Ranked! The 10 best centre-backs in the world
Find out which stoppers come up trumps in our run-down of the greatest central defenders on the planet
Who's the best centre-back in the world? We're sure you've got an idea.
It's a difficult part of the pitch to judge though. Perhaps some defenders are better than they seem and simply playing in a difficult system – while others are not necessarily the best players but protected by their side's shape.
Well, we've analysed the best out there right now – and we've come up with an order…
Ranked! The 10 best centre-backs in the world
10. Cristian Romero (Tottenham)
Tenacious. Clever. Resolute.
These are all adjectives used to describe the way Cristian Romero approaches football, but it doesn't tell half the story.
While Romero is sa typical Argie - constantly winding up opposition players - he is also an exceptional defender who has helped to transform Tottenham's fortunes in the past year. The 24-year-old is quick, strong and as comfortable challenging for a ball in the air as he is having it at his feet.
Epitomising Antonio Conte's determined and disciplined style, Romero simply loves defending and revels in any opportunity he has to intercept passes or leave an opponent sprawled on the ground after a crunching tackle.
9. Eder Militao (Real Madrid)
Despite having to share responsibilities at centre-back with new arrival Antonio Rudiger, Eder Militao continues to impress whenever he is called upon. A strong defender with an impressive leap who attacks the ball with intent, the Brazilian compliments David Alaba perfectly at the heart of this Real Madrid side.
A Champions League and La Liga double winner, Militao was a big part of Los Blancos' success last season. He is rarely caught out with balls in behind, and, if he is, his recovery runs regularly allows him to get back goal side and defend the ball properly again.
8. Dayot Upamecano (Bayern Munich)
Dayot Upamecano is increasingly becoming more of a leader in Bayern Munich's back-line, and has been Julian Nagelsmann's first choice centre-back this season.
An imposing figure, Upamecano is athletically and physically unsurpassable, while his tactical awareness and decision making is continuously improving game by game. Only 23, the Frenchman could dominate opposition strikers for years to come.
7. Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool)
Previously the undisputed best centre back in the world, this season Virgil van Dijk has failed to live up to the ridiculous standards he has set over the last half-decade. However, his qualities certainly haven't diminished, and Liverpool still rely on the Dutchman's presence in some of the biggest games in world football.
Van Dijk transformed Liverpool into an unstoppable force when he joined from Southampton in 2018, and his pace, intelligence and ability to command the defence certainly hasn't been lost from his game. He may not be performing to his capabilities currently, but Van Dijk will unquestionably return to his high standards in due course.
Of that there is no doubt.
6. William Saliba (Arsenal)
William Saliba has slotted straight into the centre of Arsenal's defence and is performing at an incredibly high level, his displays almost faultless in the opening part of the 2022-23 season.
Last season's Ligue 1 young player of the year is aggressive in his defending, but maintains composure on the ball in frenetic situations. Just watch his curled goal on his weaker foot against Bournemouth in August for evidence of this.
Still just 21-years-old, Saliba is consolidating his spot in France's senior squad, and has represented everything positive about Arsenal's hugely impressive start to their Premier League campaign.
5. Kim Min-Jae (Napoli)
Signed from Fenerbahce in the summer to replace the Chelsea-bound Kalidou Koulibaly, Kim Min-Jae has started his Napoli career with unerring consistency as the side from Naples impress at the top of both Serie A and in the Champions League.
A dependable figure at the heart of the Napoli defence, the 25-year-old is a strong reader of the game and regularly uses his understanding to intercept passes into opposition strikers. He is also comfortable in bringing the ball out from the back, progressing his side's possession towards Napoli's flourishing attacking stars.
Despite only joining in July, Kim is already being touted for a move to some of Europe's most elite clubs.
4. Antonio Rudiger (Real Madrid)
Coming into a Champions League winning team and asserting your authority in central defence is never easy, but Antonio Rudiger has taken to the challenge like a duck to water.
While he has had to share playing responsibilities with Eder Militao, Rudiger seems Carlo Ancelotti's preferred partner for David Alaba in Real Madrid's defence. A lightning quick stopper, who reads the game sublimely and carries the ball forward with relentless intent, Rudiger has also proved his versatility this season occasionally filling in at full-back to see games out.
3. Ruben Dias (Manchester City)
Ruben Dias has gone under the radar somewhat at the beginning of the season, his Manchester City teammate scoring a baffling amount of goals at the other end of the pitch stealing all the headlines.
But the Portuguese defender is still producing exceptional displays in City's defence, a formidably unbeatable presence who offers the steel and security which allows City's entertainers to scurry forward in search of goals.
Calm on the ball, Dias is also positionally supreme and comfortable at defending one-on-one situations - a trait essential for Pep teams where centre backs are often left exposed to counter-attacks.
2. Marquinhos (PSG)
With Messi, Mbappe and Neymar allowed free licence at the top of the pitch, Paris Saint-Germain have had to rely on their ever-dependable captain Marquinhos to quell attacks mounted through the huge gaping holes left behind by the team's attackers.
The Brazilian centre-back has been imperious since inheriting Thiago Silva's armband at the beginning of the 2020/21 season. Marquinhos is a rock for the French champions, has chipped in with more goals since becoming skipper and his positioning, physicality and passing ability is utterly superb.
1. David Alaba (Real Madrid)
David Alaba is not only one of the best centre-backs in the world, he's one of the best left-backs, a good midfielder, a decent left-winger... hell, give him some gloves and he'd probably keep a clean sheet, too.
The Austrian has been an ever-present in a backline which took Real to La Liga and Champions League glory last season, and he has started the new campaign as strongly as he finished the last.
Such is his remarkable ability, Alaba is as much of a goal threat as he is strong in keeping the ball out of his own net, creating chances for his teammates with a superb passing range and composure in starting possession often under pressure at the back.
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Ryan is a staff writer for FourFourTwo, joining the team full-time in October 2022. He first joined Future in December 2020, working across FourFourTwo, Golf Monthly, Rugby World and Advnture's websites, before eventually earning himself a position with FourFourTwo permanently. After graduating from Cardiff University with a degree in Journalism and Communications, Ryan earned a NCTJ qualification to further develop as a writer while a Trainee News Writer at Future.
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