Top Contenders: The Best Football Teams of All Time

A lot of teams can make the list, but some teams stand tall above all the others.

Top Contenders: The Best Football Teams of All Time
Kaylan Geekie

Written by: Kaylan Geekie

(Sports Writer)

Reviewed by: Louis Hobbs

(Senior Sports Writer)

Last updated: 2024-03-29

8 minutes read

The top contenders for the best football teams of all time are many and varied. 

There are the great international teams versus the star-studded club teams from Europe and South America. Is a team’s success based on silverware or their style: how did they play? Were they exciting, did they revolutionise the “Beautiful Game”?

The contenders for the best football team of all time are a never-ending debate that always boils down to trophies won, but some of the greatest teams won little to nothing.

Historically, successful teams are lauded as the best football teams of all time because of their manager's visionary tactics, style of play, or even the generational talent assembled at one time.

At SportsBoom, we have compiled the contenders for the best football team ever. However, the intangibles of the game will also decide the outcome.

We will assess the style and legacy created by some of the best football teams to ever set foot on a football pitch. 

The Best Football Team of All Time

Brazil: The Reigning Champions

Some teams win it all, while others fall short of glory. Brazil is the most successful international team of all time.

The “Selecao Canarinha” have five FIFA World Cup titles and nine Copa America championships, among other lesser or discontinued international tournament titles.

Brazil's arch-rivals Argentina, however, have lifted the men's World Cup four times and the Copa America a tied record of 15 (with Uruguay).

The Selecao have one more world title but are six behind La Albiceleste in South American continental titles.

Both teams are contenders for the best football team of all time, but Brazil keeps an upper hand over Argentina due to the extra World Cup title.

Between 1994 and 2004, Brazil played in three successive World Cup finals, winning the 1994 and 2002 tournaments.

Success continued during this decade of international dominance as Brazil won the Copa America three times, losing one final. 

Image Credits: LogoWik

Image Credits: LogoWik

Spain: From Underachievers to Champions

Spain was regarded as Europe's biggest underachiever in international football because they had never done well at World Cups or European Championships.

Before 2008, Spain had only made one international tournament final, losing to France in the 1984 European Championship.

However, success followed when “La Furia Roja” became the first team ever to win three consecutive international tournaments; the 2008 and 2012 European Championships and the 2010 FIFA World Cup. 

Image Credits: LogoWik

Image Credits: LogoWik

The Netherlands: The Pioneers of Total Football

The Netherlands are the only team without a trophy included in this debate. The Dutch side of the '70s is universally regarded as one of the greatest football teams of all time.

Holland lost back-to-back World Cup finals to the tournament's host nations in 1974 and 1978.

Revolutionary manager Rinus Michels and the great Johan Cruyff were the principal architects of "Total Football" for Holland and Ajax.

Michels and Cruyff also teamed up in Barcelona, changing the Catalan club forever, which paved the way for Pep Guardiola and Lionel Messi forty years later.

Despite Michels' innovative football, Holland lost the 1974 World Cup final to West Germany. In 1978, and without Michels or Cruyff, Holland lost to Argentina in the final.

For context to the defeats, West Germany and Argentina are two of the most decorated teams in international football history, with seven combined World Cup titles.

Cruyff was the best player in the world, winning the Ballon d'Or three times in four years playing for the Netherlands and Ajax.

Image Credits: UEFA

Image Credits: UEFA

Real Madrid: The Kings of European Football

Real Madrid is the most decorated team in the history of European football.

“Los Blancos” have won the most UEFA European Cup and Champions League titles (14) apart from maintaining a joint-record five UEFA Super Cups.

The Spanish club also holds a record eight FIFA World Club World Championships.

Madrid have won three European Cups and Champions Leagues in a row (1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960 & 2016, 2017, 2018) twice.

This is a phenomenal record, making Real Madrid the best European club team of all time at the time of writing.

Image Credits: LogoWik

Image Credits: LogoWik

FC Barcelona: The Tiki-Taka Revolution

FC Barcelona, under Guardiola, changed football forever with their revolutionary “tiki-taka” style of play.

The Catalans won 14 major honours in four years, including four La Liga titles in a row, two Champions League titles, and two FIFA Club World Cups.

Between 2008 and 2019, Lionel Messi won the Ballon d'Or six times.

He propelled Barcelona to eight La Liga titles, three Champions League, Club World Cups and European Super Cup triumphs, and six Copa del Rey and Spanish Super Cups.

Messi cemented his greatness during those 10 years, racking up records and goals with every piece of club silverware available.

The South American maestro served under several managers during that decade of glory.

