Football is the most popular sport in the world, and they are plenty footballers to be found around the globe. But there is a special breed of footballer whose quality and consistency over time has ensured that they will be remembered for their talent, long after they have retired. Below, in a 4-2-3-1 formation, is the best XI for this decade.
Manuel Neuer (Germany and England)
The Germany international has been integral to the successes of Bayern Munich and Germany since he came to limelight in the colours of Schalke 04 in 2010.
The 6ft 4in goalkeeper is blessed with incredible reflexes, amazing distribution, and incredible shot-stopping powers. He’s also credited with revolutionising the sweeper keeper position.
Marcelo (Brazil and Real Madrid)
Real Madrid have a tendency to acquire the best players in the world, and Marcelo has been the most dynamic left-back in the world in the last couple of years.
His unique combination of good positioning, magic feet and pinpoint crossing ability has seen him cement his status as one of the first names on the teamsheet for both club and country.
His ability to dominate the entire left flank for Real Madrid is the reason why Cristiano Ronaldo is able to drift infield so often to devastating effect.
Matts Hummels (Germany and Bayern Munich)
Combining a calming presence with the right amount of aggression when needed, Matts Hummels is the perfect example of the ideal modern centre-back.
The German rock is as comfortable playing the ball out from the back as he is making a last ditch tackle on a goal-bound forward.
The World Cup winner is the foundation of two of the strongest teams in the world; Germany and Bayern Munich.
Sergio Ramos (Spain and Real Madrid)
Tough as nails and quicker than most centre-backs, Sergio Ramos has been one of the most consistent defenders of the past ten years.
A key cog of the all-conquering Spanish team at the turn of the century, it is a wonder that the centre-back is still just 29.
The youngest European to reach 100 caps for his country, Sergio Ramos is one of the highest scoring centre-backs of recent history, and also one of the most sent off players of all time.
Dani Alves (Brazil and Juventus)
Full-back Dani Alves is another Brazillian whose impact on the European game will never be forgotten.
Comfortable in a back three or a back four, Dani Alves was a critical part of the Barcelona team who enchanted Europe for about six years.
Explosive on the front foot while remaining defensively secure, Barcelona are yet to find a successor for Dani, who has since left for Juventus.
Andrea Pirlo (Italy and New York City FC)
A genius in every sense of the word, Andrea Pirlo is one of the most intelligent midfielders of his generation.
The icon of the regista position, Pirlo dictated the play for Milan and Juventus to devastating effect at the peak of his powers.
His vision and ability to create chances for his teammates from deep positions was so incredible that few, if any could boast of his incredible passing range.
Toni Kroos (Germany and Real Madrid)
Germans have come to be known for their efficiency, and no footballer emphasises this efficiency in football as much as the mercurial Toni Kroos.
Comfortable in any position in midfield, Toni Kroos is the perfect modern day midfielder.
His ability to pass in between the lines, shoot from a distance, and break down the opposition have seen him become an integral part of the Real Madrid and Germany set-up.
Andres Iniesta (Spain and Barcelona)
Silky, elegant and elusive, Andres Iniesta is the shy charming Barcelona magician whose genius will never be fully understood.
Iniesta’s special talent has always been his ability to read the play better than others and make the right decision, at the right time.
Admittedly he has found the back of the net only sporadically, but his winner in the 2010 World Cup final will remain a unique strike.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal and Real Madrid)
It will be impossible to assemble a team of the decade, without including the unstoppable Cristiano Ronaldo.
The physical specimen of the complete forward, Ronaldo has it all; pace, power, finishing, positioning, heading ability and shot power.
The four-time World Footballer of the year winner will be remembered not just as one of the greatest players of this decade, but as one of the all-time greats.
Lionel Messi (Argentina and Barcelona)
Apart from winning Five World footballer of the year titles, he’s got the personal accolades of; All-time La Liga highest goalscorer, All-time La Liga most assists and most goals in a single calendar year amongst others – the records Lionel Messi has to his name are seemingly endless.
Like Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi is firmly in the argument as to who is the greatest football player of all time.
Robert Lewandowski (Poland and Bayern Munich)
The pressure on modern day strikers is extraordinary; they are expected to press from the front, run the channels, hold up the ball, occupy two centre-halves, while still getting in the right positions to score plenty of goals.
Robert Lewandowski embodies everything wanted in a modern day striker, and he’s shown remarkable consistency over the past seven years.