With goals, trophies, individual honours and everything in between in mind,
?Jack Gallagher: Manuel Neuer; Dani Alves, Sergio Ramos, Giorgio Chiellini, Marcelo; Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Andres Iniesta; Lionel Messi, Robert Lewandowski, Cristiano Ronaldo.
From front to back, you will not see a better team in this article. This team is perfect.
– The most revolutionary goalkeeper of the past 30 years in Manuel Neuer.
– Two full-backs who are astute in both boxes in Dani Alves and Marcelo.
– Two centre-halves that would literally rip your head off to win a game of football in Sergio Ramos and Giorgio Chiellini.
– Three of the best midfielders of all time in Toni Kroos, Andres Iniesta and Luka Modric.
– And goals up front. A lot of them. 1,334 goals between Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Robert Lewandowski throughout the course of the decade.
It doesn’t get any better than that.
?Chris Deeley: Manuel Neuer; Dani Alves, Sergio Ramos, Giorgio Chiellini, David Alaba; Sergio Busquets, Yaya Toure, Andres Iniesta; Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Cristiano Ronaldo.
How do you pick the best performers over an entire decade? Trophies, peak performance, longevity, consistency? Maybe, yeah. A bit of all of them. But when you’re making a team to represent an era, it feels negligent not to include the players who defined that era.
Manuel Neuer, for example, might not have been the best goalkeeper in the world for the last ten years – but his swashbuckling style (as much as goalkeepers can swash, and indeed buckle) was the catalyst which led to the ‘out from the back’ revolution of the last three or four years. The front three pick themselves, the midfield trio are close to impossible, and if anyone gets injured? Alves and Alaba can fill in just about anywhere on the pitch. Foolproof.
?Jude Summerfield: Manuel Neuer; Dani Alves, Sergio Ramos, Giorgio Chiellini, Jordi Alba; Sergio Busquets, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta; Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Cristiano Ronaldo.
You may have noticed there’s a certain La Liga flavour to this lineup, and a distinct lack of Premier League talent. That’s because – wait for it – most of the best players in recent years have played in Spain.
Sorry to all the Stevie G and Frankie Lamps lovers, but very few come close to breaking up that mesmerising Barcelona midfield. Luka Modric is one such player who had a case, but Sergio Busquets sneaks in instead.
Jordi Alba ahead of Marcelo is the only selection made with some oohing and aahing, as they’ve both been so brilliant for such a long period of time. In the end, the Catalan just edged it.
?Andrew Headspeath: Iker Casillas; Dani Alves, Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique, Marcelo; Sergio Busquets, Toni Kroos, Andres Iniesta; Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Cristiano Ronaldo.
Iker Casillas started the decade by winning the World Cup and ended it battling back from a heart attack, winning the Champions League, Euros and (much) more along the way.
Sergio Ramos picks himself but ignoring Gerard Pique, the decade’s other ever-present trophy hoover of a centre-back, would be an affront to logic. Catalan nationalism’s poster boy won the World Cup, Euros, two Champions Leagues and seven league titles. At the close of the decade, he’s still easily one of the planet’s best.
Kroos edges Xavi in an otherwise Spain-heavy side as the German was there for almost every significant moment of the 10s from Bayern’s treble to the drubbing of Brazil to La Décima. He has also won 40% of all Champions Leagues available this decade.
?Toby Cudworth: Manuel Neuer; Dani Alves, Sergio Ramos, Giorgio Chiellini, Marcelo; Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, David Silva; Lionel Messi, Robert Lewandowski, Cristiano Ronaldo.
The majority of this side pick themselves for obvious reasons. Messi, Ronaldo, Iniesta, Xavi – all geniuses who have accomplished so much. Neuer, the standard bearer in goal, Ramos and Marcelo, all-conquering with Real Madrid, alongside Dani Alves and Chiellini – serial winners who have been phenomenally consistent – in defence.
That leaves two spots – one taken by one of the greatest Premier League signings of all time; Manchester City’s David Silva, and the other by the unstoppable goal machine that is Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski. Quite simply a team that would take your breath away.
?Krishan Davis: Manuel Neuer; Dani Alves, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini, Jordi Alba; Arjen Robben, Sergio Busquets, Luka Modric, Cristiano Ronaldo; Lionel Messi, Robert Lewandowski.
This is an XI full of players who have redefined their roles. Neuer is the original footballing goalkeeper – almost (but not quite) equally adept with his feet and his hands. Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci are the archetypal modern tough-tacking, ball-playing centre-backs, while Jordi Alba and Dani Alves have redefined the full-back role with their attacking play, assists and goals.
