BBC BLOGS - Jonathan Stevenson
« Previous | Main | Next »

Who's the greatest?

Post categories:

Jonathan Stevenson | 09:59 UK time, Friday, 20 May 2011

Every so often, football has a habit of producing a truly remarkable team, a side that makes fans of all persuasions sit up and take notice and - perhaps begrudgingly - acknowledge them as something special.

It's a topic that could fill endless hours of nostalgia, discussion and argument: which is the greatest club side of all time?

With superstars like Lionel Messi, Xavi and Iniesta in their ranks, the current Barcelona side - who face Manchester United in a much-anticipated Champions League final - have been talked up as one contender for the title and BBC Radio 5 live's Monday Night Club will bring together a panel of experts to debate the issue on 23 May, five days before the clash at Wembley.

But are Pep Guardiola's side better than the Real Madrid team of Ferenc Puskas and Alfredo di Stefano in the 1960s, Johan Cruyff's Ajax side in the 1970s, the Liverpool of Kenny Dalglish in the 1980s, AC Milan's all-conquering 1990s outfit or the Arsenal Invincibles of 2003-2004?

Greatest-Team-595.jpgCruyff, Dalglish, Best, Maldini, Messi... all have claims to have played in the greatest club side ever

The Monday Night Club wants to know your take on the greatest club side of all time and they will use some of the comments from this blog on BBC Radio 5 live on Monday from 2100 BST as they attempt to come up with an answer to the question.

In no particular order, here's a list of 20 of the teams that should probably form part of the debate, but feel free to look outside the box and come up with a few of your own.

1. Barcelona, 1990s. Johan Cruyff's so-called 'Dream Team' won the Spanish title four years in a row and the club's first European Cup in 1992.
Stars: Ronald Koeman, Pep Guardiola, Michael Laudrup, Hristo Stoichkov.

2. Ajax, early 1970s. The team that gave the world Total Football, built by Rinus Michels and inspired by Cruyff, Ajax won the European Cup three times in a row from 1971-73.
Stars: Johan Cruyff, Ruud Krol, Johan Neeskens, Piet Keizer.

3. Liverpool, late 1970s. Champions of England in 1976, 1977 and 1979, Bob Paisley's Liverpool also won the European Cup in 1977 and 1978.
Stars: Ray Clemence, Alan Hansen, Graeme Souness, Kevin Keegan/Kenny Dalglish.

4. Celtic, 1967. Arguably the most remarkable team on the list, given that every single member of Jock Stein's European Cup winners was born within 30 miles of Glasgow.
Stars: Ronnie Simpson, Billy McNeil, Jimmy Johnstone, Bobby Lennox.

5. Manchester United, 1968. Ten years after the Munich Air Disaster, Sir Matt Busby had put together another superb United team that won the club's first European Cup.
Stars: Nobby Stiles, Bobby Charlton, George Best, Denis Law.

6. Arsenal, 2004. Arsene Wenger's 'Invincibles' became the first team in the modern era to go through a whole English league campaign without defeat.
Stars: Sol Campbell, Patrick Vieira, Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry.

7. AC Milan, 1989/90. Arrigo Sacchi, with the help of Silvio Berlusconi's millions, created one of the most formidable teams in history. They were the last team to retain the European Cup.
Stars: Paolo Maldini, Franco Baresi, Ruud Gullit, Marco van Basten.

8. Bayern Munich, 1970s. The greatest German side, Bayern became the third club to win the European Cup three times in a row from 1974-76, and have only won one since.
Stars: Sepp Maier, Franz Beckenbauer, Uli Hoeness, Gerd Muller.

9. Real Madrid, 1950s/60s. Perhaps the team to which all others will always be compared. Won the first five European Cups and they played football way ahead of their time.
Stars: Francisco Gento, Raymond Kopa, Ferenc Puskas, Alfredo di Stefano.

10. Tottenham, 1960s. Under Bill Nicolson, they became the first English team in the 20th century to win the League and FA Cup Double in 1961 and won the European Cup Winners' Cup in 1963 too.
Stars: Danny Blanchflower, Cliff Jones, Bobby Smith, Jimmy Greaves.

pele595gi.jpgPele is regarded by many as the finest player of all time. Photo: Getty

11. Santos, 1960s. Won several domestic honours, were South American champions in 1962 and 1963 and won the Intercontinental Cup in both years too as they dominated world football.
Stars: Gilmar, Coutinho, Pepe, Pele.

12. Manchester United, 1999. Sir Alex Ferguson's greatest United side. The club's most successful season ended with a remarkable Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League Treble.
Stars: Peter Schmeichel, David Beckham, Roy Keane, Dwight Yorke.

13. Liverpool, 1980s. Joe Fagan led the club to European Cup finals in 1984 and 1985, before Kenny Dalglish's side won the League and FA Cup double in 1986.
Stars: Bruce Grobbelaar, Alan Hansen, Kenny Dalglish, Ian Rush.

14. Leeds United, 1960s and 70s. Don Revie's team may not have won too many friends, but they knew how to win - seven major trophies and never finishing out of the top four between 1965 and 1974.
Stars: Billy Bremner, Norman Hunter, Johnny Giles, Allan Clarke.

15. Barcelona, 2000s. Dutchman Frank Rijkaard transformed the Catalans, winning La Liga in 2005 and 2006 and the Champions League in 2006.
Stars: Carles Puyol, Deco, Ronaldinho, Eto'o.

