The Top 12 Best Soccer Teams of All Time

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Has it ever crossed your mind which were the greatest soccer teams that ever existed? Here are the 12 best soccer teams of all time.

I spent the last couple of days researching the absolute best soccer teams that existed. Then, I made this list and broke down exactly why they made it.

Most people can only remember recent teams like 2020 Bayern Munich, but there are teams that accomplished far more in a much tougher time period.

12. AC Milan (1988 – 1994)

AC Milan starting 11 posing for a photo. (Photo via Getty Images)

This is arguably the most powerful team in Serie A history. The team was able to clinch the European Cup (Champions League) three times: in 1989, 1990, and 1994. Led by their coach, Arrigo Sacchi, AC Milan seemed to be unstoppable.

After their dominant 5-0 thrashing against Real Madrid in the European Cup semi-finals, they seemed to be the team to beat in Europe as they went on to win back-to-back European Cups.

Downfall of AC Milan

Milan’s legendary run had to come to an end as they failed to win the European Cup final in 1995, falling to Ajax 1-0, and they didn’t make the finals again until the 2000s.

11. Brazil (1970)

Pele celebrating after winning the World Cup in Mexico City. (Photo credit to Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images)

The 1970 Brazil team dominated throughout the whole World Cup competition. Brazil collectively netted 19 goals in six games, solidifying them as one of the best international teams of all time.

Pele was the star of Brazil, and he led them to the finals in the 1970 World Cup. They beat a fierce Italian team 4-1 in the final, and we saw Carlos Alberto score the best goal of the competition in the 86th minute to put the nail in the coffin against the Italians.

Downfall of Brazil

The following World Cup, Brazil couldn’t even win their group stage as a weak Yugoslavia team was able to top them in goal difference. They faced even further disappointment after losing to the Netherlands 2-0 and then losing the third-place game against Poland 1-0.

10. West Germany (1972 – 1974)

West Germany celebrating after their hard earned win against the Netherlands. (Photo credit to Allsport/Getty Images/Hulton Archive)

The West German team was a team that was feared not because of their previous accolades but because of their players. Gerd Muller, Franz Beckenbauer, and Berti Vogts are just some of the unbelievable players on the squad. The Germans were able to win the 1972 European Championship and the 1974 World Cup.

The German side stunned the Netherlands fans after upsetting the Netherlands in a 2-1 victory. The Netherlands were the favorites since they were hosting the World Cup, and their playing style “Total Football” dominated any team that faced them before then, so no one expected West Germany to roll through such a strategic team led by Johan Cruyff.

Downfall of West Germany

Some players of the 1974 West Germany team either retired or could not play for the country. 1976 saw the German squad reach the European Championship final but sadly lose in a penalty shootout to Czechoslovakia.

The 1978 World Cup ended in tears for West Germany, as they didn’t even make it out of the group stage after Austria upset Germany, eliminating them from World Cup contention.

9. Arsenal (2004)

Arsenal celebrating their undefeated streak after winning the premier league (Photo credit to Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Arsenal absolutely dominated the Premier League in the 2003-2004 season and didn’t suffer a single loss that whole season. They finished with an 11 point advantage over Chelsea (2nd) and were led by famous manager Arsene Wenger.

They didn’t win any titles outside of the Premier League that season, as they fell short to rivals Chelsea in the Champions League quarter-finals and Manchester United in the semi-finals of the FA Cup. However, their dominant premier league run still puts them on this list.

Downfall of Arsenal

The undefeated run came to an end the following season. They accrued a total of five losses in the 2004-2005 season, and they were runners-up in the Premier League title race as Chelsea beat them by 12 points to take it home.

As a matter of fact, Arsenal haven’t won a Premier League title since their unbeaten run, but they did come close to winning it in the 2022-2023 season until Manchester City clinched the title right towards the end of the season.

8. Real Madrid (2016-2018)

The captain Sergio Ramos holding up the Champions League trophy after their third consecutive title. (Photo credit to Lluis Gene/Agence France Presse/Getty Images)

This was especially a magical time for Real Madrid, but not for their La Liga title runs but instead for their UEFA Champions League treble. After a poor start to the season by Rafael Benitez, he was quickly replaced by Zinedine Zidane and everything turned around for Madrid.

