Icons for Eternity | World football’s greatest


French sporting publication L’Équipe has trawled through its archive of 12 million photographs to formulate a gallery of 170 pictures of football’s greatest players and moments, all to be auctioned off next month as special edition commemorative prints ahead of the forthcoming World Cup in Qatar.

Global footballing icons Maradona, Pele, Cruyff and Platini are all in there, captured in their pomp. George Best, Bobby Charlton and Stanley Matthews join them in a list of names and occasions that together form a photographic history of world football, from the 1950’s to the present day.

The Hand of God. Diego Maradona, 1986,
Diego Maradona – The Hand of God. England 1-2 Argentina. Aztec Stadium, Mexico City. June 22, 1986. Maradona scores twice as Argentina dump England out of the Mexico World Cup in the quarter-finals. Argentina and Maradona would go on to win the competition. © André Lecoq/L’Équipe
Diego Maradona, 1986, Aztec Stadium, Mexico City
Diego Maradona, 1986, Aztec Stadium, Mexico City. © Patrick Boutroux Robert Legros, Jean-Claude Pichon/L’Équipe
Michel Platini, 1984, Parc des Princes, Paris
Michel Platini celebrates scoring against Denmark, Parc des Princes, Paris. June 12, 1984. © L’Équipe
George Best, 1969, Old Trafford, Manchester
George Best in action against Burnley, April 1969, Old Trafford, Manchester. © André Lecoq/L’Équipe
Pelé, 1960, former Parc des Princes, Paris
Pelé aged 19, Parc des Princes, Paris. 1960. The Santos striker was star of the previous 1958 World Cup in Sweden, which Brazil won. © Collections L’Équipe
Ajax Amsterdam – Bayern Munich (4-0), 1973, Olympic Stadium, Amsterdam
Ajax 4-0 Bayern Munich, Olympic Stadium, Amsterdam. March 7, 1973. Clash of the Titans – Johan Cruyff and Franz Beckenbauer lead out the teams. © L’Équipe

“There’s a grace in these images that our photographers were able to capture and that we, as viewers, take away with us,” says L’Équipe’s Vincent Duluc.

“Pelé, the boy king in 1958, or sitting at the back of the bus in Brazil with Garrincha in 1962; Franz Beckenbauer, from behind with his arm in a sling in Mexico in 1970; and Johan Cruyff, with his number 14, the captain’s armband and a two-striped shirt to show that he was different. 

“The mythology is tangible. It runs through the contact sheets of the 1966 and 1970 finals which, when scrutinised, take you on a journey and freeze time. It also runs through Guadalajara, and through Seville, and through the triptych of the hand of God.

“The Ballon d’Or photographs are a catalogue of elegance and grace. They reveal what footballers were and what they have become in the eyes of people around the world. 

“But they also tell us what they have always been: children who gaze at the object of their dreams with the innocence that runs through their game and lasts but a moment. It is this moment that changes everything, that never fails to move us. That snapshot in time that, thanks to this catalogue, becomes an eternity.”

