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Welcome to the Best Team Ever bracket series, where the greatest of all time have their most dominant seasons stacked up against each other until we ultimately crown a champion in each sport. The tournament will be decided by fan vote, so be sure to submit yours below! Check out the first round of voting here, the second round of voting here and the Final Four voting here. The championship round poll will close at noon ET on Tuesday.
The clear pattern in the Best Teams Ever club soccer bracket was a preference for teams that not only won a pure domestic league-domestic-cup-Champions League treble, but also for teams that shifted the paradigm. The 2008-09 Barcelona side knocked off 2015-16 Paris Saint Germain, 1994-95 Ajax and 2016-17 Real Madrid. Which is to say that our voters not only looked at dominance but also at teams that changed the sport.
You can also see it in the other finalist, 1998-99 Manchester United, which not only beat 2003-04 FC Porto — ironically, since that Jose Mourinho-managed Porto side famously upset United in the Champions League quarterfinals — but also 2007-08 United, which was more talented but didn't win the treble, and fellow treble-winner 2014-15 Barca. While United didn't reinvent the game, exactly, it was the first English finalist in 13 years and the first English team to conquer Europe in 15 years, starting a trend. Because in the 13 seasons that followed, eight English teams would reach the final.
Barca, likewise, set off a spell of Spanish dominance with seven Spanish titles (and nine finalists) in 10 years.
2008-09 FC Barcelona vs. 1998-99 Manchester United
No. 1: 2008-09 FC Barcelona
Everything came together for Barca that year. Lionel Messi grew into the world's best player and would sweep the Ballon d'Or and FIFA World Player of the Year awards for the first of a record six times. Gerard Pique was brought back from Manchester United, Dani Alves bought from Sevilla and Sergio Busquets promoted from the B-team. Xavi and Andres Iniesta were in the peak of their primes. So were Victor Valdez, Samuel Eto'o, Thierry Henry and captain Carles Puyol, before they all began to slowly fall off in the following years. Yaya Toure and Eric Abidal were underrated cogs in Pep Guardiola's machine. Looking back, there may never have been a stronger starting lineup in club soccer.
No. 2: 1998-99 Manchester United
This team wasn't Sir Alex Ferguson's best, and it was a tad fortunate to claim the club's only treble in its history. But it was probably his most balanced and cohesive side. The Class of '92 — the Neville twins, David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs — was fully matured. Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke formed a powerful strike partnership. Roy Keane was the midfield enforcer. Peter Schmeichel was perhaps the best goalkeeper in the world and Jaap Stam the best central defender. Denis Irwin brought experience at left back. And there were lots of replacement parts on the bench. There were plenty of teams in European club soccer history that had more talent, but few that were quite as effective.
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