Top 10 club football teams of the decade (2010-2019)

FC Barcelona v Real Madrid CF - La Liga
FC Barcelona v Real Madrid CF - La Liga
Aditya Hosangadi

Blink, and a decade goes by.

Football, much like the world itself, has been in a state of frenetic flux this past decade. While several teams fell from grace, others experienced meteoric ascents to glory, and there were a select few - the usual suspects - that were sober and privileged enough to maintain their longstanding tryst with success.

The sport outdid and outwitted itself repeatedly since 2010 as clubs from across the continent battled one another for success both at home and in Europe. The 2000s may have witnessed Arsenal's 'Invincibles', AC Milan's fire-breathing squad, and Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United, but the 2010s have arguably exceeded expectations in terms of the quality of football on display.

Owing to the tactical and managerial expertise of the visionaries mentioned in this list, football in the 2010s has undergone multiple distinct tactical transformations. Each phase of evolution in the sport sees a team that imprints itself onto the history of the football, and all-conquering teams such as these are remembered for years to come.

Based on the magnitude and manner of their success as well as their penchant for changing the way the game has been perceived, here is a list of the best club teams in the 2010s.

#10 Atletico Madrid (2013/14)

Club Atletico de Madrid v Levante UD - La Liga
Club Atletico de Madrid v Levante UD - La Liga

The moniker of the "best team" generally goes to a side that adopts an expansive and attractive style of football and blows the opposition away. Diego Simeone's Atletico Madrid could not be further away from the norm.

Atletico Madrid arguably reached the peak of their powers in the 2013-14 season, scrapping their way to an impressive La Liga title. Los Rojiblancos conceded an average of 0.71 goals in La Liga and the Champions League and had the best defence in the world without a shadow of a doubt.

Spain's top tier has been dominated by Barcelona and Real Madrid for decades. The 2013/14 season marked Atletico Madrid's entry into Spain's elite and paved the way for a succession of successful teams in red and white.

A rock-solid defence held together by Diego Godin and Filipe Luis allowed the likes of Saul Niguez and Tiago to dictate terms in the centre of the park. A forward line led by Diego Costa and David Villa, aided by Arda Turan's pace and Raul Garcia's inventiveness, provided ample ammunition in the penalty area.

This well-rounded Atletico Madrid side became the first team apart from Spain's big two to win a La Liga title since 2004. They also had an impressive run in the Champions League, where they reached the finals but lost out to Real Madrid.

Starting XI: Thibaut Courtois; Juanfran, Diego Godin, Filipe Luis, Miranda; Arda Turan, Tiago, Koke, Gabi; David Villa, Diego Costa

#9 Leicester City (2015/16)

Leicester City Barclays Premier League Winners Bus Parade
Leicester City Barclays Premier League Winners Bus Parade

Leicester City's path to glory in the 2015/16 season is arguably one of the greatest stories in sporting history.

In 2014, Leicester City secured promotion to the Premier League after a 10-year hiatus. Many viewed Leicester's promotion as a massive success in itself, as the club had been one of the better teams in the Championship for several years before their promotion. What came after exceeded every Leicester City fan's wildest dreams.

After narrowly escaping relegation in 2015, Leicester came back with a back in the Premier League under newly appointed manager Claudio Ranieri. The Foxes embarked on an incredible run in the league, steamrolling teams with counter-attacks at a devastating pace.

Jamie Vardy was at the heart of everything good at Leicester, using his incredible pace and natural poaching instinct to plunder goals for the club. The wizardry of Riyad Mahrez and an engine room consisting of N'golo Kante, Danny Drinkwater, and Marc Albrighton pushed Leicester to astonishing heights.

Nobody considered Leicester, an outsider to the Premier League's big six, a serious contender for the title. Perceptions changed when Leicester City thrashed title rivals Manchester City 3-1 at the Etihad in a game that was widely expected to burst Ranieri's bubble.

A famous 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge secured Leicester City an incredible Premier League title in a season that had defied every bookmaker's odds. The Foxes gave the footballing world the spectacle of the decade and their feat is unlikely to be matched for a long time.

Starting XI: Kasper Schmeichel; Danny Simpson, Wes Morgan, Robert Huth, Christian Fuchs; N'golo Kante, Danny Drinkwater, Marc Albrighton, Riyad Mahrez; Shinji Okazaki, Jamie Vardy

#8 AS Monaco (2016/17)

AS Monaco v Manchester City FC - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: Second Leg
AS Monaco v Manchester City FC - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: Second Leg

The Ligue 1 is very often dominated by Paris Saint-Germain and its seemingly infinite resources, but the 2016/17 season painted a very different picture.

AS Monaco experienced its influx of money from Russia at the start of the decade and earned a well-deserved promotion to Ligue 1 in 2013. Come 2016, they had built an intimidating squad with an array of young talented players.

