Who makes the cut?

Where are they now? Zinedine Zidane’s outrageous best XI in the world from 2014

Back in 2014, Real Madrid legend Zinedine Zidane named his dream XI of the best players in world football.

Doing so midway through the 2014-15 campaign whilst he was in charge of Real Madrid’s B Team, Zidane got his wish of managing most of the Los Blancos players he named in the XI by getting the top job in January 2016.

While he was a diplomatic, no doubt pleasing Madrid president Florentino Perez by leaning heavily on Madrid players, he did also choose a couple of names from rivals Barcelona alongside a couple of eyebrow-raising selections from elsewhere in Europe.

Almost a decade on, we’ve revisited that XI and checked in on where they’re all at today.

Bench: Manuel Neuer, Phillip Lahm, Raphael Varane, Franck Ribery, Paul Pogba, Andres Iniesta, Sergio Aguero.

GK: Iker Casillas

Arguably La Fabrica’s greatest-ever graduate, Casillas famously won the Champions League with his boyhood club four days after his 19th birthday.

The young Casillas had lost his place to Cesar Sanchez come the 2002 final, when Zizou finally got his hands on the trophy with that wonder volley against Bayer Leverkusen, but he appeared off the bench and made some vital late saves as Madrid defended their narrow one-goal lead.

He remained the goalkeeper when Madrid claimed La Decima in 2014, with Zidane serving as Carlo Ancelotti’s assistant, but he left on a free transfer to Porto six months before Zidane was appointed Rafael Benitez’s successor.

He eventually retired in 2020 after a five-year spell with Porto, during which he suffered a heart attack. Since hanging up his gloves he’s returned home, serving as an advisor to the club president and deputy of the Real Madrid Foundation. He also briefly ran for president of the Spanish FA but withdrew his application.

RB: Dani Alves

Whatever Alves did on the football pitch has been grimly overshadowed by the manner in which his career ended.

The Brazilian was found guilty of raping a woman in a nightclub in December 2022 and sentenced to four and a half years in prison. He’s since been released from a Barcelona prison after paying €1million in bail.

READ NEXT: Zidane & the forgotten Madrid goal so good even Magic Johnson rejoiced

TRY A QUIZ: Can you name Real Madrid’s top 30 goal scorers of all time?

CB: Pepe

The eternal Portuguese defender rounded off a decade of service to Real Madrid after winning a third Champions League in 2017, but in his latter years Zidane often left him on the bench, favouring his French compatriot Raphael Varane.

After 18 months with Besiktas, he rejoined Porto as a free agent in January 2019. Few would have expected then that he’d still be there five years later, having notched over 200 appearances in his second stint at the Estadio do Dragao.

He’s also somehow still going for Portugal, recently becoming the oldest player in European Championships history at the age of 41.

CB: Sergio Ramos

Following the 2015 departure of Casillas, Ramos – who actually played alongside Zidane when he first arrived at the Bernabeu – became club captain, serving as Zizou’s on-pitch leader across both his spells in the dugout.

“Our captain is our leader on the field, but also outside,” Zidane told reporters after Ramos’ 450th La Liga appearance for Madrid in July 2020.

“He is an unrepeatable player. He is unique and we know what he transmits to everyone else. I’m happy for him for his goal because when it comes to shooting a penalty, he has a lot of confidence.”

Since leaving Madrid in 2021, Ramos has spent two years playing alongside Lionel Messi at PSG before returning to boyhood club Sevilla. He’s just left the club for a second time and is yet to announce his next move, but MLS and Saudi Arabia are among the destinations touted for the 38-year-old.

READ: Where are they now? Zinedine Zidane’s 11 signings as Real Madrid manager

LB: Marcelo

After 15 years and over 500 matches, Marcelo waved goodbye after winning yet another – fifth! – Champions League in 2022. He was club captain at the time, albeit in a largely ceremonial role after dropping to the bench in his twilight years.

He subsequently joined Olympiacos as a free agent but didn’t last long in Greece before returning to Brazil with Fluminense, adding to his glittering trophy cabinet with the Copa Libertadores last year.

CM: Yaya Toure

Given the success he enjoyed playing alongside Claude Makelele for club and country, you’d have thought that Zidane would’ve named a proper DM in this team, as he did with Casemiro during his best years as manager. But we can’t help admire Zizou going all-out with an outrageously stacked line-up here.

