While the rest of Europe and South America had contributed players to each decade up to this point, many of the top players in the world spent much of the 1990s in Italy. Serie A was the best level for exciting, high-quality football, as evidenced by the fact that Italian teams appeared in nine European Cup finals between 1989 and 1998. In fact, 1991 final was the only one during this time period that did not feature an Italian team. For a period, Roberto Baggio dazzled everyone at Juventus, AC Milan, and Bologna, while Paolo Maldini and Nesta ruled for AC Milan.
Hristo Stoichov was another who made the magnificent appear simple at times, though perhaps not with the same regularity as others. Before we move on to the best of the decade, there's one more thing to mention: Zinedine Zidane rose to become one of the top players in the world at any point during this decade. Michael Laudrup, a Danish attacking midfielder who played for Real Madrid and Barcelona in the 1990s, was the man of the decade. We take a look at the best XI of the 1990s in this article. The recommended formation is 4-3-1-2.
Goalkeeper: Peter Schmeichel (Denmark)
Peter Schmeichel is a former goalkeeper for the Danish national football team. He is best known for his time as the captain of Manchester United, which he led to victory in the 1999 UEFA Champions League Final, completing the treble. In 1992, he and his country, Denmark, won the UEFA Euro. In 30 matches, he led the national team as captain. In a career that spanned from 1981 to 2003, he also played for Gladsaxe Hero, Hvidovre, Brondby, Sporting CP, Aston Villa, and Manchester City, winning 24 titles.
Right-Back: Cafu (Brazil)
Cafu has 142 international appearances for Brazil, making him the most capped Brazilian player of all time. Between 1994 and 2006, he represented Brazil in four World Cups and is the only player in history to have competed in three consecutive World Cup finals, winning in 1994 and 2002, the latter as captain of his side. He also played in four editions of the Copa América with Brazil, winning the tournament twice. He also played for the national team that won the FIFA Confederations Cup in 1997. He is recognised as one of the greatest full-backs of all time, as well as one of the best defenders ever to play. He is known for his speed and strong attacking runs.
Centre-Back: Alessandro Nesta (Italy)
Nesta was best recognised for his pace, artful tackles, grace on the ball, distribution, and tight marking of opponents. He was widely regarded as one of the best centre backs of his time and one of the greatest defenders ever. In a 20-year career spanning Lazio and AC Milan, he made over 400 Serie A matches, winning domestic and European titles with both clubs. Nesta was a member of the Italian national team for ten years, starting in 1996 and earning a total of 78 caps. He competed in the 1996 Olympics, three UEFA European Championships, and three FIFA World Cups on the international stage. Nesta was a part of the 2006 World Cup-winning Italian team.
Centre-Back: Fernando Hierro (Spain)
Hierro is a retired Spanish footballer who specialised in central defence, sweeper, and defensive midfield. After joining Real Madrid from Valladolid 14 years ago, he won five La Liga and three Champions League trophies in a career that spanned more than 500 official matches. Hierro had nearly 90 appearances for Spain, including four World Cups and two European Championships.
Left-Back: Paolo Maldini (Italy)
Maldini is largely recognised as one of the greatest defenders of all time, with some even calling him the best. He is also highly regarded as one of the greatest players of all time. With 647 appearances in Serie A, Maldini maintained the record until 2020, when Gianluigi Buffon surpassed him. Before retiring at the age of 41 in 2009, Maldini spent his entire 25-year playing career with Milan in Serie A. With Milan, he won five European Cups/UEFA Champions Leagues, seven Serie A titles, one Coppa Italia, five Supercoppa Italiana titles, four European/UEFA Super Cups, two Intercontinental Cups, and one FIFA Club World Cup.
Midfielder: Lothar Matthaus (Germany)
Matthaus was voted European Footballer of the Year after leading West Germany to victory in the 1990 FIFA World Cup when he lifted the trophy. He was the first-ever FIFA World Player of the Year in 1991, and he is still the only German to have won the accolade. Matthäus had the record for most FIFA World Cup appearances (1982, 1986, 1990, 1994, 1998), more than any other outfield player in men's football, until Mexico's Rafael Márquez equalled it in the 2018 World Cup. Matthäus has the most caps of any German footballer, with 150 outings to his name.
Midfielder: Michael Laudrup (Denmark)
Laudrup won league titles with Ajax, Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Juventus throughout his playing career, primarily as an attacking midfielder but also capable of playing in other offensive positions. He was a key player of Johan Cruyff's "Dream Team" at Barcelona, winning nine trophies in total, including four consecutive La Liga titles from 1991 to 1994 and the European Cup in 1992. He played in the 1986 FIFA World Cup and captained Denmark for 28 matches starting in November 1994.
Midfielder: Roy Keane (Republic of Ireland)
Keane is the joint most successful Irish footballer of all time, with 19 major trophies to his name in his club career, 17 of which he won while playing for Manchester United in England. He was a dominant box-to-box midfielder known for his aggressive and extremely competitive style of play, a mindset that helped him excel as Manchester United captain from 1997 to 2005. Keane represented Ireland at the international level for 14 years, the majority of which he spent as captain. He appeared in every Republic of Ireland game during the 1994 FIFA World Cup.
Attacking Midfielder: Roberto Baggio (Italy)
Baggio is an ex-professional footballer from Italy who primarily played as a second striker or offensive midfielder. He won the Ballon d'Or and was named FIFA World Player of the Year in 1993. Baggio, together with Alessandro Del Piero, is the joint fourth-highest goalscorer for Italy, having appeared in 56 matches and scoring 27 goals. He scored two goals for the Italian side that finished third in the 1990 FIFA World Cup. He guided Italy to the World Cup final in 1994, scoring five goals along the way. He was awarded the World Cup Silver Ball and was nominated to the World Cup All-Star Team. Baggio became the first Italian footballer in more than 50 years to achieve 300 goals in his career in 2002.
Striker: Gabriel Batistuta (Argentina)
Batistuta earned the nickname Batigol during his playing career. Batistuta finished third in the FIFA World Player of the Year award in 1999. The prolific striker spent the majority of his club football career with Fiorentina in Serie A, where he is the club's all-time leading scorer with 151 goals. He won two consecutive Copa América titles (1991 and 1993), the 1993 Artemio Franchi Trophy, and the 1992 FIFA Confederations Cup with the Argentina national team. He played in three FIFA World Cups, scoring 10 goals in the process, making him Argentina's all-time leading scorer and the joint eighth-highest World Cup striker of all time.
Striker: Romario (Brazil)
Romário was a key player in Brazil's 1994 FIFA World Cup victory, winning the Golden Ball as the tournament's best player. In the same year, he was voted FIFA World Player of the Year. PSV won the Eredivisie three times during his five seasons with the club, and he scored 165 goals in 167 appearances. He joined FC Barcelona in 1993 and became a member of Johan Cruyff's "Dream Team." Romário is the fourth-highest goalscorer for the Brazil national team, behind Pelé, Neymar, and Ronaldo, with 55 goals in 70 games.