Paris Saint-Germain were still favourites to win the title, but Monaco sprang surprise after surprise. Monaco was incredibly consistent throughout the campaign and ended the season with an impressive 95 points, winning the league by an 8-point margin.

Les MonΓ©gasques had incredible pace and skill on both wings and boasted the likes of Bernardo Silva and Kylian Mbappe. The marauding French duo of Benjamin Mendy and Djibril Sidibe tormented defences all season long, and Radamel Falcao was his usual imposing self in the penalty area and ended the season as the team's top-scorer.

They also had an impressive run in the Champions League, bowing out to Juventus in the semi-finals. The 2016/17 season served as a launchpad for Monaco's young guns, and many of their incredible talents are established world-beaters today.

Starting XI: Daniel Subasic; Fabinho, Jemerson, Djibril Sidibe, Benjamin Mendy; Tiemoue Bakayoko, Joao Moutinho, Thomas Lemar; Bernardo Silva, Kylian Mbappe, Radamel Falcao

#7 Juventus (2014-17)

Juventus v S.S. Lazio - 2015 Italian Super Cup
Juventus v S.S. Lazio - 2015 Italian Super Cup

The popular consensus is that Juventus is the quintessential "almost-there" of world football in this past decade.

The club from Turin has managed to reach the Champions League final twice in the past five years but have been unable to run the last mile. While European success has eluded them by a mere whisker, the dominance of the club in Italy has been nothing short of astonishing.

Massimiliano Allegri took over as the club's manager in 2014 as the club looked to embark on a successful European campaign. The Italian took Juventus to the Champions League final where they lost to Luis Enrique's Barcelona. Juventus also reached the final in 2017 but were unable to defeat defending champions Real Madrid.

During this period, Allegri led the club to successive Serie A and Coppa Italia titles and starved other Italian teams of silverware. His first season at the club saw Juventus winning the league by an incredible 17-point margin.

Juventus placed faith in the same set of players during Allegri's reign and it brought them incredible domestic success. A defence consisting of Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci gave creative players like Paul Pogba and Claudio Marchisio a platform to do what they do best. A host of talented strikers ran the roulette during Allegri's time at the club, with Carlos Tevez, Alvaro Morata, Mario Mandzukic, and Paulo Dybala excelling in their roles in the penalty area.

Juventus may not have won the Champions League in a long time, but they have shone the brightest in the Italian peninsula during what has been a difficult decade for Italian football.

Starting XI: Gianluigi Buffon; Patrice Evra, Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci, Stephan Lichtsteiner; Arturo Vidal, Paul Pogba, Claudio Marchisio, Andrea Pirlo; Alvaro Morata, Carlos Tevez

#6 Manchester City (2017-19)

Brighton & Hove Albion v Manchester City - Premier League
Brighton & Hove Albion v Manchester City - Premier League

The Premier League has traditionally been a difficult league to play in and is known for the sheer number and intensity of games on offer. To make a league so competitive seem one-sided and tame, excellent coaching staff and a special group of players is a must.

That is exactly what Manchester City had in 2017. Pep Guardiola had arrived in the Premier League in 2016, and all had not gone well for him and the club in his first season. The Catalan, being the perfectionist that he is, took Manchester City's dominance to an incredible level the following season.

In a year that saw club talisman Sergio Aguero becoming the club's all-time leading goal-scorer, Manchester City broke several other records as well. Pep Guardiola led the team to an unprecedented 100 points in the Premier League and unearthed a few stars for the club along the way.

The likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, and Leroy Sane were always supremely talented but took their game to new heights and Manchester City became the undisputed best club in the league. The 2018/19 season saw Manchester City nearly breaking their own record by winning yet another Premier League title with 98 points.

The 2017/18 season was arguably the peak of the Manchester City project, and while European success eluded the group yet again, their achievements in England will be remembered for a long time.

Starting XI: Ederson; Kyle Walker, John Stones, Nicolas Otamendi, Fabian Delph; Fernandinho, Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva; Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane, Sergio Aguero

#5 Liverpool (2018-present)

Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool - UEFA Champions League Final
Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool - UEFA Champions League Final

Of all the teams mentioned in this list, Liverpool has arguably had the most topsy-turvy decade. The club started the decade with a talented and promising set of players but descended into chaos over the years. Their astonishing rise from the ashes under an irrepressible Jurgen Klopp is one of the stories of the decade.

Klopp was appointed by Liverpool in 2015 to inculcate a sense of direction in the club. The German's Liverpool project took some time to bear fruit and after two quiet years, the Reds took the footballing world by storm in the 2018/19 season.