16. Ajax, 1995. Louis van Gaal's team blended outrageous young talent with experience and they stunned Europe, beating a dominant AC Milan side in the Champions League final.
Stars: Frank Rijkaard, Clarence Seedorf, Edgar Davids, Patrick Kluivert.

17. Liverpool, 1990. Having lost the league title to Arsenal on the last day of the season in 1989, Kenny Dalglish's Reds responded in brutal fashion, cruising to an 18th title by nine points.
Stars: Alan Hansen, John Barnes, Peter Beardsley, Ian Rush.

18. Barcelona, 2009-present. Winners of a Treble in Pep Guardiola's first season in 2008-09, Barca won the title last season, again this season and are in the Champions League final once again.
Stars: Gerard Pique, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Lionel Messi.

19. Inter Milan, 1960s. Helenio Herrera's team, based around the Catenaccio defensive formation, won Serie A in 1963, 1965 and 1966 and the European Cup in 1964 and 1965 too.
Stars: Giacinto Facchetti, Luis Suarez, Mario Corso, Sandro Mazzola.

20. Nottingham Forest, 1978-80. Brian Clough took the club out of the old Division Two, won the League in their first season after promotion and secured back-to-back European Cups to boot.
Stars: Peter Shilton, Kenny Burns, John Robertson, Trevor Francis.


Page 1 of 6

  • Comment number 1.

    gotta be the current barca side

  • Comment number 2.

    For me, the standout teams are Real from the 50s and 60s, the current Barcelona side and the total football team from Ajax. If I had to stick my neck out and commit to one, I would go for this Barca side, especially if they win the Champions League this year, and I believe they will manage it. I believe that since modern-day opponents are that much more difficult to beat, I think that they would take my vote.

  • Comment number 3.

    Anybody but Nottingham Forest.

  • Comment number 4.

    No.4 Every player born within 30 miles of Glasgow! That is unbelievable and will NEVER be repeated

  • Comment number 5.

    Arbroath's first ever league winning side of 2011.Up the smokies :-)

  • Comment number 6.

    The other side of the coin to this is what the competition around is like. I think right now Barcelona are fortunate in that the standard around Europe is very poor at present. Where are AC Milan, Bayern Munich, Juventus, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal Etc, Etc. Most of these massive clubs are performing well below standard present. Plus even though without doubt the current Barca team is the greatest side in history at keeping posession of the ball the big difference is that they are blessed with the greatest player of his generation, Lionel Messi. he for me is the one that makes them tick. For that reason it still has to be the Real Madrid side of the 1950/60. Winning the European Cup 5 times in a row is something that will never be overtaken.

  • Comment number 7.

    i was too young for the 70s ajax team, but ac milan end 80s/begin 90s is the strongest ive ever seen
    the current barca team and the ajax team of the mid 90s are other very good ones
    other memorable teams , the russia team of the mid 80s and the liverpool team of the late 80s

  • Comment number 8.

    I would say you need to look deeper than the honours they won. The Spurs side of the 60's and the Man U team of 99 had supporters of other teams going to watch them. Barca look good, but they are not even the best Barcelona side in history. Truely truely great teams last for more than 1 season. So Leeds of the 70's and Man U of the naughties, or Real of the 60's. Just looking at trophies is not always the best way.

  • Comment number 9.

    I think the achievement of the Celtic side of 1967 is definitely the greatest, but the greatest club team in my view comes down to 2 - the 'Total Football' Johan Cruyff Ajax side of the 70s, and the Madrid team from the 50s/60s. I would have picked the current Barça side as the best in all honesty, but I think their undoubted ability and wonderful football is undermined greatly by their incessant diving, constant surrounding of the referee, and their generally poor sportsmanship - despite Guardiola's claims that these things aren't present, they are ...... except from Messi, who is the model sportsman.

  • Comment number 10.

    Oh look. Another "best of" list.

    This time it's top 20 teams and, lo and behold, NINE of them are British. When in anyone's book only one or two actually merit an inclusion.

    I'm stunned.

  • Comment number 11.

    For me I have to disagree with No 3, for achievement you have to say Forest, what a bloody marvel Clough was with them at the time. My second up, on the same criteria has to be Celtic. Would say though for me the sheer joy of the way they played, and I was watching them as a youngster and they inspired me so much, it has to be Ajax.

    Just hoping my team can be mentioned in the next few years to come, having got one monkey off our back with our first trophy last weekend after 35 years.

  • Comment number 12.

    Although I admire the current Barca team, when playing I was a defender and just do't think their defence cuts it against some of the other teams. For me has to be AC Milan Tassotti, Baresi, Costacurta, Maldini with the magic of the dutch trio, more of a complete team. Also Liverpool '70s and (through gritted teeth) mancs '99 are up there.

  • Comment number 13.

    Man Utd 1878 - present

  • Comment number 14.

    For me it would have to be either of the Liverpool sides, AC Milan in the late 80's early 90's, Ajax or Bayern in the early/mid 70s and the Madrid team of the late 50's. These stand out for me as they completely dominated Europe to a degree that none of the other teams can match. Though I do think the current Barcelona team could join them!

  • Comment number 15.

    @ParSoup yes it should be recognized as impressive that they were all born so close together but why should the possibility of being the best team ever be limited to where you were born. Surely looking across world, searching far and wide, is more commendable in terms of creating the best side ever

  • Comment number 16.

    Celtic 1967 for me

    Sorry to query Johnathan but I always thought it was 11 miles and not the 30 you cite!

  • Comment number 17.

