Ever since the ball started rolling through the grass pitches, more than one century ago, many teams have stood out. What actually made these teams immortal and worth mentioning many decades after scoring their last goal?
Some of these teams just came out of obscurity and became the dominant squad of an era. It's worth noting that football has changed a lot since it's dawn, and has evolved to this day to encompass an enormous array of skills and an increasingly demanding performance.
But what makes an excellent football team? A team must at least have won one trophy. High technical standards, attractive plays and significant results must come together in an era of stiff competition and intense rivalry.
Today we look back at the six best men's national and club football teams that meet those criteria.
Real Madrid (1955–1960)
Commanded by Alfredo Di Stéfano and Ferenc Puskas, the Real Madrid squad of the late 1950s dominated world football with dazzling plays. This team won the European Cup (the competition that originated Champions League) five times in a row from 1956 to 1960.
This road to glory culminated with the 1960's European Cup final, where they beat Eintracht Frankfurt by 7-3, in what is considered to be one of the greatest football hymns that were ever witnessed.
Manchester United (1999)
In the 1998-1999 season, Manchester United achieved what seemed impossible when they won three trophies: Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League. This fantastic team included stars such as Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Roy Keane and Peter Schmeichel as the goalkeeper.
The coach was the veteran Alex Ferguson, by then settled in Manchester for some years. On that epic Champions League final, the team fought until the last whistle. The opponent was the also mighty Bayern Munich, which lead the game until Manchester United's nerve and resilience demolished german tactics with a magnificent turnaround to victory: two very late goals from Sheringham and Solskjær (who today is the coach for the British team).
Ten years after Manchester United's outstanding achievement, it was now the time for Barcelona to win three competitions in a single year, a first for a Spanish club. Barcelona beat United in the Champions League final by 2-0, destroyed Real Madrid 6-2 to win La Liga, and also won the Copa Del Rey.
This was the season when we witnessed the emergence of Lionel Messi as the best player in the world. Led by reputed Pep Guardiola, Messi more than doubled his tally from the previous season. He was the maestro of the denominated "tiki-taka" style of play, with fast and precise passes between players. Barcelona style and campaign wrote a beautiful page in football history, reinforced some months later with a win in the Spanish SuperCup, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup in 2009, turning their "triplet" into a 'sextuple'.
The 1970 FIFA World Cup in Mexico was the stage for the most extraordinary World Cup performance of all time. Brazil scored 19 goals in just six games. In the final, they trashed Italy by 4-1. This amazing Brazilian campaign was crowned with Carlos Alberto goal in the final, a goal that is considered one of the best of all time. Also contributing to this unforgettable path to victory were great names such as Pelé, Gerson, Jairzinho, Rivelino, and Tostão.
Spain achieved an unprecedented feat by winning three successive international football tournaments. They won the 2008 and 2012 European Championships and the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Between 2007 and 2009 they went 35 games unbeaten. Commanded by Vicent Del Bosque, the team was almost exclusively formed with players from Barcelona and Real Madrid teams, such as David Villa, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Carles Puyol, Xabi Alonso and Iker Casillas.
Portugal arrived in France for the 2016 UEFA European Championship as just another team, far from being considered one of the favourites to the final victory. This idea was reinforced after the team got three ties on the first three matches of the competition. The only one that seemed to have grander plans for the campaign was the coach, Fernando Santos, that from day one said that he would only return home after the final. This ended up being a self-proclaimed prophecy: Portugal went on to beat France in the final by 1-0, with an amazing goal from the striker and unexpected hero Éder.
The 2016 win was the most important football achievement for Portugal, a country that has a long and solid tradition in football. Portugal was 2nd in the 2004 European Championship, which Portugal hosted, and 4th in 2006 World Cup (Germany). The 2016 UEFA European Championship victory was not a fortuitous or stand-alone phenomenon. Over the last 20 years, Portugal has invested tremendously in academies, football schools and infrastructures, tournaments and scouting that transformed the country into one of the finest football talent "factories". Portuguese players that emerged in these academies conquered the world and today they are present in almost every team mentioned before. Sporting Clube de Portugal's academy brought to the world the talents of Cristiano Ronaldo, Luís Figo, Ricardo Quaresma, Nani, Rui Patrício. Benfica's academy brought about such world stars as Bernardo Silva, João Félix or Rúben Dias.
With this excellent decades-in-the-making know-how and a great climate that allows for playing football pretty much all year round, Portugal has the perfect conditions to be a nursery of future stars. Take a look at every major football team and you'll most probably find a Portuguese player or coach, such as José Mourinho, André Villas-Boas, Leonardo Jardim or Nuno Espírito Santos.
These six teams are a showcase for what great teamwork can do. The best football teams don't necessarily have the most talented players. A good leadership, enormous effort and willingness to work together are the fundamental aspects to achieve victory. Raw skill is important, but you need to shape it with hard work. Otherwise, you won't get a diamond from a rock - or in this case, a team that will be remembered forever.
Are you ready to bring your team to the next level? Move Sports is an expert at organising football sports tours and training camps for teams of all age categories and skills, from amateur to professional level. We also organise a yearly international youth football tournament, the Lisbon Football Youth Cup. Follow the links to find out more.