”Attack wins you games, but defence wins you tournaments” is a very famous saying among football fans, players and managers. All the greatest sides ever were built on the basis of rock solid defences. And to be a good defender you need power, tactical intelligence, technical capability, organisational skills and a brave-heart to take on anyone. In this article, we will have a look at some of the best centre backs in the world.
Considering the performances over the past couple of seasons, here are the top 15 best centre backs in the world –
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15. Harry Maguire
Harry Maguire is one of the hottest players in the Premier League at the moment. The fact that he has been linked to a transfer to Manchester United for a potential world record fee for a defender, proves his worth.
Since Maguire signed for Leicester City in 2017, he has been excellent. He played in every minute of last season and was awarded ‘Player of the Season’ at his club.
Maguire basically has a no-nonsense style of defending. With a height of 6ft 4in and a great physique, he wins the aerial balls in most cases. His interception, tackling and marking skills are also very good.
14. Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham Hotspur)
Belgian International Jan Vertonghen is a left-footed player who usually plays as a centre-back, he is equally adept at playing anywhere on the left side. Although playing as a defender, Vertonghen is well-known for his offensive prowess and powerful shooting ability.
He along with Toby Alderweireld has formed a formidable centre-back partnership for Spurs, which is undeniably one of the best in the league if not the best. He is one of the best centre backs in the world.
13. Marquinhos (PSG)
Marquinhos is predominantly a central defender, but has also been used at right-back and in a defensive midfield role. He is a quick player with a good sense of position who knew how to impose himself on a game. He likes to break up attacks and build from the back using his dribbling skills.
The 25 years old has established himself in the PSG line-up since the departure of David Luiz. His performances have attracted the attention of many big clubs across Europe but PSG are unlikely to let him go.
12. Gerard Pique (Barcelona)
The Barcelona defender has been an integral part of the Catalan side for over a decade now. The ball-playing centre back is a giant in the world of defending and could go on to surpass his mentor Carles Puyol as the most decorated defender in the club’s history.
A product of Barça’s La Masia, Piqué initially left the club for Manchester United in 2004. He remained there for four years, before returning to Barça under Pep Guardiola’s leadership, helping the club win trebles in 2008–09 and 2014–15. He played an integral role in the Spain team that won the 2010 FIFA World Cup and UEFA Euro 2012.
11. Mats Hummels (Bayern Munich)
Hummels is a large, consistent, and physically strong player, known for his powerful tackling and strength in the air, as well as his ability to read the game and intercept loose balls.
The classy German has long been considered one of the best centre backs in the world. He earned 70 international caps and represented Germany at UEFA Euro 2012, 2014 FIFA World Cup, and UEFA Euro 2016.
A Bayern Munich youth product, the Bavarian club saw fit to sell him for just €4 million after he shone on loan with rivals Borussia Dortmund. Hummels came back to haunt his former side by winning two Bundelsiga titles with BVB at their expense by the age of 23. He later joined Bayern Munich again in 2016, winning three consecutive Bundesliga titles, but once again returned to BVB in the summer of 2019.
10. Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid)
Sergio Ramos has proved himself to be one of modern football’s elite defenders. Ramos is a strong player exudes confidence, he’s strong, he’s a battler, his timing and positioning is impeccable.
Ramos has the knack of scoring vital goals for Los Blancos and is among the highest goal-scoring defenders ever, having scored more than 75 goals in his career. The Spaniard is unbeatable on his day and is undoubtedly among the best centre backs in the world.
9. Jerome Boateng (Bayern Munich)
Boateng primarily is a centre-back, although he can also play as a right-back. Physically strong and composed in possession, he has garnered a reputation as a tough-tackling defender, with good passing and an ability to read the game, and is considered to be one of the world’s best at his position.
He was voted the Footballer of the Year in Germany in 2016 and part of the UEFA of the Year in 2016 and Bundesliga team of the year for the 2015-16 season.
