The best defenders of the 80s

14 August 1988 - London - Makita International Football Tournament - AC Milan v Tottenham Hotspur - Franco Baresi of AC Milan - (photo by Mark Leech/Offside/Getty Images)
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The best teams are very often built on rock-solid defences – and rock-solid defences tend to be made up of very, very good defenders.

From tough-as-nails centre-halves to wing-backs who just loved getting forward, the 80s saw some truly fantastic exponents of the art of defending take to the pitch.

Here, FourFourTwo takes you through the best of them...

34. Aleksandre Chivadze

Aleksandre Chivadze

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Soviet Footballer of the Year in 1980, Georgian legend Aleksandre Chivadze spent his entire career with Dinamo Tbilisi and was part of their team which famously won the 1980/81 Cup Winners' Cup.

At international level, Chivadze earned 46 caps for the Soviet Union – for whom he played at the 1982 and 1986 World Cups, the former tournament as captain.

33. Morten Olsen

14 Sep 1988: Portrait of Morten Olsen of Denmark before the International Friendly against England at Wembley in London. \ Mandatory Credit: David Cannon /Allsport

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One of a handful of players to have both played and managed 100 games for their country, Morten Olsen was a mainstay of Denmark's defence throughout the 70s and 80s.

Named his country's Player of the Year in 1983 and 1986, the sweeper – who spent most of his club career in Belgium – was included in the Euro 1984 Team of the Tournament, having helped the Danes to the semi-finals.

32. Mark Lawrenson

Liverpool FC 3-1 Everton FC, FA Cup Final 1986, Wembley Stadium, Saturday 10th May 1986. Post Match Scenes. Mark Lawrenson. (Photo by /Liverpool Echo/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)

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In a seven-year spell at Liverpool between 1981 and 1988, Mark Lawrenson got his hands on no fewer than 13 winners' medals – tasting victory in the First Division, FA Cup, League Cup and European Cup.

Signed from Brighton for a club-record £900,000, Lawrenson formed a robust centre-back partnership with Alan Hansen – and helped the Republic of Ireland qualify for Euro 1988 (although injury ruled him out of the country's first major finals).

31. Julio Cesar

Julio Cesar, Brazil

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Julio Cesar won just 13 caps for Brazil – but he did more than enough to go down as one the best centre-backs the country has ever produced.

Named Best Central Defender at the 1986 World Cup, Julio Cesar had spells in the French top flight at Brest and Montpellier during the 80s – winning the Coupe de France in his final campaign with the latter.

30. Tony Adams

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - AUGUST 01: Arsenal defender Tony Adams pictured at Highbury before the 1988/89 season in August 1988 in London, England. (Photo by Andrew Gatt/Allsport/Getty Images)

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A one-club man at Arsenal, Tony Adams was perhaps the finest English centre-half of his generation – earning 66 caps for the national team between 1987 and 2000.

Gunners skipper from the remarkably young age of 21, Adams wore the armband during four title-winning seasons – two under George Graham, two under Arsene Wenger – and later captained England, including during their memorable run to the Euro 96 semi-finals.

29. Alessandro Costacurta

14 August 1988 - London - Makita International Football Tournament - AC Milan v Tottenham Hotspur - Alessandro Costacurta of AC Milan - (photo by Mark Leech/Offside/Getty Images)

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Alessandro Costacurta only made his Serie A debut for AC Milan in 1987 – having spent the previous season on loan at third-tier Monza – but he rapidly became part of one of the greatest defences of all time, assembled by legendary manager Arrigo Sacchi.

Playing alongside Mauro Tassotti, Franco Baresi and Paolo Maldini, Costacurta won his first Scudetto in 1987/88 – before tasting European Cup glory for the first time the following campaign.

28. Jose Luis Brown

22 Jun 1986: Jose Luis Brown (left) of Argentina tangles with Terry Butcher of England during the World Cup quarter-final at the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City. Argentina won the match 2-1. \ Mandatory Credit: Mike King/Allsport

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Jose Luis Brown made absolutely sure of legendary status in Argentine football by scoring in his country's 1986 World Cup final win over Germany – and stubbornly refusing to be substituted despite dislocating his shoulder late on.

