Top ten players of all time: Defenders

Posted by - April 26, 2011 - International, Lists

And not a Schiedt in sight

10) Ronald Koeman
Quite easy to write off the Dutchman as simply a free kick specialist, his solid defence was one of the keys to the Dutch Euro 88 win.

Scored 193 times (including THAT free kick to stop England qualifying for the World Cup), which makes him one of the highest scoring defenders in history.

Throughout his career, Koeman won three titles, four domestic cups and two European Cups, and managed to score fourteen international goals.

Trivia: Scored the winning goal in the European Cup final in 1992 with one of his trademark free kicks.

9) Jose Santamaria
Santamaria is something of a master of all trades, jack of none. Won the title five times in his native Uruguay, he then got a move to Real Madrid where he added to these trophies with four more titles and four European Cups.

Not happy with this transformation he also played 36 times at international level for both Uruguay and Spain, and managed to appear in three World Cups in doing so.

Says a lot to be the rock of a defence that allows Puskas and Di Stefano to run riot.

Trivia: Santamaria either won a league title or European Cup for ten consecutive years

8 ) Fabio Cannavaro
As was rightly pointed out yesterday, it is quite easy to dismiss present day talent because we cannot look back with the rose-tinted spectacles and see them as playing at a time when defenders were real men, carrying the hopes of the town responsibly on their shoulders.

Cannavaro is an exception to this rule. With 136 caps for Italy, Cannavaro is the oldest winner of the World Player of the Year, the only defender to win the award, and the oldest captain of a World Cup winning side, over a career spanning 780 games.

Trivia:Despite playing for three clubs that have won it, Cannavaro has never won the Champions League

7) Paul Breitner
Often overlooked as a defender because of the late move to midfield in his career, Breitner was seen as a controversial character that scandalously only made 48 appearances for West Germany.

Free scoring from left back, Breitner enjoyed an incredibly successful career which included seven league titles for Bayern Munich and Real Madrid, a European Cup, and a World Cup and European Championships winners’ medals.

Trivia: Breitner is one of only four players to score in two separate World Cup finals

6) Paolo Maldini
Mr Consistency himself. The ultimate one club man, with that club being reasonably high profile, Maldini made 1028 games for club and country, an astonishing achievement when you consider the level at which these were made.

The stats roll on: Played in four World Cups, won five Champions League titles (or European Cup alternative) and 26 major domestic trophies.

Trivia: Both of Maldini’s sons, Christian and Daniel, play in the Milan youth teams.

5) Gaetano Scirea
Perhaps the greatest compliment that can be played to Scirea is that he kept Franco Baresi out of the Italian side for four years, despite getting on a bit.

Won 78 caps in total for Italy, including helping his country to the 1982 World Cup.

Trivia: Gaetano is one of just five players to have the full set of continental honours (European Cup, Cup Winners’ Cup, UEFA Cup, Super Cup, Intercontinental Cup

4) Billy Wright
The greatest ever captain? Certainly England’s greatest, Wright made 105 caps for England, becoming the first man in history to win 100 caps for his national side. Wright capped England in 90 of those games, and famously played in every minute of every game (not like that half-arsed ten minute cameo merchant Signor Beckham).

Wright played his entire career at Wolverhampton Wanderers, making 541 appearances for the club, and is quite obviously their second greatest ever player (after George Elokobi).

Trivia: Wright was never booked or sent off throughout his career

3) Bobby Moore
And with Wright comes Moore, and quite frankly their position could be interchangeable. Moore just shades it, however, for being the only man to bloody captain England to a sodding tournament win, and no the Umbro Cup or Le Tour-effing-noi do not count.

A genuine mountain at the back, and a true gentleman, Moore played 668 games in England before ending his career with a little jaunt in America.

Trivia: Pele says that Moore was the hardest player he faced. That says quite a lot.

2) Franco Baresi
Quite simply the prequel to Maldini, Costacurta and Cannavaro. If they were the apprentices, Baresi was the master. Spent his whole career at AC Milan, making over 700 league appearances.

Played in three World Cups, where he was unlucky to not play in the win in 1982, and then see his side finish second and third at his other opportunities. The greatest defender to not win the World Cup.

Also, easy to forget that he wound up as Fulham’s Director of Football in 2002.

Trivia: Franco was turned down by Inter Milan, where his brother Giuseppe was playing.

1) Franz Beckenbauer
You don’t have to enjoy German success, although it seems an institutionalised preconception to hate them. You don’t have to bear their rigidity and organisation, although Ozil et al taught us a thing or two about that in South Africa. What you do have to do is respect Franz Beckenbauer.

The rock of every team in which he played, Part tackler, part passer. Part match saver, part match winner. But always team leader.

Won trophies at Bayern Munich, including league titles and three consecutive European Cups. Then decided to go to Hamburg and help them win the league.

Won the Ballon d’Or twice and voted third greatest player of the 20th Century. Begrudgingly, or out of sheer admiration, it must be said that Beckenbauer, in our list as throughout his playing career, is Der Kaiser.

