The top 10 best centre backs in the world right now

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November 16th, 2021

Centre backs are born leaders. Tactically aware, strong, powerful, and just as good on the ball as a central midfielder. The way the game is played now, central defenders aren’t just asked to keep a clean sheet, but start attacks from the back as well. A well organized, solid defensive line is key to winning silverware, and that back four needs a leader.

Here are the 10 best centre backs in the world right now.

10. Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund and Germany)

A regular in the Bundesliga team of the Season and a legendary centre-back, Mats Hummels is one of the best in the world for club and country. Having played for both Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, he is one of few players loved by both sets of fans and has won five league titles in Germany to go alongside his 2014 World Cup winner’s medal.

9. Matthijs de Ligt (Juventus and Netherlands)

De Ligt is only 22 years old, but he is already touted as the best defender of his generation. In 2019 he won the Golden Boy and was named the best young footballer in Europe – the first time a defender had ever won the award. He followed that up in the 2018-19 season by winning the Eredivisie with Ajax, and being names Dutch Footballer of the Year. He has only improved since joining Juventus, and looks set to have a bright future.

8. