20 Top Goal-Scoring Defenders in World Football

Allan JiangTransfers CorrespondentJune 20, 2011

20 Top Goal-Scoring Defenders in World Football

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    YOKOHAMA, JAPAN - DECEMBER 18:  Ceni Rogerio the Sao Paulo captain celebrates their victory after playing at the FIFA Club World Championship Toyota Cup 2005 final between Sao Paulo FC and Liverpool FC at Yokohama International Stadium on December 18, 200
    Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images

    The root word in defenders is defend; and in football, defend means protecting one's goal.

    But the likes of Daniel Passarella and Ronald Koeman defied these conventions. Even goalkeepers like Jorge Campos and René Higuita attempted to score goals. 

    While we all know who the top forwards are, do we know who the top goal-scoring defenders are in world football? 

20. Thomas Vermaelen

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 19:  Thomas Vermaelen of Arsenal celebrates his goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Wigan Athletic at the Emirates Stadium on September 19, 2009 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Ima
    Clive Mason/Getty Images
    • Position: Centre back
    • Goals: 20
    • Games: 206
    • Goals per game: 0.09 

    Developed by the famed Ajax youth academy, perhaps one should have expected Thomas Vermaelen to be competent in attack, even as a centre back. 

    Though when Arsène Wenger bought Vermaelen from Ajax for €10 million, the question many people had was how could someone in the English Premier League dominate at 1.78m at the back?

    Vermaelen not only proved his doubters wrong with consistent solid defense, he wowed them with his ability to score goals, and he became another case of Arsenal’s scouting program bearing fruit.   

    He’s so at ease with possession that one could argue that he is the prototypical centre midfielder.

19. Juan

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    ROME, ITALY - DECEMBER 12:  Juan (R) with his teammate Philippe Mexes of AS Roma celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the Serie A match between AS Roma and AS Bari at Stadio Olimpico on December 12, 2010 in Rome, Italy.  (Photo by Paolo Bruno/
    Paolo Bruno/Getty Images
    • Position: Centre back
    • Goals: 44
    • Games: 454
    • Goals per game: 0.09 

    A long-serving member of the Seleção and perhaps one of the least known given Brazil’s propensity for samba football, Juan does not receive enough recognition. 

    Having scored 44 goals, Juan has demonstrated his ability to score from time to time.

18. John Arne Riise

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    LIVERPOOL, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 22:  Didier Drogba of Chelsea retrieves the ball after John Arne Riise of Liverpool scored an own goal during the UEFA Champions League Semi Final, first leg match between Liverpool and Chelsea at Anfield on April 22, 200
    Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
    • Position: Left back
    • Goals: 62
    • Games: 648
    • Goals per game: 0.09 

    “Goodness gracious me… well it’s amazing the goal is still standing, the ball rocketed into it”. 

    That was Martin Tyler’s commentary of John Arne Riise’s cannon free kick against Manchester United in 2001. 

    Throughout his Liverpool career, Riise had a knack of scoring spectacular goals. 

    However, his only goal during the 2007-2008 season, a 94th-minute own goal against Chelsea during the UEFA Champions League semifinals, left an unfortunate footnote during his time at Anfield. 

17. Ryan Shawcross

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    STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND - APRIL 26:  Ryan Shawcross of Stoke City (R) scores his team's second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Stoke City and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Britannia Stadium on April 26, 2011 in Stoke on Trent, England.
    Scott Heavey/Getty Images
    • Position: Centre back
    • Goals: 19
    • Games: 176
    • Goals per game: 0.10 

    Ryan Shawcross’ career so far has been blighted by his X-rated tackle on Aaron Ramsey. 

    While Ramsey spent the next seven months nursing a broken leg, Shawcross suffered a public relations melt down, as his critics pointed to similar tackles against Francis Jeffers and Emmanuel Adebayor. 

    The jury is out on whether or not Shawcross is indeed a malicious player or just a fearless defender who mistimed a tackle.

    That being said, there’s no doubting his ability to score goals under manager Tony Pulis’ pragmatic and set piece-orientated tactics. 