Cristiano needs no introduction nor justification, while Sergio Busquets has also revolutionised his position with his fine touch and passing vision. Luka Modric and Arjen Robben secure their places through sheer class and consistency that has spanned the whole decade.
Again, Messi speaks for himself, but Lewandowski partners him ahead of Luis Suarez for his consistency, technique and just seeming like a good bloke – unlike his Uruguayan counterpart.
?Sean Walsh: Manuel Neuer; Dani Alves, Sergio Ramos, Giorgio Chiellini, Marcelo; N’Golo Kante, Luka Modric, Andres Iniesta; Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Cristiano Ronaldo.
The goalkeeper and defenders pick themselves – no one has been at the levels of Neuer, Alves, Ramos, Chiellini and Marcelo consistently for the whole decade.
In midfield, Modric and Iniesta have been nearly ever-present, with both reaching heights midfielders with bigger legacies could only dream of, while Kante has been a top five midfielder ever since moving to England in 2015. Up top, Messi, Suarez and Ronaldo pick themselves. Goals guaranteed, big moments guaranteed.
?Wilfred Dutton: Jan Oblak; Philipp Lahm, Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique, David Alaba; Sergio Busquets, Luka Modric, Cesc Fabregas; Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Cristiano Ronaldo.
Oblak is just better than Neuer. That’s factual. Lahm has been described as one of the best players he’s ever seen by Pep Guardiola, and if he’s good enough for Pep he’s good enough for me – though Phil Foden just misses the cut.
No centre-backs have defined this decade more than that Spanish pairing, and Alaba is just better-rounded than Marcelo.The front three speaks for itself – in fact, shoe-horning one of Franck Ribery or Arjen Robben in was the only other real consideration – so let’s get to that no doubt ‘controversial’ midfield.
No Xavi or Andres Iniesta may feel like an affront to football right now, but the former was 30 at the turn of the decade and Iniesta…well, look, I just wanted to recognise Cesc, okay? The guy’s done it in the two best leagues of the century, and been utterly integral to two major tournament victories. Modric has won more Ballons d’Or than both combined and Sergio Busquets is evergreen. There, done.
?Jamie Spencer: David de Gea; Dani Alves, Sergio Ramos, Leonardo Bonucci, Marcelo; Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, Andres Iniesta; Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Cristiano Ronaldo.
It would have been easy to go for players who have only emerged as superstars in recent years like Mohamed Salah, or those who have sometimes been inconsistent like Eden Hazard. This is about choosing players who have performed at elite level year after year.
Luis Suarez might have only joined Barcelona in 2014, but he was unplayable for Liverpool and Ajax before that, while Leonardo Bonucci has been present for all but one of Juventus’ eight straight Serie A titles. David de Gea hasn’t won much, yet he’s arguably proved his worth more because of that.
?Tom Gott: Gianluigi Buffon; Philipp Lahm, Sergio Ramos, Giorgio Chiellini, Marcelo; Xavi Hernandez, Luka Modric, Andres Iniesta; Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Eden Hazard.
It’d be hard enough to only name 50 players who deserve a place in an all-decade XI, so picking just 11 is an almost impossible task. At the back, there has been no safer pair of hands than Gianluigi Buffon, and the centre-back pairing of Sergio Ramos and Giorgio Chiellini would add even more security. Chiellini’s no-nonsense style would work perfectly with Ramos’ only-nonsense approach – it’s the best of both worlds.
The midfield might not be great defensively, but their creativity is second to none. Combine that with the unfathomable talent of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Eden Hazard, and you’ve got yourself a mind-blowing attack. YouTube highlights for days.
Robbie Copeland: Manuel Neuer; Dani Alves, Sergio Ramos, Giorgio Chiellini, Philipp Lahm; Xavi Hernandez, Luka Modric, Andres Iniesta; Lionel Messi, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Cristiano Ronaldo.
To my surprise, much of this XI picks itself, but in the instances where there is very little to separate various options, I’ve simply opted for the players I have most enjoyed watching over the last ten years – because that’s what football is about, after all.
Neuer’s iconic marauding style of play, Lahm’s intelligence and versatility, and Ibrahimovic’s adaptable longevity – coupled of course with his over-the-top media persona – edge them ahead of the competition for their positions.
90min’s Definitive All-Decade XI
Manuel Neuer: 7 votes
Dani Alves: 9 votes
Sergio Ramos: 10 votes
Giorgio Chiellini: 8 votes
Marcelo: 6 votes
Sergio Busquets: 5 votes
Luka Modric: 7 votes
Andres Iniesta: 9 votes
Lionel Messi: 11 votes [unanimous]
Luis Suarez: 6 votes
Cristiano Ronaldo: 11 votes