The Greatest Functional Lines of All-Time

The Greatest Club Defensive Lines of All-Time

3. Juventus (1976 – 1981)

DL: Antonio Cabrini, DR: Antonello Cuccureddu, SW: Gaetano Scirea, ST: Claudio Gentile
Average lost goal per game in Series A : 0.67, Clean Sheet Ratio : 0.52 (78 /150)

The Juve defensive line was a foundation of Italy’s defense between the late 1970s to early 1980s as three of them were a regular member of Italy national team comprises Scirea, Gentile and Cabrini with additional Cuccureddu. Scirea-Gentile defensive partnership formed the unparalleled compatibility to stop the opponents with the integration between Scirea’s elegant style and Gentile’s aggressive manner. On the left side, Cabrini was a brilliant anticipated player with high-level understanding of the game. The defensive line was much supported by commanding of Dino Zoff. 

2. Inter Milan (1962 – 1967)

DL : Giacinto Facchetti, DR: Tarcisio Burgnich, SW: Armando Picchi, ST:  Aristide Guaneri
Average lost goal per game in Series A : 0.7, Clean Sheet Ratio : 0.48 (82 /170)

The Great Catenaccio Inter Milan Defence is considered as one of the most effective utilizing defensive strategies in history of the game led by the captain Giacinto Facchetti who had a wing-back role. The formation was inequivalent in defensive line as there was no defender on the right-flank. Hence, the three defenders packed on the central area led by Tarcisio Burgnich as an innovative sweeper to stop penetration from the opponents.

     1.    AC Milan (1988 – 1994)

DL :  Paolo Maldini, DR :  Mauro Tassotti, SW :  Franco Baresi, ST : Alessandro Costacurta
Average lost goal per game in Series A : 0.68, Clean Sheet Ratio : 0.49 (100 /204)
Record : Longest consecutive run without concede goal in Series A (929 Minutes)
             Most Clean Sheet In A Series A Single Season (22 Games)

The Great Rossoneri Defence was an incredible divisible protective system of zone press with fantastic tactical ability as a nature of Italian defending style. Most notable one of the best defenders ever Baresi and Maldini who performed intelligently and was almost called as an unsurpassable one. While Costacurta had a role to collide with the opponents, Baresi is always perfect in sweeping the ball out of dangerous area.  In equivalent between two sides, Maldini occasionally went to support the offensive game while Tassotti seldom and often stayed on his area. 

The Greatest NT Defensive Lines of All-Time

3. Italy (1997 – 2002)
DLC :  Paolo Maldini
DRC :  Fabio Cannavaro
SW :  Alessandro Nesta
Total Games Played : 32 Games
Goal Concede : 20 Goals,Clean Sheet:16 Games
Average lost goal per game : 0.625
The Tri-O Italian central defenders in the 5-3-2 system was formed with a high-experienced Maldini as the semi-left side defender and Cannavaro as the semi-right side defender while Nesta was stand as a libero. The defensive line reached its peak performance in the 2000 UEFA Euro as a most important part to help Italy almost win the title.

2. France (1996 – 2000)

DL :  Bixente Lizarazu, DR :  Lilian Thuram, SW :  Laurent Blanc, ST : Marcel Desailly

Total Games Played : 34 Games,Goal Concede : 19 Goals,Clean Sheet : 20 Games,lost goal/game Ratio : 0.56
The 1998 World Cup and 2000 UEFA Euro Champion French Defender is notable as the most important key of France national team success. The defensive line made more than 620 minutes streak without conceding a goal in 1998 including five World Cup matches. Prominently, Lilian Thuram as a right-back was rated as the best player of the French team in the 1998 World Cup and Desailly was also named in the All-Stars team as the best central defender in the tournament. 

1. Italy (1988 – 1992)

DL :  Paolo Maldini, DR : Giuseppe Bergomi, SW : Franco Baresi, ST : Riccardo Ferri

Total Games Played : 26 Games,Goal Concede: 11 Goals,Clean Sheet: 16 Games,lost goal/game Ratio :0.42
Record : The consecutive 8 games without conceding a goal
The Italian defender is the 1990 FIFA World Cup is regarded as one of the toughest defensive line to ever play the game. The defense was represented by twice AC Milan and twice Inter Milan players led by captain Giuseppe Bergomi on the semi-right flank with the best defender in the World at that time Franco Baresi and sealed with the young star Paolo Maldini who performed on the left-side including Riccardo Ferri who was playing in his peak career as a stopper. There was only one game Italy concede more than one goal during this defensive standing.

