A decade of fantastic football memories
With the first decade of the new Millennium drawing to a
close, it’s time to name names and honor the player, manager,
team and match of the decade.
Before I get to that though, I’d just like to add my
perspective to what has been a challenging ten years.
Obviously we’ve moved forward as a people but, from a
footballing standpoint, it’s felt like we’ve taken baby
steps rather than giant leaps for mankind.
FIFA is still blundering, referees are still making mistakes,
crowd trouble still rears its ugly head and players seem even more
remote from the paying customer. However, the game still has this
capacity to awe and humble me.
The Player of the Decade
How do you judge the player of the decade?
In my opinion it has to be someone who was a star in 2000 and
is still considered on top of his game in 2009. With that in mind,
I believe there are only three candidates who can rightly justify a
claim to be the Player of the Decade.
Raul has been scoring goals longer than most of you have been
having hot dinners. Four La Liga titles, three Spanish Cups, one
UEFA Super Cup and World Club Cup along with two UEFA Champions
Leagues are quite a tasty haul for ten years work. But it
Ryan Giggs almost has a claim to be the player of the last
two decades. But despite claiming six Premier League titles, two
League Cups, one World Club Cup, FA Cup and a UEFA Champions League
in the noughties, that isn’t enough either.
Lets see if you can guess who the Player of the Decade is
from major honors alone.
Two Premier League titles, three FA Cups, one of the
following; La Liga, Copa del Rey, Spanish Super Cup, UEFA Super
Cup, UEFA Champions League, World Club Cup, Confederations Cup and
a European Championship.
Yes, it’s him, the Hand of Gaul, Thierry Henry and in a
way it’s fitting. He started the millennium on top of the
world stage with one mesmerizing performance after another at Euro
2000 and he finishes the last ten years at that same center stage
as the biggest villain of the decade.
No other footballer has made the impact Henry has at both the
club and international level in this time frame and that’s
why he is number one.
Manager of the Decade
In my opinion the manager of the decade is a two horse race
between Sir Alex Ferguson, the runner-up and the man who pips him
by a nose, Jose Mourinho.
The ‘Special One’ gets the nod over the Scottish
One because of his ability to win in multiple countries. League
titles in Portugal, England and Italy show that he has the ability
to adapt to changing situations and different tactical problems
I also like the fact that Mourinho won the Champions League
with unfashionable FC Porto in 2004. This is a feat that in all
likelihood will never be repeated due to the bloated financial
resources of the big boys. I’m also in awe of his unbeaten
home streak in league play with FC Porto, Chelsea and Inter that
currently stretches 126 matches.
Mourinho has added that special something to football and no
other manager in my opinion displays the charisma, arrogance and
utter belief that he is the greatest.
Team of the Decade
An almost impossible award to bestow on a team because
consistency must be achieved in both domestic league play as well
as on the European stage. This effectively knocks out Lyon who won
a staggering seven consecutive French League titles but
couldn’t go the extra mile in the Champions League.
For my money that leaves the field narrowed down to four
clubs, the ‘Big Four’ of World football; Manchester
United (six league titles and a Champions League title), AC Milan
(a league and two Champions League titles), Real Madrid (four
league titles and two Champins League) and Barcelona (three league
titles and two Champions League titles).
Real were dominant in the early part of the decade but
couldn’t sustain it in Europe. United were the most
consistent domestically but have too many near misses on their
European resume. AC Milan has faltered badly in Serie A despite
three final appearances, which makes the team of the decade,
Barcelona has built three teams over the last ten years. The
first under Luis van Gaal was technical and functional. The second
under Frank Rijkaard took the Dutch philosophy a step further
adding joy and unpredictability while the current model under Pep
Guadiola is the most explosive, colorful team since Brazil in 1970.
If FC Barcelona is to be the poster boy for how football
should be played, the next ten years are going to be wild.
Match of the Decade
No look back at the last ten years would be complete without
a match that leaves a mark on your footballing soul. I’ve
probably watched close to four thousand matches over this decade,
which makes me incredibly sad.
Germany versus Italy at the Westfallen during World Cup
’06 and USA versus South Korea during World Cup ’02
were both pretty epic in terms of the most spine tingling
atmospheres I’ve ever experienced but they wouldn’t
make any all-time lists, would they?
Okay, I’ve been at this for hours now, reading matches,
looking at scores, remembering moments that made my hair stand on
Alright, here it is, the greatest match of the decade:
May 25th 2005 Ataturk Olympic Stadium, Istanbul.
AC Milan 3-3 Liverpool (after extra time).
Liverpool wins 3-2 on penalties.
I was in a bar in Newburyport, Massachusetts and had to beg
the owner to switch one of 20 TV’s to the final as the Boston
Red Sox were on the other 19 sets. He gave me a corner and I
watched this match unfold alone. By the time Vladimir Smicer made
it 2-3, I wasn’t alone anymore.
When Jerzy Dudek produced one of the greatest double saves
ever to deny Andriy Shevchenko a last gasp winner, the power of
football had made itself felt to a part of the world that
didn’t even know it had previously existed.
Thanks for all your posts. Have a great New Years Eve and
I’ll see you all at the far post in 2010.