15 Best Defensive Duos in World Football History
The game of world football is currently defined by the greatness of powerful scorers like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
The group of players that gets sent to the back burner amongst all the attention on the attackers are the defenders.
This list pays tribute to those who excelled at defending and achieved success on the club and international levels.
While many people may connect the term defensive duo with a pairing of two center-backs, the term can also be applied to a combination of a full-back and center-back or two full-backs.
Here is the list the of the best 15 defensive duos to ever grace the football pitches around the world with their presence.
Franz Beckenbauer and Hans-Georg Schwarzenbeck
Franz Beckenbauer is widely regarded as the best defender to ever play the game.
And while the powerful German defender had a great career, he could not have done it without his partner in crime for Bayern Munich and West Germany, Hanz-Georg Schwarzenback.
The two joined forces in 1966 with Bayern, and two years later they won their first Bundesliga title.
When the 1970s rolled around, the pair of West Germans conquered the game at the club and international levels.
It all began with the 1971-72 Bundesliga-winning season for Bayern and culminated with the club's third consecutive European Cup title in 1976.
In between those achievements at the club level, the pair won the 1972 European Championships and 1974 FIFA World Cup.
Bobby Moore and Jack Charlton
Bobby Moore and Jack Charlton never played together at the club level, but they did form a formidable center-back pairing in the summer of 1966 for England.
During the magical FIFA World Cup victory on home soil, Moore and Charlton were relied on to keep opposing attacks quiet, and they did just that.
England did not concede a single goal in group play and they also shutout Argentina in the quarterfinals.
The first goal that was conceded by the England defense came in the 82nd minute of the semifinal match against Portugal when Eusebio scored on a penalty.
The duo of Moore and Charlton continued their incredible form in the tournament final, which England won 4-2 over West Germany.
After their World Cup success, both players thrived at the club level, with Moore becoming a legend at West Ham and Charlton winning trophy after trophy with Leeds United.
Larry Lloyd and Kenny Burns
The Brian Clough era at Nottingham Forest led the club to plenty of prosperity, but none of that would have been possible without the defensive pairing of Larry Lloyd and Kenny Burns.
Lloyd joined the club in 1976 with his eventual partner in crime coming to the club a year later.
The pairing of the two center-backs instantly helped Forest become a formidable foe to the rest of England as they won the 1977-78 First Division title.
The duo continued their winning ways on the continental level as well by taking home back-to-back European Cup titles in 1979 and 1980.
Both players left the club in 1981, but before they left Forest, their legacy at the club had been cemented.
Roberto Carlos and Cafu
Two of the best Brazilian defenders to ever step foot on a football pitch never played together at the club level, but they succeeded with flying colors on the international level.
Cafu burst onto the national-team scene with Brazil in 1990 and was a part of the 1994 FIFA World Cup-winning side that took down Italy in the tournament final.
Eight years later, Cafu and Roberto Carlos both started in the 2002 FIFA World Cup Final that was won 2-0 by Brazil over Germany.
During the eight years in between World Cup victories for Brazil, the two full-backs turned into world-class defenders who could stop any winger in any attack.
The pair retired from international football after the 2006 FIFA World Cup as the two players who have made the most appearances for Brazil.
Also won by the duo at the international level were the 1997 and 1999 Copa America and the 1997 FIFA Confederations Cup.
Djalma Santos and Nilton Santos
Roberto Carlos and Cafu were not the first Brazilian full-back tandem to take the world by storm.
Back in 1958, Djalma Santos and Nilton Santos helped revolutionize the position as they helped Brazil win the FIFA World Cup against host nation Sweden.
While Djalma Santos was known for his defending on the right side of the back four, Nilton Santos was known for his runs forward in attack on the left side of the pitch, something that had not been done much by full-backs at that time.
The two continued their international success four years later in Chile as they helped lead Brazil to their second consecutive Jules Rimet Trophy.
Most of Europe did not get to see the spectacular play of either full-back as they both played their entire club careers in Brazil.
Marcel Desailly and Laurent Blanc
The golden generation of French football took over the world at the turn of the century, and they were led by a strong defensive tandem of Marcel Desailly and Laurent Blanc.
Desailly was the rock of the France back four for over a decade, and his best years came during a five-year period from 1998 to 2003 as the French team began to win everything in sight.
The first title that Les Blues captured during that era was the 1998 FIFA World Cup, a title which was won on home soil at the Parc des Princes.
Two years later in Rotterdam, Desailly and Blanc anchored the back four that included Lilian Thuram and Bixente Lizarazu at the full-back positions for the UEFA Euro 2000 Final against Italy.
France went on to win that tournament and the 2001 and 2003 editions of the FIFA Confederations Cup before their run at the top of the international game was ended.
Ronald Koeman and Ivan Nielsen
Before he set the world on fire at Barcelona, Ronald Koeman was a part of great defensive duo at PSV Eindhoven alongside Ivan Nielsen.
The partnership only lasted three seasons but it was quite the successful pairing for manager Guus Hiddink.
The pair had a perfect combination of youth and experience as well as agility and height, and with those skills the pair helped PSV earn three consecutive Eredivisie titles.
In the 1987-88 season, PSV won the treble that included the Eredivisie, Dutch Cup and European Cup titles.
The pair spent one more season together before Koeman went off to the Camp Nou to play for Barcelona.
Nielsen returned to his homeland of Denmark the next season to play out the rest of his career.
Franco Baresi and Alessandro Costacurta
A year after Koeman and Nielsen led PSV to the European Cup title, Franco Baresi and Alessandro Costacurta did the same for AC Milan.
Baresi had been with the club for close to a decade before Costacurta made his way into the first-team squad.
