Excellent XI

The Spoiler’s Team of the Decade

Did this man make it? Read on (CLUE: yes he did)


It’s hard to know how to correctly refer to the next decade – “the tens”? The “two thousand and tens”? The “teens”? No one honestly knows. Either way, below is a compiled list of the greatest players of the “noughties”… or the “noughts”… or just “the last ten years”. Your choice.

Feel free to express your agreement with a comment.

Oh yeah, or your disagreement.

Goalkeeper, Gianluigi Buffon (Parma, Juventus)

Lots of goallies have impressed in the last ten years. Iker Casillas is pretty nifty, Shay Given deserves a moist handshake for sticking with Newcastle through thick and thin, and Petr Cech was on magnificent form before skullgate. Plus, of course, there’s always that lovable Oliver Kahn character. But, looming large above all of those safe-handed warriors is Gianluigi Buffon – probably the best around, who also benefits from looking a little bit like Al Pacino in Frankie and Johnny

Right Back, Cafu (Roma, AC Milan)

Cafu played in something like four World Cups, became the most capped Brazilian footballer of all time, and he spent pretty much all of those games absolutely rocketing up and down the right hand side. If there has been a better right back in the last decade, feel free to pipe up, and hats shall be eaten. But FYI: “Gary Neville” is not a correct answer.

Centre Back, Fabio Cannavaro (Parma, Inter, Juventus, Real Madrid)

It was tricky coming up with the right pairing at the back, especially once it became clear that very few outfield players (ie. none) were going to be English. Rio and Sol very nearly made it – and there was even silly talk of JT – but in the end, Italy’s finest took the honour. So far, Cannavaro is the only defensive player to be crowned Fifa World Player of the Year. Hence, yeah, he’s pretty good.

Centre Back, Alessandro Nesta (Lazio, AC Milan)

And so to the other half of the greatest defensive partnership of the decade, many would argue that Nesta was the better player of the two. Those same people might go on to declare him one of the finest defenders of ALL TIME. But, don’t immediately write those people off as howling insaniacs. They might actually be right. A fine player. As in really brilliant.

Left Back, Roberto Carlos (Real Madrid, Fenerbahce)

The only real blight on the Roberto Carlos copybook is that he has spent every match since that miraculous banana kick in 1997 attempting to perform the same trick. Never with the right result. Breath was always held as the left back motored towards the free kick… and it’d end up in the stands. Gutted. Either way, he is the stand out attacking full back of the last ten years. Ashley Cole is probably not far behind.

Right Midfield, Lionel Messi (Barcelona)

The youngest player in the side, Messi keeps out Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, and – by a whisker – Figo. Not one person fought David Beckham’s corner, which was surprising/fair enough. Already wonderful, Messi looks set to become one of the all-time greats. So much so that he’s even reimagined two of Maradona’s most memorable goals from the 1986 World Cup. No mean feat.

Centre Midfield, Zinedine Zidane (Juventus, Real Madrid)

Even his attempts to rewrite the history books by slamming his head into Marco Materazzi’s chest during the World Cup final in 2006 couldn’t destroy the legacy of football brilliance that Zidane has left behind. Were this a team made up of the greatest players ever to grace the game, he’d be in that too. Like most people carrying the “genius” tag, he had weird hair.

Centre Midfield, Claude Makelele (Real Madrid, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain)

One of the great unsung heroes, Makelele has been such an effective defensive midfielder that he’s even had the role named after him. No one mopped up, broke down attacks, and generally hoovered up any mess better than Makelele at his best. McManaman (who clearly has the scouse version of the same surname) insists that he was the best player at the club during his Real Madrid days, and although it has nothing to do with football, it’s worth noting that he’s also cherished away from the pitch by a very attractive underpants model.

Left Midfield, Ronaldinho (Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona, AC Milan)

In real life, there’s a good chance that Ronaldinho could devour a baked potato through a prison yard fence, but his impressive skills don’t end there. During the middle five years of the last decade, he was by far the best player on the planet. Fast, skillful, strong. And all signs from AC Milan this season suggest that he may yet be a force at the next World Cup.

Striker, Thierry Henry (Arsenal, Barcelona)

It’s a shame that Thierry Henry’s decade has been slightly marred by his curious decision to smear his hands all over the ball against Ireland. It’s distracted people from his magnificence. A record goalscorer for Arsenal and France, he’s even managed to impress the people of Barcelona. Yes, he might be completely impossible to like at times, but few have been more explosive.

Striker, Ronaldo (Inter, Real Madrid, AC Milan, Corinthians)

As in, the fat one. He’s had a topsy-turvy decade, with injuries buggering up his progress, and revelations about paying man/woman prostitutes to keep schtum about their relations raising some collective global eyebrows, but he still managed to score goals aplenty – most impressively, his eight at the 2002 World Cup. Fat or not, prozzies or none, he’s a football legend.

18 responses so far
  • David // December 14, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    Paolo Maldini? No one?