Real Madrid barely beat a strong defensive team in Atletico Madrid in the 2016 final with a penalty shootout win that ended in a 5-3 win for Madrid. They dominated against Juventus in 2017 (4-1). The third win in 2018 saw them facing Liverpool, and that’s where we saw, in my opinion, the greatest goal of all time by Gareth Bale.

Downfall of Real Madrid

Ajax faced Real Madrid in the round of 16 in the 2019 Champions League, and it looked like Real Madrid would take the win. They beat Ajax 2-1 in the first leg, and everyone favored Real Madrid after the match. Then Ajax shocked Real Madrid after dominating the second leg game with a 4-1 win. It ended with Ajax winning 6-2 and eliminating Madrid.

7. Liverpool (1983-1984)

Phil Neal breaking down the Roma defence and scoring a goal as Ian Rush celebrates. (Photo credit to David Cannon/Getty Images)

Perhaps the greatest time for Liverpool was the 1983-1984 season. Hopes were low since they lost Bob Paisley as the manager of the team and was replaced with the team’s assistant, Joe Fagan. Liverpool exceeded expectations and instead won major trophies.

What made this team special was that they were the first English team to win a treble of competitions. They dominated the League Cup in December of 1983. Then they followed it by clinching the Premier League title in May of 1984. They finally snatched the European Cup from Roma in a penalty shootout in June of 1984 to take the treble.

Downfall of Liverpool

Liverpool failed to win any of the three titles the following season. They didn’t even make it to the finals of the League Cup. They ranked 2nd in the Premier League and Everton lifted the Premier League Cup that year. Juventus ended their hopes of winning back-to-back European Cups by winning a fairly even game, only scoring in the 56th minute and ending at 1-0.

6. Barcelona (2009)

The 2009 Barcelona squad celebrating their treble. (Photo credit to INPHO/Getty Images)

This is notably a historic La Liga team. Under Pep Guardiola, Barcelona were able to secure the first ever treble by a Spanish team after winning the Champions League, La Liga, and the Copa del Rey. The most impressive win of the three is beating Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United 2-0.

Guardiola used the tiki-taka playing style created by Johan Cruyff, and he used it so strategically that he clinched the first ever sextuple as they dominated in the UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup.

Downfall of Barcelona

The following year, Barcelona only clinched the La Liga title and could not win anything else. They did bounce back and continue to win trophies until Guardiola’s time at Barcelona ended in 2012, as he wanted to take some time off due to mental fatigue. This truly marked the end of the Barcelona “Tika Taka” era and kept Barcelona in a drought for some time.

5. Real Madrid (1955-1960)

Legendary Real Madrid players posing for a photo in July 1958. (Photo credit to Popperfoto/Getty Images)

There’s actually a more powerful Madrid team than the 2016-2018 Real Madrid team, and it’s the 1955-1960 Blancos team.

Real Madrid had legendary players Ferenc Puskas and Alfredo Di Stefano at the forefront. Madrid annihilated anyone that came in their way and were able to win five European Cups in a row, lasting from 1956 to 1960.

Downfall of Real Madrid

Real Madrid’s hot streak came to a sudden end after facing rival Barcelona in the 1960-1961 European Cup tournament. Barcelona faced Real Madrid in the first round, and many people thought Madrid would win it with ease, but Barcelona fought back.

Barcelona were able to clinch a 2-1 win in the first leg and upset Madrid after beating them 4-3 on aggregate. This devastated Blancos fans and ended the five-year winning streak that Madrid held in the European Cup competition.

4. France (1998-2000)

Zidane holding the World Cup trophy after winning it all. (Photo credit to Pierre Verdy/Getty Images)

The France national team during this period was unstoppable in major international competition. France first dominated in the 1998 World Cup competition; they cruised into the final and faced a stacked Brazil team.

France had the combination of Thierry Henry and Zinedine Zidane, who both brought their own magic to the competition. Henry finished with the most goals in the competition, and Zidane scored a brace in the finals, which left the Brazil fans in heartbreak, ending 3-0.

France weren’t a one-off team, and they proved this once they reached the European Championship finals in 2000, when they faced Italy, who were actually a bad matchup for France. France still beat Italy 2-1, and they proved they were a team to be reckoned with.

Downfall of France

France shocked the whole world once they entered the 2002 World Cup. They were knocked out of the group stages, only gaining 1 point in the whole competition, which was accrued after drawing with Uruguay. France failed to score a single goal throughout the whole competition.

