Messi, Ronaldo, Zidane, Ronaldinho: Who was the greatest football player of the 2000s? | OneFootball
Messi, Ronaldo, Zidane, Ronaldinho: Who was the greatest football player of the 2000s?
The world was introduced to Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in the 2000s.
It was a seriously good decade for football. From the performances of Ronaldinho, Zinedine Zidane and Kaka to the emergence of two future GOATS, there were stars at every corner of European football.
Then there's English dominance in the Champions League and the rise of Pep Guardiola's Barcelona.
What a time.
Football is frequently changing but the 2000s marked a change in approach that would significantly improve the quality of play.
Players started to eat better and drink less, while tactical innovations meant an end to the basic 4-4-2 formation.
What followed was an era of incredible football.
FourFourTwo magazine have now gone ahead and ranked the top 50 players of the decade in what makes for a list that's sure to spark debate.
No Adriano? Steven Gerrard ahead of Frank Lampard and Paul Scholes? Lionel Messi in 10th?
Let's take a look.
The best players of the 2000s
50. Petr Cech
49. Juan Roman Riquelme
48. Henrik Larsson
47. Edwin van der Sar
46. Javier Zanetti
45. Gianluigi Buffon
44. Xabi Alonso
42. Michael Ballack
41. Roberto Carlos
40. Ryan Giggs
39. Oliver Kahn
38. Fabio Cannavaro
37. Ruud van Nistelrooy
36. Nemanja Vidic
35. Pavel Nedved
34. Patrick Vieira
33. David Villa
32. Paolo Maldini
31. Luis Figo
30. Francesco Totti
29. Didier Drogba
28. Carles Puyol
27. Andrea Pirlo
26. David Beckham
25. Iker Casillas
23. Alessandro Nesta
22. Claude Makelele
21. Ashley Cole
20. Andriy Shevchenko
19. John Terry
18. Paul Scholes
17. Fernando Torres
16. Rio Ferdinand
14. Frank Lampard
13. Samuel Eto'o
12. Steven Gerrard
11. Wayne Rooney
10. Lionel Messi
FourFourTwo's argument is that the 2000s was Messi's origin story, while he owned the 2000s.
That's fair, although what Messi was able to achieve in the first part of his career is still mightily impressive, including the Ballon d'Or in 2009 and the treble with Barcelona in 2008/09.
9. Zlatan Ibrahimovic
In our opinion, Messi should have been ranked ahead of Ibrahimovic.
The 2010s was Ibrahimovic's best decade, although he did win titles with Ajax, Inter Milan and Juventus in the 2000s.
8. Andres Iniesta
Majestic is a fine word to define Iniesta, whose ability to carve through defences was out of this world.
For what he achieved in the 2000s, winning two Champions Leagues and the European Championship, there's a case to be made for Iniesta being higher than eighth.
If not for injuries, there's every chance Ronaldo would be higher on this list.
His performance in the 2002 World Cup final and hat-trick at Old Trafford in 2003 were two of the most enthralling showings by a striker on the biggest occasions.
Skilful, pacy and powerful, there's a reason he was called El Fenomeno.
When you think of tiki-taka, you think Xavi.
A mercurial midfielder, the Spaniard was the puppet master behind the successful Barcelona and Spain sides of the 2000s.
Xavi entered the Barcelona scene ahead of Iniesta which likely explains his ranking ahead of his compatriot.
5. Cristiano Ronaldo
Ronaldo burst onto the scene in 2003 and it was at Manchester United where he developed into a world-class talent.
In his younger years he was more of a flair player, using his skills and speed to torment full-backs on the wings.
In three seasons in England he scored 91 goals in all totals, a remarkable return for a winger, before leaving for Real Madrid in 2009.
4. Thierry Henry
Unstoppable on his day.
Widely regarded as the greatest Premier League player in history, Henry was a defender's worst nightmare. His speed was electrifying and he could create something out of nothing, too.
Despite failing to win the Ballon d'Or, we've no complaints about Henry being ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo. He arguably should have won it but finished second in 2003.
Before Messi and Ronaldo took over, Kaka sat at the top of the throne after winning the 2007 Ballon d'Or.
He was clearly the best player in the world in the middle of the decade, leading AC Milan to European glory in 2007 with his alluring blend of speed, power and balance.
2. Zinedine Zidane
Zidane's control of a football was mesmerising. He had it on a string at times, toying with opposing players in a way that was just unfair.
His stunning volley in the 2001 Champions League final was a demonstration of his outrageous technical skill.
Another player to win the Ballon d'Or, Zidane deserves the No.2 spot.
A genius with the ball to his feet, there was perhaps no player who influenced the game more in the 2000s than Ronaldinho.
The Brazilian playmaker had an unrivalled level of technical ability but it wasn't only that that endeared him to millions around the world; it was also the smile that never left his face.
At Barcelona, Ronaldinho won the Ballon d'Or and he also inspired the Catalan outfit to Champions League glory in 2006.
Click HERE to read FourFourTwo's entire list.