16. Jan Vertonghen

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    THESSALONIKI, GREECE - AUGUST 04:  Jan Vertonghen of Ajax with the ball during the Uefa Champions League qualifying match between Paok and Ajax at Toumba Stadium on August 4, 2010 in Thessaloniki, Greece.  (Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images)
    Getty Images/Getty Images
    • Position: Centre back
    • Goals: 21
    • Games: 198
    • Goals per game: 0.10

    A player seemingly tailor made for Arsène Wenger, Jan Vertonghen not only possesses the technical ability but also the physical ability to survive in the English Premier League. 

    Confident, strong and solid in distributing, Vertonghen is another example of how proficient the Ajax youth academy is in producing in professional footballers. 

    Like his Belgian compatriot Thomas Vermaelen, Vertonghen has an eye for scoring goals.

15. Taye Taiwo

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    LONDON - FEBRUARY 11:  Taiye Taiwo of Nigeria in action during the International friendly match between Nigeria and Jamaica at the Den on Feruary 11, 2009 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
    Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
    • Position: Left back
    • Goals: 31
    • Games: 287
    • Goals per game:  0.10 

    Taye Taiwo’s lively displays during the U-20 2005 FIFA World Cup earmarked him as a potential star. 

    Six years on, he’s worked his way into an A.C. Milan team that has dynasty written all over it. 

    While he may disregard his duties as a defender, his attack-first attitude coupled with power that would rival Tino Costa, has seen him on the scoresheet throughout his career. 

    A.C. Milan will be hoping for more goals from Taiwo. 

14. Sergio Ramos

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    MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 05:  Jose Mourinho of Real Madrid reacts to Sergio Ramos after Emmanuel Adebayor scores the opener the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final first leg match between Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on Apri
    Clive Rose/Getty Images
    • Position: Right back
    • Goals: 40
    • Games: 385
    • Goals per game: 0.10

    Sergio Ramos' willingness to get on the scoresheets was best documented when he oddly decided to take a penalty against Athletic Bilbao last year.   

    Manager José Mourinho was caught on the cameras stating, “Why? Why has he taken it?” 

    Ramos told AS, “On the pitch everyone was surprised. There's usually an order, but I was confident and had a thorn in my side because I hadn't scored and normally I have a decent goal average”.

13. Nemanja Vidić

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    LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 11:  Nemanja Vidic of Manchester United scores to make it 2-1 during the Barclays Premier League match between Everton and Manchester United at Goodison Park on September 11, 2010 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Michael Re
    Michael Regan/Getty Images
    • Position: Centre back
    • Goals: 46 goals
    • Games: 450 games
    • Goals per game: 0.10 

    Plucked from obscurity, Nemanja Vidić has developed into one of the best centre backs in the world. 

    The same steely resolve to stop opponents from scoring goals has been applied to scoring goals from set pieces.

12. Rogério Ceni

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    TOKYO, JAPAN - DECEMBER 14:  Sao Paulo goalkeeper Rogerio Ceni takes a penalty during the FIFA Club World Championship Toyota Cup 2005 match between Sao Paulo FC and Al Ittihad at the National Stadium on December 14, 2005 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Koichi
    Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images
    • Position: Goalkeeper
    • Goals: 100
    • Games: 972
    • Goals per game: 0.10 

    The only goalkeeper on the list, Rogério Ceni has long bypassed his South American goalkeeping counterparts, José Chilavert and René Higuita, as the most prolific goal-scoring goalkeeper. 

    Ceni’s perseverance in perfecting the art of free kicks and penalty kicks has seen him cement his name in history. 

    Unfortunately, even with his goal-scoring ability, he has only been a reserve goalkeeper for the Brazilian national team. 

    Though what is Brazil’s loss is São Paulo’s gain, as Ceni approaches 1,000 games and almost two decades of service for the Brazilian club. 

11. Ezequiel Garay

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    MADRID, SPAIN - DECEMBER 01:  Ruud van Nistelrooy (R) of Real Madrid duels for the ball with Ezequiel Garay of Racing Santander during the La Liga match between Real Madrid and Racing Santander at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium on December 1, 2007 in Madri
    Jasper Juinen/Getty Images
    • Position: Centre back
    • Goals: 18
    • Games: 145
    • Goals per game: 0.12 

    For a player who looked so solid, so confident and such a prospect for Racing Santander, Ezequiel Garay is only a bench-warmer for Real Madrid. 

