The 20 Most Intimidating Defenders in Bundesliga History

Clark WhitneyFeatured ColumnistOctober 4, 2013

The 20 Most Intimidating Defenders in Bundesliga History

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    Following our top 20 all-time lists of German strikers and Bundesliga midfielders, Bleacher Report presents our countdown of the best 20 defenders in Bundesliga history.

    Players were selected based on individual skill and quality, with titles won as a key bonus criterion.

    A wide range of players make the grade, from oldies like Willi Schulz to legends like Franz Beckenbauer to recent retirees like Bixente Lizarazu and even current stars like Philipp Lahm.

    Click "Begin Slideshow" to commence the countdown.

Bixente Lizarazu

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    One of the few non-Germans on this list, France international and ethnic Basque Bixente Lizarazu is one of the very best full-backs the Bundesliga has ever seen.

    In 1997, Lizarazu moved to Bayern Munich. There he was a winner and finalist in the Champions League, and won five Bundesliga and as many DFB-Pokal titles. During his stay in Munich he also won the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 with France, as well as the 2001 and 2003 Confederations Cups.

    With boundless energy and excellent ball skill, his retirement left a void in the Bayern lineup that was not adequately filled for several years.

Guido Buchwald

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    Guido Buchwald was a key player during Stuttgart's greatest era and makes this list for his strong performances for club and country at center-back.

    The Berlin-born defender only won the Bundesliga twice, but in 1991-92 it was his late goal in the final matchday that made the difference. Although he was not called up to the Germany team for the 1986 World Cup, four years later he was a starter in the team that won the title in Italy.

Klaus Augenthaler

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    The successor to Franz Beckenbauer at Bayern Munich, Klaus Augenthaler made his professional debut for the German giants a year before Der Kaiser left for the New York Cosmos.

    Augenthaler was less successful than his predecessor but nonetheless enjoyed an outstanding career. At Bayern he won seven Bundesliga titles, the DFB-Pokal three times and reached the European Cup final twice. And shortly before the end of his career, he was the starting sweeper for West Germany as they won the 1990 World Cup.

Klaus Fichtel

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    Some players are victims of poor luck in being born in a highly competitive generation of players of their nationality and natural playing position. Klaus Fichtel, a sweeper, is one such player.

    Although he played an incredibly long career (he did not fully retire until age 43), Fichtel stood in the shadow of sweepers Willi Schulz and Franz Beckenbauer, as well as center-backs Karl-Heinz Schnellinger and Hans-Georg Schwarzenbeck during the best years of his career. As such, he managed only a modest 23 appearances for Germany.

    Fichtel was nonetheless one of the best defenders of his time and in the history of the Bundesliga. A true iron-man, he played 552 Bundesliga matches with Schalke and Werder Bremen during his career, plus some 42 in the 2. Bundesliga.

Hans-Peter Briegel

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    A truly versatile defender, Hans-Peter Briegel would could qualify for this list in two positions: He is easily among the top 10 left-backs and center-backs in Bundesliga history. And he wasn't half-bad as a defensive midfielder either.

    Before heading to Italy for the twilight of his career, Briegel spent his best years at Kaiserslautern. Although he did not win any titles at the Betzenberg, he was a starter in the West Germany side that won Euro 1980. The archetypical hard-nosed German defender, Briegel was a tremendous physical presence. And he never wore shinpads.

Philipp Lahm

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    As he approaches his 30th birthday in November, Philipp Lahm's career is far from over. However, the Bayern Munich man has already done enough to earn his spot among the top 20 defenders in Bundesliga history.

    Lahm is one of a select few players to sustain a cruciate knee ligament tear in his early years but recover to play at a world-class level: This alone speaks volumes of his quality and professionalism. A captain of both club and country, he's won the treble as well as four domestic doubles with Bayern.

    And although he has yet to claim any international trophies, he's almost always produced for die Mannschaft. The 101-times-capped Germany international has been named to the World Cup All-Star team twice and the Euro Team of the Tournament two more times.

Lucio

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    There are few defenders in the last 15 years who have even come close to matching Lucio's quality and trophy count. The 35-year-old, who now is in the twilight of his career at Sao Paulo, spent nine seasons in the Bundesliga with Leverkusen and Bayern, during which time he became an international star.

    A 105-times capped Brazil international and longstanding captain of the Seleccao, Lucio is a World Cup winner and two-times Confederations Cup champion. He won a treble of domestic doubles in Germany, the Serie A title, the Club World Cup and much more.