The Greatest Club Midfield Lines of All-Time

     2.    Man Utd (1998 – 2003)

DM :  Roy Keane, SMR : David Beckham, LW : Ryan Giggs, AM : Paul Scholes

The Man Utd Midfielders were formed primarily base on youth team with reinforcement by Roy Keane in the basic 4-4-2 formation with twice wingers. As a result of long time team build up by Sir Alex Ferguson, the teamwork ability with full of spirit were embedded into Man Utd’s midfielders. Several times it could return to win or draw after being led in scores. The era of great midfield was ended when Beckham moved to Real Madrid in 2003.

     1.    Barcelona (2008 – 2013)

DM :  Sergio Busquets, RW: Pedro Rodriguez, CM : Xavi Hernandez, AMLC : Andres Iniesta

The Barcelona Midfield “Tiki Taka” is refer to the glory era of Barcelona under control of Joseph Guardiola who create this style of playing which is full of effective ball possession in purpose to close opponent’s opportunities of scoring as much as possible, primarily depend on Xavi and Iniesta’s vision. This midfield is a complete formula to support Messi who made a ton of goals. As a main disadvantage, the Tiki Taka sometimes spend too long time to achieve the opportunity when the team was second to an opponent.

The Greatest NT Midfield Lines of All-Time
     4.    Brazil (1979 – 1983)

DM : Toninho, CM : Falcao , AM : Socrates, AM : Zico

The Brazilian Midfielders in 1982 World Cup is famous as one of the most classic midfield lines the World has ever seen but lack of international success. Similar to the Magic Square", The Brazilian Midfielders was formed without side-midfielder or winger and uses twice central midfielder (Toninho and Falcao) and twice attacking midfielder (Socrates and Zico) and was set in its respective advanced role. This midfield played together in only major international tournament of the 1982 World Cup only while the twice Copa America which is in the intersect period was never fulfilled as a complete reference midfield formation.  


     3.    France “The Magic Square” (1983 – 1986)

DM : Luis Fernandez, CM : Jean Tigana, AM : Alain Giresse, AM : Michel Platini

The Magic Square is refer to the French Midfielder during the mid-1980s in which was formed its positional figure as a square without any side-midfielder or winger and condensed packing in the central area. The four midfielders were set in a respective advanced role with Luis Fernandez as the deepest destroyer, Tigana as a box-to-box midfielder, Giresse as  a pure creative midfielder and Platini as a attacking midfielder/trequartista. With the skillful creative asset of all four players, France set the classic game with unlimited imagine. This midfield line is a key role for France to win 1984 UEFA Euro and finished third place in the 1986 World Cup. 

     2.    Spain “Tiki-Taka” (2009 – 2012)

DM : Xabi Alonso, CM : Xavi Hernandez, ML : Andres Iniesta, MR: David Silva

The Spanish midfield played the most important role in Spain's golden era between the late 2000s to early 2010s, achieving three major international titles in row. Most notable as Tiki-Taka style of play by which is applied from Barcelona foundation with the conversant Xavi and Iniesta and is reinforced by Xabi Alonso and David Silva. The game play was usually resulted as Spanish side dominated the ball possession in almost one way game creativity although its main philosophy of playing was not conduct to considerably support the front line to made scores. Xabi and Xavi was usually base on central midfield area and hold for Iniesta and D.Silva to go advance in the side or switch to central attacking midfield area. 

    1.    Brazil (1968 – 1972)

DM : Clodoaldo, CM : Gerson, LW : Rivelino, RW: Jairzinho

The Brazilian Midfielders in the 1970 World Cup has long been regarded as the greatest and the most classic midfield line in history of World football. The midfield has been renowned  for its superb compatible co-ordination with most attractive style of play. Even Clodoaldo is the deepest player in the midfield line, he conduct the ball with fantastic dribbling. Gerson is an anchor man who is considered as key player in creativity with his incredible passing accuracy, made twice assists and one goal in total. Rivelino had to switch his role from his natural position attacking midfielder to left-winger but still made three assists and three goals in total. Jairzinho performed the most advanced role as a right-winger, switch from forward position in club level, with his strong acceleration and considerable dribbling ability and scored seven goals. 

The Greatest Club Duo-Forwards of All-Time

3. Butragueno-Sanchez (Real Madrid 1985 – 1990)

Total Scores Record : 280 Goals/250 Games (Approximately)

Butragueno-Sanchez was a remarkable Latin Du-O forward as an important part of "La Quinta del Buitre" which is named for the legendary Real Madrid team in the 2nd half 1980s period. It is one of the best in history of European football club. Internationally, the two played together around 38 games and scored around 40 goals combined. 

