Building the Perfect Centre-Back from Attributes of Ramos, Pique, Terry and Co

Christopher Atkins@@chris_elasticoContributor IJanuary 27, 2014

Paris Saint Germain's captain Thiago Silva reacts after scoring, during his French League one soccer match against Sochaux, at the Parc des Princes stadium, in Paris, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
Thibault Camus/Associated Press

The perfect central defender is an impossible player to come by. There have been many great central defenders over the years, but it is a position where there will always be mistakes in any player's game.

What the best in their position do, though, is minimise those errors and use what outstanding attributes they do have to their advantage. Some are distributors, others are strong in the tackle or in the air and others rely on natural intelligence.

To reach the top levels of the game, though, particular weakness in any one area cannot be tolerated. With perhaps only goalkeepers under more scrutiny, even the worst of a player's attributes must be at a relatively high level.

But, if we were to attempt to build the perfect centre-back, which attributes would we draw from which leading players in world football?

Postional Awareness

It is difficult to start anywhere other than Thiago Silva, perhaps the most complete centre-back in world football today. The 29-year-old is outstanding in many departments, but there are few if any better readers of the game at the present time.

The life of a centre-back is made considerably easier if their starting position is good and what Silva does well is anticipate patterns of play before they develop.

It says much for the Paris Saint-Germain star's quality that, when playing alongside him for Brazil, Chelsea's David Luiz shows few of the frailties that he demonstrates for his club. Luiz is able to close players down quickly in the knowledge that he has Silva covering behind.

Juventus' Andrea Barzagli, one of the most improved players in recent years, is another with usually impeccable positional play, while the Premier League duo of Nemanja Vidic and Per Mertesacker have accommodated a lack of pace for a number of years due to their intelligent positioning.

Leadership and Communication

There are many reasons to dislike John Terry but, as a footballer and as a captain, it is difficult to find fault with a man who has been the rock upon which Chelsea's most successful era has been built.

Terry is vocal and, in a defensive partnership, you need at least one of the pair to take command. The former England captain does that to great effect and it is no surprise to see Gary Cahill look a better player in his company.

Alastair Grant/Associated Press

Only by watching a game live in the stadium can you get a true understanding of a player's role as defensive organiser and, when observed, Terry is practically faultless. He may not be the player he was, but he understands defending.

Manchester City's Vincent Kompany is another wonderful leader from the heart of defence, while the fading figure of Diego Lugano has long been the glue that has bound together a Uruguay defence that performs well above the sum of its parts.

Technical Ability

For a long time, Rio Ferdinand was as good as they came as a technically-strong centre-back. These days, while Jan Vertonghen is a strong candidate, Sergio Ramos is the leading such player in world football.

Spain colleague Gerard Pique would perhaps beg to differ, but the pair are both excellent players when in possession of the ball and provide the basis for the passing style that La Roja choose to employ.

So successful have they been that several midfielders have been used in defence in an attempt to replicate the players' ability to carry the ball out from the back and distribute to wide or forward areas.

Of the duo, Ramos is undoubtedly the better technical defender. While Pique is excellent with the ball, he is not always as strong when out of possession. His role for both Barcelona and Spain, though, allows for this deficiency.

Ramos would be one of Thiago Silva's closest competitors for the crown of world's best defender at present, but lacks the composure and intelligence of the Brazilian—as shown by his high number of red cards.


A number of those already mentioned are candidates in this department, with the likes of Vidic, Terry and Ramos all immensely strong and willing to take on any player in one-to-one combat.

The absolute master of using his strength to man-mark an opponent, though, is Juventus' Giorgio Chiellini who, despite being far slower than most opposition, is able to drag them into close-quarter combat.

The Italian is the very definition of rugged and thrives on the often lax interpretation of shirt-pulling laws by referees in his home country. From corners and crosses, he will normally find some way of inhibiting his opponent.

He is old-fashioned defending in a nutshell, with a burning desire to claim the ball at every opportunity and a "though shall not pass" mentality.

He may not be fashionable in the current world of more technically-gifted defenders, but you would always much rather play with him than against him.


The final attribute we come to in our list is composure which, again, many of those already mentioned exhibit in abundance.

Borussia Dortmund's excellent Mats Hummels is worth a mention at this point, as is Arsenal's Laurent Koscielny. However, based on his performances over the last couple of seasons, it is hard to find a more composed defender than Bayern Munich and Brazil's Dante.

Martin Meissner/Associated Press

Through a mixture of impressive technique, intelligence and strength, the tall centre-back always seems to manage to play himself out of trouble. His remarkable calm under pressure is utterly impressive.

There is an argument, perhaps, that playing in a team such as Bayern somewhat reduces the pressure on his shoulders. But, even when defending, the Brazilian rarely makes rash or unnecessary challenges—the only blot on Koscielny's copybook.

The capture of Dante was integral in Bayern becoming the team they are today and Jupp Heynckes' judgement in his signing has proved to be spot on. Having not made his international debut until his 30th year, he will head to this summer's World Cup as part of the hosts' squad.


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