When Gerard Pique found the net in Barcelona’s 4-1 home victory over Roma, he became the highest-scoring defender in Champions League history. It was the 49th goal of the Spain international’s career – an impressive tally, but not yet enough to place him among the most prolific of all time in his position.
In this slideshow, we pick out 12 defenders who really had a knack for beating opposition goalkeepers – be it from penalties, free-kicks or open play…
Sergio Ramos (88 goals)
Unlike most of the other names on this list, Ramos hasn’t yet broken the 100-goal mark. The 32-year-old still has plenty of time to reach that landmark, however, and for the time being he can take solace in the fact several of his efforts for Real Madrid have been hugely significant.
The Spain stopper has yet to score at an international tournament, but he’s struck twice in separate Champions League finals against Atletico Madrid, as well as notching several crucial efforts in crunch La Liga encounters – including no fewer than four headed goals against dreaded rivals Barcelona.
Ian Harte (97 goals)
Harte's sweet left foot made him a natural set-piece taker for every club he represented. The full-back scored 39 times in 288 outings for Leeds, including a brilliant free-kick in a triumph over Arsenal which helped United survive in the Premier League in 2002-03.
Harte later scored 10 goals for Levante, 21 for Carlisle, 15 for Reading and one for Bournemouth before retiring from football in 2015. He was also effective at international level, notching 12 strikes in 64 games for the Republic of Ireland.
Sinisa Mihajlovic (105 goals)
Wherever he was deployed in the team – he started off as a No.10 or left winger, but was converted in Italy to a left-back then a centre-back – Mihajlovic was a renowned free-kick specialist: most of his 105 goals for club and country came from dead-ball situations. The Yugoslav struck 10 times for his country, including a low free-kick to break the deadlock against Iran at the 1998 World Cup, and on 61 occasions for four different sides in Serie A.
Together with Andrea Pirlo, the ex-Roma, Sampdoria, Lazio and Inter star holds the all-time record for the most free-kick goals (28) in the Italian top tier, while he also scored regularly from the penalty spot during his time on the peninsula.
Franz Beckenbauer (108 goals)
Beckenbauer may have played at the back, but he was far from a conventional stopper: the former Germany and Bayern Munich man was regularly deployed as an attacking sweeper, a role which allowed him to stride forward and join the attack when his side had possession.
That’s part of the reason why he scored so many goals during his career: 75 for Bayern, 19 for New York Cosmos and 14 for die Mannschaft. Four of those international efforts came at the World Cup in 1966, and Beckenbauer also scored at the same tournament four years later – a key goal in Germany’s 3-2 triumph over England.
Paul Breitner (113 goals)
Breitner moved forward into midfield during the latter stages of his career, but before that he was a left-back for Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Eintracht Braunschweig and West Germany. The five-time Bundesliga winner also triumphed at Euro 72 and the 1974 World Cup, where one of his three goals levelled the scores against the Netherlands in the final.
Ten of Breitner's career strikes came for die Mannschaft, including another in the 1982 World Cup Final. His most prolific spell came during his midfield days at Bayern, but he still posed a threat to the opposition goal even when he was utilised in a deeper role.
Steve Bruce (113 goals)
Mention the words ‘Steve Bruce’ and ‘goal’ to any supporter and only game will spring immediately to mind. The centre-back scored twice late on in a pivotal victory over Sheffield Wednesday in April 1993; had he not popped up in the Owls’ penalty box, Alex Ferguson’s side may not have gone on to win the club’s first league title in 26 years.
By his own standards, his five-goal haul that season wasn't too impressive – he'd bagged 19 in 1990/91, bolstered by 11 penalties. In all, the uncapped Englishman netted 113 in a career which featured spells of varying length at Gillingham, Norwich, Birmingham and Sheffield United.
Roberto Carlos (113 goals)
Critics of Roberto Carlos claim he never scored another free-kick after his stunning strike for Brazil against France in 1997, but by the end of his career the flying full-back had made the net bulge 113 times.
Many of his goals came from dead balls, including a 30-yarder on his Inter debut and a crucial free-kick on the final day of Real Madrid’s title-winning campaign of 2002-03. The left-back also had an eye for the spectacular in open play, with a swerving strike from an extremely tight angle against Tenerife arguably his best ever goal for los Blancos.
Graham Alexander (130 goals)
Although he was occasionally used as a holding midfielder, Alexander was a right-back by trade – even if his goals record would seem to suggest he played in a much more advanced role.
The former Scunthorpe, Luton, Preston and Burnley defender scored 130 goals in 981 games at club level, including 11 in both 2002-03 (for Preston) and 2008-09 (for Burnley). A reliable penalty taker – he bagged 56 in 60 attempts – Alexander won 40 Scotland caps but failed to ever make the net ripple while representing his country.
Laurent Blanc (146 goals)
Eric Cantona and Roger Milla are among the famous frontmen to have represented Montpellier, but the French outfit’s all-time record scorer is a defender - even if he did play as an attacking midfielder during his early days. Blanc found the net 77 times in 251 matches for La Paillade, with many of his goals coming from penalties and free-kicks.
Blanc’s most memorable open-play effort was the golden goal which sent France through to the last eight of the 1998 World Cup at the expense of Paraguay. Had the centre-half not popped up in the 114th minute, Les Bleus may still be waiting for their maiden triumph on the biggest stage.
Fernando Hierro (163 goals)
Hierro’s only goal for Bolton came in a forgetable loss to Norwich in 2004, but before his late-career transfer to Lancashire he was a prolific goal-getter in Spain. A threat from set-pieces and open play, Hierro struck 127 for Real Madrid – more than many of the club’s legendary strikers, from Paco Gento through Ivan Zamorano to (the Brazilian) Ronaldo.
His best scoring season came in 1991-92, when the centre-back notched an astonishing 26 goals in 53 appearances for Madrid. He was also effective in the final third for his national team, grabbing the goal against Denmark in 1993 which confirmed Spain’s place at the following year’s World Cup in Spain.
Daniel Passarella (175 goals)
How the present-day Argentina would love to have a defender like Passarella in their ranks going into the 2018 World Cup. The ex-River Plate and Fiorentina centre-back captained the Albiceleste to the 1978 World Cup on home soil, while he was also a non-playing member of the squad that repeated the feat in Mexico eight years later.
Despite being just 5ft 8in tall, Passarella was excellent in the air and many of his 175 career goals were headers. He also took penalties for both club and country, converting a spot-kick against France on the way to Argentina’s aforementioned success in 1978.
Ronald Koeman (253 goals)
Many strikers – both past and present – would be happy with Koeman’s career return of 253 goals in 763 appearances. The Dutchman was regularly deployed as a sweeper and given the freedom advance up the pitch in general play, while he also took penalties and free-kicks for many of his clubs.
Koeman once scored 26 goals in a season for PSV, before netting 19 for Barcelona in both 1989-90 and 1993-94. His most important effort for the Catalan club came in 1991-92, when his extra-time free-kick won the Blaugrana their first ever European Cup against Sampdoria at Wembley.
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