It’s been a bit of a weird year for sports teams of all kinds around the world, but there’s still a crazy amont of money in sport.
As they do every year, the people over at Forbes have put together a list of the most valuable sports teams across the globe, and a solid number of football teams managed to make their way into the rankings.
Let’s take a look at the top 50 teams – we’ll dive deeper into the ones that we care about over here.
Maintaining the same value as last year is Arsenal, who have fallen five spots down to 47th.
While it hasn’t been the best year on the pitch for Arsenal, inconsistent performances and sacking manager Unai Emery haven’t had too much of an impact financially.
Thanks to their FA Cup final triumph, the Gunners will have the chance to build on that in next year’s Europa League.
Just like Arsenal, Chelsea have also dropped five places while still retaining their same value from 2019.
The Blues had planned to have a busy year, with a brand new stadium complex on the cards, only for Chelsea to allow their planning permission to expire while they evaluate the current financial landscape.
Frank Lampard managed to guide Chelsea back to the Champions League, ensuring their income won’t take much of a hit over the coming year.
Yet again, City retained their value from 2019, but growth from teams from other sports has seen them drop nine spots down to 34th.
City’s financial power is no secret, and they flexed their muscle last summer by striking huge deals for Rodri and João Cancelo, and there’ll probably be a fair bit of money spent this year too.
Pep Guardiola’s side managed to get their Champions League ban overturned, ensuring they can remain competitive for years to come, although they did have to swallow a hefty fine.
Despite no drop in value, Bayern Munich find themselves falling from 17th in 2019 to 24th in 2020.
Being so far down in any rankings is an alien concept for Bayern, who have been overwhelmingly dominant in the Bundesliga in recent years.
Perennial favourites to win the Champions League, their value would enjoy a tidy rise if they can get their hands on the trophy for the first time since 2013.
Despite dropping from sixth to tenth, Manchester United remain the third most valuable football team in the world.
It’s that kind of financial power which has given Ole Gunnar Solskjaer some big plans for the summer transfer window, and qualifying for the Champions League will only help United strengthen, both on and off the pitch.
The Red Devils hope to be back on track after a few years of turmoil, so don’t be surprised to see them climb higher up this list in 2021.
Dropping down four spots are Barcelona, who still sit second on football’s rich list.
There was no drop in value for Lionel Messi, Luis Suárez and co. this year, but the impact of the coronavirus outbreak might have a pretty rough impact on Barcelona’s finances for the 2021 rankings.
It’s been a frustrating year for the Catalan club, who need to win the Champions League to finish the campaign with any silverware. No pressure.
Sitting atop football’s financial Mount Olympus for the second straight year are Real Madrid.
Los Blancos spent big money last summer, recruiting Eden Hazard, Luka Jović, Éder Militão, Ferland Mendy and Rodrygo Goes, and their reward was yet another La Liga title.
The spending might be a little calmer this time around, with Zinedine Zidane instead focusing on selling some of the club’s fringe players.
Everton are targeting Real Madrid’s Sergio Reguilon to bolster their options at left back, and reportedly lead the chase for the defender after putting in an £18m bid.
The Toffees are in the market for a new left back following the retirement of stalwart Leighton Baines at the end of the 2019/20 campaign.
Lucas Digne is currently the only recognisable senior left back remaining at Goodison Park, and Everton have set their sights on Reguilon as the man to fill the void left by Baines.
According to Sky Sports, the club have submitted an £18m bid for the 23-year-old, which is expected to be the catalyst for a potential bidding war between a selection of sides.
Reguilon has attracted attention from a host of clubs across Europe following his impressive loan spell with Sevilla during the 2019/20 season.
The full-back helped Sevilla finish fourth and secure Champions League football, and he was voted the best left back in La Liga in the process.
However, the Liverpool Echo report that Everton have in fact not tabled a bid. Although the club have lost Baines, they have promoted 19-year-old Niels Nkounkou to the Under-23 side in the hope that he will offer competition for Digne within a year.
Reguilon is a product of the Real Madrid academy, and is held in high regard at the Bernabeu. However, he currently finds himself behind Marcelo and Ferland Mendy in the left back pecking order, and Real need to sell assets in order to help balance the books.
He is expected to be sold, alongside fellow academy graduates Mariano, Borja Mayoral and Oscar Rodriguez to help balance the books at the Bernabeu.
Sevilla are keen to take Reguilon back on loan for another season, but are aware that they face competition from a number of sides across Europe looking to secure his signature on a permanent basis.
Arsenal take on Chelsea in the FA Cup final on Saturday afternoon – a competition in which both of the two competing clubs and managers have a proud history.
Mikel Arteta and Frank Lampard both enjoyed considerable success in the FA Cup as players, with the former tasting victory at Wembley on two occasions, and the latter hoisting the famous trophy aloft four times.
With victory on Saturday, one of Arteta or Lampard will join a select group of individuals who have won the same trophy as both a player and a manager. Let’s take a look at the current members of this elite club.
Sir Alf is probably better known for that thing he won with England back in 1966, but he enjoyed a stellar club managerial career before landing the top job in 1963.
Ramsey spent his playing days with Southampton and Tottenham, winning the First Division with the latter in 1950/51.
It’s no secret that the most successful England managers are bred at Ipswich Town, and that’s where Ramsey started his career in the dugout. He led the Tractor Boys from the third tier to a remarkable First Division title in 1961/62 before going on to win the World Cup with England. History looks sure to repeat itself at Portman Road with Paul Lambert in 2020/21.
As all-time greats go, they don’t come much bigger than Bob Paisley on Merseyside.
Paisley played over 250 times for Liverpool, and hung up his boots with one First Division title during the 1946/47 season to show for his playing career.
He went five better as a manager. Paisley guided the Reds to six league titles between 1976 and 1983, as Liverpool dominated English football.
