'All-time greatest' lists of any kind are almost always controversial.
By their very design, 'Top 10' or 'Best 100' countdowns are usually compiled to create debate rather than to provide a definitive ranking.
This is one of the things that should be kept in mind when perusing this XI.
The other key point to remember is the title. These are my all-time favourite players in each position. It is not necessarily my decree on the outright greatest—which I have done before—nor am I particularly concerned about them functioning together in any particular system in an imaginary game.
With that in mind, I would like to hear other people's thoughts on this team—which may include a couple of surprises—and their own XIs too.
Of all the great goalkeepers through the years, the names of Gordon Banks and Dino Zoff stick out, while current players Gianluigi Buffon and Iker Casillas will both be held up as all-time greats.
However, none of them have ever won either the Ballon d'Or or the former World Player of the Year award. Lev Yashin won both in 1963.
The USSR keeper, nicknamed The Black Spider, was a true pioneer in the art of goalkeeping. He was one of the first custodians to realise the importance of quick distribution to launch counter-attacks, coming out of his goal to meet oncoming attackers and keeping himself in shape in order to make the most of his considerable natural agility.
Not only did he win an Olympic gold medal in 1956, the inaugural European Championship in 1960 and five Soviet league titles, but he also kept goal for the ice hockey team for Dynamo Moscow, his one and only club.
How many other goalkeepers have that on their CV?
One of the few players to have won the World Cup twice—in 1994 and then lifting the trophy as captain in 2002—Brazil's most-capped outfield player was the archetypal attacking full-back of the modern era.
Over a 19-year professional career, he also won league titles in his native Brazil with Sao Paulo and Palmeiras. In Italy, he won league titles with Roma and Milan.
It was as part of Luciano Spalletti's incredible Giallorossi time in 2001 that his status as the best right-back in the world was confirmed. He went on to win another Serie A title at Milan as well as the Champions League.
You only have to look at Barcelona's Dani Alves to see the legacy left by the man who eventually retired in 2008, but few top sides eschew a speedy, skillful right-back pressing high up the pitch to see how far his influence reaches.
Quite simply, Beckenbauer rewrote the rule book on what it meant to be a centre-back.
Der Kaiser took the role of sweeper—a central defender to win the ball and bring it out from the back to initiate attacks—and perfected it to the point where his name is now synonymous with the position.
His name has cropped up several times recently whenever drooling pundits wax lyrical over one of Phil Jones's rampaging runs forward for Manchester United. Beckenbauer, however, did it with an elegance and supreme technical ability that the England defender could only dream of doing.
In the 1970s, Beckenbauer led West Germany to European Championship and World Cup triumphs, as well as three-straight European Cups with Bayern Munich. In typically efficient style, his two Ballons d'Or—won in 1972 and 1976—neatly bookend those glorious five seasons.
As further proof of his cerebral aptitude for the game and his unquestionable leadership, he led his country to another World Cup and Bayern to the Bundesliga title as manager of both teams.
Being an Englishman, there may be a little bit of bias in selecting the man who lifted the World Cup for the only time in the country in 1966, but his career and its legacy stands up on its own.
Moore broke the mould of the old school 'stopper', instead using his reading of the game to break up attacks with tackles that were well-timed rather than thorough. This was typified by his interception of Brazil's Jairzinho at the 1970 World Cup, when he watched the flare forward dance in front of him with the ball before stepping in with a textbook tackle that looked as if it was the easiest thing in the world.
The Barking-born defender served his boyhood club, West Ham United, with distinction for 16 years, leading them first to the FA Cup (when the competition still really mattered) in 1964. That same year, he won the Football Writers' Footballer of the Year award—before also claiming the now-defunct European Cup Winners' Cup a year later.
He was England's most-capped outfield player for years until David Beckham passed his mark of 108 caps in 2009 following a series of substitute appearances.
If you needed any more evidence of why he was such a popular player, he was one of the footballers who appeared in the 1981 classic movie Escape To Victory.
The legendary Milan defender has won the European Cup five times.
Let's just take that in for a moment: Five Times.
That's as many as Liverpool. Only Real Madrid, with nine victories, have won the trophy more than Milan's seven.
