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World Football's 25 Best Defenders Right Now

Nathan JudahCorrespondent IFebruary 28, 2013

World Football's 25 Best Defenders Right Now

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    It's an impossible task to please everyone in this list but hopefully most will agree the majority of choices. 

    Everything is open to interpretation and there is a big difference in ranking someone in terms of their overall career and someone right now.

    But many would and do appear in both lists as their quality and talent are exactly what makes them the very best.

    And before the debate begins, John Terry is not on the list and no I haven't forgotten him!

    Here we go starting with 25.....

25. Jose Enrique: Liverpool

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    He may not be part of the Spain setup but Jose Enrique has been quite brilliant at club level for some time now.

    The marauding left-back was rewarded for four great years at Newcastle with a dream $11 million move to Liverpool.

    Since then, he has continued to flourish and become one of the best full-backs in the EPL.

24. Lucio: Sao Paulo and Brazil

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    At 34, he's no spring chicken, but the Brazilian centre-back continues to flourish for both club and country after being released by Bayern Munich in 2009 because he was too old.

    Since then, he has excelled with Inter Milan, winning Serie A in his first season before a brief spell with Juventus.

    Lucio won the Bundesliga three times and a World Cup in 2002.

    He may not be as quick as he once was, but is still very much a class act. 

23. Ryan Shawcross: Stoke City and England

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    He may not be one of the sexiest choices in this list and he certainly isn't at the sexiest club but ask any EPL forward who they would prefer not to play against and Ryan Shawcross would be in most people's top five.

    The Stoke centre-back is one of the main reasons the Potters have flourished against all odds and continue to make respectable Premier League finishes season after season.

    Shawcross was rewarded with his first England cap in 2012 and at 25 years old, he will surely be in line for a big money move to a Champions League contender in the not too distant future.

22. Daniel Alves: Barcelona and Brazil

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    Many may see Maicon as a better player than Daniel Alves, but not in this list.

    Alves has been at the top of his game for some time now after a shaky start to his Barcelona career.

    The ex-Sevilla man terrorised La Liga defences before his big money move in 2008.

    One of the best attacking full-backs in world football, Alves just made his 150th appearance in a Barca shirt and currently has 60 international caps to date.

    Don't be surprised if he becomes first choice for the 2014 World Cup in his home country.

21. Carlos Puyol: Barcelona and Spain

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    He's Barcelona's talisman and arguably the most respected active defender in the game.

    At 34, Puyol is still playing at the highest level for the best team in the best league.

    Yes, he may not have the pace he once did but his positioning and knowledge of the game cannot be disputed.

    Puyol had plenty of injury problems but has returned quicker than expected on every occasion and continues to excel alongside Gerard Pique.

    He has 100 caps at international level and was part of the squads that won Euro 2008 and the World Cup in 2010.

    Captain at the most successful club in the world in the modern era, he has led the team to five La Liga titles, three Copa del Reys, two Super Cups, three Champions Leagues and two World Club Cups.

    The list goes on and he's still got at least anther two seasons ahead of him—a true legend of the game.

20. Pepe: Real Madid and Portugal

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    Pepe could be the most improved player on the entire list after a quite wonderful 2012.

    The Portuguese was used in a squad rotation system at the Bernebeu after a 2007 move from Porto but has recently excelled under Jose Mourinho.

    Has done an excellent job marking Lionel Messi in games against Barcelona and continues to help Portugal be one of the top sides in world football, accumulating 49 caps so far.  

    At 30, he still has plenty to offer at club level and is currently enjoying the best season of his career.

19. Daniel Agger: Liverpool and Denmark

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    Denmark's proud captain is a very important player for Liverpool under Brendan Rodgers.

    Originally signed from Brondby back in 2006 for $10 million, Agger has become a huge fan favourite by being positionally astute, dominant in the air and very smart with his tackling.

    Still only 28, the centre-back is currently enjoying one of his most successful campaigns in a red shirt and is set to equal his season appearance record when Liverpool travel to Wigan this weekend.

    Agger currently has 54 international caps and scored six goals for his country.

18. Fabio Coentrao: Real Madrid and Portugal

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    He may be a surprise addition to the list but Madrid supporters will understand why the attacking full-back makes the list.

    Coentrao struggled to find an identity at Benfica but looks very much at home under Mr Mourinho, making 53 appearances to date in a little less than 18 months.

    The 24-year-old became a mainstay in the Portugal side three years ago going into the 2010 World Cup and will be one of the men to watch should Portugal qualify for the 2014 World Cup.