As a manager, he also lifted the European Cup three times and bagged a UEFA Cup. Greedy.
There are 33 years between Kenny Dalglish’s first domestic triumph in England – the First Division title in 1978/79 – and his last – the League Cup in 2012.
King Kenny won the lot with Liverpool as a player: five First Division titles, four League Cups, three European Cups and the FA Cup.
Dalglish won the first Division a further three times as a manager with the Reds – and once with Blackburn after the top flight had transformed into the Premier League – and he guided Liverpool to FA Cup glory twice. The Anfield icon was parachuted in once more in 2011, beating Cardiff on penalties in the 2012 League Cup final for his final honour with the club.
He also enjoyed success back in his native Scotland as both a player and manager, despite only being in temporary charge of Celtic for four months. Dalgish won the Scottish League Cup in 1975, and then again as a manager in 2000.
Those just across Stanley Park have also enjoyed their fair share of success, with Howard Kendall the mastermind behind the most fruitful period in Everton’s history.
The midfielder won the First Division with the Toffees in 1969/70. He took the Goodison Park hot seat in 1981 initially as a player-manager – but only mustered four games as a player before formally hanging up his boots.
Kendall would go on to enjoy greater success in the dugout than he had on the pitch, winning the First Division title twice in the space of three seasons between 1985 and 1987.
George Graham remains the last person to have won the league title in England as a player and manager.
Graham’s first piece of silverware came as a player with Chelsea, as he lifted the League Cup in 1965, before winning the league and cup double with Arsenal in 1971.
He won every domestic trophy as manager of Arsenal in the 80s and 90s, including the famous league title triumph over Liverpool on the final day of the 1988/89 season.
Imagine being Johan Cruyff. Imagine being one of the most gifted, artistic, graceful footballers of your generation and winning the lot… and then doing it all over again as a manager.
The Dutch icon’s glittering career was bookended with spells in his native Holland – beginning with Ajax, before ending with Ajax again and finally Feyenoord. He was part of the glorious Ajax side that won three consecutive European Cups, and he lifted Holland’s domestic cup – the KNVB Cup – on five occasions with his boyhood club, and once with Feyernoord.
Sandwiched in between his success in his homeland was a five-year spell at Barcelona, where Cruyff won La Liga in 1973/74, and the Copa del Rey in 1978.
He returned to both Ajax and Barcelona as a manager, winning the KNVB Cup twice with the former. Although he never guided Ajax to league success as a manager, he made up for this in Spain, winning four La Liga titles, in addition to the Copa del Rey in 1990 and the European Cup in 1992. Not a bad career’s work.
On any list, the natural successor to Johan Cruyff is of course Neil Lennon.
Lennon didn’t play in Scotland until he was 29, but he has gone on to win 20 domestic honours there as a player and manager.
The Northern Irishman won five Scottish Premier League titles, four Scottish Cups and two Scottish League Cups with Celtic between 2000 and 2007.
Lennon has had two separate spells in the Celtic Park dugout, adding a further five Scottish titles to his trophy cabinet, in addition to three Scottish Cups, and the League Cup in 2019/20.
Lampard will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of Roberto Di Matteo on Saturday – the last Chelsea man to win the FA Cup as both a player and manager.
Di Matteo scored after just 42 seconds with an absolute belter as Chelsea beat Middlesbrough in the 1997 FA Cup final, and won the same competition three years later with the Blues.
The Italian guided Chelsea to FA Cup glory during his ridiculously successful spell as caretaker manager at Stamford Bridge, with his 2012 FA Cup victory slightly overshadowed by the small matter of their Champions League win.
Conte spent 13 glittering years as a player with Juventus, and after he began his managerial career it was always anticipated that he would return to lead the club.
Conte won five Serie A titles during his time as a player – four of which as a captain. He eventually returned in 2011, six years after departing Juventus.
The Italian guided Juventus to their first Serie A title in nine years during his first season in charge. He won three league titles on the bounce before leaving the club in 2014, and was the catalyst for the unprecedented decade of dominance that Juventus have since enjoyed.
As playing and managerial careers go, Pep Guardiola’s done alright for himself.
During his 11 years at Barcelona he won La Liga on six occasions, before returning to his boyhood club as a manager to win it a further three times.
Guardiola also tasted victory in the European Cup with Barcelona in 1997 – a competition he would win twice in the space of three years when in the hot seat at Camp Nou.
Another generational talent, Zidane has actually won more honours at Real Madrid as a manager than he ever did as a player.
The Frenchman spent five years in the Spanish capital as a player, winning the Champions League in 2002 and La Liga in 2002/03.
Zidane has been in the Real Madrid hot seat for a little over three and a half years – over two separate spells – and has already guided the Spanish giants to two La Liga titles and a hat-trick of successive Champions League crowns.
You wouldn’t bet against him eventually completing his double honours list by winning the World Cup as France boss one day either.
There’s a lot to dislike about strikers if you think about it. They always get the glory, most of them don’t seem to do much running and they can often be prima donnas on the pitch.
However, it’s probably fair that they get cut a fair amount of slack as it’s the most challenging position on the pitch. Centre-forwards spend most of their time isolated from their teammates, knowing that any missed chances will be greeted with a maelstrom of abuse from the crowd.
At the turn of the last decade it had seemed like strikers might be destined for the scrapheap with two-man strike partnerships seen as retrograde and false nines ruling the roost at the top level. More recently though, the role has enjoyed a resurgence with a host of top centre-forwards banging in goals all across Europe.
Here are five of the very best doing exactly that right now…
Kicking off our top five, it’s the man that everyone loves to hate – or just hate in some cases.
Signing for Liverpool on the same day as Andy Carroll, the two players’ careers have since taken very different routes.