The acquisitions of Alisson Becker and Virgil van Dijk, in retrospect, were the best pieces of business done by the club this past decade. With newfound defensive solidity and a menacing front three of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, and Roberto Firmino, Liverpool's gegenpressing under Klopp culminated in an incredible and groundbreaking season. The club lost out on the Premier League to Manchester City by the narrowest of margins, but there was no such shortfall in Europe.

After a 14-year wait, Liverpool lifted the Champions League in the 2018/19 season. The 2005 campaign saw an incredible comeback in the final match of the competition, and Klopp's team added weight to the belief that none of Liverpool's successful European campaigns are complete without an astonishing comeback.

Liverpool had their fair share of chances at the Camp Nou in the semi-finals but lost 3-0 to a Lionel Messi masterclass. The second leg at Anfield has gone down in history as one of the greatest Champions League comebacks of all time. A 4-0 victory over Barcelona, driven in large part by Georginio Wijnaldum, Trent Alexander-Arnold, and Divock Origi, took Liverpool to the final of the showpiece event where they steamrolled Tottenham to lift the coveted trophy.

Liverpool is arguably the best team in the world at the moment and is unbeaten in the Premier League for over a year. Jurgen Klopp was appointed to bring the Premier League back to Anfield and the much-awaited triumph is seeming increasingly likely this season with every passing game.

Starting XI: Alisson Becker; Andrew Robertson, Virgil van Dijk, Joel Matip, Trent Alexander-Arnold; Fabinho, Jordan Henderson, Georginio Wijnaldum; Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino

#4 Barcelona (2014/15)

Juventus v FC Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Final
Juventus v FC Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Final

Popular notions in football tell you that a good attack wins you matches, but a good defence wins you trophies. While Barcelona's defence in the 2014/15 season was more than decent, it is the attacking talent in this team that stands out.

Any team that has Lionel Messi has been built around the Argentine genius. This team, however, was built around a South American front three of which the little maestro was an integral part. In Luis Suarez, Neymar, and Lionel Messi, Barcelona had found a ready-made formula for success.

Luis Enrique played his part brilliantly by establishing each player's role to ensure that he got the best out of his dynamic front three. With Neymar's trickery and Messi's creativity, Luis Suarez thrived in front of goal, scoring and creating for his partners in crime in his first season at the club. The club finished the La Liga season on 94 points, marginally ahead of rivals Real Madrid.

Barcelona won their second treble of the decade with "MSN". The trio shared an astonishing 122 goals among them through the season, becoming the most prolific trio in Spanish football history. Yet another Lionel Messi masterclass in the semi-finals against Bayern Munich took the Catalans to the final against Juventus, where goals from Ivan Rakitic, Luis Suarez, and Neymar gave the club its second Champions League trophy of the decade.

While Luis Enrique's formula for success became increasingly predictable as the months progressed, his first season at the club saw some of the most exhilarating offensive football of the decade. Attacking trios are a common sight in football, but one of this quality and ability may not be seen again for a long time.

Starting XI: Marc-Andre ter Stegen; Jordi Alba, Gerard Pique, Javier Mascherano, Dani Alves; Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic, Andres Iniesta; Neymar, Luis Suarez, Lionel Messi

#3 Bayern Munich (2012/13)

Borussia Dortmund v FC Bayern Muenchen - UEFA Champions League Final
Borussia Dortmund v FC Bayern Muenchen - UEFA Champions League Final

Bayern Munich won a treble of their own in the 2012/13 season, securing the Bundesliga and the DFB Pokal as well as the Champions League in Jupp Heynckes' second season at the club.

The previous season saw the Bavarian giants miss out on both the league and the cup to Borussia Dortmund. Their Champions League campaign also ended in bitter disappointment as they lost to proverbial underdogs Chelsea on penalties. Heynckes had plenty to prove, and so did his squad.

The Bavarians started the season with a bang, scoring 12 goals in their first 3 games. The duo of Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery, nicknamed "Robbery", terrorized German defences as Bayern marched virtually unopposed to yet another Bundesliga title. Bayern Munich amassed an incredible 91 points in the league, winning the trophy by a massive margin over 25 points.

The Champions League yielded similar results, as Jupp Heynckes' efficient German machine plundered goals against the world's best teams at every stage of the competition. Aggregate scores of 4-0 and 7-0 against Juventus and Barcelona respectively showed that the Bavarians meant business, and they set up a fixture with rivals Borussia Dortmund in the final.

Jurgen Klopp's Borussia Dortmund had been Bayern Munich's chief tormentors the previous season, and yet again, Heynckes knew that he had a point to prove. Bayern Munich has already edged Dortmund to win a domestic double, but a Champions League victory over their local rivals would make their campaign a whole lot sweeter.

