In a tradition now spanning half a decade, we end the BTLM year with our annual Deceased Eleven which puts together a team comprising the very best footballers who sadly passed away over the past 12 months. Our imagined team isn’t simply a compendium of the biggest names; we do try to structure a side that has some semblance of defensive and attacking balance.
There are some wonderful footballers featured here who won virtually every competition of note the game has to offer. We have a World Cup winner, an African Cup of Nations winner and four players with a total of seven European Cup medals between them. This year’s team is set out in a proper old-school 4-4-2 / 4-2-4 formation with a couple of old-fashioned out-and-out wingers.
1 – Giuliano SARTI. Italy. Born 1933. 8 caps
The dependable and reliable keeper for la grande Inter during their halcyon 1960s days when they dominated Europe. Sarti was the calm and ultra-professional last line of what was the most feared defence in the world game. Winner of two European Cups and three Serie A titles, one with Fiorentina.
2 – Roberto FERREIRO. Argentina. Born 1935. 18 caps
During the mid 1960s there were few footballing countries with a stronger full-back pairing than Argentina thanks to Silvio Marzolini on the left and Roberto Ferreiro on the right. The Independiente man was a daunting and sometimes violent opponent, but in possession he was a highly capable and intelligent player capable of bringing valuable attacking impetus.
3 – Tommy GEMMELL. Scotland. Born 1943. 18 caps, 1 goal
Ironically Gemmell’s most famous moment came at the expense of our team’s keeper Giuliano Sarti, this in the 1967 European Cup Final when Celtic’s dynamic right-footed left back fired past the Inter keeper to kickstart the Scots revival.
Gemmell played for a decade at Celtic Park and won multiple domestic honours, though the 1967 European Cup win in which he starred was his undoubted crowning glory.
4 – Cheick TIOTÉ. Ivory Coast. Born 1986. 55 caps, 1 goal
Passing away at the terribly early age of just 30, Tioté is by far the youngest player in this selection. A ferociously powerful and committed defensive midfield destroyer, the Ivorian made his name at Newcastle United after impressing in the Netherland with FC Twente.
His career highlight was playing as part of the Ivory Coast squad that won the 2015 African Cup of Nations.
5 – Manuel SANCHÍS. Spain. Born 1938. 11 caps, 1 goal
There’s a template for a traditional Real Madrid central defender that’s been evident for decades from the time of Santamaria through Camacho and to Sergio Ramos today. Such players who fit this mould are very good footballing backs who also have an unassailed mastery of the dark arts.
Manuel Sanchís Martínez belonged in that company and was the rock upon which Madrid’s 1966 European Cup success was built.
6 – Nicolae LUPESCU. Romania. Born 1940. 21 caps, 2 goals
Lupescu spent the majority of his club career with unfashionable Rapid Bucharest which brought him limited honours, but he did garner attention further afield with his technically accomplished performances for his country at the 1970 World Cup in Mexico.
As Romania came in from the international wilderness, Lupescu was part of the first wave of talented players who showcased a confident new footballing nation capable of competing at the highest levels of the game.
7 – Raymond KOPA. France. Born 1931. 45 caps, 18 goals
An undoubted contender for the title of the greatest footballer France has ever produced, Kopa enjoyed an exceptional career that brought him three European Cup successes with Real Madrid and plenty of domestic honours both in Spain and with Stade de Reims in his homeland.
An incredibly skilful and creative player, part of Kopa’s genius was his sheer adaptability. He could play to a world-class level whether as an inside forward for Reims, a right winger for Real Madrid or a centre forward for the French national team.
8 – Jacques SIMON. France. Born 1941, 15 caps, 1 goal
A versatile midfielder who was one of many to be schooled at the famous Nantes academy in the early 1960s. Simon became an international regular during the second half of that decade and was instrumental in helping his nation’s qualification for the 1966 World Cup.
9 – Todor VESELINOVIĆ. Yugoslavia. Born 1930. 37 caps, 28 goals
Considered one of Yugoslavia’s greatest-ever forwards, Veselinović’s career was slightly unusual as he spent most of it at unfashionable Vojvodina rather than one of the more traditional Yugoslav giants. His near decade-long international career brought plenty of goals and appearances at both the 1954 and 1958 World Cups.
10 – Henning JENSEN. Denmark. Born 1949. 21 caps, 9 goals
A clever and elegant forward who made his name in Borussia Mönchengladbach’s powerful mid-70s team before earning a move to Real Madrid. His time in Spain was blighted by knee injuries and he rarely recaptured full fitness there or during a subsequent spell with Ajax.
Like Kopa Jensen was an adaptable player who at different times played in a deeper-lying role, as a right sided striker or an out-and-out centre forward.
11 – Hans SCHÄFER. West Germany. Born 1927, 39 caps, 15 goals
A one-club man who spent his entire career with Köln, Schäfer was also a veteran of three World Cups with West Germany and of course a winner in 1954. A traditional boots-on-the-touchline left winger, Schäfer was fast and inventive with a real eye for goal.
Towards the end of his career as his pace diminished, Hans was brought inside to play as an inside forward and managed to maintain his remarkable two-goals-every-three-games scoring ratio.