Lev Yashin– Soviet Union (1954-1970) there have been few challengers to his status as the greatest of all goalkeepers, Yashin was consistent- brave, an athlete and a great stopper.
Cafu– Brazil (1990–2006)** hard to beat and very dangerous going forward.
Franz Beckenbauer– West Germany (1965–1977)* (captain)– The Kaiser was solid in defence and his accomplishments as a midfielder led to him practically inventing the role of sweeper. Would win the ball and then set off on marauding runs- box to box.
Marcel Desailly – France (1993–2004)* strong, solid and stylish.
Paolo Maldini – Italy (1988–2002) the greatest of all left backs, period.
Didi– Brazil (1952–1962)** defined the modern midfielder as we know it- lethal from free kicks, combative, incisive passer.
Socrates– Brazil (1979–1986) superb ball player and an ideal fulcrum.
Zinadine Zidane – France (1994–2006)* the paragon of modern midfield play, tough, skillful and a deadly finisher.
Mané Garrincha– Brazil (1955-1966)**– Mané wasn’t always glued to the right touchline- he often cut into the inside right channel and could shoot from range or deliver very telling balls into the danger area.He could head the ball also.
Johann Cruyff– The Netherlands (1966–1978) could have picked him in a number of positions, his finishing alone justifies his place at the centre of a three man attack.
Pelé– Brazil- (1957–1971)*** his range of talents and prolific scoring record cannot be overlooked.
I’m shamelessly nostalgic , so I’ll take any criticisms of the ‘retro’ look of my 11 with a pinch of salt. At first I was concerned that it was a bit right sided (imagine having Cafu overlapping Garrincha!). There is also the argument that Garrincha wouldn’t do much tracking back. Cruyff was also accused of sometimes neglecting the defensive aspect of total football. But the midfield has a solid look to it! and the back four is a mobile and formidable unit. If Beckenbauer moved up into midfield with the ball he was usually moving forward with intent, so any gap left at the back was academic. As I’ve said before- in football there is no right or wrong- only opinion- it’s just a bit of fun.
Enjoy the World Cup!