About a year ago I started a thread asking whether the game of football was in terminal decline. https://www.bigsoccer.com/forum/showthread.php?t=618952&highlight=terminal Although I was largely playing Devil's Advocate, the thrust of the question centred around why there are so few perceived all-time greats who have played the game in recent years. A few days ago I was going though an issue of World Soccer from October 1983 and found an interesting article. Eric Batty, one of the original journalists for World Soccer produced an annual World XI, and in this issue he had received a letter from a reader setting out his own all-time XI. In response Batty wrote the following article. "So now to my personal opinions, and I must say that I have found it an extremely difficult task. It is not hard to name a string of great players and I can easily spark off arguments. For instance in this order, the three greatest players I ever saw were: 1. Alfredo Di Stefano 2. Ferenc Puskas 3. Pele. I know that will shock a lot of readers, but in my view it is the great men who play for the team who are truly great, and Pele was a fantastic individual with incredible skills. But with all his talents, he could never have organised the 1958 or 1962 World Cup winning teams the way that Didi did. That requires different qualities. Looking back, especially from the pretty grim days of 1983, I am convinced that the real “golden days” of football were the 1950s. At that time it really was the players who mattered, but today it is all tactics, workrate, getting stuck in and high crosses, and that that was never my cup of tea. On this theme, I can think of only two players who can bear comparison with the stars of the fifties- Frank Beckenbauer and Gunter Nutzer, both of course, West Germans who seemed to be able to produce great players at will, but now it is clear that their supply is drying up. So to my team, for which I make no apologies: -------------------------------Lev Yashin Victor Andrade--Obdulio Varela—Ernst Ocwirk—Gerhard Hanappi ------------------Raymond Kopa-----------Juan Schiaffino Stanley Matthews------Pele----Alfredo Di Stefano—--Ferenc Puskas And I too have named some reserves the most prominent of which are: Djalma Santos, Didi, Ladislao Kubala, Bernard Vukas, Gunnar Gren, Gunnar Nordahl, Nandor Hidegkuti, and Fritz Walter. Let me add that if we had such players today there would be no worries about clubs going broke and headlines about falling attendances. " FYI the reader's selected squad was: ------------------------------Gordon Banks Djalma Santos—Bobby Moore—Franz Beckenbauer—Giacinto Facchetti -------------Johan Cruyff—Bobby Charlton—Diego Maradona ------------------George Best—Alfredo Di Stefano—Pele Reserves: Lev Yashin, Ruud Krol, Eusebio, Ferenc Puskas, Garrincha So what startled me about this article is that in 1983 at a time when Maradona, Zico, Platini, Rummenigge, Dalgish, Pasarella, Zoff, Scirea, Falcao, Socrates etc were all in their pomp, a man who had witnessed decades of the game believed that it was in terminal decline and that the physicality of the game was destroying it. Is this not the situation we find ourselves in today? We bemoan the loss of the artists at the expense of cloggers and workhorses? That tactics have got in the way of the the game? So to pose the question again, are the players of today actually any worse than those of 20 or 50 years ago, or is it all just a matter of perception?