The last decade has seen no shortage of spectacular moments in world football.
Andres Iniesta’s goal for Spain in the 2010 World Cup Final kicked off the decade with one of the most dramatic tournament finishes in history. In 2012, Sergio Aguero’s Premier League-winning goal at the death against QPR gave Martin Tyler the most iconic commentary of his career. Over the course of the decade, many of the usual suspects have continued to dominate European club football, as Juventus and Bayern Munich each won eight of their league titles. However, in England, Leicester City won a shocking Premier League title in 2016 against 5000-1 odds, having just been promoted a year prior. In more recent years, Kylian Mbappe has headlined the next generation of superstars seeking to take the mantle from all-time greats Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. While it may be difficult for any player to reach the level of those two icons of the sport, several footballers have stood above the rest and earned their place in history over the past decade.
Below are the Voice staff’s picks for the greatest footballers of the last 10 years.
Aaron Wolf — Staff Writer
Will Shanahan — Executive Sports Editor
John Picker — Photo Editor
Diego Ventero — Staff Writer
Aaron: Manuel Neuer (Schalke 2010-11, Bayern 2011-19)
The German stopper has suffered a drop-off from best goalkeeper in the world status in recent years, but no keeper matches the resume of utter dominance Neuer displayed earlier in the decade. One of the most complete keepers in history, he was named to three consecutive UEFA Teams of the Year and came in third in Ballon D’Or voting in 2014. Neuer has also been a great winner, guiding Bayern Munich to seven straight Bundesliga titles and Germany to a World Cup victory in 2014.
Aaron: Marcelo (Real Madrid 2010-19)
Marcelo feels like one of the true veterans of the game, having scored in his debut for Brazil over 13 years ago, but he’s still just 31 years old. One of the great tricksters at the fullback position, Marcelo has also scored some sensational goals and been one of the first names on the teamsheets for both Real Madrid and Brazil for well over 10 years. While David Alaba and Jordi Alba have firmly established themselves as elite talents, neither has demonstrated Marcelo’s level of consistency at the left-back position.
Aaron: Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid 2010-19)
Ramos began the decade as one of the world’s bright young right-backs, helping Spain to World Cup glory in 2010, and he finishes the decade as an all-time great center-back. Ramos is unique with his potency in the air, scoring numerous clutch header goals, including the crucial game-tying score in the 93rd minute of the 2014 Champions League Final. As a defender, he has been an all-around superstar in the back, making stunning tackles while keeping pace with the world’s quickest attackers.
Aaron: Thiago Silva (AC Milan 2010-12, PSG 2012-19)
PSG made a huge splash in the summer of 2012 when they brought in Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Lucas Moura, and Silva for a then-whopping combined transfer sum of €133 million. That core immediately established PSG as the dominant force in French football that went on to win six of the last seven Ligue 1 titles. Over the years, Silva has been the constant figure, transitioning the club from that earlier core to one currently led by Neymar and Mbappe. In the process, he has established himself as a generational talent at the center-back position.
Will: Gerard Pique
Aaron: Phillip Lahm (Bayern 2010-19)
A Bayern Munich lifer, Lahm established himself as an all-time great on both the club and national level where he captained Germany to the 2014 World Cup title, before retiring in 2017. A nightmare for any left winger, Lahm was also crucial as an offensive playmaker, working in tandem with Bastian Schweinsteiger to generate easy opportunities for players like Arjen Robben and Thomas Muller. Lahm, who won 23 major trophies and was named to five total UEFA Teams of the Year, will be remembered in German football lore for generations to come.
Will: Dani Alves
Aaron: Luka Modric (Tottenham 2010-12, Real Madrid 2012-19)
Earlier in the decade, Modric was one of the most overlooked midfielders in the world, quietly engineering brilliant passing sequences for Tottenham and then for Real Madrid. The deft central midfielder was the key figure in Croatia’s run to the 2018 World Cup Final and became the first non-Messi or Ronaldo player to win the Ballon D’Or in over a decade that same year. A crucial figure in Los Blancos’ four Champions League titles over the past six years, Modric’s mastery in the center of the pitch has made him one of the great midfielders of his generation.
Will: David Silva
John: Toni Kroos
Aaron: Andres Iniesta (Barcelona 2010-18, Vissel Kobe 2018-19)
Iniesta was the unquestioned best midfielder in the world at the onset of the 2010s. As a versatile playmaker also capable of tracking back on defense, he helped guide Spain to glory at the 2010 World Cup and 2012 Euros, and came in second and third for the Ballon D’Or in 2010 and 2012, respectively. Few players have matched the precision and technique Iniesta has brought to the pitch, which is why he has featured as a staple on many of the most unstoppable Barcelona sides of all time.
Will: Sergio Busquets
Aaron: Eden Hazard (LOSC Lille 2010-12, Chelsea 2012-19, Real Madrid 2019)
Hazard began the decade as a star for French side Lille, winning back-to-back Ligue 1 Player of the Year awards and the league title in 2011. He then became a truly world class talent at Chelsea, leaving opposing defenders in the dust with his tantalizing blend of dribbling skill, precision passing, and pace. He went on to take home league titles in 2015 and 2017. More recently, Hazard also proved his worth on the international stage with a third place finish and the Silver Ball at the 2018 World Cup. Perhaps the most significant testament to the Belgian’s greatness occurred this summer when he was purchased by Real Madrid to fill the shoes left by the great Cristiano Ronaldo.
Will: Toni Kroos
Aaron: Lionel Messi (Barcelona 2010-19)
Not much more can be said about arguably the greatest footballer in history. The Argentine came into the decade as The Chosen One and lived up to every expectation, reaching some truly astonishing heights in the process. In 2012, Messi scored an insane 91 goals in a calendar year and earlier this month, he took home his record-setting sixth Ballon D’Or. Along the way, his playmaking ability has never been overshadowed by his scoring, as Messi has notched 9+ assists in every season this decade.
Aaron: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid 2010-18, Juventus 2019)
Another icon of the sport and perhaps the most famous athlete in the world, Ronaldo has been an offensive machine everywhere he’s gone. Joining Real Madrid in 2009, Ronaldo knew he would have to keep pace with Barcelona’s rising Messi, and he was always up for the challenge, rarely appearing outmatched. He won the Euro 2016 Championship, winning big on the international stage, where his Argentine rival never has. Among his greatest accomplishments is ending Los Blancos’ 12-season Champions League drought with Real Madrid’s 12th championship in 2014, before winning the trophy three more times consecutively. Now with Juventus, Ronaldo has already added two more trophies to his cabinet and shows no signs of slowing down.
Aaron: Luis Suarez (Ajax 2010-11, Liverpool 2011-14, Barcelona 2014-19)
One of the 21st century’s most controversial footballers, Suarez’s infamy has been matched only by his brilliance on the pitch. The Uruguayan No. 9 began the decade leading Ajax to an Eredivisie title in 2011, before moving onto Liverpool where he established himself as a top-flight forward, tying the Premier League single-season goals record in 2014. That summer, he joined Barcelona as the most expensive South American ever to that point and formed the decade’s most imposing attack force along with Messi and Neymar, proceeding to win 13 trophies with the club.
Will: Robert Lewandowski