As calendar years go, 2010 has been special. World Cup years always generate extra excitement – and the summer in South Africa was no different – but there were plenty of outstanding club performances too as Barcelona, Inter and Bayern Munich caught the eye, albeit with contrasting styles.

Putting together a team that recognises all the stunning displays in 2010 is no easy feat, but the 11 players below – and the seven substitutes – all led the way with memorable moments and, in most cases, significant silverware.

We pick 2010’s Team of the Year, together with the club or national side (or both) they excelled at:


Julio Cesar – 31 years old – Internazionale

Brazil fell short of expectations at the World Cup, but Julio Cesar still had a year to remember, winning the Treble with Inter. He played a big part in shutting out Barcelona as the Italians overturned the odds to win that Champions League semi-final and rescued the team in numerous league games. A good shot-stopper and an equally handy distributer, he edges out Iker Casillas.


Maicon – 29 years old – Internazionale

Like Julio Cesar, it is Maicon’s performances in an Inter shirt that earn him a spot in this team. He has excelled in the attacking full-back role, just as his compatriots Roberto Carlos and Cafu did, and popped up with crucial assists and goals in Inter’s trophy charge. No one can question his energy and technique, which make amends for his sometimes questionable defensive efforts.


Gerard Pique – 23 years old – Barcelona/Spain

While the Barcelona attack invariably grabs all the attention, the defence rarely lets the Catalans down. Pique has matured beyond recognition since leaving Manchester United and returning to the Camp Nou. He was a key man in landing the La Liga title, but it is in Europe and on the international stage that he really excels, rising to the big occasion. He was outstanding as Spain subdued lively attacking sides like Germany and Holland en route to their World Cup triumph.


Sasa Ognenovski – 31 years old – Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma (Kor)

The Australian-born centre-back might not be a household name, but his performances in South Korea’s K-League have been outstanding in 2010. As captain, Ognenovski led Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma to AFC Champions League glory, picking up the Man of the Match award in the final and grabbing Most Valuable Player for the tournament. To cap an unforgettable year, he also earned a call-up to the Australian national team.


Ashley Cole – 30 years old – Chelsea

He was back to his best for Chelsea this year, helping to win back the Premier League title and adding another FA Cup to his collection. Cole was also one of the brighter spots for England in South Africa. Chelsea have had some tough moments towards the end of the year but, with his combination of pace, strong tackling and attacking intent, Cole remains the best left back in the world.


Ahmed Hassan – 35 years old – Al-Ahly/Egypt

The 35-year-old midfielder continued to defy his age this year. He broke Egypt’s appearance record in January and has passed the 170-cap mark too. Hassan was a key man in Egypt’s third straight African Cup of Nations triumph and has rolled back the years domestically. Even now, he is considered one of Africa’s finest midfielders

Xavi – 30 years old – Barcelona/Spain

There is arguably no more important player in the game today. Xavi makes Barcelona tick, with his incredible vision and perfectly weighted passing. Through the World Cup, he kickstarted Spain’s attacking drives, rarely wasting possession. Though he could not unpick the Inter lock in the Champions League semi-final, his overall contribution has been immense. He was up to his old tricks again in Barcelona’s 5-0 demolition of Real Madrid in November.

Andres Iniesta – 26 years old – Barcelona/Spain

As the World Cup match-winner and one of Barcelona’s most consistent performers, Iniesta is a no-brainer for this team. Despite his slight frame, the Spaniard is rarely brushed off the ball and his understanding with Xavi is automatic. He was arguably the most impressive 2010 performer in this list – a fact that may well be recognised when the Ballon d’Or decision is made.

Wesley Sneijder – 26 years old – Internazionale/Holland

Though he was cruelly denied in the shortlist for the Ballon d’Or, the Dutchman came within touching distance of the most remarkable season in history. Not content with pulling the strings for Inter on the way to the Treble, Sneijder led Holland to the World Cup final with stirring displays against Brazil and Uruguay. His classy touch and lethal long range shooting put him high on the wishlist of every club that is not Barcelona.



Lionel Messi – 23 years old – Barcelona

His performance in the 5-0 drubbing of Real Madrid was majestic and his goalscoring in La Liga has elevated his reputation even higher. Messi faced tight marking all year, yet his pace and dribbling made him unstoppable. Taking Argentina to the latter stages of a major tournament is the next item on the agenda, after a disappointing World Cup, but his Barcelona form cannot be faulted.

Diego Forlan – 31 years old – Atletico Madrid/Uruguay

Nobody expected Uruguay to reach the last four in South Africa, yet behind Forlan’s all-round quality, they did just that. Forlan netted five times to win the Golden Ball as the tournament’s best player. At club level, he enjoyed a memorable run too as Atletico Madrid toppled Fulham to win the Europa League. Unsurprisingly, it was the Uruguayan who popped up with the winner in the final, netting in extra time.


Carlos Puyol – 32 years old – Barcelona/Spain

The Catalan stalwart performed superbly alongside Pique for club and country all year in what is arguably the best defensive pairing in world football.

Mark van Bommel – 33 years old – Bayern Munich/Holland

Disappointments in the finals of the Champions League and World Cup should take nothing away from the midfield enforcer’s fine year. Coming within a whisker of the two biggest trophies in football deserves recognition.

Dario Conca – 27 years old – Fluminense

The best player in this year’s Brazilian top flight – not bad for an Argentine. Calls to include Conca in the Brazil squad show just how highly rated the midfielder is. Also led Fluminense to their first title for 26 years.

Arjen Robben – 26 years old – Bayern Munich/Holland

Like Van Bommel, he was a key factor all year and was unlucky to miss out twice in big finals. The Dutchman was a constant threat and together with Franck Ribery forms a lethal wing partnership at club level.

Asamoah Gyan – 25 years old – Ghana

Gyan was one of the surprise heroes in South Africa this summer, helping Ghana through to the quarter-finals, despite his penalty miss. He is now finding his feet in England after Sunderland splashed £13M on him.

Thomas Muller – 21 years old – Bayern Munich/Germany

The youngster wasn’t expected to take leading roles with both Bayern Munich and Germany, but he did. Lethal in front of goal, Muller was named Best Young Player at the World Cup and also won the Golden Boot.

Welliton – 24 years old – Spartak Moscow

The Brazilian striker has scored 50 goals in 75 league games for his Russian side since joining in 2007. And this season he scored two consecutive hat-tricks in August, and then grabbed another towards the end of the month, the latter being the fastest in the club’s history.