The 21st Century is still in its premature years, but we have seen some of the best footballers play in this short period of time

Some may have started their career in the 20th Century, but shook the world in the 21st.

Manager: Sir Alex Ferguson 

Sir Alex surely deserves this accolade with much of his success coming during the 21st Century. Winning the treble just before the 21st Century began, Ferguson has won numerous league titles and a Champions League since 2000. 

21st Century World XI (4-2-3-1)

Goalkeeper: Iker Casillas

The Spaniard has achieved a lot for club and country during the 21st Century, making him arguably the most decorated keeper since 2000. He has won 17 trophies with club and country and captained Spain to two European titles and a World Cup. He has won the Golden Glove award and has been included in the FIFA World XI an incredible five times. 

Right-back: Cafu

Most of his contributions were in the 20th Century for Brazil but his success at club level came in the 21st Century with AC Milan. He captained Brazil to World Cup glory in 2002 and also won the Champions League with Milan. 

Centre-back: Fabio Cannavaro

The only defender to win the Ballon d'Or, Cannavaro truly deserves to be regarded as a footballing great. With many Team of the Year inclusions in 2006, Cannavaro also won the Ballon d'Or the same year, along with other major individual awards. He has been in the FIFA World XI twice in the 21st Century and captained Italy to a 2006 World Cup triumph. 

Centre-back: Carles Puyol

Puyol has captained Barcelona for most of the 21st Century and been incredibly successful with them, too. Twenty-one trophies for club and country, Puyol is one of the most decorated players in modern times. He has been included in the UEFA Team of the Year on six occasions, proving why he has been so successful this century.

Left-back: Paolo Maldini

Most of Maldini's success came before the 21st Century, but he still won a lot of trophies with club and country since the turn of the new century. Maldini won the Champions League twice since 2000, proving why he was so vital for Milan over so many years. Named Serie A's best defender in 2004, Maldini has appeared in the FIFA World XI once. 

Central-midfielder: Xavi

One of the best midfielders of his generation, Xavi seems to be getting better with age. Xavi's passing skills are second to none, making him arguably one of the best Spanish midfielders ever. He has won many individual awards for his composed style of play and has also been part of the FIFA World XI for four years in a row now. 

Central-midfielder: Zinedine Zidane

One of the greats in the game, Zidane's career ended on a sour note, losing the World Cup after being sent off in the 2006 final.

He may have won the Ballon d'Or before the 21st Century but he has been instrumental in shaping the history of Real Madrid since the start of 2000. Scoring a belter in the 2002 Champions League final against Bayer Leverkusen, Zidane helped Real Madrid lift their ninth European Cup. He was honored with the Golden Ball for his performances at the 2006 World Cup.

Right-wing: Ronaldinho

The dazzling Brazilian has a huge fan base due to his skills and trickery, which are a real treat to the eye. A legend at Barcelona, Ronaldinho has achieved a lot for club and country. Ronaldinho won the Ballon d'Or and also lifted the World Cup in the 21st Century. His inclusion in the FIFA World XI has occurred three times. 

Attacking-midfielder: Lionel Messi

Messi has achieved so much in so little time in the world of football. He can already be considered an all-time great while he still has a decade of football ahead of him. He has already won the Ballon d'Or four times and has broken many goalscoring records since his debut in 2004. He has been included in the FIFA World XI for six years in a row now. 

Left-wing: Cristiano Ronaldo

The only player who can challenge Messi's goalscoring exploits, Ronaldo has enjoyed a successful 21st Century. Ronaldo has his fair share of individual honours, winning the Ballon d'Or in 2008 and also winning league titles for Manchester United and Real Madrid. Like Messi, Ronaldo has featured in the FIFA World XI for six years in a row. 

Striker: Ronaldo

Often considered, the 'real' Ronaldo, this Brazilian was one of the deadliest strikers on the planet during his peak years. FIFA World Player of the Year in 2003, Ronaldo is also the all-time top scorer in the World Cup. He won the World Cup with Brazil in 2002 and his exploits for Real Madrid made him a deserved member of the club's hall of fame. 

Substitutes' bench:

Gianluigi Buffon
Javier Zanetti
John Terry
Andrea Pirlo
Paul Scholes
Thierry Henry
Alan Shearer

 

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