17. David Luiz: Chelsea and Brazil

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    He may be much maligned for his "Sideshow Bob" haircut and sometimes for his defensive capabilities but David Luiz has all the attributes to be one of the very best defenders in the world.

    And recently he's been showing it, not just at the back, but also in midfield.

    His adaptability is a huge plus to any manager and his goalscoring threat at set pieces, free kicks and in open play makes the Brazilian an invaluable asset.

    The Brazilian is probably the most comfortable player with the ball on the entire list and, if he improves his concentration, will easily make the top 10 by next year.

16. Patrice Evra: Manchester United and France

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    One of Sir Alex's very best purchases, Evra has led United to title after title and has been virtually an ever-present at left-back for the past eight years.

    The 31-year-old has had a glittering career and is still playing some of the best football despite being the wrong side of 30.

    Even with squad rotation, which is essential at a club like United, you will rarely see Evra out of the team and that is testament to how important he is to the Red Devils.

    The Frenchman is also currently having his most successful goalscoring season with four EPL goals to date.

    Click here to see my best EPL picks of Gameweek 28! 

15. Jordi Alba: Barcelona and Spain

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    Barcelona's sensational left-back made the best club team in the world even better when he signed for around $18 million this season.

    Has already produced some stunning displays and at 23 years old is a regular for the national team.

    Alba was named in the UEFA team of the tournament during Euro 2012 after playing every single minute of their victorious campaign.

    The young full-back has settled into life at Camp Nou effortlessly and has a huge career ahead of him. 

14. Thiago Silva: PSG and Brazil

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    Silva has it all, strong tackling, pace, power and is one of the most complete defenders in the game today.

    The former AC Milan centre-back made the shock move to PSG when he was heavily tipped to join Barcelona.

    However, the small matter of a $54 million transfer fee and $235,000 per week in wages may have had something to do with it.

    He continues to dominate at the back and has been a key player in their Champions League campaign so far.

    The only question mark from a Brazil point of view is to how much he will improve or continue his progress before the World Cup in the significantly weaker French league. 

13. Branislav Ivanovic: Chelsea and Serbia

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    One of the best full-backs in the EPL and world football, the Serbian defender can play anywhere across the back line while providing an excellent attacking outlet at the same time.

    The $17 million signing in 2008 has been one of Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich's best. The 6'2" Serbian international is mainly used at right-back and has become everyone's favourite fantasy option over the years.

    Twelve goals and 36 assists over the last five seasons are a big reason why Chelsea have been one of the very best teams in the league.

    He was also a key factor in Chelsea winning the Champions League last season despite being suspended for the final.

12. Raphael Varane: Real Madrid and France U21

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    Varane maybe a surprise addition to many but if anyone has seen his recent performances in El Classico, they will wonder why this teenage sensation is not higher.

    At just 19, Jose Mourinho has backed the youngster to perform in some huge matches for the club—and Varane has excelled in every instance.

    Only made a total of 61 appearances in his fledgling career so far (37 for Madrid), but this defender is the real deal and one who could be one of the hottest properties in world football during the next few years.

    The youngster also recently received his first call up to the France squad and was an unused substitute, but don't be surprised if he makes the starting 11 by Brazil 2014.

11. Leighton Baines: Everton and England

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    Leighton Baines' loyalty to Everton is admirable because he could easily be playing in a Manchester United, Arsenal, Real Madrid or Barcelona shirt.

    His defensive capabilities are tried and tested and he was richly rewarded with his first England cap in 2010.

    Unfortunately for Baines, he has Ashley Cole ahead of him in the international pecking order otherwise he would almost certainly have 50 more caps than he already does.

    He also takes almost every corner and free kick, not to mention Everton's penalties—not bad for a left-back from Kirkby.

10. Sergio Ramos: Real Madrid and Spain

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    Sergio Ramos makes the start top 10 and it's very much deserved.

    It's crazy to think Ramos is still just 26 years old because it seems he's been around for 20 years.

    An ever-present for Real Madrid, Ramos has played under five different managers and every one of them has made the Spanish international their No. 1 defender.

    Featured in World Cup all-star teams, European Championship all-star sides, not to mention winning La Liga three times, Ramos was recently voted best defender in La Liga for 2012 and not many would dispute that award.

    Absolute quality. 

9. Jan Vertonghen: Spurs and Belgium

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    Whether he's at centre-half or left-back, Vertonghen is one of the world's very best.

    He enjoyed six successful seasons with Ajax, where he was named Dutch Player of the Year in 2011/12 after leading his team to two successive Eredivisie titles, before making the switch to Spurs last summer.

    Vertonghen partners Vincent Kompany for Holland in probably the strongest central-defensive pairing in the world and has made the transition to the EPL effortlessly as one of the very best performers for Spurs this season.

