Wednesday, December 25,2019
The 2010s have seen a plethora of unforgettable moments, with the balance of power shifting from Manchester to Merseyside as Liverpool end the decade at the top of the table.
Manchester City won their first top-flight title for 44 years with an incredible stoppage-time comeback on the last day of the 2011-12 season, Leicester City shocked the sporting world by lifting the trophy in 2016 and Pep Guardiola‘s Man City reached the holy grail of 100 points in 2018.
The decade has also seen Manchester United‘s reign of dominance come to an end following the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson, with the past 10 years belonging largely to clubs in blue.
United took their tally up to 20 with two more domestic crowns, but aside from that Man City have won it four times, Chelsea three times and Leicester once.
A whole host of world-class talent has graced a division widely regarded as the best on the planet during that time, and here Sports Mole takes on the impossible and argument-inducing task of selecting the decade’s best XI.
Goalkeeper: David de Gea
While Manchester United as a club have endured their worst decade since the 1980s, one man who has continued to uphold the high standard of past incarnations of the team is David de Gea. The Spaniard joined as a 21-year-old in 2011 and initially found it difficult to adjust to the physical nature of the Premier League, but he soon established himself as one of the best in the world in his position.
De Gea only has one title to his name – a paltry haul compared to most United stalwarts from the Premier League era – but he has been included in the PFA Team of the Year on five occasions, was voted as United’s player of the year four times in the space of five years between 2013-14 and 2017-18 and won Match of the Day’s Save of the Season award a whopping five times.
Honourable mentions: Petr Cech, Joe Hart, Ederson, Alisson Becker
Centre-backs: Vincent Kompany, John Terry, Virgil van Dijk
The decade has largely belonged to Man City, and no captain lifted the Premier League more often in the past 10 years than Vincent Kompany. The City stalwart led the club to four titles and, while injury prevented him from making as many appearances as he otherwise might have during an 11-season stay at the Etihad Stadium, he still managed to have a major impact in each of those title-winning campaigns.
In addition to his leadership in defence, Kompany developed a welcome habit of popping up with some crucial goals too, most notably a towering header against Manchester United in 2012 and an incredible long-range strike against Leicester City in 2019. The Belgian left at the end of that campaign having firmly established himself as a club legend and one of the greatest Premier League captains of all time.
Speaking of great Premier League captains, John Terry was still a force in the first half of the decade and led Chelsea to the title in 2010, 2015 and 2017, although his on-field influence in the latter campaign was admittedly limited. The former England captain played every minute of every game in their title-winning 2014-15 season, though, earning his place in the PFA Team of the Year for the first time since 2005-06.
Terry added almost 200 more Premier League appearances to his Chelsea tally over the course of the decade before finally leaving the club after 19 seasons in 2017.
While Terry is perhaps the only inclusion who would have also made the team of the 2000s, it would be a safe bet to assume that Virgil van Dijk might make the team of the 2020s if he carries on with his current form. The Dutchman became the world’s most expensive defender when he joined Liverpool for £75m in 2018, yet already he has made that fee look like a bargain.
Rarely in the competition’s history has one player had such a transformative impact on a team, with Van Dijk’s arrival almost immediately turning Liverpool into title contenders both in England and Europe. The centre-back only narrowly missed out to Lionel Messi in the voting for the 2019 Ballon d’Or, but is still the only Premier League player to have finished in the top three over the course of the decade and, as we tick towards 2020, looks destined to lead Liverpool to their first title for 30 years.
Honourable mentions: Pablo Zabaleta, Cesar Azpilicueta, Kyle Walker, Gary Cahill, Branislav Ivanovic, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Toby Alderweireld, Ashley Cole, Leighton Baines, Andrew Robertson, Patrice Evra, Danny Rose
Defensive midfielder: N’Golo Kante
Quite possibly the find of the decade, and one of the great signings of the Premier League era, N’Golo Kante’s arrival at Leicester from Caen for £5.6m in 2015 made few headlines at the time. However, just one year later he would be one of the most highly-regarded players in the division having helped the Foxes to their unforgettable title triumph.
Kante ended that season with more tackles and interceptions than any other player, earning him a move to Chelsea where he went on to win the title again, becoming the first player since Eric Cantona in 1993 to win the league in back-to-back seasons with different clubs. Having been unfortunate to miss out on individual awards the previous campaign, this time Kante’s contribution was recognised with the PFA Players’ Player of the Year, FWA Footballer of the Year and Premier League Player of the Season awards.
A decade which began with him coming through the ranks at Ligue 2 side Boulogne ends with him as a World Cup winner and one of the best in the world in his position, and he shows no sign of slowing down any time soon.
