20 Greatest Football (Soccer) Players of the 2000s

The wonderful sport of football (or referred to as 'soccer', in the US) continues to grow, develop, and improve with each passing decade. The records keep falling, and, it's probably safe to say that the 21st century has produced some of the greatest ever football players. 

In this article, we look back at the 2000s (2000-2009), and rank our 20 greatest football players to grace the planet from the ten years that followed the turn of the century. 

Taking into account their goals, assists, defensive qualities, leadership, level of performances, and international pedigree, here's our top 21... 

best football players of the 2000s

20. Thierry Henry

The French striker went on to become one of the all-time Premier League greats, leading Arsenal to two titles, as well as a Champions League final. He'd eventually go on to win that very trophy in 2009 with Spanish giants, Barcelona. 

19. Gianluigi Buffon

Gianluigi Buffon is widely regarded as the best goal keeper of the 21st century. The Juventus legend won the world cup in 2006 with Italy, and has helped his club lift numerous Serie A titles. You'll struggle to find a keeper who is as consistent as Buffon was. 

18. Zlatan Ibrahimovic

The self-proclaimed genius just seems to keep going. With successful spells at some of Europe's biggest clubs, the Swede continues to perform at the highest level with AC Milan, at the grand old age of 40. 

17. Rivaldo

Rivaldo's ultimate peak came in the late '90s and early 2000s. The world cup win with Brazil in 2002 was his last major achievement, but his real genius came in his years at Barcelona. One of the true greats.   

16. Clarence Seedorf

One of the great Dutch midfielders, Clarence Seedorf is still regarded as one of the all-time greats. With Champions League wins with three different clubs, it's hard to ague against his influence and pedigree. 

best footballers 2000s

15. Luis Figo

As part of Portugal's 'golden generation' Luis Figo was without doubt their star man. Two major semi-finals with Portugal (2000 and 2006), a Champions League win with Real Madrid, and a World Player of the Year award isn't too shabby for the flying winger.  

14. Raul

One of the great finishers of the 2000s, Spanish striker, Raul, was smart, as well as clinical. What he lacked in pace he made up for in accuracy and IQ. Widely regarded as one of Europe's greatest strikers. 

13. Francesco Totti

Roma legend, Francesco Totti, was a superstar back in the 2000s. His diversity in being able to create and score goals, made him one of the world's best. A world cup win in 2006 helps cement his place on this list. 

12. John Terry

It's easy to forget just how good that Chelsea team was from 2004-2006, and their leader was towering centre-back, John Terry. In that two-year spell, Terry was the best defender in world football. 

11. Pavel Nedved

Seen by many as Zidane's replacement at Juventus, Pavel Nedved went on to have a stellar career with the Italian giants, and is now regarded by fans as a club legend. 

pavel nedved soccer

10. Paul Scholes

What Paul Scholes lacked in international pedigree, he made up for at club level. The 2000s saw Scholes move into a deeper, 'quarter-back' role for Manchester United, allowing him to dictate play, and control matches. Much of United's success in that period was down to the ginger genius. 

9. Andrea Pirlo

The Italian world cup winner, Andrea Pirlo, was cutting up defences for the best part of two decades. His intelligence, and ability to command a football match, made him one of the true midfield greats. 

8. Andriy Shevchenko

In his prime, Andriy Shevchenko was without doubt one of the great strikers of his generation. With an impressive 175 goals in 296 games, with most of those being against the tough defences in the Italian league, the Ukrainian is regarded as one of Europe's all-time greats. 

7. Andres Iniesta

The little Spanish warrior is perhaps one of the great play-makers of the game. Messi grabbed most of the headlines, but much of Barcelona's success was down to the brilliance of Iniesta. The world cup winner would go on to get even better in the 2010s, but he was still sublime in the late 2000s. 

6. Kaka

Kaka perhaps doesn't always get the credit he fully deserves, but there is no denying how good the Brazilian play-maker was in the mid to late 2000s. Kaka won a Champions League with Milan in 2007, followed by the World Player of the Year award. He was, up until Messi and Ronaldo emerged, the best player on the planet - it's just a pity injuries ruined his time in Madrid. 

greatest football players

5. Cristiano Ronaldo

Much like Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo had his best spell in the 2010s, but a Champions League title and World Player of the Year award in 2008 saw him on his way. Some forget that he scored 42 goals in one season for Manchester United, playing in the wing! 

4. Lionel Messi

The world first started seeing glimpses of Lionel Messi back in 2006, and what a journey he's had since. The following decade was more his domain, but he was still outstanding in the latter part of the 2000s, winning a Champions League title and a World Player of the Year award in 2009.  

3. Ronaldo Nazario

Many would argue that Ronaldo's best form came in the mid to late '90s, but that's not to say he wasn't outstanding in the 2000s.  With a world cup, and a golden boot, Ronaldo revitalised his career with a move to Real Madrid, scoring an impressive 104 goals in 177 games. 

2. Zinedine Zidane

Zinedine Zidane is often hailed as one of the true greats of the game, and many would regard him as the best ever. We're not about to disagree with that, but he wasn't really a player of the 2000s. His peak years overlapped from the mid '90s to the mid 2000s. However, a European Championships win with France in 2000 (he was the player of the tournament), and a Champions League win with Real Madrid in 2002 (scoring the winning goal), cements his place as runner up on this list.

1. Ronaldinho

Remember, these rakings are of players who peaked in the decade of the 2000s, and no other player peaked quite as gloriously in that time as the wonderful Ronaldinho.  The Brazilian's time at the top was rather short-lived, but from 2002-2006, he was simply unstoppable. 

Ronaldinho Brazil Barcelona

With a world cup, a Champions League, two La Liga titles, and two World Player of the Year awards, Ronaldinho was on a level that no one could even come close to. 

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