Thomas Swan has been an avid fan of the English Premier League and European football for more than 25 years.
What Makes a Great Football Team?
The history of football is replete with teams that have demonstrated the verve and artistry of "the beautiful game." Since the turn of the 20th century, many European and South American football teams have emerged from obscurity to dominate their respective eras. At the same time, the sport has evolved to encompass a greater array of skills and a higher degree of fitness.
The best football teams need to have won at least one trophy. They need to have played attractive but effective football in a climate of high technical standards. Most importantly, they need to have endured an era of stiff competition and intense rivalry.
Presented here are the 10 best men's football teams that meet those criteria. They are chosen from the entire history of international and club football. To justify the selection, I have endeavored to find the best YouTube videos showcasing their abilities.
10. Arsenal (2004)
The 'Arsenal Invincibles' went through the entire 2003–04 Premier League season unbeaten. Despite Juventus equaling this feat in 2012, Arsenal won far more of their games, finishing on 90 points. The team included Theirry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, Patrick Vieira, and Robert Pires. Arsenal's swift, attacking style of football destroyed the opposition, taking them to the league title in emphatic fashion. Their 49-game unbeaten record led to them being declared the Premier League's best ever team.
The Story of the Arsenal Invincibles
9. Milan (1988–1994)
During the six-year period from 1988 to 1994, AC Milan won the European Cup (Champions League) three times and the Italian league four times. Managed by Arrigo Sacchi and later by Carlo Ancelotti, they dominated European football thanks to a team of world-class players, including Paolo Maldini, Marco Van Basten, Ruud Gullit, Frank Rijkaard, and Franco Baresi.
The Story of Milan's Rise in the 80s
8. Liverpool (1984)
The treble-winning Liverpool team of 1984 won the league, a domestic cup, and the European Cup (Champions League) in the same year. They beat Roma in the final of the latter on penalties. Star man Ian Rush netted 47 goals in the season. Other notable players were Kenny Dalglish, Graeme Souness, and Alan Hansen.
Liverpool's Goals in the 1984 European Cup
7. West Germany (1972–1974)
The German team that won the 1972 European Championships and the 1974 World Cup featured some of the best football players of all time. Led notably by Franz Beckenbauer, the team also included Berti Vogts and their prolific striker, Gerd Müller. They denied Johan Cruyff's famous 'total football' Netherlands team with a 2-1 victory in the final of the 1974 World Cup. The video below shows the highlights from this epic final.
Germany in the 1974 World Cup Final
6. France (1998–2000)
France won the 1998 World Cup, beating hot favorites Brazil 3-0 in the final. They then won the 2000 European Championships, defeating Italy 2-1 with a golden goal from David Trezeguet. Other notable players in the team were Theirry Henry, Zinedine Zidane, Didier Deschamps, Lauren Blanc, and Lilian Thuram. They had world-class players in every position, although Zidane was instrumental in their success.
France in the 1998 World Cup Final
5. Real Madrid (1955–1960)
Led by Alfredo Di Stéfano and Ferenc Puskas, the Real Madrid team of the late '50s dominated world football. They won the European Cup (Champions League) five times in a row from 1956 to 1960. This culminated in the 1960 final when they beat Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3 in one of the greatest footballing displays of all time (see the video below).
Real Madrid in the 1960 European Cup Final
4. Manchester United (1999)
The treble-winning Manchester United team of 1998–99 won the Premier League, FA Cup, and Champions League in a single season. It included greats such as Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Roy Keane, and Peter Schmeichal. Like many of Alex Ferguson's teams, they fought until the last whistle, and this was demonstrated in no greater way than the 1999 Champions League final. Against Bayern Munich, they came from behind to win with two late goals from Sheringham and Solskjær.
Manchester United's Dramatic Win in the 1999 Champions League Final
3. Barcelona (2009)
Ten years after Manchester United's achievement, Barcelona won the first ever treble by a Spanish club. They beat United in the final of the Champions League 2-0, destroyed Real Madrid 6-2 to win La Liga, and also won the Copa Del Rey. This season saw the emergence of Lionel Messi as the best player in the world. Under the guidance of one of the world's best football managers, Pep Guardiola, Messi more than doubled his tally from the previous campaign. Barcelona's tiki-taka style of play ensured that they also won the domestic and UEFA Super Cups and the FIFA Club World Cup in 2009, turning their treble into a 'sextuple'.