    IMPO, it has to be between the Ajax team of the 1970's and the Real Madrid Team of the 1950's to 1960's.

    The current Barcelona team has the potential to be the best ever, but they need to win more, i.e, one Champions League won by this particular team does not make them the best. Consistently beating the best and winning more of the premier competitions over a period of time will change my view.

    Also, their diving antics leaves as sour taste in the mouth. If they removed this blatant cheating from their game and played their passing game, coupled with the total football style of Ajax in the 70's, then they will get my vote.

  • Comment number 18.

    I'm absolutely amazed that the Real Madrid team including the likes of Zidane, Figo, Roberto Carlos, Hierro, Raul and Ronaldo didn't even make this list.

  • Comment number 19.

    I believe Arsenal in 2005 were Barcelona now! As i am only 20 I dont know much from the past, only around from 1999 Man Utd side who i think were amazing! I think you can't really ever say which team was the greatest of them all but you can say the greatest team that club has ever had!!

  • Comment number 20.

    Don't think the Zidane Real team was as successful as they should've been.

  • Comment number 21.

    The best I have seen is the AC Milan side from 2003-2007. Three champions league finals which they won two, should of been three though. Swept away Manchester United in 2005 and 2007 with ease. Joy to watch as well.
    Stars: Maldini, Pirlo, Seedorf, Kaka

  • Comment number 22.

    It would be impossible to pick out a side as being the greatest unless you've seen them all.

    I can only offer the greatest side of my team,Ipswich Town,being the 1981 side.


  • Comment number 23.

    Personally, if you are looking for the greatest side, surely it has to be one that excites, and for that reason Forest would not qualify, although to win back to back European Cups and not be a "mainstream" football team means they do deserve some recognition. Liverpool were not necessarily entertainers but a successful defence of the title and 4 wins in 7 years, again there is an argument for them. Notice all the Mourinho sides in there and the lack of Man u sides from the last 20 years ? Sir Alex Ferguson is being lauded as the greatest in some circles and yet only 1 of his teams is selected, and even that one relied on a last minute penalty miss by Bergkamp of Arsenal to get to the FA Cup final, and the woodwork saving them from going 2-0 to Bayern with only a few minutes left in a game, just like Rome 2009, they were never in. Coupled with that and the lack of sides managed by Mourinho it does for me reaffirm that the quality of english teams in the last decade has been on the wane and merely backs up those who feel United have had little opposition domestically, yes, we had a period of dominating the Champions League, errr we won it twice since 1999 for our domination.

    People will say ah yes the good old days, maybe this list does rather back that up.

  • Comment number 24.

    In reality the current Barcelona side shouldn't be considered in the top ten.

    Beneficiaries of a weak domestic league, a dependence on poor/biased refereeing decisions and at a time when Serie A is no longer such a force.

    I, like Mourinho hope that Guardiola can win in Europe honestly.

    The Milan side of the early 90s was truly great. Built on a strong defence that makes the back four of most current clubs look pathetic.

  • Comment number 25.

    I have to confess to being slightly biased as I'm a Liverpool supporter. Any team with a spine of Clem, Jocky, Souness and the King has to have a legitimate claim to be one of the very best ever. They weren't "flair players" in the flashy sense, they were hugely talented but had a purity of purpose.....they used their gifts to play simple football really really well.

    I'm glad the Ajax team of 1995 has been mentioned. At the time their football was terrifyingly good. Their passing and movement was astonishing and if they'd come up against an English team they would be mentioned as often as 1966, United's treble etc etc.

  • Comment number 26.

    I fail to see how the mid 80's Liverpool team can make it and the mid 80's tit for tat rival Everton team is ignored, not media darlings though are we.

    This Barcalona team is probably as good as any football wise, but i think the early 90's Milan team would still beat them

  • Comment number 27.

    How many of these teams have I actually seen play in front of my very own eyes? I'll just check again… no, not one. Hang on, I did go to Highbury in 2004 to see Arsenal batter Charlton 4-0, Henry scored a cheeky back-heeler. So my vote is for a team I actually saw play.

  • Comment number 28.

    I personally think that Manchester United's European Cup winning team in 2008 was better than Arsenal's 'invincibles'. How can you be regarded as the greatest if you only win the one title?

  • Comment number 29.

    I agree with some that the list is very English biased. However, I also feel that the Barcelona team of today are head and shoulders above any team in the last 10 years. The best ever is always going to be a hard decision to make as some of the teams wont be teams that have been seen (especially my era, 80's onwards). The Celtic team is remarkable as the whole team were within 30 miles of Glasgow. This wont ever be done again, but does it make them one of the best teams ever? It makes it remarkable due to the fact that they all lived close together but does it make it any more remarkable of a team that dominated their league for a period of time and won the Champs Lge (Porto 2004).
    I do wish we could have seen the Leeds team of the 70's go up against the Barca of today! What would have Billy Bremner, Norman Hunter, Johnny Giles, Allan Clarke etc made of the fancy Barca footwork? You can be sure that if the Barca players were rolling around then they wouldnt have been faking it!

  • Comment number 30.

    For me the Milan side of the 80/90's. They utterly dominated Europe and a v. strong Serie A of the era. Their utter destruction of a superb Barcelona side (which included many of the first Barca team mentioned in this piece, plus the added potency of the formidable Romario) 4-0 was the single greatest footballing performance I've ever seen.

  • Comment number 31.


