The best footballers of the decade (2011-2021) - ranked

We've had the pleasure of seeing some incredible players in action in the past decade
We've had the pleasure of seeing some incredible players in action in the past decade /

Right let's get this out of the way before you get mad at us for not including your favourite player of the last decade in this top ten.

Here's the list of players who were considered - strongly considered, in fact - for this list, but after weeks of debate between 90min's editorial staff, didn't quite make the cut:

Manuel Neuer, Toni Kroos, Xavi, Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, Marcelo, Philipp Lahm, Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben, Mohamed Salah, Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Giorgio Chiellini, Andrea Pirlo, Leonardo Bonucci, David Alaba, Antoine Griezmann, Gianluigi Buffon, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Raphael Varane, Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard, Harry Kane, Yaya Toure, Marco Verratti, Marco Reus and Kevin De Bruyne.

If your favourite player wasn't listed above, then he is likely in the top ten...or your favourite player just isn't very good.

10. Gareth Bale

Gareth Bale
When Bale was god he was good / David Ramos/GettyImages

Look, we know Gareth Bale's form and fitness have fallen off a cliff in the last two years or so.

We know, don't worry.

What we also know, however, is how bloody incredible he was before that. Because, my God, he was incredible.

I mean, look at what he's doing in the image above. Yep, that's him, scoring an overhead kick in the UEFA Champions League final - his third goal in Champions League finals. Special footballer.

9. Karim Benzema

Benzema has been great for a very long time / PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/GettyImages

If you were wondering just how good Karim Benzema was, and whether or not he was riding on Cristiano Ronaldo's coat-tails at Real Madrid all those years, he has shown you in the last three seasons.

Since CR7 left the Santiago Bernabeu, Benzema has stepped up to the plate and been hitting dingers week in, week out - bagging over 100 goals in that period.

And before those three seasons, when he wasn't necessarily scoring a boatload of goals, he was the ultimate link-up striker and helped Ronaldo break basically every goalscoring record in existence.

8. Andres Iniesta

What a player / LLUIS GENE/GettyImages

Put simply, there aren't many better footballers than Andres Iniesta ever - only 30 according to me.

Although he's slowed down quite a bit over the last four years or so - yeah, he actually still plays in Japan - it was impossible for us to overlook the six years prior when he was the best creative midfielder in the world.

One of, if not the, key player in the best club team of the century, Iniesta more than deserves his place on this list.

7. N'Golo Kante

N'Golo Kanté
The best Premier League player of the decade / Visionhaus/GettyImages

Without doubt, the best Premier League player of the last ten years.

It's not even up for debate.

Since arriving in the Premier League, N'Golo Kante has made every team he's played for winners - he even made Leicester City winners, which should not have been even possible.

Every single football fan wants him in their team.

6. Luis Suarez

Luis Suarez
Suarez still can't stop scoring / Denis Doyle/GettyImages

The second highest ranked striker on this list - although there were a fair few shouts in the 90min editorial team for him to be the number one - Luis Suarez's form throughout the last decade has been nothing short of remarkable.

At Liverpool he was unquestionably the best player in the Premier League.

At Barcelona he won absolutely everything and became the club's third highest goalscorer of all time.

And at Atletico Madrid he was the catalyst for the club's first La Liga title in nearly a decade.

An incredible footballer.

5. Sergio Ramos

Sergio Ramos
Ramos is/was/always will be a winner / Clive Rose/GettyImages

Fate of the world on the line, you want Sergio Ramos at the heart of your defence and wearing the captain's armband.

That's the type of player Ramos is.

The type of player that, when the chips are down, he rises to the challenge.

He is, without doubt, the best centre-back of the century, and one of the very best to ever play the game.

4. Luka Modric

Luka Modric
Ballon d'Or winner, Luka Modric / Denis Doyle/GettyImages

See what Luka Modric is holding in the photo above?

Yep, that's the Ballon d'Or he won in 2018.

That is the reason why he is fourth on this list of the best players of the decade.

3. Robert Lewandowski

Robert Lewandowski
The best in the world right now / Gualter Fatia/GettyImages

The premier marksman of his generation. Robert Lewandowski has been scoring goals at an alarming rate for as long as we can remember.

How alarming you ask?

Well, in six seasons in the last decade he's scored at least 40 goals - 55 in 47 appearances in the 2019/20 season being his best - and he actually hasn't scored less than 20 goals in a season since 2010/11.

So yes, pretty alarming.

2. Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo
Ronaldo won a lot of UCLs with Real Madrid / Emilio Andreoli/GettyImages

The stans will be upset that he's only second on this list, but trust us, being second on this list is actually a compliment (swear).

And it is a compliment because Cristiano Ronaldo is inarguably one of the two defining footballers of the last decade.

The four Champions Leagues at Real Madrid prove it, the four Ballons d'Or this decade prove it, the record-breaking goalscoring at international level proves it. He's big time. Simple as.

1. Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona
Messi had a good decade / David Ramos/GettyImages

We all know why Lionel Messi is the best player of the last decade, right?

I mean, it's Lionel Messi.

You know how good he is. You know how good he has been ever since he made his debut for Barcelona way back in 2005.

He's been stupidly good.