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In the heart of every successful team, the centre-back stands tall. These guardians of the backline possess the unique ability to read the game, intercept attacks, and halt the opposition’s advances.
What makes a world-class centre-back in the modern game? Gone are the days when an out-and-out defender was considered the top dog. Nowadays, there is such a strong desire to play out from the back that passing ability. Composure under pressure is also a key requirement for defenders but, remember, no team has ever lost a match when keeping a clean sheet and defenders should always defend first and foremost.
In this article, we embark on a journey to acknowledge the elite defenders who have showcased exceptional skills, leadership, and consistency. Here’s our top 10 centre-backs in the world right now and – spoiler alert – there isn’t an Arsenal player in sight.
10. Dayot Upamecano – Bayern Munich
- 1 10. Dayot Upamecano – Bayern Munich
- 2 9. David Alaba – Real Madrid
- 3 8. Josko Gvardiol – RB Leipzig
- 4 7. Cristian Romero – Tottenham
- 5 6. Min-Jae Kim – Napoli
- 6 5. William Saliba – Arsenal
- 7 4. Eder Militao – Real Madrid
- 8 3. Marquinhos – PSG
- 9 2. Virgil Van Dijk – Liverpool
Despite occasional inconsistencies, Upamecano’s impact cannot be denied, especially during crucial Champions League encounters. His standout performance against PSG in the Round of 16 demonstrated his ability to handle formidable opponents like Kylian Mbappé with remarkable efficiency.
Moreover, Upamecano was a key figure as France reached the final of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar delivering his prowess on the international stage. With his imposing physical presence and continuous improvement in tactical awareness and decision-making, the 24-year-old Frenchman has the potential to dominate strikers for years to come.
9. David Alaba – Real Madrid
Although initially recognized as an exceptional left-back, Alaba has seamlessly transitioned to a central defensive role for Real Madrid. Featuring his remarkable technical abilities, composed ball handling, and an astute understanding of the game, Alaba excels in intercepting plays and reading his opponents’ moves.
Not only does he possess a wide passing range, but he also exhibits strong tackling prowess while maintaining discipline on the field. Throughout his career, Alaba has amassed numerous honours, including ten consecutive Bundesliga titles with Bayern Munich.
8. Josko Gvardiol – RB Leipzig
Josko’s performances at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar showcased his immense potential, earning him admiration from clubs worldwide. With RB Leipzig, Gvardiol has displayed exceptional consistency, excelling in his defensive duties and demonstrating remarkable passing skills, particularly under pressure.
His ability to distribute the ball effectively from the back has made him a coveted asset for teams that prioritize playing out from defence. Clubs such as Manchester City and Liverpool have expressed interest in securing his services, with offers exceeding €90 million being rumoured. With his left-footed prowess and composure on the ball, Gvardiol possesses the qualities that make him a sought-after centre-back in the modern game.
7. Cristian Romero – Tottenham
The Argentine defender possesses a unique style of play that sets him apart from his peers. Known for his speed, strength, and aggression, Romero excels in aerial duels and showcases great composure on the ball.
His exceptional game-reading abilities, anticipation, and positioning make him a formidable presence in defence, allowing him to intercept passes and thwart opponents’ attacks. Furthermore, Romero’s recent achievements include winning the Copa America and FIFA World Cup with Argentina, highlighting his significant contributions to the national team’s success
6. Min-Jae Kim – Napoli
Securing the sixth spot on our list of top centre-backs is Min-Jae Kim, who has made a remarkable impact since joining Napoli from Fenerbahce. At 26 years old, Kim has quickly become a solid presence at the heart of Napoli’s defence.
His defensive prowess and calmness on the field have played a significant role in transforming Napoli into one of the favourites in the UEFA Champions League and the dominant force in Serie A. Furthermore, Kim’s contribution was instrumental in securing Napoli’s first Serie A title in three decades.
5. William Saliba – Arsenal
Despite being only 22 years old, Saliba has already made a significant impact in Arsenal’s defence during the 2022-23 season. His performances have been nothing short of superb, delivering his toughness and composure on the ball, even in tense situations. Saliba’s remarkable displays have not gone unnoticed, as he has earned a place in the French senior team.
The young defender has played a vital role in Arsenal’s strong start to the Premier League campaign, embodying everything admirable about the team. Helping Arsenal keep 12 clean sheets in just the 27 league matches last season, has proven his defensive prowess and solidified his position as one of the most promising centre-backs in the world. As he continues to develop and gain experience, William Saliba is undoubtedly a player to watch out for in the future.
4. Eder Militao – Real Madrid
Since his arrival at Real Madrid from FC Porto in 2019, Militao has displayed exceptional defensive prowess and established himself as a crucial member of Los Blancos’ backline. Renowned for his exceptional tackling, marking, and aerial abilities, he has solidified his reputation as one of the best defenders in the world.
Despite initially serving as a backup, Militao showcased his world-class potential and demonstrated steady improvement year after year. His defensive awareness and quick feet make him a daunting opponent for any striker. Militao’s remarkable performances have contributed to Real Madrid’s success, including two La Liga titles and a Champions League triumph in 2022. Comprising the strong defensive abilities at the back line, Eder Militao has undoubtedly proven himself as a rising star in the world of football, making him a force to be reckoned with at Real Madrid.
3. Marquinhos – PSG
Marquinhos, the Brazilian stalwart, firmly secures the third spot on the list. Since assuming the captaincy role at Paris Saint-Germain after Thiago Silva’s departure, Marquinhos has proven to be an integral figure in the heart of their defence. Having technical prowess and remarkable agility, he brings a distinct style to the position.
His consistent performances have played a crucial role in guiding PSG to their second Ligue 1 title, showcasing his exceptional abilities as a defender. Whether deployed as a central defender, full-back, or even in midfield, Marquinhos continues to excel, accumulating an impressive 33 league appearances and contributing two goals this season.
2. Virgil Van Dijk – Liverpool
Virgil van Dijk secures the second position on our esteemed list of top centre-backs. Since his arrival at Liverpool in January 2017, van Dijk has consistently demonstrated why he is considered one of the best in the world. While the current season may have seen a dip in form for both Liverpool and the defender himself, there is no denying the exceptional qualities he possesses.
With intelligence, composure, and exceptional passing skills, van Dijk exudes class in every aspect of his game. His imposing presence, aerial prowess, and leadership qualities make him a force to be reckoned with. Despite facing challenges, van Dijk has made 32 appearances for the Reds this season, netting three goals across various competitions.
1. Ruben Dias – Manchester City
Ruben Dias, the formidable Portuguese centre-back, takes the coveted spot at the summit of our list of the world’s best centre-backs. Bursting onto the scene in 2020, Dias made an instant impact upon joining Manchester City from Benfica. At the tender age of 26, he swiftly established himself as a defensive phenomenon, amassing an impressive array of accolades.
Dias’ commanding presence and astute reading of the game earned him a place in the prestigious FIFA Pro World XI and the Premier League Player of the Season title. Dias’ impact on City’s backline has been undeniable, with the team losing just a solitary match when he features in the lineup.
There you have it, our view on the best defensive talents in today’s game. What are your thoughts? Let us know below.
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