World Soccer All-Decade Team of the 2010s

MADRID, SPAIN - DECEMBER 23: Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid and Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona in action during the La Liga match between Real Madrid and Barcelona at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on December 23, 2017 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Angel Martinez/Real Madrid via Getty Images)
MADRID, SPAIN - DECEMBER 23: Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid and Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona in action during the La Liga match between Real Madrid and Barcelona at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on December 23, 2017 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Angel Martinez/Real Madrid via Getty Images) /

With the decade coming to an end, here is a look back at the best soccer players from the thrilling and astounding 2010s.

What a decade it was in world soccer. It was a decade marked by dominant powerhouse clubs both old and new across Europe and just enough surprises to keep you tuning into the multitude of thrilling fixtures. The game also grew and reached more fans than ever before, allowing us to see all that the 2010s had to offer.

The action of the 2010s was conducted by some of the best players the game has ever seen. Numerous talents became legends for their respective clubs while a select few cemented their status as one of the best ever in their position. Those select few exerted their brilliance at a consistent season-by-season rate and defined what it meant to be a world class player.

Dozens of players were considered, but here is the All-Decade team of the 2010s. We’re lining them up in a 4-3-3 and listing them with the club where they made their most notable impact if they played for multiple clubs during the decade.

Goalkeeper: Manuel Neuer — Bayern Munich

The 2010s were the decade of Bayern Munich in German soccer. The Bavarian club dominated in all domestic competitions and became the unstoppable force that no team managed to consistently challenge. In total, Bayern won 21 trophies in all competitions over the decade and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer was there to celebrate 18 of them.

Neuer spent the decade frustrating opposing forwards on a game-by-game basis. He was the goalkeeper any manager dreamed of having. Not only was he able to use his athletic ability to spring into completing acrobatic saves, but he also redefined the position by playing as a sweeper-keeper. Neuer often played like a third center-back when his team were building out from the back and also used his long passing range to open up play up front.

Neuer was also a force for the German national team. He made a total of 90 international appearances over the decade, including seven at the 2014 World Cup where he won the Golden Gloves after helping Germany capture their fourth world title.

The 33-year-old dominated the decade and is certainly in the conversation of being a top five goalkeeper all time.

Honorable mention: Gianluigi Buffon — Juventus

Right-Back: Dani Alves — Barcelona

Dani Alves spent much of the 2010s winning trophies at an unprecedented rate.

Over the decade, he won an immense 26 total trophies for club and country.

Alves was well known for his impact with Barcelona – a run heralded by many as the best by a fullback for the club. He established an effective attacking presence for the Blaugrana down his right flank over his eight seasons with the club. Best of all, he complimented Lionel Messi’s play style like no other full-back; he assisted the Argentine for a total of 26 goals.

The right-back recently left his mark on the Brazilian national team with an exceptional showing at the 2019 Copa America. He took home Copa America player of the tournament honors after contributing consistent performances throughout the Brazil’s title run.

From his charismatic personality to his potent play as a full-back, Alves is certainly leaving behind a unique legacy.

Honorable mention: Philipp Lahm — Bayern Munich

Right Center-Back: Gerard Pique — Barcelona

No one could have foreseen the impact Gerard Pique would have on Barcelona when he arrived back in 2008.

Under five different managers over the decade, Pique became the rock of Barcelona’s backline. Using his height and strength to his advantage, he often overpowered opposing forwards and limited the activity of the opponent’s attack in the box. The Spanish international exemplified what it meant to be a dependable and reliable defender; he has made at least 40 appearances in nine of out his 12 seasons with the club.

Pique is also one of the most decorated defenders in the history of the game. The 32-year-old has won 24 trophies for club and country over his career. From Champions League finals to the World Cup Final, the Spanish defender appeared and delivered in the biggest games this sport has to offer throughout the 2010s.

Honorable mention: Giorgio Chiellini — Juventus

Left Center-Back: Sergio Ramos — Real Madrid

Sergio Ramos is detested by many opposing fans and players, but no one can deny his individual brilliant success as a defender over the 2010s.