Toure famously thrived as a key player at Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona, but by this point he’d moved on and become a star man at nascent force Manchester City, the only player from the Premier League in this XI.

He left City in 2018 after an awkward reunion with Pep Guardiola. Like Marcelo, he joined Olympiacos but didn’t last long, eventually calling it quits with a short-lived stint with Chinese club Qingdao Huanghai.

An eclectic post-retirement career has seen the Ivorian serve in assistant and academy coaching roles at Olimpik Donetsk, Akhmat Grozny, Tottenham, Standard Liege, and – currently – Roberto Mancini’s Saudi Arabia.

CM: Luka Modric

Arguably the least surprising name on this teamsheet, given at that point Zidane had already witnessed Modric’s magisterial talent as a midfield maestro in Madrid’s 2013-14 Decima triumph.

The Croatian has since gone on to win another five Champions Leagues with the Spanish giants, three of them under Zidane, as well as the 2018 Ballon d’Or after inspiring Croatia to the World Cup final in Russia.

He’s recently put pen to paper on a one-year contract extension with Madrid.

QUIZ: Can you name Zinedine Zidane’s 25 most-used players as Real Madrid manager?

FWR: Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Shoehorned onto the right somewhat in this XI, the Swedish striker was arguably at the very peak of his powers back in 2014, scoring at a near goal-per-game rate for PSG as they began their era of imperial domestic dominance.

Yet another player in this team that defied father time to carry on delivering well into his late thirties, Ibrahimovic eventually announced his retirement last summer after injuries had reduced him to just four Serie A appearances in his final season with AC Milan.

Nowadays he’s serving as a “senior advisor” for the Rossoneri.

AMC: Lionel Messi

“You see things before anyone else,” Zidane told Messi in an Adidas-sponsored chat back in November.

“I was one second ahead of the rest, you are three seconds ahead of the rest. And therefore, for me, that’s what makes you different from the rest of the players.”

“I’m not saying this because he is here, I’ve said it several times before,” Messi responded.

“I think he is one of the greatest players in history. I’ve always admired and liked him a lot. I followed him a lot in Madrid and he made me suffer because I was from Barcelona. I remember those times in Madrid, the ‘Galacticos’ the Euros you won. He’s always been a different player: elegant, artistic, magic – he had it all.”

Messi and Zidane may have been legendary figures for massive rivals, but the respect is mutual and it goes back a long way. Even when Zidane was at Madrid, he couldn’t help but name Barca icon Messi in the world’s best XI.

At the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, Messi captained Argentina to the trophy and in doing so joined Zizou in an exclusive club of just six legends that can claim to have completed football with every major honour going.

Messi is still leading Argentina in major tournaments, currently at the Copa America, and enjoying a well-earned victory lap on his glittering career at MLS outfit Inter Miami.

READ: The 6 players that completed football with every major honour: Messi but no Ronaldo…

FWL: Cristiano Ronaldo

Ronaldo scored 112 goals in 114 appearances under Ancelotti, a rate of return he only bettered under Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid.

Los Blancos’ all-time top goalscorer left the Bernabeu alongside his manager after winning a third successive Champions League in 2018, but unlike Zizou he never returned.

“I’m just proud of being your player,” Ronaldo wrote on Instagram when Zidane’s departure.

“Mister, thanks for so much.”

Who knows? Maybe he’d never left for Juventus had Zidane stuck around.

He’s still going, of course, earning piles of cash out in Saudi Arabia while continuing to lead the line for Portugal in a record sixth European Championships at the age of 39.

ST: Karim Benzema

Rounding off this XI is the seventh Real Madrid player that Zidane would work with – and enjoy outrageous success alongside – at the Bernabeu.

No player made more appearances for Zidane’s Madrid than Benzema, so it’s fitting enough that he leads the line here.

After finding new levels to his game following Ronaldo and Zidane’s departures, King Karim won the Ballon d’Or after the talismanic role he played in Madrid’s 2021-22 Champions League.

Last year he left Madrid to take up a lucrative offer from Saudi Pro League champions Al-Ittihad, where he suffered a frustrating and injury-hit debut season.

Barcelona star Lionel Messi features in the best XI in the world named by Zinedine Zidane in 2014