Long gone are the days when defenders were just foot soldiers – built for throwing their bodies in the way of howitzers, metal studs, iron foreheads and sharp elbows.
Now they’re 21st century Dogs of War – more T1000 than Terminator.
More after the break
When Rio Ferdinand broke into the West Ham first team and started following up industrial strength tackles with stylish pirouettes past blood curdling tackles, the football world stood up and took notice.
Technically adept defenders were the future. Ferdinand has since gone on to captain Manchester United and England, mixing grit with grace.
Watch this video to hear Rio’s top tips on playing the ball out from the back.
Rio enlisted the help of James Milner, Ashley Cole and Aaron Lennon to help ‘mentor’ the four UK hopefuls. To follow their progress visit www.facebook.com/nikefootball
Rise above the attack
Tricky or tall, it’s no problem
How to be a ball playing centre back
Rio: The thinking man's guide to defending
Rio: Handling different types of striker
Rio: Communicating with your team-mates
Rio: When to hit row Z
Rio: My pre-match playlist