2. Puskas-Kocsis (Budapest Honved 1950 – 1956)

Total Scores Record : 276 Goals/128 Games (Approximately)

Puskas-Kocsis formed the greatest partnership in the front-line during the 1st half 1950s in European football. The prolific scoring performance from them led Budapest Honved up to be one of the best club in Europe in aforementioned period but there was no continental cub competition to achieve.  

1. Pele-Coutinho (Santos 1958 – 1968)

Total Scores Record : 800 Goals/425 Games (Approximately)

Pele-Coutinho is the greatest Du-O forward in history of South American Club football. In Copa Libertadores Cup, Pele-Coutinho played together 20 games and scored 25 goals and scored total nine goals in only three intercontinental cup games. 

The Greatest NT Duo-Forwards of All-Time

5. Klinsmann-Voller (West Germany 1988 – 1994)

Total Scores Record :  27 Goals/34 Games

Klinsmann-Voller is regarded as the greatest Du-O forward in history of Germany national team. Both are typical of main striker and Klinsmann played as a deeper role and the outstanding compatibility of synchronization of switching role. The Du-o played in three international tournaments together (Euro 88, World Cup 1990 and 1994 (Euro 92 just one game)) in total 14 games with 13 goals. 

4. Zsengeller-Sarosi (Hungary 1937 – 1940)

Total Scores Record : 29 Goals/15 Games

Zsengeller-Sarosi was the most renowned international Duo-Forward in the pre-war era. It is a combination of prolific scorer. Sarosi was primary stand as the top striker but several times move himself down outside penalty area with Zsengeller as an inside-left. In the 1938 World Cup, this Hungarian couple scored 11 goals from 4 games in total as the highest ratio in history of World Cup. 

3. Bebeto-Romario (1989, 1993 – 1994, 1997 - 1998)

Total Scores Record : 34 Goals/26 Games (10 Assists)

Bebeto-Romario was the prominent forward partnership in the 1994 World Cup with 8 goals in total 7 games and twice assists from Bebeto to Romario and one assist from Romario to Bebeto. Another international tournament which the two played together is the 1989 Copa America. Aside from the 1994 World Cup, Romario asists to Bebeto three times and Bebeto assists to Romario four times.

2. Pele-Tostao (1966 – 1970)
Total Scores Record : 30 Goals/25 Games (8 Assists)

Tostao-Pele is considered as the greatest Du-O forward in Brazilian football history. They played together in major international tournament one time in the 1970 World Cup which scored totally six goals and one assist from Tostao to Pele. The 1969 saw the best performance of partnership when Pele assisted to Tostao five times and Tostao assisted to Pele twice times with total 18 goals in total 9 games. 

1. Puskas-Kocsis (1949 – 1956)

Total Scores Record : 113 Goals/55 Games

Puskas-Kocsis is generally regarded as the greatest international forward partnership of all-time. The two Hungarian performed as inside-forward and however Kocsis's role was a target man practically with Puskas as a support striker in the secondary front line, bot also played together for Budapest Honved in Hungarian League during the 1st half 1950s. In total, there is only nine games Puskas and Kocsis had no scores when they played together under the Hungarian shirt. In the 1954 World Cup, The Du-O mutually played only three games as Puskas was injury but still scored 11 goals in total.


  1. Really very informative article. Photos are just awesome. This sharing concept is a good way to enhance the knowledge pool about football. Thank you very much for this post.

    1. Thanks for the compliment. For the positional line article, I’m going to add more descriptive info.

  2. Di Stefano-Puskas must be included in The Greatest Club Duo-Forwards of All-Time.

    1. Di Stefano position get down to midfielder after 1960. That means the existed du-o forward is available just twice seasons.

  3. Hello, I think Thuram-Blanc-Desailly-Lizarazu 1997-2000 can be extended to 1996-2000 since Thuram and Lizarazu quickly found their place in the XI instead of Angloma and Di Meco at Euro '96.

  4. Rivaldo-Ronaldo?

  5. What about Zidane Vieira Makelele WC 2006 ?

    1. I need 4 players to meet the concept of functional line.

  6. WC 1974: Germany - defensive line-up: Berti Vogts - Franz Beckenbauer - Hans-Georg Schwarzenbeck - Paul Breitner
    For me (perhaps) the best 4-back-line-up of all time.