    During the 2006-07 season, he did his best impression of Ronald Koemen, scoring 9 goals in 32 games, the majority coming on penalty shots.

10. Andreas Granqvist

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    READING, UNITED KINGDOM - SEPTEMBER 22:  Andreas Granqvist of Wigan Athletic in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Reading and Wigan Athletic at the Madejski Stadium on September 22, 2007 in Reading, England.  (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Ge
    Bryn Lennon/Getty Images
    • Position: Centre back
    • Goals: 25
    • Games:  205
    • Goals per game: 0.12 

    With players like Andreas Granqvist, one wonders whether they’re better suited as a forward rather than as centre back.

    Denied an opportunity to show his attacking flair at Wigan, Granqvist has blossomed at Groningen.  

    Groningen manager Pieter Huistra must have had his heart in his mouth every time Granqvist decided to charge up forward. 

    His 11 goals in 33 games this season is a return rate even Emile Heskey would dream of. 

    Perhaps Granqvist’s 65m solo run against Utrecht epitomises his mentality as an attacking centre back.

    Having earned a move to Genoa, can he possibly play like this in an environment which promotes defence over attack such as the Serie A? 

9. Roberto Carlos

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    KHIMKI, RUSSIA - JUNE 14: Roberto Carlos of FC Anzhi Makhachkala in action during the Russian Premier League match between PFC CSKA Moscow and FC Anzhi Makhachkala at Arena Khimki on June 14, 2011 in Khimki, Russia.  (Photo by Dmitry Korotayev/Epsilon/Get
    Dmitry Korotayev/Getty Images
    • Position: Left wingback
    • Goals: 103
    • Games: 855
    • Goals per game: 0.12 

    What? Roberto Carlos is still playing? 

    The 38-year-old is playing for ambitious Anzhi Makhachkala, owned by Russian billionaire Suleyman Kerimov. 

    Carlos’ constant attacking forays into the opposing half from left back, coupled by his at times physics-defying free kicks, have inspired legions of attacking full backs. 

    Even though he has aged, his eye for goal has not diminished, evidenced by his score on a corner kick last year for Corinthians.

8. Graham Alexander

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    BURNLEY, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 19:  Graham Alexander of Burnley puts his penalty kick past Craig Gordon of Sunderland during the Barclays Premier League match between Burnley and Sunderland at Turf Moor on September 19, 2009 in Burnley, England.  (Photo by
    Mark Thompson/Getty Images
    • Position: Right back
    • Goals: 125
    • Games: 966
    • Goals per game: 0.12 

    Talk about a real iron man: Graham Alexander has played 40 games or more in a season 16 times. 

    The majority of his goals have come from 12 yards out, and having scored 74 penalties out 80 attempts (92.5% success rate), one can understand why he will continue to accumulate goals every season.

7. Mikael Lustig

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    CESENA, ITALY - NOVEMBER 18:  Mikael Lustig of Sweden in action during the international friendly match between Italy and Sweden at Dino Manuzzi Stadium on November 18, 2009 in Cesena, Italy.  (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)
    Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images
    • Position: Right back
    • Goals: 14
    • Games: 101
    • Goals per game: 0.13 

    One of the first things noticeable about Mikael Lustig is his height—for a right back, he has the height of a centre back.

    You also notice his attacking prowess and his willingness to impact the game from an offensive point of view for Rosenborg. 

    At just 24 years of age, he seems poised for a move to a bigger club.

6. Naldo

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    ISTANBUL, TURKEY - MAY 20:  Naldo of Werder Bremen celebrates after scoring his team's first goal during the UEFA Cup Final between Shakhtar Donetsk and Werder Bremen at the Sukru Saracoglu Stadium on May 20, 2009 in Istanbul, Turkey.  (Photo by Ryan Pier
    Ryan Pierse/Getty Images
    • Position: Centre back
    • Goals: 27
    • Games: 195
    • Goals per game: 0.13 

    Recuperating from knee surgery, this season Werder Bremen were not only denied Naldo’s goal-scoring expertise, they also leaked 61 goals in 34 games without the presence of the reliable Brazilian. 

