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Ranked! The 10 best centre-backs in the world

Virgil van Dijk

Find out which stoppers come up trumps in our run-down of the greatest central defenders on the planet

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10. Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus)

Giorgio Chiellini

The grizzled Italian stalwart may have turned 34 in August, but he remains one of the standout players in his position on the planet. Strong in the tackle and commanding aerially, Chiellini is a wonderful reader of the game and an underrated passer from deep.

His individual highlight of 2018 came in the second leg of Juve’s Champions League last-16 tie against Tottenham at Wembley. The ex-Livorno man delivered a masterclass in penalty-box defending in the second half, repeatedly repelling Spurs’ attackers as the Bianconeri came from behind to win 2-1.

9. Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham)

Toby Alderweireld

Alderweireld endured a difficult first half of 2018, with a contract dispute at Tottenham seeing him relegated to the bench. Yet the Belgium international still had an excellent World Cup as his country finished third in Russia, and he’s now back in the first-team picture under Mauricio Pochettino despite being heavily linked with a move to Manchester United in the summer.

Alderweireld is rarely caught out of position and is equally comfortable playing in a back three or back four. He’s a terrific passer too, and is particularly adept at spraying long diagonals out to the flanks.

8. Mats Hummels (Bayern Munich)

Mats Hummels

Hummels, like the rest of the Germany squad, had a poor summer as the defending champions crashed out of the World Cup before the knockout phase. The Bayern Munich centre-back didn’t cover himself in glory in Russia, but he still deserves his place in the top 10.

With both technique and composure in abundance, the left-footed Hummels is one of the world’s best ball-playing defenders. The 29-year-old regularly starts attacks from the backline, while he’s also adept at more traditional aspects of the job such as winning headers and making interceptions. Pretty useful, really. 

7. Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham)

Jan Vertonghen

Now into his seventh season as a Tottenham player, Vertonghen has developed into one of the world’s leading centre-backs – and arguably the foremost in the Premier League – over the last couple of years.

The Belgian is aggressive and an expert at wrestling the ball away from opposition strikers high up the pitch. Physically strong in one-on-one duels and comfortable when forced to defend in wide areas, Vertonghen is also brilliant at steering the ball between lines to feed Spurs’ forwards in dangerous areas.

6. Samuel Umtiti (Barcelona)

Samuel Umtiti

Little was known of Umtiti outside his native France before summer 2016, but it didn’t take long for the centre-back to become a household name. Confirmation of his move from Lyon to Barcelona came midway through that year’s European Championship, when the defender turned in a flawless display on his international debut against Iceland in the quarter-finals.

Umtiti isn’t the biggest at 6ft tall, but he more than makes up for his lack of height in other areas. Mobile, powerful and quick to anticipate danger, he’s also a good passer and ball-carrier from the heart of the backline. He was a key member of the France side that triumphed to win the World Cup in Russia.