However, it was under Guardiola that he and Barcelona etched their name in history as contenders for the best football team ever.

Image Credits: LogoWik

Image Credits: LogoWik

Ajax Amsterdam: The Dutch Powerhouse

Ajax Amsterdam is Holland's most decorated club, winning the most silverware in the country.

Between 1969 and 1973, Ajax won three Eredivisie titles, three European Cups on the bounce, three KNVB Cups and one European Super Cup.

Ajax is one of four teams to win three European Cup/Champions League titles in a row. Real Madrid (twice) and Bayern Munich have also achieved this feat.

Image Credits: Johan Cruijff ArenA

Image Credits: Johan Cruijff ArenA

Liverpool Football Club: The Best UK Football Team

Liverpool Football Club has a long and storied history as one of the greatest football clubs in the world. They are England’s most successful club and the best football team in the UK.

Like Barcelona and Ajax, Liverpool dominated European football multiple times in different eras. They were also dominant at home, in the English Premier League.

Thanks to the Reds' much-lauded and famous “Boot Room”, they dominated domestic and continental football for two decades.

From 1972 to 1991, Liverpool won 11 English First Division titles, four European Cups, two UEFA Cups, four FA Cups and League Cups, and one UEFA Super Cup.

Bob Paisley, Liverpool's most successful manager, led the Reds to 20 major honours.

Liverpool won everything, including five league titles, three European Cups, three League Cups, and one UEFA Super Cup between 1975 and 1982.

Paisley became the first – and only – UK manager to win three European Cups

The Redmen are the only European club to win a rare treble of different UEFA competitions.

The Anfield side won the UEFA Cup in 1976 before winning back-to-back European Cups in 1977 and 1978.

Although Celtic and Rangers are the most decorated clubs in the British and Irish Isles, they play in a weak Scottish Premiership, and both scoop all the silverware every season.

Liverpool (19) is second to Manchester United (20) top-flight league championships.

The Merseyside club (13) has more total European trophies than United (6), including winning three more Champions League trophies (6) than the Manchester club (3).

This firmly establishes Liverpool as the best UK football team of all time.

Image Credits: LogoWik

Image Credits: LogoWik

FC Bayern Munich

FC Bayern Munich is Germany's most successful football club.

Bayern has had success through every decade since the 1970s, winning everything on offer in world football.

Between 1971 and 1976, Bayern Munich clinched three Bundesliga championships, three European Cups, a German Cup, and an Intercontinental Cup.

All these triumphs lead to the undeniable claim that Bayern Munich is one of the best football teams ever.

Image Credits: allianz-arena

Image Credits: allianz-arena

Best Football Team Ever

All the Beautiful Game's supporters will have their favourite football team of all time.

Brazil is the best international football team of all time because they have won five FIFA World Cups, which is currently the most.

The best football club of all time is Real Madrid, their 14 European Cups/Champions League titles are double that of the next best AC Milan at 7.

The best football team ever to not win a World Cup is the Netherlands. Their style of play revolutionised football for Holland, Ajax, and Barcelona.

Total Football inspired managers throughout the decades to play exciting possession-based football.

Ajax, Bayern Munich, Manchester City, Arsenal, Bayer Leverkusen, and Liverpool all employ a version of this tactical revolution inspired by Michels and Cruyff.

Each of these teams' legacies will stand the test of time. Innovation, style, quality, and success are in these teams' DNA.

Although some have been more successful than others, there is no way to separate them because the tangibles and intangibles are more nuanced and varied than simply counting silverware.

For the latest news and exclusive interviews in the world of football stay connected with Sportsboom.com.

Kaylan Geekie

Kaylan Geekie

Kaylan Geekie is a sports fanatic. He attended Durban High School before moving to Scotland, where he lived for 15 years. During his time in the United Kingdom, Kaylan graduated with a first-class BA Honours Degree in Sports Journalism at the University of the West of Scotland.

Kaylan worked for nine years as the Match-Day Editor of SuperXV.com, reporting on Super Rugby, The Rugby Championship, the 2015 Men's Rugby World Cup and the 2017 British & Irish Lions series for the website.

Kaylan previously held the position of Digital Editor at Scrum Magazine, covering club rugby through to Scotland's national men's and women's teams, Glasgow Warriors, and Edinburgh Rugby.

Kaylan reported for Cricket Scotland, covering the men's and women's international sides. Kaylan covered several international tournaments, including the ICC 2014 Cricket World Cup Qualifiers, the 2015 ICC Men's CWC and the 2015 ICC T20 World Cup Qualifiers.

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