In his eight seasons with Bayern Munich, he has won 7 Bundesliga titles, 1 FIFA Club World Cup and 1 Champions League among a list of other honours. He was also a part of the World Cup winning German squad in 2014.
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8. Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham Hotspur)
Alderweireld’s future with Spurs looks quite uncertian. But there’s no uncertainity about his class. Joining Spurs in 2015, Alderweireld has been rock solid in their defence. He helped Tottenham to achieve the best defensive record in the Premier League, with only 25 goals conceded from 34 games, in his first season at the club.
A full international since 2009, Alderweireld has earned over 90 caps for Belgium and represented the country at the 2014 and 2018 FIFA World Cups.
7. Diego Godin (Atletico Madrid)
Inter Milan’s new signing of summer transfer window of 2019, Godin is one of the best centre-backs in the world. He was an integral part of Atletico Madrid’s rise back to prominence under the guidance of Diego Simeone.
He is a rugged defender who will keep things together under even the most intense pressure. Godin excels in the air, also strong in the tackle, giving his team an almost impenetrable defense against crosses and providing a significant threat on set pieces.
He was voted La Liga’s best defender for the 2015-2016 season ahead of the likes of Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique, Marcelo etc. This shows the impact he can make on his new club and in the league.
6. Raphael Varane (Real Madrid)
The Frenchman may well be the fastest top-level centre-back around but doesn’t rely on his pace to read the game and smartly intercept dangerous attacks.
Excellent in the air, strong on the ground, accomplished on the ball. There’s no real flaw in Varane’s game and that’s what sets him apart from the rest. He played an important part in France’s world cup triumph.
5. Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus)
Bonucci is known for his technique, passing range, and his ability to launch an attack from the back with long passes. A tall and strong defender, with a good positional sense, as well as good anticipation, solid tackling, and an ability to read the game. He mark opponents really well, he also excels in the air, and frequently poses a threat from set pieces.
Bonucci is rated very highly among the best centre-backs in the world and his performances has caught the attention of different clubs across Europe and it will be interesting to see whether the ”Serie A Footballer of the Year 2015-2016” will find himself a new club in the summer or snub offers to stay with The Old Lady.
4. Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli)
Koulibaly is a large, quick and physically strong and elegant player. He is recognised for his aerial prowess, anticipation, passing ability and versatility, as he can play both as a central defender, or as a full-back on either the right or left flank.
Koulibaly began his professional club career with French side Metz in 2010, before moving to Belgian club Genk in 2012. He joined Italian side Napoli in 2014, where he soon established himself as one of the best defenders in Italy.
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3. Aymeric Laporte (Manchester City)
Laporte is a world-class defender, who is not appreciated as mcuh as the likes of Van Dijk or De Ligt. The French centre-back was one of the major reasons why Manchester City won the domestic treble last season. He also started most matches in the Premier League for the champions compared to any other out-field player.
After all this, he is yet to receive a call-up for the national side. But considering his performances, its only a matter of time.
2. Matthijs de Ligt
Few players on the planet are causing as much of a stir in the transfer market as Ajax’s teenage defender Matthijs de Ligt.
The Netherlands international is breaking the mould of young players stepping into senior football, following in the footsteps of the likes of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Kylian Mbappé by being considered world class before they’ve even turned 20.
His outstanding display against Real Madrid in the second leg of their Champions League knockout stage match – where Ajax knocked Los Blancos out of the competition – threw de Ligt into the limelight, prompting questions over where he will be next season.
1. Virgil Van Dijk (Liverpool)
Virgil Van Dijk’s leadership and intelligence can be seen in the way he organises his defence and times his tackles. He likes to bring the ball from the back and push it forward. His precision of passing and dribbling are also one of the reasons why Liverpool won the UCL last season.
He was so rock solid in the defence last season that hardly anyone dribbled past him. Van Dijk has proven himself to be the missing piece of Liverpool’s defence. No wonder, we have ranked him as the best defender in the world.
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