Even though France won the 2004 European Championship after defeating England, they faced a further hit once Zidane retired in 2006 after the infamous headbutt in the 2006 World Cup final against Italy.

3. Spain (2008-2012)

David Villa celebrating after scoring against Portugal in the 2010 World Cup quarter finals. (Photo credit to Oliver Weiken/EPA)

Many people agree that this is the greatest international team of all time, and they wouldn’t be wrong for thinking so. After failing to win a major championship for 40 years, Spain was able to turn everything around in 2008.

Spain proved they were a skilled team after beating a technical German team in the 2008 European Championship final, who were known for their defensive prowess. Everyone’s heads turned at the 2010 World Cup.

The Netherlands were facing Spain, and the game was even until John Heitinga, a Netherlands player, was issued a red card at the 109th minute in extra time. Iniesta took advantage of them being down 10 players and hit a 116th-minute goal to lead Spain to the World Cup.

Spain thrashed Italy 4-0 in the European Championship in 2012. This only solidified them as arguably the greatest international team of all time.

Downfall of Spain

Spain fell in the group stages of the 2014 World Cup. Spain were thought to make it to the finals once again, facing Germany once more, whom they beat in 2008, but a loss to Chile and the Netherlands stopped them from getting there. Spain went on to also lose in the round of 16 against Italy in the 2016 Euros and haven’t won a major title since 2012.

2. Bayern Munich (1973-1974)

Gerd Muller celebrating after winning the European Cup. (Photo credit to Colorsport/Corbis)

This Munich team set the bar for all the Bayern Munich teams that came after due to their sheer power over other teams that year.

Munich were able to take the Bundesliga title after winning it by just a mere 1 point, but they showed superiority when they won the European Cup later on that season. They faced Atletico Madrid, which ended 1-1 the first time they played but the game was replayed. Munich came back with a mission to humiliate Madrid, and they bested them 4-0.

Downfall of Bayern Munich

Munich fell down and finished the Bundesliga in 10th place the following season, but the biggest heartbreak came at the 1976-1977 European Cup, where they were knocked out in the quarter-finals by Dynamo Kyiv, which ended their three-year back-to-back European Cup wins.

1. Manchester United (1999)

Manchester United players celebrating the win and making history. (Photo credit to Matthew Ashton/Getty Images)

United made history in the 1998-1999 season while being managed by the greatest manager of all time, Alex Ferguson. United were able to steal the Premier League title from Arsenal, as Ferguson ended the season with 79 points and Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal ended up with 78 points. United also won the FA Cup soon after beating Newcastle 2-0.

The biggest success for this team came in the European Cup, where they faced Bayern Munich. A goal in the 6th minute by Munich surprised United fans. The game stayed 1-0 all the way until stoppage time, where already many United fans had left. United had a miraculous comeback, which clutched the game for them.

The first goal was a shot attempt by Ryan Giggs, who practically passed it to Sheringham, who scored the first goal. The second goal was created from a corner kick after Beckingham crossed it to Sheringham. He headed the ball to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who scored the game-winning goal. Both goal scorers were substituted in and scored after 90+ minutes.

Downfall of United 

United could not reach the European Cup final the following year; instead, they watched Spanish teams Villareal and Real Madrid battle it out, even though they beat Villareal in the group stage standings.

They weren’t able to clinch the FA Cup either. United didn’t really face any major downfalls when Ferguson was manager, but once he retired and stepped away in May of 2013, the team fell apart. He retired, leading United to a Premier League title, but the following season they dropped to 7th place. This marked the end of the Ferguson dynasty at United.

Final Whistle

There are many soccer teams on this list that you probably didn’t know dominated at one point in time, but these teams highlighted what it meant to have great skills along with great chemistry and what kinds of major trophies that could lead to. Check out our guide on how long a soccer game is

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AUTHOR

Hi, This is Daniel's Sports Blog. I have been a Sports Fan for as long as I can remember and have grown up watching all types of sports including Basketball, Soccer, Football, Wrestling (WWE specifically), amongst many more! I have not only been watching sports but I have also been competing in a range of sports and I bring my skills and experiences to writing this blog so I can help other sports fanatics understand and appreciate the art of sports.

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