    Cast away by Bayern coach Louis van Gaal, a teary-eyed Lucio showed his former club just what they missed out on in the 2010 Champions League final as, in his first year away from Munich, he won the Champions League with Inter.

Manfred Kaltz

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    Manfred Kaltz is one of the more curious defenders in Bundesliga history. The right-back will always be remembered in Germany for his "Bananenflanken" (banana crosses), which had such curvature that their trajectory resembled the shape of a banana.

    Kaltz is also second on the all-time list for most Bundesliga appearances, with his 581 outings for Hamburg surpassed only by Karl-Heinz Koerbel. And having found the net from the spot on 53 occasions, Kaltz holds the league record for most converted penalties. He was a starter for West Germany as they claimed the 1980 European Championship, and at HSV he won the Bundesliga three times, the DFB-Pokal twice and the European Cup.

Stefan Reuter

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    Stefan Reuter's career path in many ways mirrored that of Juergen Kohler: His early years were spent in the late 1980s at Bayern; he moved to Juventus in 1991 and later went on to spend the rest of his career at Dortmund.

    Reuter was not quite the legend that Kohler was but was nonetheless an outstanding right-back and has a similarly impressive trophy cabinet. Known for his pace, the Dinkelsbuehl native won the 1990 World Cup, Euro 1996, five Bundesliga titles and the Champions League.

Bernard Dietz

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    Perhaps the best player ever to don a Duisburg shirt, Bernard Dietz amassed an incredible 495 Bundesliga appearances for the Zebras and Schalke during his 17-year professional career. The Hamm native had incredible longevity and did not retire until the age of 39.

    Although he only made his Germany debut in 1976 and stood in the shadow of Franz Beckenbauer and Hans-Georg Schwarzenbeck, Dietz served as his country's captain from 1979 to '81. He was booked just 11 times in his Bundesliga career and was never sent off, and to this day remains the second-most prolific goal scorer (despite his defensive position) in Duisburg's Bundesliga history. His goal against Dortmund in the 1982-83 season (see video) wasn't too shabby either.

Willi Schulz

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    Source: Bundesliga.de
    Source: Bundesliga.de

    With his career having begun too late for the 1954 World Cup and effectively ended by the time of West Germany's glory years in the 1970s, Willi Schulz is unfortunate to have missed out on a lot of recognition in the annals of history. Nonetheless, the Bochum-born center-back and sweeper is one of the most talented players to feature in the Bundesliga.

    Schulz began his professional career with Schalke in 1960, three years before the Bundesliga was founded. He was Germany's sweeper before Franz Beckenbauer was converted from his position in midfield and was one of a select few world-class defenders in the 1960s. Sadly, throughout his career for Germany, Schalke and Hamburg, he never quite managed to win any big titles.

Karlheinz Foerster

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    One of the most brilliant, yet often overlooked defenders in German football's rich history is Karlheinz Foerster. Although his time came after the glory years of the 1970s, he was perhaps Germany's most important defender in the early 1980s.

    A center-back, Foerster spent most of his career at Stuttgart before moving to Marseille for his final four years of professional football. VfB were by no means Germany's preeminent powers during his time in Germany, and Foerster won just one title with the Swabians: the 1983-84 Bundesliga.

    In France he won Ligue 1 twice and also lifted the Coupe de France. But the greatest achievement of Foerster's career came long before, in 1980, when his Germany side won the European Championship. In that year and again in 1984, he was named to UEFA's Team of the Tournament.

Hans-Georg Schwarzenbeck

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    Without question, the most famous defender of all time is Franz Beckenbauer. But not so much is known about Hans-Georg Schwarzenbeck, the man who was at his side for almost his entire career. While Beckenbauer took on the more glamorous and flashy role of a sweeper, it was "Katsche" Schwarzenbeck who played as the stopper in Bayern Munich and Germany's most successful era.

    Over the course of his career, Schwarzenbeck won the World Cup, the European Championship, six Bundesliga titles, three DFB-Pokals and three consecutive European Cup finals. In the first of the European Cup finals, it was his long-ranged effort at the death that stunned Atletico Madrid and forced a replay that Bayern won 4-0 two days later.

Andreas Brehme

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    Precious few left-backs in the history of professional football can compare with Andreas Brehme, who played his best years in Germany with Kaiserslautern and Bayern before moving to Inter and Zaragoza. The left-footed all-rounder was excellent with both feet and was one of the best crossers and free kick-takers of his era.

