As the head football writer for BBC Sport, I’ve had the good fortune to watch some of the game’s best teams play.
But as I watched Manchester City win the Triple Crown in Istanbul, I began to reflect on some of the best teams I have ever covered.
City’s achievement in becoming just the second English men’s club to win the perfect Trifecta of the Champions League, Premier League, and FA Cup is proof they deserve to be listed among the greatest.
Erling Haaland’s goals and strength offered a sizable point of differentiation, but brilliant performances came from players like Kevin de Bruyne, Ilkay Gundogan, Jack Grealish, and many others in every position.
The first 45 minutes of their 4-0 victory over Real Madrid in the second leg of the Champions League semifinal were among the most thrilling displays I have ever witnessed.
The Premier League has charged City with 115 financial laws violations, which the club vehemently denies and will vigorously contest. Nevertheless, when viewed in the context of football, they are a rather exceptional football team.
Who are the other outstanding men’s sides I have witnessed over my career? I have only covered the years I have worked for the BBC because it was very difficult to condense everything into one essay.
By utilizing the form at the bottom of this page, you may let me know who your favorite team is and what you think about my selections.
After taking over for Brendan Rodgers in October 2015, Jurgen Klopp’s reinvention of Liverpool took some time to fully take hold, but once it did, they produced some of the most thrilling attacking football ever.
Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, and Mohamed Salah made up a lethal trifecta, but Liverpool’s ability to reach the next level was made possible by the departure of star player Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona for £142 million in January 2018.
The initial investment, £75 million, was made on Southampton defender Virgil van Dijk as Liverpool advanced to the Champions League final at the conclusion of that campaign before falling to Real Madrid 3-1.
Liverpool went one better the following season, defeating Tottenham in the Champions League final in a run that will be forever remembered for the second-leg semi-final at Anfield when Liverpool beat Barcelona to come back from a three-goal deficit. Klopp spent the remaining Coutinho money on Roma’s brilliant goalkeeper Alisson Becker.
The pursuit of a historic quadruple in 2021–22 was next, during which they narrowly lost the Premier League championship to Manchester City by one point and lost the Champions League final to Real Madrid, but they did manage to win the FA Cup and League Cup.
One of the best squads in the contemporary age, to put it simply.
Real Madrid will always be included on any list of great teams, but since this is determined by the fans who witnessed in person, one period, beginning in 2014, stands out above all others.
I have witnessed five of Real Madrid’s Champions League victories, dating back to Zinedine Zidane’s left-foot volley that gave Real the victory over Bayer Leverkusen in the 2002 championship game at Hampden Park.
Later on, additional treasures appeared in quick succession for a team led by Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos, as well as Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Karim Benzema, and – before things regrettably went south – the brilliant talent of Gareth Bale.
I was in Lisbon in May 2014 when Ramos’s goal against Atletico in stoppage time set up a 4-1 victory, and I was in Cardiff three years later when Juventus lost by the same score.
In Kiev in 2018, Liverpool lost to Bale’s final, and in Paris in 2022, Vinicius Jr.’s winning goal destroyed Jurgen Klopp’s squad once more.
This was a world-class club that was capable of winning in a variety of ways. Benzema and Modric each received five Champions League championship medals, while Kroos, Ramos, and Ronaldo each received four while playing for Real Madrid.
Pep Guardiola won his first Triple in his first season as Barcelona’s manager, adding the Copa del Rey and La Liga to his 2009 Champions League victory over Manchester United in Rome’s Stadio Olimpico.
At first, it appeared as though United would overwhelm Barcelona, but as Samuel Eto’o put United ahead, the Catalans’ passing “carousel”—as Sir Alex Ferguson famously described it—became a stunning, lopsided spectacle.
With a spectacular second-half header, Lionel Messi underlined his greatness, completely outclassing a United team that included superstars like Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo, who was playing in his final game before joining Real Madrid.
This was the Barcelona of Sergio Busquets as the defensive anchor and Xavi and Andres Iniesta in midfield. Above all, it was Messi’s Barcelona.
When they defeated United 3-1 at Wembley two years later, with the legendary David Villa among their ranks and scoring on goal, the pressure waves they generated were even more intense and completely overwhelmed Ferguson’s players. Although it wasn’t nearly ideal, it wasn’t too far off.
When Barcelona defeated Juventus 3-1 in Berlin in 2015 to win the 2015 Champions League, they had added two more geniuses to their team in Neymar and Luis Suarez.
I had the honor of witnessing all three victories by a truly outstanding team, and Guardiola molded them while Messi provided the spark.