Blackburn Rovers’ manager Gary Bowyer recently hailed Manchester City as “probably the best team in the world at the moment” after his side’s 5-0 humbling at the hands of the Premier League giants. Throughout the season, the big-spending Sky Blues have played football reminiscent of some of the world’s greatest ever sides.
While City fans will perhaps look unfavourably on such a comparison, Manchester United’s ‘Busby Babes’ of the 1950s have also been remembered as one of the most unstoppable sides in the game’s history. City have Negredo, Aguero and Silva, but United lit up Manchester at a time when football was slowly recovering from the effects of the Second World War. Under the leadership of Sir Matt Busby, the likes of Duncan Edwards, Tommy Taylor and Eddie Colman graced the pitch at Old Trafford, until the club was rocked by the Munich Air Disaster of 1958.
Phenomenally, after their glory was curtailed (eight players died and two never played again as a result of the crash), Busby rebuilt the team and guided them to the European Cup just ten years later. United’s new look side included George Best, Denis Law, and Bobby Charlton.
More recently, pundits praised the Barcelona squad of the late 2000s as football’s best side. Renowned Spanish journalist Guillem Balague even wrote the book Pep Guardiola: Another Way of Winning on how the coach managed to construct the side that would dominate Spanish and European football for almost half a decade.
Guardiola raised eyebrows upon his arrival at the helm, as he offloaded superstars Ronaldinho and Deco and shaped the way they played around a deadly combination of Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi. Not only did Barca tear defences apart, they also won the Champions League twice and La Liga three times, much to the disdain of a certain Jose Mourinho.
In the late 1980s and early 90s, however, it was AC Milan who ruled over the continent with flair and trophies. Arrigo Sacchi may have started out as a shoe salesman, but he won back-to-back European Cups and steered i Rossoneri towards some unforgettable nights, including a 5-0 demolition of Real Madrid in the semi-final of the same cup in 1989.
Sacchi’s incredible success was then emulated by Fabio Capello. Back in his heyday, when Capello was winning cups instead of bickering with the FA, the Italian boss won three Serie A titles in a row and took the San Siro outfit to three Champions League finals, eventually winning the coveted prize in 1994.
The award for the greatest side of all time, though, must go to the relentless Redmen of Liverpool in the late 1970s. It is hard to separate the sides of manager Bob Paisley from his predecessor Bill Shankly; under the former, Liverpool triumphed in an unbelievable 20 competitions in the space of just nine years. That included six First Division titles, and ushered in the Reds’ famous European era as they lifted the European cup on three occasions.
Indeed, the Reds remained firmly on top of their perch as England’s most successful club until being displaced by Manchester United in 2011 when Sir Alex Ferguson’s men broke the record with a nineteenth domestic title.