That proved to be the only international goal for the centre-back – who spent most of his career in Argentina with Estudiantes but also had spells in Ligue 1 and La Liga with Brest and Real Murcia respectively.

27. Miodrag Belodedici

Miodrag Belodedici of Romania in action against Belgium in 1993

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One of Romania's greatest players of all time, Miodrag Belodedici was the first player to win the European Cup with two clubs – first lifting the trophy as a Steaua Bucharest player in 1985/86 (before tasting glory with Red Star Belgrade five years later).

Belodedici – who won five consecutive Romanian top-flight titles at Steaua during the 80s – earned 55 caps for his country and was nicknamed the Deer for his elegant tackling.

26. Phil Neal

LIVERPOOL, UK - AUGUST 12: (THE SUN OUT) Phil Neal of Liverpool acknowledges the supporters in front of the Kop prior to the start of his testimonial match between Liverpool and Everton held on August 12, 1985 at Anfield, in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Steve Hale/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

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One of the most decorated English players ever, highly dependable full-back Phil Neal was integral to Liverpool's success under Bob Paisley and Joe Fagan.

A serial winner domestically and continentally, Neal was the only player to feature in all of the Reds' first four European Cup triumphs – two of which came in the 80s, when he also helped them to multiple First Division titles and League Cup victories.

25. Paul McGrath

18 May 1985: Graham Sharpe of Everton (left) and Paul McGrath of Manchester United in action during the FA Cup Final at Wembley Stadium in London. Manchester United won the match 1-0 after extra time. \ Mandatory Credit: Bob Martin /Allsport

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Irish icon Paul McGrath was one of Manchester United's standout players of the 80s, joining from Dublin-based St Patrick's Athletic in 1982 and going on to make 203 appearances for the Red Devils.

PFA Players' Player of the Year in 1982, the versatile McGrath – who could operate at centre-back or as a defensive midfielder – starred in United's 1984/85 FA Cup victory, the club's last honour under Ron Atkinson.

24. Giuseppe Bergomi

Giuseppe Bergomi of Italy in action against France at the 1986 FIFA World Cup in Mexico

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All-time Italian great Giuseppe Bergomi spent his whole career with Inter Milan and won 81 caps for his country – helping the Azzurri to 1982 World Cup glory and captaining them at the 1986 tournament.

While he was a right-back by trade, Bergomi was comfortable all across the back line, and his immense adaptability helped Inter to the 1988/89 Serie A title.

23. Terry Butcher

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN - MAY 22: England's bloodied defender Terry Butcher celebrates after a goalless draw between Sweden and England in a 1990 FIFA World Cup Qualifiying match on September 6, 1989 in Stockholm, Sweden. (Photo by David Cannon/Allsport/Getty Images)

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The image of a blood-soaked Terry Butcher during England's 1989 qualifier against Sweden in Stockholm has gone down as one of the most iconic in football history.

And it summed the former Ipswich Town and Rangers centre-back up: part of Ipswich's legendary 1980/81 UEFA Cup-winning side, Butcher routinely put his body on the line for his team.

Impressively, he has been inducted into both the England and Scottish Football Halls of Fame.

22. Alan Hansen

WATFORD, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 31: Liverpool centre back pairing Mark Lawrenson (l) and Alan Hansen in action during a League Division One match between Watford and Liverpool at Vicarage Road on March 31, 1984 in Watford, England. (Photo by David Cannon/Allsport/Getty Images)

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After hanging up his boots, Alan Hansen became known for critiquing "diabolical" defending as a pundit on Match of the Day – and the Liverpool legend would know: he was one of the finest centre-backs of the 80s.

Signed from Patrick Thistle in 1977, Hansen spent the entirety of the 80s at Anfield – starring in multiple First Division, European Cup, FA Cup and League Cup triumphs with the Reds before retiring in 1990.

