing nations for a whole decade, the 70s – and how to forget about his goal against the Italy of Zoff.
An amateur player at Legia (he's an Olympic gold medalist), he was authorized after his 30 years to play abroad. Thus he became one of the first non-british to ever play in England. He wore the colours of Manchester City helping the club to avoid the relegation in 1979. He then played in the U.S.A where he became an indoor champion. But let's go backwards. With a perfectly fit Deyna and a Lubanski on two legs, what Poland would have been capable of at the WM '74 ?
Julinho – A right winger with both athletic and technical means and of the highest quality, it is quite naturally that Julinho moves from Portuguesa to Fiorentina in 1955. There, he'll contribute to Fiorentina knows the best period in its History (scudetto 1956 and European Cup final 1957, followed by two places of vice-champion of Italy in '57 and '58).
Back to Brazil in 1958 at Palmeiras (club with Italian origins) in order to quietly finish his career, he'd finally continue to play until 1966 collecting in passing a Taça Brasil and a Torneio Rio-Sao Paulo in 1960 and 1965. He even was called-up to play the 1958 World Cup in Sweden but declined the invitation reckoning that he would be useless as unfit. The national team coach Vicente Feola insisted by arguing that he still could held the role of mentor in the group with his experience but it did not convinced Julinho to change his mind. He was even called-up again for the 1962 World Cup by Aymoré Moreira. For the same result.
At the 1954 World Cup, Julinho had shown himself brilliant. He even scored two goals including one against Mexico and most of all that other one against Hungary in the legendary quarter-final match known as ''The Battle of Bern'' with an incredible shot from the right corner of the box that found the opposite top corner. It was his 17th cap and a defeat against the Magyars and their revoultionary 4-2-4 (2 goals against 4 but apart from the goals that was not pretty sight). He would earn his 18th cap only 5 years after for a prestigious game with England at the Maracanã, a game during which he scored one of the two Brazil goals (2-0). He scores his last international goal against the same England in the same Maracanã in 1964 in a 5-1 win for Brazil. It was the antepenultimate of his 26 official international games. He was selected for the last time in 1965.
Finney – The ''Preston Plumber'' was able to fill any role in attack. A right winger at the start, he was the most often a left winger for England because of Stanley Matthews who invariably wore the number 7. But this formidable feinter, dribbler, passer and also scorer of goals (6th all-time top scorer for England) could play with brilliance as well at the inside forward positions (left or right). At the end of his career he even lead the Preston North End team's attack from a centre forward position.
This one-club man – Preston 1946-1960, who knew the Second Division from 1949 to 1951, such an epoch – as humble as hugely talented, only won a Second Divison title and obtained a runner-up place in the F.A Cup. He has also competed in three World Cups but could not help the Three Lions team to go through the first round in 1950 when England entered the competition for the first time (and a bit too much confident) nor to make better than a quarter-final in 1954, in spite of his remarkable personal efforts while being injured (as Matthews was himself). He played his last World Cup in 1958, aged 36 (first-round exit) and retired from football one year after.
A very complete forward, Tom Finney always quite stood in the shadow of the king of the right wingers, Stan Matthews whose the excellence in his specific role was unanimously recognized and worldwide. Finney, who was less known abroad, was however highly estimated by the greater part of his pairs in Great Britain. One of the British Isles' all-time finests. As he was, he could have without a doubt played on any club side some years later.
Stoichkov – Hristo (no need for a translation), was not an altar boy. But he was the king player of the Bulgarian team that reached the semi-finals of the U.S World Cup. European Cup winner with Barça two years earlier under the command of Cruyff whose the advices made him considerably improving, he was a wide-striker who, when he wanted to be at the service of the team, was also able to offer assists to his partners. Arrow of the 1992 Barcelona team, the duo that he then formed with Romario was on this point remarkable ; it took him at least a Romario to submit to a more collective game, because the intelligence, that he had, he did not always show it. His will, with the complicity of his team members, to finish as the unique top scorer of the World Cup '94 costed a Bronze medal to Bulgaria, and he finished only joint top scorer with Salenko with 6 goals.
A player out of the ordinary anyway, and absolutely exceptional for Bulgaria which before him, only knew the wonderful footballer and deceased too soon Asparuhov, at a time when the national team did not manage to emerge, or even the very complete Bonev afterwards but for few results as well. Since Stoichkov, there has well been only Berbatov, but this one did not benifit of the same quality of partners and of the same group's cohesion that Stoichkov did benefit from. But from this global appreciation of the 1993-1994 Bulgaria team, we'll most of all remember about the enormous plus that Stoichkov brang to his group. As with his free-kicks, also sometimes.
Careca – Champion of Brazil in the first year of his professional career with the modest club of Guarani (1 goal in the final against Palmeiras), all started well for Antonio de Oliveira Filho said ''Careca'' (a nickname coming from a famous clown in Brazil called Carequinha) but soon, fate plays him dirty tricks : called-up by Telê Santana in order to participate to the 1982 World Cup, Careca has a bad injury (muscular tear at the thig) just before the tournament and must withdraw from the squad 4 days before the start of the event. The 21-years old wonder is numerically replaced by the quite experienced Roberto Dinamite while Reinaldo is also injured. On the Spanish pitches, Serginho Chulapa, with who Careca was in concurrence, wears the number 9. Also, doesn't Serginho miss a lot of chances in spite of the wonderful passes signed Falcao, Socrates, Zico. With Careca on the team, who knows what would have happened against Italy. Maybe that the star of the match would have been not Rossi but Careca.
Just one year after the ''Mundial'', Careca, now a player of Sao Paulo FC were he replaces... Serginho, finds his place in the Seleçao of which he becomes the starting number 9. The career of this brilliant striker seems to be launched finally. Until that he waned in 1984 so he is not selected at all with Brazil anymore. In 1985, he misses a good part of the season, weakened by a strange sickness that he'll finally overcome thanks to a sorcerer. He'd be in spite of all champion of Brazil that year. In the final, against Guarani, he has not especially shined, even missed a penalty-kick.
He's champion again with SPFC in 1986, playing this time at the maximum of his possibilities. Brazilian top scorer, he forms a fantastic duo with Muller. These two will continue their show at the World Cup in Mexico signing together a magnificient goal against France in the quarter-finals. The road would stop there however for Brazil as France are the winners at the end of what was and still is one of the most beautiful World Cup match ever played : 1-1, 3-4 in the penalty shootout. The road continues for Careca who would join the best league in the world and more especially joins Maradona at SSC Naples some months later for the 1987-1988 season.
Thus, the last champion of Italy now counts on no less than the World champion and best player in the world Maradona who brang them the first Serie A title in their history plus one of the best strikers of the last World Cup if not the best and for sure the most complementary in order to play with the superstar.
The duo works well indeed. However, they would not be able to keep the title of champion as they finish 3 points behind an AC Milan that has beaten them two times.
In 1988-1989, Naples finishes 1 point ahead of Milan but 11 points behind Inter. Second in the league again, they clear out the UEFA Cup trophy though. Having a prediliction to score goals in the great events like he did in the Serie A against Inter, Milan... without forgetting Juventus, Careca would stamp his own imprint on the final played against VfB (Stuttgart) with one goal in each leg match. In the semi-finals, he had scored one goal at home and 2 goals away against Bayern Munich. Good stuff that UEFA Cup but most of all, Naples would conquer its second Italian title the next season placing themselves ahead of the two teams of Milan and their Dutch or German trio. The best Careca was the one of 1988-1989 but he'd however then have after this a personal good World Cup although playing in an unspired Brazilian team, in a tournament with only a very few moments of inspiration also globally.
