After Brazilian striker Ronaldo departure from international arena, it was time for midfielders era. That decade which consists of 20o2 to 2012 is mostly belonged to midfielders. We do have strikers but they were no where in the picture because Messi and Ronaldo duo took all the limelight from them, and we don’t know how long they are going to dominate, it may be another five years as well be dominated by them. So, we are here to talk about the midfielders we have watched during that decade time, and their influence on the game.
Although, Zidane retired little early to be in that list, but in his honour i would like to give him the first position in our midfielders who will be remembered for a long time. Pele described,“Zidane is the master. Over the past ten years, there’s been no one like him, he has been the best player in the world. “
Zidane known for his elegance, vision, ball control and technique was named the best European footballer of the past 50 years in the UEFA Golden Jubilee Poll. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest players in the history of the game. His 2001 transfer from Juventus to Real Madrid set a world record fee of an equivalent €75 million. His left-foot volleyed winner in the 2002 UEFA Champions League Final is considered to be one of the greatest goals in the competition’s history. Zidane was named the FIFA World Player of the Year three times, in 1998, 2000 and 2003, and won the 1998 Ballon d’Or. Zidane received the Golden Ball for player of the tournament at the 2006 World Cup, despite his infamous sending off in the final against Italy for headbutting Marco Materazzi in the chest. Prior to the World Cup, he announced he would retire at the end of the tournament. The World Cup triumph in 1998 made him a national hero in France, and he received the Légion d’honneur in 1998.
Former Spain and Barcelona’s maverick central midfielder will be remembered for a long-time for his contribution in the midfield. His feat for his country and the club is untouchable, and his presence in the midfield brought a new dimension to the football. He was equally good with the long ball, short ball, precision passes, and his ability to find the right passes at the right moment. A thinking genius who completely dominates the game with his passing accuracy. Xavi won 28 trophies, only surpassed by Andrés Iniesta as the most successful Spanish player in history. He came third in the 2009 FIFA World Player of the Year, followed by third place for its successor award, the FIFA Ballon d’Or, in 2010 and 2011. In 2011, he was runner up to Lionel Messi for the UEFA Best Player in Europe Award. He has been awarded the IFFHS World’s Best Playmaker award for 4 years: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011. Xavi has been included in the UEFA Team of the Year for 5 years (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012), and has been voted into the FIFA World XI on 6 occasions: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013.
Another Barcelona midfield maestro who is still ranked in Barcelona line-up, and taken over the captain’s arm band form his predecessor and former teammate Xavi can never sit out from any midfielder lists. Don Andrés has his own style of play, and he is very much comfortable playing at any position, wether it’s central midfielder role, an attacking midfielder role, a right winger role or you use him a central forward. His passing, dribbling and vision makes him the the illusionist who knows when to attack, when to hold back and what’s the perfect moment to get passed the opponents defenders when they are really defending in numbers. The 2010 World Cup winner and final’s Man of the Match player has everything a footballer craves for. He was part of Barcelona’s two treble winning season 2009 & 2015, and considered as one of the best players of his generation and one of the greatest midfielders of all time. Since 2009, he has been chosen in the UEFA Team of the Year five times and has been voted into the FIFA World XI on seven occasions. Iniesta won the UEFA Best Player in Europe award in 2012 and was named the IFFHS World’s Best Playmaker in 2012 and 2013. He was runner-up to Lionel Messi for the 2010 FIFA Ballon d’Or and achieved third place in 2012.
You definitely cannot complete midfield era without including Kaka on the list. The versatile Brazilian is always going to be most admired attacking midfielder. He was great during his stay at AC Milan, he won everything Serie A, Champions League, as well as individual awards in FIFA World Player of the Year and Ballon d’or back in 2007. FIFA describes him as,”capacity to glide almost effortlessly past opponents, provide defence-splitting passes and score consistently from distance.”
Another Brazilian great Ronaldinho said about him,“For two, maybe three seasons [at Milan] he was the best player in the world, there was nothing he couldn’t do.” An attacking midfielder who can do almost everything deserves his place in our Midfield era footballers list. He is definitely not at his pinnacle, but he still plays for Orlando City in America and doing great things there as well, without injury he would have definitely enjoyed his spell at Real Madrid becoming the 2nd most expensive player with his $65 million price tag.
Netherlands attacking midfielder and former Inter Milan player Wesley Sneijder currently plays for Galatasaray in Turkey, but he was at his pinnacle during his stay at Inter Milan. He was named UEFA midfielder of the season and one of the three best midfielders in the world for 2010 by FIFA. He was awarded the 2010 Bronze Boot, the 2010 Silver Ball, and included in the team of the tournament for Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup, as well as named man of the match for six out of eleven games played by the Oranje at these two tournaments. With 123 caps, he is their second-most capped player of all time, after Edwin van der Sar for Netherlands.
He is a creative and versatile midfielder, recognised as one of the classic playmakers of the 2010s. His impeccable placement and confirmed ability to score from free kicks, earned him the reputation as a dead-ball specialist. Sneijder was given the nickname “The Sniper” by the media for his ability to deliver perfect passes and score from impressive distances, and without him midfielder era cannot be completed.
