The wait is over: Goal.com names the World Team of the Decade 2000-2010...Selecting Goal.com World Team Of The Decade was no easy task, with there having been so many world class players over the past 10 years.
This can be clearly illustrated by some of the champions who failed to make our starting XI - the likes of Iker Casillas, Oliver Kahn, Cafu, Roberto Carlos, Rio Ferdinand, Javier Zanetti, Andrea Pirlo, Rino Gattuso, Xavi, Patrick Vieira, Steven Gerrard, Pavel Nedved, Francesco Totti, Cristiano Ronaldo, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Andriy Shevchenko, Samuel Eto'o - and two other South American superstars whose omissions will certainly spark debate.
In choosing our team we looked at the quality and quantity of each player. How many years was he at the top for? Edgar Davids, for example, was perhaps the best defensive midfielder in the world from 2000-2002, but then he began to lose his way, as did Patrick Vieira from around 2005. How did the player perform on the big stage, in the big tournaments and the games that really matter. It is all well and good scoring hat-tricks against Derby, Reggina and Almeria, but did the player cut it against Manchester United, Milan and Barcelona in the Champions League latter stages, and against Brazil, Italy and France in the World Cup knockouts? The true class of a player is judged on how he does in the big matches - thus it comes as no surprise that Zinedine Zidane makes our team as the Frenchman rarely failed to produce his best in the big semi-finals, finals and showpieces.
How many trophies and medals did the player win? While we did not discount those who failed to pick up any silverware, in football it is the winning that counts. By the same token, what was the player's record at international level? Some have been stars domestically, like Alessandro Del Piero and Raul, but have never really made a major impact on a World Cup or Euros.
It is inevitable that some will disagree with the World Team Of The Decade - even some of our editors almost came to blows when deciding who should be selected at left back out of Paolo Maldini and Roberto Carlos - this is the beauty of football.
For this reason, we will be arranging a special LIVE! Debate at some point this week (details to be revealed soon) where Goal.com's top editors will explain their decisions for not only World Team of the Decade, but every Team of the Decade in the series.
Gianluigi Buffon (Parma, Juventus & Italy)
The best goalkeeper of his generation by quite some distance, there is every chance that Buffon could go down in history as the greatest shot-stopper of all time. A major protagonist during Italy's 2006 World Cup success, Buffon became the most expensive goalkeeper in the world in 2001 when he transferred from Parma to Juventus for €52 million. He won four Scudetti with the Bianconeri, although two of these were revoked due to Calciopoli. A true match-winner for club-and-country, and perfect in almost every goalkeeping department, aside from saving penalties - possibly his only weakness.
Lilian Thuram (Parma, Juventus, Barcelona & France)
Quite probably the best French stopper of all time, Thuram was the perfect defensive specimen. Possessing lightning speed and bull-like strength, Thuram was tactically intelligent, a superb tackler and a real leader. Won multiple honours with Juventus and France, including Euro 2000, excelling both at right back and in his favoured centre back role. As he hit his mid-thirties he endured a couple of mixed seasons with Barcelona, as well as an under-par Euro 2008, but this could not overshadow the achievements that had arrived before.
Fabio Cannavaro (Parma, Inter, Juventus, Real Madrid & Italy)
A defence with Buffon and Thuram would not be complete without Cannavaro too - the trio formed a legendary triangle at both Parma and Juventus. Cannavaro, another true leader with an uncanny ability to read the game and make interceptions, was at the peak of his powers in 2006 when he produced possibly the best string of defensive performances that any World Cup has ever seen, captaining Italy to glory. The ageing Neapolitan had an up-and-down spell at Real Madrid, but still won two Spanish league titles to add to the two (revoked) Scudetti he won with Juventus, the club he has now returned to.
Alessandro Nesta (Lazio, Milan & Italy)
Certainly the most naturally talented defender of this decade, when Nesta was fully fit there was no one better. Unbeatable in almost every department, Nesta won every major team honour in the game in the noughties apart from Euro 2000, a trophy he was seconds away from winning. Milan's two Champions League crowns in 2003 and 2007 can be largely attributed to Nesta, who was immaculate in the final wins over Juventus and Liverpool respectively. Has struggled with injuries recently, and missed all of Italy's knockout games at Germany 2006, pushing him to eventually retire from internationals. The telepathic Nesta and Cannavaro are one of the greatest centre back duo's international football has ever seen.
Paolo Maldini (Milan & Italy)
The left back slot was the toughest position to pick a winner in, with Paolo Maldini and Roberto Carlos fighting it out, but the Italian just wins. The Milan captain had already been playing 15 years before the start of this decade, most of them at a world class level, and he continued these outstanding performances until at least 2007, when he lifted the Champions League for the second time in the noughties, one month short of his 39th birthday. That year he was named Champions league Defender of the Year, a symbol of his incredible longevity. Maldini led his hometown to eight trophies this decade, including another Scudetto and Club World Cup. The all-time Serie A, Milan and Italy appearance holder retired at the age of nearly 41 this May, having been his side's best defender of the season. Should have won Euro 2000 with Italy also, but heartbreakingly missed out in the final in dramatic circumstances.
