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Ranking the Top 5 Centre-Backs in Premier League History

Graham RuthvenFeatured ColumnistFebruary 10, 2014

Ranking the Top 5 Centre-Backs in Premier League History

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    Michael Regan/Getty Images

    Manchester United and David Moyes were dealt another blow when captain Nemanja Vidic confirmed he will leave the Old Trafford club at the end of the season, as per BBC Sport.

    Since joining from Spartak Moscow in 2006, Vidic has logged his entry in the catalogue of great United centre-backs, leading the club to five league titles, three League Cups and a Champions League title in seven years.

    But where does the Serbian fit into the context of the greatest centre-backs to have ever played in the English top flight? Here is the top five in the history of the Premier League.

5. Sol Campbell

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    Associated Press

    Loyalty might not be Sol Campbell's best quality, but his standing as one of the best centre-backs ever to have played in the Premier League is undoubted. When Campbell famously swapped Spurs for their bitter north London rivals Arsenal, he joined a dynasty, playing a crucial role in the club's "Invincibles" season in 2003/04.

    He became central to the way Arsene Wenger wanted his side to play football, surging forward from the back with complete self-assurance, linking the defence with the midfield and sometimes even with the attack.

    The paradox of Campbell as a person is that he is an evasive and shy character off the pitch, but on it, he was a dominating figure with an aerial presence few others could boast.

4. Jaap Stam

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    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    The Dutch defender spent just three seasons at Manchester United, making just 79 league appearances, but he became the most physically dominant centre-back in the history of the Premier League.

    Playing in the same team as Roy Keane, Jaap Stam was never handed the captain's armband at United, but from his position at the back, he led the Red Devils to three Premier League titles, an FA Cup and a Champions League title in 1999.

    Of course, Stam's time at United came to a bitter end when he was shipped out to Lazio after making controversial comments about Sir Alex Ferguson's management style in his autobiography Head to Head. But it was a measure of the player that Ferguson later admitted he made a mistake in selling Stam so early in his career, as per the Daily Mail.

3. Ricardo Carvalho

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    SANG TAN/Associated Press

    In the same way high-octane, explosion-heavy blockbusters tend to top the movie charts, Ricardo Carvalho was often overshadowed by the macho, all-conquering presence of his defensive partner, John Terry, at Chelsea. But Carvalho was the understated kingpin of Chelsea's airtight defence in Jose Mourinho's first spell at the club.

    Despite costing around £20 million in 2004, Carvalho was eclipsed by the company he kept as one of Mourinho's first signings at Stamford Bridge. Alongside Didier Drogba, Mateja Kezman and Arjen Robben, not many took note of the Portuguese defender's arrival on Kings Road.

    Yet Carvalho proved to be one of Mourinho's finest acquisitions, often making up for Terry's shortcomings with his vision and classy reading of everything in front of him.

2. Rio Ferdinand

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    Jon Super/Associated Press

    Arguably the most technically gifted defender on this list, Rio Ferdinand has become the epitome of the modern-day centre-back. Whether it's with the ball at his feet or using his pace to get out of a sticky situation or linking up the defence and midfield, the 35-year-old is accomplished at almost every aspect of the game.

    After making the record-breaking £29 million move from Leeds United to Manchester United in 2002, Ferdinand immediately became a key component in Ferguson's side, winning three consecutive league titles between 2006 and 2009, while also reaching two Champions League finals in that time.

    But he had to wait until 2006 to find his perfect partner in Nemanja Vidic, forming the greatest defensive duo in the history of the Premier League. Now his career at United appears to be ending with a whimper, but we shouldn't forget the roaring glory he helped achieve at Old Trafford.

1. Tony Adams

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    Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

    When Arsene Wenger arrived at Arsenal in 1996, he found a club entrenched in the old-fashioned, outdated values of English football. Tony Adams seemed to embody those values, but somehow he managed to transcend Wenger's revolution.

    Adams was as complete a defender the Premier League has ever seen and is ever likely to see. First and foremost, he was a leader, having been made captain of the Gunners at the age of just 21. But Adams was also a fine tackler and exceptional reader of the game, leading Arsenal to four league titles between 1989 and 2002.

    Wenger may look back at Adams as the most important player he ever had, considering the role he played in transforming the footballing culture at Arsenal.

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