​The 10 Best Centre-Backs In The World Right Now, Named And Ranked​

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In days gone by, if centre-backs weren't bandaged around the head or covered in blood at the final whistle, then they hadn't done their job. But the likes of Terry Butcher and Tony Adams would be unlikely to survive in today's game.

The role of the old-fashioned stopper and header of crosses has evolved into a ball-playing footballer with lightning defensive reflexes and a sixth sense for sniffing out danger before it happens.

Here we pick our top 10 centre-backs in the world. We've used a number of stats from last season to quantify our rankings, as well as a player's overall contribution to the game in recent times. So who makes it into our top 10?

All stats come from WhoScored.com and are correct as of the publish date.

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10) Jose Fonte

2020/21 Season Stats:

  • 36 appearances
  • 3 goals
  • 2.2 aerials won per game
  • 3.8 clearances per game
  • 1.9 interceptions per game

It's hard to believe that the same player that made 260 appearances for Southampton and 60 for Crystal Palace had arguably his best season at the age of 37. Captaining a Lille side that won its first Ligue 1 title since 2010/11, the 6ft 3in veteran provided key leadership for Christophe Galtier's young team. His form was rewarded with a place in Fernando Santos' Portugal squad for Euro 2021.

Jose Fonte

9) Aymeric Laporte

2020/21 Season Stats:

  • 14 appearances
  • 0 goals
  • 2.6 aerials won per game
  • 1.8 clearances per game
  • 0.7 interceptions per game

Watchers of Euro 2021 would have seen Aymeric Laporte's trademark cross-field switch time and again in the tournament as he and his Spanish teammates progressed to the semi-finals. Manchester City fans will hope that his performance at the championships doesn't give him itchy feet despite Barcelona's recent interest dwindling. The left-footer looked set to form a dream team with Ruben Dias at the heart of Pep Guardiola's defence only for COVID and injury to allow John Stones' renaissance to begin.

Aymeric Laporte

8) Mats Hummels

2020/21 Season Stats:

  • 32 appearances
  • 5 goals
  • 2.2 aerials won per game
  • 3.8 clearances per game
  • 1.9 interceptions per game

The 32-year-old German may be on the verge of international retirement but the 2020/21 season proved he has plenty in the tank in domestic football. The 2014 World Cup-winner led Dortmund in blocks, aerial battles won, clearances and interceptions, was the second most prolific tackler and third most accurate passer. Oh and he chipped in with five Bundesliga goals.

Mats Hummels

7) John Stones

2020/21 Season Stats:

  • 22 appearances
  • 4 goals
  • 1.7 aerials won per game
  • 2.5 clearances per game
  • 0.8 interceptions per game

A year ago, John Stones looked to be an afterthought for both Pep Guardiola and England's Gareth Southgate. On the outside of the England squad, looking in, Manchester City had just splurged £61million on Benfica's Portugal star Ruben Dias. With Nathan Ake incoming and Aymeric Laporte in place, Stones' City career seemed to be slipping away. But his partnership with Dias gelled instantly when thrust together in November as Stones returned to the classy, ball-playing 26-year-old that caught the eye of Guardiola before he joined City and the duo helped the Premier League champions to 19 clean sheets.

John Stones

6) Raphael Varane

2020/21 Season Stats:

  • 31 appearances
  • 2 goals
  • 2.4 aerials won per game
  • 3.5 clearances per game
  • 1.2 interceptions per game

Notable in their absence from this top 10 are former Spain mainstays Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique. Pique's 2020/21 season was error- and injury-filled while Ramos was let go by Real Madrid after 16 extraordinary years. Part of the reason for that was the presence of Frenchman Varane. With the ideal build for a central defender, he's able to outmuscle attackers but is also cultured enough to play out from the back, which he did for France at Euro 2021, completing 271 of his 288 passes.

Raphael Varane

5) Milan Skriniar

2020/21 Season Stats:

  • 31 appearances
  • 3 goals
  • 1 aerial won per game
  • 2.7 clearances per game
  • 0.9 interceptions per game

Not blessed with tremendous pace, Slovakian Milan Skriniar uses his 6ft 2in frame, timing and positional awareness to get the job done. As a passer, his skills are up there with the best and he's been pushed into central midfield for Slovakia at times. On their way to ending their 11-year title drought, Skriniar and co conceded a league-low 35 goals.

Milan Skriniar

4) Harry Maguire

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2020/21 Season Stats:

  • 34 appearances
  • 2 goals
  • 4 aerials won per game
  • 3.6 clearances per game
  • 1.8 interceptions per game

There were worries over the fitness of Manchester United captain Harry Maguire going into Euro 2021 but after missing the first two group games, he slipped in alongside John Stones and calmly led England to three more clean sheets and a semi-final victory. One of the leaders in Gareth Southgate's camp, the world's most expensive defender was dominant in 2020/21 for United, finishing second among Premier League defenders in aerial battles won.

Harry Maguire

3) Virgil van Dijk

2020/21 Season Stats:

  • 5 appearances
  • 1 goal
  • 2.4 aerials won per game
  • 1.6 clearances per game
  • 1 interception per game

It's a mark of the immense talent of Virgil van Dijk that he's still in the top three of this list after a season in which he started just five Premier League matches and missed Euro 2021 entirely. The horror tackle from Jordan Pickford in the Merseyside derby in October sent van Dijk to the surgeon's table and left Liverpool's championship defence needing medical intervention for the rest of the season. He's expecting to join Jurgen Klopp's side for preseason training in July but acknowledges that he's faced "a long road" and may not be fully up to speed come season kick-off.

Virgil van Dijk

2) Marquinhos

2020/21 Season Stats:

  • 24 appearances
  • 3 goals
  • 2 aerials won per game
  • 2.9 clearances per game
  • 1.1 interceptions per game

Centre-back is not perhaps the position you immediately associate Brazilian footballers with but Marquinhos has followed in the footsteps of Lucio, Aldair, Luis Perieira and former PSG teammate Thiago Silva as a defensive rock. His technical ability and agility ensure he stands out even on a team of galacticos like Mbappe, Verrati and Neymar. An elegant defender with a Brazilian's comfort on the ball, the PSG captain scored three times in both Ligue 1 and the Champions League and netted for Brazil in the first game of their Copa America campaign, where they conceded just two goals on the way to the final.

Marquinhos

1) Ruben Dias

2020/21 Season Stats:

  • 32 appearances
  • 1 goal
  • 1.9 aerials won per game
  • 2 clearances per game
  • 1.5 interceptions per game

Pep Guardiola had spent freely in an attempt to solidify the Manchester City defence since his arrival in 2016, but it wasn't until last year's arrival of Ruben Dias that he solved the issue. Dias had a similar effect on the Mancunians that Virgil van Dijk had on Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool in 2018 as his composure helped power his team to the title. At ease bringing the ball out, he's seldom caught out defensively, using his anticipation to nick possession either with a tackle or interception. His maiden season at City was crowned with Football Writers' Association and Premier League Player of the Season awards.

Ruben Dias

If you enjoyed this article, read our look at the best goalkeepers of all time.

Image Credits: PA

Featured Image Credit: PA Images

Topics: Harry Maguire, Virgil Van Dijk, Ruben Dias, John Stones

Colin Hubbuck

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