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Who are the best centre-backs in world football today?

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The unadulterated thrill of witnessing a magical moment of attacking inspiration is what keeps many of us hooked on the beautiful game but let us never forget that at the heart of every great football team is always a truly world-class central defender.

Red Rants interviewee and Manchester United ‘rock’ Nemanja Vidic unquestionably falls into that category, so I thought it was the perfect excuse to examine the world of defending in search of the best centre-backs around today…


Best Centre-Backs

Nemanja Vidic

The Serbian is an immense presence in the Premier League champions’ back four and the perfect foil for Rio Ferdinand. Powerful, strong in the tackle and a fine reader of the game, Vidic also boasts an excellent goalscoring record for a centre-back. He has been at the heart of Serbia’s impressive World Cup qualifying campaign.

Giorgio Chiellini

Voted best defender in Serie A last season, the Juventus defender has developed into one of the world’s most reliable centre-halves. Since switching from his original position of left-back, the 25-year-old has been outstanding and uses his athleticism to full effect. The way he nullified Spain’s Fernando Torres and David Villa at Euro 2008 was magnificent.

Carles Puyol

Barcelona’s iconic veteran has more than 400 appearances for the club under his belt and is showing no signs of hanging up his boots in the near future. His lack of pace was a concern earlier in his career but the Catalan defender’s intelligence and fierce determination continue to mark him out as one of the best around. A proven big-match performer.

Rio Ferdinand

Consistently immaculate performances for club and country have become a trademark of the slick Manchester United defender’s game in recent seasons. Below par displays in the Champions League final and England’s recent friendly with Holland can be blamed on injury concerns but when he is fully fit, there is no better ball-playing central defender on the planet.

John Terry

Every top centre-back should have leadership qualities and there can be no denying that the Chelsea skipper has these in abundance. Brave and resolute, Terry is the greatest specimen of an ‘old fashioned’ centre-half in the modern game. His selection as UEFA defender of the year shows the esteem in which he is held.

Best Centre-Back Partnerships

Wonderful defensive partnerships are also a vital ingredient to all successful sides. In the past we’ve marvelled at the likes of Hansen and Lawrenson, Maldini and Nesta, Bruce and Pallister but who are the current holders of the crown? Here are three prime candidates…

Carles Puyol & Carlos Marchena (Spain)

Spain’s resurgence at international level may have been long overdue but much of the credit has to go to their brilliant centre-back partnership. Since becoming European champions, the Barca and Valencia duo have continued to shine alongside one another, conceding just two goals in seven matches.

Rio Ferdinand & Nemanja Vidic (Manchester United)

The fact Sir Alex Ferguson has compared his current centre back pairing with Steve Bruce and Gary Pallister shows just how highly he rates them. Since becoming partners three years ago, United have won trophies galore and that is no coincidence. These two players fit perfectly next to each other.

John Terry & Ricardo Carvalho (Chelsea)

Jose Mourinho brought these two internationals together in 2004 and they have formed a rock solid partnership ever since. Recent seasons have been disrupted by injuries but whenever these two are paired at the heart of Chelsea’s defence, the Blues look a much more formidable side.

Well, that’s my view – do you agree? I’d love to hear your thoughts and alternative suggestions…

Comments (31)

  1. No doubt, Vidic and Ferdy is one of the best. Of course a slight slip like in the UCL final might prove otherwise. Terry and Carvalho will come in close 2nd, well Rikki C has lost some form since last year, but I believe he will is formidable with Terry soon enough this season.

    another worth mentioning might be Puyol and Pique for Barcelona, Terry and Ferdy for England is the other I can think of, however prone to odd errors and an average keeper behind them.

    Good article

  2. Pique is highly overrated (Thanks Carles and Yaya!)… his “star” performance in last year’s CL wasnt even that good had it not been hyped up too much.

  3. No way!

    Terry? WTF? He´s nothing outside England. He can´t play the ball, he isn´t fast… Just a soldier.

    Puyol? Pique, Marquez, Chigrynsky are even so much better than him. Last two years he´s been getting down and down.

    And Marchena… hated in Spain, not the first choise neither the second for Luis Aragones; the same road with Del Bosque and Emery…

  4. I agree with the Pique comment from Badbutt. He MAY become a great but he has some way to go yet.

    @J: Sorry, but Terry was voted best defender by UEFA last season and even though I thought it was hard on Vidic to miss out on any award, I would also not bedgruge Terry who’s one of the best around.

    I’m not English either but you need to put your bias away and be a bit more objective.

  5. Interesting to see how some think Pique makes Puyol look good and some think the other way round. I’m in the Pique is better camp.

    I assume the “two goals in seven matches” statistic comes from WC qualifying. Thing is, Puyol and Pique played together in the centre in only one game: the 5-0 thrashing of Belgium. In the other games, del Bosque has used a combination of Pique, Marchena, Puyol, Juanito and Albiol. I think rather that Spain keeps clean sheets simply by dominating play and possession.

  6. And to echo J., seeing Marchena anywhere in a list of the best centre-backs in the world is baffling. Every time he goes in for a tackle I cover my face and wait for the whistle.

  7. Pique only 22 and 2CL’s
    anyone who says terry is bettter then RIo or Puyol is delusional… do u see how many times the others play the ball during a game

    now days being a defender is not just about defending…

  8. Not being a Man Utd fan even I must reluctantly admit Vidic should be on the list as should puyol.

    IMO, I think Terry’s form has declined in the past two seasons, but during his prime he was a centre-back to contend with.

    As for Chinelli – I thought he was a wingback????

  9. What? Pepe and Lucio are the best center backs in the world.

  10. Vida and Ferdinand are the two best centre backs when FIT. They compliment each other so well. Rio is fast and reads the game so well, and Vida is good at headers and his tackling is spot on.
    Pique is better than Puoyl, and Terry is just so bloody over-rated its sad. He is not even that good. I can think of MANY CBs that are MUCH better. Carvalho is even better.