Claude Makelele (Real Madrid, Chelsea, PSG & France)
Makelele did not make either the Premier League or La Liga Teams of the Decade, but that was purely down to the fact that he split most of the last ten years between the two different leagues. When combined, along with his exploits for France, there can surely be no doubt that Makelele was the best defensive midfielder of the decade, certainly the most consistent. The Zaire-born star's ability to shield the backline, break-up attacks and win the ball off the opposition was a lesson to all youngsters, and he contributed so much to the success of every team he played for, winning two La Ligas, two Premier Leagues and a Champions League. Runner-up at the 2006 World Cup with France.
Luis Figo (Barcelona, Real Madrid, Inter & Portugal)
Edging out Kaka, Figo was one of the Real Madrid Galacticos following his infamous switch from Barcelona in 2000, and soon helped the Blancos to two La Liga titles and the Champions League in 2002. Along with fellow superstars Roberto Carlos, Zidane, Raul and Ronaldo - Figo helped produce a quality of football that only Carlo Ancelotti's Milan matched this decade. After he lost a yard of pace, Figo successfully transformed himself into less of an orthodox winger - as he made use of his skill, close ball control and intelligence - and what was supposed to be a career swansong with Inter ended up yielding four Serie A titles. For Portugal, Figo was the leader of his country, and he was outstanding at Euro 2000 as they lost a controversial Golden Goal semi-final to France. At Euro 2004, Figo had to suffer the heartbreak of a final defeat in his own country to minnows Greece, while at the age of 33, the legend was still going strong as he took Portugal to another semi-final at the 2006 World Cup, before retiring on a record 127 international caps.
Zinedine Zidane (Juventus, Real Madrid, & France)
Often described as the best footballer since Diego Maradona, no player this decade or last could caress a ball like Zidane. The French-Algerian oozed class in everything he did, with his technique, skill, dribbling, set-pieces, and general all-round playmaking. He was France's main man for the best part of 10 years, and this decade he won Euro 2000, before dragging his country to the final of the 2006 World Cup at the age of 34. The ultimate big-game performer, Zidane ran the show when it really mattered, and who can forget how he humiliated World Cup holders Brazil in the quarter final in Germany, despite many saying before the game that he was old and past-it. Zidane was responsible for possibly the most memorable moment of the noughties - that stunning volleyed winner for Real Madrid in the 2002 Champions League final. He was also culpable for the most infamous moment of the decade, if not football history, when he head-butted Italy's Marco Materazzi in the last game of his career in the World Cup final in Berlin. Every genius has a dark side, and this sad final step of a legendary journey was the sign of Zidane's genius.
Ronaldinho (Gremio, PSG, Barcelona, Milan & Brazil)
While many of the legends on this list were consistently brilliant throughout most of the decade, Ronaldinho was perhaps only top-of-the-tree for around two-to-three years. However, what the buck-toothed-wonder produced and achieved between 2003 and 2006 was so brilliant that it was impossible to ignore him. At his peak with Barcelona, Ronaldinho was the closest thing we have seen to unplayable since the time of Diego Maradona, and everyone will remember when he single-handedly crushed Real Madrid in El 2005-06 Clasico, earning a standing-ovation from the Santiago Bernabeu. In full flight, how could you stop Ronaldinho? Ronnie won two La Liga titles, a Champions League and a World Cup with Brazil, as well as the Ballon d'Or.
Ronaldo (Inter, Real Madrid, Milan, Corinthians & Brazil)
The greatest first striker since at least the time of Marco Van Basten, one wonders just how good Ronaldo could have been were it not for injury and weight troubles this decade. Despite all these problems, Ronaldo still comfortably does enough to make the World Team of the Decade, a tribute to the 'Phenomenon' that his nickname rightfully labels him as. After tragically missing out on the Scudetto with Inter in 2002, a half-fit Ronaldo who had barely played for three years went to that summer's World Cup and scored eight goals as Brazil won the cup. At Real Madrid he fired home 83 goals in just 127 appearances between 2002 and 2007, winning two La Liga titles. Do not be surprised if Ronaldo goes to a fifth straight World Cup next year.
Thierry Henry (Arsenal, Barcelona & France)
Arsenal's greatest goalscorer of all-time, France's greatest goalscorer of all time, Arsenal's best forward in history, one of France's best forwards in history - this only goes part of the way in describing Henry's influence this decade. A lightning-paced striker, who was unstoppable when cutting in from the left, Henry scored 226 goals in just 370 games for Arsenal, and was their main man in the legendary Invincibles season of 2003-04 when The Gunners went the entire campaign without losing a league game. Two Premier League titles, as well as a treble of Champions League, La Liga and Copa del Rey in an outstanding second season at Barcelona last term - Henry has now won every major honour in the game, barring the Club World Cup he can win this December. Henry was also a star at Euro 2000 at the beginning of the decade, scoring three goals as Les Bleus won the tournament.
Do you agree with those who made it into the World Team of the Decade 2000-2010? What would be your XI? Goal.com wants to know what YOU think...