Diego Maradona, 1981, La Bombonera, Buenos Aires
Diego Maradona, 1981, La Bombonera, Buenos Aires. © Alain De Martignac/L’Équipe
Diego Maradona, 1986, Aztec Stadium, Mexico City
Diego Maradona, Aztec Stadium, Mexico City. June 29, 1986.© Patrick Boutroux, Robert Legros, Jean-Claude Pichon/L’Équipe
686 / 5,000 Translation results Diego Maradona, 1986, Aztec Stadium, Mexico City
Maradona scores arguably one of the best goals in World Cup history beating several England defenders before scoring past Shilton for his 2nd. Aztec Stadium, Mexico City. June 22, 1986. © André Lecoq/ L’Équipe
Diego Maradona, 1986, Aztec Stadium, Mexico City
Diego Maradona, Aztec Stadium, Mexico City, June 29, 1986. © Patrick Boutroux, Robert Legros, Jean-Claude Pichon/L’Équipe
Argentina – RFA (3-2) 1986, Aztec Stadium, Mexico
© Patrick Boutroux/L’Équipe
Maradona, 1984, Stadio Communale, Turin
Diego Maradona, 1984. Juventus versus Napoli. © Patrick Boutroux/L’Équipe
Diego Maradona, 1982, Monumental Stadium, Buenos Aires
Diego Maradona aged 21 during a friendly match with Germany, Monumental Stadium, Buenos Aires. March 24, 1982. ©André Lecoq/L’Équipe
620 / 5,000 Translation results Michel Platini, 1982, Stadio Cibali, Catania
The old lady’s favourite: Michel Platini, Juventus, Stadio Cibali, Catania. August 18, 1982. © L’Équipe
Platini Jubilee, 1988, Stade Marcel-Picot, Nancy
Platini Jubilee, Stade Marcel-Picot. Maradona, Pelé and Platini united for Platini’s testimonial. © Pierre Lablatiniere/L’Équipe
Michel Platini, 1983, Stadio Communale, Turin
Michel Platini, Juventus versus AS Roma, Stadio Communale, Turin. December 4, 1983. © Patrick Boutroux/L’Équipe
France - Brazil (1-1, 4-3 on tab), 1986, Jalisco Stadium, Guadalajara
Platini takes on the Brazil defence in the 1986 World Cup, Jalisco Stadium, Guadalajara. June 21, 1986. © Richard Le Moel/L’Équipe
France – Yugoslavia (3-2), 1984, Stade Geoffroy Guichard, Saint-Étienne
Platini scores a hat-trick beating Yugoslavia 3-2., Stade Geoffroy Guichard, Saint-Étienne. June 19, 1984. © Philippe Caron, Alain Landrain/L’Équipe
George Best, 1969
The Fifth Beatle – George Best. April 19, 1969. ©André Lecoq/ L’Équipe
666 / 5,000 Translation results George Best, 1969-1970, Old Trafford, Manchester
“I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I just squandered.” George Best leaves Old Trafford car park during the 1969-70 season in a Lotus Europe S2, one of the many cars he owned. © L’Équipe
George Best, 1969, Old Trafford, Manchester
George Best, is followed by the media whilst leaving Old Trafford in 1969. © L’Équipe
Pelé and Garrincha, 1962, Viña del Mar, Chile
Pelé and Garrincha, Viña del Mar, Chile. The Brazilian stars, Pelé and Garrincha in the bus after the draw against Czechoslovakia (0-0) during the 1962 World Cup. © L’Équipe
Pelé, 1970, Aztec Stadium, Mexico
Pelé, Aztec Stadium, Mexico. June 21, 1970.. Pelé and the Brazil team walk onto the pitch of the Aztec Stadium on their way to their 3rd World Cup win. © André Lecoq/L’Équipe
Brazil – Italy (4-1), 1970, Aztec Stadium, Mexico
Brazil 4-1 Italy (4-1), 1970, Aztec Stadium, Mexico. © André Lecoq/L’Équipe
Zico, 1982, Maracana Stadium, Rio de Janeiro
Zico, Maracana Stadium, Rio de Janeiro, March 21, 1982. © André Lecoq/L’Équipe
France - Brazil (1-1, 4-3 on tab), 1986, Jalisco Stadium, Guadalajara
France versus Brazil, Jalisco Stadium, Guadalajara. June 21, 1986, Jean Tigana trie to win the ball from the feet of Socrates during the quarter-final of the 1986 World Cup. © L’Équipe

The players are all global greats, while there are memorable moments too, capturing the highs and lows of World Cup football, particularly for England. There’s the Queen on the Wembley pitch shaking hands with the players ahead of 1966 glory. And there’s Maradona, 20 years later, using his hand to punch the ball into the back of the England net.

Mexico 1986 and time stood still for the split second it took him, the best player in the world, to rise higher than Peter Shilton in the England goal. He scored and England were on their way home.

Yet, frozen in time, captured for eternity, there was the picture to prove that Maradona, the world’s greatest player, had not used his head, but used his fist.

“Hand of God”, he said, afterwards.

