It’s never easy picking the best of, that’s why stats come in handy. Soccer doesn’t have as many stats compared to Basketball, American Football and of course Baseball, and when you do the defensive positions, it’s twice as hard. Still, it doesn’t mean it isn’t fun. This isn’t science, but continuing with our tradition, after picking the top keepers in the world last week, here are the 5 best central defenders in the world right now.
Number 5 – Pepe, Real Madrid and Portugal
Yeah, sometimes his temper gets the best of him, and his uber-aggressive style of defending and playing often gets him roughed up and hurt, but usually you’d want a bruiser in your back four and Pepe fits and plays the role in excellent fashion. He leaves it all out there, and he’ll make you spit blood, literally, to get one on him. He is mistake prone from time to time, but generally, when healthy and focused, Pepe is one of the best one out there and makes Real’s defense a whole of a lot better.
Number 4 – Giorgio Chiellini, Juventus and Italy
Remember long long ago, when Chiellini used to be a left back? Chiellini started his career playing on the side with Livorno and then for Fiorentina and then Juventus, who he’s been with since 2005. Chiellini did win the league title with Juventus in 2005-2006, but that title was later given to Inter and Juve were relegated. Chiellini stayed with the Bianconeri during their Serie B season, beginning his more central role after the team suffered a few injuries. He excelled in his new position, and soon won a place with the Italian national team. When you look at Juve’s defensive record, it isn’t that impressive, but it has more to do with Chiellini still looking for a top class partner and for Buffon to return. He’s a real leader, fast and is not shy from going up once in a while, getting the occasional goal (4 goals in each of the last two seasons).
Number 3 – Lucio, Inter Milan and Brazil
Like Chiellini, Lucio’s World Cup was a disappointment on the team level. Club level? Lucio was probably THE defensive cornerstone of Inter’s treble season, winning his fourth league title and first Champions League trophy after a decade in Europe. He doesn’t attack as often as he used to during his German seasons, but his aerial dominance, leadership and responsibility in the back was probably at a personal all time high last season. Inter’s defense isn’t the problem this season. It was probably more of a Rafa Benitez thing.
Number 2 – Carles Puyol, Barcelona and Spain
I do wonder from time to time if Puyol was on another team would he be this good? It doesn’t really matter. The man is Barcelona born (Well, actually La Pobla de Segur in Catalonia) and he’ll be a Barcelona player till the very end. No one plays with more passion, aggression and heart, and Puyol, at 32, doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Playing alongside Pique seems to have rejuvenated and improved him, be it with Barcelona and their voyage to being remembered as the greatest side ever or with the Spanish national team, dominating the world during the last three years, winning both the Euro and the World Cup. It’s always nice defending on a team that has at least 60% on most nights.
Number 1 – Gerard Pique, Barcelona and Spain
I needed one more year to be sure, cause I thought about putting him at number one last year. Pique is the real deal, and he’s the best in the world right now. United do have Vidic and Ferdinand, nothing to complain about, but I’m sure Alex Ferguson regrets letting Pique go. Fast, strong and technical, Pique seems like the epitome of the modern Centre back – wonderful defensive player who blends into the team’s strategy perfectly and ball skills that can match most players upfront. He does have Puyol as his partner and Valdez/Casillas at goal when he plays for Barcelona and the national team, which always helps, but Pique is probably the main reason that those sides aren’t just fantasy sides reliant on solely their offense. Pique being on those defenses is what makes them that good.
If you want to check how the list looked last year, go here.