That inspiration that caracterized the best Careca, he'd start to quite lost it in these early 90s when turning 30 years old. Is that he also had lost of his speed and physical impact. He'd still provide however good services to Naples with 15 goals in 1991-1992 (4th with Zola, Blanc, still Ferrara...) as well as to Brazil in some way, this until August 1993 when he is capped for the last time. One month after, Brazil was registering the come-back (or real first) of Romario in order to beat Uruguay and qualify to the US World Cup.
One of the most fantastic strikers of the 80s, Careca was turned in a centre forward in his first year in pro with Guarani (which was playing in 4-3-3) by Carlos Alberto Silva. A prolific scorer of goals, able to score with the right, the left, the head... from a long-range, in the ''fox-in-the-box'' fashion but also from impossible angles (his trademark diagonal shots with the right foot while dribbling on the right side of the box), specialist at taking penalties, more rarely but sometimes scorer on free-kick, Careca, moreover a perfect pivot, was an excellent dribbler, a very strong, fast and mobile player who was also much involved in the build-up of the actions of his teams. Wasn't he a midfielder as a young child, in the category ''dente de leite'' as it is called in Brazil?
Kocsis – A stocky player with a long neck, Kocsis made his fame as being very probably the best header of the ball in the 50s. In 1954, he scored 5 of his 11 World Cup goals with the head. He was not nicknamed ''The Man with the Golden Head'' for nothing. But that's not all. Kocsis also had both feet and was very adroit at volleying the ball. Excellent in the different offensive phases, at the start of it or more often at the finishing (less in the defensive phases), ''The Man with the Golden Head'' was the inside right but true spearhead of the ''Golden Team''. That's much about gold, but Kocsis and his commerades only obtained silver. He also made the feat to not score at Wembley in 1953. But that's not over.
In 1961, the former Ferencvaros and Honved player fails in the European Cup final with Barcelona against Benfica. Like in '54 against West Germany the scene takes place in Bern. The Hungarian will be haunted by these two defeats until an end that he decides by commiting suicide by defenestration from an hospital room in 1979, aged 49, knowing that he had cancer.
Charles J. – The Welsh strongman could be used with the same effectiveness as a centre-half or as a centre forward, a position at which he made the essential of his career (last semester of 1952 to 1962).
A player of Leeds in the English Second Division since 1949, Charles discovers the elite football in the 1956-1957 season to immediately win the title with his club while being the League top scorer.
On this, the one about who it is admitted that he is the best British player of the moment is transferred to Juventus in exchange of a record fee (65,000 £). For his first season in Italy, Charles helps Juve to win his first scudetto since the blessed era of the club in the first half of the 1930s. And guess what, he also finishes top scorer. In the tradition of what happened with the Scandivian centre forwards like Hansen or Nordahl, the British has perfectly adapted to the calcio where he meets a great success. At his side, the spring-loaded Argentine Sivori and the experienced playmaker and carrier of the soul of the club on the pitch Boniperti. From this remarkable trio, Charles wins by far in terms of popularity with the tifosi that include of course all the schoolboys of Turin who were certainly not reprimanded to admire such an examplary footballer for both his playing skills and his behaviour. Thus was he not nicknamed ''Il Gigante Buono''.
He'd win two more scudetti with ''La Vecchia Signora'' but the team would never meet succes in Europe (beaten since the first round by modest teams in the European Cup in 1959 and 1961, Juve is eliminated by Real in the quarter-finals in 1962, a triple confrontation during which the Welsh man was used as a right-half).
On the Wales team that played in Sweden in 1958 and went through the first round, he however could not help his team in the quarter-finals due to an injury and was the spectator of Brazil's 1-0 win thanks to a black teenager looking frail named Pelé and who was making here his World Cup debuts. Used as a centre forward during the tournament, John Charles had been the author of one goal against the last runner-up Hungary and the centre-half of the team was his 4 years younger brother and exact copy Mel Charles.
John Charles will remain in the history of the game as this player who excelled as well with the number 5 or the number 9 in his back. ''Outstanding'' must be the word. At last, it is also good to really highlight that this man there had all the noblest qualities a player can have and that he always demonstrated great sportsmanship on the pitch.
Nedved – Formed at the Dukla football school, it is with Sparta that Pavel Nedved knows his first successes and with whom he starts to be talked about during a 1995-1996 UEFA Cup campaign, like another certain great of the 1972 class, Zinédine Zidane. Zidane eliminates Milan who had eliminated Sparta but it is well the talent of Nedved who would be saluted at the Euro '96 England at the end of a semi-final won against France after a penalty shootout and of which he is deservedly designated ''man of the match''. In the final, the sensational young Czech player would miss some opportunities to score and the almighty Germans would prevail in Wembley, 30 years after the legendary World Cup Final (1-0 then 1-1 and 1-2, ''golden goal'', two goals signed by Bierhoff from the bench). Nedved and the remarkable Czech Republic team could not repeat the feat made by The Czechoslovakian team of Panenka 20 years before.
After that disappointment, the very remarked blond guy, author of one nice goal against Italy in the group stage, is logically signed by big money spender Lazio and thus joins the prestigious Serie A (while for his part, Zidane is signed by Juventus). Both parties (Lazio and Nedved) will find its niche.
Indeed, Nedved will proove to be a true jewell for his new team : central midfielder with high work-rate as well as good distributor, also able to attack from the flanks and possessor of a terrific shot, the contribution of the Czech will be incalculable : in the end, Lazio reaches European finals for the first time in its history (loss in the UEFA Cup in 1998 before a Cup Winners Cup win, the last edition of it, maybe it was time) and most of all conquers the Scudetto in 2000, a quarter of a century after their first one.
After a 3rd place in the Serie in the 2001-2001 season, it's then time at 29 years old to go to the next level for Nedved. And it has for name Juventus that doesn't lack attractiveness at all with always more power since the breaking record transfer of Zidane to Real. A Juve that probably did not expect it but a Juve that will be able to count on the almost trenty-years-old another few years, that is to say even really a long time.
Here, Nedved wins two back-to-back Serie A titles in his first two seasons in Bianconero and even qualifies Juve for its fourth Champions league final in 7 years. But the dram is that he would miss the final through suspension. Once again Juventus is on the loser's camp (0-0, 2-3 in the penalty shootout! Against Milan !). Nedved is however the happy winner of the Ballon d'or at the end of the year with a good margin over the striker Henry of Arsenal and the defender Maldini, the talismanic player of Milan, this 41 years after Masopust who, as for him, had won it as a player of Dukla.
The following of the events gets more complicated : victim of long terms injuries during the 2004-2005 season that revoices the Euro 2004 semi-finals where the now Czech team captain had to leave the pitch after only 40 minutes of play against Greece (that prevailed 1-0 in extra-time then won the final), Nedved (and Juve) must then unfamously see their 2005 and 2006 Serie A titles revoked as in the same time the club is relegated to Serie B for the 2006-2007 season. Too hard...
But this calamity will be in some sort a good for Nedved, who stays at the club. The 35-years-old midfielder realizes a 2006-2007 Serie B campaign full of bravery (champion) then shows himself brilliant for two more seasons in the Serie A, especially in the last one (not really in the penultimate one) and decides to stop on this, as a consecrated legend of the club.
After 8 years of service at Juve where he had quickly made forgot about Zidane given his very dynamic style and for his statistics of goals and assists, Nedved could leave the pitches, as radiant as he always was. Crowned with glory, he directly integrated the Juventus board of which he is the vice-president since 2015... for a hegemony in the calcio as it never was before... and to know a new loss of Juventus in the Champions League final.
Savicevic – An offensive midfielder or winger with mazy runs that goes beyond the imagination, Savicevic was nicknamed ''Il Genio'' at Milan that he joined in 1992. To soon win the Champions league as the main protagonist of the final (1994) where he torned apart the ''Dream Team'' defense and scored a lob goal for ages (to Zubizarreta).