While Carroll has becoming a punchline to a joke about injuries, Suarez has carved out a reputation as a lethal finisher who will do anything to win. We mean anything by the way, as Giorgio Chiellini and Branislav Ivanovic know only too well.
While his recent Barcelona career has been hampered by injury, it hasn’t stopped him hitting the back of the net enough times to see him rise to second place on the club’s all-time goalscorers list.
Despite being divisive figure, you cannot deny that Suarez is one of the best players of his generation.
From one diminutive South American forward to another, Manchester City hero Sergio Aguero is number four on our list.
No other human being has scored more goals for the Citizens than the Argentine. There’s magic in those bulging calves and he loves a memorable strike.
Often overlooked when discussing all-time Premier League greats in the past, public opinion is finally starting to sway on Aguero.
He recently overtook Thierry Henry as the Barclays™ highest ever overseas goalscorer, a stat which beautifully illustrates his brilliance and longevity.
In the past Karim Benzema has frequently been the bridesmaid and never the bride.
During Cristiano Ronaldo’s time at Real Madrid, the Frenchman mainly played the role of facilitator, making decoy runs to pull defenders away from CR7.
During the 2019/2020 season, Benzema stepped out on his own and become Los Blancos’ most valuable forward. 29 goal involvements in 37 La Liga appearances tells its own story as the 32-year-old continues to get better with age.
He is a self-sacrificing superstar who has nothing to prove to his doubters.
A Ligue 1, Coupe de France and World Cup winner all before his 21st birthday, Kylian Mbappe is set to dominate European football for the next decade.
Like a string of French strikers before him, Mbappe’s principal weapon is his frightening pace but there is so much more to the Paris Saint-Germain star’s game.
Blessed with freakish footballing intelligence, he is constantly popping up in the right place at the right time. He also possesses a fearsome box of tricks and feints that rival any other player in the world.
A forward of Mbappe’s quality coming along is truly a once in a lifetime event, so make sure you make the most of him while he’s still around.
Few people would have been as peeved off as Robert Lewandowski when it was announced that the 2020 Ballon d’Or would not be awarded.
The Polish hitman has been in the form of his life recently, scoring with a frequency to rival some of the best strikers of all time.
The Bayern Munich star – who 90min interviewed back in May – in the archetypal complete centre-forward scoring goals with his head, either foot and various other body parts. As long as the ball nestles in the back of the net, he doesn’t care.
Lewandowski is a born goalscorer in his prime years and could hold onto his title as 90min’s best centre-forward in the world for some time yet. That’s better than winning a Ballon d’Or anyway…
Real Madrid have revealed their adidas home and away kits for the 2020/21 season, opting for striking but simple efforts designed to reflect the club’s ‘win at all costs’ mentality.
The La Liga giants will embark on their defence of the title for the first time since 2017, and as ever they will do it in the very best the sportswear giants have to offer.
The new home jersey naturally comes in Los Blancos’ signature white, with subtle spring pink accents which draw inspiration from the iconic 2014/15 home kit.
This is used to allude to the contemporary art culture in the Spanish capital, and while Karim Benzema and co. will launch the kit in the Champions League later this month should they advance past Manchester City, it will also be worn by the Real Madrid women’s team in their first ever season, when the 2020/21 women’s Primera Division season kicks off.
The away kit, meanwhile, will be worn for the first time in that clash with City and takes the spring pink theme a notch further as the kit’s base colour. Accented with dark blue, the contrast is designed to evoke the image of Madrid’s Plaza De Cibeles lit up at night.
Marco Ommicioli, football designer at adidas said of the new kits: “Real Madrid is a unique team with a unique history. We wanted to keep the design of this season’s jerseys bold yet simple to reflect the expectation that comes with the badge, and that is to win at all costs.
“The pressure to perform pressure to win and the pressure to create history in front fans. This pressure turns good players into great ones and great ones into global icons, just like the design of these famous shirts.”
The kits are available from 31 July, exclusively from adidas.co.uk and Real Madrid stores.
Few players in footballing history have been able to illicit such widespread awe as Zinedine Zidane. Whether it be the faultless first touch, his effortless glide or even something as prosaic as goals, assists and trophies, Zidane commanded admiration with his exploits on the pitch.
Who else could bow out of the sport with a red card for head-butting an opponent on the biggest international stage and be remembered more for how he controlled the ball?
Zidane’s brilliance has enthralled generations both young and old, while a particular bracket of today’s most talented creative forces have taken inspiration from the man so often lauded as his generation’s greatest midfielder.
Kylian Mbappé may have been born two days before Zidane was presented with the 1998 Ballon d’Or, but the Paris Saint-Germain starlet can still appreciate his talent, as he explained: “To start, as a child, it was Zidane. If you’re a boy and you’re French, your idol is Zidane.”
Zidane was at his best when seamlessly linking midfield and attack, offering himself as an elegant buffer. Mario Götze is one of many midfielders inspired to operate in the same role after seeing Zidane’s mastery of the position in the early 2000s.
Götze revealed that the Frenchman was his personal role model to the DFB’s official website, citing some of the great man’s stereotypically German qualities: “As far as football is concerned, this must be Zinedine Zidane – for his elegance, his efficiency, and his quiet composure off the pitch.”
Zidane may have racked up 14 career red cards, but few players have so regularly been heralded for their aesthetic brilliance. As Henrikh Mkhitaryan told the Arsenal website: “The way he was playing was amazing. He was like an artist on the pitch.”
In Mkhitaryan’s Players’ Tribune article, the Armenia international ranked Zidane alongside Brazilian footballing royalty and his father (who was a former player rather than a Shakespearian character): “I always wanted to play like Zidane, Kaká and Hamlet.”
On the eve of the 2015 Champions League final Julian Draxler, enjoying a quiet evening out at a Berlin restaurant, spotted his childhood hero across the room.
