Manager: José Mourinho
Bench: van der Sar, Kahn, Casillas; R. Carlos, Lahm, Ramos; Maldini, Puyol, Terry, Lucio, Ferdinand, Hyypiä; Thuram, Zambrotta, Cafu; Davids, Emerson, Vieira; Xavi, Lampard, Deco; C. Ronaldo, Nedved, Riquelme; Messi, Kaka, Figo; Totti, Bergkamp, Gerrard; Eto’o, Ronaldo, van Nistelrooy
Best player: Andrea Pirlo
Best club: Manchester United
Best team: FC Barcelona 2008-10
Best match: Real Madrid – FC Barcelona 2-6, 02.05.2009
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 second 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 1995-2005 Team of the Decade, the last one was about the 2005-2015 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; a 2004-2014 Team of the Decade won’t be that different from a 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 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 2000-2010 decade as starting with the final whistle of the 2000 Champions League final and ending with the final whistle of the 2010 Champions League final.
Compiling this team wasn’t easy. A lot of great players played some fine football during these ten years. There was hardly one position where I knew whom to pick right away. Except for the position of goalkeeper, that is. Gianluigi Buffon was always gonna be my choice in goal. However, that is not to say that he was the only excellent keeper during this timespan. Far from it! The likes of Oliver Kahn, Edwin van der Sar, Petr Cech and Iker Casillas also had a fine decade. But all of them lose out in some respect. Kahn and Cech weren’t playing at the highest level for the whole decade, Casillas struggled to establish himself at Real Madrid during the early years, and van der Sar had problems at Juventus before he spend some years in the second-tier of elite level football at Fulham. Buffon basically had ten years of non-stop brilliance both for club and country. Cech and Casillas aren’t a real danger to his throne anyway because he did all that they did, only that he did it better and for the whole ten years. Kahn had a peak in the early 2000s that rivalled what Buffon did in terms of quality of performance. But since Kahn’s career ended well before the end of the decade and since he had some relatively weaker years before that, he’s no real threat to Buffon either. Also, he wasn’t as well-rounded a keeper as Buffon was. Van der Sar came closest. Being one of the great sweeper-keepers, he possessed some qualities that Buffon didn’t possess, or at least not to that degree. Had Alex Ferguson signed van der Sar as Peter Schmeichel’s direct replacement, as he originally planned, and had van der Sar been able to perform for the whole ten years at the highest level, competing against the best of the world every year, it would have been close between him and Buffon.Read More »