But it is that our man had already a good pedigree as he was on the Red star Belgrade side that won the European Cup in 1991 (by beating Bayern in the semi-finals, with a formidable Savicevic, to finally prevail against Marseille after a penalty shootout). That year, he was also unbeaten in the Euro qualifiers with Yugoslavia but could not enter the tournament held in Sweden in 1992 through UEFA ban-decision (leaving the spot to Denmark, that won it). Without him and Stojkovic, the international competitions would be deprived of two authentic artists until 1998.
Rarely disappointing with the Yugoslavian team from 1991 to 1997 and even very often excellent, his career at Milan was however very serrated. In other terms, basically, he had the knack of making big shots.
Neeskens – ''Johan II''. Was the fidel lieutenant of Cruyff on the Ajax then FC Barcelona sides as he was as much in the national team of Holland, if not surpassing this status at the occasion of the 1974 World Cup.
Solid as a rock as a defender, sharp as steel as a counter-attacking player (and also sometimes when defending), Neeskens was a very active player who, from his central midfield position, shouldered at the same time the roles of n°6, n°10 and also n°9 when he launched himself in direction of the heart of penalty area (and we especially think here about his performance of '74). The reserved boy but impetuous player of the ''oranje mechanic'', by his considerable athletical and technical means, his versatility and his tactical awareness, was the model for the modern midfielder.
On this, let's not forget about the quality of his shots (such as the shots from long-range distance). Penalty-taker, like in the WM '74, he always shooted en force right in the middle of the goals. A particularity of him. The goalkeepers never knew the parry.
With an already very distinguished career from the three European titles won with Ajax (1971-73) until a Cup Winners Cup won with Barça (1979), Neeskens quitted elite club's football quite early, before his 30 years by signing for Cosmos New York (...in '79). As for his international career, he retired in 1981 after a defeat to France during the 1982 World Cup qualifications.
Giresse – This pure Girondin started his professional career in 1970 at the age of 18 years old at Bordeaux that he'd serve during no less than 16 seasons and where he'll set the records of appearances and goals. Noticed as a gifted from his very beginnings (he is often compared to Kopa) he would however know only 5 caps (often some bribes of matches) through the 70s to finally impose himself in the French team in the very beginning of the 80s when approaching his 30 years.
Until 1978, '79 and the arrival of the ambitious and influent president Bez (who is also present at the federation), Girondins de Bordeaux, in spite of having quality players, was essentially a mid-table team, was even fighting against the relegation prior to a World Cup '78 that Giresse (1 cap in March) could only miss, since injured as he stated himself.
After this painful season and another one during which Bordeaux finds again the 10th place, Bez takes the whole control of FCGB and obtains a 6th place synonymous of UEFA Cup qualification then in the following, for the 1980-1981 season, registers the signings of the French team libero and former captain (before the rising of Platini) Marius Trésor as well as he installs a certain Aimé Jacquet on the bench who will manage to last longer than his predecessors (one coach a year). All of that would change a lot of things for the club as well as for Giresse.
Since then, Bordeaux and his pocket-sized offensive midfielder play the first roles in the League. In 1981, Giresse is integrated to the national team coached by Hidalgo and becomes an integrant part of it in order to qualify to the next World Cup. Through five qualifying matches, Giresse takes his marks and most of all participates to the 2-0 win over Holland in November at Parc des Princes that will allow the Frenches to cross the Pyrenees in June '82.
With three offensive midfielders (Platini, Genghini, Giresse) and three strikers (Rocheteau, Lacombe, Six) so with the maneer, Hidalgo, very criticized, made a true tour de force against a transitionnal Dutch team but skipped by the living legends Krol and Neeskens, the latter having been called-back especially for the occasion. The first goal came from a free-kick by Platini, fouled on the outskirts of the penalty area on a pass by Giresse. The second was scored by Six on a cross by Rocheteau who had dribbled past the Dutch captain, Krol. The love story between the French team and his public could really begin.
In Spain, from this formidable team, Giresse would be the one who especially attract the light on himself.
After difficult debuts in the first group phase (with an initial 3-1 loss to England), a typical 11 in 4-4-2 emerges for the second round where France inherates of Austria and Northern Ireland in the group D. With a semi-final in view, the team raises up the level of its game.
After a 1-0 win over Austria (Genghini on free-kick), France demonstrates its superiority in this group as they beat Northern Ireland by 4 goals to 1 including one header by the littlest player of the World Cup on a cross of his new partner at Bordeaux, Tigana. ''Gigi'' had already scored one in the first half before to score this last goal of the match.
Already the author of two assists in the first round, Giresse, in full-form, he's only at one match of a World Cup final. It would need for that to beat the Germans however, Champions of Europe. But who on the other hand seem to have very few inspiration since the beginning of the tournament.
Seville, 8 July 1982, World Cup semi-fnals. The first half is balanced : 1-1 after 45 minutes (Littbarski 17th, Platini 27th from the penalty spot). In the second half, the going gets tough: first, Genghini, severly touched at the end of the first half must leave the pitch (50th). Then, the Germans multiplicates the agressions as the referee, Mr. Corver, never make use of his whistle against them. At the 53th minute, a goal of Rocheteau is disallowed for a supposed foul on Bernd Förster but let's say no more about it. Some minutes later, it's the famous violent assault of Schumacher against Battiston, the replacement of Genghini at midfield though usually a defender and who was at this moment about to score on a pass by Platini. In critical condition, unconscious, Battiston is transported to the hospital when the forementioned Dutch referee allows a goal-kick to the zealous German goalkeeper. Revolted, the French team dominates more and more their opponent but it remains 1-1 after 90 minutes.
The Frenches throw themselves into the second half wholeheartedly showing their best football and scores by a volley-goal signed Trésor on an assist from free-kick, sort of little corner-kick by Giresse. The same Giresse adds another one with a somptuous shot from the outside of the box that would be followed by a celebration that would remain as famous as the ones of Falcao and Tardelli during this same tournament... 3-1 ! Giresse probably thinks that he has propulsed the French team to the World Cup final. But the tension doesn't decrease and France continues to attack... whilst our referee goes back to work by forgetting about his whistle. After a first foul on Giresse then a second one on Platini that are not sanctioned (but we start to be acostumed to it), Rummenigge, who was benched because injured but has just entered the pitch scores at the end of the counter-attack. The Ballon d'or '80 and '81 doesn't seem to suffer from his thig anymore and the scoresheet says 3-2. The entry of the German striker would then continue to cause problems to the French defense and to Janvion who exerted himself already a lot and who is in charge of Rummenigge when the substitution for Battiston, the defender Lopez, was lined up at the same position of his unfortunate teammate, hence at midfield. The tactical dimension that this semi-final took would be fatal to the Frenches who see Fischer to equalize before to lost the match in a penalty shootout. The immense joy that Giresse shown when celebrating his goal had to be succeeded by the biggest disappointment and the deepest sorrow as well as by the biggest feelings of injustice.
A small consolation, Giresse, would finish second at the Ballon d'or by the end of the year, being saluted thus as one the most brilliant actor of that last World Cup. Supposed to be at the service of Platini in Spain, the latter being injured, Giresse benefited more of Platini than the other way around. It's him who had the legs to find good position of shooting as shown in Seville and this goal sticked in the voters' mind in spite of a defeat that most of observators considers as unjust anyway, if not unfair. Giresse was also now an European with Bordeaux and shined in the first rounds of the UEFA Cup where he scored 6 goals in 7 matches... but also was eliminated by Universatitea Craiova in the round of 16. Damn, all these experiences should serve to something !
Euro 1984 in France. At 32 years, Giresse can tranquilly play the ''second-fiddle'' for a Platini for once in full-form in a tournament and that he incites to stay upfront as often as possible. The player of Juve offers the first title ever in a collective sport to France thanks to his 9 goals. Giresse, this time less noticed, still features however among the best offensive midfielders of the tournament. In the ''perfect match'' against Belgium as he describes it, Giresse had scored 1 of the 5 goals and delivered two assists. This victory is a joy for the team but also a relief as they were clearly the favorites on home soil.