Draxler – a player who would command a £40m transfer fee that summer – is starstruck, too shy to tear himself off his chair and greet the great man. He resolves to introduce himself in more appropriate surroundings.
Their paths would cross again in the quarter-finals of the following year’s tournament. Draxler started for Wolfsburg against Zidane’s Real Madrid as the hosts surprisingly prevailed 2-0.
As introductions go, inflicting Zidane’s second ever defeat as Real Madrid coach is certainly more emphatic than an awkward handshake while hungry Germans bump past you.
It seems Draxler is not the only professional footballer to be overawed in such close proximity to Zidane. When Mesut Özil first met his hero in the Real Madrid dressing room, the German playmaker admitted to Arsenal’s website that his ‘hands were sweating’.
Özil recalled: “I was thinking about the time when I was young with my friends, I would buy his shirt and play as him in the cage where I was brought up.”
Years before Zidane joined Real’s coaching staff, a young Özil studied the Frenchman’s game: “I watched how he did his passes,” he told The Times. “He didn’t do tricks for the sake of it. He never wanted to show off. He just played a clever game. He’s the player who decides games.
“I watched his technique and tried to do that in my game, and a lot of times it worked.”
Prior to Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes-inspired resurgence, Paul Pogba seemed destined to join Zidane at Real Madrid.
This would have represented a fresh start for the 27-year-old and given him the opportunity to work under a man he so greatly admires. “On the pitch you have 11 players, in the squad, 22, and you see only one or two,” Pogba told FIFA’s website. “You always see him doing something special, the way he’s playing, it’s beautiful to see.”
Zidane’s play was so mesmeric that the Frenchman transcended the sporting realm. A documentary – Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait – was released in 2006, tracking every move the midfielder made throughout a match for Real Madrid.
Pogba must be a fan of the critically acclaimed film given his similar approach to viewing the Ballon d’Or winner: “I was always watching him. The ball was in one place but I was always looking for Zidane.”
Eden Hazard has never been shy in expressing his fascination with Zidane, as he told Belgian broadcasters RLT: “Everyone knows the respect I have for the man. For the player he was and for the coach he is, he was my idol. Of course I don’t know what will happen in my career in the future, but to play under him would be a dream.”
Controversially, this effusive praise for Real Madrid’s coach was during his time as a Chelsea player.
However, Hazard’s affection for the generational midfielder goes back to his childhood when Zidane’s poster hung in his bedroom.
Pascal Delmoitiez, general manager at the Belgian’s first club Stade Brainois, revealed the admiration Hazard had for his current manager as a child. Delmoitiez told The Athletic: “He always compared himself to Zidane, copying his trademark moves, constantly mentioning him. He was his reference.”
Real Madrid are said to be closely monitoring the progress of Sevilla’s 21 year-old centre-back Jules Kounde.
Having made 29 appearances in La Liga this season, Kounde helped Sevilla qualify for next season’s Champions League, as the club finished fourth – just behind Atletico Madrid on goal difference.
The Frenchman formed a formidable centre back partnership with Diego Carlos this season, and their efforts have instrumental in the side boasting the third best defensive record in La Liga, with only Real and Atletico Madrid conceding fewer goals.
This form has reportedly (via ESPN) been noticed by Los Blancos, with Zidane rumoured to be looking to add to his already exceptional backline.
Kounde won’t be cheap however.
The Frenchman has a contract signed until 2024 so they will have to pay a substantial fee to prize him away from Seville – potentially around the £32m mark, especially as he only joined last summer. As well as this fact, Madrid aren’t the only team interested in securing Kounde’s services, with several other big clubs said to be interested in the former Bordeaux man.
As well as Kounde, Real Madrid have also been linked with RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano, whose contract runs out at the end of next season. He has been linked with a number of clubs, including Arsenal and Bayern Munich, recently and should be relatively cheap due to his contract situation – if he doesn’t pen a new deal with his current club.
A wise and pensive Michael Owen once said: “Whichever team scores more goals usually wins.”
He couldn’t have been more right. Football is a game of goals, and no matter how good your team is, a classic centre-forward who can stick them away never goes amiss. But as football develops and managers begin to experiment and attempt to outsmart opponents with revolutionary tactics, the importance of a classic number nine is starting to wane.
Much like rock and roll and the routine of a half-time bovril however, the centre-forward will never die.
How good is it to see one of this rare breed pop up and take such genuine pleasure in smashing a ball into a net with such ruthlessness and contempt for his adversaries? Or batter home a towering header?
We are living in an era when their appearance is becoming more and more scarce, but back in the day, these guys were the bees knees.
Over the years, football has produced some wonderful centre-forwards who have crashed through the glass ceiling of scoring goals, while doing it in their own unique and prolific way. Here is 90min’s look back at the nine greatest players to have ever performed this role.
For many, this man is the greatest player to have set foot on God’s green earth. Pelé may receive some criticism on social media, from those who mock his supposedly generous goal record. But the fact that he scored so many goals that it became almost impossible to keep count, speaks volumes of the Brazilian.
Two-footed, strong in the air, majestic with the ball at his feet and a ruthless finisher, Pelé was possibly the most well-rounded footballer in the world. He won the World Cup a record three times during his playing career, scoring 77 goals for his national side over a 14-year spell.
Simply put, he was a genius of the game, and he’ll always be remembered as the man who coined and perfected ‘the beautiful game.’
The original Ronaldo. Pace, power, two feet, and an incomparable gift for sticking goalkeepers on their backsides. Never has the world stood up and taken notice as when this young Brazilian burst onto the scene with PSV Eindhoven, Barcelona and then Inter.
Sadly, injuries took their toll on the forward, who was forced to adapt from a man who could do everything brilliantly, to a man who could do most things exceptionally. As the raw pace escaped his body, Ronaldo settled for being an out and out goalscorer, enjoying five fruitful years at Real Madrid.