  11. Man, Senderos is by far the best center back in the world……hahahahahaha.

  12. lucio is 1000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000x better then terry.

  13. John Terry. What a fuckin laugh

  14. john terry>heart of the chelsea defense, one of the most miserly defenses in the world. Only team last season to have a cleansheet at the nou camp and equalled manU’s goals conceded total in the EPL.

    Has won UEFA defender of the year 3 years now. And thats in years where he has had his head kicked in, quite a few injuries and lots of others.

    Saying he is the old fashioned defender is false as well, terry has good touch, good passing and decent attacking attributes for a Centreback. His bravery and aerial skills make him a fine defender though. Not the best man marker around but if you have watched any of chelsea’s game this season he has been phenomonal, regularly playing as an auxillary midfielder allowing essien and ballack to push up. To say he isnt one of the best is just plain stupidity.

    All those players listed are world class, their are plenty of excellent defenders out their, but saying one is overrated because you dont like him or his team is just ignorance.

    BTW pique deserves to be on that list, still learning his craft but is a rock in the heart of defense, even when asked to play with abidal/toure as his partner he was exceptional. In spain the only one better is puyol.

  15. Carvalho and Pepe for Portugal is a good shout.

    Nesta and Kaladze for AC Milan

    Gallas and Vermaelen for Arsenal

  16. PEPE!!?!?? he’s a great centre back, but he cant be considered the best in the world… christ, u guys have a lot to learn if you’d consider Pepe to be the best in the world. pique isnt at his peak yet, and i can see him reaching this list one day… but not as of yet. and as for lucio, he’s nowhere near terry’s standard. apologies ladies, but john terry is the complete package… tall, strong, good tackler AND the ideal position for one of your best players so then he can lead by example, not just by verbal support. The fact that he performs week in, week out AND has all of the other leadership qualities means he is a fantastic captain. im not a pom either (i hate the english haha) but you do have to appreciate terry’s qualities, and those who say he’s nothing special are just trying to be unique and think outside the box.. but when it comes down to it, terry keeps shit out of the box.. so in my books he’s definately the defender that sets the standard for others to aspire to be

  17. and yes, im an arsenal fan… but i have to admit… gallas has lost a little bit of his touch… but with vermaelan replacing toure… i think we have one of the most efficient defensive pairs (in actual fact… the entire defensive backline is fantastic) going around. i would like to see someone like clichy replaced (he’s quick… but he cant read the game well, cant tackle fantastically well and is dopey as shit…), i think Aly Cissokho would have been a good signing. hopefully we can nab someone decent to replace gallas in a year or so… (perhaps nordveit will be ready by then…)

  18. Picue, Vidic and so on are young players enjoying their prime time and cannot be compared with Terry and other aging players. Terry was outstanding years back but majority of those beautiful football skills are diminishing and is natural, what players like Terry are using to convince football watchers that they are still relevant in the business is exposure. This is my opinion woh!

  19. Are you for real Puyol, your off your head, Puyol isn’t even in the top 10.

  20. Once Carragher moves over in the future, a partnership to watch out for would be Agger and Skrtel. Both are excellent young center backs with bags of potential and both compliment one another quite well.

    I’m not suggesting they should be rated now as amongst the best (not at all), but they will be in the future.

  21. its so obvious Cannarvo and Chelini

  22. C’mon. Since it’s not still a partnership you may not consider it but Toure and Gallsa formed one of the best partnerships on field in the premier league.

    And Marchena is no where as good as Vidic and Ferdinand. He is not even playing half the time, It’s Pique.

  23. Lescott and Jagielka were one of the best partnerships in the prem last season and they may not be well known but Jagielka made Torres shut up in all of the derbys played with liverpool and Lescott has an amazing scoring record for a defender shame he went to man city but jagielka is top class better than terry i reckon and lescott is class if not better

  24. Well all the names mentioned above are worthy of the place in the list. I would also add Brazil’s pair in the that list.

    Pique is a wonderkid. “IS”, not “was”. He still has a lot to learn, just like Jonny Evans.

    Jagielka is a good shout. Gallas is definitely one of the best on his day, but he is much too inconsistent.

  25. @Kolo: John Terry is 28, hardly over the hill! Furthermore, he is just 10 months older than Vidic who will be 28 in October.

  26. John Terry, very detestable man, not great footballing ability but if you want someone to put their body on the line hes your man! I think Skrtel will be a top player after he gets to play in the World Cup, Andrea Barzagli is now winning things at Wolfsberg, and i have a sneaky feeling Gary Cahill is gonna make an impact if he ever gets to a decent club

  27. John Terry best centre back in the world, he has the best leadership qualities, something a true leader needs and he is such as soldier, without the likes of Terry at chelsea, their is no way we would of one the double, got to a champions league final and to get to the semi finale last year, and to be controversially knocked out. The centre back has to

  28. @Kolo, Abubakar “Pique, Vidic and so on are young players enjoying their prime time and cannot be compared with Terry and other aging players.”
    Vidic is 28 years old, and is playing his best at this age. Terry is far away from the best, he WAS the best, maybe year or two ago, but is doing nothing great now. If he was the best, he would have won the Award for the best defender in the Premiership last season. VIDIC simply inviolable at the moment, so dedicated, strong and powerful!

  29. jt all the way lucio close second

  30. puyol is one of the best defenders in the world. how can you say that pique is better than puyol. Did anybody watch the last El Classico. Puyol saved Barcelona that match. He is one of the best.
    Rio, Vidic, Terry and croatian joe simunic yeah baby.

  31. Michael dawsons obviously the best!