Ronaldo, Pele, Maradona: The greatest international football XI of all time

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International football is practically a sport of its own.

International legends

Certain players raise their game to new heights whenever they're pulling on their nation's colours, channelling their patriotism to outdo the club displays that earned them a cap in the first place.

And with Euro 2020 and 2021 Copa America in full swing this summer, it only feels inevitable that particular footballers will catch the eye by way of shining when their country depended on them.

As such, here at GIVEMESPORT, we decided to take on the monumental task of compiling the greatest XI in football history if it was based on international football and international football alone.

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It's a lot more difficult than you'd imagine, but after combing through the record books, we believe that we've come to the right solution - and the final selection is full to the brim with sporting icons.

With club football flushed out the back of our minds, we've made our choices based on international records and major tournament performances with a particular emphasis on the World Cup itself.

And yes, for the sake of packing the team with legends, we're not going to get hung up on making sure that the positions and balance of the XI are tactically watertight.

Greatest international XI

Anyhow, housekeeping and disclaimers aside, be sure to check out what we consider to be the greatest international football XI that the beautiful game has ever seen:

GK: Iker Casillas (Spain)

It was tough to leave out the likes of Dino Zoff, Lev Yashin and Gianluigi Buffon, but it doesn't get much better than captaining your country to the World Cup and two Euros trophies in four years.


DF: Carlos Alberto (Brazil)

The captain of arguably the greatest football team ever seen and the scorer of potentially the finest ever World Cup final goal. Alberto is a living legend when it comes to the international game.

DF: Franz Beckenbauer (West Germany)

Do we even need to justify picking 'Der Kaiser'? A World Cup and Euros winner in the space of just two years, Beckenbauer is probably the greatest defender that international football has ever seen.


DF: Daniel Passarella (Argentina)

Not only did Passarella win two World Cups in eight years with Argentina, captaining them to the former, but he also boasts a breath-taking record of 22 goals in 70 caps from defence.

MF: Garrincha (Brazil)

With two World Cup winners' medal as well as a Golden Boot and Golden Ball in the competition, Garrincha's achievements for Brazil are amongst the greatest ever seen in the international game.


MF: Lothar Matthaus (West Germany/Germany)

Let it sink in for a second that Matthaus played in three consecutive World Cup finals and bagged a Euros winners' medal to boot. When it comes to the international game, he's almost untouchable.

MF: Michel Platini (France)

Forty-one goals in 72 caps is a mind-bending return for a midfielder, but it's Platini's historic haul of nine strikes in just five games(!!!) to steer France to Euro 1984 glory that earns him the selection.


MF: Diego Maradona (Argentina)

However, there is one individual tournament display that can even tops Platini because Maradona captaining Argentina to the 1986 World Cup was history-making enough to bag himself a spot.

FW: Pele (Brazil)

It's as simple as this: Pele is the only player in history to win three World Cups. Oh, and he just happens to be one of the greatest footballers of all time and Brazil's all-time record goalscorer.


FW: Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)

How could we possibly leave out a five-time Ballon d'Or winner on the verge of becoming the greatest international goalscorer of all time? That's what I thought.

FW: Miroslav Klose (Germany)

It just wouldn't be the greatest international XI of all time if we didn't include the greatest goalscorer in World Cup history with Klose bagging 15 strikes and one trophy across four tournaments.


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No place for Messi

Sorry, Lionel Messi, but when it comes to international football, we simply can't include someone who has never won a major honour with all three starters getting their hands on silverware.

Nevertheless, it's a credit to the unbelievable talent in the line-up that it probably wouldn't need Messi to hoover up the World Cup, Euros and Copa America if they were all playing in their prime.

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Besides, just about every opposition team imaginable would be throwing in the towel as soon as they saw a teamsheet that included Pele, Maradona and Ronaldo...

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