The Story of Barcelona's Sextuple
2. Brazil (1970)
The 1970 FIFA World Cup saw the greatest World Cup performance of all time. Brazil scored 19 goals in six games, culminating in a 4-1 thrashing of Italy in a final where Carlos Alberto scored one of the best goals of all time. Also contributing to their beautiful brand of attacking football were greats such as Pele, Gerson, Jairzinho, Rivelino, and Tostão.
Brazil in the 1970 World Cup
1. Spain (2007–2012)
For winning three successive international football tournaments, the best football team of all time has to be Spain. They won the 2008 and 2012 European Championships and the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Between 2007 and 2009, they went 35 games unbeaten. This included winning all ten of their 2010 World Cup qualification games. Formed almost exclusively from the Barcelona and Real Madrid teams, the team's notable players included David Villa, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Carles Puyol, Xabi Alonso, and Iker Casillas.
Spain's Goals at the 2010 World Cup
The history of "the beautiful game" is resplendent with iconic teams. However, this list must make some omissions. Honorable mentions go to the following teams:
- Liverpool (2019-present)
- Real Madrid (2016-2018)
- Bayern Munich (2013)
- Ajax (1971-1973)
- Benfica (1960–1965)
- Juventus "Invincibles" for their unbeaten 2011–2012 season
- Argentina's 1986 World Cup–winning team
- Ajax (1995)
- Celtic (1967)
- Real Madrid (1998-2002)
- Milan (2002-2007)
- Brazil (1994–2002)
- England (1966)
- Italy (1934–1938)
- Hungary (1952-1956)
Great Teams Need More Than Star Players
The best football teams do not necessarily have the most talented players. Team spirit, leadership, and a willingness to work together to achieve victory are just as important as raw skill. A recent example of this phenomenon is Argentina. They were unable to dominate world football despite the influence of Lionel Messi.
Thank you for reading and watching this video compilation.
© 2013 Thomas Swan
Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on October 08, 2020:
Thank you to everyone who has commented. I have included a few more honorable mentions based on your feedback!
Anger on September 14, 2020:
I think Liverpool is good because of their song
human on September 13, 2020:
Of course it’s the Spain one, there’s no denying that most of prime Barcelona players with a combination with Real Madrid greats was incredible.
Ronan Anker on September 12, 2020:
F.C. Barcelona By A Country Mile
Tricky on August 30, 2020:
Glasgow Celtic 1967
First team EVER to win the European treble.
“Everyone remembers the first man on the moon no one remembers who was second!” - Tricky
Tricky on August 30, 2020:
g on August 23, 2020:
Milan, 2001 - 2008
ransford on July 31, 2020:
why madrid lowest
Donsurelio on July 28, 2020:
How about The late nineties to early 2000s Real side, or the Real side that won 4 champions leagues in 5 years? Unbelievable they are not on the list!
Elias on June 30, 2020:
Brazil 1994-2002 two World Cups
Shihab on June 24, 2020:
Actually Spain 2007-2012 and Barca 2009 is just same.It's Barcelona who won the world cup no Spain
Edward on June 19, 2020:
WTF? BENFICA 61-67? 5 Champions league final in 6 years
pratyush on June 05, 2020:
Real madrid 2016-18 . didnt mention them but its fine
juan the man on June 04, 2020:
what about ajax
Val on May 25, 2020:
TZ on May 20, 2020:
Without a doubt, Barcelona 2009 is the greatest
Péter on May 20, 2020:
Tyty on May 15, 2020:
Real madrid and juve,man city a di best
Mr.Anonymus on May 06, 2020:
RMFL- Real Madrid for life
bbvfcv on May 05, 2020:
liverpool best in world
Aarav on April 28, 2020:
Real Madrid 2014 -2018 is the best team
Yeet on April 24, 2020:
Man Ciy tis the best no comment
Lucas on April 23, 2020:
Trent you are right.Where are Liverpool's current team?They are the 3rd best of all time
Abdulrahman samai on April 19, 2020:
Bercelona is the Best team of all time
Trent Alexander Arnold on April 19, 2020:
where is Liverpool 2018 to 2020
Evano on April 17, 2020:
the best team ever is Manchester United
Brazil when Ronaldo was there on March 25, 2020:
?? And more
H. Ludkovic on March 24, 2020:
a) Ajax 1971-1973
b) Hungary 1952-1956
c) Netherlands 1974-1978
d) Bayern Munich 2013
e) Austria 1930-1933 (Wunderteam)
f) Inter Milan 1964-1965
Andy 72 on March 08, 2020:
Where the heck is the "Bayern München" team from 2013 which wins EVERYTHING in this season, that a team can win. They won the Champions League (one of the victrories was against Barcelona by beating them 7:0 in two games (4:0 and 3:0) !!! Then they also won the German Championship in this year and the German Cup also. WHY THIS TEAM IS HERE NOT MENTIONED AT ALL???? What's going on here? Fanboy of spanish football or english premiere League or what? Totally unfair.
