Ranking the 10 Best Central Defenders in World Football on Form
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
This article profiles the top 10 central defenders in World Football based on form. That means that this piece will consider the players only on their performances during the course of the season so far, rather than their reputation and status.
As Europe’s major leagues begin to gather pace and canter forth, we are in a position to analyse the statistics, considering the games that have gone before, and make a judgement on the quality of a player’s contributions.
Numerous players were considered for this list, but in the end we have narrowed it down to the final ten. Do comment below and let us know what you think of this collection.
Claudio Villa/Getty Images
Chiellini may have had a rocky old time in Juventus’ recent clash with Fiorentina, but the Italy international remains a class act who plays an important role for the national side and for the reigning Serie A champions.
This season, I have noticed that he has added more goals to his game, contributing offensively as well as defensively. This certainly plays a role in his placing on this list.
There have been goals for Italy in the Confederations Cup against Brazil and in a recent World Cup qualifier against the Czech Republic. He's also netted for Juventus against Milan in Serie A and against Lazio in a Suppercoppa clash back in August.
Defensively, Juventus will need to improve in order to reclaim their Serie A title, particularly with Roma looking so sublime. With Chiellini in their ranks, you can be optimistic that the Old Lady will be tightening that rearguard before the season’s close.
Teaukura Moetaua/Getty Images
The Hammers may have made the headlines for their spectacular usurping of Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane recently, but the truth is that Sam Allardyce’s men have quietly gone about their business this term and have generally impressed.
The East London club may be struggling for goals, but they have compensated for weaknesses up front by excelling in defence.
New Zealander Winston Reid looked a little bit like a weak link during the early stages of his tenure in England, but now that he's 25 he is maturing into a fine Premier League defender.
Certainly, that game against Tottenham made him look outstanding, but in clashes with Southampton and Newcastle, "Winnie" has also excelled—preserving Jussi Jaaskelainen’s goal and being rewarded with a clean sheet.
Last season, he was Man of the Match on three occasions as the Hammers retained their Premier League status. After another year of experience, expect even more accolades this term.
Reid will also be hoping for a spot at the World Cup next summer.
Marco Luzzani/Getty Images
According to Whoscored, there is no centre-back that has achieved a higher rating than Alessandro Lucarelli so far this season. The Parma defender has excelled and is fully deserving of his spot on this list.
In eight fixtures so far this term, he has been named Man of the Match three times, has averaged 4.4 aerial victories per game and has achieved 87.2% passing accuracy.
He has also menaced offensively as well, as was evidenced in his effort against Verona, where only the crossbar intervened.
The Livorno native has enjoyed a fairly modest career, travelling between numerous clubs before settling at Parma in 2008. Now 36, he captains the side and will be looking to keep the back three flourishing while Antonio Cassano and Amauri do the business up front.
Buda Mendes/Getty Images
Orlando Engelaar is an example of a player who made an impact just at the right time to make the squad for an international tournament. The Dutch midfielder was in his late twenties when he forced his way into Marco Van Basten’s national side, having never been considered before.
A year later, he played his part at Euro 2008.
Despite years of splendid service at Napoli, Hugo Campagnaro has never been considered by Argentina before 2012. Since then, he has earned over a dozen caps and could be in line to make the World Cup squad for Brazil next summer.
He is 33!
Campagnaro has only played five games so far this season for Internazionale, having arrived in the summer, but he was quick to make an impact before injuries struck.
He was present for clashes against Sassuolo, Catania, Genoa and Cittadella—all of which resulted in clean sheets for the Nerazzurri—while his big-game mentality was evident in the 1-1 draw with Juventus in Serie A, where Campagnaro was named Man of the Match.
He also provided a late assist in the side’s 2-1 win over Fiorentina at the end of September.
Alex Livesey/Getty Images
The grand old man of Goodison Park, Sylvain Distin has been demonstrating his class in the Premier League for 13 years. He brings a sense of calm to the Everton back line, not to mention experience—no foreign outfield player has made more EPL appearances than the centre-back.
Age doesn’t seem to be affecting him too much either.
At 35, Distin retains much of his mobility, and married to excellent anticipation and an imposing physique, he is one of the league’s finest defenders. I still find it remarkable that France have never come calling.
This season has brought more consistency as the Toffees seek to puncture the Premier League hierarchy.
Alongside Phil Jagielka and Tim Howard, Distin forms part of a solid, unruffled, super-professional centrepiece to the defence—this stability allows the likes of Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman to bomb forward and join the attack.
