My Best XI of the Decade (2002-2012)

Connect in the back of the net
I’ll start by saying that when asked if I was interested in doing this piece – I jumped at it. However, the more and more I thought about it, the more it had me scratching my head.  

To come up with the best XI from an Arsenal perspective would be a hard enough prospect – so to add the rest of the world and the task becomes all the more hard.

For the purposes of the article – I’ll be fielding a 4-4-2*

Goalkeeper: Gianluigi Buffon

Taken from Zimbio

The most expensive goalkeeper of all time, Gianluigi Buffon is whom I have plumped for. Iker Casillas ran him close, but Buffon’s domineering presence, stupendous saves, and fierce loyalty to Juventus despite relegation is why the Italian pipped it for me. 

He has represented Italy in four world cups, and has surpassed the 100 cap mark. His reliability and professionalism has seen Buffon ranked so highly by his peers and opposition alike. 

My greatest memories of Gianluigi Buffon have to be the 2006 World Cup – in which he was a protagonist to Italy going all the way and winning the competition.  The save that he will be most remembered for is the header from Zidane, a truly remarkable save.

Right Back: Dani Alves

Taken from All Super Stars

I’ve never seen a wing-back with the attacking intent of the buccaneering Brazillian. Combine his iron lungs, amazing technique with a great work rate and passion, and you have a fine player. A criticism labelled at Alves is of his poor defensive ability – but this is simply untrue. 

His pace and determination more than make up for his slightly poor positioning. Despised by opposition fans, Dani Alves is a player who delivers on all occasions. 

He has become pivotal to all of Barcelona’s success. Who would have thought that when he transferred from Bahia to Sevilla in 2002?

Left Back: Roberto Carlos

Taken from Munde de Calvos

This was one of the easier decisions for me. Roberto Carlos was simply an amazing player. He was up and down the left wing unlike anything that we had previously seen. The World Cup of 2002 was eye-opening for me, as I saw Cafu and Carlos re-define the role of side-backs into wing-backs. 

Imagine if he had a thunderbolt left foot from which he scored countless free-kicks? Oh wait, he did. Carlos had it all. This was a no-brainer for me.

Centre Backs: Fabio Cannavaro & Nemanja Vidic

Taken from La Signora in Gillarosso

Despite not being a domineering presence, Fabio Cannavaro seemed to grow 2 feet every time he stepped on the field. With well over 100 caps for Italy, and his remarkable ability to anticipate opposition attacks, Fabio became the first ever defender to win the Ballon D’or. 

Fabio Cannavaro was a real inspirational captain – and is one I would have in my team, time after time.

Paired with Cannavaro – I would have the current lynchpin of the Manchester United defence, Nemanja Vidic

Taken from Bleacher Report

Much more of a physical presence, Nemanja has been a revelation since moving from Spartak Moscow. His aerial ability is very useful both offensively and defensively. The aggressive defensive style employed by the Serbian as led to him becoming a fans favourite during his time at Old Trafford.

Right Midfielder/Winger:  Cristiano Ronaldo

Taken from The Guardian

Simply a phenomenal player. The Portuguese player has had an amazing career so far, with spells at Sporting Lisbon, Manchester United and Real Madrid. 

He is perhaps one of the best ‘athletes’ we have ever seen – with his scary combination of pace and power, not forgetting his stupendous ability with either foot, Ronaldo is perhaps the most ‘complete’ player I’ve ever seen. 

It was just where I fit him in the squad which was the only dilemma.

Left Midfielder/Winger:  Ronaldinho

Taken from Sports Illustrated

I would be hard-picked to find a better natural talent than the goofy Brazillian. During his time at Barcelona, he lit up grounds around Europe – even earning a standing ovation after a stunning performance at the Santiago Bernabeu. 

Ronaldinho will be remembered for his great tricks, amazing dribbling and instinctive finishing ability. However, the thing which will stick in my mind is the fact he always played with a smile on his face.

Central Midfielders:  Steven Gerrard and Zinedine Zidane

Taken from

Zinedine Zidane is undoubtedly one the best footballers ever to grace the planet. His volley against Bayer Leverkusen sums up his career – spectacular. He single-handedly carried France to the 2006 World Cup final – before a lapse of his usual professionalism saw him see red in his final game. It was a sour end to an otherwise amazing career.

Gerrard is a player I picked due to many reasons. His ability to drag his team through bad situations, the fact he never shied away from the big game and his spectacular technique on all things football. 

I could list all of the times he’s saved Liverpool, but I would be here for a long time.  It’s probably a choice that many people wouldn’t have made, however it’s one I am sticking by.

Strikers: Lionel Messi & Thierry Henry

Taken from Koffii

What more is there to say about Lionel Messi than hasn’t already been said? The man is quite simply the best player I have ever seen play the beautiful game. He delivers when it matters, when it doesn’t, and when it seems impossible. 

He’s scored in two Champions League finals, won three Ballon D’or’s and has been the catalyst for Barcelona’s recent success. Messi not being in anyone’s side is simply criminal.

Much more open to debate is the other striker. I’ve gone for ‘the King’, Thierry Henry. During his time at Arsenal, he scored 228 goals, and won plaudit after plaudit, whilst winning 2 league titles and countless other medals. 

Thierry Henry has also picked up a European Championship medal and a World Cup medal – before recently adding a Champions League medal to his collection. 

Added to that, he played for Arsenal – so the nostalgia of him blessing my great club shunts him straight into the side for me.

Final Thoughts

Wow! I didn’t intend to write so much. It’s a great experience to think about something like this, and I have been over the side countless times in my head – and I am happy with my decisions. 

If you would like to gain any more thoughts or have a moan with some of my decisions; please don’t hesitate to contact me on Twitter

Written by Frankie Hobbs
Follow me on Twitter @FrankieH_

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