Lists

The Best Footballers in the World… in 1966. Who comes top?

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10. Silvio Marzolini (Boca Juniors and Argentina)

The only South American in the World Cup all-star team, Silvio Marzolini is arguably the best Argentinian left-back of all-time. At 26, he looked elegant even when he was tackling and loved to run with the ball – he rarely overran it either, instinctively sensing when the right pass was on. In 1966, he was slightly better than Inter and Italy legend Giacinto Facchetti and might be more highly rated if he hadn’t rejected lucrative offers to stay at his beloved Boca Juniors.

9. Helmut Haller (Bologna and West Germany)

Bologna’s Helmut Haller had moved to Serie A before the introduction of the Bundesliga and its consequent economic miracle for previously impoverished German players. He scored six during the World Cup, including the opening goal in the final. Effective, combative and histrionic when tackled, Haller inspired some to say that he’d learned to play football at Bologna and done the rest of his training at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts.

8. Ferenc Bene (Ujpesti Dozsa and Hungary)

Bene is now largely forgotten outside Hungary but he was a brilliant individualist, versatile enough to play anywhere up front. He scored four goals at the World Cup, and during Hungary’s 3-1 victory against Brazil (champions of 1958 and 1962) he and Florian Albert played some of the finest head tennis in the history of the game.

7. Gordon Banks (Leicester City and England)

As deserving of a place in the top 10 is Gordon Banks, whose nickname ‘Banks of England’ is a poignant reminder of an age when we implicitly trusted the banking system – and English goalkeepers. Banks’ impressive form at the 1966 World Cup is all the more remarkable considering the fact he'd missed the first nine games of the season after breaking his wrist while diving at a Northampton player’s feet during a friendly.   

6. Mario Coluna (Benfica and Portugal)

Portugal captain Mario Colunagwas only 13th in the voting for the Ballon d’Or. Yet, blessed with enormous strategic intelligence, Coluna was as influential, at inside-left and left-half, for Portugal and Benfica as his fellow Mozambican, Eusebio.

5. Florian Albert (Ferencvaros and Hungary)

Hungarian centre-forward Florian Albert was blessed – or cursed – with exceptional game intelligence, as he never tired of telling his coaches. Deadly in the air and lethal on the ground, he won a standing ovation at Goodison Park for a dazzling performance in Hungary’s 3-1 win over Brazil. Selected as a striker in the World Cup all-star team, Albert was also joint-top scorer in the 1965/66 European Cup.

4. Bobby Moore (West Ham United and England)


England’s World Cup-winning captain has been so lionised it’s hard to see the player behind the legend. Yet as astute an observer as Matt Busby marvelled at his game intelligence: “He could see where the game was heading when the ball was 80 yards away – it cannot be explained unless clairvoyance has something to do with it.”


3. Franz Beckenbauer (Bayern Munich and West Germany)

Elegant, adroit and with a composure that belied his age – he was only 20 when he scored his first World Cup goal, against Switzerland – Franz Beckenbauer was voted the best young player of the tournament. Almost as inspired in attack as defence, he single-handedly changed the tactics of German football, establishing a longstanding national preference for a libero - although few were as imperious as the Kaiser.

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