World Football: The Top 10 Midfielders of the Past Decade

Aditya M SCorrespondent IJanuary 21, 2011

World Football: The Top 10 Midfielders of the Past Decade

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    BARCELONA, SPAIN - JANUARY 12:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona (C) holds the Ballon d'Or trophy flanked by his teammates Andres Iniesta (L) and Xavi Hermandez prior the Copa del Rey quarter final first leg match FC Barcelona and Betis at Camp Nou on January
    David Ramos/Getty Images

    This is the second part of a series in which I will be reviewing the past decade on world football. In my first article I had focused on the top ten strikers of the past decade. In this series I will be looking into the top ten midfielders of the past decade.

    I have taken into consideration any midfielder who has had a good impact on the game and for his team. This list includes Defensive Midfielders as well.  Goals are not the only criteria that has been taken into consideration.

    Hope you enjoy the list and if you think I have missed out any players  please do comment and voice your opinion.


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    MILAN, ITALY - APRIL 26:  Kaka of Milan scores the first goal from a penalty during the Serie A match between AC Milan and US Citta di Palermo at the San Siro Stadium on April 26, 2009 in Milan,Italy.  (Photo by Michael Steele/G Kakaetty Images)
    Michael Steele/Getty Images

    Winner of the 2007 Ballon d’Or, Kaka has been one of the world’s best midfielders over the past decade. He might have struggled due to injuries after moving to Real Madrid in the summer of 2009 but when fit there are few who come close to matching Kaka’s exceptional talent with the ball in his feet.

    Kaka began his career at childhood club Sao Paulo. His performances prompted AC Milan to spend 9 million on his transfer. After moving to AC Milan, Kaka began to establish himself as one of the world’s most talented and consistent performers.  He scored 95 goals during his six year stay with the Italian giants.

    He was instrumental in AC Milan’s UEFA Champions League triumph scoring 10 goals. Following his great displays Real Madrid bought him for 69 million. He has struggled with the Spanish giants but has put in some great displays most notably the El Clasico in 2010.

    He has the quality to bounce back from his recent injuries and is sure to set the world on fire once again with his marvelous and eye catching displays.  

Zinedine Zidane

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    MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 08:  Zinedine Zidane of Real Madrid dribblres with the ball during the Primera Liga match between Real Madrid and Real Sociedad at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium on April 8, 2006 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
    Denis Doyle/Getty Images

    One of the greatest French players of all time, Zidane was one of the world’s top midfielders during his time. Although he might have retired now, Zidane was a truly inspirational player both at club level for Real Madrid and for the French National side.

    Zidane might have retired in the summer of 2006, but his performances at the start of the decade  means that he deserves a place on this list. After a successful 2000-01 season with Juventus, Zidane was signed by Real Madrid. At Real Madrid, Zidane played some great football and led the Spanish giants to a La Liga and Champions League victories.

    His stunning volley against Bayer Leverkusen in the UCL final still remains one of the greatest goals ever. He scored 49 goals during his 5 year stint in Spain.

     In 2006 in his last competitive tournament, Zidane led France to the FIFA World Cup final only see to himself sent off in the final and his side lose in penalties. He won the Golden Ball for his scintillating performances in the tournament and was the driving force of France’s campaign.


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    ZARAGOZA, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 16: Ronaldinho of Barcelona celebrates his goal during the La Liga match between Real Zaragoza and FC Barcelona at the La Romareda stadium February 16, 2008 in Zaragoza, Spain.  (Photo by Bagu Blanco/Getty Images).
    Bagu Blanco/Getty Images

    Although some may feel he is not a midfielder I believe he is one and have proceeded to put him on the list.

    During his prime there was not a single player who could match Ronaldinho. At his best Ronaldinho is simply unplayable and unstoppable. There was a time when Ronaldinho was considered to be one of the greatest players of all time and when one sees him play it’s easy to see why.

    Ronaldinho began his career at Brazilian club Gremio from where he moved to French side PSG. After dazzling with the French side, Ronaldinho moved to Barcelona. It was at Barcelona that Ronaldinho established himself as one of the worlds greatest.  

    During his 5 year stay with Barcelona he managed 94 goals and 80 assists.  He spent his best years at Barcelona and was instrumental in their 2 La Liga triumphs. Following his spell with the Catalan giants he moved to AC Milan.

