Best football teams in the world 2023
Our definitive list of the best football teams in the world in 2023 – do you agree with our top 10?
"We're by the far the greatest team, the world has ever seen." Everyone sings it, but only one team can ever boast it as truth.
Picking out the best football team in the world is a near-impossible venture, an inevitable magnet for shrieks of distress as certain teams are omitted despite plying their trade in the eighth tier of Spanish football – but we're going to give it a shot anyway.
In determining the greatest teams in world football as we enter 2023, it's important to establish the ground rules, the criteria for entry into this hallowed list.
First, we'll be taking a long-term approach. Sure, your team defeated the league leaders last week but it doesn't instantly elevate them to the upper echelons of global football.
Form is temporary, class is permanent. The clearest example is Liverpool. A rotten 2022/23 campaign should not immediately see them plunge out of the top 10 world football teams to be replaced by Brighton, Brentford or Fulham, though they have taken a knock compared to last season's rankings.
Second, trophies do matter but they are not all-important. Bayern Munich may be the undisputed conquerors of Germany and PSG may rule France, but they each boast a far clearer path to their respective titles than Premier League and La Liga rivals, meaning European performance must come into play.
We have tried to strike a balance of recent past success, this current season's form and indicators of future trajectory to formulate our top 10. We know you might not agree, but who do you think is our No.1?
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RadioTimes.com brings you the top 10 best football teams in the world in 2023.
Check our more football features: Best players of all time | Best players in the world 2023 | Best strikers 2023 | Best midfielders 2023 | Best defenders 2023 | Best goalkeepers 2023 | Best young players 2023
10. Manchester United
United make the top-10 cut by razor-thin margins. A wave of elite teams underperformed across Europe last season: Juventus languished in mid-table for most of the campaign following back-to-back fourth-place finishes in Serie A, while Tottenham and Chelsea also experienced lacklustre campaigns.
The Red Devils clawed their way into our list at the expense of Dortmund and Atletico Madrid by virtue of their trajectory.
With each passing week, Erik ten Hag's team appeared to be growing in confidence and competence, their identity as a football team blossoming. Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes regained their stride last term and they will hope to put a toe into the Premier League title race this year.
9. Inter Milan
The Milanese giants may have conceded last season's title to Napoli, but they remain a strong force in Italian football right now. The dark ages of a decade ago are over and they are back to the summit in Serie A.
Inter won the title in 2021, sandwiched either side by second-place finishes, plus another in 2023. They also lifted the Coppa Italia and Supercoppa Italia last year and reached the Champions League final against Manchester City.
They have found consistency and security in the upper echelons of the Italian top flight, something not to be taken for granted given the erratic form of AC Milan, the collapse of Juventus, Atalanta's continued threat and the presence of Jose Mourinho at Roma.
Nine Ligue 1 titles and 21 domestic cup trophies since 2013 speaks volumes about PSG's dominance over the domestic game. No side has overwhelmed their nation in a top domestic league for such a period of time as PSG have done over the last decade.
The fantasy football all-star trio of Kylian Mbappé, Lionel Messi and Neymar made a mockery of the French top flight, but that's where our praise for PSG has to end. Simply, given the resources ploughed into the club, given the box office managers and players who have called Parc des Princes their home, PSG's continental return has been sub-standard.
In the glittering last decade, PSG have failed to reach the semi-finals of the Champions League in eight of 10 seasons, while their run to the 2020 final involved relatively favourable matches against Atalanta and RB Leipzig.
Now, Messi is gone, Neymar is gone, Mbappe wants out. Maybe the best thing for the club is a reset, re-evaluation and a reboot with a team unit, not a mish-mash of individuals.
Liverpool are certainly one to watch in terms of 2023 rankings as the year rumbles on. There are no two ways about it, the Reds endured an abysmal season last term. However, this shouldn't discount them from the top table just yet.
Jurgen Klopp remains an elite manager, their squad has been riddled with critical injuries and a trimming of the squad followed by several big money signings this term suggests they could be in for a huge 2023/24 bounceback.
Liverpool have reached three Champions League finals in six years, they won the Premier League in 2020 and recorded two second-place finishes around it. They also won the FA Cup and Carabao Cup in 2022. The Reds are in a precarious place, but their short-term form should not entirely demolish their status at the top. Yet.
