I think the players (defenders and midfielders) were better then but I am aware of the danger of that comes from watching highlights. In the highlights, all players look better than they actually are. This is why they are called "highlights". I don't tend to watch all the minutes of old games and, besides, TV doesn't show most of what they do anyway. I am also aware that the game is getting faster, the players are fitter and the level of the game better. Would superior players of even 10 years ago still look a lot better than the competition now? I am not so sure. I don't think Maka was a better player than Kante is now but maybe they are so different I doubt the value of the comparison. I think a fully mature Ballack was a cut above the current RLC but who's surprised by that. RLC is still developing. I loved Essien, but I remember wondering in some games whether he was playing RB or whether that he had simply gone missing. In the end, it seems to me that comparison is a futile exercise.