Honourable mentions: Fernandinho, Michael Carrick
Central midfielders: Yaya Toure, David Silva
Two more men who were central to Man City climbing to the top of English football during the decade, the dual threat of Yaya Toure’s power and David Silva’s creativity forged a recipe for success at the Etihad Stadium. Both players joined the club in the summer of 2010, with Yaya Toure going on to win three league titles and David Silva four over the course of the decade.
Toure was nigh-on unstoppable in the 2013-14 campaign especially as he scored 20 goals from midfield – a haul which saw him named Man City’s player of the year and earned him a spot in the PFA Team of the Year for a second time, the first coming in the 2011-12 title-winning season.
Whereas David Silva’s single-season stats have never been quite that impressive, his importance to Man City over the past decade has been immeasurable. A very compelling argument could be made for the Spaniard to be crowned the best Premier League player of the 2010s overall. Another two-time PFA Team of the Year inductee, Silva’s genius will undoubtedly be missed by Man City when he leaves the club at the end of this season.
Honourable mentions: Kevin De Bruyne, Philippe Coutinho, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Dele Alli, James Milner, Cesc Fabregas, Christian Eriksen, Mesut Ozil
Right wing: Eden Hazard
Widely regarded as the most talented player in the division for much of his Premier League career, Eden Hazard’s close control, low centre of gravity and dribbling skills made him almost unplayable on his day. It was no coincidence that when he was at his very best, Chelsea tended to win the league, as was the case in 2014-15 and 2016-17.
Hazard was named the Premier League Player of the Season, PFA Player of the Year and FWA Footballer of the Year for his performances in the first of those title triumphs, while he also won the PFA Young Player of the Year and PFA Fans’ Player of the Year awards during his time in England.
A four-time member of the PFA Team of the Year and four-time Chelsea Player of the Year, the Belgian scored 85 goals in 245 Premier League appearances for Chelsea between 2012 and 2019, when he secured his dream move to Real Madrid.
Honourable mentions: Mohamed Salah, Alexis Sanchez
Left wing: Gareth Bale
Another player who landed a big-money move to Real Madrid after impressing for a London club, Gareth Bale spent fewer years in the Premier League during the 2010s than any other member of this team, yet still managed to win the PFA Player of the Year award more often than anyone else over the course of the decade.
Indeed, Bale is one of only four players to have ever scooped the prestigious award on two occasions, joining an exclusive list which also includes Mark Hughes, Alan Shearer, Thierry Henry and Cristiano Ronaldo. The Welsh winger’s 2012-13 campaign will do gown as one of the best by any player in Premier League history as he scored 21 goals in 33 appearances to earn a clean sweep of the individual awards – a feat only Ronaldo had previously managed.
Voted into the PFA Team of the Year in all three of his full Premier League seasons during this decade, Bale was virtually unstoppable at times for a Tottenham team far less accustomed to challenging towards the top end of the table than they are now.
Honourable mentions: Raheem Sterling, Sadio Mane
Centre-forwards: Sergio Aguero, Harry Kane
The two highest-scoring Premier League players of the decade, Sergio Aguero and Harry Kane hold off some stiff competition to take the coveted centre-forward spots in this team. Aguero has established himself as one of the all-time greats in the competition since joining City in 2011, while Kane is well on course to be held in similar regard.
Incredibly, despite leading the line in four title-winning teams, it took Aguero until 2017-18 to be named in his first PFA Team of the Year, but he made it two selections in a row last season. A Golden Boot winner with 26 goals in 2014-15, Aguero was also the scorer of arguably the most dramatic goal in Premier League history when his last-gasp winner on the final day of the 2011-12 season snatched the title away from local rivals United and handed it to City for the first time in 44 years.
Kane has to play a distant second to his strike partner in this XI when it comes to trophies, but in the goalscoring stakes he has already established himself as one of the best the Premier League has seen. Since bursting onto the scene in 2014-15, Kane has won the PFA Young Player of the Year award, the PFA Fans’ Player of the Season award and claimed the Golden Boot on two occasions – including a haul of 29 goals in just 30 games in 2016-17.
The England captain was included in four consecutive PFA Teams of the Year from 2014-15 to 2017-18 and has become a talisman for club and country, helping to transform both into trophy contenders. Alan Shearer is the only player to have reached 100 Premier League goals quicker, and the Newcastle legend’s all-time mark of 260 in the competition is firmly in Kane’s sights now.
Honourable mentions: Luis Suarez, Wayne Rooney, Jamie Vardy, Robin van Persie, Romelu Lukaku, Roberto Firmino, Diego Costa