Greatest Ever: Football: Top 10 Centre-Backs of All-Time
The 22nd installment of Barney Corkhill's Greatest Ever series is here!
In this series I will look at the greatest talents to grace various sports. I continue to look at football, this time counting down the top ten central defenders of all time! This was perhaps the hardest so far!
10. Ronald Koeman (NED)
It isn't often a defender is known as much for his goalscoring exploits as his attempts to stop such exploits at the other end of the field, but Ronald Koeman was an exception. His long, sweeping passes and powerful shots provided the base from which the likes of Marco van Basten thrived.
With 193 league goals in 503 matches, Koeman is the highest scoring defender in history. It is no coincidence, then, that he has such an impressive trophy haul. In his career he has picked up three Dutch league titles, three Dutch Cup titles, one Spanish Cup, and two European Cups.
At international level he was a key part of the great Holland team that won the European Championships of 1988. He finished his international career with 14 goals in 78 caps.
9. John Charles (WAL)
Rarely does a player come along that can perform well in two completely different positions. John Charles may be the only player who could make a top ten of all-time list in both those two positions.
Charles was just as effective a centre-forward as he was a centre-back, as his goalscoring record shows. He is still considered a legend in both Leeds and Turin, where he played his best football. He is a three-time Serie A winner, a two-time Italian Cup winner, and a two-time Welsh Cup winner.
In 1958 he was named as the Italian Player of the Year and many years later was voted as the greatest player in Serie A history. He played 38 times for his beloved Wales, scoring 15 goals, and is widely regarded as the country's greatest ever player.
To further add to his legend, despite playing in an era when both centre-forwards and central defenders had to be strong and rugged, Charles was never cautioned or sent-off.
8. Fabio Cannavaro (ITA)
What he lacks in height, Fabio Cannavaro makes up for in sheer quality. At 35 he is still going strong for Real Madrid, demonstrating just why he was the first, and so far only, defender to win the FIFA World Player of the Year award.
During his career, Cannavaro has won two Serie A titles, which were later stripped of him due to the match-fixing scandal, two Italian Cups, a UEFA Cup, and two La Liga titles.
In 2006 he captained Italy to success in the World Cup, and was subsequently named World and European player of the Year. He is still an active member of the Italian national team, with 122 caps to his name thus far.
7. Gaetano Scirea (ITA)
Just creeping in ahead of his fellow countryman is Gaetano Scirea, a player who kept Franco Baresi out of the Italian side for four years despite his advancing age. He is also one of a just five players to have won every continental club trophy recognised by UEFA and FIFA.
That means he has won the European Cup, UEFA Cup, Cup Winners' Cup, European Super Cup and the Intercontinental Cup. To add to this already impressive list he has won seven Serie A titles and two Italian Cups.
For Italy, he won 78 caps, which included helping them to success in the 1982 World Cup.
6. Billy Wright (ENG)
Perhaps the greatest captain England have ever had, Billy Wright was the first player in world football to win 100 caps for his country. He went on to win 105, 90 of which were as captain.
He spent his entire playing career at Wolverhampton Wanderers, playing 541 times for the club and cementing his status as the club's greatest ever player. Despite playing in defence where just one mistimed tackle can earn you your marching orders, Wright was never cautioned or sent-off in his 20-year career.
5. Jose Santamaria (URU)
Jose Santamaria is one of very few players to have featured for two national sides—Uruguay and Spain—and even fewer can match his trophy haul. He was a key part of Real Madrid's great side of the late '50s and early '60s, proving himself to be every bit as important as Alfredo Di Stefano or Ferenc Puskas.
He won the Uruguayan league title five times before moving to Madrid, where he continued to collect silverware, including five league titles, a Spanish Cup, and four European Cups.
He played 20 times for Uruguay and 16 times for Spain, playing in three World Cups.
4. Daniel Passarella (ARG)
Much like Ronald Koeman, Passarella was a defender with an uncanny eye for goal. In fact, with 182 goals in 556 matches, he was the highest scoring defender ever until Koeman came along.
He won the Argentinian Premier League four times, but was most successful at international level. His presence on the pitch reflected the political issues surrounding Argentina at the time, and he was named captain for the 1978 World Cup, which Argentina won.
In 1986 he was part of the squad that won another World Cup, but illness ensured he didn't play a major part, unlike eight years previously.
3. Franco Baresi (ITA)
The third Italian on the list, Franco Baresi played for AC Milan his entire career, helping the likes of Paolo Maldini and Alessandro Costacurta develop into the great players they became.
He won six Serie A titles during his career, as well as three European Cups. In 1990, he was the top scorer in the Italian Cup, and was also named the Serie A Player of the Season.
He played 81 times for Italy, including during the 1982 World Cup, in which Italy finished as winners.
2. Bobby Moore (ENG)
Bobby Moore will always hold a special place in the heart of any England fan. He will remain, it seems, for the foreseeable future the only English player to have captained his country to victory in the World Cup.
Pele considers him the greatest defender he ever played against, as, I'm sure, do many others. In his career he won the aforementioned World Cup, as well as a Cup Winners' Cup and an FA Cup.
Individually, he was voted the FWA Footballer of the Year in 1964, and the Players' Player of the World Cup in '66.
1. Franz Beckenbauer (GER)
There was only really one choice for number one. Franz Beckenbauer dominated any defence he was in. His leadership made him a prime candidate for captaincy and his elegance made it look like he found even the toughest of tasks easy.
He was perhaps the most important part of the great Bayern Munich side of the early '70s, winning four Bundesliga titles, four German Cups, a Cup Winners' Cup, and three consecutive European Cups. Later, at Hamburg, he was to win another Bundesliga title.
Internationally, he led his nation to World Cup success in 1974, and European Championships success in 1972. He also experienced finishing second and third in a World Cup. He later repeated his feat of winning the World Cup as a manager, becoming the only man to do so.
Individually, Beckenbauer was a four time winner of German Footballer of the Year and a two-time Ballon d'Or winner. He was voted as the third greatest player of the 20th century, and the second greatest European player of the 20th century, losing out to Johan Cruyff.
Other articles from this series include:
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