Tim on March 01, 2020:
I really like real madrid
Pundit on February 25, 2020:
All of them great teams, but you can't rank that low a team that won 5 European Cups in a row. That's an all-time unbeatable record. No matter how you put it, they had league-winning rivals every year and they beat them all. That is more difficult than winning a sextuple in one year as if your're on the top of your form it's easier to win trophies in the shorter run. But to win them in the long run you need to be truly great. To me that team and Spain 2007-2012 are the top 2. Barcelona comes in close, but Madrid also won 4 Champions League in 5 years which is truly hard to match and that team is not even mentioned here.
Luis on February 24, 2020:
Barcelona is the best in the World
Twit on February 17, 2020:
lucas evans on February 06, 2020:
liverpool best team ever
Fc Barcelona is the best and in nationals is spain. on January 17, 2020:
Fc Barcelona is the best team in the world and in national is spain.
Harold on January 13, 2020:
Arsenal 2004 or spain 2010
Mahi on January 12, 2020:
Ian on January 12, 2020:
Glasgow Celtic also went a season unbeaten, won a domestic treble. Probably worth a mention
die on January 06, 2020:
messi is trash but Liverpool are the best and allways will be salah mane mane and bobby firmino but we sold cothinio
Brian on December 27, 2019:
Messi is totally the best so that’s why barclona is the best tram.⚽️
Jonathan on December 15, 2019:
Messi is the best that’s why Barcelona is the best team ever
Archie on November 19, 2019:
Barcelona is best because lots of amazing players have gone there
Fidelis peter on November 19, 2019:
Hi for my liverpool fc football club is the best team in the world for now.
khaled on November 11, 2019:
Where is the 1954's Hungary
Henrique on November 10, 2019:
You forgot Real madrid
Alex Pechanik on November 02, 2019:
You forgot about truly The Best Team Ever, which could easily defeat all those mentioned - Dynamo Kiev of 1975 ! They were so good that they were excused from the National Championship of USSR, and turned into USSR National team. They beat virtually all National teams in Europe and South America.
No team on your list even comes close.
Ahmed_CR7 on October 27, 2019:
I think any team that Cristiano Ronaldo is in that team is the best
raven on October 17, 2019:
Bayern is best
AHTSHAM ZAHEER on October 07, 2019:
Football is a team game. Yes! individual talent of players does matter, yet most important factor in the success and performance consistency of the team is The Manager/ Couch..... the Architect. For all great Football teams of the history from Italian National Team of 1930s to the Guardiola's Barcelona and the Spain National Team of 2008-2012.....the credit goes to the respective Managers/ Coaches.
Fadiga on October 04, 2019:
Manchester united is the best.
johan on October 03, 2019:
2011 barca was the greatest team of all time
Alfieri Francesco Solari on September 26, 2019:
Real Madrid 2016,2017,2018
3 consecutive champions league with Zinedine Zidane (owns 13 European cups and the trophy for the best team of the twentieth century)
Junior on September 21, 2019:
Barca is the best
bbd on September 11, 2019:
real madrid three champions leagues in a row #1
Haru on September 07, 2019:
whoever said about Pele deserved a smack. They dont even have any offside when Pele used to play.
João Fernando L. De Souza on September 05, 2019:
Spain better than 70's Brazil? Is that a joke?
Where is Ajax 1971-1973? on August 21, 2019:
where is Ajax 71-73? Shaud the world how to play futboll.
Mahan on August 14, 2019:
Real madrid 2016-2017
Torquato on August 08, 2019:
Santos FC with Pele and Co.
