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

isn’t enough.

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

with aplomb.

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.