A two-time World Cup and Ballon d’Or winner, Ronaldo will always be remembered as one of the most complete centre-forwards to grace our game. And even after all the goals, the trophies and the records, we are left with that burning feeling of what might have been.
A real penalty-box player. Every centre-back’s nightmare. Gerd Muller was possibly the most unconventional striker on this list in terms of appearance, but despite his short, squat physique, he was possibly the most lethal finisher of them all.
The German centre-forward may not have been blessed with the strapping body of a typical goalscorer, nor was he renowned for blistering pace, but boy, could he find the net? Muller came alive in the penalty area, and he could apply any type of finish to every ball that came his way. He just had the knack.
He still holds the record for the most goals in one season with Bayern, bagging 40 times in 34 league matches. Unbelievable.
This guy has an award for the most aesthetically-pleasing goal of the year named after him, so that tells you all you need to know. Ferenc Puskas was in the goals business during his long career, and brother, business was a-boomin’.
The powerful centre-forward was part of the famous Hungary side of the 1940s and 50s, scoring 84 goals in 85 international matches. That’s almost a goal a game, for those who skipped maths at school.
Overall, he walloped home 512 goals in 528 appearances, including eight famous years at Real Madrid, writing his name in the history books as one of the most prolific goalscorers in the 20th century.
Now this man could do it all. Marco van Basten was as complete a striker as they come, and along with his breathtaking consistency and reliability, he could also produce some moments of unrivalled spectacular wonder.
The Swan of Utrecht’s highlight reel would be a match for any other footballer in the world, and his near zero degree volley in the Euro 1988 final is lauded as one of the greatest goals in the sport’s history.
Van Basten could conjure a miracle on any stage, no matter how vital or insignificant, and the only shame is that injury curtailed his marvellous career. A star of the game.
Until very recently, this legend was the greatest player in Portugal’s illustrious history. Even though Cristiano Ronaldo may have stolen that particular tag, there are many who still reminisce much more fondly on Eusebio’s sterling contribution to football.
Eusebio was one of the first genuine superstars of the sport, and his goal record pays tribute to this. The Portuguese forward rattled home 473 goals in 440 games. No need for calculators to figure out how special that is.
He won the Golden Boot at the 1966 World Cup with an incredible nine goals, and was undoubtedly one of the star performers in the tournament. Grace and elegance personified.
Any player that wins the Golden Ball at a World Cup is pretty special. Romario was an insanely gifted footballer who possessed that natural Brazilian flair and spark that separates the Samba stars from us mere mortals.
Romario was a key component in Johan Cruyff’s Dream Team at Barcelona, where he found the net 30 times in his debut campaign. He was also a key figure in the Vasco de Gama side which tore Manchester United apart in the FIFA Club World Cup in 2000, putting in a memorable display.
Over 1000 career goals (apparently), he is the second-most prolific striker in football history. Wow.
Batigol. When we reminisce on the most clinical strikers in football history, the name of Gabriel Batistuta always rears its head. The Argentine forward made his name in Europe over a nine-year spell with Fiorentina, where he became a club legend, rifling home over 200 goals for la Viola.
Although he showed himself to be Serie A’s deadliest forward during his time in Florence, it was at AS Roma where his heroics were rewarded with silverware. I Giallorossi lifted the 2000/01 league title – only the third in their history – and Gabigol helped himself to 20 valuable strikes over the course of the campaign.
Batistuta was pure power. The power in his legs allowed the forward to strike the ball from anywhere, with either foot, and with a vicious ferocity that made you pity the goalkeeper tasked with stopping his efforts. An icon of the 1990s, and a Serie A legend.
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge is now the chairman of Bayern – and you don’t get that role by being a shoddy striker! The German forward began his career with the Bavarian giants, scoring over 200 goals in 10 years at the club.
His versatility and adaptability to different styles of play made him the prolific forward he proved to be, while his lightning pace and clinical finishing always put him out of the defender’s reach.
A Bayern and West Germany legend, Rummenigge is part of football’s very fabric. A wonderful forward to complete the list.
Winning a domestic league title is great, but lifting the Champions League trophy is what every player dreams of. Only the best can win that competition. Well, usually.
Since the competition’s rebranding in 1992, we’ve seen 27 sides lift the famous trophy. Some of those teams have been all-time greats, but a few left fans scratching their heads and questioning whether it was all just one weird dream.
There’s only one thing to do – let’s rank them.
This is a tricky one. 1992/93 Marseille were a great team. They were really great. But were they actually good enough to win the Champions League?
The squad, which featured Fabien Barthez, Marcel Desailly, Rudi Völler, Abedi Pelé and Didier Deschamps, picked up a 1-0 win over AC Milan in the final, only to later be found guilty of match fixing during their domestic campaign.
They were found to have paid Valenciennes to lose a game to ensure their squad were not tired out for the European game, so they probably deserve to be bottom of this list.
It’s probably the best Champions League final story of all time, but let’s not forget that Liverpool’s dramatic comeback against AC Milan in 2005 was only possible because they were bad enough to fall 3-0 down in the first place.
The Reds, who lost 14 Premier League games that year and finished fifth, had the likes of Steve Finnan, Djimi Traoré and Harry Kewell in their starting lineup and would have probably lost about 10-0 if Steven Gerrard didn’t turn into a superhero.
The triumph that made José Mourinho. Porto should never have won the Champions League, and you only have to look at how they had to scrape past Deportivo La Coruña in the semi-final as proof of that.
Their success was largely down to good fortune in terms of their opponents, but the likes of Deco, Maniche and Ricardo Carvalho ensured that Porto still had enough about them to cause an upset.
Chelsea, who found themselves in domestic turmoil in 2011/12, should have lost to Napoli, Barcelona and Bayern Munich that year, but somehow managed to emerge with the Champions League trophy.
