The 10 best defenders in history, ranked

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As the great philosopher Dwayne Johnson once said: “Success is not always about greatness. It’s a question of consistency. Constant hard work leads to success. Greatness will come. The men on this list followed this approach and reached the pinnacle of their sport, winning a total of eight World Cups and 14 Champions League titles.

Here we pick our top 10 all-time defenders. We used a number of achievements to quantify our ranking, as well as a player’s overall contribution to the game in history. So who is in our top 10?

All statistics are taken from www.transfermarkt.co.uk and are correct as of the date posted.

Other articles in this series:

10) Ruud Krol

Clubs: Ajax, Vancouver Whitecaps, Naples, AS Cannes

  • 6 national titles
  • 3 Champions League titles (European Cup)
  • 0 European Championships
  • 0 World Cups

One of the greats of Dutch football, Ruud Krol’s education in Ajax’s fluid system allowed him to be versatile at the back and also able to climb into midfield when called upon. World Cup finalist at home in West Germany in 1974 and Argentina in 1978.

9) Javier Zanetti

Clubs: Talleres RE, CA Banfield, Inter Milan

  • 5 national titles
  • 1 Champions League title (European Cup)
  • 0 World Cups

Like the man at the top of that list, Argentina’s Javier Zanetti arrived in Milan young and stayed there. And stayed. Then he retired and came back. Opposite Paolo Maldini, Zanetti is now vice-president of Inter Milan, but it is as a right-back for Inter and Argentina that he has made a name for himself. Holds the Champions League record for captain’s appearances (82) and is one of only 35 footballers to have reached over 1,000 appearances for club and country.

8) Gaetano Scirea

Clubs: Atalante, Juventus

  • 7 national titles
  • 1 Champions League title (European Cup)
  • 0 European Championships
  • 1 World Cup

Winner of all UEFA’s domestic and club competitions at Juventus, Gaetano Scirea was Italy’s center-back en route to their World Cup victory at Espana 82. And the defender, sadly deceased at the age of 36 years old, inspired future generations. . “When I broke the record for most appearances for Juve it was only important to me because he was attached to Gaetano,” said Alessandro Del Piero.

7) Philippe Lahm

  • 8 national titles
  • 1 Champions League title (European Cup)
  • 0 European Championship
  • 1 World Cup

Also skillful on the left, Philipp Lahm is a modern single-club unique player, winning the Bundesliga eight times with Bayern Munich and achieving Champions League glory in 2012/13. With the national team, he was always present. “He has achieved exceptional performances in three World Cups – 2006, 2010 and 2014 – where he twice helped Germany in the semi-finals, then [in 2014] he lifted the trophy, ”German manager Joachim Low said in 2015.“ For me he’s the best player of the last decade.

6) Paul Breitner

Clubs: Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Eintracht Branschweig

  • 7 national titles
  • 1 Champions League titles (European Cup)
  • 1 European Championship
  • 1 World Cup

One of football’s great mavericks, Paul Breitner’s offbeat dress and tachy sense hid a brilliant footballer’s brain. That, combined with his physique and sense of purpose, made him a member of the formidable West German defense of the 1970s which won the 1974 World Cup and finished second eight years older. late. Only Breitner, Pelé, Vavá and Zinedine Zidane have already scored in several World Cup finals.

5) Franco Baresi

  • 6 national titles
  • 1 Champions League title (European Cup)
  • 0 European Championships
  • 1 World Cup

“He was special,” Paolo Maldini said of his compatriot Franco Baresi, who won the World Cup in 1982. “He was a small and skinny guy but so strong. Let me tell you – when did he get you? hit with a tackle… He wasn’t a great speaker, the way he played, the way he trained was an example. For me, he was the role model. He was a reference. He was also very good. with the ball.

4) Cafu

Clubs: Sao Paulo, Real Zaragoza, Juventude, Palmeiras, AS Roma, AC Milan, Garforth Town

  • 5 national titles
  • 1 Champions League titles (European Cup)
  • 2 Americas Cup
  • 2 world cups

Cafu, a two-time World Cup winner, was a dynamic right-back who was equally at ease with the ball up front and back in defense. He was also a man as tall as a footballer, just ask Luiz Felipe Scolari: “If there is a man who made sacrifices and lent himself to the cause of the Brazilian team, it’s Cafu. He was my field commander. He is a great example of dedication and humility.

3) Bobby Moore

Clubs: West Ham United, Fulham, Herning Fremad, Seattle Sounders

  • 0 national titles
  • 0 Champions League titles (European Cup)
  • 0 European Championships
  • 1 World Cup

The late Celtic and Scotland manager Jock Stein once said of England’s World Cup-winning captain: “There should be a law against him. He knows what’s going on 20 minutes before anything else. the world.” That anticipation saw him excel as a West Ham defender for 16 seasons and 544 appearances as well as 108 England caps, including that historic day at Wembley on July 30, 1966.

2) Franz Beckenbauer

Clubs: Bayern Munich, NY Cosmos, Hamburg

  • 8 national titles
  • 0 Champions League titles (European Cup)
  • 1 European Championship
  • 1 World Cup

Franz Beckenbauer became the first defender to win the Ballon d’Or in 1972, then quickly became the second four years later. “Class personified. The calm, the pace and the ability to move effortlessly through midfield and attack, ”said Glenn Hoddle of Der Kaiser. “He had a photo of every player on the pitch. He inspired me when I saw him play a pass with the inside and then the outside of his foot. The hallmark of a great player is their ability to be just as effective playing in different eras. “

1) Paolo Maldini

  • 7 national titles
  • 5 Champions League titles (European Cup)
  • 0 European Championships
  • 0 World Cups

Left-back, sweeper, central defender… Paolo Maldini did it with Italian style and in all the positions he has occupied in club and country. And he did it all with a strut that wouldn’t have looked out of place on the Milan catwalks. He spent a quarter of a century playing for AC Milan and is now technical director of his former club, where he is tasked with finding the next generation of greats.


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