B/R Football Ranks: The 10 Best Teams of the Decade

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterDecember 9, 2019

BARCELONA, SPAIN - MAY 06:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona celebrates with Neymar and Luis Suarez after scoring his team's 3rd goal from the penalty spot during of the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Villarreal CF at Camp Nou stadium on May 6, 2017 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

When you're edging towards the end of a decade, it's only natural that you start to look back on what's happened. 

The 10-year junctures we partition our lives into make for good nostalgic checkpoints; they let us segment and judge or evaluate...or in B/R Football's case, rank.

Here, we've chosen our top 10 teams to play this past decade. As you wade through them, we hope you'll be inundated with memories of the very best players, goals, games and duels.

     


      

10. AS Monaco, 2016-17

Monaco's Portuguese midfielder Bernardo Silva (R) and Monaco's Brazilian defender Fabinho celebrate at the end of the UEFA Champions League round of 16 football match between Monaco and Manchester City at the Stade Louis II in Monaco on March 15, 2017. /
PASCAL GUYOT/Getty Images

If there was an award for the most fun team of the decade, Monaco's class of 2017 would probably win it.

It partnered the lightning-quick Kylian Mbappe with the predatory Radamel Falcao, both of whom fed off the wonderfully creative Thomas Lemar, the magisterial Bernardo Silva and low-cross master Benjamin Mendy.

Holding the fort while those five ran riot were Fabinho, who has grown into arguably the best holding midfielder in the game, and Tiemoue Bakayoko, who didn't thrive outside of France but shows his quality while in it.

They achieved what many thought impossible—pipping Paris Saint-Germain to the Ligue 1 title—and rode to the Champions League semi-finals only to fall to a streetwise Juventus side.

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They enchanted everyone along the way.

Danijel Subasic; Djibril Sidibe, Jemerson, Kamil Glik, Benjamin Mendy; Thomas Lemar, Fabinho, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Bernardo Silva; Kylian Mbappe, Radamel Falcao

      

9. Juventus, 2014-15

BERLIN, GERMANY - JUNE 06:  Andrea Pirlo of Juventus is consoled by Paul Pogba after the UEFA Champions League Final between Juventus and FC Barcelona at Olympiastadion on June 6, 2015 in Berlin, Germany.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Juventus have dominated the lion's share of Italian football this past decade and have produced a series of brilliant teams.

The current one, spearheaded by Cristiano Ronaldo, is very good. The 2017 class that lost the Champions League final was excellent. But the 2015 edition, which boasted Andrea Pirlo, Paul Pogba and Arturo Vidal in midfield plus Carlos Tevez in attack, was probably the best of the lot.

They won Serie A and the Coppa Italia that year, but that's become standard for the Old Lady. The real intrigue came in the form of their Champions League run, where they beat Borussia Dortmund, Monaco and Real Madrid en route to a final with Barcelona.

There they came up against one of the best teams ever, featuring Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar, and ran them close. Pirlo's tears of anguish at the final whistle never get any easier to watch.

Gianluigi Buffon; Stephan Lichtsteiner, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini, Patrice Evra; Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio, Paul Pogba, Arturo Vidal; Carlos Tevez, Alvaro Morata

       

8. Atletico Madrid, 2013-14

Atletico Madrid's Uruguayan defender Diego Godin carries the 2013-2014 Spanish Liga Champions trophy before the Spanish league football match Club Atletico de Madrid vs S.D Eibar at the Vicente Calderon stadium in Madrid on August 30, 2014.   AFP PHOTO/ D
DANI POZO/Getty Images

While undoubtedly talented up front, Atletico Madrid offered a different slant on football at the top level in 2014: a rugged, bruising, defence-first one.

Diego Godin and Miranda, Gabi and Tiago, Diego Costa and David Villa. The spine was made of three sensational pairs, and all three offered quality on the ball and Diego Simeone-inspired wrath off it.

They won La Liga with 90 points, sealing it with a draw at the Camp Nou against Barcelona on the final day, and came within seconds of winning the Champions League, too—only for Real Madrid to spoil their party with their own last-gasp heroics.

But don't let that detract from what was a great team and a phenomenal season—late heartbreak on one night in Lisbon or not.

