Ronaldo, Zlatan, Beckham: Europe's best ever XI according to fan votes

Zlatan and Ronaldo do battle.

European football has produced some of the greatest ever players in the history of the men’s game.

South America has brought us legendary stars like Diego Maradona, Pele, Ronaldo Nazario and Lionel Messi, while Africa has offered up Georga Weah, Abedi Pele, Didier Drogba and Mohamed Salah.

And the rest of the world gave us the joy of Ali Daei, Park Ji-sung, Paulino Alcántara, Hugo Sánchez, Heung-min Son, Tim Cahill and Rafael Marquez to name just a few.

Legendary European players

However, it’s Europe that has so often – rightly or wrongly – been considered the promised land of football with the allure of the top five leagues and Champions League regularly attracting global stars.

But even in a world where the beautiful game’s hub centred around Asia or Oceania, the inescapable reality is that so many of the sport’s finest ever players have hailed from Europe regardless.

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Italy, Germany, England, France and Spain have all gotten their hands on the World Cup since its inception in 1930 and that’s in no small part thanks to the nauseating cohort of legends that they’ve been able to call upon.

From Ferenc Puskas to Gerd Muller and Franz Beckenbauer to Franco Baresi, the European continent has given us enough world-beating footballers to appreciate for three or four lifetimes.

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Fan opinion on European greats

However, what if we were to tell you that the pool of legendary players from Europe is so deep that not a single one of those icons has been voted by fans into the continent’s greatest ever XI?

Yes, that’s right, call it head-spinning depth or simply deluded supporters, but we’ve turned our attention to to see who football’s patrons consider to be Europe’s finest ever players.

Using their interactive list titled: ‘The Best Soccer Players of All Time’, which has collected more than three million votes, we’ve identified the highest-placing European international in each major position.

Xavi and Iniesta celebrate.
Barcelona’s Xavi is congratulated by his team mate Andres Iniesta after scoring a goal against Sevilla during their Spanish First Division soccer match at the Nou Camp stadium April 22, 2009. REUTERS/Gustau Nacarino (SPAIN SPORT SOCCER)

Naturally, we’ve had to do some tactical gymnastics along the way to best represent the opinions of the people, while still ensuring that it’s not some sort of bonkers 2-3-5 formation from the 1930s.

But it’s nevertheless the best representation of who fans have voted as the kingpins of the European game on this particular list.

Fans vote on the greatest ever European XI

Got it? Right then, well, be sure to strap yourselves in and see who football fans have voted as the best European XI of all time based on their thoughts on the GOAT debate down below:

Fans name all-time European XI.
Fans vote on the greatest ever European XI.

Yeh… we have some notes.

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear…

While we’re not going to argue with Cristiano Ronaldo, Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Thierry Henry getting the nod, we’re trying to get our head around the absence of Zinedine Zidane, Beckenbauer, Puskas and Muller.

With all due respect to David Beckham, you’ll forgive us for thinking that supporters have up-voted him more for his celebrity status than footballing skills, which – though underrated – were never enough to reach Zidane’s level.

Meanwhile, Ibrahimovic might well be one of the greatest goalscorers of all time, but we’d take World Cup and Ballon d’Or-winning Muller with the old record for the most goals in a calendar year any day.

AC Milan's Ibrahimovic celebrates.
Soccer Football – Serie A – U.S. Sassuolo v AC Milan – Mapei Stadium – Citta del Tricolore, Reggio Emilia, Italy – May 22, 2022 AC Milan’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic celebrates ahead of the trophy lift after winning the Serie A REUTERS/Daniele Mascolo

It’s also head-scratching for all the quality that Sergio Ramos, Carles Puyol and Philipp Lahm do and did possess that Baresi and Paolo Maldini are nowhere to be seen in the back line.

And the worrying thing is that we even had to bend over backwards to ensure that Cruyff – who should be an absolute given – made the cut by crowbarring him into the line-up at left midfield.

So, truth be told, there is much more that we disagree with than agree with in the fans’ all-time European XI, but I guess there’s only so much you can argue with more than three million votes…

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