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Legends of the decade: The best XI of players to retire between 2010 and 2020

By Joe Wright
Best XI of the decade

London, December 27: The past 10 years has seen a number of extraordinary footballers hang up their boots.

In fact, so many have ended their playing careers between the end of 2009 and the beginning of 2020 that you could quite feasibly create an entire league of teams and have them compete for the crown of the greatest ever. Now there's an idea, Mr Infantino...

While we wait for FIFA to cotton onto that concept, we'll have to make do with a single XI - plus a manager - of those who have stepped away from football this decade

Have a look to see who made the cut for a most difficult selection...

GOALKEEPER: EDWIN VAN DER SAR

A winner of eight league titles with Manchester United and Ajax, twice a Champions League winner and the second-most-capped Netherlands international ever, Van der Sar called time on his career in 2016. He is now Ajax's CEO.

DEFENDER: JAVIER ZANETTI

A candidate for the greatest right-back in history, Zanetti ended his 22-year career in 2014 after winning 16 trophies with Inter, including the treble of 2009-10, and 143 Argentina caps. Practically a one-club man, he is a vice-president with the Nerazzurri today.

DEFENDER: FABIO CANNAVARO

The last defender to win the Ballon d'Or, earned by leading Italy to the 2006 World Cup with some of the finest defensive performances ever seen in tournament football, Cannavaro was also twice a LaLiga champion with Real Madrid. He is Guangzhou Evergrande head coach these days.

DEFENDER: CARLES PUYOL

Centre-back supreme for the best Spain and Barcelona teams of all time, Puyol won 20 major honours for club and country, including the 2010 World Cup, where he scored the semi-final winner. He retired at the end of 2013-14, for once without lifting a trophy with Barca.

DEFENDER: ROBERTO CARLOS

Four LaLiga titles and three Champions Leagues with Real Madrid, plus the 2002 World Cup and two Copas America with Brazil, but *that* free-kick back in 1997 is probably enough on its own to get him into this team. Roberto Carlos retired with Delhi Dynamos in 2015.

MIDFIELDER: CLAUDE MAKELELE

So good, they named a position after him, even though hardly any midfielders now play as he did. Makelele was the master of defensive midfield, a league champion with Real Madrid and Chelsea and a Champions League winner. He now has a youth coach and mentoring role at Stamford Bridge.

MIDFIELDER: XAVI

Perhaps the best ever central midfield metronome, Xavi passed his way to 25 major honours with Barcelona, plus one World Cup and two European Championships in 133 Spain appearances. He also won four trophies with Al Sadd, where he retired to become head coach this year.

MIDFIELDER: RYAN GIGGS

Arguably Manchester United's finest ever player, Wales boss Giggs amassed 963 appearances for the club. He won 25 trophies, including 13 top-flight titles - more than every club in England, except United, Liverpool and Arsenal. He retired in 2014, at the age of 40.

FORWARD: RONALDINHO

Barcelona's brilliant Brazilian led their revival from 2003 to 2008, winning two LaLiga titles, the Champions League and a standing ovation from Real Madrid fans in the Clasico. A Serie A title with AC Milan followed, as did the Copa Libertadores with Atletico Mineiro in 2013.

FORWARD: RIVALDO

The 1999 Ballon d'Or winner and FIFA World Player of the Year, Rivaldo was a star for Barcelona from 1997 to 2002 but was still playing in 2015 in his homeland, 24 years on from his professional debut. He also won the 2002 World Cup with Brazil, alongside Ronaldinho and...

FORWARD: RONALDO

'O Fenomeno' completed Brazil's magical trident of 2002. Ronaldo won trophies with Cruzeiro, PSV, Barcelona, Inter, Real Madrid and Corinthians, where he retired in 2011. Without his injuries, he would likely be thought of as history's greatest number nine. Some think he is anyway.

MANAGER: ALEX FERGUSON

Manchester United rather went off a cliff after Ferguson retired in 2013, having won league title number 13 to add to 25 other major honours for the Red Devils and Aberdeen. The famous hairdryer still blows from time to time from the stands during United matches.

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Story first published: Friday, December 27, 2019, 13:30 [IST]
Other articles published on Dec 27, 2019
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