21. Kenny Sansom

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - AUGUST 01: Arsenal defender Kenny Sansom pictured ahead of the 1984/85 season at Highbury Stadium in London, England. (Photo by Allsport/Getty Images)

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The extraordinarily consistent Kenny Sansom became an Arsenal legend during the 80s, having joined from Crystal Palace at the beginning of the decade.

One of England's most-capped left-backs of all time, Sansom captained the Gunners to 1986/87 League Cup success and featured in every PFA First Division Team of the Year between 1980 and 1987 (the latter seven as an Arsenal player).

20. Frank Rijkaard

Frank Rijkaard of the Netherlands celebrates while holding the UEFA European Championship trophy in 1988

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Frank Rijkaard is rightly regarded as one of the best midfielders of all time – but priot to his positional transformation by Arrigo Sacchi at AC Milan, the Dutch icon was a fine central defender.

He notably played in that role alongside Ronald Koeman at the 1988 European Championship, starring as the Netherlands won the tournament to clinch their first ever major honour.

19. Manuel Amoros

Manuel Amoros of France during his country's match against Brazil at the 1986 FIFA World Cup in Mexico

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A European champion with France in 1984, Manuel Amoros was one of the top right-backs in world football during the 80s – almost all of which he spent at Monaco.

Banned for three games after headbutting Denmark's Jesper Olsen during the aforementioned Euros, Amoros returned as a substitute in the final to help Les Bleus beat Spain – while he also impressed at the 1982 and 1986 World Cups.

18. Jurgen Kohler

Jurgen Kohler of West Germany challenges Marco van Basten of the Netherlands during the 1988 UEFA European Championship in West Germany

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Among the world's finest centre-backs of his era, Jurgen Kohler enjoyed great success for club and country – starting with the 1989/90 Bundesliga title at Bayern Munich – who he joined from Koln in the summer of 1989.

Kohler made his Germany debut in 1986 and went on to win 105 caps for his country, making his major tournament debut at the 1988 European Championship.

17. Oscar Ruggeri

Oscar Ruggeri of Argentina competes for the ball with Franco Baresi of Italy during the Friendly match between Italy and Argentina at Sant Elia on 21 december in Cagliari 1989, Italy

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Somewhat harshly nicknamed El Cabezon (The Big-headed One), Oscar Ruggeri is widely regarded as one of Argentina's best ever centre-backs.

A star of his country's 1986 World Cup triumph, the uncompromising and aerially dominant Ruggeri won domestic league titles with both Superclasico rivals: Boca Juniors and River Plate.

16. Leo Junior

05 July 1982, Barcelona - FIFA World Cup - Italy v Brazil - Junior of Brazil. (Photo by Mark Leech/Offside via Getty Images)

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Named by Pele in his 2004 list of the 125 greatest living players at the time, Leo Junior was among the finest left-backs in the world during the 80s.

A highly versatile player who could also line up on the left side of midfielder, Leo Junior earned 74 caps for Brazil – the vast majority of them during the 80s, when he won the Copa Libertadores with Flamengo and finished second in Serie A with Torino.

15. Mauro Tassotti

Mauro Tassotti, AC Milan

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Such was Italy's wealth of defensive talent in the 80s, Mauro Tassotti didn't make his Azzurri debut until 1992 – and he won just seven caps for his country in all.

That didn't stop him from becoming one of the best defenders of the era at AC Milan, though: a member of Arrigo Sacchi's legendary Rossoneri backline with Paolo Maldini, Franco Baresi and Alessandro Costacurta

14. Fulvio Collovati

Fulvio Collovati of Italy, 1982

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The archetypal Italian stopper, Fulvio Collovati was integral to Italy's 1982 World Cup victory – earning inclusion in FIFA's team of the tournament for his displays of rock-like defensive solidity.

That year was also significant as it saw Collovati move from AC Milan – where he started out – to arch-rivals Inter; he also had spells with Udinese, Roma and Genoa during the 80s.