More than a mere flash in the pan, Napoli are on an increasingly upward curve with Serie A gains being made in each of their past four seasons, with hopes of another strong showing.
Napoli finished seventh in 2020, fifth in 2021, third in 2022 and won Serie A in 2023 after also reaching the Champions League semi-finals last term.
Victor Osimhen netted a huge goal haul in 2022/23 but remains with the club, while megastar in the making Khvicha Kvaratskhelia contributed double digits in the goals and assists columns last time out. Luciano Spalletti has grown a European monster in Naples.
It would be lazy to simply throw Arsenal's name up to the very summit based on one season at the top, but the Gunners' form started in 2022 and has barely relented since with a youthful team that will continue to grow under Mikel Arteta.
They racked up the fifth highest points tally in Premier League history after 19 games with young superstars Bukayo Saka, Martin Odegaard and William Saliba leading the charge in 2022/23, now they're back with added firepower and £100m-man Declan Rice anchoring the midfield.
You could argue they've still not won anything yet and can't be considered among the elite, but to compete at the business end of the Premier League, toe-to-toe with Manchester City, you need serious, serious talent in your ranks. Arsenal boast plenty of promise going forward and look firmly in contention for numerous honours this term.
You'd be forgiven for absorbing the near-exclusively negative press swirling around Barcelona and assuming they are a spent force, a giant ready to be tucked in for a long sleep. That simply couldn't be further from the case.
We'll leave discussions of their long-term future and financial state to others, but in terms of on-field action, Barcelona have plenty to feel optimistic about.
Xavi has settled in nicely at the club and conquered La Liga against the might of Real Madrid last season. Pedri and Gavi look set to take world football by storm and Robert Lewandowski remains as lethal as ever. Barca's European exploits have tailed off since Lionel Messi's departure, but they remain a force to be reckoned with.
3. Bayern Munich
A run of 11 consecutive Bundesliga titles has cemented Bayern Munich as the undisputed dominant force in Germany. Dortmund and RB Leipzig have tried to overhaul the order in a number of individual seasons but failed to truly make a lasting dent on them.
Many could argue, like PSG, that the relative weakness of the league should count against them, but that's where Champions League performance has to play a factor in determining their true strength.
Bayern have reached the semi-finals in eight of the last 14 campaigns, with four finals and two victories in that time. They reached the knockout rounds in all 14 of those seasons and only lost twice in the Round of 16 stage. A true continental heavyweight aiming for the grand prize with Harry Kane at the helm.
2. Real Madrid
Spanish giants Real Madrid remain arguably the toughest draw in European football having won the trophy four times since 2016. For context, only six teams have won four or more trophies since the European Cup's inception in 1956.
Jude Bellingham is the hottest young talent in world football, Luka Modric remains imperious in midfield, though his involvement is slowing down, and David Alaba may be the best defender in the world. Young players such as Vinicius Jr, Eduardo Camavinga and Aurelien Tchouameni will lock in Real Madrid's continued success for years to come.
They are the long-term kings of European football, despite not having their domestic league locked down. Only a shock implosion or Manchester City bringing a European trophy back to the Etihad could have dislodged them from the summit...
1. Manchester City
Manchester City brought a European trophy back to the Etihad in 2023. Finally, it feels like they have arrived at the top table and have earned their feast.
It's hard to raise Manchester City's decade of success without acknowledging Premier League charges that accuse the club of alleged financial rule breaches. The club strongly denies any wrongdoing and the debate will rumble on for months, and potentially years, to come, but for now we will focus on their on-field heroics.
City have won five of the last six Premier League titles and will be firmly in the hunt for another in 2023/24. They boast the best coach in world football, Pep Guardiola, and several of the best players in the world including Erling Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne.
It didn't all go City's way in 2022/23, but we hold them to such a high standard that even brief blips in form are seen as catastrophic crises. City are the dominant force in the most lucrative, highest quality league in world football with relentless evolution of their style set to keep them at the very top for a long time to come.
The only stick to beat City with was their lack of a Champions League trophy in the cabinet, though they were showing clear progress in this area with three consecutive semi-final berths before clinching the trophy in 2023 to secure their status as the team to beat.
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