There was plenty of firepower in the squad, including Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard and John Terry (when he wasn’t suspended), but this squad also included a young Ryan Bertrand who made his European debut in the final…. out of position.
This is a tricky one. On paper, Milan should have been amazing this year. The squad featured Dida, Alessandro Nesta, Paolo Maldini, Andrea Pirlo, Andriy Shevchenko – the list goes on.
Unfortunately, 2002/03 Milan were one of the most uninspiring teams in competition history.
They were all about dull 1-0 wins and were largely responsible for the first 0-0 draw in final history.
Lars Ricken, Paulo Sousa, Karl-Heinz Riedle and Matthias Sammer all flirted with stardom, with Sammar perhaps coming the closest, but the Borussia Dortmund side of 1996/97 just seemed to lack a certain je ne sais quoi.
Ricken’s goal 16 seconds after coming on as a substitute is still a record for the Champions League final, and that is a major reason why this team is still remembered.
If we’re talking purely about performances in the final, this Milan side would be right at the top. They mauled Johan Cruyff’s Barcelona 4-0, but that was pretty much the first time that they had actually played entertaining football.
It’s tough to say what was wrong with this Milan side. They still won games, but it just wasn’t that impressive to watch most of the time. There’s only so much ‘offside trap’ a fan can take.
Real Madrid are almost the victims of their own high standards. Their Champions League triumph in 1998 was their first and has since proven to be their least impressive.
Fernando Hierro was strong at the back, Clarence Seedorf and Christian Karembeu starred in midfield and a young Raúl was just coming into his own in attack, but struggles domestically detract from this side’s greatness.
We’re at that point in the list where every team is ridiculously good, it’s just a question of figuring out which sides were less ridiculously good than the rest.
1999/00 Real find themselves here because they were on the cusp of blossoming into the famous ‘Galacticos’ but were perhaps lacking a little something.
Whatever they were lacking didn’t really show as they still played an impressive brand of football which won the hearts of many.
The 2015/16 tournament wasn’t the most convincing from Real. They conceded three against Shakhtar Donetsk and came close to being eliminated by Wolfsburg, who picked up a 2-0 win in the first leg of the quarter-final.
They had to squeeze past Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City and Atlético Madrid en route to lifting the trophy, but the fact of the matter is that they did squeeze past them, and that’s not easy.
2009/10 Inter were football’s equivalent of marmite – you either loved them or you hated them.
With Mourinho’s signature defensive style, I Nerazzurri became impenetrable. Samuel Eto’o went from a striker to a winger (which means he became a full-back under Mourinho), and they gave up possession in almost every game they played.
Diego Milito’s fantastic goalscoring stole the show, but you always felt like this Inter side maybe could have done things in a more convincing fashion.
Three words: Alessandro Del Piero.
The Italian was the standout star in a team which featured Gianluca Vialli, Antonio Conte and Didier Deschamps, firing Juventus to glory in devastating fashion.
With Ballon d’Or winner Kaká stealing the show in midfield, 2006/07 AC Milan were something special.
They got revenge against Liverpool in the final that year, with Kaká and Filippo Inzaghi proving too much to handle in attack.
If you haven’t gathered, we’re in the section of the list for teams who were primarily led by one star. For Bayern Munich in 2000/01, that star was goalkeeper Oliver Kahn.
The victory over Valencia in the final was all about penalties. Bayern missed one in the game, before Kahn went off on one in the shootout to earn the Germans the trophy.
As a single unit, Barcelona were great in 2005/06, but this was the Ronaldinho show. Frank Rijkaard knew that and built his team around the Brazilian.
Would Barça have won the tournament without Ronaldinho? Possibly not, although Eto’o would have had something to say about that.
Zinedine Zidane rocked up to Real for the 2001/02 season and scored one of the greatest goals in competition history in the final in his debut season. Not bad.
Los Blancos scored goals for fun this season and had to prove their mental fortitude by coming back from the brink of elimination at the hands of Bayern Munich.
And then Real got caught up in the moment and tore the squad apart through mass spending – and they didn’t even replace Claude Makélélé!
Carlo Ancelotti’s brand of free-flowing football brought the best out of Real and helped Cristiano Ronaldo fire home a ludicrous 17 goals during the competition.
They dominated plenty of sides en route to glory, but their legacy takes a slight hit as they came within seconds of losing the final to rivals Atlético Madrid.
The treble winners. That alone is good enough for a high finish on this list, and that’s how it should be.
However, because we’ve got to look a little deeper when comparing these teams, we’ve got to look at how United came to be European champions, and it’s not as impressive as you might think.
Defensively, United were more than a little unconvincing at times, evident by the fact they needed dramatic comebacks in both the semi-final and the final, but the fact that they had the quality to fight back speaks volumes.
United’s squad in the 2007/08 final reads like a real who’s who of footballing greats. Edwin van der Sar, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidić formed one of the best defensive trios of all time and Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez weren’t half bad in attack, either.
Defensively dominant and sublime in attack, this United side overwhelmed their opponents with terrifying ease.
They’ll always be remembered as the side who needed a Loris Karius disasterclass to win the final, but the reality is this Real side were phenomenal.
They fought through PSG, Juventus and Bayern Munich en route to the final, with a squad which featured Sergio Ramos, Cristiano Ronaldo and soon-to-be Ballon d’Or winner Luka Modrić.
Just one year earlier, a very similar Real side stormed to victory in Europe, but there’s an argument to suggest that this 2016/17 was Real at their recent peak.
Modrić, Toni Kroos and Casemiro made up perhaps the finest midfield on the planet at the time, and they tore apart a Juventus side who were expected to cause Real major problems.