Thibaut Courtois; Juanfran, Diego Godin, Miranda, Filipe Luis; Koke, Tiago, Gabi, Raul Garcia; David Villa, Diego Costa

        

7. Real Madrid, 2016-17

Real Madrid's Portuguese striker Cristiano Ronaldo (R) raises a hand after Real Madrid won the UEFA Champions League final football match between Juventus and Real Madrid at The Principality Stadium in Cardiff, south Wales, on June 3, 2017. / AFP PHOTO /
FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/Getty Images

         

They haven't racked up the trophy totals that others have, but if you believe the Champions League is the ultimate in club football, then Real Madrid had the most successful decade of all.

After all, they won that trophy four times!

The 2016-17 team was the best of the four winners. That year, they felt truly unstoppable, inevitable—sort of like football's version of Thanos.

They had a ridiculous XI and an equally ridiculous bench. If teams managed to hold the starting convoy of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Isco at bay, then Gareth Bale and Marco Asensio would step off the bench to take advantage of tired legs.

They even had an iconic purple away kit that burned its way into your retinas while beating you, meaning you could never truly forget them.

Keylor Navas; Dani Carvajal, Raphael Varane, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo; Casemiro, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos; Isco, Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema

      

6. Liverpool, 2018-19

Virgil van Dijk of Liverpool FC lifts the trophy after winning the UEFA Champions League final. during the UEFA Champions League final match between Tottenham Hotspur FC and Liverpool FC at Estadio Metropolitano on June 01, 2019 in Madrid, Spain(Photo by
VI-Images/Getty Images

       

Ninety-seven points, no title. It's enough to cause any team despair, but Liverpool? The team yet to lift the Premier League trophy, and the team probably most desperate to do so?

Only one thing could possibly hold their sorrow at bay, and fortunately, that one thing was achieved: Champions League success.

Their 2-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur wasn't a good watch—in fact, it was probably the worst final of the decade—but they all count the same. And the interesting thing is, European success meant "98 points, no title" became something to look back on fondly and proudly, rather than with sombre regret.

The phenomenal season they enjoyed was built on sturdy foundations (Alisson Becker, Virgil van Dijk) and a rapier-like attack of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino. Manager Jurgen Klopp balanced it together like a mad scientist working the scales to perfection.

Alisson Becker; Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joel Matip, Virgil van Dijk, Andy Robertson; Fabinho, Georginio Wijnaldum, Jordan Henderson; Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino

        

5. Manchester City, 2018-19

       

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 18: Vincent Kompany of Manchester City lifts the trophy following the FA Cup Final match between Manchester City and Watford at Wembley Stadium on May 18, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

The 2017-18 season saw Manchester City hit the 100-point mark in the Premier League—a truly remarkable achievement and achieved in a remarkable way, courtesy of a 94th-minute Gabriel Jesus goal in the final game of the season.

Perhaps the most incredible thing about it all is that it wasn't even City's best season this decade. The following one was, where they won the league with 98 points and secured a historic men's treble by collecting the FA Cup and Carabao Cup, too.

In order to secure the league title, they had to win 14 straight games, erasing a seven-point Liverpool lead with the kind of relentless energy you could only sit back and applaud.

Ederson Moraes; Kyle Walker, Vincent Kompany, Aymeric Laporte, Oleksandr Zinchenko; Fernandinho, David Silva, Bernardo Silva; Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane, Sergio Aguero

      

4. Inter Milan, 2009-10

Inter Milan's Dutch midfielder Wesley Sneijder celebrates with the trophy after winning the UEFA Champions League final football match Inter Milan against Bayern Munich at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on May 22, 2010. Inter Milan won the Champi
JAVIER SORIANO/Getty Images

The last Italian team to win the treble was Inter Milan, who achieved the feat right at the start of this decade, lifting the Serie A, Coppa Italia and Champions League trophies in 2010.

They were pushed all the way in all three competitions. They beat Roma in the domestic cup final and by two points in the league, and to claim victory on the continent, they worked their way through a gruelling two-legged tie with Barcelona (resulting in Jose Mourinho's iconic charge on to the Camp Nou turf) and a tough final against Bayern Munich.

