Firstly I’d like to address a question that the gaffer asked me on Friday: “Why is Tony Pulis the featured image for Team of the Decade?” Well, Matthew, it’s my blog and I make the rules, and I just love Tony Pulis. Everyone knows that he can work wonders with even the poorest of teams, but he’s still really underrated. Why? Because he’s never managed a top team or won a major honour? Is that the barometer for success nowadays? Sir Tom Finney never won anything when he was playing and yet he’s regarded by many as one of the best ever. Anyway, I digress. Let’s get into the final part of Severn Sport’s Teams of the Decade and we’ve saved the best til last with yours truly in the hot seat!
In goal, we have the Italian legend Gianluigi Buffon. Quite simply the best goalkeeper of his generation by some distance and in my opinion, the greatest shot-stopper of all time. The most expensive goalkeeper in the world when he transferred from Parma to Juventus in 2001 for €52 million, Buffon was an integral part in Italy’s 2006 World Cup success.A true match-winner for club-and-country, and perfect in almost every goalkeeping department.
Kicking off the defence is Lillian Thuram. Quite probably the best French stopper of all time, Thuram was the perfect defensive specimen. Possessing lightning speed and bull-like strength, Thuram was tactically intelligent, a superb tackler and a real leader. Won multiple honours with Juventus and France, including Euro 2000, excelling both at right back and in his favoured centre back role. A defence with Buffon and Thuram would not be complete without Cannavaro too – the trio formed a legendary triangle at both Parma and Juventus. Cannavaro, another true leader with an uncanny ability to read the game and make interceptions, was at the peak of his powers in 2006 when he produced possibly the best string of defensive performances that any World Cup has ever seen. Certainly the most naturally talented defender of this decade, when Allesandro Nesta was fully fit there was no one better. Unbeatable in almost every department, Nesta won every major team honour in the game in the noughties apart from Euro 2000, a trophy he was seconds away from winning. Milan’s two Champions League crowns in 2003 and 2007 can be largely attributed to Nesta, who was immaculate in the final wins over Juventus and Liverpool respectively. The left back slot was the toughest position to pick a winner in, with Paolo Maldini and Roberto Carlos fighting it out, but the Italian just wins. The Milan captain had already been playing 15 years before the start of this decade, most of them at a world class level, and he continued these outstanding performances until at least 2007, when he lifted the Champions League for the second time in the noughties, one month short of his 39th birthday.
Claude Makelele did not make either the Premier League or La Liga Teams of the Decade, but that was purely down to the fact that he split most of the last ten years between the two different leagues. When combined, along with his exploits for France, there can surely be no doubt that Makelele was the best defensive midfielder of the decade, certainly the most consistent. Edging out Kaka, Luis Figo was one of the Real Madrid Galacticos following his infamous switch from Barcelona in 2000, and soon helped the Blancos to two La Liga titles and the Champions League in 2002. Along with fellow superstars Roberto Carlos, Zidane, Raul and Ronaldo – Figo helped produce a quality of football that only Carlo Ancelotti’s Milan matched this decade. After he lost a yard of pace, Figo successfully transformed himself into less of an orthodox winger as he made use of his skill, close ball control and intelligence. Often described as the best footballer since Diego Maradona, no player this decade or last could caress a ball like Zinedine Zidane. The French-Algerian oozed class in everything he did, with his technique, skill, dribbling, set-pieces, and general all-round playmaking. He was France’s main man for the best part of 10 years, and this decade he won Euro 2000, before dragging his country to the final of the 2006 World Cup at the age of 34. While many of the legends on this list were consistently brilliant throughout most of the decade, Ronaldinho was perhaps only top-of-the-tree for around two-to-three years. However, what the buck-toothed-wonder produced and achieved between 2003 and 2006 was so brilliant that it was impossible to ignore him. At his peak with Barcelona, Ronaldinho was the closest thing we have seen to unplayable since the time of Diego Maradona.
The greatest first striker since at least the time of Marco Van Basten, one wonders just how good Ronaldo could have been were it not for injury and weight troubles this decade. Despite all these problems, Ronaldo still comfortably does enough to make the World Team of the Decade, a tribute to the ‘Phenomenon’ that his nickname rightfully labels him as. After tragically missing out on the league with Inter in 2002, a half-fit Ronaldo who had barely played for three years went to that summer’s World Cup and scored eight goals as Brazil won the cup. Staggering. Arsenal’s greatest goalscorer of all-time, France’s greatest goalscorer of all time, Arsenal’s best forward in history, one of France’s best forwards in history – this only goes part of the way in describing Thierry Henry’s influence this decade. A lightning-paced striker, who was unstoppable when cutting in from the left, Henry scored 226 goals in just 370 games for Arsenal, and was their main man in the legendary Invincibles season of 2003-04 when The Gunners went the entire campaign without losing a league game.
There we are then, the final team of the decade complete and it reads like this:
That’s it for Severn Sport’s Teams of the Decade, we’ve had a blast selecting these! It’s really brought back nostalgia of how good all of these players really were. Part of the reason why football is the biggest sport on the planet is these players. Legends.
Kelsey De Maria
Let us know who would be in your Team of the Decade by tweeting us on @SevernSport or on Facebook, just search for ‘Severn Sport’!