    Joking aside Utd in the past 5 years win on your criteria

    4 PL titles
    3/4 CL finals
    1 CL title, 1 yet to contest

    Stars VDS, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Giggs, Carrick, Fletcher, Rooney formerly Ronaldo and Tevez

    Granted they might not be Van Bastens, Di Stefanos, Maldinis but for pure trophy haul these guys are hard to beat

  • Comment number 32.

    Sorry but Arsenal's 'Invincibles' shouldn’t even make the list in my opinion....... I don't think you can be classed as a 'truly remarkable team' if you don't have any success on the European stage...

  • Comment number 33.

    The Liverpool side of the '80s. Especially 1984 Rome European Cup. The first game I ever saw.

  • Comment number 34.

    Whilst the achievements of the Madrid side of the 50's is stunning, I think it's fair to suggest that the Busby Babes had the potential to beat them, and while we've never know how good that team would be, for me it leaves a minor mark against the Madrid side of the 50's. Taking into account the events at Munich, we shouldn't discount the possiblility of including the Babes into this list. They'd already won the league twice in a row, European Cup semi finalists at the first attempt, lost the 57 cup final due to a then legal shoulder charge. Even now the potential that team showed and could have gone on to win scares me.

    The Ajax team of the early 70's were wonderful, Total Football when done right is beautiful to watch and though it's evolved since then, I don't think anyone has neared perfection of it quite like that Ajax side.

    The Milan side of the late 80's early 90's were by far the best side out of this list though, it is unfortunate that they rarely had a fully fit team, with Guilit and Van Basten being out for periods. It was a power house team that due to injuries never reached it's full potential, but what it did acheive was simply mind blowing.

  • Comment number 35.

    How about the Blackpool side of 2010/11

    Star Players: Charlie Adam, DJ Campbell, Jason Puncheon

  • Comment number 36.

    maybe publish this if/when Barcelona win the Champions League Final.

  • Comment number 37.

    Tough......Current barca, milan on the late 8o's, Ajax of early 70's and santos of early 60's I would say are the ones taht stand out the most. Possibly the Mlan side is the best, incredible amount for firepower and the defence was the strongest I have ever seen

  • Comment number 38.

    Cloughs Forest, coming from a division below to win the league then going on to win back to back European cups, whilst playing attractive and attacking football. Not to mention Brian clough the LEGEND!

  • Comment number 39.

    Winning three titles in a row is infinitely harder than going through a season unbeaten #justsaying

  • Comment number 40.

    Being only 21, I don't remember all the teams on the list obviously. The Barcelona team with Ronaldinho was pretty special. And the Arsenal invinceable team could dominate matches like i've never seen anybody else do. There are some good arguements for some of the man utd teams in the 90s too, thinking the class of Scholes, Beckham, Neville, Giggs etc.

    The current Barcelona team though are by far better than anything that's been before. So few weaknesses.

  • Comment number 41.

    Scunthorpe, 1889

  • Comment number 42.


    Don't forget Luke Varney. And the best manager of them all too.

  • Comment number 43.

    @35 Definitely in the top 20 pub teams of all time

  • Comment number 44.

    Agree with many of the choices put forward but feel that Fergie's achievements with Aberdeen at the end of the 70's and into the 80's should have been noted/included.
    To get a team like Aberdeen to the stage where they were the dominant force in Scotland and to achieve European success against Real Madrid in the Cup Winners Cup and then win the Supercup against Hamburg over 2 legs, is up there with many of the other contenders.

  • Comment number 45.

    Heavily British biased, many teams which really do not belong. For one take out Arsenal. Fantastic side for winning the league title unbeaten, but invincibles they were not. That was the only thing they won that year and in fact lost several times during that season. Same with Leeds and Tottenham. Greatest ever club side surely requires to win the big one at LEAST once.

    I'd have Real Madrid of the early decade far before Barcelona's 2006 side. What about Benfica in the 60s?

    Top 3 - Real madrid late 50s, Ajax early 70s and Milan late 80s

  • Comment number 46.

    For me it has to be the Liverpool side of the late 70's. Great spine of the side with flair and a team spirit that defined confidence that they can beat anyone anywhere anytime. Fantastic to watch and mainly based on just 13 or 14 players playing every game, no rotation or resting players!

  • Comment number 47.

    An obvious team missing from the list is the Manchester United side of the mid 50's the 'Busby Babes'. They won the league a couple of times and reached the European Cup Semi Finals twice. Who knows how many time they would have won the league and they certainly stood a great chance of winning a couple of European Cups, the Real Madrid side was beginning to age and the Busby Babes were gaining in experience (their average age was only 22).

    Unfortunately the tragedy of the Munich Air Disaster cut their achievements and their lives short. Surely this team deserves a mention alongside those listed.

  • Comment number 48.

    For me, the greatest side ever has to fulfill several criteria. Whilst the most obvious would be to win everything, there are a few others that I feel are important. Teams that change the way football is played through their revolutionary tactics are for me the greatest teams. The whole football world copies them because of their success. Obviously, teams that spring to mind in this instance are the likes of Cruyff's Holland and Barca, The Real Madrid of the 50's and the great Hungarian side that demolished England home and away (although Holland and Hungary are not club sides). For me, the current Barca team is part of a football revoultion. The way they defend from the front and win back possession almost immediately is their most impressive attribute, along with keeping hold of the ball for, usually, about 70% of the game. This has never been done before with such consistency. Also, the fact that the current Barca team can easily be separated from other Barca teams makes them more noteworthy. The definition of 'the current' Barca team clearly starts with the appointment of Guardiola and will probably end when he leaves. BUT, how about Man Utd 99? Is that team only valid for one season? If so surely that is not the greatest team of all time? Over one season maybe but surely longevity is also a factor?

