English football has changed quite a bit since the turn of the century.
Way back in 2000, Kevin Phillips was the most feared striker in the top flight, while Manchester City were plying their trade in the old first division. Manchester United and Arsenal were still in their two-club tussle for supremacy, with Liverpool and Chelsea battling with Leeds United for third place rights.
Now in 2014, the footballing landscape is decidedly different, but the individuals who have lit up the Premier League this past decade will always be remembered, and to fit them all into a best XI remains one of the toughest asks for any footballing fan.
With so many choices, and only 11 slots, Soccerlens must stress that while some of the players omitted from the final cut are certainly worthy of a place in the side, the parameters restrict us to the 2000-2014 seasons, with some fantastic players ending their careers around half-way through this period.
Here is Soccerlens’ offering; a team chock full of some of the greatest players to have graced the Premier League, and certainly one to defy the ages…
Goalkeeper: Petr Cech, Chelsea
Straight in with a contentious pick, Soccerlens has plumped for Chelsea stalwart Petr Cech between the sticks.
There will be calls for Manchester United legend Edwin van der Sar to be in goal here, but there really isn’t anything to choose from between the two, with Cech just edging out his Dutch counterpart for us.
Still going strong this season, Cech’s decade long stay at Stamford Bridge has seen Chelsea enjoy their most successful period in their history.
Left-back: Ashley Cole, Chelsea
Certainly not the best loved of players, but there will be few who argue against the England man’s place in a Premier League best XI.
Blessed with the physicality of a Thai boxer, as one descriptive pundit once said, Cole has won all there is to win in football, and has been considered one of the very best full-backs in the world for many years.
Centre-back: Rio Ferdinand, Manchester United
The average football fan may forget just how long Ferdinand has been at Old Trafford, and considering his wonderful consistency, they could be forgiven for thinking there has has never been a time without the England man in Manchester.
Plucked from a sinking Leeds in 2002, for a staggering £30m, Ferdinand is one of the true greats of the modern English league. A six-time Premier League winner, he is well deserving of a place in the team.
Centre-back: John Terry, Chelsea
Another English defender not altogether revered by the general public, but John Terry cannot be denied a centre-back berth here, such is his magnificence on the pitch.
Starting off in the Chelsea youth ranks way back in 1995, Terry has become a beacon of solidarity at the back for the Blues, leading them to their first ever Premier League title in 2005.
The now 33-year-old is the Premier League’s all-time top goalscorer from defense, and has once again led the Blues to the top of table this year.
Will he lift a fourth Premier League trophy come May?
Right-back: Gary Neville, Manchester United
The man with the mousey moustache, Gary Neville walks into the side following a hugely successful career at United, during which time there was not a better right-back around in England.
A tough tackling, no nonsense defender; Neville’s consistency on the right made him a key member of the United defence during his 19-year stay, which heralded a great many pieces of silverware.
Central Midfield: Steven Gerrard, Liverpool
While having never won the Premier League title, it would be criminal to leave out such a prominent force of the English game.
Gerrard’s penchant for the spectacular has made him one of the most feared and respected players of his generation, and while it looks unlikely that the now 33-year-old will ever get his hands on the trophy, his many stunning performances from the centre for Liverpool will see him go down as one of the greats.
Central Midfield: Paul Scholes, Manchester United
Despite his small stature, Scholes was undoubtedly a giant of the game.
His vision, passing range, and wonderful calmness on the ball was a joy to behold, with a number of top players and managers proclaiming the England man as the best midfielder there has ever been in the English top flight, with his trophy cabinet strong proof of this.
Central Midfield: Frank Lampard, Chelsea
None can doubt Lampard’s goal-scoring ability, and with that, his stunning impact on Chelsea and the league as a whole.
With 146 goals, he is the club’s all time top goalscorer, and from midfield! A remarkable feat, and one that has served Chelsea well during his 12 years at the club.
Fans love to fight over whether Gerrard or Lampard is the better player, and while we are loathe to wade into the debate, there can be no doubt, considering his trophy cabinet and goal records, that Lampard fully deserves a place in the best XI.
Left Wing: Ryan Giggs, Manchester United
A phenomenon in every sense of the word, Giggs has been part of the Premier League since its inception in 1992, and is still a part of the United squad at the ripe old age of 40.
The most decorated player in English footballing history, Giggs has a staggering 13 Premier League winners medals, and has played 670 top flight games for United.
Despite not being the force he once was, the midfield man has certainly done enough to warrant his inclusion, and it is highly doubtful the uniqueness of his career will ever be repeated in England.
Striker: Thierry Henry, Arsenal
The outstanding Premier League striker of the 21st century, Henry is one of the world’s iconic footballing names, and will remain so for many years to come.
With 174 goals in 257 games, the Frenchman was about as lethal as they come for Arsenal during his eight year stay in North London, and was recently immortalised with a statue outside the Emirates.
Right Wing: Cristiano Ronaldo, Manchester United
A one in a million player, Ronaldo has undergone a dramatic transformation from the skinny, spaghetti-haired youth we saw in 2003, to a hulking demi-god in the Spanish capital in the present day.
Capable of just outlandish brilliance on the ball, Ronaldo’s move to Real Madrid in 2009 was a sad day in the history of the Premier League, with the Portuguese having helped United to three league titles among a host of team accolades during his time in Manchester, and utterly lighting up England throughout with his stunning ability.
Didier Drogba, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Sol Campbell, Edwin van der Sar, Roy Keane, Patrick Vieira, Claude Makelele, Wayne Rooney, Gianfranco Zola, Gareth Bale, Luis Suarez, Alan Shearer
What do you think? Who would be in your best XI? Have I missed anyone important out? Let me know in the comments below…