The Best Footballers in the World… in 1966. Who comes top?
2. Eusebio (Benfica and Portugal), 1. Bobby Charlton (Manchester United and England)
Who was the world’s best footballer in 1966? The obvious candidates were great rivals and good friends, Bobby Charlton and Eusebio, famed almost as much for their integrity as their conspicuous genius. They shared, too, certain pathos. As a survivor of the Munich air disaster, it was easy to understand why Charlton might look haunted. The source of what Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano called Eusebio’s “sad eyes” remains more of a mystery.
As the creative linchpin of Sir Alf Ramsey’s World Cup winners, Charlton was probably the most influential player in that tournament, even though Eusebio, who scored nine goals as Portugal reached the semi-final, won the Golden Boot.
Neither player was perfect: at his best a player of fearful drive and marksmanship, Charlton sometimes struck passes which awed crowds but didn’t change the game. Eusebio ran in zigzags and scored goals from absurd angles but didn’t really like mixing it. During the 1966 semi-final against England, Portugal skipper Mario Coluna shook his fist angrily at his team-mate who hung back out of harm’s way.
Yet with Pele sidelined by injury, they were the best in the world in 1966: Charlton was voted European Footballer of the Year with 81 points, one ahead of Eusebio, the 1965 winner.
So if FourFourTwo had existed in 1966, its top 100 would almost certainly have started with Charlton, followed by Eusebio.