  • Comment number 49.

    Who's the greatest very much depends on the criteria you use. Just taking into account their silverware, the Real Madrid side of the 50's has to to be considered (5 European cups in a row is just incredible, even if it was a slightly easier competition to win). However if you're talking about legacy, then the Ajax side of the 70's revolutionised the game and have affected many sides since; most notably the current Barcelona one, so they would be the greatest. For me it is Ajax, partly because I'm more familiar with them than Real but also because 40 odd years on you can still see their influence on the modern game, and that is a remarkable achievement.

  • Comment number 50.

    It makes my stomach churn to think that dani alves might be in the greatest team of all time, add to that the likes of pedro and busquets and the team is completely tainted in my eyes. For every slick passing move or beautiful messi goal that makes me want to watch barca there is an incident involving one of the aforementioned 3 that makes me throw things at the tele. For me I'll trust my dad and grandad who swore blind no one has come close to Madrid in the 50s.

  • Comment number 51.

    Think we can all agree they were all good teams so agree that it's the teams weaknesses which determine how great they truely were/are:
    Barca 00 & present defence to average. Think without European Cup/Champions league win means either weren't good enough ( or in the case when english teams were banned) weren't REALLY tested. For me this eliminates Arsenal '04 Liverpool '90. Am at bit biased as with some of the teams before 70's as never saw them play can't really comment feel sometimes reputation can be made on romance rather than fact. Also agree with the teams who didn't really entertain can't be considered as good as those who did.
    IMO This would leave Barca '90s, Ajax 70's '95, Liverpool '70s & '80s, Milan '90s, mancs '90s.

  • Comment number 52.

    It has to be the Celtic team that won the European Cup. They were the very definition of a what a real team is. No matter how good this Barca side is they had to buy players from other clubs/countries to become champions. Its a shame in a way football has now moved away from local players playing together for their local club.

  • Comment number 53.

    If we're including sides that couldn't even win the European Cup (i.e. Tottenham, Leeds, Liverpool 1990 etc.) then surely this team deserves a mention!

    West Ham Under 18s 1996-2000:

    Won the FA Youth Cup in '99, reached the final in '96 and won the Southern Academy League and National Title numerous times. Played the best youth team football ever seen, including a 9-0 destruction of Coventry in the Youth Cup Final.

    Stars: Joe Cole, Michael Carrick, Frank Lampard, Rio Ferdinand, Jermain Defoe.

  • Comment number 54.

    For me it's got to be the Celtic side at number one. All home grown players rather than imported stars. I was a big fan of the 60s Real Madrid side - a precursor of things to come - but they were a Superstar side rather than a locally produced team. Busby's team of '68 comes next because of what he went through to rebuild. And they were all British, if I recall. Third: I think Ajax because of the way they revolutionised the game. Of course, today's Barcelona are fantastic but my criteria is different. There is much skill in assembling a side with pots of money, but try doing it without access to a bottomless crock of gold!

  • Comment number 55.

    Some of the British (English) sides included are absolutely ridiculous. Arsenal 04? Man Utd 99? Liverpool 90?

    The AC Milan side of the late 80s/early 90s; and the Real Madrid side of the 50s for me at the moment.

    If the current Barca side can claim another couple of European trophies then they might be compared.

  • Comment number 56.

    It is becoming a little bit of a fashion for people to suggest that the current Barca team arent one of the best and not even in the top three for some!
    I feel that they would have played all of the other teams in their pomp and beat them (some of them convincingly) but we can't ever prove this! The Milan team of the late 80's early 90's was a very good side but they arent in the same league as the Barca of today. Name the last team that had the worlds top 3 players in the starting line up? That doesnt include the likes of Villa, Busquets, Alves, Puyol, Pique, etc...
    I think what we can see from this is proof that 'most' people out there only consider teams as 'great teams' through time.
    In 20 to 30 years time we'll be reminicing about Messi, Xavi and Iniesta, how Barca retained the ball and outplayed teams, closed teams down with their 'get the ball back within 5 seconds of losing posession policy'. After that time there will be no doubt that Pep's Barca is the greatest of all time.

  • Comment number 57.

    Although I am not a Celtic fan I believe that their achievement in 1967 was extraordinary and will never happen again.

  • Comment number 58.

    It's funny how so many people are naming the Real Madrid team in the 1950s and 1960s as the ''greatest of all time''.

    They won their first European Cup in 1956, and the last in 1960.

    I'm not sure how many of those matches would have been covered live on British TV ( I'm guessing somewhere close to 0 ), and also, the frontal cortex of the brain, which has been linked to decision making and analytical proficiency, is not fully formed until about 24-years-old.

    Which would mean that anyone accurately nominating that Real Madrid side would have to be:

    a. someone who watched their games live in person.
    b. someone who is in the region of 75-80 years old.

    As always, these discussions are limited by a person's age and their access to view the matches of preceding teams.

    I would also like to mention the Uruguay team of the late 20s and early 30s. Two Olympic Gold Medals and One World Cup.

    Of course, I'd have to be somehwere in the region of 100-110 years-old to have actually seen this team...

  • Comment number 59.

    In order,
    Barcelona 2009-present
    Manchester United 1999
    Barcelona 1990

    And somewhere down the list
    Arsenal - Invincible 2004 (If only they had also won the European with that team, they would have made the list)

  • Comment number 60.