Aguero on August 03, 2019:
Manchester city under Pep
Vorstrug on July 22, 2019:
Liverpool best in the vorld
Shagger on July 16, 2019:
sohumKamat :) on June 29, 2019:
spain and barcelona are both great
Rui Rosa on June 28, 2019:
Benfica. Two time Champions League Winner has to be in this poll, has one of the best ever. Eusébio was in the team in 1961.
1960–61 Benfica 3–2 Barcelona
1961–62 Benfica 5–3 Real Madrid
@remco on June 28, 2019:
And ajax 95/96 won everything and had the best team
Vaughn K on June 12, 2019:
Your super team couldn't consistently score goals--2010 World Cup--almost every win was 1-0; only game where it mattered was when they they won 4-0 against Italy--2012 --1970 Brazil team , 2002,1958(even 1982 team which lost 3-2 to Italy)--better teams than Spain
Owen Evans on June 04, 2019:
Swansea City deserve to be up there after they battered Cardiff at the Liberty (Best stadium in the world) 3-0. IN THE CARDIFF SLUMS
Remco on May 31, 2019:
I'm sorry but Ajax sits at 72 I believe, where is the dutch side?
Billy on May 29, 2019:
Why is juventus not on the list
U will never know on May 28, 2019:
Where is Juventus
Zack on May 26, 2019:
Barca was unstoppable with Messi, Ronaldinho, Eto, Iniesta, and Xavi
Mark on May 26, 2019:
The treble winning team Inter Milan... under Mourinho (zanetti and codoba)
Greece winning the European Championship (won all the favourites & twice the home nation Portugal
Michael on May 26, 2019:
Celtic FC has just won their 9th domestic trophy in a row, how can they nkt be up there
Franco on May 25, 2019:
First of all I don’t like mixing Club team and National World Cup teams but if you mention National World Cup team then Italy’s 1982 team is one of the best.
Brazil” The Favorites”
No other World Cup team has ever done this.
Rohith reddy on May 25, 2019:
Ac milan 2003 is deadly
Ngash on May 23, 2019:
Country: 1. Spain
Club: 1. Barcelona
2. Manchester United
3. Real Madrid
5. Bayern Munich
Yeet on May 22, 2019:
Mohamed Barakat on May 22, 2019:
You must be joking. You didn’t even put The Real Madrid team(2016-2018)that were the only team in history to win 3 consecutive champions leagues?
Boi on May 21, 2019:
You said barca 2009 but this team wasn't just a one year glory they won in 2011 la liga copa del Rey and champions and in 2010 la liga and copa del Rey so you need to change this i think barca and spain should be in top before brazil 1970
Adyant Chelluka on May 20, 2019:
Club: FC Barcelona
Eliza devine on May 20, 2019:
I think Chelsea are the best
Cristian on May 20, 2019:
Velez Sarsfield from Argentina in the 90´s the team of Jose Luis Chilavert, it was the best team I ever have seen.
Ja boy on May 17, 2019:
Good list though,but where is puskas hungray and germany 2014-2016
sim on May 13, 2019:
Brad on May 11, 2019:
Bayern Quadruple in 2012-13?
Yuri on May 07, 2019:
São Paulo 2005
JEFF on May 05, 2019:
john on May 04, 2019:
Manchester united is the best of all time
rhys on May 03, 2019:
Costanzo Scala on May 02, 2019:
are you a comic? ridicolous list....United better than AC Milan and Ajax/ Holland ? you must be joking
saxsoccer on May 02, 2019:
Enjoying the game of soccer in Zambia. send me the top 10 soccer clubs in the world.
Mario on May 01, 2019:
MSN Barcelona not on the list lol
duh on April 29, 2019:
cardiff city fc, obviously
nad on April 21, 2019:
man city is the best
Taylor on April 19, 2019:
Are we just going to forget 2002 Brazil national team
tura on April 15, 2019:
Liverpool the best
Yoel on April 09, 2019:
i am sure that NEYMAR will win the world cup
samuel on April 04, 2019:
AyAyRon on April 03, 2019:
Fc Barcelona is always consistent! Sure Real Madrid is a superb team but they are dropping(cause their manager left) But they'll still be respected!
Emmanuel favour on March 27, 2019: