The 10 greatest footballers of the last decade

Ollie Irish

18th, December 2009


Click through the gallery below to check out Who Ate All the Pies’ list of The 10 greatest players of the last decade. Once you’ve done that, I’d love to hear your Top 10s.


Picture 10 of 10

1. ZINEDINE ZIDANE - Simply put, Zidane is right up there with Pele, Cruyff and Maradona. Others on this list might have more tricks in their bag, or more pace, or more goals, but overall, Zidane is without peer, even if he only operated at full power for the first half of this decade. Football is rightly called the beautiful game, and no one has played it with a greater sense of aesthetic poetry than Zizou.

So, no English players in there, though in any list of honourable mentions I would find room for Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard.

Anyway, agree/disagree with my choices?

PS. This list was partly inspired by the Guardian’s current Joy of Six on the same subject. I say partly, as I had planned something similar weeks ago, but forgot about it.

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  1. Adam Axon says:

    Good list Ollie.

    My only change would be Fat Ronaldo in for Seedorf. Seedorf was a great player, but I think Fat Ronaldo has to figure somewhere, especially for his performance in the 2002 World Cup.


  2. Ollie says:

    Not sure Fat Ron quite makes the cut, though he was immense in 2002, you’re right. Seedorf’s level of consistency/versatility quite remarkable.

  3. Jack says:

    I agree good list there, although there could maybe be a case for a couple more defended minded players. I agree with the guardian article with Makelele, rarely has a player inspired a positon that developed into a staple for modern football formations around the world, go claude.

  4. Meji says:

    Good list. Would like to have seen the original Ronaldo in that list. I knew Zizou would be #1. Ronaldinho is without a doubt one of the most talented players to ever touch a ball…Good list.

  5. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by stevecs: RT @ollieirish: The 10 greatest footballers of the last decade RTs welcome Be great to get a fiery debate going…

  6. eamogomez says:

    fat ronaldo instead of seedorf nd ronaldinho further dwn the list

  7. Squelch says:

    Phenomenal list Ollie – couldn’t have made a better one. Zizou is clearly one of the greatest players ever.

  8. Stemness says:

    I didn’t know that Ryan Giggs was English…

  9. kritter says:

    I think Cannavaro’s a bit overrated, personally. But I can’t think of who I’d replace him with.

    • Ryan Lowe says:


      Ronaldo simply has to be on this list, he’s one of the greatest natural talents of all time and still achieved great things in a career that included three serious knee injuries.

  10. Adam Axon says:

    Looking at the comments your really have to feel sorry for the original Ronaldo. Forever to be remembered as the Fat Ronaldo. You could argue he deserves it though because of that stupid triangle hair cut…….

  11. Lyle says:

    Have to say it as well, great list, but where’s the real Ronaldo?

  12. Ty says:

    Totti should be in the list over Messi. Messi is surely talented but can really only be classified as world class for the last 3 or 4 years. Totti has surely been one of the best for the last 10 years.

  13. jm says:

    The real Ronaldo is the all time world cup top scorer and should definitively be in the list, at #2 or 3. The diving-weaning Ronaldo and Messi still need more achievements with both club and national teams to deserve a ‘decade great status’, and I also question Kaka (he needs Jesus help…). Other players to consider for this “last decade list” in place of fake Ronaldo, jesus Kaka and new Messi(e): Maldini, Rivaldo. Crespo, Totti, Puyol, Thuram, Eto, …

  14. Chringle says:

    I know a few of these had heydays slightly longer ago than 10 years but here’s my list [in no particular order].

    Bergkamp, Zidane, Ronaldo, C.Ronaldo, Henry, Schmeichel [still at Man Utd in ’99], Riquelme, Rivaldo, Maldini, Del Piero.

    Honourable mentions go to; Vieira, Figo, Thuram.

  15. spectator says:

    Pavel Nedved? Juve would have won the champions league in 03 if he was playing in that match. the man was a fascinating cross between a lion and a swan.

  16. ish says:

    so many players you need to name and it comes down to personal choice. i would definitely have the real ronaldo there though, when he played his was a genius. a scoring record of 2 goals every 3 games, and thats club level and country level. hell his early record at inter and barce he scored 120 or so goals in 150 games. if it wasnt for injury he would have reached 300+ goals in his club career.
    i think his injuries made him slightly slower but he still did amazing at real madrid for 4 years.

  17. razrhead723 says:

    Seedorf won the Cl with Milan twice not with real madrid as mentioned

  18. Morgan says:

    I think Ruud Van Nistelrooy is missing, no-one can argue with his goal scoring record for two of the biggest clubs in the world, 150 in 219 for Man Utd and 64 in 97 for Madrid.

  19. Ben says:

    Nedved’s a great shout, the thing with Fat/Real Ronaldo is that he has, in this decade, always been injured or coming back from injury, showing glimpses of his greatness. It would be like including Gascoigne in a Best of the 90s list.
    As for Van Nistelrooy, he’s a poacher, which is probably an underappreciated art amongst football fans. By “great” I guess we all mean the players we’ve got the most pleasure from watching over the last 10 years, not necessarily the most successful or effective. RVN is one of the best goalscorers of modern times, but I’d rather watch an entertainer like C-Ronaldo, Messi or Lee Trundle.

  20. Hootie says:

    The only replacement I might make would be Xavi for either Seedorf or Cannavaro. I’ll even write the blurb:

    He was the player of the tournament when leading Spain to the title in the 2008 European Championships and the driving force behind two Barcelona Champions League winners that might have been the best two teams of the decade. There’s not a pass on the field he can’t make, he’s impossible to dispossess, and has one of the best footballing brains ever to rest above a man’s shoulders.

  21. Dave says:

    Maldini, Giggs and Ronaldo?!

    Awful list

  22. Tony says:

    One word: Shearer

  23. nick says:

    I think Pirlo has a shot at the top ten. Not at his best recently, but a couple champion’s league medals plus the best player at the 2006 world cup ought to do something for him. Classy player.

  24. Andrew says:

    Not bad…but Figo has to be in there. Class

  25. Martin says:

    Good list and while I agree with no English players making the top ten I reckon David Beckham would be the closest and he didn’t even manage an honourable mention. He should certainly be at least ahead of Lamps.

  26. S says:

    Absolutely rubbish list. Other than Buffon and Cannavaro, you’ve just gone for flair players. Roy Keane? Lilian Thuram? Paolo Maldini, quite possibly the best left back of all time?

  27. Anonymous says:

    Figo totti instead of ronaldo and messi there time will come

  28. Anonymous says:

    Figo best cross ever made madrid look like gods with raul and zizou totti instead of ronaldo and messi there time will come

  29. twizz says:

    fat ron has to be in there. seedorf is good but no way he should get a spot before fat ron

  30. gamblos says:

    I’m with everyone wlse, with fat ronaldo in for seedorf, swapped with messi (only 4 years of the decade behind him). I’d say figo and totti if it was 95 – 05 but for me kaka edges them for this decade

  31. Anonymous says:

    The Original Ronaldo and Torres should be there

  32. bestbhoy says:

    roy keane has got to be up there, i mean he was man of the match every time he played for united!!

  33. Jonathan says:

    I’d point out a factual mistake here, Ollie: Seedorf won CL twice with Milan (03 & 07), not Madrid, where he left in 99 before they won it in 2000.

    Otherwise, closely agree except for ‘fat’/REAL Ronaldo.

  34. Kai says:

    Ronaldo isn`t on the list? i mean he was decisive in a world cup victory, won the balon d’or and fifa player of the year, all this decade. He scored a hattrick at old trafford, against manchester in the champions league, and after he injured himself again, real madrid lost the champions, suffered in the league and lost the copa del rey final, that shows how decisive he was, furthermore in the 2006 world cup, even though clearly overweight, he went on to become the greatest goalscorer of all tim in world cups. So even only counting his achievments this decade he should be high in the list

  35. nik says:

    zidane is by far the greatest footballer to ever grace the pitch.. however I agree take the young lads out and put the older guys in they just started some of those kids are merely beginning to blossom

  36. dave says:

    in the next 10 years,messi is goin to rule the footballing world, he will be come the greatest of all time

  37. Naeem Rashid says:

    It’s a bit odd not finding Ronaldo on this list. Let’s remind ourselves of his amazing record.

    He’s the greatest World Cup Finals goalscorer, with 15 goals. That’s ahead of the likes of Gerd Muller and Pele. He scored 8 – EIGHT! – goals in the 2002 World Cup (which he won), more than anyone since Gerd Muller in 1970.

    He’s won the FIFA World Player of the Year a record three times (the only other player to have won it that many times is the great Zinedine Zidane himself). He’s won the Balon d’Or twice; since 1956 only other three players have won it more times (Cruyff, Platini, and van Basten, 3 each). He’s also the youngest player to win it.