No man has ever had more influence in the game than Italian deep lying midfield playmaker – Andrea Pirlo, former AC Milan and Juventus man, currently playing for New York City. Pirlo is a free-kick specialist, who is usually deployed as a deep-lying playmaker in midfield for both his club and national sides, and he is widely regarded as one of the greatest ever exponents of this position, due to his vision, ball control, creativity and passing ability.
He won two UEFA Champions Leagues (2003 and 2007), two UEFA Super Cups (2003 and 2007), two Serie A titles (2004 and 2011), a FIFA Club World Cup (2007), a Supercoppa Italiana (2004), and a Coppa Italia (2003) with AC Milan. But, his top game didn’t end here, he joined Juventus in 2011. He added four more Serie A titles (2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015), which he won consecutively, as well as two Supercoppa Italiana titles (2012 and 2013), and a Coppa Italia (2015).
He was instrumental in Italy victory in the 2006 FIFA World Cup. He was named Man of the Match three times, including the final, more than any other player in the tournament, and ultimately won the Bronze Ball (awarded to the third best player of the tournament) also being elected to the Team of the Tournament.
A club loyal and one of the greatest Liverpool player, Steven Gerrard may not have the desired ending at Liverpool, but it cannot take away from him his achievements. He is regarded as one of the greatest midfielders of his generation. Gerrard came second to Kenny Dalglish in the “100 Players Who Shook The Kop”, a 2008 Liverpool fan poll, and first in 2013. Zinedine Zidane and Pele said in 2009 that they considered Gerrard to be the best footballer in the world.
He was a fighter and his vision and fighting spirit made him one of the greats. He has got the best shot from mid-range, and he has written his name with his goals in some of the greatest comeback in footballing history. He scored Liverpool’s first goal and won the penalty kick for the third as Liverpool came from 3–0 down to defeat Milan in the 2005 dramatic Champions League Final. His honours include two FA Cups, three League Cups, one UEFA Champions League, one UEFA Cup, and one UEFA Super Cup, only thing missing from his cabinet trophy is Premier League trophy.
In 2005, Gerrard was honoured as the UEFA Club Footballer of the Year and won the Ballon d’Or Bronze Award. He has also been named in the PFA Team of the Year a record eight times, the UEFA Team of the Year and FIFA World XI three times, and was named PFA Players’ Player of the Year in 2006 and the FWA Footballer of the Year in 2009. He is, to date, the only footballer ever to have scored a goal in an FA Cup Final, a League Cup Final, a UEFA Cup Final and a UEFA Champions League Final.
In 2004, Clarence Seedorf was chosen by Pelé as part of the FIFA 100. Seedorf is one of the most decorated Dutch players ever, and has won domestic and continental titles while playing for clubs in the Netherlands, Spain, Italy and Brazil. He is most successful players in UEFA Champions League history, as he is the first, and currently the only, player to have won the Champions League with three different clubs – once with Ajax, in 1995, once with Real Madrid, in 1998 and twice with Milan, in 2003 and 2007.
Seedorf was a well-rounded, hardworking and versatile player, who was gifted with strength, pace, stamina and notable physical attributes, which allowed him to play anywhere in midfield and contribute both offensively and defensively; although he primarily served as a playmaker in the centre, throughout his career he was also deployed as an attacking midfielder, on the wing, or in a holding or box-to-box role.
A three-time Chelsea Player of the Year, deserves to sit in top 10 midfielders who will be remembered for a long time. Lampard is also Chelsea all-time top goalscorer with 211 goals in all competitions. Lampard is one of seven players, and the only midfielder, to have scored 150 or more goals in the Premier League. He is second in the Premier League’s all-time assists table, behind Ryan Giggs. In 2005, Lampard was voted FWA Footballer of the Year and was runner-up in both the FIFA World Player of the Year and the Ballon d’Or. In 2010 he received the FWA Tribute Award. He has won 13 trophies in his career.
Lampard is considered by a number of journalists and football experts to be one of the greatest midfielders of his generation, in addition to being widely regarded as Chelsea’s greatest ever player by some Chelsea players, such as previous record goal-scorer Bobby Tambling and long-term teammate John Terry. He is an all-round and versatile box-to-box player, who is capable of playing anywhere in midfield; he has been deployed as a central midfielder, as an attacking midfielder, as a defensive midfielder, and even as a supporting striker on occasion. He is also an accurate set-piece and penalty kick taker.
Balack was selected by Pelé as one of FIFA’s 125 Greatest Living Players, and as the UEFA Club Midfielder of the Year in 2002. He won the German Footballer of the Year award three times – in 2002, 2003 and 2005. Ballack was known for his passing range, powerful shot, physical strength and commanding presence in midfield, and we cannot discard him from our top ten list. He became a prolific goalscorer from midfield, scoring 58 goals for Bayern between 2002 and 2006.
He was a commanding, physically strong and aggressive player, with excellent passing range, who moved the ball efficiently. The technicality and intelligence of his game was extremely high. He started his football career as a sweeper, but when he moved to Leverkusen in 1999, then-coach Christoph Daum moved him to midfield. He adapted to a deeper role during his spell at Chelsea. In 2011, Ballack’s international coach at the time, Joachim Löw, praised him, describing him as a player who “… exudes authority and calm on the pitch.”