The 2010s will be remembered for many events in football, with treble winners and unbeaten runs, surprise title winners and goal machines. It has been one great decade so far. But let’s look back at those teams that will be remembered fondly in the future.
Mourinho’s best (Inter Milan 2009-10)
What better place to start than the team that started the decade of with such a bang. Mourinho was on a hot streak at this point. He won everything at Porto, went to Chelsea and won back to back titles, and decided to try his stride in Italy. Mourinho treble winning Inter will go down easily as his best team. It had everything Mourinho stood for. A passionate leader in Zanetti, a vocal keeper in Cesar, the best partnership in this decade of Samuel and Lucio. Mourinho created a team that made winning 3 trophies look easy. They comfortably won the league, but that’s not what they’ll be remembered for. They’ll always be remembered for that night in Barcelona. A game that summed up Mourinho to a mark. He realised Inter had no chance of out playing Barcelona in any way. So he out fought. Players like Motta and Samuel put their bodies on the line to ensure Barcelona didn’t have their way. As we all know they got through in the end and won the final against Bayern. But at that point in time Inter were the best team in the world with the best players. Sneijder, Maicon, Lucio, Cambiasso and Eto were players who could easily fit into any team. No player in the team was seen as superior, they were all clogs that were seen as equals. And that is what a Jose Mourinho team is.
Spanish Dominance (Spain 2010)
Not long after Inter won the treble, the World Cup in South Africa began. There were some obvious teams that fans were keeping an eye on. The returning champions Italy, the young German side, a Dutch side including one of Inter’s best players in Sneijder and flair winger Robben, and most obviously, the European champions Spain. Spain definitely were not clear favourites, but fans knew they would get far. This was a team full of Barcelona and Real Madrid’s best players. A solid backline including Casillas, Puyop and a young Pique and Ramos. But that wasn’t the main attraction to the Spanish. It was that dazzling, magical midfield, containing Barca’s best in Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets. They weren’t the only midfielders in that team. The likes of David Silva, Alonso and an inform Fabregas were competing for a spot in that team. This Spanish team had a team full of players that knew how Spanish football should be played, fast and smart. For 4 years Spain dominated international football. Goals coming from Torres and the amazing David Villa carried Spain to the final. That final in 2010 showed their desire to play their way. The Dutch side that day knew they couldn’t beat them at football, so played a very aggressive way. A way that goes against the teachings of Johan Cruyff. But Spain overcame this, and left it late to win it. Spanish football dominated everything during the early 2010s, and this Spanish team epitomised their dominance
Simeone’s Underdogs (Atletico Madrid 2013-14)
With Atletico Madrid reaching another champions league final, many have forgotten that they weren’t considered a challenge to the top two. But after winning the Copa del Rey in 2012 and the Europa league in 2013, Atletico were finally making a real name for themselves, and in the next season they made Madrid and Barcelona treat them as a threat. That Atletico team will be remembered for 3 things, aggressive, passionate and organized. All of these traits came from the manager, Diego Simeone. During that title winning season, Atletico Madrid played a very narrow 4-4-2, and relied on their fullbacks, Juanfran and Felipe Luis for the width. Both of those players acted like wide midfielders, being able to run their entire side of the pitch effortlessly. Simeone played midfielders, Arda Turan and Koke out wide, both were able to come inside and crowd the midfield while also great on the ball and created plenty of space. But for Simeone, the midfielders were one of the most important parts of the team. An aging Tiago was great at controlling the game and captain Gabi was the representation of Simeone on the pitch, able to organise and was a hard tackler for the team. The best part of the team by far was the defence. Godin and Miranda made one of the most impressive partnerships in football. Both were strong and aggressive defenders. Simeone could easily rely on these two under any circumstance. But what has to be mentioned is the goals from Diego Costa. Simeone brought the best out of the then Brazilian. He ensured that he was using his aggression and small temper to an advantage, while scoring most of the goals for the club. This team was the definition of hard working and playing with their hearts. A team full of passionate players who would run through a wall for their manager. Instead of playing pretty football like Madrid and Barca, they played fast and on the counter. They added a third horse in the race.
The Man who Exceeded Expectations (Real Madrid – 2016-17)
The most recent team to be mentioned. Originally I was going to discuss Luis Enrique’s Barcelona but this Madrid team under Zidane was very, very impressive. When Zidane was appointed back in the winter of 2016, no one knew what to expect. He was working for Madrid’s B team and was finally given the job he was waiting so patiently for. Many doubted his managerial ability because he was managing one of the biggest clubs in the world, and had no past experience on dealing with players that even Jose Mourinho and Rafa Benitez couldn’t deal with, and he did it. He got Madrid playing a simple but effective way of football, and brought the best out of all the players in his squad. In the summer of 2016, Madrid only made 2 signings, re signing Alvaro Morata for depth, and bringing the young yet brilliant Asencio. It was a huge statement from Madrid because for the first time they didn’t make any record breaking deals for players. Zidane liked the players he had and didn’t want any big names to disrupt what he had. He played a very Spanish 4-3-3, with Marcelo and Carvahal acting as the tempo and the width, with both having their best seasons to date and cementing themselves as the best pairing of Fullbacks in the world. The centre back pairing of Ramos and Varane wasn’t perfect, but was very good. Varane is an excellent defender with injury troubles, and Ramos is an average defender but loves a set piece. Real Madrid’s midfield is the best in Europe, and that is because of its balance. Casemiro is a classic defensive midfielder, sitting further back and recovering the ball quickly. Kroos and Modric are both intelligent players, Kroos acted as a way of switching play and creating chances, and Modric got into space to cause havoc. When talking about the front three it is very important to talk about both Bale and Isco. In certain games Isco was preferred over Bale if Madrid wanted an extra man in midfield, as seen in the champions league final, to use the space between the midfield and defence, and Bale as a way of quickly countering a team. But the star man Ronaldo has to be discussed here. Zidane’s use of Ronaldo was something Ronaldo himself was not a fan of. Zidane clearly noticed Ronaldo losing his edge, so only preserved him for the biggest games, resulting in his lowest scoring season, but his most important. He didn’t score a ridiculous amount of goals because he didn’t play every game. Zidane chose to play his squad players against smaller opposition, to give the likes of Modric and Ronaldo a rest, and it worked flawlessly. Players like Nacho had a great season from this and Morata was the clubs second top scorer. This team of players did the impossible. It retained the champions league. Madrid were the first team to do this and mostly can be thanked to the brilliance of Zizou. His man management and simple style of play of crossing the ball into the box worked perfectly. This Madrid team will be remembered for doing the impossible.