    He's also expected to be nominated for PFA Player of the Year at the end of the season. 

8. Ashley Cole: Chelsea and England

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    Many believe Ashley Cole to be the best left-back in world football and, despite hitting 32, he is still performing as well as he did a decade earlier.

    The former Arsenal man made the controversial switch from North London to Chelsea in 2006 and has won the EPL title with both clubs along with a record seven FA Cups, as well as being part of Chelsea's Champions League-winnign squad last year.

    He also just won his 100th cap for England and will probably play his last World Cup in Brazil.

    Despite England's severe lack of recent international success, Cole is viewed by many of his peers to be one of the very best.

    Click here to see my best EPL picks of Gameweek 28!  

7. Giorgio Chiellini: Juventus and Italy

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    The Juventus centre-back will undoubtedly make many top 10 lists and some top fives.

    He's been the rock at the heart of the Juventus defence for over eight seasons and finally won that all important Serie A title last year.

    Undoubted first choice for Italy with 56 caps to his name, Chiellini has a knack for scoring goals at set pieces and is extremely well respected in Italy.

6. Nemanja Vidic: Serbia and Manchester United

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    He might have had a frustrating two seasons coping with an ongoing knee injury, but when fit, Vidic is as good a centre-back as you're going to get.

    Signed from Spartak Moscow in the 2005-06 season, Vidic has improved his game season after season helping United to four EPL titles and the Champions League/World Club Cup double in 2007/8.

    Has won numerous individual awards during his time at Old Trafford and has been an indispensable member of the Serbia national team for the last decade.

5. Mats Hummels: Borussia Dortmund and Germany

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    The first of two excellent German defenders who find themselves in the top five.

    Hummels is the complete footballer offering pace and power for both Borussia Dortmund and Germany.

    He was a huge factor in helping Dortmund claim back-to-back league titles and at just 24 years old has an excellent chance of making the top spot his own in years to come.

    Bayern Munich will be kicking themselves at letting the centre-back go at 18, especially to such a fierce rival. 

4. Pablo Zabaleta: Manchester City and Argentina

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    One of the most improved players of 2012, Pablo Zabaleta is a late developer for both club and country but is now key to both.

    The Argentinian made the switch from Espanol in 2008 but had to be content with sporadic appearances because of the rotational squad situation at Manchester City.

    However, he was given assurance of his role in the side and signed a new four year contract in 2011.

    He has been a virtual ever-present since and continues to pop up with crucial goals and assists with none more important than the first goal of City's dramatic 3-2 win over QPR on the last day of the season to secure the EPL title.

    After being left out of the Argenitina World Cup squad in 2010, Zabaleta was recalled by new manager Alejandro Sabella and currently has 24 caps.

    He will be a key part of their chances in Brazil 2014. 

3. Philipp Lahm: Bayern Munich and Germany

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    Magnificent performer for both Germany and Bayern, Lahm has become one of the most respected defenders in the game.

    The 29-year-old more than makes up for his lack of height with speed, pace and power to provide a hugely successful attacking option for both club and country.

    But that does not take away from his defensive capabilities that continue to make him the first name on the team sheet.

    Nicknamed the "Magic Dwarf," Lahm at 5'7" has four Bundesliga titles during his 12-year association with the club.

2. Gerard Pique: Barcelona and Spain

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    Sir Alex Ferguson does not make many mistakes in the transfer market, but letting Gerard Pique go back to Barcelona is definitely one of them.

    Pique was one of the players of the tournament when Spain won the World Cup in South Africa, and he continues to excel at club level for Barcelona despite a slight fallout with boss Pep Guardiola last season.

    Hugely comfortable on the ball with an unteachable calmness in pressure situations make Pique a firm favourite to take over the captain's armband from Carlos Puyol.

1. Vincent Kompany: Manchester City and Belgium

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    Signed from Hamburg in 2008, Kompany has developed into the very best defender in world football.

    He is the perfect centre-back who combines strength and power with intelligence.

    At 26, Kompany still has his best years ahead of him for both club and country.

    There is not one team that Kompany would not be first choice and that in itself is a strong argument for being named number one.

    Led City to the EPL title last season and was named PFA Player of the Year, voted in by his fellow professionals.

    A huge threat at set pieces, Kompany currently has 52 caps for Belgium and was recently given the captaincy replacing Thomas Vermaelen.

    Many see Belgium as the dark horses for the 2014 World Cup and Kompany's aerial presence is a huge part of that prediction.

    Click here to see my best EPL picks of Gameweek 28! 

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