We end an eighth successive BTLM publishing year with the 2020 Deceased Eleven, our annual tribute to the greats of the game we have sadly lost over the course of the past twelve months. Our team in this most punishing of years is its usual imagined line up featuring the very best of the year’s lost players.
Traditionally there is a wide range of nationalities represented within our annual selections, however this year’s team features just four: English, Dutch, Argentinian and Italian. Five members of our team have World Cup winners medals and five won the European Cup on at least one occasion. As ever we have tried to create a balanced team rather than one that just shoehorns in as many attack-minded players as possible.
Goalkeeper – Ray Clemence (England) Born 1948. 61 caps
A talented and unfussy goalkeeper who was Liverpool’s ever-dependable shot stopper during the club’s late 1970s and early 80s heyday. Winner of 3 European Cups and 5 League titles, Clemence moved on to Tottenham in 1981 and enjoyed a fine career there too. His international caps total would have been much higher had it not been for great rival Peter Shilton.
Right Back – Wim Suurbier (Netherlands) Born 1945. 60 caps / 3 goals
Quick, strong, hard-running and technically excellent – Suurbier was an essential and steely member of the brilliant Ajax and Dutch sides of the 1970s.
One of the best full-backs in the world for the best part of a decade, Suurbier stayed loyal to Ajax before finally leaving at the age of 32 for end-of-career stints in Germany, France and the USA.
Left Back – Silvio Marzolini (Argentina) Born 1940. 28 caps / 1 goal
Spending virtually the entirety of his playing career with Boca Juniors meant that Marzolini was little-seen in Europe outside World Cups, but during the 1960s his all-round excellence and his elegant style cast him as a South American version of Giacinto Facchetti.
A winner of numerous domestic titles with Boca, the world saw the best of him at the 1966 World Cup in which he was elected as the best left-back of the tournament.
Central Defender – Barry Hulshoff (Netherlands) Born 1946. 14 caps / 6 goals
Another dependable and reliable player for Ajax during their run of three European Cup wins in the early 70s, Hulshoff had started his career as a midfielder before being converted to central defence. He was a defensive player who added attacking value at set pieces from which he regularly contributed goals.
Winner of fewer caps than his talent merited, Hulshoff was unfortunate to miss out on the Dutch 1974 World Cup campaign through injury.
Central Defender – Jack Charlton (England) Born 1935. 35 caps / 6 goals
What Jack Charlton lacked in defensive elegance, he more than made up for with drive, determination, leadership and will to win. Charlton was a dependable central defensive stalwart during the decade when Leeds United was one of the best teams in Europe, while performing a similar role for the England national side as the perfect complement to Bobby Moore – most notably at the 1966 World Cup of course.
Defensive Midfield – Nobby Stiles (England) Born 1942. 28 caps / 1 goal
One of the most iconic midfield terriers of the 1960s, whether as a part of England’s 1966 World Cup winning team or Manchester United’s European Cup winners two years later. Nobby’s main function was to stop opponents’ most talented players performing, a destructive role he executed with diligence and aggression, but this does overlook somewhat his passing ability on the ball which was significantly better than many assume.
Central Midfield – Martin Peters (England) Born 1943. 67 caps / 20 goals
The third member of England’s 1966 World Cup squad to feature in this team, Martin Peters had a well-deserved reputation as an intelligent and tactically astute midfielder.
In a English domestic game which was at the time based around rigidity and straight lines, Peters was the maverick who liked to do his best work in the spaces between the lines where others feared to tread. A master at the well-timed late run into the box, Peters was a regular scorer at club level for West Ham, Tottenham and Norwich City and, of course, for his country.
Left Midfield – Mario Corso (Italy) Born 1941. 23 caps / 4 goals
While never a wide player in the flying winger tradition, Corso served Internazionale and Italy brilliantly as a clever, left-sided schemer. An astute passer and a brilliant crosser and set-piece taker, Corso’s creativity was an essential factor behind the great mid-60s success of Helenio Herrera’s Inter sides – though the pair clashed regularly.
Centre Forward – Paolo Rossi (Italy) Born 1956. 48 caps / 20 goals
The Italian game has lost a number of great strikers this year, with Paolo Rossi narrowly getting the nod for the centre forward berth ahead of late 60s luminaries like Pietro Anastasi and Pierino Prati.
Rossi was a striker very much in the great Italian post-war tradition: an arch-predator who would ghost into dangerous positions to convert a high-percentage of the limited number of chances that fell his way in the defence-focused world of Serie A. His undoubted career pinnacle came at the 1982 World Cup with his half dozen clinically taken goals winning the tournament for Italy.
Number Ten – Diego Maradona (Argentina) Born 1960. 91 caps / 34 goals
Even if you are not remotely well-disposed towards Diego Maradona because of his turbulent and controversial off-field and sometime on-field behaviour, you will struggle to argue that he does not belong in the highest pantheon of individuals to ever play the game of football. Even in a great team such as this one, Maradona towers above the rest as the one true bona fide genius present.
Left Winger – Rob Rensenbrink (Netherlands) Born 1947. 46 caps / 14 goals
The third member of the outstanding 1970s Dutch generation to feature in our side, Rensenbrink was a fast and skilful dribbler capable of playing wide on the left, or narrower as a second striker.
Unusually among that brilliant 70s generation of Dutch stars, Rensenbrink never played for any of his nation’s big three clubs. The best years of his career came across the border in Belgium with Club Brugge, then most notably Anderlecht where he helped inspire the Brussels club to become one of Europe’s best sides in the mid 70s.