Champion of France '84 and '85, Cup winner '86 with Bordeaux who has replaced Saint-Etienne has the powerhouse in France and semi-finalist of the European Cup in '85 (beaten by Platini's Juve), Giresse makes the travel to Mexico in order to play here his second World Cup. Unfortunately, neither Platini or himself are in-form this time. That being, they're still both decisive at crucial moments. Giresse delivers a pin-point lobbed pass to Fernandez in the first round against the Soviets for a good for morale 1-1 draw game before that Platini permits to dominate the Italian World Champion team then scores a precious equalizer against Brazil and France reaches the semi-finals again. One more time against West Germany, who wins easily. There has been no revenge. And it is the end of the ''Magic square''. If only the World Cup had been played in '85...
After his last participation to the World Cup, Giresse leaves a club to which he seemed to belong forever in order to sign a last contract. At the OM of the new ambitious president in French football Bernard Tapie who wants to take the place of number one to Bordeaux in the French League and even already plans to install the club in the European elite. The mission of Giresse will consist here in paving the way for the next teams to come. Vice-champion behind his former club in '87, 6th and semi-finalist of the Cup Winners Cup in '88 of which OM is eliminated by a young and twirling Ajax team, Giresse hang up his boots at the age of 36 years old. In 1987, he had been awarded ''French player of the year France Football'' for the third time, after 1982 and 1983.
A dribbler, a ''feinter'' in his debuts, but already endowed with fantastic passing skills, Giresse has evolved from a role of attacking midfielder or winger to the one of true midfield maestro. Judged ''very good but never good in the big matches'' before his 27-28 years, he featured, in the early 80s, among the best players in the world. Was he that much of a different player before 1980 ? Maybe not really. But at the start of this new decade, he assuringly found a better context to express himself and gain experience, first with the transformation of his club in a winning machine, then with the triumph of the 4-4-2 over the 4-3-3 which assuringly constituted a relief for a player with his caracteristics as now covered by two defensive midfielders as well as for a player with such a little height. He also had, perhaps, near his 30 years, now the maturity to accept to be the second of the five years younger but now confirmed star Platini to whom it was technically difficult to associate the Bordelais with in the era of the 4-3-3 except if the former Nancy player was systematically lined up as the centre forward of the team or (as seen with the pattern of the match with Holland in '81 with both of them in the still 3-men midfield) except if the choice of taking all the risks was taken, what could occur only in very special occasions and anyway at a time at which Giresse was far to be a regular for the team, thus was hardly adaptable.
Giresse has however largely compensated his so to speak ''lost years'' by playing a major role in the French team with magic square that occupied the front of the international football stage in those early 80s.
Breitner – Won all the honours as a side back with Bayern in the the first half of 70s then won less but scored much more as a midfielder in the 80s, still at Bayern finally, just after a short stint at Eintracht Braunscwheig and most of all after three years at Real Madrid, the club into which he became that central midfielder, that central piece of his team.
Scored a very important goal after having climb up the field from his left back position against Chile for West Germany (a screamer... a traumtor...) in the first group stage match of the 1974 World Cup (home tournament that the nationalmannschaft won...). From his central midfielder position, he was in 1982 the true playmaker of his team – like a Pirlo, but the German way.
Tigana – Nicknamed the ''Brazilian'' by the Brazilians themselves, Jean Amadou Tigana (born in Bamako) was a technical midfielder who furthermore knew how to defend. Energetic, tough, collecting an incredible number of balls, excellent passer and brilliant dribbler, gliding along the pitch from a defensive position to an attacking position thanks to his inexhaustible breathe and ultra supple technique in movement, he was the essential element of the legendary ''Magic Square'' (''Carré magique'') ; the element, magic in itself, that permitted the whole magic to operate. Envied to France by the entire world, Tigana was this unique player who was at once a defensive midfielder and a playmaker of the first order. Piston of the machine, and artist. Esthete, but looking for the efficiency. Playful, but with a winning mentality.
His only defaults : an average aerial game (due to his lack of height) and also, he did not score much goals.
If we are sensible to it (and in the case of one who would have never watch him play), being second at the Ballon d'or (in 1984, behind Platini), being a midfielder who never scores, that can already say something. Each of his qualities, the ones that we have enumarated, were truely exceptional. The combination of them all, out of this world.
Cerezo – A skilful defensive midfielder (isn't he a Brazilian ? But yes, truely an outstanding handler of the ball amongst all the Brazilians... in this respect, wasn't it reported by French journalist Didier Roustan that Cerezo scored three-pointers by shooting over a grid of more than 4 meters from the football training pitch onto which he was practicing to the basketball court next door ?), Toninho Cerezo made an impressive career of more than 20 years. An Atlético Mineiro player from the early 70s until 1983 (Balon de Ouro 1977 and 1980), he has participated in the 1978 World Cup aged 23. But Cerezo would remain famous for his 1982 World Cup performance. Impeccable within the fantastic quator that he formed with Zico, Socrates and Falcao until then, he offers to Rossi the second Italian goal in that decisive and historical match of the second round. Is that the defensive midfielder of Brazil, in the maneer of a number 10, tried a transversal pass when assuring a simple transmission would have been, certainly, more appropriate. He would not be of the 1986 squad, replaced at midfield by the most sober Elzo. His pairing with Falcao may have generated duplication as Cerezo was very capable technically as well (Falcao, at the dawn of his career would be him replaced as well at midfield by the attacking full-back Junior).
All of that would not prevent Cerezo to join the Serie A (not immediately after the Spanish World Cup but in 1983). At AS Roma, where he is moreover associated with Falcao again and plays here a beautiful football under the orders of Liedholm then of Eriksson until '86.
Liedholm's team was the reigning champion when Cerezo joined them but for his part he'll have to content himself with a couple of Italian Cups, and to once again know a twiste fate as the club ''gialerrosso'' must bow to Grobelaar's Liverpool in a 1984 European Cup final...held in their stadio olimpico (and the famous penalty shootout).
Cerezo is then signed by Sampdoria where in spite of an advanced age, he shows some solid defensive abilities as he shoulders, at the same time, from the back, the essential role of regista of the team. He'd played in Genoa during the whole Boskhov era, the coach and former defensive midfielder who himself was quite a technical player, and tough. Here, Cerezo adds another couple of Italian Cups to his palmarès, but also a scudetto that he finally wins in 1991 (with the duo of attackers Vialli-Mancini). Also, he knows another defeat in the European Cup Final, against the Barcelona ''Dream Team'' of Cruyff, and Koeman.
Back to Brazil, he takes his revenge on Barça with Sao Paulo FC in the Intercontinetal Cup final, and in a beautiful fashion. Cruyff would tell : "if your team is going to be ran over, let it be by a Ferrari." Is that Cerezo just rejoined Telé Santana here.
Then come a second success in a row for SPFC in the Copa Libertadores, into which Cerezo takes part but with only less than 30 minutes of play in the final played in two legs, coming from the bench, and most of all a second success in the Intercontinental Cup final, of which Cerezo is awarded best player at the age of 38 years. Brilliant driver of the Ferrari, the midfielder has even scored one of the three goals of his team. 3-2 against Capello's Milan.
Player of the rival of the club of his origins in 1994, Cruzeiro, he ended his career in a more anecdotic maneer passing by Sao Paulo FC again (1995-1996), América-MG (1996) and finally, Atlético Mineiro (1997). The circle was complete.
Bozsik – Bozsik was for the Magical Magyars what was Gérson for the Auriverde of 1970 : not the superstar (it was Puskas or Pelé) but was the heart, the piston, the brain, a bit of all of that at once in the Golden Team. Or the ''cog'' without which the magic could have not operated. ''The best between the two of us'', Puskas said a couple of years after.
