Ranking the 20 Most Intimidating Defenders in Serie A History
To list the most intimidating defenders in Serie A history is a challenging task.
Before I divulge my list, an explanation as to how I am interpreting this list is needed.
One could understand intimidating as somebody imposing, tough and scary almost in the manner in which they defend.
The other way to look at it is to take into account the reputation that the player has professionally, such as international prestige.
My list will comprise of defenders who meet the former interpretation, who are not necessarily intimidating for footballing reasons, those who tread a fine line regarding the rules even.
Having followed the Italian league for more than 20 years, I feel as if I am well placed to comment on those defenders I have come across during this period of time.
So those players who graced pitches across the peninsula before this period will be omitted, mainly due to a dearth of time spent watching those players.
Please comment below with your thoughts on the players I have included and add your own suggestions.
20. Facundo Roncaglia
Facundo Roncaglia has only been in the league for one season, but the Argentine has settled quickly at Fiorentina due to his tough style.
Known as El Toro (the bull), Roncaglia punches above his weight and is most effective when building up momentum while carrying the ball out from the back.
The former Boca star has great core strength and opponents tend to bounce off him when going into a challenge.
19. Abel Xavier
Spells with Bari and Roma introduced Italian football to the extravagant Abel Xavier.
The Portuguese international was intimidating, but this was more down to his looks.
With his crazy bleached hair and facial furniture, Xavier would definitely be in the head of an opponent.
Xavier is now embarking on a managerial career in the Primeira Liga with Olhanense.
18. Tomas Repka
Tomas Repka spent three years in Italy with Fiorentina and was a typical no-nonsense type of defender who would intimidate his opponents with brute strength.
Loved by the Viola faithful for his commitment, the Czech managed to pick up the Coppa Italia during his time in Florence, before a spell in the Premier League with West Ham.
17. Taribo West
Best known for a spell with Inter, but Taribo West also played for Milan for a season.
The Nigerian in his prime was physically commanding and also leaned on his crazy hairstyle to stand out as one of the most imposing centre-backs around.
Capped 41 times for the Super Eagles, West could play a bit as well and the Olympic gold he won in 1996 is perhaps the most notable achievement in his career.
16. Daniele Portanova
One of the more dominating defenders I have encountered over the last decade in Italy.
Daniele Portanova is as pure of an Italian defender as they come, who utilises every trick in the book to win his personal battles on the pitch.
The 34-year-old is a wily character who is still performing to a high level today with Genoa.
15. Traianos Dellas
He is best known for leading the Greek national team to an historic European title in 2004, but unlike most of his colleagues, Traianos Dellas was plying his trade abroad before his international success.
Firstly with Perugia and subsequently with Roma, Dellas was a towering influence at the back, standing at 6'3" tall.
Rough and rugged, Dellas could aptly swat away anything that came his way aerially by heading it further than many could kick it.
14. Mobido Diakhite
Now with Sunderland, Mobido Diakhite spent seven years in Serie A with Lazio.
The Frenchman was a beast at the back with his 6'4" frame and was one of the more muscular players in the league.
He was somebody who enjoys the physical confrontation and rose to the challenge, as can be seen, left, in winning an aerial duel with one of the toughest strikers in the league, German "El Tanque" Denis.
13. Olof Mellberg
Just one season in Italy but Olof Mellberg would be considered as one of the most intimidating defenders on most lists.
The Swede was as tough as they come and it was a little surprising that he did not stay longer in Italy.
Perhaps he fell short of the quality needed at Juventus, but Mellberg's style would have been well-suited to plenty of other Italian clubs.
12. Nicolas Spolli
Nicolas Spolli has been a big success in Sicily with Catania.
The Argentine is perfectly suited to the Italian game and adapted almost immediately after moving to Serie A from Newell's.
A walking yellow card, you know you are in for a tough afternoon every time you step on to the pitch against Spolli.
11. Philippe Mexes
Philippe Mexes started off as a more elegant defender with Roma, but during his time with Milan, it is clear he has transformed himself into one of the more dominant centre-backs around.
Mexes is prone to seeing the red mist and has been sent off seven times since moving to Italy nine years ago.
Mexes is not scared of anybody and you would want him standing behind you in your team.
