This year, as unusual as it has been, France Football magazine, which is behind the Ballon d’Or, decided not to deliver the award as it usually does and instead chose delivering a historic eleven with the best ever players in each position. In theory, it may seem like a very interesting idea. However, in practice it is not so interesting since the selection was made by voting on the internet, which means that most of the people who voted are young people who did not see most of these legends live. On the other hand, it is very difficult to choose the best in a certain position with so many good options.
Starting with the goalkeeper, we find that the winner was Lev Yashin, known as the Black Spider because of the black uniform he used to wear during the 1958 World Cup and because he seems to have 8 arms since he was saving goals beyond the imaginable. Yashin has been to date the only goalkeeper to win a Ballon d’Or, which he did in 1963. It is striking that he has been selected since there are not many who saw him play both because of the era he played in and because of the few football broadcasts at the time. We fully agree with this decision since also in our top 10 best goalkeepers of all-time, Lev Yashin is number 1.
The right back is Cafú, the Brazilian legend who is the reference to this day of how to play in that position and beyond any personal preference, is a good choice. The alternative that many young football fans may have considered is Dani Alves another great Brazilian right-back, but nothing compared to his compatriot Djalma Santos who, arguably, has been the greatest right-back ever. Just imagine playing in a team with footballers like Pele’ and Garrincha and still be considered by many Brazilian fans the best of the team… That happens when you play 4 world cups and you win 2!
In the position of center back (only one due to the fact that France Football decided to play with a 3-2-2-3) appears the Kaiser, Franz Beckenbauer, another reference of his position with which every great center back is compared mainly in terms of how to perform in that position. The history of football is full of great center-backs and picking up one is mission impossible. However, it is undeniable that Franco Baresi, the captain of arguably the strongest team ever, AC Milan of 1990, would have deserved that spot as well.
As left back, another legend of AC Milan has been chosen and we fully agree with the choice: the eternal Paolo Maldini. The Italian marveled the football world with his class and elegance in defense and it was a privilege for those of us who had the opportunity to see him play. Despite nowadays Paolo Maldini could be considered too defensive, no other players in this role has achieved his status. In addition, the versatility of Paolo Maldini was another incredible asset given that he could play also as an excellent center-back. To find possible alternatives, we need to dig in the past of football. Giacinto Facchetti, Paul Breitner and, overall, Ruud Krol are potentially the only few who can get close to Paolo Maldini despite the gap remains massive. Roberto Carlos has been another great left-backs and we all miss his magnificent free-kicks but if you need to pick up an offensive left-back then go for Breitner and his impressive average of almost 1 goal every 3 matches… Not bad for a defender!
Over the next days we will provide our views on the rest of this Ballon d’Or team since it seems that the real controversies arise in the positions of midfielders and forwards.