Assuringly an element of class in itself, Bozsik, from his right half position, was truely the first playmaker of the team. As for his defensive abilities, they were not negligible, which spoiled nothing of the admiration that he aroused and as in some way, he continues to arouse as a sort of pioneer of what is quite often called today the ''deep-lying playmaker role''.
Matthews – The #100 had to be quite somebody. And he is. He's ''Sir Stan'', Stanley Matthews. A model of longevity and of dedication. Like towards his right winger role.
Like Garrincha, he had only one feint but more than one defender, including some who were not amongst the less known, had to know the complete humiliation. He did his thing until his 49 years and a FA Cup Final. His international career spanned nearly a quarter of a century. And the ones who saw him play and who are still alive, still laugh at the humiliated defenders.
Piendibene – At the image of the Argentine of the 40s Pedernera, the Uruguayan Piendibene was renown as the ''Maestro'' on the South-american continent, in the the first quarter of the XXth century. If it has certainly faded today, his legend had gone through many decades after the end of his career as a Peñarol and Uruguay La Celeste great. The mysterious legend of this ranking.
Among others (see his palmarès), he made the feat to beat the world-wide living legend of the time in the goals, the Spanish Ricardo Zamora, when this one was on tour on the other side of the Atlantic Sea with RCD Espanyol (1-0). It was in 1926 and Piendibene was near the end of his career.
The first great Uruguayan player, José Piendibene (who won the first Copa America) had already definitely left the reins of the national team to another great, Héctor Scarone (introduced above), as he was physically on the wane and that the latter was rising to the fore. Scarone had already replaced him for the Copa Américas 1917 (in Montevideo) and 1919 (in Rio) when the maestro was 27-29 years old and injured and that the one who would be nicknamed ''El Mago'' was still only a 19-21 years old wonder boy. Then Uruguay wins the 1920 tournament held in Chile with Piendibene as the team leader while Scarone, still winner of the Newton Cup alongside ''El Maestro'' that year, would have to wait until 1923 to go back in the Copa América squad again. 1923, the year during which the handover would definitely happen (the Copa 1920 having been already thought as a farewell to ''El Maestro''). One year before the first Olympic gold conquest.
To Scarone and to the Celeste, Piendibene had left an heritage of dedication for the national jersey (Piendibene served the team during a long time in spite of injuries) and very precious thing, that game made of passes and of combinations in attack that amazed the public in Paris then Amsterdam and also made of Uruguay the first World Champion ever in 1930, in Montevideo. In the country of the ''kings of football'' at the time who, following more the Scottish example rather than the English one, definitely made of football the ''beautiful game''.
Thus, Piendibene was one of the very first to greatly contribute to that. As for the Uruguay national team, they have not always used the best methods after that, but others had taken over from them : the ''Wunderteam'' of Austria, 'the ''Golden Team'' of Hungary, Brazil, Holland... until the Spanish national team of these last years.
Rensenbrink – often compared to Cruyff due to a physical resemblance (face, thin body) but also for his undeniable outstanding technical abilities, Rensenbrink never fully exploited a potential that could have permit him to reach a similar level to the number 14. But from his position of winger, he is well the one who lead Holland to a second consecutive world final in 1978. By the way, he could have taken a much bigger dimension at this occasion if only, his shot had not touched the post but went into the net. It was the 90th minute. Result : 1-1 then 3-1 for Argentina after extra-time at Estadio Monumental.
The Dutch man made the essential of his career in Belgium where he successively played for Club Brugge (1969-1971) and Anderlecht (until 1980) with whom he won only two league titles but four national cups and... two Cup Winners Cup. Between two World Cups, those European nights allowed to a wide audience to admire this graceful player in action on T.V.
Robben – this pure winger started his career at Groningen then revealed himself at the home appliance king club PSV Eindhoven with whom he became champion of Holland for his first season, in 2003. After two briliant seasons at an individual level followed an inevitable transfer to a foreign powerhouse, named Chelsea, where he alternated the good and the less good performances when he was not injured. After three seasons in London, Robben was signed by Real Madrid with whom he doesn't make better than a CL semi-final (like with Chelsea) and where his reputation of an injury-prone player only steadily increased. Real would separate from his Dutch man like from his two fellow countrymen Sneijder and Huntelaar in 2009 (the three remaining, Vaart, Nistelrooy and Drenthe, would find the exit a tad later).
Bayern Munich is the new buyer of this 25 years old player. At the German club, Robben would still know some periods of injury but when fit to play, he'd be efficient as never before. Winger in a 4-3-3, his runs are visibly more devastating than ever. Most of all, he scores way more than he ever did. With the Bavarian club, he doubles his numbers reaching a ratio of 0,5 goals per match. Rummenigge & co. congragulate themselves to have welcome Robben at their club. With him on the right and the French man Ribéry on the left (a dribbler himself but who has more the role of passer than of a finisher unlike Robben who has the other way round tendency) Bayern reaches the Champions League final as soon as 2010. Bayern is the favorite for the win but it is the Inter of Mourinho who hits the jackpot (0-1). In 2012, Bayern is beaten again. By Chelsea this time, after a penalty shoot-out : 1-1, 3-4 (Robben did not take part in the penalties session though selectable).
But finally, it was only a matter of time for Bayern obtains the clubs' supreme title. In 2013, they meet and beat an old acquaintance, Borussia Dortmund (German double 2011-2012). Robben is definitely the man of the Final as he scores the winner in the last minute of the full-time. He had been already decisive in the semi-finals against FC Barcelona.
The next year, Robben is semi-finalist of the World Cup in Brazil where, if not enough after their 1-7 thrashing by the Germans, he and Holland humiliate one more time the local team in the 3rd place match. In the semi-finals, after an ultra-boring 0-0, the Van Gaal's team had been eliminated by Argentina in a penalty-shootout (into which Robben took part and scored, 2-4). True spearhead in a counter-attacking team, Robben was the main if not the only animator of the Holland team and he had widely impressed among the observators of the tournament. Half-man and half-machine, half-footballer and half-Usain Bolt, his rushes were simply breath-taking. He even broke the record of speed (clocked at 37). Highly skilled in his dribbling as he has always been known but also reaching unbelievable power, he seemed, in addition to that, better than ever in his decision-making. Like when he felt down in the penalty area against Mexico (round of 16) but not only. In the first round he had also destroyed a reigning champion but unrecognisable team of Spain against who he broke that speed limit but also scored two goals.
Four years earlier, against a team of Spain which was still knowing an euphoria phase in the continuity of his win at the Euro 2008 unlike in 2014 in relation to 2012 (but at one point it had to stop), if he had not lost his duel with Casillas, Robben would have certainly been a World champion. At the image of a Rensenbrink, for a bit, his legacy to the football History would have been completely different.
His performances for Munich, after an intermittent first part of career remain however very striking.
Not always at the top but an actor who shows himself on the international stage since about 15 years, the one who dribbled past hundreds of helpless defenders, will be at 33 years old, a player still ready to fight at the start of the new season in the Bundesliga and in the Champions League.
Often broken into pieces but never dead : Robben is the T-1000 of football. That said, certainly he has just said goodbye to a qualification to the next World Cup in Russia after that he already missed the last Euro in France.
No later than right now, let's move on a T-800 model.
