Ranking the 15 Best Defenders in World Football Right Now

Tony MabertContributor IJuly 30, 2012

Ranking the 15 Best Defenders in World Football Right Now

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    Almost always overlooked when the big awards are given out, defenders are nevertheless just as crucial to a team as their colleagues further up the field.

    In this list, emphasis is being placed on the "right now" as stipulated in the headline. While that will not take into account preseason form, it means that the likes of Nemanja Vidic are not included. The Manchester United captain is clearly one of the world's best center backs, but he has out of action since December.

    Feel free to disagree—as you surely will—and post your own suggestions below.

15. David Alaba (Bayern Munich)

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    What a breakout season the young Austrian enjoyed last term as Bayern came agonisingly close to winning a fourth European Cup.

    The half-Nigerian, half-Filipino 20-year-old was more familiar with the midfield while with Austria Vienna, but under former Bayern boss, Louis van Gaal, he showed a great aptitude as an attacking left back.

    In that position, he has flourished and ably supported winger Franck Ribery almost all the way to the very top last season.

14. Cristian Maggio (Napoli)

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    As part of the Napoli side which has come on leaps and bounds over the last two years, Maggio has led a one-man revival of the old-school wing-back.

    With manager Walter Mazzarri fielding a three-man central unit at the back, Maggio has licence to maraud down the right flank to his heart's content, often drawing apart defences simply not prepared for to deal with the positions he takes up.

    His niche characteristics meant he only played a bit for Italy at Euro 2012, but in the right system he can be devastating.

13. Daniel Agger (Liverpool)

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    Denmark may have been one of the two unfortunates not to make the cut from Euro 2012's "Group of Death", but Agger did not disappoint.

    The Liverpool defender managed to stage off the injury problems which have plagued him for much of his time at Anfield, and he played as part of one of the Premier League's best back fives last season.

    Club partner Martin Skrtel also deserves and honourable mention, but Agger is the one of that pair who it is easier to imagine playing at a truly top side.

12. Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham Hotspur)

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    What should have been a deal completed in the first week of the summer transfer window ended up dragging into mid-July, but Spurs finally got their main defensive target.

    One of the leading lights in a highly talented generation of Belgian players, Vertonghen captained Ajax two their second-straight title and was named Eredivisie Player of the Year.

    Typically for a player coming from the Dutch league, Vertonghen has a handsome scoring record for a defender, but his goalscoring prowess is not the reason why Spurs paid £12 million for his services.

11. Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal)

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    French centre-back Koscielny had a turbulent time of it during his first season in England upon his arrival in 2010. 

    He was sent off on his competitive debut at Anfield, and he was one half of the comedy duo which combined to gift Birmingham City their late winner in the Carling Cup final.

    However, last season he provided proof that Arsene Wenger can still unearth a gem from relative obscurity with a host of fine performances for the Gunners which recently earned him a new contract and starting berth for France at Euro 2012.

10. Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich)

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    Another defender whose versatility has been a prize asset for his club and country is Lahm.

    For a full-back to play on either side of a back four with equally high aptitude is a tactical boon for any coach.

    Not only that, but his leadership qualities cannot be underestimated, and he is more than a bit handy when shooting from range too. 

9. Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid)

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    The defender from Seville has always had more than a touch of the Andalucian party boy about him.

    Ramos, who usually plays at right-back but just won a European championship at the heart of the back line, has now ensured that any schoolboy errors are firmly consigned to trophy parades, when he once famously dropped the Copa del Rey under the open-top bus he was on.

    His new, more chic haircut seems to fit with his more mature performances, and he pops up with his fair share of goals too.

8. Lucio (Juventus)

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    When grizzled Brazilian centre-back Lucio was deemed two old for Bayern Munich in 2009, Jose Mourinho was only too happy to bring him to Inter Milan.

    Two League titles and one Champions League later, and again the no-nonsense veteran is deemed surplus to requirements.

    This time it is Juventus who have shown faith in him, and have decide to bolster a unbeaten title-winning squad by signing him up on a free.

7. Gerard Pique (Barcelona)

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    The Barcelona and Spain mainstay remains one of the world's finest footballers. Of that, there is little doubt. However, The centre-back's dip in form personified that of his club. 

    Waylaid by the trappings of fame—in Barca's case a touch of complacency and what you could lazily call "success fatigue", in Pique's case a shoebox lifestyle of which former boss Pep Guardiola did not approve—both parties failed to hit their previous heights.

    Still, Pique now has a third winner's medal in as many international tournaments in his collection, so he's not exacty dropped off the map over the past year.

6. Jordi Alba (Barcelona)

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    The most "right now" pick on this list, Jordi Alba swept to fame by starring in Spain's often problematic left-back position at Euro 2012.

    Alba played every single minute of Spain's victorious campaign, and he earned a move back to boyhood club Barcelona as a result.

    But, even before he shone in Poland and Ukraine, his quality was there for all to see for Valencia for anyone who delved deeper than just Spain's big two.

5.Pepe (Real Madrid)

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    It may be an unpopular move to put the Real Madrid defender ahead of either of his Barcelona counterparts, but the last 12 months have seen Pepe perform better than ever for the club.

    There were still the odd moments of rashness and many indiscretions—15 bookings and one red card in all for Real—but he was also an integral part of Jose Mourinho's team winning La Liga for the first time in four years.

    His reputation rightfully precedes him, but Pepe's talents still managed to shine through as well.

4. Mats Hummels (Germany)

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    The Germany centre-back is one half of the Borussia Dortmund side which has been the bedrock of the club's back-to-back Bundesliga titles.

    His teammate, Neven Subotic of Serbia, deserves his fair share of the credit for that partnership, but Hummels is the better all-round footballer.

    His sub-par performance in the Euro 2012 semifinal defeat to Italy was an unfortunately-timed bad day at the office, but the Bayern Munich youth product has many years ahead of him as one of the world's best in his position.

3.Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus)

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    Juventus returned to the very top of Italian football last season by winning Serie A unbeaten, conceding just 20 goals in the process.

    Cheillini was such a vital part of that team, whether it was at his preferred position in the centre of defence or at left-back.

    His withdrawal through injury early in the Euro 2012 final was arguably more telling than the depleted Azzurri being reduced to 10 men in the second half.

2. Thiago Silva (Paris Saint-Germain)

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    Paris Saint-Germain laid down a real marker when they secured their extraordinary double-signing from AC Milan earlier this month.

    While it was Zlatan Ibrahimovic who hogged all the attention, Brazil centre-back Thiago Silva is arguably the more important acquisition.

    At 27 years old, PSG have got one of the world's best defenders at the very peak of his powers, and he will prove vital in their first Champions League campaign for seven years while Ibrahimovic lays waste to Ligue 1's other defences. Well, that's the plan at least.

1.Vincent Kompany (Manchester City)

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    The captain of the Premier League champions was one of the biggest factors in City's success last season.

    The Belgian centre-back was an imperious and assured presence, virtually never looking ruffled as his exceptional reading of the game ensured he rarely found himself not in control of a situation.

    He only scored three league goals last season, but two of them were big—the opener in a 1-1 draw at Anfield and the only goal of the game in a Manchester derby which all but decided the title.