    All the waxing lyrical about the current Barca team comes to nothing if Utd beat them next week

    3 League wins since 2007
    Only 2 CL Final appearances since 2007 (1 won)

    The same league wins as the current Utd team and not as many CL final appearances, both have won 1 CL each since 2007.

    IF and it's a big IF Utd beat Barca it will show Utd to be the better team over this period.

    Lose the pre-nostalgia, they are a great team but so is this Utd side.

    Purely on the basis of success, we can hold a candle to any of the others mentioned

  • Comment number 61.

    The 1990`s milan side. Between 1985-2000 serie A was the strongest league tactically and technically. They went 58 matches unbeaten and played in such a dominant fashion destroying all comers. Between 1988-1996 they won 5 scudettos and 3 european cups, losing in 1993 and 1995. I dont think you can just say 1990 Milan as the teams era started and ended in teh above seasons. 2nd i would have this current Barcelona side.

  • Comment number 62.

    'I'm glad the Ajax team of 1995 has been mentioned. At the time their football was terrifyingly good. Their passing and movement was astonishing and if they'd come up against an English team they would be mentioned as often as 1966, United's treble etc etc. '

    They did come up against an English side - The Netherland team that played England at Euro 1996 was more or less that Ajax side and they were soundly thrashed. Personally I always thougt they were a bit overated but no doubt some outstanding individuals emerged from that team (Seedorf, Van De Saar etc.)

  • Comment number 63.

    @hottheadd11 (#39). Concerning; 'Winning three titles in a row is infinitely harder than going through a season unbeaten #justsaying'. Winning 3 consecutive league titles has occurred 5 times, whereas going a whole league campaign unbeaten has happened twice. Infinitely harder? #justsaying

  • Comment number 64.

    For footballing style it would have to be (2) Ajax but football isn't all about style and the greatest teams always win and are able to adapt. So for this reason it has to be (9) Real Madrid because that team exploited weaknesses in every team and played a different style and tempo every time it was required.

  • Comment number 65.

    One major omittance here ,Il Grande Torino , set records that still stand today .

  • Comment number 66.

    I wouldn't put Barca's current side on top of the list I have to say the standard of european fottball is very poor at the moment, as a United fan if you asked me at the start of the season, I would have thought we would have got nowhere near the CL final with the team at the moment. i would go for the milan side during the 90's or Liverpool's team in the 80's they both were unstoppable.

  • Comment number 67.

    Although I oviously biased I would have to say that Celtic should be in the top three. Aside from the well known fact that they were all born 30 miles from Glasgow and that they were the first non-latin team to win the European cup AND won every competition they entered, they also happened to play some of the best football I have ever seen!

    The beauty of that Celtic team is that they could switch from ball juggling beauty to Bone crunching team based simplicity in the flick of a switch!!! As an earlier post put it you are looking for a teams weaknesses to really single out greatness, Celtic had very few, Solid front to back and playing the type of total football that always gets attributed to the more sexy, fashionable dutch teams of the 70's they had one of the greatest managers of all time and in time of amazing teams (Inter, Real, Man U, Leeds etc, etc, etc....) they managed to top them all!

    Also as an earlier post put it when watching that Celtic team, or any from that period, you didnt have to watch a man roll half the pitch because someone tugged on his shirt!!

    Top 3 Celtic, AC Milan (89/90), Ajax (95) hounrable mention Red Star Belgrade 1991?

  • Comment number 68.

    I refer to the late, great Bill Shankly:

    "Pound for pound, and class for class, the best football team I have seen in England since the war. In the league they were in they played football nobody else could play. Everything was measured, planned and perfected and you could not wish to see more entertaining football."

    From his autobiography, it was not Liverpool he was reffering to but Grimsby Town. I'd go with his opinion.

  • Comment number 69.

    I think that there have been a few glaring omissions from this list. The first is the team that I consider to be the best. Early 50s Millionarios de Bogota. This team came to Madrid and beat Real 4-2. In fact Madrid even bought their star player Alfredo di Stefano. Colombia was kicked out of FIFA meaning it didn't have to abide by FIFA rules so Millionarios assembled the World's first (and in my opinion best) team of highly paid Superstars. The Club is detailed in David Goldblatt's book the Ball is Round.

    The other omissions are both from Portugal. First the 2011 Porto side that just won the Europa League will winning 27/30 league matches and drawing the other 3, invincible, they are also in the final of the Portuguese Cup on Sunday. The other team that warrants a mention is Benfica from the early 60s They contested 4 European cup finals from 1961 - 1965 winning in 61, 62, and 65. They also won the Portuguese league through out that time.

    My vote would go to Millionarios of Bogota. Of the teams on the list Ajax.

  • Comment number 70.

    at 60.At 14:36 20th May 2011, theyoungun wrote:


    Surely you cant think that the Man Utd team over the last 4 seasons is in the same league as the Barcelona team....

  • Comment number 71.

    I would agree that you need to look beyond the titles and look at the impact upon future generations. For me it has to be the Ajax team of the 70's where the idea that players could play in all outfield positions was revolutionary. The use of the width of the full width of the pitch, swithcing from one side to another. The thought in every area (I am reminded of the Cruyff penalty where he passed rather than shot to ensure beating the keeper) and add to that Neeskens shooting from distance.

    Remember that the system at the time was the defensive Italian Catenaccio style and surely everyone would applaud the more attacking, expansive play introduced subsequently.

