Welcome back to another Ultimate XI, today we are going to be looking at players who stuck to one club throughout their whole career.
This is a feat that is very rarely achieved in the modern day, with lucrative contracts ten a penny. But this XI is filled with stalwarts who have left a mark on their club.
Let’s get into it!
GOALKEEPER- Lev Yashin
We start with a player widely regarded as one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time, ‘the black spider’ spent 20 years at Dynamo Moscow between 1950 and 1970, making over 300 appearances for the Belo-golubye.
He is the only goalkeeper to have ever won the Ballon D’or, won five league titles, an Olympic gold medal and a European Championship with the Soviet Union. In 2000 he was recognised as the FIFA Goalkeeper of the century, so he was a clear choice for this XI.
He also had a short career in Ice Hockey (also playing as a goalkeeper), so he was clearly good at protecting goals!
LEFT BACK- Giacinto Facchetti
Facchetti is the first of a very impressive back line in this XI, and starts a trend of Manchester/Milan that is very prevalent in the side.
He made just shy of 500 appearances for Inter Milan in the 60’s and 70’s, winning four Serie A titles and two European cups with the Nerazzurri.
As a player he was a pacy attacking full back but his intelligence allowed him to contribute in every phase of the game. He was the runner up in the 1965 Ballon D’or, but the highlight of his career was when he captained Italy to their first ever European Championship title on home soil in 1968.
CENTRE BACK- Franco Baresi
We stay in Milan, and choosing three centre backs was going to be the most difficult part of this XI. The fact that AC Milan retired the number 6 shirt following Baresi’s retirement shows just how much he contributed to the Rossoneri.
He made 531 appearances for Milan between 1977 and 1997, captaining the club for 15 of those seasons. Although he was small in stature, his immense reading of the game made him a perfect centre back and his trophy cabinet backs this up.
He won six Serie A titles, three Champions Leagues, A World Cup and he was the runner up in the 1989 Ballon D’or. In 1999 he was named the AC Milan player of the century, which is quite a feat considering they were one of the most successful clubs of the century…
CENTRE BACK- Paolo Maldini
The Milan hat trick is complete!
Most of my readers will know all about Paolo Maldini, the Italian beats the likes of Jamie Carragher and Carles Puyol into this XI, but his inclusion is richly deserved.
Maldini is widely regarded as one of the greatest defenders of all time, and he served Milan for 25 years, making 647 appearances, winning no less than 25 trophies.
He never got his hands on an international trophy, but as far as club football goes, won the lot, including five Champions League titles. His physique and natural ability meant he could play centre back or left back, so he needed to be in this XI.
CENTRE BACK- Billy McNeill
This Celtic legend won 31 major trophies for his home town club and he captained Celtic’s famous ‘Lisbon Lions’ team.
After making his debut in 1957, McNeill spent 18 years with the Bhoys, and he later served them as a manager in two separate spells, the true definition of a one club man.
In 2015, Celtic erected a statue of McNeill with the European Cup that he won in 1967. The fact that he was the spearhead of the first British club to win the European Cup means that he is the best fit for this XI.
RIGHT BACK- Gary Neville
Our first player from an English club! Gary Neville made over 600 appearances for Man United.
You may have seen him in my blog two days ago, so I will not go over the same stuff. He was arguably the least talented of the famed ‘class of 92’, but he got the most out of his talent with sheer hard work and dedication.
He won every domestic trophy there is to win, and two Champions League titles. While he may not work in this typically modern position of right wing back, he needed to be in this XI.
CENTRAL MIDFIELD- Ryan Giggs
Another Man United legend, Giggs is probably the most coveted ‘One Club Man’ in English football. He won an obscene 13 Premier League titles with Man United between 1990 and 2014.
Known for his wonderful crossing ability and pace, Giggs was one of the leading players in English football in the late nineties and early noughties. But his ability later in his career to adapt and to play in central midfield and still affect the game as much as ever meant he was still key for Sir Alex Ferguson even once he’d lost his athleticism.
Man United have never won a Premier League title without Giggs in their squad, so he simply had to be in this XI. Maybe his off the field antics took a little bit away from his legendary status, but for purely football, he is right up there with some of the best.
CENTRAL MIDFIELD- Paul Scholes
Completing my midfield pivot is Paul Scholes, the third member of the class of 92 to be in this list.
Paul Scholes was a wonderful footballer, and the fact that he has over 100 Premier League goals from midfield shows just this. His passing was second to none and Manchester United were at their best when Scholes was at his best.
His career with England is much talked about as a failure, but when speaking strictly about club football, Scholes was as good as there has ever been.
ATTACKING MIDFIELD- Francesco Totti
L’Ottavo Re di Roma or ‘the Eighth king of Rome’, Francesco Totti dedicated his entire career to Roma. While a lot of the players in this list spent most of their careers winning every trophy there is to win, Totti only ever won one solitary Serie A title, so his reasons for staying were a lot more than success.
He could play anywhere across the front line as his impressive attributes made him a valuable asset in any position. He was the leading assist maker in the 2006 World Cup, and he was a major part of Italy’s success in Germany.
Totti once said “I have cheated on all of my girlfriends, but I never cheated on Roma, and I never will”. Marvellous.
Pepe is as close to Pelé as you could ever be, only one letter separates their name but the comparison goes a lot further.
Jose Macia (known as Pepe) made his debut for Santos in 1954 and his career with the Brazilian club spanned over 15 years. His goal record was mightily impressive, as he scored 405 goals in his 750 appearances for the club.
He also had two World Cup winners medals, from 1958 and 1962 respectively. He described himself as “the greatest human striker in the history of Santos, because Pelé was from Saturn.” So he clearly believed in himself!
STRIKER- Piet Keizer
From Pele’s understudy, to Johan Cruyff’s, Keizer was an integral part of the Ajax side famed for their ‘Total Football’.
Typically a left winger, Keizer played 490 official matches for Ajax and scored in excess of 100 goals. He has six Eredivisie titles to his name, along with three European Cups, he also has a World Cup runners up medal from 1974.
He is often referred to as one of the greatest players in Dutch history, without Keizer there would have been no Cruyff.
That’s all for today’s blog!
Would you have included anyone else?