Ronaldo, Messi, Pele: The greatest ever XIs of football's biggest nations

Maradona and Messi.

The greatest XIs of all time have been named for the biggest nations in men’s football.

The International Federation of Football History & Statistics (IFFHS) has spent the best part of a year working through every single nation on Earth to name their greatest ever male line-up.

It’s a truly insane undertaking that has been fascinating to watch from afar and as they start to wrap up their series, we’re happy to report that most of the sport’s biggest nations have now been covered.

IFFH’s all-time best XIs

Sorry Uruguay fans, we know you’re still waiting, but the IFFHS have now revealed their picks for Brazil, France, England, Spain, Italy, Argentina, Germany, Portugal and the Netherlands’ greatest ever XIs.

The result is a stunning reel of line-ups stacked with so many World Cup, Champions League and Ballon d’Or winners that there are even legendary players forced to settle for a place on the bench.

It’s not for no reason that the IFFHS have had to do some tactical gymnastics along the way, too, just to get all of the icons from those nations into the XI at all costs. It really is that star-studded.

1 of 15

What year did the UEFA Nations League officially start?

Greatest XIs of football’s top nations

So, it only makes sense that we walk you through these mouthwatering XIs because they really are something to behold. Check out their selections down below and start working out which is the strongest of all.


Goodness gracious me. We’re flying out of the blocks with one of the best line-ups we’ve ever seen and one so good that Roberto Carlos, Romário, Socrates, Dani Alves, Rivaldo and Roberto Rivellino don’t even make the cut.

The thought of Pele, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Zico and Garrincha sharing the pitch together is the stuff that footballing dreams are made of. The entertainment levels would be off the scale.

Brazil's all-time greatest XI.
Brazil’s all-time greatest XI features Pele and Ronaldo.


There’s not a footballer on this planet that’s getting past that back five with four members of the 1998 World Cup-winning side providing the foundation for a stunning midfield duo of Zinedine Zidane and Michel Platini.

France's all-time greatest XI.
France’s all-time greatest XI features Henry and Zidane.


A World Cup-winning spine of Gordon Banks, Bobby Moore and Sir Bobby Charlton tees up a menacing strike partnership of Jimmy Greaves and Gary Lineker that Harry Kane might well be trying to break into very soon.

England's all-time greatest XI.
England’s all-time greatest XI features Lineker and Moore.


While the absence of David Villa is a little head-scratching, there’s nevertheless a great blend of the old and the new here as Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Raul mix with Luis Suárez, Telmo Zarra and Francisco Gento.

Spain's all-time greatest XI.
Spain’s all-time greatest XI features Xavi and Iniesta.


It’s simple: this team would never concede a goal. It only feels right that Italy’s all-time XI lines up with a back five because there were just too many legends to stack behind Roberto Baggio and Giuseppe Meazza.

Italy's all-time greatest XI.
Italy’s all-time greatest XI features Maldini and Baggio.


There are attacks and then there’s Argentina’s all-time greatest attack. Forget the rest of the team because we’re just busy drooling over the thought of Alfredo Di Stéfano, Gabriel Batistuta, Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona all playing together.

Argentina's all-time greatest XI.
Argentina’s all-time greatest XI features Maradona and Messi.


You know the level of quality is nauseating when Philipp Lahm, Miroslav Klose, Matthias Sammer, Oliver Kahn, Uwe Seeler, Jürgen Klinsmann and Michael Ballack all have to settle for a place in the B and C teams.

However, that’s just the nature of the beast when you have an XI full to the brim with World Cup winners as well as the Ballon d’Or-owning trio of Gerd Muller, Franz Beckenbauer and Lothar Matthäus.

Germany's all-time greatest XI.
Germany’s all-time greatest XI features Matthaus and Muller.


Almost certainly the weakest line-up of the collection, it must be said, but you can still expect fireworks with Cristiano Ronaldo, Eusebio, Paulo Futre and Luis Figo leading an outrageously gifted front four.

Portugal's all-time greatest XI.
Portugal’s all-time greatest XI features Ronaldo and Figo.


Johan Cruyff joining the iconic trio of Marco van Basten, Frank Rijkaard and Ruud Gullit with Jaap Stam, Ronaldo Koeman and Edwin van der Sar shoring up the defence might just make this the most underrated XI of the set.

Netherlands' all-time greatest XI.
Netherlands’ all-time greatest XI features Cruyff and Van Basten.

Which XI is the best?

What’s the pick of the bunch for you? It’s hard to say with so many legends knocking about, right?

Every nation has contributed to the beautiful game in one way or another, but the stunning line-ups in front of you just go to show that these nine countries have produced more legends than most.

If someone could just invent a time machine and create a World Cup tournament between these dream teams, then that would be much appreciated. Just imagine…

Mane To LEAVE Liverpool? Dean Jones Liverpool Update (Football Terrace)

News Now - Sport News