    I think I have read somewhere that Johann Cruyff was instrumental in developing the current Barcelona side so you could say that they and Arsenal are in debt to the Ajax team of the 70s.

    I would agree with Jacks of Buxton though that the Ipswich 81 side was a great thrill to watch with the Muhren / Thyssen pairing in midfield. I would add another side from that era - the West Brom team of 1978-9 with Regis, Cunningham, Batson, Barnes and a young Bryan Robson.

  • Comment number 72.

    @ OohMattyMatty - I was at the second leg of that final @ Upton Park: being 3-0 up after the first definitely helped kill the tie. Joe Cole stood out for me that day and I still remember coming back raving about his performance - shame he has not lived up to that potential. Certainly a candidate for best youth team ever.

  • Comment number 73.

    20. Nottingham Forest, 1978-80. Brian Clough took the club out of the old Division Two, won the League in their first season after promotion and secured back-to-back European Cups to boot.

    Who cares about total football etc etc when a team rises to the top of European football from the English 1st division in such a short space of time. The English title they won was merely an add on. If this team was foreign or had so called big name players there would not be a debate.

    Failing that it's got to be Celtic - first ever British winners and a team of local lads. Pains me to say it as a Rangers fan!

  • Comment number 74.

    Arsenal 2004.

    certainly wouldnt put Man Utd anywhere up there, would rather watch this for a season

  • Comment number 75.

    @6 - You argue that the current standard of the competition facing Barca is weak and then say that Real of the 50s and 60s were the best ! Obviously I never saw them play but I know for a fact that the Champions Cup pre-early 90s only ever had at best 4 or 5 strong teams and as a straight knock out between about 30 teams there were only ever 2 , perhaps 3 truly competetive rounds of matches to play. For me this Barca team, IF they win the Euro Cup a couple more times, will be the greatest ever because of the quality of the opposition not the lack of it.

  • Comment number 76.

    Surely you cant think that the Man Utd team over the last 4 seasons is in the same league as the Barcelona team....

    Same league, absolutely...and a great chance to win next week to prove it.

    As good, no.

  • Comment number 77.

    Ajax 1970's has my vote.
    It was the team you didn't know how to play against: everyone could play anywhere on the pitch. We haven't seen that quality in football since.

  • Comment number 78.

    Would agree though with 48K that the single best performance is the Barca 0-4 AC drubbing in the final. For me watching it in Spain made it even sweeter to see the Spaniards reactions.

  • Comment number 79.

    I have to say that Mourinho's Chelsea should be on that list.

    Between 2004-2006 they scored 186 points out of a possible 228 (compared to Man U's 160). They bettered the points total achieved by 'The Invincibles' (#6) in both 04-05 and 05-06.

    I'm not saying they were the most beautiful team in the world, but they won the Prem at a canter twice, when both Arsenal and Man U had far better teams than they have now.

    In my view, on their day, they were capable of beating any of the sides listed.

    That being said, I'd rather watch the current Barca team, or the Ajax team of the '70s.

  • Comment number 80.

    Tough really. Youd have to have Real Madrid as the best teams of the 50s/60s, Ajax as the best of the 70s, Liverpool as best of the early 80s, AC Milan as the best of the eary 1990s, and Barca as teams of the 2000s and 2010 so your choice is from these 6.

    I'd suspect the current Barca team or the Real Madrid side of Puskas/Di Stefano would both beat that Liverpool side, and the Barca side of early 2000s, so you're down to 4.

    After that, it's anybody guess........

  • Comment number 81.

    I think its got to be who relative the achievments were to how much the team had spent on players. In that light I would say Nottingham Forrest has to be the best as they won the European cup not once, but twice to prove it was no fluke. Plus Clough had done it with a small provincal east mids club. The equivelant of Stoke doing it today.

  • Comment number 82.

    60. At 14:36 20th May 2011, theyoungun wrote:

    IF and it's a big IF Utd beat Barca it will show Utd to be the better team over this period.

    Er... No, it wouldn't.

    It would show that from 2009-2011, the current Manchester United and Barcelona teams would have won one game each on the two occasions that they'd played each other in this period.

    2009 Barcelona beat Manchester United.
    2010 Barcelona lose to the eventual champions, Manchester United use to the finalists.
    2011 Manchester United beat Barcelona.

    Coupled with the fact that Barca have won 3 domestic titles in those three years, compared to United's two, then there is absolutely no logical reason to assert that this current United is ''better'' than the current Barca side, should Man Utd win at Wembley.

  • Comment number 83.

    Not listed - Aberdeen FC of the 1980s.

    Sir Alex Ferguson managing the likes of Alex McLeish, Gordon Strachan, Eric Black, Willie Miller, John Hewitt, Jim Leighton. The team won just about everything and beat just about everyone - European Cup Winners Cip winners against Real Madrid in 1983!


  • Comment number 84.

    Lazy, British-biased list that barely acknowledges South American football. Any team on the list has to have won the European Cup at least once.

    For what it's worth the Milan side of the early 1990s was the greatest in my view. The 4-0 demolition of a strong Barcelona side was one of the most impressive performances I have ever seen. They could play football in every way required of them. Not only did they have a plan B but a plan C and D.

  • Comment number 85.

    Perhaps, a fairer title would be about best European teams.

  • Comment number 86.

    @60 & 70 I think that the Barcelona team is something special and if the list was solely made up of teams from a single season then they would be there from their 2009 season alone. However to look at how they compare to teams that had sustained success they need to win on the 28th to truly add themselves to the conversation.

