Top five centre backs in the world

Sorry for the length of time between the two posts in this series, but have no fear, everything will be a lot more up-to-date.

Jan Vertonghen – Tottenham Hotspur

Tottenham’s Belgian centre back impressed in his first season in the Premiership after a long-awaited transfer to Spurs. He started out at Spurs at left back after an injury to regular Benoit Assou-Ekotto but after an injury to Younes Kaboul and a drop in-form for veteran William Gallas it was down to Vertonghen to form an impressive partnership with club captain Michael Dawson.

After initially being linked with Spurs’ North London rivals Arsenal, Vertonghen quickly started showing Arsenal what they were missing out on with some dominant displays in defence, whether it be at centre back or left back.

Vertonghen’s displays were rewarded as he was named in the PFA Team of the Year alongside Rio Ferdinand, Leighton Baines and Pablo Zabaleta.

Vertonghen has made 288 club career appearances to date, scoring 38 goals; winning two Eredivisie titles and a KNVB Cup in his time at Ajax. He has also made 49 appearances for the Belgian international team, scoring four goals.

Mats Hummels – Borussia Dortmund

Over the last few years, Hummels has emerged as one of the top defending attributes of a Dortmund side that has boasted a lot of attacking talent and some under-rated defensive players.

Hummels is a player who enjoys bringing the ball out from the back and begin attacking moves. His technique in the tackle is excellent and he has an aerial and physical prowess which allows him to out-muscle opponents. His style of play has been compared to legendary German sweeper Franz Beckenbauer as his reading of the game is one of his biggest strengths.

He has made 190 career club appearances, scoring 19 goals and winning two Bundesliga titles and one DFB-Pokal. He has also made 24 appearances for the German national team, scoring one goal.

Giorgio Chiellini – Juventus

Chiellini was a part of the Juventus defence which won the 2012-13 Serie A title and he was also a key part of the team which went unbeaten with the best defensive record the season before.

The Italian defender is known for his consistent displays, hard tackles and aerial dominance and this has gained him huge popularity amongst Juventus fans. He has made 364 career club appearance to date, scoring 23 goals and winning two Serie A titles, one Serie B and one Supercoppa Italiana.

Chiellini has also been a main part of the Italian national team since 2008, he is currently with the national team at the 2013 Confederations Cup with Italy playing World Cup holders Spain tomorrow. To date he has made 61 appearances for the Italian national team, scoring three goals.

Thiago Silva – Paris Saint-Germain

How PSG managed to sign Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimovic from AC Milan for just 60 million euros is mind boggling. But Thiago did state Milan’s financial difficulties as a reason he had to leave.

Thiago Silva’s first season in French football got off to a slow start as he didn’t make his first appearance until September 18th, but on his debut he scored in a 4 – 1 PSG win over Dynamo Kiev but he soon became a key part of the team which won their first Ligue One title in 19 years. He has made 299 career club appearances so far, scoring 23 goals

He is captain of the Brazilian national team and is also currently at the 2013 Confederations Cup, he has made 35 appearance for the national team (including tonight’s game against Uruguay) scoring one goal.

Raphael Varane – Real Madrid

I had to do this on form and my own personal views, and my own personal view is that despite Varane’s tender age of 20, he is one of the best defenders in the world already and can only get better.

Varane’s playing style is based on his excellent reading of the game and any game I’ve seen him play he has rarely made a mistake. Didier Drogba has also described him as the best defender he’s played against. He was also named in a ‘Best foreign eleven in Real Madrid’s history’ by Marca in April.

He has made 72 career club appearances to date, scoring six goals; winning a La Liga title and a Supercopa de Espana. He has also made two appearances for the French national team.


Positional top fives – centre back!

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