    Have a look at his goalscoring statistics. In his best seasons, before his injuries, they read: 44/44, 35/36, 19/21, 47/49, 34/47…

    I realize a lot of this irrelevant, because it’s only the last ten years that are being considered here. Still, it seems unfair…

    The other obvious omission is – Paolo Maldini! Apart from the European Championships he’s won just about every major trophy, and all in the last decade. One of the outstanding defenders of his generation…

    I’d also like to suggest Bergkamp, Del Piero, and Batistuta. (Yes, all right, I prefer the nineties to the noughties.)

  38. L says:

    是啊 真羡慕你们的球队啊

  39. Naeem Rashid says:

    Erratum: Maldini has everything at club; but NOT as an international, winning neither the European Championship nor the World Cup. Nevertheless, he is a *very* strong candidate for this list Top Ten.

  40. Naeem Rashid says:

    * “[won] everything… at club [level]”

  41. common sense says:


  42. inegbenose pierre says:

    i believe that dennis berkamp should replace seddof and scholes replace kaka my own list is 1,zidane 2,ronaldo 3,ronaldinho 4, bergkamp 5,henry 6,scholes 7,messi 8,C.ronaldo 9,xavi 10,eto

  43. Cyrus says:

    This dude can never be number one on the list, he has to stats to prove that’s he’s a great player. Being great can never be base on style but substance and that’s it. Great players in every professional sports record speaks for themselves. Great players are the best on their respective clubs, it’s not about playing with the best players in the world. Apart from the 2 goals against Brazil 98′ and the champion league final of 2001, what have this guy done in 19yrs of playing soccer? I’m talking about having an outstanding season like Ronaldinho, Kaka, Ronaldo, Messi, ROmairo, George Weah, Rivalod just to name a few.Record don’t seem to suggest that Zidane was a great player. U guys can hail him all you

  44. monk says:

    Zidane never had any outstanding season throughout his career as a professional soccer player. If you check the list of great players they were judge on substance, so why is it that Zidane is always judge on style? Oh i got it becuz, he don’t have stats to proves his greatness. I think Cyrus make a great point. Zidane at CLub level had the opportunities to compete with guys like Ronaldo in Italy and Ronaldinho in Spain for years but, all those guys over shadow him, except for few game that he plays better during world cup season. Take for example 98, he got a red card against Saudi Arabia & never show up until the quater finals. He never had a goal or assist until the final against Brazil but, that same yr he won footballer of the year. So my question is; scoring against Brazil is the new standard for being consider best in the world? Pele wasn’t great becuz of his poetry, so as Diego or Ronaldo. These guys were individual their team look up to for deliverance and were the best on their teams. Zidane career average for goals is 7 and assist 5; what that record means is that he can be in the same discussion of Maicon or Roberto Carlos of Madrid. Messi alone score more goals and assist in one season than what Zidane was capable of doing in his entire Madrid career…

  45. Rom says:

    Those comments above are absolutely ridiculous. Stats are only a part of the equation. Zidane was a tremendous player, capable of making his whole team _play better_ – just watch the games, seriously. Messi still doesn’t have such an impact, no matter how many goals he scores.

  46. Anonymous says:

    Stevie G got to be dr

  47. Daniel says:

    1. Ronaldo (Brazil)
    2. Messi
    3. Zidane
    4. Ronaldinho
    5. Thierry Henry

  48. Danish says:

    floooooooopssss……hw s zidan going on top
    nooooooooooooopppppppppssssssssss……nevr happen
    top best 10 of last decade
    6Robrto carlos
    2.RONALDO-el fenomeno
    fifa selected dinho is d best player in last decade
    idiot author dont know about fooball

  49. Jeff says:

    1. Lionel Messi
    2. Cristiano Ronaldo
    3. Zinedine Zidane
    4. Ronaldinho
    5. Luis Figo
    6. Ronaldo
    7. Kaka
    8. Theirry Henry
    9. Xavi
    10. Fabio Cannavaro

  50. Henri says:

    Jeff you are wrong Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi are nothing compared to Ronaldinho and Zidane.

  51. marcelo says:

    Why is Ronaldo not in this list he is the best striker the game as seen in the last 25 years.

  52. Martin says:

    I really don’t feel like including anyone who wasn’t at least close to their prime by 2000. I’m feeling nostalgic. How bout a list that doesn’t even hint at an exaggeration like Messi being greatest of all-time, even over Pele like some silly people believe… Here’s my list:
    1. Zidane
    2. Ronaldinho
    3. Henry
    4. Ronaldo
    5. Maldini
    6. Figo
    7. Totti
    8. Nedved
    9. Roberto Carlos
    10. Bergkamp

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