Up next in my positional top fives is centre back.
First up is Fabio Cannavaro. What Cannavaro lacked in stature, he made up for in strength, anticipation and positioning. He was given the nickname ‘Muro Di Berlino’ (The Berlin Wall) during his time in Italy because of his ability in the tackle.
He made 690 career league appearances for seven clubs – Napoli, Parma, Inter Milan, Real Madrid, Juventus and Al-Ahly scoring 19 goals. He is the record cap holder for the Italian national team after he surpassed Paolo Maldini’s record in 2009. He announced his retirement from international football in 2010 after a poor Italy campaign, having amassed 136 caps, scoring two goals.
Cannavaro won two Coppa Italias in his time at Parma, along with one Supercoppa Italia and a UEFA cup. He won two La Liga titles with Real Madrid as well as a Supercopa de Espana.
With the Italian national team he won World Cup 2006 and due to his performances in the World Cup he won the 2006 Ballon d’Or making him the oldest recipient of this title and the second centre-back ever to win it.
|Fabio Cannavaro captaining Italy|
Second is Cannavaro’s countryman, Franco Baresi. Baresi played as a sweeper for AC Milan – the club at which he spent his entire career, making 719 appearances and scoring 33 goals.
Oddly for an Italian defender, Baresi would often venture forward and become an attacking outlet for his team, though he would never neglect his defensive duties as he was part of what was known as one of Europe’s meanest defences alongside Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Costacurta and Massimo Tassotti.
During his career, Baresi won six Scudetti, two Serie B titles, two intercontinental cups, four Italian Supercups and three Champions League titles. After 20 years with AC Milan, they retired his shirt number of 6 due to his excellent service to the club. He also managed 81 caps for the Italian national team, scoring just a single goal and winning the 1982 World Cup.
In 1999, he was named as the greatest AC Milan player of the century, he was also named Italian player of the 20th century by FIGC. He is also praised for helping to develop Costacurta and Maldini into the great players they became during his later years.
|Franco Baresi turning out for AC Milan|
Third up is a man who all England fans will hold dear to their hearts, Bobby Moore. He captained West Ham United for over 10 years, also making appearances for Fulham and later on in his career at San Antonio Thunder & Seattle Sounders.
He made 699 appearances, scoring 26 goals. He won an FA Cup and UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup but his greatest exploits were for England. He is the only player to captain England to World Cup glory, and it seems he will remain the only player to captain England to World Cup glory for the foreseeable future.
Pele named him as the greatest defender he had ever played against and during his World Cup winning campaign he was voted the best player of the tournament by his fellow professionals. Franz Beckenbauer also called him the best defender of all-time.
He won a total of 108 caps for England, which at the time was a national record until Peter Shilton broke it with 125 caps. Moore was the record holder for outfield players until David Beckham broke his record in 2009 with 109 caps, but unlike Beckham, Moore played every minute of every game he played in. Moore was posthumously inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2002.
|Bobby Moore in his iconic pose after winning the 1966 World Cup|
The penultimate player in my list is Ronald Koeman. Koeman was a defender who was not only known for his defending but his exploits going forward too, he had exceptional long-range accuracy, especially from free-kicks and an uncanny eye for goal.
With 193 league goals in 533 league matches he is the highest scoring defender of all-time, a record which was helped by his set-piece mastery. He won four Dutch league titles, three Dutch cups and a European Cup during his time in Holland with Groningen and Ajax. During his time at Barcelona he won four La Ligas, one Copa Del Rey, one UEFA European Cup, one European Super Cup and two Supercopa Espana’s. He also holds the record for the most successively converted penalty kicks with 25.
He won 78 caps for Holland, scoring 14 goals. He won the 1988 European Championship with Holland. He is also the only player ever to score in two different consecutive European finals after he scored a free-kick in the 1992 Champions League victory.
|Ronald Koeman playing for Barcelona|
Last up is probably the greatest defender of all-time, Franz Beckenbauer. Nicknamed ‘Der Kaiser’ (The Emperor) because of his elegance and leadership and his dominance of any football pitch he stepped foot on, Beckenbauer is generally regarded as the greatest German footballer of all time and one of the most decorated footballers in history.
Beckenbauer was a versatile footballer who could play as a centre midfielder as well as centre-back where he was most coveted, he is also often credited as having invented the modern sweeper role. Beckenbauer made 670 club appearances in his career, scoring 94 goals.
He won five Bundesliga titles, four German cups, a Cup Winners’ Cup, and three consecutive European Cups in his time in Germany, with Bayern Munich and Hamburg. He also won an NASL Championship during his time in America with New York Cosmos. He is the only player to win three consective European Cups as captain of a club, he is also the only player to have won the World Cup as both a captain and manager.
He made 103 appearances for the German national team, scoring 14 goals. He won the 1974 World Cup, which followed a European Championship success in 1972. As an individual, Beckenbauer was a four-time winner of German footballer of the year as well as being a two-time Ballon D’or winner.
He was voted the third greatest player of the 20th century, as well as second in the European player of the 20th century. He is also a member of the National Football Hall of Fame. His success at Bayern and for the German national team led him to later becoming the president of Bayern Munich.
|Beckenbauer lifting the World Cup as captain of Germany|