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First XI: Noughties soccer heroes

By Paul Gittings and Ben Wyatt, CNN
  • Fanzone reflects on the characters who have contributed so much to the soccer story that has captivated fans since 2000
  • The top stars of soccer have seen their salaries climb to record levels since the turn of the century but are they worth it?
  • Here is the Fanzone select eleven of Noughties soccer heroes -- do you agree with the line-up?

(CNN) -- As the decade draws to a close it is time to reflect and reminisce on 10 years of glorious football drama -- and what better way to do this than by paying respect to the characters who have contributed so much to the soccer story that has captivated fans since 2000.

Two World Cups -- in South Korea and Japan, and Germany respectively -- provided the grandest of stages for some of the greatest footballers of the era to perform and show off their skills.

Aside of the biggest tournament in world football, these talented theatricals of the ball wowed audiences around the globe as they helped their sides, in both international and club arenas, to glory and success.

The top stars of soccer have seen their salaries climb to record levels since the turn of the century, a reflection of the drawing power these modern-day entertainers wield, but if a team were to be selected of the eleven best performers, who would be included?

Here is the Fanzone select eleven of Noughties soccer heroes -- let Fanzone know what you think by adding your comment at the bottom of the page.

1. Zinedine Zidane: The three-time FIFA World Footballer of the Year (1998, 2000 and 2003) Zidane brilliantly guided his nation France to the European title in 2000. The most famous of the "Galacticos", he also inspired Real Madrid to domestic honors and the Champions League title in 2002. His career almost had a fairy tale ending, but an infamous sending off in extra time of the 2006 World Cup final against Italy saw his last game soiled with controversy.

2. David Beckham: The global power of Brand Beckham showed no sign of losing its luster as the decade came to an end as the former England captain remained the highest paid footballer in the world. Super-fit at 34, Beckham continues to keep his place in Fabio Capello's England and holds the record 115 caps for an outfield player. The midfielder won two English Premier League titles with Manchester United, a La Liga title with Real Madrid and the Western Conference with LA Galaxy since the turn of the century.

3. Cristiano Ronaldo: Ronaldo became the most expensive player in football history after his $132 million transfer from Manchester United to Real Madrid in 2009, and his early performances for the Spanish giants indicate he is worth every dime. 2008 FIFA World Player of the Year Ronaldo also captains the Portugal national side and won the European Champions League, the Club World Cup and three Premier League titles with United.

4. Marta: Brazil's Marta is a four-time FIFA World Player of the Year and has raised the bar in the women's game by showcasing her talents at Olympic and World Cup level. Marta has scored 54 goals in just 53 appearances for her country and helped them to silver medals in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics. Only 23, surely gold beckons in 2012.

5. Ronaldo: Ronaldo's goal scoring feats with two in the final against Germany helped Brazil to the 2002 World Cup and cemented his reputation as one of the greatest players to wear the green and gold. He is the record scorer in World Cup finals and in club football has averaged nearly a goal a game, notching 87 in 123 appearances for Real Madrid from 2002 - 2007, a statistic which helped Los Meringues capture the La Liga title in 2003.

6. Paolo Maldini: It is testament to Maldini's ability and longevity that he made his final appearance in AC Milan colors in 2009 at the ripe old age of 40. Maldini retired from international football with Italy in 2002 after 126 appearances but he remained one of the best defenders in the world and helped Milan to the Champions League in 2007, his fifth win in Europe's top club competition. The evergreen Italian also notched up a Scudetta title win and Club world Cup win in the same decade.

7. Lionel Messi: Lionel Messi is the newly-crowned FIFA World Player of the Year and his outstanding performances for Barcelona and Argentina made him an almost unanimous choice. The 21-year-old inspired Barca to a Spanish league and cup and Champions League treble, scoring the clinching second in the final against Manchester United. Add to this two other La Liga titles and a European Champions League win in 2005-06 as well as scoring the winning goal to lift the Club World Cup in 2009, it is easy to see why Messi was a must pick.

8. Park ji-Sung: Park ji-Sung was the first Asian to play in the Champions League final when he appeared in Manchester United's 2-0 loss to Barcelona earlier this year. His tireless displays for the English champions marked him down as the finest player from that continent and he has played 84 times for South Korea, helping them to South Africa 2010. The energetic midfielder helped United to three domestic titles and a Champions League trophy in 2008.

9. Luis Figo: Luis Figo began the decade as the most expensive footballer in the world after a controversial move from Barcelona to arch-rivals Real Madrid. His performances for Real and Portugal saw him named European and then World Footballer of the Year in 2000 and 2001. He retired in 2009 having helped Inter Milan to four straight Serie A titles and Real to two league titles and a European Cup win in the preceding decade.

10. Thierry Henry: The French hit man produced the most outstanding displays of his star-studded career during his spell in the English Premier League with Arsenal, scoring 174 goals in 254 games for the Gunners before he transferred to Catalan giants Barcelona in 2007. On the international front, Henry has scored a record 51 goals for France. Since 2000 Henry picked up winners' medals for two Premier League titles, a La Liga title, a Champions League and Club World Cup win.

11. Samuel Eto'o: Inter Milan striker Eto'o is widely acknowledged to have been the most accomplished footballer to emerge from Africa and has helped Cameroon to Olympic gold in 2000 as well as two Africa Cup of Nations triumphs (2000, 2002). Eto'o -- who named African Footballer of the Year in 2003, 2004 and 2005 -- scored 108 goals in 145 games for Barcelona helping the side to three La Liga title wins that culminated in their historic treble in 2009 before being transferred to Inter. The Indomitable Lion is also the official face of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.