    He might have lost his spark and magic in the last 3 years but at times he has still shown glimpses of the magic that made him such a success. He had a fairly successful 2009-10 and has now moved to Brazilian side Flamengo.

    Ronaldinho’s career maybe coming to a close but at his best there was no stopping this wizard.

Paul Scholes

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    GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - NOVEMBER 24:  Paul Scholes of Manchester United during the UEFA Champions League Group C match between Glasgow Rangers and Manchester United at Ibrox on November 24, 2010 in Glasgow, Scotland.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
    Alex Livesey/Getty Images

    Paul Scholes has been widely praised by fans and foe. Time after time, legends of the game have come out and praised Scholes:  Thierry Henry, Arsene Wenger, Zidane to name a few. When one watches him play it becomes evident why so much praise is heaped on him.

    Scholes is Manchester United through and through, having played for no other club throughout his illustrious career. Scholes has dedicated his career to Manchester United and still remains a crucial player for them. Even at the age of 36, he continues to be a vital cog in Manchester United’s midfield and still manages to have a good impact, but his performances have gone down a bit with age and he has grown injury prone.

    At his best his passing, technique and tenacity are unmatched. Scholes has led Manchester United to several trophies and has 9 Premier League champions’ medals and has lifted the UEFA Champions League twice with the Red Devils. In United’s UCL triumph in 2008, he scored the only goal of the semifinal against Barcelona to take them through to the finals.

    Scholes at his best can destruct any team, and this dedicated, hardworking and gifted player is one of the finest the Premier League and this world has witnessed.

Ryan Giggs

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    HOUSTON - JULY 28:  Ryan Giggs controls the ball during the MLS All Star Game at Reliant Stadium on July 28, 2010 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Another one-club man, playing for the Red Devils, Ryan Giggs is one of the finest players to have played under Sir Alex Ferguson if not the greatest. One could fill an entire book with Giggs’s achievements and even that wouldn’t be enough.

    Despite being 37, Giggs still manages to earn a place in the Manchester United starting line-up and still manages to put in hard-working performances.  Giggs still remains vital to Manchester United. In the last 10 seasons he has managed to score close to 80 goals and is the only player to have scored in every Premier League season since its inception.

    In 2005 he was inducted into the English Hall of fame and in the 2008-09 season he was awarded the PFA Player of the Season award as he inspired Manchester United to their 3rd consecutive Premier League crown.

    It will be a sad day, when Giggs finally hangs up his boots, as Manchester United lose one of their greatest players.

Andres Iniesta

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    BARCELONA, SPAIN - JANUARY 16:  Andres Iniesta of FC Barcelona celebrates after scoring his side's first goal during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Malaga at Nou Camp on January 16, 2011 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images
    David Ramos/Getty Images

    “The complete footballer”

    That’s what Spanish National Team coach Vincente Del Bosque had to say about Andres Iniesta and he couldn’t have been closer to the truth.

    Iniesta might not plunder goals past defenses and he may not have a great impact on the numbers but it is his contribution to scoring the goals that makes him one of the best players in the planet right now. It’s his ability to create and set up goals that makes him invaluable to Barcelona and the Spanish National side.

    Iniesta scored the goal that won Spain the World Cup in 2010. With Xavi, Iniesta forms the midfield pairing in the world right now. It is his versatility, work ethic that makes him such a fabulous player. On the pitch Iniesta is poetry in motion, as he dictates the game from the midfield. Iniesta is a major component of Barcelona’s attacking capabilities and despite Barcelona’s depth of talent, they still seem a different side in his absence.

    Iniesta has the ability to split apart any defense and like many La Masia graduates relies on his great passing, vision and creativity to create goals and win matches.


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    BARCELONA, SPAIN - JANUARY 16:  Xavi Hernandez of FC Barcelona runs with the ball during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Malaga at Nou Camp on January 16, 2011 in Barcelona, Spain. Barcelona won 4-1.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
    David Ramos/Getty Images

    Arguably the best midfielder of the modern era, Xavi is the orchestrator of Barcelona’s attack. He is the man who holds their midfield together.

    He forms an almost perfect partnership with Iniesta and the 2 of them are one of the reasons why Messi is playing such brilliant football.

    Xavi is one of the best passers of the ball and is one of the most effective players with the ball on his feet.