Alisson and Virgil van Dijk gave Liverpool an elite defence. Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino dominated in attack. On an individual level, this Liverpool side were great, but Jürgen Klopp’s tactics brought them to a new level.
Their unbelievable 4-0 win over Barcelona in the semi-final was the greatest comeback in the competition’s history, ensuring this side will never be forgotten. Ever.
Louis van Gaal’s Ajax side were the perfect blend of outstanding talent and pure entertainment. They beat the ‘best in the world’ Milan side no less than three times, and it did by playing some stunning football.
Frank Rijkaard led from midfield, allowing Seedorf, Edgar Davids, Marc Overmars and a young Patrick Kluivert to shine on the biggest stage.
What made this Ajax side most impressive was their ability to win in various different ways. They could use pace and power, intricate passing or defensive resilience – whatever was needed, they could do it.
We’re in the real crème de la crème now, and kicking things off is the Barcelona side from 2014/15.
MSN – Lionel Messi, Luis Suárez and Neymar – wreaked havoc against opponents all year long, scoring a combined 137 goals across the entirety of 2015.
When you add Marc-André ter Stegen, Gerard Piqué, Xavi and Andrés Iniesta to the mix, you’ve got one of the most terrifying teams in history.
Half of this Bayern Munich side went on to reach the 2014 World Cup final, which speaks volumes of the general level of quality in this squad.
Jupp Heynckes’ side were led by ‘Robbery’ – the wide duo of Franck Ribéry and Arjen Robben – but that was just the start of it.
Manuel Neuer, Jérôme Boateng and Philipp Lahm helped make up a sublime defence, while Bastian Schweinsteiger and Thomas Müller pulled the strings in midfield.
This side should have won the competition in 2012, but they finally got what they deserved this time around.
Pep Guardiola’s debut season with Barcelona was comfortably one of the greatest we have ever seen. Barça went on to win the treble, and they did it by completely dominating their opponents.
Messi was yet to become the focal point of Barça’s sides, so this team was all about an overall quality throughout the squad. Xavi, Iniesta and Sergio Busquets pulled the strings in midfield, and Samuel Eto’o and Thierry Henry ran riot in attack.
Some good fortune was needed to edge past Chelsea in the semi-final, but apart from that, it was utter domination from start to finish.
2008/09 Barcelona rewrote football, but 2010/11 took it to a whole new level.
To a man, this team may well be the greatest club side ever. Messi, Pedro and David Villa in attack, Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets in midfield, Eric Abidal, Pique, Javier Mascherano and Dani Alves in defence, with Victor Valdés in goal. Wow.
Their 3-1 win over Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United in the final is often described as one of the most dominant victories ever, and it was the perfect example of what this team was about.
– Liverpool won their first league title in 30 years.
– Leeds United were promoted to the Premier League for the first time in 16 years.
– Real Madrid won La Liga for the first time in three years.
– Football stopped due to the COVID-19 pandemic for the first time, well, ever.
We at the DEPR headquarters rank the 25 (yes, 25) best teams in Europe for the 30th and final time this season. And to do so we thought we’d bring out the big guns; the guns that, after firing, you look at and say ‘madonn’.
Yep, that’s right, it’s The Sopranos week.
“‘Remember when’ is the lowest form of conversation.”
For years, all Leeds United fans could bring themselves to talk about was ever fading memories of their Don Revie-led glory days. When their team were the best in England, winning league titles and FA Cups by the truckload.
Now, finally, they have something else to talk about.
For the first time in 16 years, their club are back where they belong in England’s top flight. And we at DEPR are bloody glad they are.
“In your worst dreams a duck flies off with your penis.”
In Sevilla fans’ worst dreams, Barcelona or Real Madrid fly off with Lucas Ocampos this summer.
They’ll be hoping that their qualification for the Champions League will be enough to keep hold of the talented Argentine.
“Life is putting the prozac to the test.”
The first half of the Bundesliga season was remarkable for Borussia Monchengladbach. They were locked in a three-horse race for the league title, and were absolutely blowing away every team that dared face them with their ferocious counter-attacking football.
The second half of the season was a different story. It, well…let’s just say it put the prozac to the test for Gladbach fans. BUT, while their title challenge fell apart, they did manage to sneak into the Champions League.
“In my thoughts, I use the technique of positive visualisation.”
Ok Leicester City fans, we know that the last day of the season didn’t exactly go to plan, but let’s look at the positives:
– Your club massively overachieved this season. – Jamie Vardy won the Golden Boot. – James Maddison is signing a new contract. – Big Brendy Baps has your team playing great football. – Your new kit is lovely.
“If I had any ounce of self-respect I would cut your d**k off.”
If RB Leipzig have any ounce of self-respect then they wouldn’t have tweeted about Timo Werner signing for Chelsea like a Twitter fan account called @MaestroMount8.
“Teddy Roosevelt once gave an entire speech with a bullet lodged in his chest. Some things are just a matter of duty.”
Stefano Pioli once resurrected an entire football club with a bullet lodged in his chest – a wound he’s miraculously survived.
So despite Milan all but appointing Ralf Rangnick as their manager for next season, Pioli – due to a certain 10 game unbeaten run and wins over Juventus and Lazio – will be in charge at San Siro for the 2020/21 campaign.
And he bloody deserves to be.
“Like Popeye says, I yam what I yam.”
Love them or hate them, Atletico Madrid are still just who they are:
A boring, yet effective, football team.
“Other people’s definitions of you, sometimes they’re more about making themselves feel better. You gotta define yourself.”
At the start of the 2019/20 season, every single member of the 90min editorial team tried to define Sheffield United as relegation fodder.
During the 2019/20 season, the Blades proved themselves to be a lot more than that. They defined themselves as a top half team who play arguably the most exciting football in the Premier League.
“Well, what are you gonna do?”
Well, Borussia Dortmund…what are you gonna do this summer?