Johan Cruyff, 1974, Niedersachsenstadion, Hannover
Johan Cruyff, Niedersachsenstadion, Hannover. June 15, 1974. Cruyff played the 1974 World Cup with an Adidas kit that had only two stripes due to a conflicting sponsorship deal with Puma. That year he would win his third Ballon d’Or. © André Lecoq/L’Équipe
778 / 5,000 Translation results Johan Cruyff, 1971, Marignane Airport, Marseille
Flying Dutchman Johan Cruyff of Ajax, arrives at Marignane Airport, Marseille. October 18, 1971. © Robert Legros/L’Équipe
Marseille – Ajax Amsterdam (1-2), 1971, Stade Velodrome, Marseille
Marseille 1-2 Ajax Amsterdam, Stade Velodrome, Marseille. October 20, 1971. © André Lecoq/L’Équipe
Johan Cruyff, 1971, Wembley, London
Johan Cruyff, 1971, Wembley. June 2, 1971 The triumph of total football. The final of the European Cup in 1971, against Panathinaikos, Ajax win 2-1. A first victory for Ajax. © André Lecoq/L’Équipe
Johan Cruyff, 1978, Camp Nou, Barcelona
Johan Cruyff, Camp Nou, Barcelona. January 8, 1978 “El flaco” (“the thin one”), as he was nicknamed at FC Barcelona. © Jean-Claude Pichon/L’Équipe
Franz Beckenbauer, Sepp Maier, Gerd Müller, 1969, Grünwalder Stadion, Munich
Franz Beckenbauer, Sepp Maier, Gerd Müller, Grünwalder Stadion, Munich. September 17, 1969.. Franz Beckenbauer leads the Bayern Munich team out. The double Ballon d’Or winner (1972, 1978) is closely followed by two legends of Bayern Munich: goalkeeper Sepp Maier, the most capped player, and striker Gerd Müller, top scorer in the history of the club. © André Lecoq/L’Équipe
Franz Beckenbauer, 1976, Hampden Park, Glasgow
Franz Beckenbauer, Hampden Park, Glasgow. Bayern Munich and the Kaiser see triple. For the third year in a row, Bayern Munich win the European Cup.© L’Équipe
Franz Beckenbauer, 1970, Aztec Stadium, Mexico
Franz Beckenbauer, Aztec Stadium, Mexico. June 17, 1970. The Germans lose to Italy in the end, but Franz Beckenbauer earns his reputation as a courageous captain playing through extra time with his arm strapped to his chest. Four years later, he will lift the World Cup. © André Lecoq/ L’Équipe
765 / 5,000 Translation results Franz Beckenbauer, 1976, Red Star Stadium, Belgrade
Franz Beckenbauer, Red Star Stadium, Belgrade. June 20, 1976. West Germany are beaten by Czechoslovakia in the Euro 76 final. ©André Lecoq/ L’Équipe

The World Cup accounts for 87 of the pictures that feature in L’Équipe’s auction, entitled “For Eternity”, when 170 different photographs go on sale at 6pm on Tuesday, November 8th, days after the Ballon d’Or ceremony and as the next World Cup fast approaches.

Successful buyers will become the sole owner of the picture they have purchased and each will come with a certificate of authenticity in a custom hand-make frame, while L’Équipe will continue to own the original digital file or negative, as well as retaining editorial rights. 

Gerd Müller, 1970, Nou Camp de Léon, Mexique
Gerd Müller, Nou Camp de Léon, Mexico. June 14. Gerd Müller scores the winning goal (108th minute) in the quarter-final of the 1970 World Cup won 3-2 against England. The eighth goal of the competition for “Der Bomber”. The striker will finish top scorer at the end of the competition with 10 goals, including two hat-tricks, in six games. That year he would win the Ballon d’Or. © André Lecoq/ L’Équipe
Gerd Muller, 1974, Olympiastadion, Berlin
Gerd Muller scores against Chile, Olympiastadion, Berlin. June 14. © André Lecoq/L’Équipe
Brazil – Italy (0-0, 3-2 on tab), 1994, Rose Bowl, Pasadena, USA
Brazil vesrus Italy, Rose Bowl, Pasadena, USA. July 17, 1994. Franco Baresi blocks a shot from Brazilian Romario. Brazil would win the World Cup on penalties. © Alain De Martignac/L’Équipe
Germany – Brazil (0-2), 2002, Yokohama International Stadium, Yokohama
Germany 0-2 Brazil, Yokohama International Stadium, Yokohama. June 30. Ronaldo and Ronaldinho in action for Brazil. © Alain De Martignac/L’Équipe
Ronaldo, 1998, Velodrome Stadium, Marseille
Ronaldo, Velodrome Stadium, Marseille. July 7, 1998. Six months earlier Ronaldo became the youngest player to win a Ballon d’Or, at just twenty-one. © Nicolas Luttiau/L’Équipe

