Now in its fourth year, an annual BTLM tradition sees us dedicate our final post of the year to a Deceased Eleven; a fantasy line-up staring the best footballers from around the world who have sadly passed away over the past 12 months. It’s always an interesting and challenging project: for example this year we lost a lot of great forwards, defenders and keepers, but curiously not so many exceptional midfielders which led to us using some creative licence in the selections we made in the middle of the park.
Another couple of oddities this year are the inclusion of a rare uncapped player and the lack of goals our group scored historically for their respective international teams. The ten outfield players managed just 55 goals in all with Johan Cruyff contributing 33 of them. Even the second and third highest international scorers in this team are both defenders, something of a curiosity when you consider the line-up features the top scorer in Yugoslav First League history and one of the highest from the Bundesliga.
Being the unabashed retro throwbacks that we are, the concept of the squad number is not one we recognise on this site and each one of the many Eleven teams we’ve created on BTLM has followed the traditional 1 to 11 shirt numbering convention. We’re making a one-off exception here however by removing the number 11 shirt and allowing Johan Cruyff to wear his favoured number 14. He’d just make our life a misery if we didn’t.
1 – Gary SPRAKE. Born 1945. Wales. 37 caps
A goalkeeping mainstay for Leeds United during their 1960s and 70s heyday, Sprake was a greatly talented keeper unfortunate to be remembered as much for a handful of high-profile errors as for his command of the box and strong shot stopping.
2 – CARLOS ALBERTO Torres. Born 1944. Brazil. 53 caps, 8 goals
The archetypal modern Brazilian full-back, Carlos Alberto was a wonderful sight to behold as he rampaged up and down the right flank – a defender, midfielder and winger all in one package. A legendary figure at club level for Santos although he’s remembered most fondly for his role captaining his country to World Cup success in 1970 – and scoring that famous goal in the Final against Italy.
3 – László SÁROSI. Born 1932. Hungary. 46 caps
Emerging alongside the group of players who followed on from Hungary’s Golden Generation, Sárosi was an elegant, intelligent and adaptable player who brought defensive assuredness to the national team and his club side, Vasas Budapest, where he was a multiple title winner.
4 – Roberto PERFUMO. Born 1942. Argentina. 37 caps
Considered one of his nation’s greatest ever defenders, Perfumo was the defensive lynchpin behind Racing Club’s successes during the 1960s and a key member of Argentina’s 1966 and 1974 World Cup teams. Known for his adaptability, over his career Perfumo played at centre half, right back and in the defensive midfield role we have given him in our team.
5 – Cesare MALDINI. Born 1932. Italy. 14 caps
A classic defender in the Italian mould, Maldini was a tough, focused and resolute centre half for Milan during their successful era in the 1960s under Nereo Rocco. Winner of four Serie A titles and the European Cup in 1963, Maldini’s relatively modest haul of 14 Italian caps was a reflection of the extremely high quality of defensive player in the 1960s Italian game.
6- Trifon IVANOV. Born 1965. Bulgaria. 76 caps, 6 goals
His unfashionable hairstyle and wild unshaven look meant Ivanov was sometimes cast as a figure of fun, yet this was a talented player who brought defensive bite and wonderful long-range shooting ability to any team he was associated with. Enjoyed great success with CSKA Sofia and was a key player for his national team when they finished in fourth place at the 1994 World Cup.
7 – NENÉ. Born 1942. Brazil. Uncapped
Because he was never capped for his national team, Claudio Olinto de Carvalho (nicknamed Nené) was a player who tended to fly under the radar despite an exceptional club career. A teammate of Pelé at Santos, Nené was twice a South American champion before moving to Italy at the age of 21 and ending any chance of a future seleçao call up. In Serie A he spent a season with Juventus before moving to Cagliari and becoming a key member of their title winning side of 1970. The Brazilian spent a dozen years in Sardinia and made more than 350 appearances with the Rossoblu.
8 – MANUEL VELÁZQUEZ. Born 1943. Spain. 10 caps, 2 goals
Emerging from Real Madrid’s youth ranks, Manuel Velázquez spent several seasons out on loan before established himself in the Madrid first team in 1965. This elegant and technically adroit midfielder remained a fixture there for the next 12 years. Primarily a passing player and creator of chances for others, Manuel Velázquez was a calm and composed finisher when the opportunity presented itself. Winner of six Spanish titles and the European Cup in 1966.
9 – Slobodan SANTRAČ. Born 1946. Yugoslavia. 8 caps, 1 goal
Yugoslav football’s most prolific League scorer ever, Santrač was a metronomically consistent striker who scored 218 goals for OFK Belgrade and Partizan. His goals were often close range shots or headers reflecting a talent for finding time and pace to allow him simple finishes. Santrač spent two seasons in Switzerland with Grasshoppers and was just as prolific a scorer there too.
10 – Hannes LÖHR. Born 1942. West Germany. 20 caps, 5 goals
Löhr joined Köln from Saarbrücken as a 20-year-old in 1964 and spent the next 14 years as the club’s main source of goals – 166 in the Bundesliga alone. A hard-working and modest forward whose international appearances were restricted by illness, although he was involved in both the 1970 World Cup and the 1972 European Championships.
14 – Johan CRUYFF. Born 1947. Netherlands. 48 caps, 33 goals
You really don’t need us to recant the career of Hendrik Johannes Cruyff to justify his inclusion here.
Keepers: Jean-Marie Trappeniers, Rene Vignal
Defenders: Stephen Keshi Juan Mujica, Georgi Hristakiev, Pedro de Felipe, Dumitro Antonescu, František Jakubec, Jiří Tichý, Mário Wilson, Davie Provan, John Roberts, Daniel Prodan.
Midfielders: Wolfgang Patzke, Fernando Mendes, Sergey Shustikov, Reinhard Häfner, Gerry Gow, Martin Lippens, Nestor Gonçalves.
Forwards: Muhamed Mujić, Giuseppe Virgili, Vladimir Kovačević, Jackie Sewell, Željko Čajkovski, David Herd.