Trophies are the currency by which so many of the world’s best players are judged.
You only have to look at Harry Kane’s current situation at Tottenham Hotspur to get the picture and see a top-level player considering their options because of a distinct lack of trophies.
The fact of the matter is that football is a team sport and while Golden Boots and Ballon d’Or titles are great, there’s nothing better than lifting the biggest titles with all of your colleagues and friends.
Football’s biggest winners
However, there are some players in the beautiful game who have made winning trophies look easy and will happily retire with more winners’ medals than most people could possibly imagine.
And on the back of Cristiano Ronaldo consolidating his place amongst football’s most decorated players, we wanted to look at those footballers who have hoovered up silverware for fun.
As such, we’ve drawn up the XI who have won the most trophies in the 21st century, according to data collected by Transfermarkt, to give a unique perspective on these cup collectors.
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Most decorated players since 2000
It’s worth saying that these are not necessarily the 11 most decorated players since 2000 because we have been strict with the positions and don’t want Lionel Messi playing in goal, for example.
And with definitions of what should be counted as a major trophy differing between sources, it’s worth disclaiming that there may be slight number variations compared to other data collections.
However, disclaimers aside, be sure to check out the most decorated footballing XI this century:
GK: Andriy Pyatov – 26 trophies
Edging out Gianluigi Buffon by the skin of his teeth, Pyatov has spent the last two decades hoovering up domestic trophies in Ukraine with Shakhtar Donetsk.
RB: Dani Alves – 41 trophies
Who else? Alves is world-renowned for being the most decorated footballer in history, hoarding silverware during his time with Barcelona, Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain and Brazil.
CB: Gerard Pique – 36 trophies
Pique was well-versed in the act of lifting trophies in his early days at Manchester United, but it was during his prime with Barcelona and Spain that the winners’ medals really started to snowball.
CB: Wael Gomaa – 31 trophies
It wouldn’t be a trophy list without the all-conquering Al Ahly, would it? The legendary Gomaa was a serial winner in Egypt and helped inspire his country to three African Cup of Nations triumphs.
LB: Maxwell – 37 trophies
Wherever the trophies were there to be won, Maxwell would follow with the much-loved Brazilian winning silverware across spells at Cruzeiro, Ajax, Inter Milan, Barcelona and PSG.
CDM: Hossam Ashour – 34 trophies
Back to Egypt now and we have another Al Ahly icon on our hands. Ashour boasts a staggering 13 Egyptian Premier League triumphs as well as six winners’ medals in the CAF Champions League.
CM: Xavi – 32 trophies
It only makes sense that the player with the second-most appearances in Barcelona history would also have a burgeoning trophy cabinet and let’s face it, Xavi’s quality more than warranted it.
CM: Andres Iniesta – 39 trophies
Geez, playing for Barcelona during their 21st century heyday really is a first-class ticket to this team, though it is worth noting that Iniesta also has trophies to show for with Spain and Vissel Kobe.
RW: Lionel Messi – 37 trophies
Hot on the heels of Alves’ world record after winning another Copa del Rey title with Barcelona, Messi is only a World Cup and Copa America trophy away from having a clean-sweep of plaques.
ST: Zlatan Ibrahimovic – 33 trophies
There was a time where Ibrahimovic won league titles like they were going out of fashion but even now, the Swede’s stunning list of clubs means a trophy record like this is nothing short of inevitable.
LW: Cristiano Ronaldo – 34 trophies
Fresh from lifting the Coppa Italia with Juventus, Ronaldo is world-renowned for the very elite that led him to his most precious silverware of all: the 2016 European Championships.
Bow down to the greats
So, there you have it, the most decorated footballers of the 21st century have been named.
If you were asked to pick the best XI of the last 21 years, then we suspect this team would look a little different, but there’s no beating this line-up when it comes to pure winning pedigree.
And with trophy cabinets large enough to warrant their own mortgage, it’s fair to say these serial winners won’t have any regrets when it comes to their silverware-ladened careers in football.