World Team of the Decade
John Brewin, Senior Editor
December 25, 2009
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rise to the grandest of occasions.

Left winger: Cristiano Ronaldo

Arrogance and the ability to make fools of opponents rarely win friends in football. Yet Ronaldo's status as the most barracked player in football will be taken by him as proof as his arrival as a contender for the crown of the world's best. In his mid-twenties he is a very different proposition to the amusement arcade of his early days as a Manchester United player. Once he was fully grown, his height, pace and power complemented the skills he had long honed on the training ground to turn him into a goal machine, a player worth £80 million. A destroyer, and one who believes he will get better.

Striker: Ruud Van Nistelrooy

This has been the era of the lone striker, a one-man target who must hold up the ball and play in opponents as well as plunder goals. Strong, determined and usually deadly from the penalty spot, nobody has been as rife a plunderer as the Dutchman who, from his arrival at Manchester United in 2001 until injury began to derail him at Real Madrid in early 2008, collected goals at a bewildering rate, with the Champions League a particular speciality. They came via a range of very different strikes, though most came from inside the 18-yard box, which marked him out as the decade's primary predator.

Substitutes' bench:

Iker Casillas' consistency behind an ever-changing defence and his performances at Euro 2008 make him the sub keeper. Roberto Ayala's excellence and leadership for Valencia and Argentina over such a long period made him a notable contender in the backline, while Roy Keane can snarl as he rides pine after being edged out in the deep-lying midfield. Thierry Henry's wonderful spell as an Arsenal player and Indian summer at Barcelona see him able to fill in as either winger or lone striker while Ronaldinho perhaps hit heights that the others could not match between 2003 and 2006, yet is relegated as a result of his inconsistencies and loss of condition since.

Soccernet says:

Dominic Raynor: (3-4-3) Buffon; Cannavaro, Ayala, Maldini; Figo, Gattuso, Zidane, Giggs; C. Ronaldo, Ronaldo, Henry. Subs: Kahn, A. Cole, Gerrard, Nedved, Keane, Messi.

Mark Lomas: (3-5-2) Buffon; Cannavaro, Ferdinand ,Maldini; Keane, Makelele, Ronaldinho, Zidane, Messi; Henry, Ronaldo. Subs: Casillas, Carlos, Giggs, C. Ronaldo, Van Nistelrooy.

Tom Adams: (4-3-3) Buffon; Cafu, Cannavaro, Nesta, A. Cole; Vieira, Xavi, Zidane; Messi, Henry, C. Ronaldo. Subs: Casillas, Maldini, Figo, Ronaldinho, Ronaldo.

Jon Carter: (4-1-3-2) Buffon; Cafu, Puyol, Maldini, Roberto Carlos; Makelele, C. Ronaldo, Zidane, Ronaldinho; Ronaldo, Henry. Subs: Kahn, Cannavaro, Rivaldo, Messi, Eto'o.

Dale Johnson: (4-4-2) Buffon; Cafu, Nesta, Cannavaro, Maldini; Messi, Makelele, Zidane, C. Ronaldo; Ronaldinho, Henry. Subs: Casillas, A. Cole, Figo, Beckham, Eto'o.

Robin Hackett: (4-2-3-1) Buffon; Cafu, Nesta, Cannavaro, Maldini; Makelele, Roy Keane; C. Ronaldo, Zidane, Messi; Ronaldo. Subs: Casillas, Zanetti, Gerrard, Ronaldinho, Henry.
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