L’Équipe’s Duluc, as well as writing for the publication, is also chairman of the board of directors of the National Sports Museum in Nice.

“The L’Équipe photo collection is one of the most iconic archives of press images in the world,” he writes.

“The beautiful game will be honoured in this sale, with the opportunity to acquire 170 moments of eternity – retracing the history of football.

“This catalogue is a wonder and a journey, one which, for most of us, has grasped us and not let go. At some point, the World Cup has burst into our lives and gotten under our skin, never to leave again. There’s a reason we call it simply “the World Cup” and not “the Football World Cup”. There’s just nothing else quite like it.

Brazil – France (0-3), 1998, Stade de France, Saint-Denis
Brazil 0–3 France, Stade de France, Saint-Denis. JULY 13, 1998. Zinédine Zidane celebrates scoring with Youri Djorkaeff. © Alain De Martignac/L’Équipe
Zinédine Zidane, 1998, Stade de France, Saint-Denis
Zinédine Zidanes scores his first of two headers and France beat Brazil, Stade de France, Saint-Denis. July 12, 1998. © Alain Landrain/L’Équipe
Zinédine Zidane, 2006, Waldstadion, Francfort
Zizou in action against Brazil. Zinédine Zidane, 2006, Waldstadion, Francfort. July 1, 2006. © Pierre Lahalle/L’Équipe
Roger Milla, 1990, Stadio San Nicola, Bari
Roger Milla, Stadio San Nicola, Bari. June 14, 1990. Cameroon became the first African nation to reach the quarter-finals of a World Cup. © Alain Landrain/L’Équipe
FRG - Argentina, 1990, Stadio Olimpico, Rome
West Germany 1-0 Argentina, Stadio Olimpico, Rome. July 8, 1990. World Cup final. Jürgen Klinsmann, Rudi Völler, Stefan Reuter and Pierre Littbarski celebrate Andreas Brehme’s penalty. © Jean-Claude Pichon/L’Équipe
Stanley Matthews, 1957, Blackpool, England
Stanley Matthews, Blackpool, England. February 6, 1957. Stanley Matthews wins the first Ballon d’Or list in 1956. © Jacques Boisleme/L’Équipe
Bobby Charlton, 1966, Goodison Park, Liverpool
Bobby Charlton of Manchester United, Goodison Park. December 1966. Ten years after Matthews, Charlton wins the Ballon d’Or. Bobby. © L’Équipe
World Cup Opening Ceremony, 1966,
Queen Elizabeth II meets England players led by Bobby Moore during World Cup Opening Ceremony, Wembley. July 11, 1966. The first opening ceremony in the history of the World Cup, before the match England – Uruguay (0-0). © André Lecoq/L’Équipe
Contact sheets England – Germany (4-2 a.p.), 1966, Wembley, London
Contact sheets World Cup final, England 4–2 Germany (aet), 1966, Wembley. © L’Équipe
Contact sheets England – Germany (4-2 a.p.), 1966, Wembley, London
Contact sheets World Cup final, England 4–2 Germany (aet), 1966, Wembley. © L’Équipe

“This collection takes us by the hand and plays on our emotions, simultaneously telling stories, recounting history and reminding us of our own, through its images that look back on a century of footballing highlights. These stills – in black and white and colour – along with the contact sheets that encapsulate the inseparable pieces of a moment in history, plunge us into the very heart of the mythology of the greatest sport on Earth.