Even without the presence and poise provided by Marouane Fellaini, Everton retain their obduracy and resiliency—Distin ought to receive great praise for this.
Dmitry Korotayev/Getty Images
Montenegrin centre-back Marko Basa is one of the key men behind Lille’s miserly defence this season. After 10 games, the club have conceded only four goals.
Vincent Enyeama, the Nigerian international goalkeeper, has returned to the side following a loan move to Israel. He has certainly had an influence, but Basa has been the stand-out contributor in an excellent defensive unit.
As well as conceding only 0.3 fouls, on average, per game (via Whoscored), Basa has been a pillar of resilience. Against Rennes, in a 0-0 draw at the end of August, he was Man of the Match.
Who knows what would have happened for Andros Townsend and England had the underrated defender not been ruled out of the recent World Cup qualifier at Wembley.
Nigel Roddis/Getty Images
Among the many narratives that populate the Premier League at the moment, I believe Hull City’s promising start to the season has been horribly neglected.
Journalists at the Guardian, for example, before the season kicked off, predicted that the Tigers would end the campaign in bottom spot. I doubt that many of them would forecast that now.
The additions of Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore have proved to be inspired, while Sone Aluko’s form upfront has been a genuine boon for the team.
Curtis Davies has also played his part.
The Tigers’ place in the top half of the table is possibly in spite of their offensive efforts. They have scored only seven times in their first eight games—only five clubs have managed fewer.
This will need to be improved, but with Sierra Leonean Davies a rock in defence, and an expert at backs-against-the-wall stopping, Hull could quite feasibly steer clear of relegation.
The former Villa man has averaged 1.3 blocks per game and has made an average of 10.5 clearances per match, only five players in Europe, and two in the Premier League have managed more (via Whoscored).
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
The coming twelve months could make or break Thiago Silva’s legacy.
Should the defender guide Brazil to a World Cup triumph on home soil, establish Paris Saint-Germain in the upper echelons of the Champions League and help the French club retain the title (to date they have never won the French championship twice within the same decade!) he may well go down in history as one of the greats.
As captain of both ides, he will doubtless be instrumental, and hugely influential, in the outcomes of all three competitions.
The former Milan man has started the season well.
Paris sit atop the French table where only Lille have conceded fewer. Silva’s average of 0.2 fouls per game (via Whoscored) is evidence of a classy defender who possesses an expert reading of the game.
Claudio Villa/Getty Images
Roma have been outstanding this season.
Their attacking flourishes and expansive play are certainly noteworthy, but the team’s defence also merits commendation. Vasilis Torosidis and Federico Balzaretti have provided width and energy, while Leandro Castan and Mehdi Benati have kept the side tight and solid.
Benatia’s average of six clearances per game (Whoscored) demonstrates how he has excelled at relieving the immediate pressure from the backline, often in such a way as to simultaneously launch attacks.
This kind of stability has allowed Roma to play their glittering attacking game.
A mention ought to go to Daniele De Rossi, one of Europe’s truly elite defensive midfielders. The Italian international has once again been instrumental in the heart of Roma’s team, protecting those behind him and driving the team forward from his central berth.
His ability to play as a sweeper or third centre-back relieves the pressure on Benatia and Castan and surely flatters the pair.
Roma have only conceded one goal in the league this season. A stunning achievement.
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
When Dejan Lovren left Lyon for Southampton in the summer, one suspected he had left the promise of European competition behind; there was, perhaps, an air of frivolity in his suggestion that he was seeking Champions League action with the Saints.
His vision doesn’t seem so fanciful now.
After eight games, Southamption sit in sixth place, ahead of Everton in seventh, and ahead of Manchester United, with whom they drew at the weekend.
While the team’s attackers, Dani Osvaldo and Rickie Lambert, are the most likely to steal the headlines, the south coast club’s success this season has been built upon a sturdy defence.
They have conceded only three goals—the Premier League’s best defensive record.
Lovren has added a touch of class to the back line, replacing their Japanese international, who didn’t settle quite so quickly a year ago. The Croat’s defensive steel (he has averaged 6.9 clearances again according to Whoscored) is allied with a goal-scoring menace at the other end of the pitch.
He has twice scored crucial goals this season, against Liverpool and Manchester United.
Lovren’s defensive partner Jose Fonte also merits a mention; the Portuguese centre-back has averaged a whopping 8.5 clearances per game (Whoscored).