What a topsy-turvy decade. It started with a bang: Mourinho’s impenetrables delivering an unforeseen quadruple. Since then, though, we’ve been treated to more drama than trophies.
GK — Samir Handanovic
Since joining in 2012, Handanovic has been one of Inter’s most consistent performers, and he rounds out the decade as the club captain. He has been one of the most reliable performers across Europe for eight-plus years: a terrific shot-stoper with up-and-down distribution.
RB — Maicon
Dani Alves was lapped up the plaudits as the World’s top attacking fullback throughout the 2000’s, but as his apex Maicon was not far behind. The Brazilian always seem to fall into second place behind Alves in the international conscious, yet not for his national side. Inter fans will never forget his remarkable campaign during the quadruple... even if that night against Bale was just a few months away, and he would be leaving the club within 18-months.
CBs - Walter Samuel, Lucio
Defensively, I’m just going with that Mourinho side. Not much since then can get close to the Maicon-Samuel-Lucio-Zanetti quartet. Together, they were change makers: Pep’s Barcelona were romping through Europe, destroying some all-time great sides (Fergie’s United chief among them). Mourinho installed a mentality. But it was this back four that instituted it on the pitch. Not just the mundane tactical stuff (that called on everyone to be structurally sound at all points) but the psychological stuff. Samuel, Lucio and Zanetti were all-world destroyers. Samuel and Lucio defended on the edge of their own box with a mixture of good positioning, overt physicality and sneaky fouling. They took pleasure in the little fouls that so piss of opposing players.
LB - Javier Zanetti
The legend of all club legends, and now the club’s Vice President. He rounds out the back four because, well, he’s Javier Fucking Zanetti. Other candidates have probably been better (read: more athletic) in the decade, but it’s my list and I’m giving it to the 2010 back four.
CDM — Marcelo Brozovic
Over the course of the decade Brozovic has blossomed from an inconsistent maybe-it-will-never-happen, what-a-dud-of-a-deal player into one of the best single pivotes in Europe. He controls the game for Antonio Conte, and has become one of (if not the) most valuable players for a side that may break Juventus’ stranglehold over Italian football.
CDM — Estaban Cambiasso
Oops. Excuse me. That was just a footballgasm at the thought of a Cambiasso-Brozovic midfield pairing. Again, Cambiasso didn’t do his best work for most of this decade, but he was so outstandingly good in that 2010 campaign that he bests whoever comes after it.
CM - Wesley Sneijder
Are you sensing a theme? Yep, that 24-month spell at the start of the decade was much, much better than anything that came subsequently.
Class. Heart. Technique. Our playmaker had it all. had it all.
That 2010 Ballon d’Or still stings.
RW — Diego Milito
I’m fudging the positions here because I want to post this video:
Goosebumps. Every time.
Milito didn’t do a whole lot, and yet at times it felt like he did everything.
LW — Samuel Eto’o
Eto’o became the walking symbol for Mourinho’s teams. He had complete buy-in. He was happy to track back and focus on the defensive side of the game. He was happy to play out of position, to limit his output, if it meant winning (and sticking two fingers up to that Catalonian in Catalonia). Eto’o was a special player. I fear his numbers and metrics and other such twaddle will see his place in history slip, unless those of us fortunate enough to watch him in real-time maintain his reputation on meaningless end-of-decade lists.
ST — Mauro Icardi
Doesn’t this just make you sad? What could have been.
Icardi scored 111 goals in 188 games for the club between 2013-2019, the most tumultuous period for the club. How much blame he deserves for the latter half of that is open to discussion. What was never in doubt: if he got a chance, he was burying it.
Icardi will receive the reverse Eto’o treatment. His reputation will forever take a battering for his off-field behavior, agent-wife and lack of trophies (which will be used as evidence of a lack of heart and bad off-field behavior and the influence of his agent-wife). His goal scoring output, however, remains objectively ridiculous. Only the two all-time greats — Messi and Ronaldo — could keep up with his scoring pace at the peak of his powers.
Did we get it right? Who would you sub in? Let us know in the comment section below.