10 of the Flashiest Defenders in World Football History

Tony MabertContributor IDecember 6, 2011

10 of the Flashiest Defenders in World Football History

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    As we have seen recently with David Luiz's performances for Chelsea, having a flashy and skillful defender in your team can have its drawbacks.

    A footballing centre-back may be able to play the ball out of defence or dictate the pace of the game from deep, but they are only ever one error away from disaster.

    It takes a special kind of player to walk that tightrope. Here are 10 such men who have done so with distinction.

Franz Beckenbauer

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    There is no better place to start than with perhaps the best defender who ever played the game. 

    "Der Kaiser" enjoyed the most glittering of careers, winning three straight European Cups with Bayern Munich and claiming both the European Championship and the World Cup with West Germany during a glorious period in the early-to-mid-1970s.

    What was most exceptional about his career was that he did all of that with such elegance. As the player who came to define the role of sweeper, Beckenbauer had the unerring knack of breaking up an attack with his reading of the game and then bringing the ball out himself before initiating a counter for his team.

    A true master.

Gerard Pique

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    From the sepia-tinted past to the high-definition present, Barcelona's Pique could retire with more winner's medals than even Beckenbauer.

    A Barcelona native and youth product of his hometown club, the 24-year-old may be 6'4", but he still plays the game as stylishly as any of his diminutive colleagues who play in attack.

    With Barca desperate for two goals in their second leg of the Champions League semifinal against Inter Milan last year, Pique gave his team hope with a nifty spin on the ball and finish, of which Lionel Messi would have been proud.

Sinisa Mihajlovic

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    Perhaps "flashy" is not quite the right word to describe the rugged Serbian defender, but it is the correct adjective to relate the way his free-kicks would make their way past quivering goalkeepers.

    During his 14 seasons at Roma, Sampdoria, Lazio and Inter Milan, Mihajlovic broke Gianfranco Zola's Serie A record for most free-kicks scored, eventually retiring with a haul of 27 to his name.

    His career as a manager has also failed to set the world alight, but no one who saw him hit the top corner from a dead ball so many times will forget that wand of a left foot he possessed.

Nilton Santos

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    A true footballing pioneer, and one of five Brazilians to make this list.

    Santos was the man largely credited with bringing the role of wing-back to the top level, playing with ruthless offensive intent whenever he was given the chance. 

    It may have driven his coaches mad, but he was vindicated by winning back-to-back World Cups with Brazil in 1958 and 1962, the first of those victorious campaigns including an outrageous solo goal from Santos that showed the world defenders could have style, too.


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    Leovegildo Lins da Gama Junior took Nilton Santos's legacy and ran with it.

    The versatile Junior could play in midfield, but his ability with both feet generally saw him fielded as an attacking left-back. 

    He scored against Brazil's bitter rivals Argentina at the 1982 World Cup, and was a key part of that wonderful Selecao side which was perhaps the greatest side never to win the tournament.


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    What Nilton Santos and Junior did on the left for Brazil with such distinction, Cafu emulated on the right during his glorious career.

    Cafu's first foray into European football was a single season at Real Zaragoza in 1995, but he returned in outstanding fashion in 1997 to spend 11 years in Italy with Roma and Milan. In that time he won two Serie A titles and the Champions League, among other trophies.

    For Brazil he was also incredibly successful. He is one of the select group of players to have won two World Cups, 1994 and lifting the trophy himself as captain in 2002.

Roberto Carlos

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    Playing on the opposite flank to Cafu in that tournament in Japan and South Korea was Roberto Carlos.

    The man with the thickest thighs in football is as strong as an ox but with bags of pace and skill to boot.

    As for flashy; does anything qualify more emphatically than those two impossibly swerving long-range free-kicks he scored in 1997?

Dani Alves

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    When you are a Brazil international defender who also plays for Barcelona, it's almost inevitable that you are going to possess more than your fair share of flare.

    Alves, who rather resembles a gremlin and is just as much of a handful, made his name as Europe's most fearsome attacking full-back during a six-year spell at Sevilla, which garnered two UEFA Cups and the Copa del Rey.

    His move to the Camp Nou was always on the cards, and since finally making the move for a £30 million fee, he has won La Liga every year and won the Champions League twice. Few other teams could indulge him his attacking extravagances—he is really a defender in name only—but in this current Barca side it just works. 

Giacinto Facchetti

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    Surprisingly for a team best remembered as being the finest exponents of "Catenaccio," Facchetti was as adept as an aesthetically pleasing footballer as he was a stingy defender.

    Facchetti played mainly at left-back for Helenio Herrera's "Grande Inter" side that won back-to-back European Cup in the mid-1960s.

    He spent his entire career at Inter, and lit up the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza with his skillful runs down the flank in a way which Italian football had rarely seen before.

Alan Hansen

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    Younger football fans will know Hansen chiefly for his uber-critical punditry when he sees a team defending to a standard below the very high one he set himself as a player, but the Scotsman was as aesthetically pleasing a centre-back as you could ask for during the 1980s.

    As part of the mighty Liverpool side during their most glorious era, Hansen helped the Reds to eight league titles and three European Cups, and he did so with a style and panache on the ball that stood out after years of players such as Ron "Chopper" Harris and Norman "Bite Yer Legs" Hunter.