Eusebio: Perfect XI

Portugal and Benfica striking legend Eusebio picks the greatest XI in his era, and finds room for a couple of Englishmen.

Goalkeeper
Lev Yashin

He was the best there was. He was considered the best keeper of all time and I still think he’s the best there has 
ever been. He had everything that 
a goalkeeper needs. There’s nobody 
as good now. He had great reflexes, 
was agile, tall and could stop shots from 
any angle or distance.
 
Right-back
Djalma Santos
Djalma was a great player. He had 
very good positioning. He was good defensively and could tackle very well, but he knew how to play and use the 
ball too. He could do it all – and he won World Cups with Brazil.
 
Centre-back
Franz Beckenbauer
Shall I put him in defence or midfield? 
He could play in either position. I’ve 
got plenty of midfielders so I’ll put 
him at centre-half. He had versatility, suppleness, read the game very well, knew how to play, and could get forward and score goals too.
 
Centre-back
Germano
Germano was a Portuguese player 
who played for Benfica with me. He 
was quick, commanding and we won 
two European Cups with him in defence. I’m picking the players I know best and 
I was very glad to have him on the same side as me rather than against me.
 
Left-back
Karl-Heinz Schnellinger
‘Schlinger’, the German who played in Italy for Milan. He was like a tank, up and down the wing, solid, strong in defence and good going forward, too. Difficult to play against.
 
Right wing
Stanley Matthews
Matthews was a brilliant dribbler. He was already getting quite old but still playing well when I was coming through. When he was at his best age, he was brilliant and I always enjoyed seeing 
him play because he was so exciting to watch and almost impossible for defenders to stop.
 
Central midfield
Didi
Didi in the middle - the Brazilian. He was in charge. He was a maestro. He could pass the ball about and put it wherever he wanted. He had very good positioning and he scored quite a few goals, too.
 
Central midfield
Bobby Charlton
Charlton, as we all know, covered the whole pitch. Played on the left, on the right, in the middle. He never stopped running and he had a very powerful 
shot and scored a lot of great goals. 
I have many more good than bad memories from my career, but some 
of the bad memories come from when 
I crossed paths with Bobby Charlton. 
It was Bobby Charlton who spoiled 
my day in the World Cup semi-final of 1966 and later the European Cup final 
of ’68, but I’ve forgiven him and we 
are still good friends now. He’s a real English gentleman.
 
Left wing
George Best
Quick and intelligent. There are no players like him now and never will 
be. He’s the newest and youngest in 
my team. He had fantastic skill and imagination, was quick and was a great dribbler too.
 
Striker
Pele
Phenomenal. Pele was born to play with a football and he was already doing that 
a lot from the age of 14. He was simply 
a natural who could do just about everything better than anyone else. 
Skill, speed, power – he had everything. He won World Cups, scored record numbers of goals. What more could 
you ask for? And he’s also my very 
good friend.
 
Striker
Alfredo di Stefano
The best. Tall, quick, agile, energetic, skilful, a great finisher. Great with his feet and his head. So I’ll put him next to Pele. Who could stop these two together?
 
Manager
Bela Guttman
For me he was a very good coach, 
tactically and motivationally. I won 
the European Cup with him. I have particularly fond memories of Benfica’s 5-3 win against Real Madrid in the European Cup final of 1962. So that’s reason enough for me to have him. 
He’s the best I ever played for.
 
Substitutes 
There’s Francisco Gento and Ferenc Puskas. I wouldn't pick myself. There 
are too many other great players to choose from. We’re all great friends. I’m very good friends with Bobby Charlton, Beckenbauer, Pele, Rivera, 
di Stefano, Gento – they’re all part of the group of the world’s best ever players. We’re all in the same circle and I’m very happy to have them as friends. We still make a good team together, off the pitch at least, and enjoy meeting up whenever we can.
 
Interview: Victor Vago. From the April 2004 edition of FourFourTwo.


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