Maldini: The Greatest
Central defenders have always held down a position of vital importance throughout the history of football. Even back in the days of ridiculously high scoring lines, one tackle could change the game.
Paolo Maldini will stand out to many, including myself, as the greatest defender in any position across the back four. When he first started out he was used in the left back position, using his pace as well as honing his defensive skills.
Moving to center back when the fire went out of his legs, Maldini showed the world how well he could read the game. His timing in the tackle, his ability in the air and his distribution under pressure made him second to none.
Today, center backs are as important as ever, with a lot more teams playing a defensive brand of football. This article will strive to highlight who the best players are in the position today.
The fiery Brazilian Lucio would have been at the top of every list toward the end of the 2009/2010 season due to the passion and skill he showed in Inter's capture of the Champions League.
This season, Inter have been awful thus far, staring up at the stars of Serie A's higher echelon's from a lowly 17th position.
Their European assault hasn't been all that bad though, and Lucio still has it all as a defender. He shows passion when playing for Brazil that many players seem to be lacking when it comes to the international game in this day and age.
Many people wouldn't have the Brazilian in their top 10 but, despite being in decline as a player, Lucio still appears as a world class defender and was vital in his team's capture of the Coppa Italia last season.
One half of the Boateng brothers, Jerome looked to have stabilized a position for himself at fullback for Manchester City by the end of the 2010/2011 season.
However, in an act not seen by many players today, Boateng moved from the wage squandering Northerners to the place that would give him the best chance of playing for his national team, Bayern Munich.
Very much the form team in Europe at the moment, Boateng put in a solid performance against City in the group stages of the Champions League, and despite some questionable decisions from the officials, Boateng, just 23-years-old, showed that he could have the potential to be the best at his position in the coming years.
Boateng also played a big role in Germany, getting to the semi finals of the World Cup in 2010, where they were knocked out by soon-to-be Champions, Spain.
Thiago Silva was absolutely outstanding in the Rossoneri's capture of their first Serie A since 2004 last year.
Silva is known for the strength that sees him out-muscling his marker the majority of the time. He is also highly skilled in the air, leaving midfielders second guessing their passing route throughout games against Milan.
The San Siro side won't be happy with their position so far this year, currently sitting in a deflated 13th, and will look for key players like Silva and his aging veteran center half partner, Alessandro Nesta, to redouble their efforts.
Rival fans will always debate the inclusion of Terry. When he was with Carvalho at center half, it was the Portuguese man making him look good and the same thing is argued with his defensive partners today.
However, the common denominator is Terry, and despite the 3-1 loss to Manchester United this year, he has been as solid as usual.
Terry is one of the bravest defenders ever seen in the Premier League and, in a time where all we can hear are fans complaining about a lack of toughness, the Chelsea and England captain is a shining example for footballing masculinity.
The Brazilian born Portuguese international Pepe has had a revelation as a footballer since the arrival of Jose Mourinho and fellow country man Ricardo Carvalho to Real Madrid.
Pepe has played a lot in defensive midfield under Mourinho too, but is better known for his appearances as a center back.
The tall defender's career took a turn for the worse a few years back when he attacked Getafe's Javier Casquero. After kicking the player, Pepe went on to stomp on the downed midfielder while being dragged away by teammates. While leaving the pitch he struck another opposing player, Jose Albin.
That effectively ended Pepe's season after he received a 10-game ban.
However, the defender seems to have hit a new gear since then and is playing exceptionally well for Mourinho's men this season.
Carles Puyol is the inspirational leader of the mesmerizing Barcelona side, considered by many as one of the greatest club teams of all time.
Taking over from Luis Enrique as club captain in 2004, Puyol has proved to be very successful in the role, winning a plethora of silverware, albeit with the help of sub-human Argentinian, Lionel Messi.
In a squad celebrated for its attacking play, Puyol is at the heart of the defense and stands out as one of the best players. He is fearless in battle and never lets up now matter how relaxing the score line may seem for the Catalan giants.
Puyol gave Spain a memorable moment when he scored the header in the semi-final of the World Cup that put his nation well on their way to becoming champions in 2010.
Giorgio Chiellini, similar to Maldini, started off his career in the left back position with Juventus instead of Milan. Whereas Italians have dominated the field for many years, Chiellini stands head and shoulders above the rest as a center back, but probably wouldn't be considered the best by many.
His rugged and brash style is very similar to that of Fabio Cannavaro's, and it's well needed currently due to the nation's struggle to reemerge as a force.
Chiellini has appeared at left back this season for "the Old Lady," but also at center back, where he seems to be even better.
The Italian has had a big part in how well Juventus have played this season, with the Turin side currently sitting atop the league and remaining unbeaten in their first six games.
Chiellini is known for his tough tackles and his ability in the air
Vincent Kompany has emerged as one of the greatest defenders in the European game since his move to Manchester City in 2008 for £6 million.
Kompany was amazing for the blue side of Manchester last year, and captained his side in the semi-final victory over rivals Manchester United. He was also selected in the PFA Team of the Year. The Belgian also won the Manchester City's Supporters Player of the Year, as well as the Player's Player award.
Kompany, probably due to his comparatively smaller fee, is well respected by the majority of teams in the EPL and is definitely one of Roberto Mancini's best players.
Kompany will have to have a big game this weekend when City meet United in the Manchester Derby.
Vidic is a perfect defender. He's strong, tough, incredible in the tackle and dominant in the air. He has taken the reins of United's captaincy on a few occasions and seems suited to it with his Eastern European steel.
Paired with Rio Ferdinand, the Serbian and England center backs struck up a fantastic partnership, and with Rio on the decline, Vidic will look forward to teaching Phil Jones and Chris Smalling the ways of the Devil in defense.
Having won everything in the club game with United, with the exception of the FA Cup, Vidic now faces a bigger battle in the shape of Manchester City, which will come to a head this weekend in the derby match.
United will want to win this league, more to prevent City from winning it than anything else, and Vidic will be key if they are to do so.
After coming back from injury, Vidic was controversially sent off in his first appearance back for the side on Tuesday, in Champions League action against FC Otelul Galati.
Pique is Carlos Puyol's central partner and has played in defenses with Ferdinand and Vidic as well.
Although he was showing signs of vast improvement at Manchester United, Pique has become one of the best since his return to Barcelona.
Pique has pace, power and passion, as well as being tall and athletic. His tackling ability and his heading are sure signs of his quality at the position, but his ability to attack is one of the reasons that Pique is up there with the best of central defenders.
At 24, he can only improve, which is a frightening prospect.