Manager: Ottmar Hitzfeld
Bench: van der Sar, Buffon, Toldo; Lizarazu, Zanetti, Cannavaro; Stam, F. de Boer, Desailly, Campbell, Hierro, Montero; Cafu, Panucci, Di Livio; Vieira, Redondo, Cocu; Seedorf, Scholes, Veron; Giggs, Overmars, Rivaldo; Figo, Totti, Mendieta; Raul, del Piero, Henry; Kluivert, Vieri, Shevchenko
Best player: Zinedine Zidane
Best club: Manchester United
Best team: France 1998-2001
Best match: Liverpool – AC Milan 3-3, 2005 Champions League Final
A preliminary remark: when people compile Teams of the Decade, they most often restrict the meaning of the term ‘decade’ to something like the 80s or the 90s. I don’t. When I say ‘decade’, I simply mean a time span of 10 years. This post is the third in a series of articles in which I compile Teams of the Decade. I will work my way back in time in 5 year steps. After this post, the next one will be about the 1990-2000 Team of the Decade, the last one was about the 2000-2010 Team of the Decade. I’ll work my way back until the 1950-1960 Team of the Decade. I will stop there because the lack of footage for players before 1950 makes it impossible for me to form an opinion about them that is truly my own. I chose to go back in steps of 5 years, because that seems to be a good compromise. Going back in steps of 10 years is unfair towards those players who have performed the best around the turn of a decade (take Xavi, for example). Smaller steps would mean a lot of repetition: the 2004-2014 Team of the Decade won’t be that different from the 2005-2015 Team of the Decade.
Inclusion in this team is based solely on quantity and quality of performance during the respective period of time. It’s not about whether a player has won a lot of trophies, or fits some artistic ideal, even whether a player was ahead of his time in itself isn’t a criterion. It’s about performance and performance alone. You don’t necessarily have to get top marks for both quantity and quality of performance to be included. If the quality of your performances was outstanding, you will have a chance to be included even if, for example, you only performed on that level for, say, 5 of the 10 years. But the lack of quantity of performance will speak against you. Also, the chances of any given player to be included, of course, heavily depend on the quality and quantity of performance of other players who played in the same position during the same period of time. This is all still a bit vague, but since fantasy football teams are far from being exact science to begin with, I think that’s okay. The main point that I want to emphasize simply is, that both quantity and quality of performance matter. I define the 1995-2015 decade as starting with the final whistle of the 1995 Champions League final and ending with the final whistle of the 2005 Champions League final.
I have a soft spot for players who were, in one way or another, ahead of their time or interpreted their role on the field differently. Given these prefences Edwin van der Sar should be the man between the sticks for this team. But there is just no way past choosing Oliver Kahn. The German shot-stopper and He-Man lookalike was a rather conservative player, focussing on the basics of goalkeeping. Block shots, narrow angles, control your area, constantly bad-mouth… well, constantly advise the defenders in front of you. Kahn excelled in one-on-one situations and at saving so called ‘Unhaltbare’, i.e. shots that seemed impossible to save. He was blessed with lightning-quick reflexes. Most importantly, however, was his mental strength. Kahn was always focussed and had a very professional attitude towards his job. Boundless ambition drove him to constantly work on his game. All that resulted in him staying at the very top of the game for the full ten years of this decade. He reached his peak between ~ 1998-2002 (according to Bayern-expert Red de la Rubén), the absolute highlight being the 2002 World Cup where he was named Player of the Tournament. No goalkeeper has managed to achieve that before or since.Read More »