Ballack – Born in the D.D.R where he was shaped as a libero, Ballack's favorite and most natural position located at midfield in a 'deep-lying playmaker' role, placed between the defensive midfielder and a number 10. But his coaches, in the Bundesliga and most of all in the German national team, liked to line him up higher on the pitch in order to benefit of his fulgurant shooting and more generally of his presence in front of the goals as he excelled in the aerial game as well. That was not his only qualities : Ballack was also an intelligent passer of the ball. And how to forget his disposition to help his team defensively ! Indeed, it is what costed him the right to play a World Cup final, that was in 2002 (unique scorer against the hosts South-Korea in the semi-finals, he was also yellow-carded and thus was suspended for the final... or a certain sense of sacrifice). 2002, the year that sees Ballack to finish silver medalist at the World Cup (victory of the 3 R's Brazil), coronation (?) of a season that already saw him to finish runner-up in the Champions League with Leverkusen (against Madrid's Galacticos), also second in the Bundesliga (with a far better goal-average than Borussia Dortmund but 1 point behind) and even runner-up in the German Cup (or DFB Pokal to your friends).
He did not wear the number 13 for nothing. And it's not over. With Chelsea (2006-2010) he makes his contribution to qualify 'The Blues' for their first Champions League final ever in their history (in 2008), but also brings his rotten luck as Manchester United won it in a penalty shootout (Ballack scored his pen', but...).
With Bayern (2002-2006), he never tempted the fate, contenting himself with a pile of national titles.
Ibrahimovic – Tall, powerful but also a great technician, he could remind of Van Basten. And when he scored that acrobatic goal to Buffon at the Euro 2004 he even reminded Cruijff.
Naturally, it is in Holland that Ibrahimovic started his career in collecting league titles (2002, 2004). He will then be a champion in Italy, first with Juventus but the titles of 2005 and 2006 would be revoked, then for good with Inter (which had benefited of the disqualification of Juventus in the aforementioned years). Follows a title in Spain with Barcelona where he stood only one season, a new Serie A title in 2011 this time with AC Milan and finally 4 consecutive titles in Ligue 1 with Paris Saint-Germain. Thus, he won the national title in 4 different countries in Europe, Holland, Italy, Spain and France.
As a Manchester United player, last year, his challenge was to add a Premier league title to his palmarès. A title that the Red Devils won for the last time in 2013 on what Ferguson decided to retire. The club coached by Mourinho (who signed Ibra that he knew since Inter) could well succeed in winning it again this season finally. But ''Ibra'' has still not entered the pitches for the moment. In May, injured, he could not participate in the EL final held in Malmö, his home city and the city of his professional debuts (Malmö FF).
A multiple national league winner ok but then, why ranking him amongst the greatest ? For his outstanding technical abilities first, which are comparable to the greatests strikers in history. Then, the circumstances, as well as his individual performances, it is true, gave rise to the saying that he was not at the level in the hardest club's competition, if not the hardest competition in short, the Champions League. But we would not forget that he has permitted to the Sweden team to continue to exist on the international scene in the beginning of this XXIth century with honourable results, a thing that is hardly conceivable without a Ibra. Scorer and also somehow a number 10 (his shirt number, like Ronaldo his idol), the attacker has carried his team on his (large and muscular) shoulders with an undeniable leadership, technical and even at the mental level, regardless what people (who certainly are not Swedish) may say. All in all, it's in a follower of the martial arts (so his suppleness and acrobatic style), of Croatian origins by his mother and Bosnian by his father, that the Swedish Vikings found their leader. This is Ibra. A Viking armed with multiple riches. A super-viking and a footballer who has found a special place in the history of the game. Has scored very special goals too once again : so that one in 2004, NAC Breda with Ajax one month before, France at the Euro 2012, the one at the occasion of the inauguration of the Friends Arena in Solna against England for a 4-2 win (he has scored the 4 goals by the way)... Ibra, Ibra, Ibra, Ibra !
And ibracadabra, FYT knows that it won't please him but he still features here at a good 105th place... well, I don't know you but FYT is out of here now !
Seeler – The feet firmly anchored to the ground, this small and sturdy blond-haired centre-forward, strong-willed, playing like ''ploughing the pitch'' was also able of the most spectacular acrobatics : bicycle-kicks, excellent aerial game in all the positions (on this, his header against England at the 1970 World Cup must come to mind). All in all more a hard-worker though, rather than a ''natural talent''. One of the reason why the long-distance captain of Hamburg SV (who was not a mariner) was so popular in the whole Germany. Another reason has obviously to do with his numerous goals : near 500 for HSV (mainly in the Oberliga, the western regional league, and also a good number, more than 130, in the first years of the Bundesliga (he is the first top scorer of the brand new league in 1964). An international player from 1954 (in the following of the World Cup and of the ''Miracle of Bern'') until 1970 and the Mexican World Cup, he has also scored no less than 43 times along his 72 appearances for Germany, including 9 in 21 World Cup games. He is by the way the only player, with Pelé, to have scored in 4 different World Cup tournaments (1958, '62, '66 and '70). But in spite of a twelve years career in the World Cup, he remains as one of the few German legends to have never lift the trophy. Unlucky Seeler, who also lost a Cup Winners Cup Final, with his lifelong club, against Milan in 1963. The only line to his palmarès : a national league title, obtained in 1960. As for the individual prizes, he was awarded German player of the year in 1960, 1964 and 1970. In Mexico, Seeler was in Gerd Müller's service in a duo that did not convice much the public opinion prior to the tournament but did a little more during the month of June. Seeler had mutated here in a true support forward. He ended his career in 1972, year of the first international honours for Germany since 1954 and to which another one will follow, two years after.
Walter F. - ''The last legend of German football'' (Franz Beckenbauer). Not necessarily the most skilful player but the brain of a German team of which he was the leader of attack from the midfield and who will remain as the one who, as a captain, lifted the Jules Rimet trophy ''instead of'' the ''Magical Magyars'' in Bern in 1954. It was a rainy day, it was ''Fritz Walter's weather'' as it was said since he seemed to play better in these specific weather conditions. It finds its explanation as like many war prisoners, of which he had been (imprisoned by the Red Army in Romania), he had contracted the malaria and in consequence could not stand the heat of the sun. Moreover, still about this period in History and period of his personal life, Walter had been saved by a Hungarian who had recognized him, sympathized with the champion and said that he was originary from Saar or Austria and not Germany and that he was enrolled by force in the Wermacht while he was about to be deported to a gulag.
A destiny. Which has seen him to give a new hope to the German people after the war.
Bobek – Imperial by his strong stature and terrible by his diabolical skill set, Bobek was the star of the always redoubtable Yugoslavian team from 1946 to 1956. Along with Rajko Mitic with whom he constituted a complementary combo of inside forwards (Mitic being more midfielder while Bobek was more striker), he had however to content himself with a silver medal at the 1948 as well as in the 1952 Olympics, leaving the laurels to the Sweden of the ''Gre-No-Li'' then to the Hungary of Puskas and the ''Magic Magyars''. At last, he would not know much success at the World Cup too, being early eliminated by Brazil and Germany in 1950 then 1954. But the greatest Partizan Belgrade player ever forever holds the record of goals scored for the Yugoslavia team.
Junior – One of the best offensive full-backs in the world in the early 80s (1981, '82), Leovegildo Lins da Gama Júnior took his full dimension when he was positioned a notch higher on the pitch, at midfield, in the mid-80s, as now an Italian Serie A player (after Flamengo). Acting there like a true piston, first playmaker of his teams, Torino and Brazil, he became since that moment a strategical element in a collective and an essential player. Back to Flamengo after a stint at Pescara, the man with 70 caps and 6 goals for Brazil played until near the age of 40 years old.
Ferrari – One of richest palmarès of the interwar period, Giovanni Ferrari was the conductor of the Juventus (1930-1935), the Inter (1935-1940) and at last of the Bologna team with whom he won his 8th scudetto in 1941. And above all, of the Italy team that won two consecutive world titles in 1934 and 1938.
Like Rivera, he had started his career at a very early age at Alessandria.
