Ranked! The 10 best centre-backs in Premier League history
10. Vincent Kompany
It's hard not to wonder what more Kompany might have achieved if he hadn't been so dogged by injuries in recent years. Yet despite multiple fitness setbacks, he's become a symbol of Manchester City's greatest ever era – the last man signed before Sheikh Mansour arrived, and the heart of their three title-winning teams.
“When one guy is with the same club for 10 years it’s because he is something special,” said Pep Guardiola recently, on the 10th anniversary of the Belgian joining City. At a club which has changed beyond recognition in the last decade, Kompany has been a constant, a stable point around which everything else has revolved.
9. Jamie Carragher
In some ways, the most endearing footballers are the ones who get the absolute most from their talent; the ones who have to graft, switch positions and prove themselves.
Carragher falls into that category. A workmanlike full-back/midfielder who turned himself into one of the best centre-backs in the Premier League, he was a reliable, consistent defender throughout his time at Anfield. For much of his career Carragher was one of the few things Liverpool could be certain of. Who knows what more he might have won had he played in a better team?
8. Ledley King
A lament for what might have been. If you’ve ever seen a Tottenham fan talk about King, you'll probably see conflicting emotions: sadness that his nonexistent knees scuppered what could have been one of the great careers, but happiness that they saw him at all. Better to have loved and suffered chronic injuries than never to have loved at all. Or something like that.
King had it all: a commanding presence, pace (witness his absurd tackle on Arjen Robben) and calmness on the ball. Although he could barely train from the mid-2000s onwards, he still dominated at the weekend as if nothing was wrong, prompting Harry Redknapp to call him a “freak”. For once, Harry, we agree.
7. Sol Campbell
Narratives are so strong in today's game that they often obscure how good a player actually was. The first thing people might remember about Campbell, for instance, is his treacherous crossing of north London on a free transfer in 2001.
Yet in terms of both earnings and trophies, the England international's move from Tottenham to Arsenal was justified. Campbell revealed earlier this year that Arsene Wenger didn’t do much defensive coaching during his time at the club. Was that because the Frenchman wasn’t interested in it, or because with Campbell at centre-back he knew he didn’t need to bother?
6. Marcel Desailly
The Premier League may be the go-to destination for many of the world's top footballers these days, but that wasn't necessarily the case in the 1990s. It's therefore difficult to overstate how exciting it was when players like Desailly touched down on English soil in the Premier League's formative years.
The Frenchman may have been almost 30 by the time he arrived at Chelsea in 1998, but he still had plenty to offer. Strong, intelligent and tenacious, Desailly was an expert reader of the game who brought out the best in those around him at Stamford Bridge.