In recent years there have been an increasing number of publications creating selections of the best players in the world. As a long-time lover of such lists and football, I wondered what they might have looked like in years gone by. Having previously created lists of the best players in the world for 1980, 1989, 1997 and 2004, I thought I’d go a bit further back and imagine who might have been included if such a list had been created in 1961.
With reference to contemporary newspapers, magazines and awards, I tried to put together what a British-based but globally-minded publication might have come up had such a list been around then. As such, it’s not necessarily a list of who I think should have been included but more who might have been included, using contemporary perceptions and covering the period not just of 1961 alone but of the recent seasons that preceded it.
I’ll be revealing my selection over five consecutive posts on BTLM and I’m pleased to reveal today my choices for positions 81 through to 100.
81. Jef Jurion (Anderlecht) Half-back.
A rarity as a player who wears glasses, Jurion must also rank among the most versatile players in the game. Broke through as a right-winger, has played a lot in midfield but is capable of filling any position
82. John White (Tottenham Hotspur) Inside-forward
Slightly built but packed full of quality, the Scotsman has been such an astute purchase for Spurs. His inventiveness in midfield and ability to burst forward have been invaluable.
83. Lorenzo Buffon (Inter) Goalkeeper.
Long serving Milan keeper who has now made the switch to Inter after a season at Genoa. Widely considered the best Italian custodian around and a lock as the Azzurri number 1.
84. Sjaak Swart (Ajax) Outside-right.
Dangerous dribbler who has formed an excellent combination with Henk Groot for the Amsterdammers. Looks set to hold down the right-wing berth for years to come.
85. Joe Baker (Torino) Centre-forward.
A £75,000 move to Turin reflects how impressive Baker was at Hibs, dazzling many suitors. Has not yet fully settled in Italy but did score the winner in the derby against Juventus.
86. Evaristo (Barcelona) Inside-forward.
Had he not moved to Barca, Evaristo may well have been a core part of Brazil’s World Cup winning side. With Flamengo he featured regularly for the Selecao but extensive club honours must soften the blow.
87. Blagoje Vidinic (Radnicki Beograd) Goalkeeper
The giant Yugoslav keeper was one of the standout figures of last year’s European Championship. Able to launch attacks with long throws and kicks into the opposition half.
88. Bengt Lindskog (Lecco) Inside-forward/Half-back.
After successful spells with Udinese and Inter, Lindskog has now moved to Serie B side Lecco, but still has plenty of quality. Like many of his countrymen, his professionalism in Italy has curtailed his international career.
89. Marti Verges (Barcelona) Half-back.
One of the central pieces in Barcelona’s recent success, Verges has been a revelation for Spain since breaking into the side. Unfussy and unshowy, he makes the flashier players look good.
90. Ante Zanetic (Club Brugge) Half-back.
Has recently defected from Yugoslavia after years of success with Hadjuk Split. Impressed many observers at the 1960 European Championship with his quality in midfield.
91. Maurice Norman (Tottenham Hotspur) Centre-half.
Dominant and commanding central defender who was a key figure in the Double victory. Still waiting for a first England cap but can only be a matter of time.
92. Jim Baxter (Rangers) Left-half.
Prodigiously talented midfielder who is already at the core of everything good at Rangers. Dictates the play with his range of passing and positional intelligence.
93. Bruno Nicole (Juventus) Inside-forward.
Bright young hope of Italian football who already, at the tender age of 21, holds the record as the nation’s youngest ever goalscorer and captain.
94. Henk Groot (Ajax) Centre-forward.
Top scorer for the last two seasons in the Eredivisie, Groot is becoming one of the most acclaimed figures in Dutch football. While the Netherlands have struggled in the international arena, brighter times lie ahead.
95. Paul Bonga Bonga (Standard Liege) Half-back.
One of the few African players to have made a mark at the top level. Wing-half of drive, purpose and no little quality who is one of the leading lights of Belgian football.
96. Alex Young (Everton) Forward.
Enjoyed huge success at Hearts, winning two league titles, prompting a £45,000 move to Goodison. Technically excellent and possessing the ability to unlock tight defences.
97. Ron Springett (Sheffield Wednesday) Goalkeeper.
Well established as the England number 1, Springett has excelled with the Owls since his move from QPR. Agile and fearless, he looks set to remain the first choice for years to come.
98. Just Fontaine (Reims) Inside-forward.
The top scorer at the 1958 World Cup with 13 goals, Fontaine’s career has been plagued with injuries since then. Pacy and incisive in his movement he should be, at 28, in his prime.
99. Agne Simonsson (Real Sociedad) Centre-forward.
Best known for his World Cup exploits and stunning 1959 hat-trick against England at Wembley, Simonsson has been frustrated by a lack of opportunity at Real Madrid. Now on loan at La Real and hoping to make an impact.
100. Joan Segarra (Barcelona) Full-back.
Long-standing Barca left-back who has built a reputation among the best in the world. Has been a mainstay of the side over the last decade but injury has limited his involvement of late.