    Eurosport reported Naldo stating, “I am not considering a worst-case scenario at all, that it could end my career”. 

    Werder Bremen will be hoping for the best-case scenario. 

5. Daniel Van Buyten

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    MUNICH, GERMANY - AUGUST 20:  Daniel van Buyten of Bayern runs with the ball during the Bundesliga match between FC Bayern Muenchen and VfL Wolfsburg at Allianz Arena on August 20, 2010 in Munich, Germany.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
    • Position: Centre back
    • Goals: 64
    • Games: 476
    • Goals per game: 0.13 

    Daniel Van Buyten commands a presence at the back, yet he’s also a frequent presence in the opposing penalty box. 

    Such was his ability to score goals, he was even deployed as an emergency forward for Bayern Munich. 

    Having scored 9 goals the previous season, he only scored 2 goals this season—his lowest return in six seasons.

4. Tomoaki Makino

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    • Position: Centre back
    • Goals: 20
    • Games: 140
    • Goals per game: 0.14 

    Never in my life have I ever seen a centre back be so kamikaze-like in disregarding his duties as a defender. 

    Tomoaki Makino not only bolts into opposing penalty boxes, he can also strike a thunderous free kick. 

    With that said, it was perplexing as to why Köln, who have the third-worst defence in the Bundesliga, bought Makino.

3. Marco Materazzi

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    BERLIN - JULY 09:  Fabio Cannavaro (R) of Italy gestures towards Zinedine Zidane #10 (L) of France, whilst Marco Materazzi of Italy lies injured, after being headbutted  in the chest by Zinedine Zidane of France during the FIFA World Cup Germany 2006 Fina
    Michael Steele/Getty Images
    • Position: Centre back
    • Goals: 57
    • Games: 404
    • Goals per game: 0.14 

    When you think about it, there are a lot of similarities between Marco Materazzi and Zinedine Zidane: Both are hot heads, both have done stupid things during their careers, both are imposing figures, both are alpha males and both have scored in FIFA World Cup finals. 

    Materazzi is an interesting case. He’s not quick by any means, nor is he Zidane-like with his technique. Yet throughout his career, he’s been able to score goals. 

    During the 2000–01 season, Materazzi scored an outlandish 12 goals for the season— Alessandro Del Piero scored nine goals during that season. 

2. Ian Harte

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    30 Mar 2002:  Ian Harte of Leeds United goes close to scoring from a free-kick during the FA Barclaycard Premiership match between Leeds United and Manchester United played at Elland Road, in Leeds, England. Manchester United won the match 4-3. DIGITAL IM
    Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
    • Position: Left back
    • Goals: 57
    • Games: 404
    • Goals per game: 0.14 

    There is something unique about free kicks being taken by left-footers; you know, a certain elegance, seemingly a more radical trajectory and more potency. 

    Like Sinisa Mihajlovic, Ian Harte was a lethal set piece specialist. 

    Even though Harte hasn’t played regular top-flight football since the 2004–05 season for Levante in La Liga, Harte’s scoring feats in the lower leagues of England have been ridiculous. 

    During the 2009–10 season, he scored 18 goals for Carlisle United!

1. Marcus Tulio Tanaka

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    SAITAMA, JAPAN - SEPTEMBER 24:  Marcus Tulio Tanaka of Urawa Red Diamonds scores a goal against Al Qadsia during the Asia Champions League quarter final 2nd leg match between Urawa Red Diamonds and Al Qadsia at Saitama Stadium on September 24, 2008 in Sai
    Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images
    • Position: Centre back
    • Goals: 68
    • Games: 384
    • Goals per game: 0.17

    Like Tomoaki Makino, Marcus Tulio Tanaka is kamikaze-like when it comes to dashing from his own penalty box to the opposition's.

    However, Tanaka is a superior defender and scores more goals. 

    Perhaps it’s fitting that the top goal-scoring defender in the world is Brazilian-born, certainly he has Romario-esque finishing when he’s inside the box.


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