Manuel Neuer took his place as the world's best goalkeeper in this very match, making crucial saves as Robert Lewandowski and Marco Reus peppered Bayern's goal. With the scored tied at 1-1 and a repeat of Bayern's 2012 campaign seeming likelier by the minute, Arjen Robben put all of his team's demons to rest by scoring an 89th-minute winner to hand Bayern Munich the Champions League title and a brilliant treble.

Starting XI: Manuel Neuer; David Alaba, Jerome Boateng, Dante, Philipp Lahm; Javi Martinez, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thomas Muller; Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben, Mario Mandzukic

#2 Real Madrid (2016-18)

Real Madrid v Club Atletico de Madrid - UEFA Champions League Final
Real Madrid v Club Atletico de Madrid - UEFA Champions League Final

As far as the Champions League is concerned, Real Madrid is the most successful team in the past decade, much like it is the most decorated team in Champions League history.

After winning their historic 'La Decima' under Carlo Ancelotti in 2014, Madrid's premier club experienced something of a dry spell in the two years that followed as rivals Barcelona went from strength to strength. The team experienced a rejuvenation when club legend Zinedine Zidane was appointed as manager of the club in January of 2016.

An upturn in results was almost immediate, as Zidane's man-management skills got the best out of a star-studded Real Madrid side. The team finished just one point behind champions Barcelona in the Spanish league and went on to win an 11th Champions League title. A stoppage-time header by Sergio Ramos took the fixture into extra time, and Real Madrid won the game 4-1.

The following season saw Los Blancos repeat their Champions League feat in Zidane's first full season at the club. Real Madrid became the first team to successfully defend its European title in the Champions League era when they beat Juventus 4-1 to lift yet another trophy.

The 2017/18 season saw the unthinkable happen. Zidane led the club to an unprecedented third successive Champions League title. Conceding ground to Barcelona early on in the league season, Zidane decided to focus his best resources in the European competition. Real Madrid finished third in the La Liga table, but stellar performances and a few stunning bicycle kicks from stalwarts Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale gave Real Madrid its 13th Champions League title.

Real Madrid's achievements in the European competition broke new ground in terms of maintaining and sustaining sporting success with the same core side and their continued run of form in the competition may not be replicated for a long time.

Starting XI: Keylor Navas; Dani Carvajal, Sergio Ramos, Raphael Varane, Marcelo; Casemiro, Toni Kroos, Luka Modric; Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo

#1 Barcelona (2010/11)

Barcelona v Arsenal - UEFA Champions League
Barcelona v Arsenal - UEFA Champions League

Perfection is a difficult term to explain in even the simplest of settings, let alone a football pitch. Pep Guardiola's Barcelona of the 2010/11 season is the closest anybody may ever come to footballing perfection.

Pep Guardiola's time at Barcelona from 2008 to 2012 saw an incredible tactical evolution in Barcelona's style of play. Guardiola reverted to his mentor Johan Cruyff's philosophy and implemented a short passing game at the club, popularly dubbed "tiki-taka". Barcelona did win the sextuple in 2009, but in terms of style and the extent of sheer domination that the team enforced over the opposition, Barcelona's core group of players reached the pinnacle of their abilities in 2010 and 2011.

A large number of players in the team had graduated through La Masia and had grown up playing together and learning from each other. A midfield of Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, and a young Sergio Busquets oozed class in midfield while Lionel Messi wreaked havoc in the final third.

Messi was deployed as a 'false nine' in Guardiola's system and often dropped deep into the midfield to link up with Xavi and Iniesta. David Villa and Pedro exploited spaces further up the pitch, resulting in effective and lethal combinations all over the pitch. With a team full of talented individuals and Guardiola's novel ideas to boot, the Barcelona of 2011 was very nearly invincible.

While 5-0 and 6-0 scorelines were this Barcelona's sides bread and butter, a few spectacular performances stand out. Much was expected out of the first El Clasico of the season, but Barcelona thrashed a hapless Real Madrid 5-0 at the Camp Nou. Real Madrid's star-studded lineup was left chasing shadows as Barcelona toyed with their food, inflicting a humiliating defeat. The result was obvious: Barcelona won La Liga with consummate ease.

Barcelona outdid themselves on the biggest stage of them all: the Champions League final. In what was the finest performance in a final in Champions League history, Barcelona denied Manchester United any opportunity to touch the ball and bossed the Red Devils in Wembley on their way to a 3-1 victory. The Catalans' performance was one for the ages and drew praise from the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson himself.

Pep Guardiola departed in 2013 in search of new adventures, and much of Barcelona's world-beating side has now retired. Their exploits, however, continue to define the Blaugrana to this day.

Starting XI: Victor Valdes; Eric Abidal, Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique, Dani Alves; Sergio Busquets, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta; Pedro Rodriguez, David Villa, Lionel Messi

Edited by Vishal Subramanian


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