England: What is the greatest Three Lions XI in history?


England are one of the greatest international teams in football history.

While the Three Lions might not be amongst the leading contenders to win Euro 2020, their position as one of the sport’s most revered nations remains and for good reason at that.

Besides, while the 1966 World Cup might endure as England’s only major honour, there’s no denying that their shores have birthed some of the greatest players that the sport has ever seen.

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As such, picking the greatest England XI in history is something of a divisive task and no matter how pundits or fans take on the challenge, you can guarantee that the debate will rage on.

There will be never be an objective answer, it must be said, but at least we can come closer to knowing the general consensus on the matter by way of pooling the opinions of supporters.

And ranker.com allows us to achieve that with their interactive ranking lists where punters can either upvote or downvote certain players to cast their opinion on the beautiful game.

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England fans vote

‘The Best Soccer Players from United Kingdom’ list is one of the most popular in their ‘soccer’ section with more than 58,000 votes having been cast over the years.

And to answer our question of the greatest ever England XI, we’ve omitted the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish players before seeing which footballers topped certain positions on the pitch.

In other words, the XI we have compiled isn’t necessarily the 11 players who scored highest in the vote, but did indeed attract the most approval in their respective positions.

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England’s greatest ever XI

With so few full-backs collecting votes, we’ve plumped for a 3-5-2 formation to best fit the poll and you can check out the starting XI that came of it down below:

GK: Gordon Banks

Pretty hard to argue with, this, because Banks was between the sticks when England won the World Cup and produced arguably the greatest save in history to deny Pele four years later.


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CB: Bobby Moore

Similarly, Moore strolls into the team with no questions asked, captaining England to the summit of world football in 1966 and enduring as one of the nation’s most talented footballers of all time.

CB: Rio Ferdinand

Over John Terry, Tony Adams and Terry Butcher? Hmm, we’re unsure, but Ferdinand was undoubtedly a top-class player for both England and Manchester United over the years.


CB: Jack Charlton

Again, there can be few complaints about England’s other World Cup-winning centre-back getting the nod with Charlton representing his country 35 times and even chipping in with six goals.

RM: Sir Stanley Matthews

The very first Ballon d’Or winner and a player so good they named an FA Cup final after him, Matthews is regarded as one of the greatest dribblers of all time and a bona fide England icon.


CM: Duncan Edwards

Sadly taken from the world at just 21 years old in the Munich Air Disaster, Edwards was tipped by many to become one of the greatest players in history with United and England. 

CM: Sir Bobby Charlton

For many, Charlton stands head and shoulders above the rest as England’s greatest ever player, winning the World Cup, Champions League and Ballon d’Or across a stunning career.


CM: Bryan Robson

An absolute juggernaut in English footballing history, that much is true, but would we take Robson over Steven Gerrard, Paul Gascoigne, Nobby Stiles and Paul Scholes? Not for us.

LM: Sir Tom Finney

A knight of the realm who spent his entire career at Preston North End, Finney is widely regarded as one of England’s most talented ever players with 30 goals across 76 caps for the Three Lions.


ST: Andrew Cole

What???? We have no idea what’s happened with the vote here, but there’s not a chance in hell that Cole should be picked above Gary Lineker, Sir Geoff Hurst, Wayne Rooney and countless others.

There’s no denying that Cole is one of the greatest strikers in Premier League history, but he can’t be considered amongst the UK’s finest ever players with one goal in 15 caps for England. Madness.

ST: Jimmy Greaves

They don’t make goalscorers like Greaves anymore. Modern viewers might have expected Hurst or Lineker to get the nod, but it’s hard to look past a striker with 44 international goals in just 57 caps.


An old-school selection

While public votes tend to lend themselves to more modern-day selections, it’s fair to say that fans have actually cast their minds back and gone for something of an old-school selection here

For the most part, it’s incredibly hard to argue with that point of view and actually, the most recent players – Cole, most notably – are some of the more divisive in the squad.

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But with big-hitters such as Rooney, Lineker, Hurst and even David Beckham languishing on the bench, we’d be fascinated to hear how England’s greatest XI lines up in your eyes.

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