13. Hans-Peter Briegel

ROME, ITALY - JUNE 22: Hans Peter Briegel of Germany in action during the European Championship Final match between Belgium and Germany at the Olympic Stadium on June 22, 1980 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Lutz Bongarts/Bongarts/Getty Images)

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A former track and field athlete who excelled in events like the long jump, Hans-Peter Briegel took to the football pitch to become one of the best German defenders of all time.

The supremely skilful Briegel was a left-back by trade who could also line up in defensive midfield – scoring an unusually high number of goals considering.

He helped West Germany to glory at the 1980 European Championship and won the 1984/85 Serie A title with Hellas Verona.

12. Guido Buchwald

9 Sep 1987: Peter Beardsley of England is tackled by Guido Buchwald of West Germany during a match in Dusseldorf, West Germany. West Germany won the match 3-1. \ Mandatory Credit: David Cannon/Allsport

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Strangely left out of Franz Beckenbauer's West Germany squad for the 1986 World Cup, Guido Buchwald goes down as an all-time defensive great for his country.

Buchwald – who would go on to play a pivotal role in West Germany's 1990 World Cup victory – won his first of two Bundesliga titles with Stuttgart in 1983/84 – his first season at the club after joining from Stuttgarter Kickers.

11. Ronald Koeman

Ronald Koeman of PSV in action during a match against Bordeaux in 1988

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Probably the greatest goalscoring defender of all time, Ronaldo Koeman enjoyed great success with Ajax, PSV and the Netherlands throughout the 1980s.

The famously turbo-charged free-kick taker won his first silverware as Ajax lifted the 1984/85 Eredivisie title – a feat he repeated three times with PSV, where he also tasted glory in the 1987/88 European Cup.

And the latter campaign got even better for Koeman as he helped the Dutch to Euro 1988 victory – forming a formidable centre-back partnership with Frank Rijkaard.

10. Claudio Gentile

Claudio Gentile of Italy celebrates winning the 1982 FIFA World Cup Final against West Germany on 11th July 1982 at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid, Spain. Italy defeated West Germany 3-1. (Photo by Steve Powell/Getty Images)

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A vital member of Italy 1982 World Cup-winning team, there have been few tougher centre-backs then Claudio Gentile – an absolute titan of the position throughout the 70s and 80s.

During the latter decade, he was a three-time Serie A champion and a European Cup runner-up with Juventus – before seeing out his career at Fiorentina then Piacenza.

9. Manfred Kaltz

ROME, ITALY - JUNE 22: Manfred Kaltz of West Germany celebrates win over Belguim during the UEFA European Championships 1980 Final match between West Germany and Belguim held on June 22, 1980 at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Steve Powell/Getty Images)

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An absolutely legendary figure in the history of Hamburg, Manfred Kaltz made the vast majority of his career appearances for the club – including a whopping 581 in the Bundesliga.

Capped 69 times by West Germany – with whom he won the 1980 European Championship and reached the 1982 World Cup final – Kaltz was a superb crosser of the ball and starred in Hamburg's historic 1982/83 season, when they were crowned champions of both West Germany and Europe.

8. Josimar

19 May 1987: Josimar (left) of Brazil stands in the wall during a match against England at Wembley Stadium in London. The match ended in a 1-1 draw. \ Mandatory Credit: David Cannon/Allsport

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Considered one of the very best right-backs in the world during his prime, Josimar starred for Brazil at the 1986 World Cup – scoring his only two international goals and making it into the tournament's All-Star Team.

Josimar spent almost all of his club career in Brazil, where he started out at Botafogo, although he did have a brief stint in La Liga with Sevilla in 1988.

7. Marius Tresor

French team coach Michel Hidalgo (R) gestures next to French player Marius Tresor at Gerland Stadium in Lyon, on May 17, 1982. (Photo by Luc NOVOVITCH / AFP) (Photo credit should read LUC NOVOVITCH/AFP via Getty Images)

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Simply one of the best defenders ever to play the game, Marius Tresor retired in 1984 – but he remained one of the finest centre-halves on the planet right up until the end of his career.

