Barça kicked off this decade by becoming the first club to ever win the sextuple. Barça had a historic successful decade which saw the Blaugrana capture seven league titles, five Copa del Rey titles, two more UEFA Champions Leagues titles, two FIFA Club World Cups, and five Spanish Super Cups. With 2019 about to come to an end, the time has come to look back at the players that have represented the club during this decade and pick the best eleven.
Marc-André ter Stegen
Barça had a tough time finding their new starting goalkeeper when they let go of Zubizarreta in the mid-90s. Víctor Valdés though would be the one to carry the mantle and become Barça’s most successful goalkeeper ever. However, both he and backup and José Manuel Pinto left the club in 2014 and Barça signed Marc-André ter Stegen for €12 million in 2014 from Borussia Mönchengladbach, and also signed Chilean international Claudio Bravo from Real Sociedad.
Both Ter Stegen and Valdés helped Barça win a Champions League title during this decade. From the 2009-2010 season, Valdés also helped Barça win three league titles, three Spanish Super Cups along with one UEFA Super Cup and one FIFA Club World Cup before leaving the club in 2014. Ter Stegen’s arrival as the heir to Valdés, saw him be part of the treble side where he started in both Champions League and Copa del Rey Finals while Bravo was the league starter. He would start the UEFA Super Cup but would have to wait until the 2016-2017 season to become the overall number one goalkeeper after Bravo’s departure and would help the club capture two league titles.
Valdés would win three Zamora trophies, awarded to the goalkeeper with the lowest “goals-to-games” ratio, at the start of the decade, while Ter Stegen has yet to win one. Yet, that is more of a testament of the quality of defenders that played in front of Valdés at the time, compared to the quality of defenders available for Ter Stegen since his arrival. However, the one difference is that Ter Stegen is less likely to committing errors, unlike Valdés who was known to bungle things up on occasion. This was a tough decision to make but my choice would be Ter Stegen.
Dani Alves’ inclusion was a no brainer. As one of the few players to win two trebles, he is simply the greatest right-back of this century and perhaps in football history. The club has failed to replace him since his departure in 2016, with Sergi Roberto and Semedo nowhere near his talent and contribution. From the 2009-2010 season, Dani Alves helped Barça win five league titles, two UEFA Champions League titles, three Copa del Rey titles, three Spanish Super Cups along with two UEFA Super Cups and two FIFA Club World Cups.
Another easy decision to make was selecting Gerard Piqué. He has been magnificent for Barça since his arrival in 2008. He is also one of the few players to win two trebles. He and Puyol were one of the great center backs partnerships in club and football history. Pique has managed to continue to excel with other center backs such as Javier Mascherano, Jérémy Mathieu, Samuel Umtiti and Clément Lenglet.
Since the 2009-2010 season, Piqué helped Barça win seven league titles, two UEFA Champions League titles, five Copa del Rey titles, five Spanish Super Cups along with one UEFA Super Cup and two FIFA Club World Cups. Only time will tell if he will become the club’s next president.
Carles Puyol is the greatest defender to ever play for and captain Barça. However, the other best center back of this decade has been Javier Mascherano. Puyol retired in 2014 and his final years at the club saw him battle injuries and feature less, which allowed the midfielder to fill in his place and partner Piqué in the heart of the defense, especially the 2011 Champions League Final. Since his arrival to the club in 2010, Mascherano helped Barça win five league titles, two UEFA Champions League titles, five Copa del Rey titles, three Spanish Super Cups along with two UEFA Super Cups and two FIFA Club World Cups. Mascherano would share playing time with the new signing Samuel Umtiti in 2016 before leaving the club he served so impeccably in 2018.
With respect to Adriano and Lucas Digne, this decade only saw Eric Abidal and Jordi Alba feature as genuine starting left backs for Barça. Unfortunately, Abidal’s health issues relating to his liver cut his career with the Blaugrana shorter than expected. He did start for the Blaugrana in the 2011 Champions League Final. Jordi Alba’s arrival in the summer of 2012 meant that he would be the starting left back and Abidal left the club in the summer of 2013. Since his arrival, Alba helped the club capture a treble as he became an essential part of the offense under the likes of Luis Enrique and Ernesto Valverde. Jordi helped Barça win five league titles, one UEFA Champions League title, four Copa del Rey titles, three Spanish Super Cups along with one FIFA Club World Cup. Although I consider Abidal a better left back than Alba, Alba was this decade’s best Barça left back.
Sergio Busquets, Xavi and Iniesta
It’s impossible to discuss Barça’s team of the decade without mentioning the holy trinity of Barça’s greatest midfield. Sergio Busquets, Xavi and Iniesta played a key part in making Barça, and also Spain, become one of the best teams in the World. Xavi and Iniesta bossed the midfield and helped create chances for the front three while Busquets handled the duties of a defensive midfielder in his own unique way of combining of intelligence and elegance in a position more known for physicality and brutality. Together, they helped Barcelona be major force the first five years of this decade. Busquets is the only player who still remains at the club following Xavi’s departure in 2015 and Iniesta’s departure in 2018. Ivan Rakitic was be the closest midfielder to crack the team of the decade and only time will tell if Arthur will be on the next Team of the Decade.
This decade saw Luis Suárez and David Villa lead the charge up front and score goals while helping the Blaugrana succeed domestically and in the Champions League. Both played and scored in a Champions League Final. However, David Villa’s time at the club was cut short by injuries and saw him score 48 goals in all competitions in three seasons. Meanwhile, Luis Suárez has scored 190 goals in all competitions since his arrival in 2014, while also winning the Pichichi and Golden Boot in 2016. Whoever succeeds him next decade will have big shoes to step into.
As much as it hurts me to omit Pedro from this list, Neymar edges him for this spot. Both were parts of a famous attacking trio; MVP and MSN. Pedro scored in the 2011 Champions League Final, scored twice in the 2012 Copa del Rey Final, along with a memorable Chilena goal to seal the league title during the second treble season of 2014-2015, and his final goal for the Blaugrana was the game winner in the 2015 UEFA Super Cup. Pedro also scored five Clasico goals in five different games against Real Madrid. Pedro left the club having scored 99 goals in 321 games in all competitions.
Neymar left the club in an acrimonious way that left many Blaugrana fans unhappy. Before his departure, Neymar scored 105 goals with 59 assists in 186 games in all competitions. During his four years at the club, Neymar scored in the 2015 Champions League Final, scored in three straight Copa del Rey Finals, and one goal in the 2013 Spanish Super Cup that was the deciding goal to clinch the trophy, and he also scored three Clasico goals. Furthermore, during his time at Barça, MSN won the club’s second ever treble and scored 364 goals in 450 games. Neymar may not be beloved for how he left the club but his time at the club was unforgettable and worthy of being a member of the Team of the Decade. Who knows, he may be on the next Team of the Decade if rumors are true that Barça will be bringing him back this summer.
The club’s greatest player of this decade, this century, and in its entire history. He is one of the greatest ever to play the game. Five Golden Balls and Five Golden Shoes in this decade alone is a remarkable achievement. A valid argument can be made that he became the game plan/system for the managers after the departure of Pep Guardiola. Seven league titles since 2009-2010, two Champions League titles, five Copa del Rey titles, two FIFA Club World Cups and two UEFA Super Cups along with five Spanish Super Cups. He became the league’s all-time goal scorer and scored over 100 goas in the Champions League during this decade. It’s a pity that poor coaching has cost him more Champions League titles and here’s hoping we can enjoy Messi in the next decade as well.