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FC Barcelona's Ronaldinho celebrates his goal against Panathinaikos during their Champions League group C match at Nou Camp Stadium in Barcelona, Spain, November 2, 2005.

The highest-rated FIFA XI of all time: No Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have completely dominated world football for the past decade and a half, but neither of them make it into the best XI of players to be featured on EA Sports’ best-selling FIFA videogame franchise.

Both Messi and Ronaldo have peaked at a rating of 94, which we’re afraid doesn’t cut the mustard to get into our ultimate Ultimate Team.

In a 4-4-f*cking-2, we’ve taken a look at the best XI to grace the game across all of its previous editions.

GK: Gianluigi Buffon, 97 – FIFA 05

It was always going to be him, wasn’t it? The only question was which era Buffon made the cut.

Weirdly, Buffon was coming off the back of a 2003-04 season in which Juventus finished just third in Serie A, with six teams conceding fewer than the 42 goals the Old Lady let in.

And the goalkeeper had also suffered disappointment at Euro 2004, as Italy were knocked out at the group stage despite being unbeaten.

Buffon was, however, named in the UEFA Team of the Year and also won the IFFHS World’s Best Goalkeeper award, although he missed out on the Serie A Goalkeeper of the Year honour to Dida.

RB: Lilian Thuram, 92 – FIFA 05

Another Juventus player coming off the back of a disappointing season, Thuram was a defensive don on a host of football games in the mid-2000s.

In the summer of 2004, Fabio Capello was appointed Juve manager and Thuram was mainly used as a centre-back, but he was named as a right-back in the 2005 edition of FIFA.

CB: Alessandro Nesta, 94 – FIFA 05

Sticking with Serie A, and once more with the 2005 edition of the game, Nesta was deemed to be at his peak after helping Milan win Serie A, conceding a miserly 24 goals in 34 games in the process.

But it was his team-mate Andriy Shevchenko who graced the cover alongside Patrick Vieira and Raul.

READ: A tribute to five wonderful Serie A defences: Milan, Parma, Inter, Juve…

CB: Fernando Hierro, 94 – FIFA 02

The only former Bolton player on this list, Hierro was approaching the end of his Real Madrid career when he was given such a high rating by EA Sports, although he had just won a fourth La Liga title and would go on to end the 2001-02 campaign with a third Champions League.

We still can’t get our heads around the fact he scored 26 goals in all competitions in 1991-92.

LB: Roberto Carlos, 94 – FIFA 05

A god of FIFA games thanks to that jackhammer of a left foot, Roberto Carlos appeared on the cover of the 2003 edition but was deemed to be at his best two years later.

RM: Luis Figo, 97 – FIFA 02

Slotting into this side on the right-hand side of midfield, Figo was at his pig’s head height of fame and infamy, having just won his first title with Real Madrid following his controversial move from Barcelona.

We can’t help but think it was a mistake not to have him on the cover, although that may have seriously affected sales in Catalonia.

CM: Matteo Brighi, 97 – FIFA 03

A genuine curveball, Brighi was the highest-rated player on FIFA 2003, beating cover stars Thierry Henry, Roberto Carlos and Ryan Giggs.

He had spent the 2001-02 season on loan at Bologna, being named the Serie A Young Footballer of the Year award as a 21-year-old. Sure, he was good, but nobody can quite work out why he was so highly rated in the game.

After a nomadic 21-year career in Italy, Brighi retired in 2019.

READ: The curious case of Matteo Brighi, once rated FIFA’s best player in the world

CM: Zinedine Zidane, 96 – FIFA 05

Another member of the Galacticos who was obviously going to be in the side somewhere, Zidane had just been named in the Euro 2004 Team of the Tournament, but it’s strange to think he had already won the last trophies of his career by this point.

LM: Ronaldinho, 95 – FIFA 06

Technically a CAM on the game, Ronaldinho gets the nod on the left flank as that is often where he operated for Barcelona – and his rating of 95 beats both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo’s peaks of 94.

The Brazilian may have only been the best player in the world for a relatively short time, but he was untouchable during that period.

ST: Ronaldo, 98 – FIFA 04

Proof once and for all that the OG Ronaldo trumps the new pretender Cristiano.

Honestly, he was so f*cking good.

ST: Thierry Henry, 97 – FIFA 05

The only player in this XI to be plying their trade in the Premier League at the time of their FIFA peak, Henry was in the midst of five-consecutive seasons of scoring 30+ goals in all competitions and was extremely Va Va Voom.


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