Like Pique, Ramos also filled up his trophy case with a multitude of team honors. The Spanish defender won a total of 23 trophies for club and country over his career, including an unprecedented four Champions League titles. The Spanish defender also took home an array of individual honors over the decade, such as nine FIFA FIFPro World 11 and seven UEFA Team of the Year selections.

At the age of 33, Ramos is still a talisman for Real Madrid and may continue his strong form into the upcoming decade.

Honorable mention: Diego Godin — Atletico Madrid

Left-Back: Marcelo — Real Madrid

With prowess as an attacker and defender, Marcelo has every trait a manager would want out of their left-back.

Marcelo was the catalyst down the left flanks for Real Madrid during their four Champions League titles. Whether it was going up against the likes of Philipp Lahm or Juanfran, the Brazilian international always found a way to assert his attacking influence. He recorded 11 goals over Real Madrid’s four Champions League title runs in the 2010s, including an assist in the 2017 final against Juventus.

Marcelo finished the decade with six FIFA FIFPro World 11 selections, which was the most by any left-back in Europe.

Honorable mention: David Alaba — Bayern Munich

Right Central Midfielder: Toni Kroos — Real Madrid

For the right central midfielder of the decade, World Cup and Champions League winner Toni Kroos gets the nod over former Barcelona controller Xavi Hernandez.

To begin, Kroos is not a greater talent than Xavi nor has he had a more illustrious career. In short, Xavi is one of the most efficient midfielders in the history of the game and is also a clear top 20 player all-time. However, Kroos is deserving of a spot over Xavi for the 2010s in particular because of his total contributions for club and country over the decade. Kroos racked up 447 European club appearances and 96 international appearances; Xavi amounted for 266 European club appearances and 50 international appearances. Xavi’s storied Barcelona career was winding down by the midpoint of this decade, though had he continued it for a couple of more seasons, he would have been a clear, unanimous selection for the right central midfielder of the decade.

Nonetheless, Kroos is worthy of this selection for his contributions to both Real Madrid and Germany’s success.

Kroos was Real Madrid’s x-factor in Champions League play. Over Real Madrid’s three-peat Champions League title run, the German international emerged as the team’s main creative force in the middle; he averaged at least 90 percent of passes completed and two key passes per game over the three seasons. He has had the ability to break opponent’s defensive structure apart with decisive through balls to the final third coupled with the heavy workload of passes completed.

The 29-year-old still has much to offer for both Real Madrid and the German national team.

Honorable mention: Xavi Hernandez — Barcelona

Central Defensive Midfielder: Sergio Busquets — Barcelona

Former Real Madrid and Spain manager Vicente Del Bosque once perfectly summed up Sergio Busquets’ subtle but immense play style:

"“If you watch the game, you don’t see Busquets. But if you watch Busquets, you see the whole game.”"

While the spectators watching the game may not always see his impact, the players on the pitch certainly know just how much of an influence Sergio Busquets had on the contest. He may not be the one filling up the score sheet with goals and assists, but he encompasses everything one would want out of a central defensive midfielder. From distributing possession to recovering the ball in the opponent’s own half, Busquets is the one talent teammates can constantly rely on to take control of the game.

The Barcelona midfielder won 25 total trophies for club and country, including the 2010 World Cup and 2012 Euro tournament.

Honorable mention: Xabi Alonso — Real Madrid

Left Central Midfielder: Andres Iniesta — Barcelona

The fact that Andres Iniesta received standing ovations at the Santiago Bernabeu, Vicente Calderon and RCDE Stadium exemplified just how much he meant to the fans across Spain, even those of his club rivals.

Iniesta left behind a legacy unmatched in Spanish soccer. He scored the World Cup-winning goal for Spain in 2010 and won the Euro 2012 player of the tournament award. The Spanish international was a maestro in the midfield with his brilliance in creating goal-scoring opportunities at will and exquisite passing through opponent’s defensive setups.

For Barcelona, Iniesta had just as much of an impact in the team’s golden era. Alongside Xavi, the two solidified themselves as the best midfield duo the game has ever seen. Iniesta played the role of the team’s versatile creative force; he played as a central midfielder, central attacking midfielder and a winger.

