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…
10. Marquinhos (PSG)
Paris Saint-Germain's star-studded side can't be trusted to do much – but Marquinhos is the exemption to the rule.
The Brazilian centre-back has been imperious ever since inheriting Thiago Silva's armband. Marquinhos is a rock for the newly-crowned French champions, has chipped in with more goals since becoming skipper too and his positioning, physicality and passing ability is utterly superb.
9. Jules Kounde (Sevilla)
He's played right-back for his nation but Jules Kounde might be the most sought-after central defender on Earth. Chelsea are known to be huge fans, while both Manchester clubs apparently want him, too.
The Frenchman is the very definition of a Rolls Royce: calm and composed under pressure, his strength belying his overall ability. He's still so young too – and will only go onto bigger things.
8. Eder Militao (Real Madrid)
Eder Militao received a fair amount of stick for individual mistakes or teething problems in his early Real Madrid days. That Brazilian is so ever-present is telling, however.
Real Madrid really lost Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane at once and replaced neither with a commanding defensive leader in the same mould. Los Blancos brought in David Alaba – a different kind of defender – but Militao has been relied on as the bite at the back. He's grown into a more assured, confident player this season and been a key member of a title-winning side.
7. Joel Matip (Liverpool)
Joel Matip has won everything in the sport since leaving Schalke on a free. While some will claim that sitting next to Virgil van Dijk is the easiest job in football, mind, they're just not paying attention.
Matip is one of the finest ball-playing centre-backs in the sport – perhaps better than big Virg at finding a pass. His mazy runs from the back are yet another string to a stacked bow and his overall leadership is invaluable. He's far more than a sidekick.
6. Aymeric Laporte (Manchester City)
A classy yet understated operator in arguably the Premier League's finest-ever team, Laporte is the typical Guardiola centre-back: stylish, comfortable in possession and not afraid to put his head where it hurts when he needs to.
Manchester City's defence has run a tight ship whenever Laporte has anchored it, who joined them from Athletic Bilbao for £57m in January 2018. He'd get into any team in the world, perhaps except his own when Pep preferred Stones - and now he's the Sergio Ramos replacement for Spain. He's got big shoes to fill, that's for sure.
5. Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli)
As captain of his nation, Koulibaly began 2022 by lifting Senegal's first AFCON title, having kept a clean sheet for 120 minuites against Mo Salah's Egypt in the final. He even had the minerals to step up first and disptach a penalty in the shootout.
He has been just as calm and dependable again this season for Napoli, who looked in with a decent shout of winning Serie A at times this season. The title charge may have eventually faltered, but Koulibaly's reputation as one of the best defenders on the planet has only grown over the course of another sensational campaign.
4. Antonio Rudiger (Chelsea)
Chelsea did their level best to persuade Rudiger to sign an extenstion to the contract which expires this summer, but their negotiation skills were ultimately found wanting.
The Blues are therefore resigned to losing a player who has developed into one of the most aggressive and composed on the planet under the tutelege of his compatriot Thomas Tuchel. Rudiger is lighting a lightning quick stopper, who reads the game sublimely and carries the ball forward with relentless intent.
His destination is surely Real Madrid, where he will star alongside the next player on this list...
3. 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.
After swapping Munich for Madrid last summer, Alaba's been hailed as one of the shrewdest free transfers of the season. The Austrian has been an ever-present in a backline which has taken Real to La Liga glory and the Champions League final. If the Spaniards are to conquer Europe, Alaba will need to be on form against Liverpool on May 28.
2. Ruben Dias (Man City)
The FWA Player of the Year in 2020/21, his first in English football, has been exemplary again this term, priving the steel and security which allows City's entertainers to scurry forward in search of goals.
Ruben Dias has slotted into Manchester City's backline like he was born to play there. He's calm on the ball, positionally supreme and he's the leader that the Citizens have missed in defence ever since Vincent Kompany kissed the club goodbye.
It's rare that a centre-back is so unanimously popular, so formidably unbeatable and so obviously one of the standout stars of a top side. Dias is all three. He's the foundation that City will build upon for years and years to come.
1. Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool)
The best in the world, bar none. Liverpool have been transformed into a monster since signing Virgil van Dijk from Southampton in 2018; the Dutchman's commanding displays providing the solid ground on which their whole system is built. It's his pace and intelligence that allows Jurgen Klopp's high line to flourish and his aerial ability that bails them out time and again when opponents do get in behind.
Their stats with and without Van Dijk in the team are testament to his influence. A man mountain for one of the great modern sides in football.
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Ed is a staff writer at FourFourTwo, working across the magazine and website. A German speaker, he’s been working as a football reporter in Berlin since 2015, predominantly covering the Bundesliga and Germany's national team. Key FFT features include an exclusive interview with Jude Bellingham following the youngster’s move to Borussia Dortmund in 2020, a history of the Berlin Derby since the fall of the Wall and a celebration of Kevin Keegan’s playing career.
- Mark White Staff Writer
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