Considering any recent sporting personality or team "the greatest" will tend to rile up romantics who look on with a dismissive smugness when confronted with the possibility that something now can be better than before. When discussing the greatest, the 1970 Brazil team is usually heralded as the best national team ever to step foot onto the pitch. The lethal combination of attacking verve, stylistic splendor and a sense of dominance gave the 1970 team a mystique that many find difficult to shake off.
Though the combination mentioned above is comparable to what Spain has achieved, Spain may have more. This Spain team not only possess a supreme quality and a unique style, they also have a mental toughness and squad depth like no other team in history.
Let's start with the squad depth. Keep in mind the players who weren't regular starters such as Cesc Fabregas,Javi Martinez, Fernando Llorente, Santi Cazorla, Jesus Navas, Juan Mata, Fernando Torres, Victor Valdes, Pedro Rodriguez were talented enough to challenge the best from the rest of the world. Also, this team was without two definite starters in the talismanic Carles Puyol and their top goal scorer of all time, David Villa, who are were injured during the tournament.
This just gives you a measure of the obscene riches of their squad. They seemed lackluster in some matches mainly because their coach, Del Bosque was enamored by Barcelona's style and wanted to mimic the false 9 in his formation. He chose three deep midfielders in Xavi, Xabi Alonso and Sergio Busquets, three attacking midfielders and no striker.
Fabregas would have more than sufficed as a third central midfielder or a No. 10 over Busquets allowing for a target man in Torres or Llorente. The statistics bear out quite clearly that a target man was what Spain needed to finish off their fantastic build up play.
Instead, amazement at the build up play gave way to a feeling of what some describe as boredom since the build up was presented as the goal rather than scoring one. Nonetheless, it seems Spain would have won despite any manager's worst efforts and that is how good they are. Spain was suspect at left back at the 2010 World Cup but with the emergence of new Barcelona signee Jordi Alba, they have a potential world class left back to complete the squad.
Spain could have played any number of formations and would have the players to perform and win with it. Just to compare them with other great teams; if we move Messi and Iniesta out of the equation for Barcelona or move Jairzinho and Pele out of the Brazil 1970 team or Zidane and Thuram from the France 1998 team and suddenly those teams look less a phenomenal prospect. In Spain, if you remove Iniesta and Villa there wouldn't be a massive difference..
Mental Toughness: Prior to the World Cup, Spain was a perennial contender but had never won an international football tournament. They broke their hoodoo six years ago by winning the Euros. They then won back-to-back international trophies. They have now retained the Euros. Quality and having the right players is one thing, but in football digging in, maintaining concentration and fitness complements quality. As a team Spain's mentality and approach is flawless.
Style and quality: Barcelona is widely considered the best club in the world, however they can only play one style, granted they play it perfectly, but they lack steel in midfield and a real target man up front. Essentially,Barcelona don't have a plan B. They will rely on having Messi score 50 goals a season for them but what happens if Messi suffers a long-term injury?
Spain has no such problem. They are also various players like Mata, Fabregas, Silva who can play the Messi role more than competently. They have Cazorla, Navas and Pedro who can play as traditional wingers. No team has the ability to shape-shift as this team. No other team has a brilliant plan B and C all the way down to Z and no team has a player in the top two or three in the world in every position.
Spain's football is built on a philosophy more than on a player or a few players and they have ample supply of high quality players who can immediately fit into the philosophy when required. Perhaps when Spain retains the 2014 world cup with essentially this squad, most skeptics may accept this Spain team for what it is: The greatest side in the history of football.