Messi, Ronaldo, Maradona: The greatest XI of all time as voted by fans

  • Kobe Tong

Who is the greatest footballer of all time?

It’s the age-old question at the centre of countless pub conversations with football fans from different eras often positing varying names – and we’re not sure there will ever be a definitive answer.

While Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are clearly the leading contenders of the modern era, it would be naive to dismiss the legendary players that helped raise the sport to where it is now.

Who is the GOAT?

The late, great Diego Maradona is rightfully a key protagonist in the GOAT debate, while Pele, Johan Cruyff and Ferenc Puskas have all thrown their hat into the ring with their brilliance.

However, don’t panic because we’re not going to pretend as though we can untangle all those legends today but instead, we’re going to turn our attentions to the greatest XI in football history.

While that hardly makes our quest any easier, it at least ensures that positions such as goalkeeper and centre-back get the plaudits that they always deserve but seldom actually receive.

West Brom vs Liverpool Match Reaction (Football Terrace)

The greatest players in history

And now is not the time to chance our arm by using our own opinion and our own opinion alone to draw up the XI, so we’re instead turning our attention to millions of votes by global football fans.

Over at Ranker, which gives users a platform to vote on various lists and topics, no less than three million votes have been submitted on the topic of “The Best Soccer Players of All Time.”

Regular readers will already have seen us combing through the results of this list, but now we’re using it to gather the overall opinion of the masses on the greatest XI that football has ever seen.


The greatest XI of all time?

Or to put things simply, we’re going to find the highest-played goalkeeper, then the leading two centre-backs and so forth until we have a complete line-up. Got it?

In order to keep things as close to the actual list as possible, we’re not fretting the fact that our midfield is unbalanced and woeful attacking, while the classic 4-4-2 felt like the most universal formation to choose.

Understood? Ok, well, enough disclaimers and caveats because you can check out the XI in all its glory down below because we have a sneaky suspicion that it’s going to raise a few eyebrows.


Woof. You know the XI is filled to the rafters with quality when Pele, Cruyff, Puskas, Ronaldinho, Andres Iniesta and Alfredo Di Stéfano can’t get a look in.

Some questionable selections

However, for the most part, you’ve got to say that the millions of votes have resulted in a slew of correct decisions with many fans rating Messi, Ronaldo and Maradona amongst the greatest ever.

But this is a poll in which Luka Modric is bizarrely rated in seventh place, while David Beckham wiggles his way into the top 20, so it’s inevitable that a few strange selections would appear.


It’s tough to stomach a back-line that has neither Franco Baresi or Paolo Maldini and for all his brilliance at Barcelona, you’d be pretty hard-pressed to justify Puyol as the centre-back GOAT.

Similarly, there will be more than a few eye-rolls as Lahm muscles his way ahead of Cafu and just be thankful that we’d didn’t have to select Neymar who shockingly places as highly as 11th.

But who are we to complain when there’s arguably never been a more saturated vote on the greatest footballers of all time? That said, we’d love to hear what changes you’d make to the XI…

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