Ask Dodsy: What is the greatest Starting XI of all time?

Published by Dodsy.

greatest starting XI

The Question: Hey Dodsy, who would be in your all-time starting XI?



Buffon is the most capped player in the history of the Italian National Team (176 caps) for a reason. Gigi spent 21 years between the sticks for Italy, defying gravity and blocking shots others could only dream of reaching. He was, quite simply, a brick wall at times.

“The best players I ever coached? I could select two whole teams, but Buffon would be the only player in both of them.” Fabio Capello.



The legend himself. Cafu was undoubtedly one of the most talented defenders of all time. The most capped player (142) for arguably the most talented nation (Brazil) tells you something. He was as good going forwards as he was defending and popularised the way right-backs bomb forwards joining the attack.

“If there is one man who has made sacrifices and lent himself to the cause of the Brazil team, this man is Cafu. He has been my commander on the field. He is a great example of dedication and humility.”Luiz Felipe Scolari




Whilst not blessed with either great pace or leaping ability, no one ever seemed to out jump him or blow past him. His reading of the game was second to none. The captain of England’s triumphant 1966 squad, Bobby could spot danger, pick out a pass and lead his team to victory like few others.

“Bobby Moore’s leadership qualities and sheer desire made him the best player England have ever produced”Sir Geoff Hurst.


The man who helped to revolutionise the sweeper position over the years, Franz Beckenbauer oozed class and effortless control. Strong and composed in defence, what stood out was his ability to hit a pass, from his early days of playing as a midfielder. He was the complete package and for opposing strikers, a complete nightmare.

“Beckenbauer was one of the best I ever saw play.” – Pele



One of the most dominant defenders the world has ever seen. Roberto Carlos was so powerful and despite constantly running, never seemed to get tired. The embodiment of Brazil’s Samba-style flair, he forced so many of the world’s best wingers onto the back foot, compelling them to defend and limiting their creative options. What a player.

“Roberto Carlos is amazing. He’s a brilliant defender, but his biggest strength is his ability to get from box to box all the time. He’s got so much energy.” – Ryan Giggs



How can any all-time starting XI not include the maestro, Zidane? For anyone unsure of his genius and quality just watch the volley against Bayer Leverkusen in the Champion’s League Final. The Frenchman saw the game like few others and possessed almost unlimited ability. He was a true virtuoso.

“For me, he’s the greatest player of the century. The best player of all time.” – Fabien Barthez


What links Spain’s World Cup win in 2010, their Euro successes in both 2008 and 2012 and Barcelona’s 32 trophies between 2002 and 2018? Iniesta. This technical wizard was always best when the lights shone brightest and is the only man to be awarded Man of the Match in the final of the Champion’s League, The Euros and the World Cup. Phenomenal.

“I always picture him with the ball at his feet. Everything is different with Andres. The hardest thing to do in football is to make it look like everything is easy, effortless, and that’s Andres.”Lionel Messi

Right Wing



Maybe the most gifted player of all time, the mini magician has revolutionised the way the game is played, with incredible lateral speed and supreme footwork. When Messi dances through a team’s defence, he does it with his head up, making his awareness maybe his greatest strength. But then his dribbling, shooting, passing, first touch and composure aren’t bad either.

“Messi is an alien that dedicates himself to playing with humans.” – Gigi Buffon

Left Wing



The fact that Ronaldo is considered by many to be the greatest Real Madrid player of all time speaks volumes. That is some statement if you look at the list of Madrid greats he is supposedly above (Di Stefano, Gento, Puskas etc.) but the numbers speak for themselves. 450 goals in 438 appearances is not only impressive, it is downright impossible. The ultimate athlete, at his best Ronaldo is unstoppable.

“There have been a few players described as the new George Best over the years, but this is the first time it’s been a compliment to me.” – George Best

Central Attacking Midfielder


There are no words to describe Maradona’s quality. Images of the infamous ‘Hand of God’ incident spring to mind but the Argentinian superstar was so much more than that. He single-handedly willed Napoli to their first title and carried the entire nation on his back in the 1986 World Cup win. There will never be another like Diego.

“He’s the greatest player of all time, by a long way. A genuine phenomenon.” – Gary Lineker.



So good he only needs one name. Pele is regarded by most people as the greatest player of all time so it makes sense he appears in my greatest XI. Forget the numbers, the international records, the 3 World Cup wins, what stands out for Pele is the consistency of his greatness. He still holds the record for being the youngest player to appear in a World Cup final (17) and produced moments of magic consistently across his glittering 21-year career. His 1,281 goals in 1,363 games will never be topped. A true icon.

“Pele is the greatest player in football history, and there will only be one Pele in the world.”Cristiano Ronaldo

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