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Ranked! The 10 best centre-backs in the world

Virgil van Dijk
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5. Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli)

Kalidou Koulibaly

Napoli may have lost Jorginho to Chelsea in the summer, but they will have been delighted to keep the rest of their squad intact. Koulibaly is the man they would have least liked to lose, with the Senegal international proving in 2017/18 that he deserves to be considered among the very best in his position.

A commanding, well-built figure who’s difficult to get the better of either in the air or in a foot race, Koulibaly is rarely outmanoeuvred by opposition strikers. Most impressive, though, is his ability with the ball at his feet; Koulibaly is a magnificent passer who always manages to keep his cool in possession.

4. Diego Godin (Atletico Madrid)

Diego Godin

Godin probably isn’t the type of centre-half who would thrive under Pep Guardiola or Maurizio Sarri, but he’s the perfect fit for Atletico Madrid and Uruguay. While he’s by no means poor in possession – the 32-year-old showed at the World Cup that he’s perfectly capable of carrying the ball upfield when the situation demands – Godin is more of an old-fashioned defender than most of his peers on this list.

Gritty, rugged and aggressive, the former Villarreal stopper is invariably in the right place at the right time. Blessed with great powers of anticipation, he also has a useful knack for popping up with vital set-piece goals.

3. Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool)

Virgil van Dijk

Football is a team game and even the most talented individual will struggle to shine if the collective balance of the team isn’t right. Even so, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Van Dijk has transformed Liverpool’s defensive fortunes since his move from Southampton in January.

The Dutchman doesn’t have quite the same pedigree as many of the names listed here – he’s never played at an international tournament or won a major trophy outside Scotland – but the 27-year-old has everything you’d want in a modern-day centre-back: strength, speed, aerial prowess, leadership qualities and ability on the ball. Five good reasons why he's the most expensive defender of all time. 

2. Raphael Varane (Real Madrid)

Raphael Varane

Varane was outstanding at the 2018 World Cup, turning in superb performance after superb performance as France won the tournament for the second time in their history. His latest success follows on from the four Champions Leagues and two La Ligas he’d previously won – not a bad haul for a player who only turned 25 in April.

Aggressive but elegant, intense but composed, Varane is the complete central defender. He reads the game expertly and also possesses the recovery speed to cover for team-mates’ mistakes, while he’s adept at stepping into midfield with the ball and setting his side on the attack.

1. Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid)

Sergio Ramos

Ramos is never going to win too many popularity awards outside of the Santiago Bernabeu, but it’s tough to dispute his position as one of the best defenders in world football. The Real Madrid captain is the team’s heartbeat and a player who always rises to the big occasion, as he’s demonstrated during los Blancos’ recent monopolisation of the Champions League trophy.

Ramos always does the basics very well and is an extremely tough opponent for any striker to face. His antics may be a turn-off, but his reading of the game, aerial prowess in both boxes and all-round fighting spirit can only be admired.

See also...

The 10 best strikers in the world

The 10 best forwards in the world

The 10 best central midfielders in the world

The 10 best goalkeepers in the world

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