The top players that featured in 21st Century Football, forming a 4-3-3 lineup are displayed below. Everyone knows there were a lot of brilliant legendary footballers that played in the past 16 years, but this lineup shows the best of the best. The 4-3-3 formation forces brilliant players out of question such as Claude Makelele and Xabi Alonso, but makes way for the full backs in defense.
- Goalkeeper: Gianluigi Buffon (Italy, Juventus)
The Italian shot stopper makes it in goal for his brilliant career with Juventus and the Italian National Team. At 38 years old, Gigi is still the number one for both lineups with more than 450 games with Juve and more than 150 for Italy. What made us choose him as the best keeper in the century so far is his consistency. Since 2000, Buffon has been named every year between the best keepers in the world and is still arguably one of the best even at this age.
Who missed out? Oliver Kahn, Iker Casillas, Manuel Neuer, Petr Cech
- Right Back: Cafu (Brazil, Roma / Milan)
The Brazilian Right Back played for many teams during his career and retired in 2008. He played 142 games for the Brazilian national team and scored 5 goals. His biggest achievement was winning the Fifa World Cup 2002 for Brazil in Korea and Japan. Cafu made the most appearances of his career (163) for AS Roma in the Serie A.
Who missed out? Philip Lahm, Michel Salgado
- Centre Back: Paolo Maldini (Italy, Milan)
Another Serie A legend is Paolo Maldini. One of the best Centre Backs in football ever. Maldini is Milan’s fan favorite with 647 appearances for his only team. He also featured for Italy in 126 matches. He retired in 2009 after playing for 24 years for Milan’s first team. He is known for being a true warrior on the pitch and had to make the list as first choice in this position.
Who missed out? Lilian Thuram, Alessandro Nesta
- Centre Back: Sergio Ramos (Spain, Real Madrid)
This one could be controversial. There were many great centre backs to put here and Sergio’s attitude or lack of concentration or discipline is at times costly for his team but come on!! He brought Madrid two Champions League titles with his amazing spirit and perfect runs forward. He makes the World XI team almost every year and is a true leader to a lineup full of Galacticos.
Who missed out? Carles Puyol, Rio Ferdinand
- Left Back: Roberto Carlos (Brazil, Real Madrid)
Did you think otherwise? There’s no doubt about this one. Roberto Carlos is the best left back of all time. He won the 2002 World Cup, plus 3 Champions League titles with Real Madrid and is mostly known for two impossible goals that no one could have scored.
Who missed out? Philip Lahm, Ashley Cole
- Right Central Midfielder: Xavi Hernandez (Spain, Barcelona)
That’s another sure one. I’m really sorry for the Premier League fans, but these players cannot be thrown out. Xavi held the Barca midfield for many years and even captained the team after Puyol was gone. He led the team during the successful years under Guardiola and led Spain’s midfield in the 2010 World Cup Triumph.
Who missed out? Paul Scholes, Steven Gerrard, David Beckham
- Central Midfielder: Zinedine Zidane (France, Juventus / Real Madrid)
He was one of the best ever. Zizou led France to the 1998 World Cup and was known for his astonishing control of the football. He moved to Real Madrid in 2000 and scored the winning goal in the Champions League final in 2002, which was one of the most amazing volleys in football ever.
Who missed out? Andrea Pirlo, Xabi Alonso, Michael Ballack
- Left Central Midfielder: Andres Iniesta (Spain, Barcelona)
He wasn’t going to leave Xavi alone here either. The Barca duo makes it in the lineup for their brilliant link up over the years and all the success is down to their cooperation in creating the chances for the forwards. He also scored the winning goal in the World Cup final in 2010. Now he’s over 30 years old and still a crucial player for Barcelona.
Who missed out? Kaka, Ryan Giggs, Ronaldinho
- Right Forward: Lionel Messi (Argentina, Barcelona)
With 5 Ballon D’Or titles, are you surprised he’s on the list? His name is one of the most dominant in world football and he’s still breaking records by the second. Nothing left to say, he had to make it.
Who missed out? Gareth Bale, Arjen Robben
- Left Forward: Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal, Manchester United / Real Madrid)
Well, yeah. Messi made it, Ronaldo makes it. The rivalry continues and I’m not saying who’s the best between the two but they both make it without explanation. 3 Ballon D’Or titles with the fourth one looking on the way, 3 Champions League titles, rivalry with Messi over record breaking and over who’s the best of all time.
Who missed out? Luis Figo, Thierry Henry
- Striker: Ronaldo (Brazil, Inter Milan / Real Madrid)
Labeled “The Original Ronaldo”, he is probably the best striker ever. Played for Barcelona for a small period in the 90s, and then played for Inter, Real and Milan. He had amazing skills and a killer finish in front of goal. Scored two goals in the World Cup final in 2002 and had to be the striker for this dream lineup.
Who missed out? Samuel Eto’o, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Raul Gonzalez, Michael Owen