What's remarkable is that five of the players who played huge roles in this success—Lucio, Thiago Motta, Wesley Sneijder, Samuel Eto'o and Diego Milito—were all signed in the summer of 2009, making that transfer window one of the most successful of all time and Mourinho's quick work in crafting a dominant squad all the more impressive.

Julio Cesar; Maicon, Lucio, Walter Samuel, Javier Zanetti; Esteban Cambiasso, Thiago Motta, Dejan Stankovic; Wesley Sneijder, Samuel Eto'o, Diego Milito

         

3. Barcelona, 2014-15

BARCELONA, SPAIN - JUNE 07: FC Barcelona players celebrate with La Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League trophies during their victory parade after winning the UEFA Champions League Final at the Camp Nou Stadium on June 7, 2015 in Barcelona, Spain. (Pho
David Ramos/Getty Images

Barcelona set quite the standard between 2009 and 2011, so for any version of the team to come close to that level this decade is a serious achievement.

The 2015 group, led by Luis Enrique, did that.

It was a different Barca to the one we'd become accustomed to—they were faster moving the ball forward, more direct, and ever so slightly less concerned by possession. But it was also just as deadly, spearheaded by the immense attacking troika of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar.

They won the treble: Juventus were felled in the Champions League final, Athletic Bilbao were dispensed with in the Copa del Rey, and Real Madrid were outlasted in La Liga. 

Marc-Andre ter Stegen; Dani Alves, Gerard Pique, Javier Mascherano, Jordi Alba; Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta, Ivan Rakitic; Lionel Messi, Neymar, Luis Suarez

      

2. Bayern Munich, 2012-13

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 25:  Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger of Bayern Muenchen hold the trophy after winning the UEFA Champions League final match against Borussia Dortmund at Wembley Stadium on May 25, 2013 in London, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Al
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Bayern Munich won four trophies and were utterly dominant in 2012-13.

They lost just one game in the Bundesliga en route to being crowned champions with six games to spare, but it wasn't until their 7-0 aggregate battering of Barcelona in the Champions League semi-finals that the whole world acknowledged their brilliance.

Here was a team that was so tactically fine-tuned, so controlling on the pitch and capable of taking any team, any style, down. This was Bastian Schweinsteiger's peak year; Javi Martinez alongside him was superb; Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery ran riot on the wings; the likes of David Alaba and Jerome Boateng haven't reached these levels since.

On May 25, they overcame Borussia Dortmund to lift the Champions League trophy, then a week later, they produced one last effort to beat Stuttgart and hoist the DFB-Pokal.

Manuel Neuer; Philipp Lahm, Jerome Boateng, Dante, David Alaba; Bastian Schweinsteiger, Javi Martinez; Franck Ribery, Thomas Muller, Arjen Robben; Mario Mandzukic

        

1. Barcelona, 2010-11

(L-R) Ibrahim Affelay,Andre Iniesta,Xavi Hernandez,Lionel Messi,Daniel Alves,Pique Celebrate with the trophy after the UEFA Champions League final between FC Barcelona and Manchester United FC at Wembley Stadium on May 28, 2011 in London, England.  (Photo
VI-Images/Getty Images

"They do mesmerise you with the way they pass it. ... In my time as a manager, I would say they're the best team we've faced."

Following a 3-1 defeat at Wembley Stadium in the 2011 Champions League final, Sir Alex Ferguson articulated to reporters what we were all thinking: Pep Guardiola's Barcelona came about as close to footballing perfection as any side has in history.

Like so many before them, Ferguson's Manchester United couldn't get close to the passing triangles conjured by Sergio Busquets, Xavi and Andres Iniesta. Lionel Messi wreaked havoc between the lines as a false-nine, feeding Pedro and David Villa wide of him or skipping around tackles into space.

This was peak Pep Guardiola-ball, the best it has ever been—the level the Spaniard has been striving to find again elsewhere. Tiki-taka, burying opponents in style, steamrolling teams at will.

They won the Champions League and La Liga that year, overcoming arch-enemies Real Madrid in both competitions, and were the source of envy for every other fanbase. The football they played was nothing short of idyllic. 

Victor Valdes; Dani Alves, Gerard Pique, Carles Puyol, Eric Abidal; Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta, Xavi; Pedro, David Villa, Lionel Messi

      

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