Ademir de Menezes – A skilful striker who was able to penetrate the tightest or the toughest defenses, he is in the line of the outstanding number 9 that Brazil produced before him, Arthur Friedenreich and Leonidas da Silva. He'll succeed well to Leonidas as the World Cup top scorer but will not do really better in terms of final result as Brazil was defeated in his Maracana by an Uruguyan team decided not to be a spectator of a local team triumph which was a bit too early announced. After that he had scored 8 goals including 4 against Sweden in his penultimate match, Ademir never was able to find the way to the net against the Celeste. A feat he had succeeded the year before in the Copa America Final against Paraguay. 1949 and 1950 had to remain his most notable years, as well as in club (Rio State championship and top scorer with Vasco) as with the national team.
Jaïr Rosa Pinto – Twin of Zizinho as the inside left of the Brazilian team in the years 1940-50 (Zizinho was the inside right) and feeder of the famous number 9 Ademir, Jaïr greatly amazed the Europeans who were present at the 1950 World Cup : with his unusual technical abilities, by the scope of his register (passer, link-man, scorer). South-American champion and World Cup runner-up like his two partners of the centre of the national team's line of attack, he then played with Pelé at Santos in the late 50s, serving here as a guide and teacher.
Overath – An international player at 20 years old in 1963, Wolfgang Overath becomes in no time one of the choice pieces of the nationalmmanschaft with Franz Beckenbauer, playing a central role at the 1966 and 1970 World Cup campaigns.
A midfielder with deft passing technique, expert in the long passes the always neat Overath had also this quality which consists in serving the collective, and his leader, ''Kaiser Franz'', what will buy him the preference of Helmut Schön during the aforementioned phase, over a Günter Netzer.
In 1972, as Overath knew a downturn and had a poor form, it is however Netzer who is selected and becomes European champion with the West German team and as one of the main protagonists.
In 1974, Overath who is more of a left-midfielder suits better in the new 4-3-3 than Netzer who is more of a central playmaker so he is quite naturally back in the team of Schön and... Beckenbauer. After two initial neither fish nor fowl initial games from himself and from the whole team during which he still managed to show all of his german shooting quality against Australia, Overath is replaced by Netzer for the last group match against the East German team. For the outcome that we know : the West Germans are beaten but they'll inherate of an easier group in the second round. Since then, Overath finds his place in the team again and will never abandon it until the final victory, in Munich. His last match with West Germany.
A player with a more predominant career at international level than at club level, he still won one Bundesliga title with the club of his life, 1. FC Köln, of which he was the president from 2004 to 2011. Remote from the team and spectator, Netzer would say during the 1974 World Cup that ''Overath was born to play for the national team''. Indeed, the player of Köln had the special ability to exalt himself in the great international rendez-vous. And his experience and seriousness was vital during that second phase of the WM 74.
Van Hanegem – He looked like the dockers of the Port of Rotterdam, was like them. A tough guy, he was not the last onto the pitch to tickle the ankles, the tibias... and he was also a remarkable technician (without what he would not feature in here), especially renowed for his curved passes with the outside of the foot.
A ferocious competitor with tactical insight and undeniable technical abilities, he was an essential player of the 1970 Feyenoord team that brang to Holland its first European Cup.
In the shadow of Cruijff who had recently definitively get the upper hand over him in the national team thanks to his successes with Ajax (''majoritory shareholder'' in the team with first, Michels as the head coach), he has played in 1974 at the age of 30 the first world final of Holland. A final to which the Oranjes qualified brilliantly but also during which they terribly failed, maybe due to the fact that they opened the score to early and stopped playing, Cruijff the first, straight after that (amongst other reasons that it is always quite easy to find, especially when the final result is negative).
During this competition, where he was good, Hanegem shown most of all much activity as in the switching of position between the left midfielder and the left defender positions leaving few more time, space and probably energy to him to bring more, or in a few occasions. The presence of who you know, as we have already talked a lot of him, left a tinest window to him, too. As well as to many other temmates – except for Neeskens, that we can see as the heir of Hanegem, even if they have not played for the same club.
Erico – Don Aldredo's idol, period. Now, just to talk a bit of this player that we have there, he is the Argentine League all-time top scorer (with 295 goals for Independiente). Superstar on the South-American continent in his day, the Paraguayan striker (which is considered the best ever of his country) was renowed for his technique at finishing but also in the built of the attacks as well as for he was, more particularly, endowed with a formidable jump and headplay. With his very dynamic way of playing and his red shirt, he was like a devil on the line of attack.
Among his numerous nicknames we'll retain the one of ''Hombre de Plastico''. It was certainly used as he had the face of a dummy and as he was a big user of brilliantine. Also because he was terrifically supple. And that can make think of Messi.
Bebeto – Successor of Zico at Flamengo in a role of second striker or attacking midfielder in the 80s, he revealed himself to the football fans of the whole world in 1989 or arguably, more widely in 1992 as the one who scores the goals for Brazil. He was now more a player of the forefront since he had joined Vasco de Gama. But most of all, he is remembered for he had his share of glory at the occasion of the 1994 World Cup victory as the one who turned around Romario. He was then at Deportivo La Coruña that he greatly helped turn into ''Super-Depor''.
Always this immediately recognizable baby-faced man, he was, contrarily to his partner of attack of the '94 Brazilian team, a World Cup squad member four years later in France where he has scored three more goals in the most prestigious of all the tournaments, for a total of six. But this has sadly ended for him this time.
Orsi – Coming from Independiente de Avellanda, just after he became a silver medalist with Argentina at the Olympic games held in Amsterdam (1928), Orsi joined Turin and the Juventus team of which he'll contribute to all the successes between 1930 and 1935 (Il Quinquennio d'oro). In addition to these national honors (5 times champion in a row), the oriundo most of all won the 1934 World Cup with the Squadra Azzura. A left winger, Orsi stood out by his fantastic technical abilities, very Argentine. Particularly mobile, he could also be a player of the inside of the pitch and was able to score goals. Like he did in the 1934 Final against Czechoslovakia, for the equalizer, before that Schiavio definitively tipped the scales in Italy's favor.
Butragueño – Skilful in movement, he was of the very clever players who play between the lines in order to create chances for themselves or maybe most of all for a partner, what he especially did in club, with Real. Used more like a centre-forward (or second forward) who must run more directly at the goal with La Seleccion, he is the one who blasted Denmark at the 1986 World Cup (4 personal goals for a 5-1 win). Elegant like the players of the past but decidedly modern, he was like the new version for an Amancio. The new generation of Real Madrid players that won two back-to-back UEFA Cups in the mid-80s was known as the Quinta del Buitre and thus referred to him through his nickname which, before all, pointed out his sense of opportunism (the ''Vulture'').
Seedorf – The midfielder of Surinamese origins, who without altering his propensity to work at a defensive level and to shoot hard at the goal became more and more a fine playmaker, never really played very well for the Dutch national team. But he has 4 Champions League titles to his name, won with Ajax, Real and Milan.
Hamrin – Renowed for his diabolical skillset, this right winger knew the joy of participating in a World Cup Final. In his homeland Sweden (in 1958) against the Brazilian team and their young phenomenon Pelé. And his club career is far to be outdone as, after an initial failure at Juventus, he has then ill-treatened the Italian defences during a whole decade on behalf of Fiorentina. This neat player who was a dribbler but also a scorer of goals then mutated into a support forward or attacking midfielder at Milan with whom he won a personal second Cup Winners Cup in 1967 (after 1961) and most of all the European Cup the following year, consecration for, at this time, the 33 years old man with an exemplary career.
Gento – Master of the instantaneous stops and starts on his left wing, the Real Madrid player was the King of the #11's during years. One flaw maybe : he sometimes lacked of lucidity in the final gesture. He has however contributed by his special talents to all 5 first Real Madrid's European Cup wins in the 5 first editions of it alongside Di Stéfano and still, was of the Madrid yéyé that added a sixth ''ultimate title'' to the club's trophy cabinet (in 1966) and continued to pile up the domestic league titles.
