Ronaldo, Neymar, Ronaldinho: Brazil's greatest XI of the 21st century

The amount of legendary footballing figures to hail from Brazil is almost scary.

From Pele to Neymar, the South American nation have never been short of quality and it’s why they’re the most successful team in World Cup history.

Brazil have triumphed in the tournament a record five times – the most recent in 2002 – and are the favourites to win the 2022 edition out in Qatar later this year due to their ridiculous squad depth, something we highlighted HERE.

So, with Brazil being the international side a lot of football fans are talking about right now, we’ve decided to get a bit creative and have named what we feel is the nation’s best XI from the 21st century.

That means the likes of Pele, Jairzinho, Zico and Socrates don’t feature – sorry to those of you craving sweet nostalgia.

Let’s take a look at our XI, which we know a lot of people won’t agree with…

GK – Alisson Becker

Marcos and Dida may have been part of Brazil’s 2002 World Cup-winning squad, but Alisson is the superior goalkeeper in our opinion. The fact the Liverpool man and 2019 Copa America winner has kept the hugely-talented Ederson out of the international side for the most part says it all really.

Alisson Becker with Brazil
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – JULY 07: Alisson Becker of Brazil bites his champion medal after winning the Copa America Brazil 2019 Final match between Brazil and Peru at Maracana Stadium on July 07, 2019 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)

RB – Dani Alves

This was a tough one, given Cafu’s magnificence with both Brazil and at club level. We went with Alves in the end, though, a man who’s hoarded trophies, revolutionised the full-back role and has 197 assists to his name – 105 of them in a Barcelona jersey.

CB – Lucio

One of the most underrated centre-backs in modern times. Lucio was a colossus in a Brazil shirt and thrived at a number of top European clubs, including Bayern Munich and Inter Milan. He was a crucial figure in the latter’s treble-winning 2009/10 season.

Lucio celebrates a goal for Brazil
JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA – JUNE 28: Lucio of Brazil celebrates scoring the winning goal during the FIFA Confederations Cup Final between USA and Brazil at the Ellis Park Stadium on June 28, 2009 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

CB – Thiago Silva

Silva’s longevity is quite extraordinary. At the age of 38, he’s still performing to a world-class standard with Chelsea. To put it simply, he’s one of the greatest ever centre-backs and if you don’t believe that, just ask AC Milan or Paris Saint-Germain fans.

LB – Marcelo

No Roberto Carlos?! We know, we know. But much of Carlos’ prime came before the year 2000, hence why we’ve sided with Marcelo. Like Alves, Marcelo revolutionised the full-back role, has a trophy collection to die for and boasts over 100 assists on his record.

Marcelo in action with Brazil
ROSTOV-ON-DON, RUSSIA – JUNE 17: Marcelo of Brazil passes the ball during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group E match between Brazil and Switzerland at Rostov Arena on June 17, 2018 in Rostov-on-Don, Russia. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)

CDM – Casemiro

A great midfield enforcer is ever there was one. Would Real Madrid have won four Champions Leagues in five years without Casemiro? Most probably not. As well as doing the dirty work so others can express themselves, the Manchester United midfielder is pretty darn good on the ball and will be in Brazil’s starting XI at the 2022 World Cup.

CAM – Kaka

How could we leave out a Ballon d’Or winner, eh? Injuries derailed Kaka’s career somewhat at Real Madrid, but with AC Milan he was was virtually unplayable. His record for Brazil isn’t bad for an attacking midfielder either. In 92 games, Kaka scored 29 goals and assisted a further 22.

Kaka celebrates a goal for Brazil
BERLIN – JUNE 13: Kaka of Brazil celebrates scoring the opening goal during the FIFA World Cup Germany 2006 Group F match between Brazil and Croatia played at the Olympic Stadium on June 13, 2006 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

RF – Ronaldinho

The man who made so many fall in love with football. There aren’t enough superlatives in the English language to adequately describe Ronaldinho’s genius to be honest. Barcelona saw the absolute best of him and he paved the way for the Lionel Messi-dominated era at the club. Oh and Ronaldinho recorded 57 goal involvements (33G, 24A) for Brazil, just to add to the legend.

LF – Neymar

If anything, Neymar is seriously underrated in the grand scheme of things. Because he’s played in an era dominated by Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, people don’t appreciate how good he has been. Over 450 goal contributions at club level and over 120 with Brazil, the man is an all-time great – and he’ll soon overtake Pele as his country’s leading scorer.

Neymar celebrates a goal for Brazil
LIMA, PERU – OCTOBER 13: Neymar Jr. of Brazil celebrates after scoring the fourth goal of his team during a match between Peru and Brazil as part of South American Qualifiers for Qatar 2022 at Estadio Nacional de Lima on October 13, 2020 in Lima, Peru. (Photo by Paolo Aguilar-Pool/Getty Images)

ST – Ronaldo

Yes, Ronaldo’s best years arguably came in the 1990s, but he was still incredible in the 21st century too. After overcoming two serious knee injuries at Inter Milan, he finished as the top scorer at the 2002 World Cup with eight goals and then smashed it at Real Madrid. Il Fenomeno, how we miss you.

ST – Adriano

A slightly controversial choice to end on, we know. However, what Adriano produced on the pitch in the 2000s truly was a sight to behold. He had absolutely everything you could want in a striker and looked destined to rival Ronaldo. Sadly, it didn’t pan out that way, although he still scored 27 goals in just 48 games for Brazil – which is mighty impressive.

Brazil's best 21st century XI
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