    Messi, if it’s a team of the decade, well he’s only really been doing it for the last 2 and a half.

    Would think there’d be a better right-back, but can’t think of one.

  • Jimmy T // December 14, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    Found this site which is similar… http://www.greatestplayerever.com
    Stupidly addictive.

  • andy // December 14, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    Cough cough Roy Keane cough

  • Scotian // December 14, 2009 at 4:34 pm


    IMO, Maldini was really at his best in the 90s. Or Giggs should be in it too.

  • Krug // December 14, 2009 at 5:19 pm


    Maldini? (@ Scotian, if Zidane is in this then so should Maldini be considered, as Zindane was also at his best for a far greater period in the 90s.)


    (There is a bit of an AC Milan trend here)

  • rthhry // December 14, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    ronaldo played for barca aswell

  • Fernando Hierro // December 14, 2009 at 5:41 pm

    Cafu spent most of his time this decade as a centreback not a rightback. I would plug in Michel Salgado in his place he was absolutely dominant with Real Madrid from 2000-2006. Van Nistelrooy certainly warrants a mention as well.

    Messi has only been a fixture in the Barca first team for three years. Figo has won titles with Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Inter Milan. He is the player most responsible for getting the Portuguese side to the Euro 2000 semis, the Euro 2004 final, and the 2006 World Cup Semifinal. Messi hasn’t done that with Argentina just yet.

  • hammer on // December 14, 2009 at 6:15 pm

    Although the argentine dwarf is pretty much the doggs bollocks nowadays, right miedfielder of the decade has to be Luis Figo.
    And Keano should be on Makelele´s place, although I reckon this one is pretty close to call.

    I was thinking… Giggs must be on there, but then I remembered… ok… there´s that bloke with the big teeth which was absolute magic.

  • Bokolis // December 14, 2009 at 9:23 pm

    You might be able to fit Nedved in there somewhere. But, this list reminds me that this was a relatively crappy decade for football.

    Buffon is deserving, as he can stand with any keeper. Makelele can play for any team he wants. He took what Desailly did (remember when Desailly used to play that position) to the next level. Fat-naldo, as covered above, could finish.

    But, the late ’80s/early ’90s Milan had better guys at each position on its back line- at the same time- than those mentioned here. You may argue Nesta over Costacurta, but my enduring memory of Nesta is his two breakdowns in the Euro 2000 SF against France.

    Roberto Carlos was a winger playing fullback. I wouldn’t trust that guy to defend a doghouse.

    What clinches it for me are the next four- you can’t really argue against any of them.

    Zidane had a great start, but was already dicking around by 2003. Messi has 4 years as a first team player and relatively marginal international experience. Ronaldinho is the poster boy for wasted talent; he knows tricks, not football. Outside of a few good matches in Euro 2000, Henry is a club player.

  • Darren Fletcher's mum // December 14, 2009 at 10:34 pm

    No Darren Fletcher????

  • New Jack // December 14, 2009 at 11:07 pm

    Where’s Harewood?



    Poor list son.

  • Shei Moin // December 15, 2009 at 1:28 am

    Like many others I reckon Maldini should be in there. Luis Figo ahead of messi for me as he’s been brilliant for longer this decade. I would have Steven Gerrard in there too seeing as he’s responsible for that comeback in Istanbul

  • Mohi // December 15, 2009 at 8:28 am

    Javier Zanetti is a better right back and has been doing it for a lot longer than a decade. Paolo Maldini has to be in there. Whether center back or left back. Nesta had he not gotten injuired so often could be the best center back ever. Nedved should be there ahead of messi if we are looking at the full decade.

  • berry // December 15, 2009 at 10:31 am

    Fernando Hierro,

    Van Nistelrooy doesn’t deserve a mention. Whilst I appreciate this makes my post a little redundant I just can’t seem to help writing it, such is my confusion in the fascination in him.

    As above… Figo ahead of Messi & Keane ahead of Makelele.

  • Zo // December 15, 2009 at 11:25 am

    Maldini. Must. Be. There.

    And Messi? A bit too soon maybe?
    One must keep in mind the absolutely class support he has in his Barcelona team mates.

  • Louie Louie Louie // December 17, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    Hey…has anyone paid attention to the fact that you’re forgetting DAVID BECKHAM?

    Not that being Manchester United Icon Player for a big part of the decade and then succeed at Real Madrid when the coach did not want him counts for anything…

  • Kaka // December 17, 2009 at 7:40 pm

    Based on pure talent alone, Messi, by some distance outdoes Figo. In that respect, good choice.

    But, other than that are, the list is perfect.

  • Mark the Manc // December 17, 2009 at 7:58 pm

    What the hell is this?

    I thought the Premiership team was shite, but this takes the custard cream.

    Ryan Giggs is Player of the year and BBC Sportsman of the year but he isn’t in your team of the decade. Utter shambles.


    Big Wayne-Macheda

    I’m not a Utd fan btw.

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