From his 20 years (in 1953) to his 38 years (in 1971), Paco Gento, who had started his career in Santander, has played more than 600 matches with the meringue jersey, including 89 (a singular case at the time) only in the European Cup that he has won 6 times. The man of all records. The story would have been perfect if he had been of the 1964 European champions with the national team. After the deception of the 1962 World Cup in Chile, the team did well without him. The fact remains that Paco Gento will forever occupy a key place among the Real Madrid's legends as the hero of different generations of madridistas. He now officialy incarnates the glory of the club since he has been elected honorary president, following Di Stefano.
Fontaine – Master of the hook turn, master of finishing, he was a fast CF who doesn't suffer to be compared with today's #9's. As he had been at first an inside forward or eventually a winger as he had the qualities to make good passes and the speed, he's not only the goal-poacher we could imagine but a complete forward at the service of the ''football in movement'' wich would be decidedly at the avant-garde of modern football and far from the ''so static football of before''. Real space eater, he knew how to make runs wich never permitted the defenders to tackle him. Thus, he had the goals wide-open in front of him in the end of his runs. That's why he has these stats. Then, it's not necessary to put his record on the table, the one he established as the top scorer at the 1958 World Cup, nor to mention he has been the European Cup top scorer the next year with Reims while being finalist nor that he also has been top scorer of the 1960 European Nations Cup all games included (being semi-finalist)... nor to mention that he scored 30 goals in 21 international games while not playing in the 1920s.
Riva – Tall and good in the air, powerful, skilful, and most of all shooter of the first order, ''Gigi'' scored goals after goals along nearly 10 years for both his club and the Italy national team. Very playful and not very desirous to join one of the three ''big'' Italian clubs, he remained faithful to Cagliari with whom he made the feat to win a scudetto (in 1970) and to finish thrice as the league top scorer (1967, '69 and '70). He was nicknamed ''Rombo di tuono'' (thunderbolt).
Like Fontaine, he broke his leg (in 1971), but he was however able to continue playing football at an interesting level until 1974 and a last participation in the World Cup after the one of 1970 of which he finished runner-up behind Brazil, that after an epic match with West Germany in the semi-finals, so the ''match of the century'' into which he scored the goal for the 3-3, just before that Rivera gave the victory to the Squadra Azzura.
Bettega – The career of this wonderful striker was somewhat spoiled by the injuries. But what talents! Excellent in the air, good dribbler, good shooter (with both feet) but also formidable passer, Bettega knew how to do everything as he demonstrated admirably during the 1978 World Cup. After his fantastic years '76 to '78 punctuated with various titles with Juve including an UEFA Cup (see his palmarès), despite his physical troubles (merciless calcio), he managed to become the top scorer of Serie A in 1980. Before dropping back a notch on the field, like he was often used in its early days. A serious injury will keep him away from the field in 1981-82 but he will compete in a last season bringing his personal record to 326 matches for 129 goals on behalf of "La Vecchia Signora" in Serie A. This native of Turin, formed at the club bianconero with whom he played as a professional from 1971 to 1983 was physically recognizable, apart from his large size (1 m. 84), by his pepper-and-salt hair, which so to speak echoed the colors of the jersey that he cherished so much, and continues to cherish.
In conclusion, special mention to Varallo, the last survivor of the first World Cup Final ever played, this in 1930, in Montevideo.
An inside right, he has scored 181 goals for Boca Juniors with whom he won 4 Argentinian leagues. His record of goals for Boca (professional era) stood from 1939 to 2008.
In spite of a new loss against Uruguay, he has played and won the Copa América ''final'' against Brazil in 1937 with Argentina (3 personal goals in the tournament).
With 34 goals, he was the top scorer of the South-American continent in 1933.
He died in August 2010 at the age of one hundred years. When his record of goals was about to be broken, cheerful, he thought out loud about to put his Boca jersey back on in order to increase his record.
And here we have the FYT's Top 125 footballers in History.
After a long and hard mental torture... the Boca Juniors, Argentina and world legend has been preferred among the following players that it was truly difficult to decide between. In no special order this time (and it feels like going on a holiday now) : Wilkes, Boniek, Scifo, Van Himst, Amancio, Vukas, Nyers, Pepe (Macia), Haynes, Carter, Crespo, Overmars, Moulijn, Tichy, Bale, Peucelle, Rahn, Gigghia, Haller, Gerrard, Lampard, Edwards, Czibor, Gascoigne, Scholes, Robson, Bene, Rexach, Basora, Futre, Abedi Pelé, Puc, Nejedly, V. Ivanov, Luis Enrique, Lato, Milla, Vava, Skoblar, Suker, Kluivert, Batistuta, Shearer, Lineker, Bremner, Giles, Brady, Rossi, Papin, H. Sanchez, Cantona, Eto'o, Villa, Torres, Forlan, Vieri, Klinsmann, Peyroteo, Greaves, Law, Spencer, Nordahl, Klose, Piola, Lubanski, Rui Costa, Hoddle, Ardilès, Burruchaga, Boniperti, Antognoni, Deco, Liedholm, Masopust, Panenka, Nistelrooy, Lewandowski, Dean, Krankl, Szarmach, Owen, Lawton, Rush, Berbatov... Bonev, Sastre, Cueto, Sani, Stojaspal, Juninho's, Keane, Zola, Hässler, Ribéry (really?)... Bernabé, Conti, Waddle, Liddell, Littbarski, Surjak, Madjer, Schlosser-Lakatos, Sneijder, Brolin, Rial, Evaristo, Labruna, Zito, Kroos, Sammer, Vieira, Völler, Möller, Boban, Chalana, Chislenko, Praest, Giggs, Meredith, Devaquez, Allofs, Valdo, Valderrama, Özil, Hazard, Veron, Modric, Ocwirk, O. Varela, Rijkaard, Pirri, Bonhof, Fabregas, Amarildo, Asparuhov, Pedro Rocha, Rai, Tévez, Sanfilippo, Regueiro, Langara, Samitier, Osim, Orth... Braine, Ceulemans, James, Michel, Vercauteren, Zagallo, Sekularac, Litmanen, N'Doram, Beckham, Dirceu, Dahleb, Schweinsteiger, Kostic, Rooney, Adriano, Reus... Keita, Altobelli, Abegglen, Piantoni, Rijvers, Johnstone, T. Müller... Effenberg, Keizer, Polster, Vincent, Pirès, Zischek, Magnusson, Santillana, Elkjaer... Ortega, Houseman, Persie, Altafini, Prosinecki... Konrad, Kindvall, Bican... Bloomer... Bloomer, Woodward... Zavarov, Asanovic, Sliksovic, Mijatovic... Reinaldo, Redondo... Bochini, Ademir da Guia... and all the others. Like him or him. Impossible to cite them all (Magico Gonzalès still maybe).
Now, some thumbnails of them who did not make the list then the top 125 in the form of a... list and at last, a presentation of the players by country.
They did not make the top 125 (click on them for a better view, in the lightbox) :
No selection of ''the best of the rest'' intended. It's just about to illustrate the above "reserve list" and provide some more thumbails.
Now, the FYT's Top 125 greatest players of all-time in tabular form :
As for this top 125, it is done now.
Everything © Football Yesterday & Today (wm442433 blog)
La version française peut-être plus tard. A l'heure de la globalisation et d'internet, une version un peu plus internationale (et un anglais qui vaut ce qu'il vaut mais qui devrait être à peu près compris, surtout par les non-anglophones d'ailleurs...) a été priviligiée pour une diffusion mondiale de ce document exceptionnel...
En français, par exemple Bettega :
Et oui, on s'exprime généralement mieux dans sa langue maternelle, surtout quand on n'est pas bilingue.
Et oui, on s'exprime généralement mieux dans sa langue maternelle, surtout quand on n'est pas bilingue.