Included in Pele's 2004 list of the 125 greatest living footballers, Tresor's name translates to 'Treasure' – and he was just that for France, for whom he starred at the 1978 and 1982 World Cups, reaching (and scoring in) the semi-finals of the latter.

At club level, he almost hung up his boots without ever winning a league title – only to go out on a high as a Ligue 1 champion with Bordeaux.

6. Antonio Cabrini

Antonio Cabrini of Juventus

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Alongside Fulvio Collovati, Gaetano Scrirea, Claudio Gentile and Giuseppe Bergomi, legendary left-back Antonio Cabrini was part of the wall-like Italian back five which won the 1982 World Cup.

Hugely popular for both his footballing ability and good looks, Cabrini earned the nickname Bell'Antonio (Beautiful Antonio) during a career spent mostly with Juventus.

One of the few players to win the Cup Winners' Cup, UEFA Cup and European Cup, Cabrini lifted the latter with Juve in 1984/85.

5. Daniel Passarella

FLORENCE, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 3: Fiorentina's Daniel Passarella on the Lungarno on September 3, 1984 in Florence, Italy. (Photo by Stefano Montesi - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)

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Captain of Argentina's World Cup-winning side, Daniel Passarella was still an integral member of the national team as they were crowned world champions again eight years later.

One of the greatest players of all time in any position, Passarella – who played for River Plate, Fiorentina and Inter Milan – took no prisoners at centre-back, gaining himself a hardman reputation.

In 2004, he was named by Pele as one of the 125 greatest living footballers.

4. Andreas Brehme

10-25 June 1988: Portrait of Andreas Brehme of West Germany before the European Championship match against Italy at the Rheinstadion in Dusseldorf, West Germany. The match ended in a 1-1 draw. \ Mandatory Credit: David Cannon/Allsport

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Arguably the greatest wing-back of all time, Andreas Brehme represented Germany at three major tournaments during the 80s: the 1984 and 1988 Euros, and the 1986 World Cup (although he would have to wait until Italia '90 to win one).

Included in UEFA's Euro 1984 Team of the Tournament, Brehme – an elite crosser, free-kick taker and penalty taker – won league titles in Germany and Italy with Bayern Munich and Inter Milan respectively before the decade was out.

3. Paolo Maldini

Paolo Maldini of AC Milan

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Paolo Maldini 'only' retired in 2009 – but the career of one of the very best defenders in football history began all the way back in 1985, when he made his first of 902 appearances for AC Milan.

By 1989, Maldini was a European and Italian champion – and had made his debut for the national team, for whom he would go on to be capped 126 times.

The left-back in Arrigo Sacchi's all-time great back four also containing Mauro Tassotti, Alessandro Costacurta and Franco Baresi, Maldini made the Euro 1988 Team of the Tournament as Italy reached the semi-finals.

2. Franco Baresi

14 June 1988 Frankfurt - UEFA European Football Championships - Italy v Spain - Franco Baresi of Italy - (Photo by Mark Leech/Offside via Getty Images)

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Paolo Maldini's predecessor as AC Milan captain, Franco Baresi also spent his whole career with the Rossoneri – helping them back to the top flight in the early 80s, before establishing himself as one of the world's top centre-backs.

A classic sweeper, Baresi was nicknamed Kaiser Franz in reference to his fellow great exponent of the role, Franz Beckenbauer.

Capped 81 times by Italy in all, he was an unused member of the squad which won the 1982 World Cup (but he still got himself a winners' medal).

1. Gaetano Scirea

Gaetano Scirea of Italy, 1982 FIFA World Cup

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The structurally vital central pillar of Italy's 1982 World Cup-winning five-man defence, Gaetano Scirea tops our list as the best defender of the 80s.

A true all-time great in the discipline of defending, Scirea was rather ahead of his time in his technical ability and tactical awareness – and he kept Franco Baresi out of the Italian national team for years, earning 78 caps for his country in all.

Having started out at Atalanta, between 1974 until his retirement in 1988, he became a legend at Juventus – where, among numerous other honours, he won the 1983/84 Cup Winners' Cup and 1984/85 European Cup.

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