A South American team for the Noughties
Last week Phil Minshull picked his European team of the decade - so I was asked to do the same for South America.
But what would be the criteria? Obviously in this globalised age the top South Americans play their club football on the other side of the Atlantic.
But European football is not my beat, and I don't watch enough of it to supply an authoritative opinion.
So if anyone wants to suggest a South American side based on club form, then use the space below - and let a hundred flowers bloom, a hundred schools of thought contend.
I'm on stronger ground with the criteria I have chosen. Over the decade I've seen all the World Cup games, Copa America matches and all but a handful of the World Cup qualifiers involving South American countries - so my team is selected purely on the basis of performances in international football.
This led to a glaring anomaly. I could find no place in the starting XI for the man with a good claim to be the player of the noughties - Ronaldinho, who hit extraordinary heights around the middle of the decade.
Perhaps the conclusion here is that Barcelona's collective functioning is so good that their star players are able to concentrate on what they do best, and have a hard time adjusting out of their club context, when more is expected from them - but that's a separate debate for another day.
The team, in 4-4-2 formation, starts with a difficult choice in goal.
Marcos (27 caps) was in top form in Brazil's 2002 World Cup win, but his international career is short, mainly restricted to the year that Luiz Felipe Scolari was in charge.
One of his successors, Julio Cesar (46 caps) is shaping up well, but has yet to be tested in a World Cup - so my choice is another Brazilian, Dida (91 caps).
Many will be surprised. But his high-profile blunders have come with Milan, not Brazil, for whom he has given solid service and was one of the few success stories of the last World Cup.
The fact that all the candidates are Brazilian is no coincidence - the only other keeper I considered was Ecuador's Juan Francisco Cevallos (88 caps).
Brazilian goalkeeping has come on in leaps and bounds. They now export keepers to Europe, and the calm of the giant Dida has done much to open doors for others.
Another big development of the decade was the rise of Ecuador, whose eternal captain Ivan Hurtado (165 caps, 5 goals) is in my side as centre-back.
I'm a Bobby Moore nut, and if Hurtado was never that good, there is plenty of Moore in him. His timing in the tackle, distribution and quiet yet commanding leadership have been a joy to watch.
Alongside him, Brazil's Lucio (86 caps, 4 goals) is the other centre-back.
Few had faith in him on his debut in November 2000, when he was best known for head-butting a team-mate during the Sydney Olympics. But he proved an inspired selection, and has grown into a top-class performer, hard and aggressive, who spreads self-belief throughout the side.
Honourable mentions to the Colombian pair of Mario Yepes (68 caps, 4 goals) and Ivan Cordoba (71 caps, 4 goals), as well as Argentina's Roberto Ayala (115 caps, 7 goals), Juan Manuel Rey (109 caps, 11 goals) of Venezuela and Paraguay's Julio Cesar Caceres (60 caps, 2 goals).
I flirted with the idea of Argentina's Javier Zanetti (136 caps, 5 goals) at right-back, but in the end his baffling omission from the last World Cup counted against him.
His entire career is an inspirational story of a man who refused to be written off.
Argentina's Juan Pablo Sorin (75 caps, 11 goals) is a candidate at left-back, but not strong enough to get past Roberto Carlos, (125 caps, 11 goals) of Brazil.
He may not have had Sorin's capacity to cut into the penalty area, but with his pace and stamina he continually stretched the opposing defence, could hit the bye-line time and time again, and also carried a threat with his free kicks.
Unchallenged as holding midfielder is Argentina's Javier Mascherano (55 caps, 2 goals).
I was enthralled by him at Under-20 level at the start of 2003. Within months he was playing for Argentina at senior level before he had even made his River Plate debut, and by the following year he was anchoring the midfield as if he'd done it all his life, dominating the space, winning the tackles and giving quick, crisp passes.
As a mixed midfielder, with an honourable mention for Paraguay's Carlos Humberto Paredes (74 caps, 10 goals), I've gone for Edison Mendez, (92 caps, 15 goals) of Ecuador.
It's been a real pleasure watching him grow from the baby in the squad to the senior midfielder. Best known for his blistering shot, he is highly versatile.
In his younger days I can recall him carrying out marking roles and even filling in at full-back. It was a surprise to me when he moved back home from Holland earlier this year.
To run the game from midfield, it has to be Argentina's Juan Roman Riquelme (51 caps, 17 goals).
He's enigmatic and hyper-sensitive, but when on song he passes holes in the defence like Muhammad Ali jabbing his way through an opponent's guard.
Under Jose Pekerman in 2004-6 and Alfio Basile in 2007, Riquelme played some of the most aesthetically pleasing football of the decade. If nothing else, he deserves a place for being at the hub of the move that set up that wonderful Cambiasso goal against Serbia in the last World Cup.
The other attacking midfielder is Brazil's Kaka (70 caps, 23 goals).
The statistics of Ronaldinho (87 caps, 31 goals) may look better, but Kaka has managed to make himself central to the side in a way that Ronaldinho was not quite able to do - though, of course, he may well be given another chance in South Africa.
Brazil's attacking play is now constructed around Kaka, with his pace, power, directness and technical excellence that makes the game look easy.
Many contemporary stars are finding it difficult to reproduce their club form at international level. Kaka is an exception. Venezuela's Juan Arango (87 caps, 17 goals) deserves an honourable mention.
In contention for a place in the front two were Argentina's Hernan Crespo (64 caps, 35 goals), Joaquin Botero, (48 caps, 20 goals) of Bolivia, Paraguay's Roque Santa Cruz (66 caps, 20 goals) and Uruguay's Diego Forlan (60 caps, 22 goals).
But instead I went for Ecuador's Agustin Delgado (71 caps, 31 goals), who has the edge on Crespo because as well as shining in qualification, 'el Tin' did not disappoint in the World Cup finals.
Despite his gangling frame, Delgado was adept on the ground as well as dangerous in the air, and was a master at grabbing a goal from nowhere. The difficulty in replacing him was the main reason Ecuador failed to make it to South Africa.
And alongside, him, an obvious choice - Brazil's Ronaldo (94 caps, 62 goals).
If anything, his contribution to the 2002 World Cup win has been under-rated. Brazil were truly awful in qualification.
He came back from a knee injury which many, myself included , feared might end his career, accepted the responsibility and carried the team up to another level.
One of the all time great finishers, his talent is so outrageous that despite being out of shape he did better in the 2006 World Cup than the other members of Brazil's 'magic quartet.'
I also well recall his display against Argentina in World Cup qualification in June 2004.
He was aware that this was likely to be the biggest game he would ever play for his country on home soil, and it brought the best out of him.
He was like a creature from another planet in one of the finest individual performances I have ever seen.
With him leading the line, my South American select are ready to take on the best that Europe can throw at them!
I've gone on even longer than usual this week, and eaten into room for the questions. But normal service will be resumed next week - questions on South American football to email@example.com, and I'll pick out a couple for the next column.