The defender with the chiseled good looks clearly comes from good stock. His father, Cesare, won one European Cup and four Serie A titles. His son eclipsed that haul, claiming seven.
It is fair to say that Maldini was perhaps not the greatest defender in the game's history—but when someone has brought in that much silverware in a 25-season career, taking in more than 1,000 senior appearances for his one club and his country (902 and 126 respectively), then they demand a certain level of respect.
His number three shirt was retired when he did the same in 2009, but it will be resurrected when one of his two sons graduate from the Milan youth team and into the senior squad. No pressure then, boys.
Another Milan-based stalwart of Italian football, but this time with Milan's rivals and 'housemates'— Internazionale.
The Argentinian joined the Nerazzurri from Banfield in 1995 and he has been a first-team fixture ever since, becoming club captain just four years later.
The secret of Zanetti's longevity has undoubtedly been his versatility. He may have been principally classified as a full-back, but during his time at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza he has played in every position across the defence and midfield.
In recent years, he has played increasingly as a defensive midfielder. That was his position in the 2010 Champions League final, when he lifted the club's third European Cup trophy as part of a historic league, cup and European treble.
That 2-0 win over Bayern Munich was Zanetti's 700th match for Inter. At the last count, he has made 763 appearances plus the 145 he has made for Argentina.
Even at 38, Zanetti remains a commanding presence, a calm and authoritative presence on the ball who is rarely shaken by whatever events may be happening around him. He is still a joy to watch and the very definition of a professional.
Xavi Hernandez has changed the way many football fans appreciate the game, and is very much a star for his age.
The rapid leaps in the technology that monitors footballers' performances in recent years means that statistics such as pass completion and number of touches can be scrutinised more than ever before. Xavi is the undoubted king of this new age of football by numbers.
The now-deceased Spanish commentator Andres Montes used to call him 'Xavi Humphrey Bogart' because the diminutive midfielder is always playing it again. That slightly muddled moniker still speaks volumes, however: it is not unprecedented for the little master to have more touches and complete more passes in a match than the whole of the opposition put together.
A graduate of Barcelona's famous La Masia academy, he has spent his entire career at the club, just like several of his team-mates. One-club men may be something of a theme in this list, but in the modern game it is a virtue that is increasingly rare.
Not that Barca would ever dream of getting rid of their creative fulcrum. To date he has helped them win six league titles and three Champions Leagues.
He will be 32 by the time Euro 2012 begins, but it is unthinkable that he will not be at the very heart of the Spanish national team that is looking to become the first in history to win three straight international tournaments.
Such achievements with the national team has seen even Marca, the Spanish sports daily that is based in Madrid and makes no secret if its affiliation with Real, recently name him in their own greatest ever XI.
When I recently stated that I already held the current best player in the world as the third best of all time, plenty of abuse came my way. However, it is a position that I maintain.
Messi is still only 24, and he has never won either the Copa America or the World Cup with Argentina but he is one of those rare players that transcends the sport of football. Just as Roger Federer has risen above the game of tennis to a level where even a person without the faintest interest in the sport can enjoy watching him play, so Messi has the power to mesmerise all who see him play.
The way he can control the ball at such pace with such ease, his vision in making an incisive pass at the end of a run and his unerring eye for goal are without equal.
Perhaps his absurdly consistent brilliance on a weekly basis actually works against him in terms of how his genius is perceived. Were he to miss a significant amount of time through injury, maybe only then would people realize what they were missing.
But—and here's the thing—he doesn't get injured. He never even gets tired. Despite being the greatest player in the world today and an invaluable asset to Barcelona, he still plays every minute of every game. This season, only goalkeeper Victor Valdes has played more minutes in La Liga than Messi.
He is someone who clearly has the time of his life whenever he is on a football pitch. That level of excitement is shared by all those who watch him.
Cruyff is another man who helped to change the way the game was played. He has been crowbarred in on the left of the midfield here, but like his contemporaries in the great Ajax and Netherlands teams of the 1970s he was an exponent of what has become known as Total Football.