    The defining moment of Brehme's career came in 1990 when he scored an 85th-minute penalty to lift Germany to victory over Argentina in the World Cup final. That year he placed third in the Ballon d'Or voting. At club level, he also won the Bundesliga with both Kaiserslautern and Bayern; at Inter he won the Scudetto and UEFA Cup.

Juergen Kohler

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    Juergen Kohler is one of the finest man-markers in the history of not only the Bundesliga, but professional football as a whole. The 46-year-old was not the most athletic defender, but he made up for his modest pace with outstanding tactical sense and foresight.

    Over his career, Kohler amassed 105 caps for Germany and won both the 1990 World Cup and Euro 1996. He was also named the best player at Euro 1992. He won the Bundesliga with Bayern Munich before moving to Juventus, where he won the Scudetto, Coppa Italia and UEFA Cup. After moving to Dortmund he claimed the Champions League and two more Bundesliga titles.

Berti Vogts

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    Of all the great right-backs in Bundesliga history, the most successful and decorated is Berti Vogts. Despite his rather sleight stature, the 1.68-meter defender was an aggressive and physical defender and earned the nickname "Das Terrier."

    A one-club man, Vogts played for Moenchengladbach from his professional debut in 1965 until his retirement 14 years later. Over the course of his career he won the DFB-Pokal, the UEFA Cup (twice) and five Bundesliga titles. And for his country, the 96-times-capped Germany international was a key figure in wins in the 1972 European Championship and 1974 World Cup finals.

Matthias Sammer

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    Before he became Bayern Munich's sporting director, Matthias Sammer was a hero on the pitch at Dortmund. Deployed as a striker, a left-winger and finally a central midfielder for much of his career prior to his move to the Ruhr area, the Dresden native was moved to the sweeper position by coach Ottmar Hitzfeld. And there he produced the best football of his career.

    Sammer won the Bundesliga with Stuttgart and two more times with Dortmund, and led BVB to their first Champions League title in 1997. He was named the best player at Euro 1996, which he won with Germany, and for his outstanding season was also awarded with the Ballon d'Or. Known for his ability to motivate as a captain, it's no surprise that he has been able to spur Bayern on to greater success from his position as sporting director.

Paul Breitner

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    Like many others on this list, Paul Breitner was as much a midfielder as a defender. But his greatest moments were at left-back, and he thus makes this list as a defender.

    A native Bavarian, Breitner was part of the famous Bayern Munich side of the 1970s. But he left for Real Madrid in 1974, and thus only won one of the three European Cups die Roten hoisted from 1974 to '76. Even so, he won the Bundesliga five times at Bayern and La Liga twice with Real.

    He won Euro 1972 and scored the equalizer against the Netherlands in the 1974 World Cup final, which West Germany went on to win. He was Footballer of the Year in Germany in 1981, and that same year came in second in the voting for the Ballon d'Or, a rarity for a player of his position.

Karl-Heinz Schnellinger

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    Most players towards the elite end of this list won a dozen or more titles with club and country over the course of their careers. One of the few exceptions is Karl-Heinz Schnellinger, who won a single domestic title in Germany and in Italy, the 1969 European Cup and four Coppa Italia titles.

    Schnellinger was unfortunate to retire from international football shortly before Germany became a dominant international force in the 1970s. And he spent much of his career playing for Koeln, Roma and Milan sides that were not exactly in the midst of dominant eras.

    But on ability, the left-back and sweeper was simply outstanding. His sense of positioning was second to none, and he had outstanding physical and mental strength. When he adapted to life in a central role, he developed a rather excellent long-range passing skill.

Franz Beckenbauer

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    There was only one player who could top this list: Franz Beckenbauer. The Munich-born legend is by some distance the best defender the Bundesliga and Germany have ever seen, and he is widely regarded as the greatest defender in football history.

    For his exploits at both club and international level, Beckenbauer's trophy cabinet is packed. He won three consecutive European Cups as well as four Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal titles with Bayern Munich.

    After teaming up with Pele at the New York Cosmos, he won the North American Soccer League three times and the Trans-Atlantic Cup twice. In a brief return to Germany, he also led Hamburg to the Bundesliga title once more.

    With Germany, Beckenbauer won Euro 1972 and the World Cup two years later, and the DFB-Elf were rather unfortunate not to have claimed any more trophies during his time. He was a two-time Ballon d'Or winner, a four-time German Footballer of the Year and was named to the Team of the Tournament for three World Cups and two European Championships.

     

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