If you have just discovered Beyond The Last Man this year, one of our annual traditions is to dedicate our last post of the year to a Deceased Eleven
This is our small tribute in recognition of some the great footballers the game has sadly lost this year and this 2022 edition is the tenth in this series we have published. For this team we assemble what we think are the eleven players who, in their primes, would have made the most daunting and competitive team possible.
Our fictional selection always conforms to a team’s best practice of reasonable defensive and attacking balance, with players playing in positions they were famed, or at the very least were known for. Creating a formation to best accommodate the players we felt best qualified to be in the team is always a challenge, and this year we are putting out our line-up in a 3-4-3 formation with a midfield diamond.
Please note that we applied a cut-off date of the 16th December for players to be considered.
Goalkeeper – Milutin Šoškić (Yugoslavia – Born 1937 – 50 caps)
The greatest goalkeeper in the history of Partizan Belgrade and quite possibly Yugoslavia more broadly. Šoškić emerged in the late 1950s and went on to star for Partizan as it dominated the domestic game in the early to mid 1960s, reaching a pinnacle in 1966 when the Belgrade giants became the first eastern European team to reach a European Cup Final.
He was a fixture for a strong national team in this era too and played a big part in his nation finishing runners-up in the inaugural European Nations Cup of 1960, fourth in the World Cup in Chile two years later and winning the gold medal at the 1960 Rome Olympics.
Right Central Defender – Kálmán Mészöly (Hungary – Born 1941 – 61 caps, 6 goals)
Nicknamed the ‘Blond Rock’, Mészöly was an elegant, strolling central defender whose talents were based more around anticipation and positioning than pace or athleticism. He was a key player for the Budapest railway workers club Vasas and he helped inspire them to four domestic titles between 1961 and 1966.
The national team relied heavily on his talents too and he was an important member of their strong World Cup squads of 1962 and 1966, as well as the European Nations Cup squad of 1964.
Central Defender – Maurice Norman (England – Born 1934 – 23 caps)
A towering aerial presence in defence for the great Tottenham sides of the early 1960s, Norman was more technically accomplished than he was given credit for with clever positional play and good short and long range passing ability.
Norman spent a decade at White Hart Lane and enjoyed great success under manager Bill Nicholson, winning the ‘double’ in 1961, the FA Cup the following year and the Cup Winner’s Cup in 1963.
Left Central Defender – Victor Benitez (Peru – Born 1935 – 11 caps)
One of the greatest players that Peru has produced, the early success that Benitez enjoyed with Alianza and Boca Juniors brought him to the attention of Europe’s elite clubs. He joined Milan in 1962 and featured in their European Cup success during his debut season there.
Nicknamed the ‘Rabbit’ because of his pacy, agile and tenacious style, Benitez’s adaptability in switching seamlessly between central defence and defensive midfield positions was much prized in Serie A – he spent 7 years there and also played for Messina, Roma, Venezia and Inter.
His low international caps total is on account of him not being considered for selection after he left the Peruvian game.
Defensive Midfield – Wim Jansen (Netherlands – Born 1946 – 65 caps, 1 goal)
In keeping with many of the Dutch players from that wonderful 1970s generation, Wim Jansen was such an all-rounder that we could have played him in any midfield role. Here we have selected him in the deep-lying one to best utilise his vision, stamina and passing range.
A Feyenoord legend, Jansen starred for the Rotterdam club between 1965 and 1980 and helped them to plenty of success – four Dutch titles, one Dutch Cup, the European Cup and the UEFA Cup. He was a fixture for his nation too and a key member of the great 1974 and 1978 World Cup teams that lost in back-to-back Finals.
Left Midfield – Siniša Mihajlović (Yugoslavia – Born 1969 – 63 caps, 10 goals)
One of the hugely creative generation of players who emerged at Red Star Belgrade in the late 1980s, Mihajlović was a skilled midfield creator with one of the most potent left foots the game has seen. His lack of pace was no hindrance thanks to his intelligence and positional sense and it was no surprise he went to Serie A and prospered.
He played with distinction there for Roma, Sampdoria, Lazio and Internazionale between 1992 and 2006, in latter years converting into an effective ball-playing central defender. Holds the Serie A record for goals scored from direct free-kicks.
Right Midfield – Ivan ‘Ivica’ Osim (Yugoslavia – Born 1941 – 16 caps, 8 goals)
This Bosnian-born creative midfielder was known for his wonderful dribbling skill and is considered one of the most naturally gifted players in Yugoslav history. He starred for FK Željezničar Sarajevo between 1959 and 1968, then he was allowed to transfer abroad and play out his days in the Netherlands and France.
The highlight of his international career came in 1968 when he played in the Yugoslav team that lost out in the final of the European Nations Cup to Italy.
Left Wing – Jürgen Grabowski (West Germany – Born 1944 – 44 caps, 5 goals)
A fast and skilled dribbler of the ball, Grabowski could play in a range of attacking positions though was best known as a left-sided winger. Eintracht Frankfurt’s greatest-ever player, his long career there brought a couple of DfB Pokal wins and a UEFA Cup triumph in 1980.
Grabowski was a vital cog in the West German national team too. He was named in the squad for the 1966 World Cup but did not play, developed a reputation as a star substitute at Mexico in 1970 and by 1972 was a regular when West Germany won the European Championships and then the World Cup two years later.
Attacking Midfield – Freddy Rincón (Colombia – Born 1966 – 84 caps, 17 goals)
At his early 1990s peak Freddy Rincón was an extravagantly talented, explosive and impossible-to-contain attacking midfielder who could play on the left or centrally in midfield.
He outgrew the Colombian game and departed in 1993 for Brazil, the country he would become most identifiable with despite spells in Europe with Napoli and Real Madrid. He played for a number of Brazilian clubs and enjoyed success with Palmeiras and especially Corinthians, his career highlight coming with the Sao Paulo club’s Club World Cup win in 2000.
Support Striker – Leonel Sánchez (Chile – Born 1936 – 85 caps, 24 goals)
One of Sánchez’s many talents was his positional flexibility. At different times in his career he played as a left winger, a midfield playmaker or a centre-forward , so we have selected him in our team as a second striker.
Technically strong with a very powerful left-foot shot, Sánchez was the attacking figurehead of the powerful ‘Blue Ballet’-era Universidad de Chile teams during the 1960s which won six Chilean titles. Much in demand by the big European clubs, Sánchez showed no interest in leaving his native Chile and wound down his career with a seventh title win in 1970 with Colo Colo.
An international star too, the forward was one of the highest-profile stars of the 1962 World Cup for good – winning the Golden Boot and inspiring Chile to third Place and bad – the infamous game against Italy in which Sánchez was one of the most violent protagonists.
Centre Forward – Uwe Seeler (West Germany – Born 1936 – 72 caps 43 goals)
Gerd Müller might have scored more career goals than Seeler, but the squat, powerful Hamburg SV legend had greater longevity at the highest level. He participated at every World Cup between 1958 and 1970 and scored in all of them. During his career he was named West German Footballer of the Year on three occasions and managed 400 career goals for a club side he refused to leave despite the many lucrative offers from Italy and Spain.