10. Kamil Glik
Kamil Glik is a really tough defender who intimidates with clean, no-nonsense defending, but the Pole also has a darker side that feeds into the fear he can transmit into his opponents.
This horrendous tackle on Emanuele Giaccherini was typical of Glik's personality surrounding the big derby games for Torino.
The Poland international talks a big game and while he can be a liability at times, the way he marshals the back line is to be applauded and evidence of his importance to the Granata can be seen by Giampiero Ventura's decision to hand him the captaincy upon Angelo Ogbonna's departure.
9. Fabio Cannavaro
Fabio Cannavaro might not have been the biggest centre-back around—but he played as if he was.
Always willing to commit fully to a tackle, no matter how little chance he had of winning it.
This fed into his intimidating persona, as it was clear that Cannavaro would leave everything out on the pitch.
The reputation gained through the array of medals picked up at various clubs and with Italy also gave him more respect from his opponents.
8. Giorgio Chiellini
Giorgio Chiellini is as intimidating as they come at the top level.
The Bianconeri centre-back tackles as hard as any around and will never shirk a tackle.
Chiellini is certainly a player who forces an opponent to consider his presence out on the pitch whenever receiving the ball.
7. Lilian Thuram
One of the most powerful defenders in recent memory.
Lilian Thuram was quick, powerful and as strong as an ox, which all formed one of the more intimidating reputations around.
The former Parma and Juventus defender's presence was enough to scare the opposition's forwards away with the knowledge that it was extremely difficult to get past the French international.
His reading of the game was exceptional, too, meaning Thuram was the complete package.
6. Marco Materazzi
Marco Materazzi was intimidating for differing reasons to the aforementioned players on this list.
The former Azzurri international would look to defeat opponents psychologically and take players out of their zone on the pitch.
Also capable of cynically late tackles and grappling at set-pieces, Materazzi was a complete nuisance for forwards who encountered him when he turned out for Perugia and Inter.
5. Andre Dias
Andre Dias is one of the dirtiest players I have ever encountered in Serie A.
The Lazio centre-back takes physical defending to a new level and will almost certainly place a late challenge on an opponent in the opening minutes of a game to impose himself on them.
The 34-year-old has been sent off four times in his Lazio career, three of which were instant dismissals.
The Brazilian always walks the line regarding his discipline and opponents must hate coming up against him due to the dirty nature to his game.
4. Walter Samuel
If you are up against a defender known as The Wall, you know you are probably going to encounter a difficult game.
Walter Samuel has been sensational in his two spells in Italy, both for Roma and Inter, which sandwiched a short period with Real Madrid.
The Argentine is one of the more commanding defenders around and can stick the boot in if he needs to.
He formed half of one of the best centre-back partnerships in Serie A history with Lucio.
3. Jaap Stam
Jaap Stam enjoyed a successful time in Italy after leaving Manchester United under acrimonious circumstances.
The Dutch international enjoyed spells with Lazio and Milan and became a reliable member of each side with his dominant performances.
Potentially one of the hardest men in Italian football during this time, Stam was hard in the tackle and his timing was almost always perfect.
After arriving in Italy in the latter stages of his career, Stam's speed was not what it once was, so he relied on his reading of the game and a physical approach to transmit an element of fear into his opponents.
One of the best defenders of all time, Lucio spent three brilliant years with Inter after a long and successful time in Germany.
The Brazilian was strong and powerful, combined with lightning speed and a superb leap, making him almost unbeatable in the air.
Together with Samuel, he formed one of Europe's best partnerships at the back and was a bedrock of the side that went on to win the Champions League.
A short spell with Juventus did not work out and the 35-year-old is now back in Brazil playing for Sao Paulo.
1. Sinisa Mihajlovic
Maybe the most intimidating defender in European football during his time as a player.
Sinisa Mihajlovic was a horrible player to come up against and trouble always followed him around.
He spent the bulk of his career in Italy with Roma, Sampdoria, Lazio and Inter.
As hard as they come, Mihajlovic was not scared to throw himself into challenges that he stood little chance of winning, even if it put his place in jeopardy on the field due to the reckless nature of his tackling.
Capable of riling his opponents with personal insults, he even spat on Adrian Mutu during a game against Chelsea.
There is no doubt the Serbian held the most intimidating reputation of recent memory in Italian football.
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