The basis of Rinus Michels's footballing philosophy was that every player was capable of playing in several different positions during a single match—often baffling the opposition to the point where they did not know which way was up, let alone whom individual players were meant to be marking.
Cruyff was the most exemplary exponent of that style, dropping deep from his attacking position, allowing other team-mates to exploit the space left by his intelligent movement.
When in possession Cruyff was lethal, a supremely technical player who could beat opponents at will.
His legacy on the pitch is there for all to see and marvel in the careers of Dennis Bergkamp and Robin van Persie, to name but two.
He helped Ajax to three straight European Cups, the Dutch side to a World Cup final and earned himself three Ballons d'Or.
Of all the highlights in his career, perhaps the coolest is the penalty form which he scored for Ajax in 1982. Instead of shooting from the spot, he tapped the ball sideways to team-mate Jesper Olsen, who drew the keeper off his line before making the return pass for Cruyff to tap into the empty net.
He may not have been the first to do it—that honour goes to Belgium's Rik Coppens and Andre Piters in 1957—but Cruyff's version has become the defining one.
He also lifted the European Cup as a manager, leading his famous Dream Team to glory in 1992.
One final reason to love him is him being immortalised in the song Smokin' by Super Furry Animals in the lyric: "I'm gonna manage my time just like Johan Cruyff/If we do it together we've got the meaning of life."
If Messi carries on at the rate he is currently going, he will surely one day be regarded as the greatest player of all time. But, for now, that honour goes to the inimitable Maradona.
The number 10 shirt was certainly the most hotly-contested—Zinedine Zidane, Zico, Michel Platini and Roberto Baggio could all easily be here—but the spot has to go to the man nicknamed 'El Diez', such was the way he embodied the position.
Everybody loves a flawed genius, and Maradona the player had both of those qualities in spades.
Nowhere were those two qualities both captured within a single match better than in the 1986 World Cup quarterfinal, when he followed up his infamous Hand of God goal by scoring on one of the finest individual efforts ever at the top level. Maradona went on to lift the trophy for Argentina as their captain, establishing a cult of the man which has led to a church being founded in his honour.
The only player ever to move for world record transfer fees twice—once from Boca Juniors to Barcelona, and then again from Barca to Napoli—Maradona was the global superstar of the 1980s.
Sadly, problems with drugs, weight and seemingly his very sanity have reduced him to something of a cartoon figure since those heady days when he was the best player in the world, but the fact that the sideshow he has become is so removed from his brilliant best on the pitch is proof of just how great a player he was.
To follow Maradona's name with that of Pele in any list or team such as this is par for the course. Pele scored an incredible number of goals with remarkable consistency. Over his 21-year career he scored at a rate of virtually a goal a game.
But, as the title says, this is my all-time favourite XI, and as such O Fenomeno gets the nod as the side's goal-getter-in-chief.
Ever since he burst on to the European scene as a teenager with PSV Eindhoven—where he scored 42 goals in his two years in the Dutch Eredivisie—it was clear that a major talent had been imported from Brazil.
Few could have predicted that he would go on to become the most lethal striker of his or any other generation. In his one year at Barcelona he scored 34 times in La Liga and added another 11 as the Catalan club retained the Copa del Rey and won the European Cup Winners' Cup.
Subsequent spells at Internazionale, Real Madrid, AC Milan and Cruzeiro were all disrupted by injuries on the pitch and fitness problems from his party-boy lifestyle off it, but he still managed a strike rate of better than one in two at each of those esteemed clubs.
In fact, when he was losing his battle with his weight but still banging in the goals, it only served to give a small glimmer of hope to the average schmo watching him.
He went into the 1998 World Cup as the holder of both the Ballon d'Or and the World Player of the Year awards. Were it not for his mysterious meltdown before the final, Brazil might have won their fifth World Cup that night in Paris. As it was, he would atone for it four years later, when he scored both goals in the final against Germany.
Four years later, he struck three more goals to set a new record for most World Cup goals scored by one player with 15.
Had his career not been blighted by injury, he would have scored a lot more goals than the 247 for clubs and the 62 for Brazil that he did score. He may also have added to the three World Player of the Year awards he won in a brilliant but tumultuous career.