|Simply the greatest|
RTE were quicker than most to join in, straight after the final whistle Johnny Giles was reminding us all to not get carried away and stating that "they should only be considered the greatest side of their own time." Johnny ever the pragmatist wouldn't let us get carried away in the moment, just for a few minutes, even as the Spanish players were still celebrating.
It's common in football to be told that you can't compare players from different generations. The main reason for this is they've never had a chance to square up against each other, so any comparison is just theoretical. Furthermore the game is continually evolving, with rule changes, fitness levels, professionalism all having major impacts, sure even the ball used to resemble a basketball more than a football.
However its pretty obvious that this Spanish team have achieved more than any other before them. Not only have they won 3 major trophies in a row, they have also changed perceptions on how the game can and should be played. This can even involve putting the best players on the pitch as opposed to playing 4 defenders, 4 midfielders and 2 strikers. Theirs is a strategy where skill and technique are the most important attributes for any player. Throw in a good work ethic and willingness to chase back and help other team mates out and you have the archetypal Spanish player.
So if they aren't the greatest then who was? The Brazil team of 1970 were by all accounts spectacular. Pele, Tostao, Revelino, Jairzinho were the best in the world in their positions at the time and were the perfect well oiled machine who ripped lesser teams apart for fun. But beyond the first X1 I'm not sure they had the depth of talent that this Spain side have? The French team of 1998-2000 won the Euro & World Cup double and were a brilliant side. But not in the same league as Spain in my opinion and to proclaim a French side as the greatest at anything would just stick in my gut, so its not going to be them. The West German side of 1972-1976 could also lay claim to being the greatest. They had Beckenbauer, Muller, Breitner and Vogts in their ranks, unbelievable players. I know this thanks to ESPN Classic, a great channel by the way. They were the first side before Spain to reach successive Euro-World Cup-Euro finals winning two out of three.
Overall all 4 of these teams have their various strengths. Brazil 1970 had the most potent attacking unit, West Germany 1972-76 were the hardest team to beat, France had a great mix of strength, flair and pace, but Spain, in my opinion were the greatest.