The defensive duo held opponents in the European Cup Final to two consecutive clean sheets, they shut out Steaua Bucharest in the 1989 final and Benfica in the 1990 title bout.
After their European triumph, the pair led the Rossoneri to four consecutive Serie A titles.
Baresi retired from the game in 1997 while Costacurta stuck around until 2007, but after Baresi retired was when both players made way for a new, dominant defensive pairing to show off its talents.
Mauro Tassotti and Paolo Maldini
Before Paolo Maldini shifted in the center of defense, he was quite the successful left-back for AC Milan.
His partner in crime at the full-back position was Mauro Tassotti, who was the right-back during the European Cup-winning years of 1989 and 1990.
With Baresi and Costacurta out of Fabio Capello's starting 11 for the 1994 UEFA Champions League Final against Barcelona, Maldini and Tassotti were relied on as the veteran presences in the back four.
The pair continued the tradition of dominant AC Milan defending in the tournament final as they shut out Barcelona 4-0 at the Olympic Stadium in Athens.
After Tassotti retired in 1997, Maldini continued to be a rock in the Rossoneri back four for another decade, one that saw him win two more Champions League titles and two additional Serie A championships.
Steve Bruce and Gary Pallister
While Fergie's Fledgelings were starting to develop into superstars, Sir Alex Ferguson needed a reliable duo of center-backs to anchor his young team.
He found the answer to that problem in Steve Bruce and Gary Pallister.
Both players had been at Manchester United for quite some time before they won anything, but after they started winning trophies, the duo was unstoppable.
Bruce and Pallister took England by storm as they helped United win the first two Premier League titles.
Before Bruce departed Old Trafford in 1996, the defensive duo racked up three FA Cups, three Premier League titles, one League Cup victory and the 1991 European Cup Winners' Cup.
Mark Lawrenson and Alan Hansen
In the glory days of Liverpool Football Club, the stalwarts in defense were Mark Lawrenson and Alan Hansen.
The formidable defensive partnership between the two was formed in 1981 when Lawrenson joined the Reds from Brighton and Hove Albion, and the rest, they say, is history.
Before Lawrenson showed up on Merseyside, Hansen had already won two First Division titles.
With Lawrenson alongside him at center-back, Hansen added to that total with five more First Division crowns.
The pair helped Liverpool conquer England in the 1980s with three League Cups and an FA Cup.
In 1984, the Reds conquered Europe with Lawrenson and Hansen anchoring the back four in a penalty-shootout win over Roma in the European Cup Final at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.
Hansen won an additional First Division title without Lawrenson alongside him during the 1989-1990 season, which was the last time that Liverpool won a top-flight title.
Marquitos and Rafael Lesmes
When the European Cup came into existence in 1955, Real Madrid were the dominant club in European football.
Los Blancos were dominant for quite some time as they won the first five European Cups.
In the back four for all of those European triumphs were Marquitos and Rafael Lesmes.
Both players joined Real Madrid early on during the 1950s and they were just two of the players who helped the club earn long-term success in Europe.
While Alfredo di Stefano was the top goalscorer for the club at that time, it was Marquitos who scored an important equalizer in the 1956 final against Reims before Hector Rial finished off the job.
During the remarkable span of success for Real Madrid, the duo helped earn two clean sheets in five of those finals.
The two also won four La Liga titles in the six seasons they were paired together.
Gaetano Scirea and Claudio Gentile
Gaetano Scirea and Claudio Gentile were not only a force at the club level with Juventus over a decade, they saw success at the international level with Italy as well.
Gentile was the traditional defender in the pairing as he played mostly at center-back, while Scirea was used as a sweeper.
In their time at Juventus, the defensive duo won every single title imaginable.
It all started with their first of six Scudetti in 1975; the success that followed is something that is a fantasy to modern footballers.
In 1977, Juventus defeated Athletic Bilbao to win the UEFA Cup, but the club had to wait eight years to finally conquer all of Europe.
After Scirea and Gentile won the 1982 FIFA World Cup with Italy, they won the 1984 Cup Winners' Cup Final over Porto which was followed by a UEFA Super Cup victory over Liverpool.
The trophy that escaped the duo was finally won in 1985 when Juventus once again defeated Liverpool to win the European Cup.
To top that all off, the 1985 Intercontinental Cup also went to Juventus, but for that match they were without Gentile, who left the club for Fiorentina during the previous summer.
Armando Picchi and Tarcisio Burgnich
Another defensive duo that had a stranglehold on opposing attacks in Serie A was the one formed by Armando Picchi and Tarcisio Burgnich at Inter Milan from 1962 to 1967.
Picchi was the master and Burgnich was the apprentice at the sweeper position for Inter.
Picchi was moved to the sweeper position by manager Helenio Herrera and his success paved the way for Burgnich once he retired.
Before Picchi hung up his boots, he won three Scudetti, two European Cups and two Intercontinental Cups with Burgnich alongside him in defense.
Before Burgnich left for Napoli in 1974, he won one additional Serie A title without Picchi.
Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique
No defensive pairing at the moment is more successful than Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique of Barcelona and Spain.
Since moving back to Catalonia from Manchester United in 2008, Pique has partnered with Puyol in the back four at both the club and international levels.
In Pique's first season at Barcelona, the Catalan club picked a treble by winning the UEFA Champions League, Copa del Rey and La Liga.
The success at the club level continued for the pair as they have won two additional Copa del Rey titles, one more La Liga crown, a second Champions League title as well as two UEFA Super Cups and two FIFA Club World Cups.
The defensive duo also have performed well for Spain as they won the 2010 FIFA World Cup together for La Furia Roja.
What defensive duo do you think was the best in history?
Comment below or leave me a comment on Twitter, @JTansey90.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!