Are you going to keep hold of Jadon Sancho?
Are you going to sign a defender who can actually, you know, DEFEND?
Are you going to sign more central midfield cover?
Or are you going to accept the fact that you’re only the second best team in Germany? Huh?
It’s time to show some ambition BVB. Do the right thing.
“I’m like King Midas in reverse here. Everything I touch turns to sh*t.”
In 2017, Ousmane Dembele was one of the most exciting prospects in the world. Now, he’s a bit sh*t.
In 2018, Philippe Coutinho was one of the most talented attacking players in Europe. Now, he’s a bit sh*t.
In 2018, Antoine Griezmann was one of the best footballers in the world. Now, he’s a bit sh*t.
All of the above is proof that everything Barcelona touches turns to sh*t.
“Even a broken clock is right twice a day.”
Let’s call a spade a spade, Gennaro Gattuso isn’t a particularly great manager and Napoli haven’t been particularly great since he’s taken charge.
However, every once a while, he’s able to inspire Napoli to a huge win.
The Coppa Italia final was one such win. So, you know, credit where it’s due.
“More is lost by indecision than by wrong decision.”
Manchester City underperformed this season for one simple reason: they didn’t buy a centre back last summer.
Instead of buying a centre back they trusted John Stones, who proved once again that he is completely and utterly hopeless.
“When you’re married, you’ll understand the importance of fresh produce.”
Another summer of buying a billion players and selling a trillion players led to yet another Eredivisie title for Ajax.
“You steer the ship the best way you know. Sometimes it’s smooth. Sometimes you hit the rocks. In the meantime, you find your pleasures where you can.”
Inter’s 2019/20 campaign has been a pretty interesting one.
Sometimes it’s been smooth, when Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez were firing on all cylinders and I Nerazzurri were challenging for the title.
Sometimes they hit the rocks, with defeats to Bologna.
Overall though, there’s been plenty to enjoy for Inter fans this season, and under Antonio Conte their club are certainly moving in the right direction.
“Some people are so far behind in a race that they actually believe they’re leading.”
Chelsea think that they’re absolutely smashing the transfer window so far with the signings of Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech.
Neither of those players are defenders, and that’s what the Blues are in dire need of.
“Positive vibes only.”
Had COVID not put a halt to the Serie A season, SS Lazio would probably be celebrating their first Scudetto in 20 years.
And that’s a pretty depressing though to Le Aquile fans so let’s not dwell on it. Instead, let’s dwell on the fact that your club have been absolutely outstanding this season and will probably be even better in the next.
Nine SPFL titles in a row and showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
You Bhoys…you Bhoys…I’ll tell ya…it’s beautiful stuff.
“Sometimes we’re all hypocrites.”
About eight months ago football fans took to Twitter and declared Manchester United ‘the worst team in the world’, ‘an embarrassment’ and ‘a team full of sh*tters’.
Now, football fans take to Twitter and declare Manchester United ‘the best team in the world’, ‘an amazing side’ and ‘a team full of heroes’.
Twitter is a fickle place, but at least football fans are now slightly closer to being right than they were eight months ago.
“There’s an old Italian saying: you f**k up once, you lose two teeth.”
There’s an old saying in Porto: you f**k up once, Benfica win the Primeira Liga.
So judging by the fact that Porto won the league, it’s fair to say that they didn’t put a foot wrong all season.
“You know, Tony, it’s a multiple choice thing with you. ‘Cause I can’t tell if you’re old-fashioned, you’re paranoid, or just a f**king asshole.”
It’s a multiple choice thing with Juventus.
‘Cause after they bagged their ninth consecutive Scudetto I can’t tell if they’re a great team, a boringly effective team, or just f**king sh*t.
“This ain’t negotiation time. This is Scarface, final scene, f**kin’ bazookas under each arm, ‘say hello to my little friend!'”
This summer isn’t a summer in which PSG can afford Neymar and Kylian Mbappé to force a move away from the club.
This ain’t negotiation time.
It’s UEFA Champions League mini-tournament time, when Neymar and Mbappé need to step up and deliver on the grandest stage for their current club.
This is Scarface, final scene, f**kin’ bazookas under each arm, ‘say hello to my little friend!‘ time for PSG’s two superstars.
“Someday soon, you’re gonna have families of your own and if you’re lucky, you’ll remember the little moments like this, that were good.”
For…well…ever, Atalanta have been starved of success. Seen as nothing more than a provincial club who could never, ever, hope to compete with the two European heavyweights (AC Milan and Inter) from down the road.
And then Gian Piero Gasperini took over, and things changed.
The little Bergamo club are now better than both their mega-rich neighbours – despite their Championship-sized budget – and pretty much every other team in Europe too.
“You’re only as good as your last envelope.”
There’s a strong argument to be made for Liverpool being top of the end of season Definitive European Power Rankings.
They won their first league title in three decades.
They won the FIFA Club World Cup.
They’re the current holders of the UEFA Champions League.
BUT they did choose to lift the Premier League trophy to Coldplay’s ‘Sky Full of Stars’ so for that reason – and that reason alone – they’re down in third.
“Be a leader, not a follower. Master P said that.”
Is Zinedine Zidane the best manager in the world?
The two La Liga titles, three UEFA Champions Leagues and two Club World Cups in just four years as a head coach suggest that he is.
“Just when they thought I was out, they pulled me back.”
After a fairly disastrous end to 2019, Bayern Munich made a new year’s resolution to be the best damn football team in Europe and they actually stuck to it.
Since the turn of the year, Die Roten have won 23 of 24 games, lifted the Bundesliga Meisterschale and the DFB-Pokal, and scored about a million goals (most of which were scored by Robert Lewandowski).
And it’s this form that has led to Bayern Munich being crowned the number one team in Europe by 90min’s Definitive European Power Rankings.