The best football players of the 21st century
When we think about footballing legends, our minds always go back to yesteryear. There’s something intoxicating about those charismatic greats with names like Pele, Cruyff and Maradona.
But who would make the grade of legendary status out of the 21st century players? The game has changed a lot in a few years, but there are a handful who stand out and deserve a place in football history.
In terms of the best goalkeeper, one name will spring to mind for many a football fan, and that would be the Italian icon Gianluigi Buffon.
Buffon’s legacy of unparalled excellence with Juventus won him many admirers, but what will forever etch him in the hearts of the Italian public is his incredible 453 minute clean sheet in the 2006 FIFA World Cup.
Another great Italian is the legendary defender Paolo Maldini who not only scored the fastest goal in Champions League final history, but became so synonymous with his club AC Milan that they retired his number three shirt for his services to the team.
Special mention must also be made for that Serbian stalwart Nemanja Vidic. His time with Manchester United is legendary due to his intense leadership and defensive consistency.
One legend of the midfield who would strike fear into any opposition would be the formidable Zinedine Zidane. With his exceptional skill guiding the French team to the 1998 World Cup, Euro 2000 and a place in the 2006 World Cup final, Zidane is truly one of the all time greats.
And sometimes the road to greatness is a long journey. Just look at Andrea Pirlo’s career, with a slow start being shuttled between Inter and AC Milan, he eventually matured into a fantastic player with two Champions Leagues and a World Cup triumph. Just goes to show that it’s not always the dead certs who end up getting the glory!
But of course, no mention of midfielders would be complete without a mention of Xavi. Blessed with a combination of perfect passing and a quiet domination of the game, it’s no wonder that he’s been dubbed ‘the best Spanish midfielder of all time’.
There’s a such a wealth of choice for great forwards over the past few years that to narrow them down is a heartbreaking decision. However, a few faces stand out from the pack.
Ronaldo is clearly a footballing legend. His double in the 2002 World Cup final proved his excellence to many doubters and cemented his place in football history. And for a few years his Brazilian counterpart Ronaldinho was out of this world with his blend of intense skill and charismatic showmanship.
And then there’s Lionel Messi. The Argentine legend may have a few dissenters after his recent World Cup performance, but with a scoring record second to none, he is clearly one of the all time greats.