The 10 Best Defenders in Football [2024 Edition]


Defenders play a crucial role in every football match– one (right or wrong) call can make or break the entire game.

So, who are the best defenders in football, and what makes them the best?

Let’s find out.

The Best Defenders in Football in 2022

Kalidou Koulibaly

  • Born: 20 June 1991
  • Current club team: Chelsea
  • International team: Senegal

The Senegalese defender had a hard time in the 2021 season. He missed half a season due to COVID-19 and injuries but is still considered to be one of the best defenders in football in Europe and for good reason. 

Koulibaly has led Serie A in recoveries, successful passes, tackles won, and clean sheets since he joined back in the 2014-15 season. 

What makes him a good defensive player is his overall solidity and ability to make interceptions. Some say that he can be too aggressive at times (evident by the number of red cards he has received), and pundits have criticised him for giving away too many fouls.

During this transfer window, he completed a transfer to one of the best London clubs, Chelsea, and he will make a partnership in defence with Thiago Silva.

Andrew Robertson

  • Born: 11 March 1994
  • Current club team: Liverpool
  • International team: Scotland

The captain of the Scottish national team has received a lot of praise for his performance in recent years, including in matches he played for Liverpool and his national team. 

Former England defender Phil Neville has said that he is one of the best left-backs in the world because of his pace and crossing skills. Robertson is a top performer in terms of speed, stamina, tacking, and work rate in his team and on an international level.

What truly makes him one of the best defenders ever in football is his ability to organise the team from the back of the field and find passing opportunities in tricky situations.

Playing under one of the best football managers has helped Robertson to become one of the best fullbacks in the world today.

Thiago Silva

  • Born: 22 September 1984
  • Current club team: Chelsea
  • International team: Brazil

“The Messi of defenders,” as Alain Roche called him, Thiago Silva is well-known for his defensive abilities.

A world-class player and one of the best football defenders in the world, Silva has shown exceptional leadership skills and discipline in his games throughout his career. He was one of the most talented players in AC Milan and Fluminense and was the driving force behind Paris Saint-Germain’s success. 

What sets him apart from the rest of the defenders on this list is his ability to read the game, match the speed, and the technical abilities to ensure his team gets the best chance possible at snatching a victory.

As mentioned above, he still plays for one of the football clubs that is the most hated in the world.


  • Born: 14 May 1994
  • Current club team: Paris Saint-Germain
  • International team: Brazil

There are a few football players that can win back balls as well as Marquinhos. The Brazilian player, who captains Paris Saint-Germain, is quick, has a good position, and knows how to start attacks from the back– a skill that his team has benefitted from in many matches in the last several years.

What’s more, he can read the situation quickly, give himself the time to find the best play, break down attacks, and minimise the risk of unnecessary fouls.

Not only is he one of the best centre-backs in the sport, but he also leads them in goals and is one of the highest-paid footballers on this list.

David Alaba

  • Born: 24 June 1992
  • Current club team: Real Madrid
  • International team: Austria

Alaba’s true strength as a player lies in his versatility– the Austrian national can play anywhere in the midfield of defence.

The Real Madrid star is a ball-playing defender and a great crosser who knows how to take advantage of the space on the field. He is also excellent at finding targets in the penalty area. 

Unlike other defenders, Alaba does not have an aggressive play and mostly relies on creative and intelligent tactics.  

He recently joined the club with maybe the biggest fanbase in the world.

He is also regularly mentioned in debates over the greatest player that Austria has ever seen and for a good reason– Alaba captained Austria in UEFA Euro 2020 when the team, for the first time in their history, reached the knockout stages.

Matthijs De Ligt

  • Born: 12 August 1999
  • Current club team: Bayern Munich
  • International team: The Netherlands

De Ligt comes from Ajax’s youth academy, which is known to be one of the best football academies and is one of the most highly-regarded prospects and one of the best young defenders in football.

He is an extremely talented player, known for his marking, clean tackling, and accurate passing. The Dutch defender used to play centre-back, which has given him the skills to start attacking plays from the back and has the physical strength to resist pushes, including in aerial duels. 

De Ligt is not as quick as other players in his position but does have the talent to read the game and position himself properly to stop pacey forwards.

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Raphaël Varane

  • Born: 25 April 1993
  • Current club team: Manchester United
  • International team: France

Varane has established himself as one of the most talented players of his generation. The world cup winner has 18 major titles under his belt and has always been regarded as one of the most decorated players in his position for the better part of a decade. 

Varane is a ball-playing defender and an excellent passer. He is exceptional at long raking passes and knows how to put the correct weight in his short passes in a way that they almost always reach the target, even when there are a couple of defenders around the ball.

The French player is also good at analysing the game and has the speed to correct others’ mistakes. 

After winning everything with Real Madrid, he decided to join and play in one of the most iconic stadiums in the UK, Old Trafford and the Red Devils.

Sergio Ramos

  • Born: 30 March 1986
  • Current club team: Paris Saint-Germain
  • International team: Spain

Sergio Ramos is one of the most controversial and successful figures in football

Known for his aggressive defence, the 36-year-old is rarely seen waiting for attackers to make their move, which, some argue, is what makes him one of the best football defenders in the world. He is a competent tackler and a technical defender with good crossing, distribution, and passing ability.

Due to his style of play, Ramos holds several disciplinary records, including for most carded player in La Liga and the history of the Spanish international team. He also holds the record for most goals scored by a defender in international football.

However, outside of the football pitch, he is a true gentleman and has one of the hottest football wags in Pilar Rubio.

Related: Ramos has 42 tattoos throughout his body.

Rúben Dias

  • Born: 14 May 1997
  • Current club team: Manchester City
  • International team: Portugal

What makes Dias a top-rated professional footballer is his skill to dictate the play in all directions from the back of the field. What makes him one of the best current defenders in football is his ability to do simple things well. 

The Portuguese player, voted the Premier League Player of the 2021 season, is a reactive defender who boasts an exceptional passing range that works well with his two-footedness. In addition, he is skilled at taking possession of the ball from opponents in a way that very few defenders can thank to him being rarely out of position. 

Although some pundits initially questioned Manchester City’s decision to pay £65 million for Dias, he proved them wrong by helping the team concede the fewest goal in the Premier League.

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Virgil Van Dijk

  • Born: 8 July 1991
  • Current club team: Liverpool
  • International team: The Netherlands

Van Dijk joined one of the most successful football teams back in 2018, and since then, he has been the key player in Klopp’s machinery.

Van Dijk has been billed as the best football defender in the sport by many fans, pundits, as well as current and former footballers. The Dutch player is the only defender to win UEFA Men’s Player of the Year and of the few players who could play any kind of defence. 

Van Djik has great technique, good pace, is an effective set-piece taker, and is a dominant 1 vs. 1 defender. He often makes it difficult for opposing players to create a separation due to his ability to react quickly and read the game well.

He also rarely loses flick-ons and is extremely good in the air, thanks to his strength and height. 

Bottom Line

Although their role is not as prominent (and as measurable) as one of the strikers, defenders in football play an important part in their team’s success.

The best defenders in football do a bit more – they control the game from the back, make up for their team’s mistakes, and make for an exciting match.

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