It’s the end of the year and the end of a decade – a good moment, France Football feel, to draw up what they consider to be the best XI of the past 10 years. It’s turned out well for us here because not only do four Spanish players feature in the XI (Casillas, Ramos, Xavi and Iniesta) only two of the rest, Lahm and Van Dijk, figure for merits which they achieved in other leagues, and not LaLiga. Completing the team are: Marcelo, Modric, Neymar, Messi and Cristiano, all of whom enjoyed the best years of their careers here in Spain. And I don’t think it’s wrong to include Neymar in that category because since his move to Paris, he hasn’t really achieved anything of note.
Piqué and Busquets overlooked
You can’t really argue with France Football’s list, which I imagine might have been based on the accumulation of points gained in voting for the Ballon d’Or over the past decade. It’s a shame not to see Piqué in there; maybe he was nudged out right at the last minute by the emergence of Van Dijk – and also Busquets, who has been superb in his position. He’s been excluded in France Football’s hypothetical 4-3-3 set-up and he also had competition from a host of quality midfielders. If it had been a 4-4-2 system he might have been included, with Neymar dropping out. That wouldn’t have been unfair. Neymar’s a great player, no doubt about it, but his career doesn’t reflect it. No player who is truly immersed in football fever would ever want to voluntarily swap Barça for PSG.
A golden decade
In any case, the list pays tribute to the successful period Spanish football has enjoyed. It’s recognition for Casillas, who enters at the expense of Buffon, and the colossal midfield pairing Xavi-Iniesta, the backbone on which two great teams were built - La Roja and Barça – as close as you can get to perfection. Teams which we remember with nostalgia and with hope that one day we might get to see a team as good as they were. Maybe we’d need to clone them... Great times which have been recognised on France Football’s front cover. Years that have passed by but are remembered with fondness. Whatever happens, we’ll always have 2010 South Africa. And those Champions Leagues. And the Ballons d’Oro. Happy New Year 2020!