What if someone genuinely told you that the greatest team of all time did not feature either of Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi? In football, no two words go hand in hand with the term ‘elite’ quite like Real Madrid. It is arguably the most successful clubs of all time, winning every Championship under the Sun multiple times. Real Madrid has 13 UEFA Champions Leagues and 33 La Liga trophies. No other club is very close to achieving those numbers. It has been home to the greatest players on the planet more times and one and hence, the number of trophies is rather ridiculous. Nothing less from a club where the title literally means Royal Football Club. They certainly do the ‘Royal’ bit justice, frequently making headlines for a lot of the most expensive and iconic transfers in history(Aside from the trophy cabinet).
Just like every other great club, Real Madrid has quite a rich history and that is not just in the literal sense. After winning the La Liga in 1932-33, they had a long drought. The trophies barely came in the next 20 years. Santiago Bernabeu became president in 1945 and slowly but surely, Madrid saw victory to a jaw-dropping extent. The reason was the Real Madrid team that was built starting from the mid-50s to the early 60s.
The agenda changed to buying players from abroad and a lot of big signings took place. Alfredo Di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas were the two headliners, known today as some of the greatest athletes to ever grace the sport. This period was around the time they signed Spanish all-time great, Francisco Gento. That combo was enough to make the opponents shake in their boots. On top of that, you had crucial signings like Santamaria and Raymond Kopa. They also had Miguel Munoz, the man who would go on to find glory as an incredible manager right after retirement as a player.
The Hungarian was a goal-scoring machine. He was incredibly powerful and a fantastic finisher. His stamina was brilliant. His level of physicality is something that is unheard of. He joined Real Madrid at the age of 31 and scored goals like it was nothing. He scored 242 goals in 262 matches. He became such an icon for goal scoring that one of the most prestigious awards in football is named after him. The man who scores the best goal of the season wins the Puskas award and given the level of player he was, the title is very appropriate.
Gento is one of the best Spanish players of all time and he was fantastic on the wing. He boasted unseen levels of speed and technique, able to go past defenders like it was child’s play. He was speed merchant with the skill which would make him a brilliant and timeless asset. It’s no surprise to think that to date, Gento has not only the most La Liga titles with 12 but also the most Champions League Titles (European Cups) with 6.
Alfredo Di Stefano:
The Argentine-Spanish maestro is simply one of the greatest footballers to ever live. Even greats like Michel Platini, Eusebio and Fontaine considered him to be a complete player with the greatness that went past the charts. Di Stefano was agile and had a bizarre level of foresight. He step-overs and side breakers into his dribbling that made him unbeatable and most importantly, those skill moves were never at the cost of the big picture. They always had a purpose beyond just looking flashy. The Super Ballon D’or player could read the plays like they were rehearsed to perfection. As a result, he racked up not only the Super Ballon D’or and 2 Ballon d'Or's but also 5 UCL’s and 8 Spanish League titles.
As said earlier, this team won every piece of silverware that was attainable. They won multiple La Liga’s and a Copa Del Rey title in 1961-62. But most importantly and historically, it won the Champions League (European Cup) 5 times in a row. Only 4 other teams have won the trophy 5 times or more, let alone, consecutively. An incredible record that is still standing untested despite, Real Madrid getting close to eclipsing it in the Cristiano Ronaldo era, winning the UCL 3 times in a row.
Of course, the greatest team will have some competition. In the modern era, Barcelona’s squad in the early 2010’s is definitely a competitor with Leo Messi at the helm along with greats like Iniesta, Xavi, and Carles Puyol, managed by Pep Guardiola. There’s the current Manchester City to consider with incredible players like Kevin De Brune, Bernardo Silva, David Silva, Raheem Sterling, and Ederson, but it has to win the UCL to be a better contender. 1970’s Ajax is another great contender with Johan Cruyff at the helm and Keizer also putting his imprint on the game. Inter Milan’s treble-winning squad could an underrated contender with the likes of Esteban Cambiasso and Wesley Sneijder winning the treble in 2010. Of course, there’s the Gullit- era AC Milan as well that lifted 3 UCL trophies in the late 80’s and early/mid- 90’s.
While there may be counter-arguments about how the competition wasn’t incredible for Real Madrid in that time period, it may simply be the case that they practically made the competition look that way. Even if it is the case of the competition being not as strong, becoming European Champions 5 times in a row take something ungodly. They truly had the greatest team. Whether it came to individual players or playing as a collective, there seem to have been no shortcomings. You do not have the chore of separating the individual and the team performances because both were mutually inclusive. Sure there were stand out players but they played in such a way that their individuality was in harmony with the rest of the team and the result was eternal glory.