    Xavi completes Barcelona’s total football style and has been an integral part of the Barcelona side. Xavi may not be flashy and won’t score goals like some of his teammates, but a vast majority of his teammates’ success is down to his playing at the heart of the Barcelona midfield.

    Xavi acts as the anchorman that holds the Barcelona midfield together and helps the Catalan giants dominate possession. With the Spanish side he has won 5 La Liga titles and a couple of UEFA Champions League titles.

    Xavi is capable of leading Barcelona to several more titles before he retires.


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    BARCELONA, SPAIN - MAY 04:  Deco of Barcelona in action during La Liga match between Barcelona and Valencia at the Camp Nou Stadium on May 4, 2008 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
    Julian Finney/Getty Images

    After inspiring Porto to Champions League glory in 2004, Deco signed for Barcelona where he formed a deadly partnership with Ronaldinho.

    Deco is the first man to win 2 UEFA Best Midfielder Award with different clubs as he won it with both Barcelona (2006) and Porto (2004). He won the Champions League with both clubs on this occasion and even won the UEFA Club Footballer of the Year in 2004.

    Deco was initially an attacking midfielder but coach, Frank Rijkard molded him into a central midfielder. His fantastic work ethic, vision and tactical acumen showed the world why he was considered one of the best midfielders at that point of time. At Barcelona he created a niche for himself as one of the finest midfielder to don the jersey of the Catalan giants.

    After that he moved to Chelsea where he was unable to recapture the form that made him one of the world’s best midfielder. In 2010 he signed for Brazilian side Fluminense.

    Although he might have struggled in the last few years, his form with Barcelona and Porto guarantees him a place on this list.

Steven Gerrard

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    LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 04:  Steven Gerrard of Liverpool celebrates scoring his team's third goal and his hat trick during the UEFA Europa League Group K match beteween Liverpool and SSC Napoli at Anfield on November 4, 2010 in Liverpool, England.
    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    Liverpool’s heart and soul, Steven Gerrard has been the heartbeat of Liverpool for the past 12 years. He has dedicated his entire career to Liverpool. Whenever Liverpool needed a player to rise up to the occasion and lead them to glory, Gerrard always rose to the occasion.

    Gerrard has made it a habit to score goals at the most important times:  The FA Cup final against West Ham and more importantly the one against AC Milan in the final of the UEFA Champions League.

    Gerrard is the driving force of the Liverpool side and is indeed a fine captain, a man who can marshal his troops and lead them to glory from the dead.

    Gerrard is known for his abilities to score long-range stunners and free-kicks. He has scored several key goals from long-range. In the last 10 years he has scored 139 goals which is an impressive statistic. He was also awarded the UEFA Club Player of The Year in 2004.

    Even this year as Liverpool struggle, Gerrard’s form is one of the few positives they take away.

    It’s a shame however that he has been unable to replicate his club form with his country, England.

Frank Lampard

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 09:  Frank Lampard of Chelsea in action during the FA Cup sponsored by E.ON 3rd round match between Chelsea and Ipswich Town at Stamford Bridge on January 9, 2011 in London, England.  (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)
    Scott Heavey/Getty Images

    Lampard along with John Terry are the spine of the current Chelsea squad. Like shown this season, Chelsea require the 2 of them to fire to capture glory.

    For the past 9 years, Lampard has been one of the Premier League’s consistent players and has found himself regularly among the goals. He has scored 161 goals for Chelsea in the last 9 years and averages close to 20 goals a season.

    Lampard is the highest scoring midfielder in Premier League history and has supplied the second highest number of assists.  Lampard averages more than 10 assists each season. This coupled with his great scoring rate makes him a great player.

    With Chelsea he has won 3 Premier League trophies and in each of those seasons he has played a vital and integral role in each of those seasons.

    Lampard just like Gerrard has however struggled for England.

Honorable Mentions

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    LEEDS, UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 19:  Cesc Fabregas of Arsenal celebrates at the end of the FA Cup sponsored by E.On Third Round Replay match between Leeds United and Arsenal at Elland Road on January 19, 2011 in Leeds, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Gett
    Alex Livesey/Getty Images

    Cesc Fabregas

    Pavel Nedved

    Michael Ballack

    Robert Pires

    Freddy Ljungberg

    Wesley Sneijder

    Andres Pirlo


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