My All-Time Soccer Favorite XI and Why I Love Them

Jo-Ryan SalazarSenior Analyst IDecember 3, 2011

My All-Time Soccer Favorite XI and Why I Love Them

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    One of the more recent faces that is in my "Favorite XI" is Carles Puyol of FC Barcelona. Puyol is one of Spain's most accomplished centre backs, having won five league titles and four UEFA Champions League crowns. He also won both the  2008 European Championship and the World Cup in 2010 for his national team.

    A back that is rugged and committed to his position, Puyol's hardworking mentality is worthy of a place on my list.

Goalkeeper: Lev Yashin

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    Sure, Gianluigi Buffon and Iker Casillas have dominated the nets of recent times, but what about the "Black Spider" known as Lev Yashin?

    Here is a player who has had a 20-year history with Dynamo Moscow, making 326 league appearances on goal, while playing for the Soviet Union 78 times, including three World Cup appearances in 1958, 1962 and 1966.

    A two-sport athlete—Yashin also played on Dynamo's ice hockey team—he was the only goalkeeper to have ever won the European Footballer of the Year Award, which he did in 1963.

    Yashin was among the first goalkeepers to punch balls out of danger, quickly throw the ball to begin a counterattack, come out of the penalty area to anticipate danger and command and organize defenders. He is a true pacesetter of the modern-day net-minder.

Left Back: Roberto Carlos

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    Not very often I can say that a member of my all-time "Soccer Favorite XI" is still playing the game. However, this is the case.

    Anzhi Makhachkala player/manager Roberto Carlos is one of the most accomplished left backs, having established his name as a member of Real Madrid's first XI and the Brazilian national team.

    Roberto Carlos made 370 league appearances for Los Blancos while making 125 appearances for Brazil, winning four league titles, two Intercontinental Cups and a World Cup title in 2002 for both those teams.

Centre Back: Franz Beckenbauer

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    Well, this was a no-brainer. Der Kaiser easily earns a spot in my Favorite XI, having established his legacy as a member of Bayern Munich, the old New York Cosmos and the West German national team.

    Franz Beckenbauer can claim the 1974 World Cup, Euro 1972 and a successful bid to give Germany the 2006 World Cup among his crowning achievements. As a member of Bayern, he won four league titles and three continental crowns, while as a member of the Cosmos, he won three more league titles. Did I also mention that his managerial savvy gave him the 1990 World Cup, too?

    And those are just a few of the honors that Beckenbauer has achieved as a defender. He is a true ambassador of the world game.

Centre Back: Carles Puyol

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    One of the more recent faces that is in my "Favorite XI" is Carles Puyol of FC Barcelona. Puyol is one of Spain's most accomplished centre backs, having won five league titles and three UEFA Champions League crowns. He also won both the  2008 European Championship and the World Cup in 2010 for his national team.

    A back that is rugged and committed to his position, Puyol's hardworking mentality is worthy of a place on my list.

Right Back: Cafu

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    Cafu is a right back who I personally admire for his leadership, skill and effort on the right side. Ninety-eight appearances with Sao Paulo, 163 league appearances for Roma, 119 appearances for AC Milan and 142 national team appearances for Brazil can't go wrong.

    In all his years of playing the position, Cafu has helped his teams win: three league titles, three Paulista crowns (including one with Palmeiras), two Copa Libertadores crowns, two Intercontinental Cups, a UEFA Champions League title, a Club World Cup, two Copa Americas and two World Cups.

Left Winger: Johan Cruyff

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    Ronaldinho could have been on this list, but I have decided to place him on the bench for this one.

    One of the best left wingers in the history of the game has to be Johan Cruyff. A star with Ajax, Barcelona and the Netherlands, Cruyff won nine Eredivisie crowns including one with Feyenoord, one La Liga crown, three European Cups, an Intercontinental Cup, and a runner-up finish at the 1974 FIFA World Cup.

    A master of Total Football, Cruyff made 240 league appearances with Ajax, 143 apperances for Barcelona and 48 appearances for the Oranje. He also had some success as manager of Ajax and Barcelona. He is currently the manager of the Catalonian national team.

Centre Midfielder: David Beckham

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    Now there will be people who will consider yours truly as a homer for putting David Beckham on this list. After all, he did play for the Los Angeles Galaxy, who I cover as an FC on Bleacher Report. But it's not so much his work promoting Major League Soccer as it was his time as a member of Manchester United, Real Madrid and England's national team.

    As a member of the Red Devils, Beckham recorded 266 appearances, recording 61 goals. At Real Madrid, he made 116 appearances, scoring 13 times. A true face of the Galaxy, Beckham made 74 league appearances, scoring 15 goals. He is one England's most-capped players with 115 national appearances to his name.

    Known for his set-piece delivery and on-field leadership, Beckham won six Premier League crowns, a La Liga title, a UEFA Champions League title and an MLS Cup to go with a plethora of individual honors. Beckham's humanitarian efforts have also added to his legacy on and off the pitch. 

Centre Midfielder: Michel Platini

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    Yes, the head of UEFA is on this list. In his playing days, he was one of the finest attacking midfielders in France.

    Michael Platini's career as a footballer included stops in AS Nancy, Saint-Etienne and Juventus as well as the French national team.. 

    In 432 league appearances for his clubs, Platini recorded 224 goals and heisted some silverware in the form of a Ligue 2 title, a Ligue 1 title, two Serie A crowns and a Coupe De France title. In international competition, Platini won a European Championship with Les Blues in 1984 while earning 72 caps.

    A proven free-kick specialist and finisher, Platini is now plying his trade as the boss of the Union of European Football Associations.

Right Winger: Lionel Messi

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    This was going to be a difficult proposition. Who was going to fill this spot? Should it be Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi? After minutes of mental debating, I have placed Messi on this list.

    The current captain of the Argentine national team as of this article date, Messi has been a workhorse not only for La Albiceleste but also for Barcelona.

    As a member of the Blaugrana, Messi has recorded 135 goals in 191 league appearances [and counting]. He has won five La Liga titles, three UEFA Champions League crowns, a Club World Cup, a Copa Del Rey and five Spanish Supercopas.


    And to think that the man is only 24 years old—definitely a player to watch! Lionel Messi is the face of Argentine football.

Forward: Diego Maradona

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    A dual Argentine scoring combination in Messi and Diego Maradona? Why not? Just like how Messi is adored today, in the past Maradona was all the rage. He still is, although not in a positive light as before.

    Like Messi, Maradona can play in the midfield or as a forward. Major stints included apperances for Argentinos Juniors of the Argentine Primera Division [115 goals in 167 appearances] and Serie A side Napoli [81 goals in 188 appearances], to go with stops at Boca Juniors, Barcelona, Sevilla and Newell's Old Boys.

    However, Maradona's greatest work came as a member of the Argentine national team, with a 1986 FIFA World Cup title to show for it. Hand of God, anyone?

Forward: Pele

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    No favorite XI would be complete without the greatness that is Edison Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pele. The Honorary Chairman of the New York Cosmos, his work with New York, Santos FC and the Brazilian National Team are truly a sight to behold.

    Pele scored 589 goals in 605 appearances for Santos, while adding another 37 for New York before retiring. As a member of A Selecao, Pele recorded 77 goals in 92 appearances.

    As a club player, he can claim two Copas Libertadores, two Intercontinental Cups, an NASL championship and 10 Paulista titles to his credit. And of course, Pele was on the World Cup-winning teams of 1958, 1962 and 1970.

    Simply put, there will never be another Pele. He is in a class all his own.