    That said I don't think that there is one United side that has done enough to be considered one of the greatest sides in the world. If they defeat Barcelona then they will be on their way. Another point is that I think that Fergie wins the greatest manager in the world all time.

  • Comment number 87.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 88.

    Nottingham Forest 78-80 for me; Cloughie took a team of rejects and blended in a couple of discarded youth team players, got them promoted, won the League and then back-to-back European Cups.

    His football philosophy was simple - "You get the ball, you pass it to a red shirt".

  • Comment number 89.

    forget the real madrid team of di stefano etc, who were they playing then? euro tourny was hardly as gruelling as it is now, 5 in a row is all good but the calibre of teams compared to that madrid team was limited. im sure this barca team and most others on the list would trounce them no prob but it's different era's and football has evolved rapidly since then. this barca team for me(even when they had etoo and ronaldinho) but the invincibles team are a close 2nd, wot a team wenger had then.

  • Comment number 90.

    What about the Everton team of 1984-87, this team was made up of players gleaned from the lower leagues and reserve teams ie the likes of Reid, Sheedy, Gray and Sharpe to name just a few. A collective spirit and a desire to win, mixed with style and steel alike, and they had the best player I have ever seen in a royal blue shirt, the great Trevor Steven, nuff said I think

  • Comment number 91.

    but credit to that celtic team too, for the homegrown factor i'd put them in top 5. never see it again.

  • Comment number 92.

    62. At 14:38 20th May 2011, GertMuller74 wrote:

    They did come up against an English side - The Netherland team that played England at Euro 1996 was more or less that Ajax side and they were soundly thrashed. Personally I always thougt they were a bit overated but no doubt some outstanding individuals emerged from that team (Seedorf, Van De Saar etc.)

    I really have to pull you up on this point, as it's just silly.

    The Netherlands team that got soundly beaten by England in Euro '96 contained 6 Ajax players.

    They had a completely different manager and coaching team, five players who didn't play for Ajax, and a completely different team set-up to the club side.

    The England starting XI contained players from 9 different clubs... Hardly a case of a half-Ajax side losing to an English side. : rollseyes:

    This is like saying that Barcelona lost to a Swiss side, because 5 or 6 Barca players were in the team that lost to Switzerland in the 2010 World Cup.


  • Comment number 93.

    I think the current Barca team is the best... They play the best football. Quality all over the pitch.

    I have had the merit to have seen all the teams above (rarely the Madrid though)

  • Comment number 94.

    A joy to scan that list and remember all those great teams.

    1 - The Celtic team of 1967 will never be equalled. They beat all the great teams of that era and as a `local team` almost certainly a one off for the rest of time

    All the other teams are magical and I cannot separate them. Barcelona are still a joy to watch in an age were greed and blatant cheating have blighted the sport worldwide.

    Anyway, with some bias, Man Utd 1968, Spurs 1960`s, Leeds 1970`s, Milan 1989 form the upper cream of a wonderful list.

  • Comment number 95.

    I feel the success of the Scottish game in the 1990's has been over looked. Although they would struggle to compete for the best team they defiantly deserve a mention.

    Glasgow Rangers 1992-93 team for example. They won the Treble and their 5th championship in a row on the march to the famous 9 in a row. They also came witin 90 minutes of the European Cup Final, it has also been proven that Marseille bribed the referee that year in the group stages.
    Stars: Trevor Steven, Mark Hateley, Ally McCoist, David Robertson, Alexei Mikhailichenko

    You also can't over look the competition that was within the league over the 9 seasons. The late Tommy Burns Celtic teams for example.

  • Comment number 96.

    Corinthians, Santos, River Plate, Boca Juniors, Independiente, Palmeiras and so many other clubs from that continent have never been world class, of course. Or is it called hiding lesser understanding of world football?

  • Comment number 97.

    Definately not the greatist but the Aston Villa Team winning the league using only 14 players and none being current internationals is pretty special.

  • Comment number 98.

    As others have said, this list is far too biased in favour of British teams, I'd rate the Juventus team of the mid 90's (three consecutive CL final appearances) for instance better than some on there. Also the stars component doesn't tell half the story, how can you omit Romario from the Barca team of the 90's, and look at the mid 90s Ajax team, forgetting about Litmanen, the de Boer brothers, Overmars, Blind and Finidi George (Kluivert was only a sub behind Kanu in that team for most of their CL winning campaign of '95).

    For me, I can only judge the best side I have seen with my own two eyes, it's probably one out of the following: current Barca side, '90s Barca, late 80s/early 90s AC Milan, '95 Ajax. For me I'd have to go with '90s Barca, '95 Ajax was probably the strongest 1 through to 11 team I've seen but they got broken up pretty quickly after '95.

  • Comment number 99.

    Don't want to disagree with any of the teams mentioned, but when talking of the greatest team, the period of greatness is the sticking point, you have Real 1956-60, or Ajax 1995, it's not the same thing, so you can't compare.
    A couple of teams that I remember and haven't been mentioned are the treble winning PSV from 1988, Koeman, Vanenburg, etc - Waddle, Papin, Francescoli, etc for Marseilles from 1990 to 1992, and a team that produced so many great players from the 1990's - Red Star Belgrade. I remember watching them totally dismantle Bayern Munich and then Spartak Moscow on the way to winning the Champions Cup in 1991. It was 20 years ago, but eastern european teams like that will not be seen again.

  • Comment number 100.

    Maybe the question is too difficult to boil down to a top three maybe a top 5 or ten would be easier?


Page 1 of 6

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.