Ronaldo, Messi, Ronaldinho, Zidane: Football's greatest ever male XI as voted for by fans

  • Kobe Tong

Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Diego Maradona are just three of the players who are amongst the conversation for the greatest male footballer in history.

Everybody has their own two cents to offer on the GOAT debate and seldom does a day go by where at least one corner of social media isn’t going back and forth about their selections.

However, perhaps the more interesting and difficult angle to take on the greatest players in history is to imagine what your finest ever starting XI would actually look like.

The GOAT debate

It’s no secret that individual awards in football are heavily gauged towards forward players and that inevitability means that the frontrunners for GOAT status often happen to be goalscorers, too.

But when it comes to drawing up the greatest line-up, then the debate widens up quite considerably because goalkeepers and defenders are suddenly given parity with their more offensive comrades.

Now, that’s all well and good, but it doesn’t necessarily bring us any closer to establishing what the XI might actually look like because there would inevitably be so many differing opinions on the topic.

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What is the greatest ever XI?

Well, that’s where Ranker comes into things because their interactive list titled: “The Best Soccer Players of All Time,” gives us a fascinating insight on the prevailing opinions of supporters.

With no less than 450,000 fans having interacted with the list that is informed by more than 3.5 million individual votes, it’s a pretty weighty collation of thoughts on the wider GOAT debate.

So, in the interest of imagining what a starting XI might look like, we worked our way down the rankings to find the most-backed player in each position and duly compiled the resulting team.

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The greatest male XI in football history

In other words, our line-up isn’t necessarily comprised of the 11 highest-ranked players, but rather the aggregate GOAT in each broad position so we don’t have strikers pulling on goalkeeper gloves.

However, that being said, we’ve not been tediously strict about types of midfielders, for example, so brace yourselves for the fact that we’ve gone pretty darn attacking from the back four onwards.

But enough with the disclaimers and housekeeping because you’ve got the small prospect of the greatest XI in football history to sink your teeth into and you check it out in all its glory down below:


There you have it in then, folks, there’s nothing to be possibly debate there, right?

Many talking points from the line-up…

Ok, we are – of course – joking because a GOAT XI that doesn’t include players like Johan Cruyff, Pele, Paolo Maldini, Franco Baresi or Ferenc Puskas is always going to cause plenty of arguments.

And it really does go to show that the collation of fan votes isn’t necessarily the fairest tactic because you’ll be shocked to learn that none other than Luka Modric nearly made the cut.

Don’t ask us as to why more than 23,000 people are campaigning for the 2018 Ballon d’Or winner as the greatest player in history, but there we have it.


In seriousness, though, there won’t be too many complaints with Ronaldo, Messi and Maradona making the cut, while it’s also safe to assume that Franz Beckenbauer is nailed on for selection too.

Roberto Carlos, Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldingo, Gianluigi Buffon and Ronaldo Nazario aren’t outrageous shouts either, but the presence of Carles Puyol and Philipp Lahm is certainly surprising.

After all, Cafu, Maldini and Baresi might well be scratching their heads about not getting the call-up because you’d surely think that more fans would be backing them in the defensive GOAT debate.


But I guess you’ve just got to put your hands up and say that the people have spoken. Well, aside from Modric supposedly being the seventh greatest player in history. We’re not having that.



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