  • Guest

    Wright ‘captained’ England in 90 of those games

  • Boohoo

    Cannavaro? No.

  • Frogblip

    One aspect of greatness is knowing when to give it away. Cannavaro played a World Cup too many and must share a lot of blame for Italy’s dismal showing at South Africa 2010. Nowhere near good enough.

  • rob

    No Gus Ceasar?

  • Mitintan

    Franz always said that the best defender ever was Elias Figueroa

  • Harman Shera

    i would say nesta was better than cannavaro. although he was injured through most of the worldcup that italy one.

  • Ai03

    Honestly, Vidic is pushing for top 4 or 5.

  • Makaay112

    I love you terrible bandwagon fans, no knowledge of the sport, but talking like you do.

  • Gullit104

    cannavaro is the oldest captain of a winning side? i don’t know, 33 wasn’t that old and wasn’t zoff 40 when he was the captain in 82

  • Ambuj Arind

    that is bullshit.. vidic is an unbelievable defender.. top 10 would be pushing it but he is class.

  • Suvrasinha

    as said by makaay manutd badwagons will even say RVN was the best striker of all time

  • Gurmohit SIngh papa

    i am pure papa

  • cogniscenti

    john charles – numero uno. Fact

  • anomouse

    “Is the best defender I’ve ever seen in my live”.[39]
    — César Luis Menotti
    “If Figueroa would have won a World Cup would be the best defender in the history.”[40][41]
    — Pele
    “Figueroa is the best Chilean player of all time, and probably the finest central defender in the history of football in the Americas.”.[42]
    — Pele
    “I’m the European Figueroa”.[43]
    — Franz Beckenbauer
    “Figueroa and Beckenbauer have been the only centre backs who are better than me in Football History”.[44]
    — Daniel Passarella
    “I have no hesitation in saying that Elias Figueroa is the best defender in football world”.[45]
    — Carlos Alberto Parreira
    “Thither (in Brazil) he is an eminence”.[46]
    — Juan Rodrigo Araya
    “If you asked me to compare Don Elias to someone, I couldn’t give you an answer”.[47]
    — Rubens Minelli
    “We’re facing a boy of seventeen who plays like a mature crack. After today we’ll have to call him ‘Don’ (MR.) Elias Figueroa”.[48]
    — Hernán Solís
    “In the air he fought like a lion. If he jumped with two Russians, the ball would be his when he came down”.[49]
    — Juan Manuel Olivares (footballer)
    “Elegant as a earl of suit, dangerous as a Bengal tiger, Elias Figueroa was the perfect defender “.[50]
    — Nelson Rodrigues
    “The area is my home, and I decide who enters it”.[51]
    — Elías Figueroa

  • anomouse

    Elías Figueroa
    IndividualDistinctionsYearConsidered twice as the best player of the world[5]1975, 1976All-Star Team of 1974 FIFA World Cup[6] Best defense of the tournament[7]1974South American Footballer of the Year[8]1974–1975–1976Third place South American Footballer of the Year1977Best South American defense of the year[9]1972-1973-1974-1975-1976-1977Best Global defense of the year[10]1974-1975-1976-1977Bola de Ouro Brazil’s best player[11]1972–1976Bola de Prata1972- 1974- 1975- 1976Best player of Uruguay[12]1967, 1968, 1971Best foreign player who has played in Brazil[13]2001Best footballer of the year in Chile1981Best sportsman of the year of Chile1981Chilean Footballer of the History of Circle of Sports Journalists of Chile[14]1999N° 37 The World’s best Player of the Century IFFHS[15]1999/2000N° 8 South America best Player of the Century IFFHS[16]1999/2000N° 1 Chilean best Player of the Century IFFHS[17]1999/2000N° 1 South America best Defender of the Century IFFHS[18]1999/2000List FIFA 100 of Pelé2004Member of South American Team of the 20th Century[19]1999Member of historical team by the American Cup[20][21][22][23][24]2011Member of Dream Team of Peñarol of all time[25]2002Member Bicentennial Team of Santiago Wanderers[26]2010Placar magazine (Brazil) N 19° in published a list of the best 100 players of all time[27]1999Playboy Brazil magazine N 13° in published a list of voted among the best in history[28]2005World Soccer magazine; selected in published a list of the best 50 players of all time[29]2010Sports Illustrated Latino; Elected at the eleventh ideal of the past 50 years of South American football[30]2012Distinction as Ambassador to the UN by the Sports Program for Development and Peace[31]2002Distinction of the order “Knight of Rio Branco” granted by the Federative Republic of Brazil[32][33]2000Award of CONMEBOL by exalt to South American soccer[34][35][36]2009Member of the Walk of Fame Stadium Maracana[37]2000Was nominated constantly to Selection of the World and South America from 19 years1966–1982Was only player alongside Hugo Sánchez that has participated in three World Cups alternately1966- 1974- 1982Sent off just once in 18-year career[38]1965–1983Was captain in all teams where he played1966–1982