His best season for Barcelona from a statistical standpoint came during the team’s 100-point league title run in 2012-2013 play. Iniesta recorded a career high 22 assists in all competitions, including 16 in league play. But his impact went far beyond statistics.

Iniesta’s elegant play for Barcelona created tactical problems for opposing managers, but it all left fans in awe of his simplicity on the ball.

Honorable mention: David Silva — Manchester City

Left winger: Cristiano Ronaldo — Real Madrid

Cristiano Ronaldo arrived at Real Madrid in 2009 with a hefty amount of expectations considering his transfer fee and potential. Nine years later, he left the club as the team’s greatest ever player.

Ronaldo essentially holds every major goal-scoring record for Real Madrid. He scored a club record 450 goals in 438 appearances in all competitions. The Portuguese international delivered in the biggest games as he scored a whopping 105 Champions League goals, a club record. Ronaldo also holds the record for most league goals in a season (48) and most goals scored in a single Champions League campaign (17) – two records which will not be broken anytime soon.

Overall for club and country, Ronaldo finished the decade with 555 goals.

The 34-year-old also owns a collection of individual awards not many in soccer can match. Over the 2010s, Ronaldo took home four Ballon d’Or honors and was selected to a remarkable 10 FIFA FIFPro World 11 selections.

From his bicycle kick goal against Juventus to his countless late game-winners, Ronaldo left Real Madrid fans with memories that will not soon be forgotten.

Honorable mention: Neymar — Barcelona

Striker: Luis Suarez — Barcelona

The 2010s were filled with polarizing and colorful players in world soccer, Luis Suarez being one of the finest.

The Uruguayan international personified what it meant to be a controversial figure in the sport. He often irked the opposition with his play and other antics, but at the end of the day, he found ways to contribute and make his sides successful.

Suarez scored a total of 341 goals in all competitions for both club and country – a number which only a few have bested. He done it all in three completely different leagues. Suarez emerged to the European scene with Ajax and cemented his status as a world class goal-scorer with both Liverpool and Barcelona.

For any striker, they will be most remembered by their goals scored in clutch situations. Suarez is one who has checked off this box. He has scored in Copa America and Champions League finals along with his countless goals against rival Real Madrid.

Suarez’s uncanny but efficient play style is why he is the best striker of the decade.

Honorable mention: Robert Lewandowski – Bayern Munich

Right winger: Lionel Messi — Barcelona

The final entrant into the team of the 2010s is none other than the all-time great Lionel Messi.

Where could one even begin with his illustrious showings over the 2010s?

Messi mesmerized fans across the world with his play on the ball. He fooled defenders with his dribbles into space and created tactical mismatches regardless of the opponent’s game plan. Whether he was man-marked or faced with an overload, the Argentine genius found countless ways to leave an influence on a game within seconds.

Messi finished the decade with an astronomical 579 goals for both Barcelona and Argentina, which was more than any other player in the world. The Argentine international did it all on the pitch for his club and showed how versatile of a talent he is. From a false-nine forward to a central attacking midfielder, Messi showed how he has the ability to be a multi-dimensional attacker.

And who can forget the dozens and dozens of goals that left fans speechless.

There will never be another like Messi.

Honorable mention: Arjen Robben — Bayern Munich

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Manager: Pep Guardiola — Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Manchester City

Pep Guardiola is the clear choice for manager of the decade. The Spaniard essentially revolutionized tactical systems over the decade, whether it was his synonymous tiki-taka style or modern possession-based approach. He took Barcelona and Manchester City to heights they had never reached before while also adding to Bayern Munich’s illustrious trophy cabinet. In all, Guardiola won 22 trophies with three clubs

Honorable mention: Joachim Low — Germany

Here is how the team of the decade lines up on paper – a dream squad for any manager.

This goes to show how dominant of a decade it was for La Liga. Out of the 11 players in the team of the 2010s, only Manuel Neuer did not play for a Spanish club. It was truly the decade of the powerhouse European giants Barcelona and Real Madrid.

The 2010s have come to an end, but the next decade will be sure to bring upon the next generation of once in a lifetime talents.

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