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Nemanja Vidic may be out for the season, but he didn’t win the Barclays player of the year for nothing, establishing himself the past year as the best centre back in the world, with Barcelona’s Puyol and Pique not far behind.

Joined by Giorgio Chiellini, Thiago Silva, Vincent Kompany and Mats Hummels, both making fast and impressive rises, here come the next in the best by position for 2012, the top 7 centre backs in the world.

Number 7 – Mats Hummels, Dortmund & Germany

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Dortmund are more than just a fantastic system and manager Jurgen Klopp. When you did a little deeper, you’ll find some brilliant talent, and Hummels, already more than just a screw in the machine, has probably emerged as the best centre back in the Bundesliga these past two seasons. He did grow up playing for Bayern Munich, but Dortmund gave him his real first chance, and he’s been there ever since. Has started playing regularly for the national team since 2010, earning 12 caps.

Number 6 – Thiago Silva, AC Milan & Brazil

Playing for AC Milan since 2009, Thiago Silva, 27, with 24 caps for the Brazilian national team, quickly proved to be one of the better defenders in the Serie A from the moment he began playing at the San Siro. He makes up for everything Alessandro Nesta now lacks, mostly speed. It’s not often you have a central defender who can keep up with strikers on speed, although he is adding more to his game. His attacking prowess and passing ability make him a threat, even just by decoy, every time he joins the attack.

Number 5 – Gerard Pique, Barcelona & Spain

Only 24, but a full time starter for the best club in the world for 4 years running. This past year might have exposed Pique’s weaknesses a bit, mostly when he doesn’t have Puyol next to him. Suddenly we realized how slow he is, and didn’t manage to make a quick enough return from his strides forward. Nonetheless, Pique’s technical skills make him a perfect fit for Barcelona, with his distribution and long passing abilities. It’s not surprising to see him score a few goals each season as well.

Number 4 – Carles Puyol, Barcelona & Spain

While playing only 7 league matches for Barcelona this season because more injuries, his absence was more proof of just how instrumental he is to the Barca defense. The heart of this whole team, no matter how much Messi dazzles while Xavi and Iniesta show off their brilliance. Puyol will bleed and break bones for the Barcelona shirt, which makes it practically impossible to get by him in big matches. Just ask Cristiano Ronaldo. Barcelona haven’t lost a match this season with Puyol in the lineup.

Number 3 – Vincent Kompany, Manchester City & Belgium

City have spent quite a lot of money on almost each and every player they purchased over the last three seasons, but Kompaby is undoubtedly a huge find at £6 million which were paid to Hamburg in August 2008. Made his real breakthrough in terms of consistency last season, playing 53 matches in all competitions for City and emerging as the general of the defense. He’s the main reason City have conceded only 16 goals, and more incredibly, only 4 at home. Seems impossible to beat physically and in the air on good days, which have been plentiful this season.

Number 2 – Giorgio Chiellini, Juventus & Italy

Forget about his performances at left back. Chiellini was never going to be a great player on the wing, although he can play the position. So far, Conte’s been using him on the wing this season, which has hurt Chiellini’s form. But in the middle, he’s fantastic. Very hard to beat, excellent when he goes to the ground and tackle and has a brilliant heading game, which helps come up with a few goals from set pieces each season.

Number 1 – Nemanja Vidic, Manchester Untied & Serbia

He’s out for the rest of the season, but there’s no doubt that in the past two years, Vidic has jumped to the head of the pack, worldwide, when it comes to defending up the middle. He does blow a fuse here and there, and he hasn’t mastered what to do with his hands, and probably never will. Still, his one on one, aerial game and overall effect on his team, the confidence he gives those in the back four with him, all priceless. Also has a knack for scoring crucial goals.