“After Jules Rimet oversaw the creation of the World Cup and L’Équipe floated the idea of a European Championship, France Football launched the Ballon d’Or, which has become one of the most talked about events of the century.”

Lev Yachine, 1954, Lescure Park, Bordeaux
Lev Yachine, Lescure Park, Bordeaux. October 21, 1954. Dynamo Moscow led by goalkeeper, Lev Yachine. © L’Équipe
Valeri Zikov, Lev Yachine, Viktor Serebrianikov, 1970, Estadio Azteca, Mexico
USSR. Valeri Zikov, Lev Yachine, Viktor Serebrianikov, Estadio Azteca, Mexico, June 6, 1970. © L’Équipe
Ferenc Puskas, 1960, Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, Madrid
Ferenc Puskas of Real Madrid, Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, Madrid. June 1960. That year Puskas scored a total of 60 goals in all competitions. The Hungarian’s record will be broken 51 years later by Lionel Messi. © L’Équipe
Marco van Basten, 1988, Rheinstadion, Düsseldorf, Germany
Marco van Basten, Rheinstadion, Düsseldorf, Germany. June 15, 1988. Creator of five goals in the final phase of Euro 1988 – including a hat-trick against England and a fabulous volley in the final against the USSR. The Dutch striker won the first of his three Ballons d’Or that year. © Patrick Boutroux/L’Équipe
Marco van Basten, 1992, San Siro, Milan
Marco van Basten, AC Milan versus Napoli, San Siro. January 5, 1992. © André Lecoq/L’Équipe
Kevin Keegan, 1977, Anfield, Liverpool.
Kevin Keegan, Anfield, Liverpool. January 14. Keegan in action for Liverpool against West Bromwich Albion, during the 1976-1977 season. © André Lecoq/L’Équipe
Liverpool – Saint-Etienne (3-1), 1977, Anfield
Liverpool 3-1 Saint-Etienne, Anfield. March 16, 1977. Keegan lines up a free kick. That season Liverpool would win the European Cup. © André Lecoq/L’Équipe
George Weah, 1995, San Siro, Milan
George Weah, AC Milan. October 15, 1995. Weah scores past Angelo Peruzzi of Juventus in Turin. © Bruno Fablet/L’Équipe
George Weah, 1995, Monrovia, Liberia
1995 Ballon d’Or winner George Weah, Monrovia, Liberia. © André Lecoq/L’Équipe
Eric Cantona, 1996, Wembley, London
Eric Cantona, Wembley, London. May 11. Manchester United beat Liverpool 1-0 in the FA Cup final thanks to a Cantona volley. © Didier Fèvre/L’Équipe
Jean-Pierre Papin, 1992, Stade Velodrome, Marseille
Jean-Pierre Papin, Stade Velodrome, Marseille. April 11, 1992. © Alain Landrain/L’Équipe
Hristo Stoitchkov, 1994, Camp Nou, Barcelona
Hristo Stoichkov, Camp Nou, Barcelona. April 27, 1994. The Bulgarian demon, renowned for his talent and for his bad temper. Stoichkov was one of the best players of the 1990s. In 1994 he became the first and only Bulgarian Ballon d’Or winner. © Jean-Claude Pichon/L’Équipe
Lionel Messi, 2021, home of Lionel Messi, Paris Region
Lionel Messi pictured at his home in Paris with his seven Ballon d’Ors. 2021. © Franck Seguin/L’Équipe
Cristiano Ronaldo, 2016, Real Madrid Board Room, Madrid
Cristiano Ronaldo, then of Real Madrid, collects his fourth Ballon d’Or in 2016. Ronaldo would also win in 2017, taking his total to five. © Franck Seguin/L’Équipe
David Beckham, 1999, Villa Park, Birmingham
David Beckham of Manchester United. Arsenal v Manchester United, FA Cup semi-final. Villa Park. April 11, 1999. © Pierre Lablatinière/L’Équipe

Click here to view the full catalogue of photographs online and to place bids ahead of the auction on Tuesday 8th November 2022.

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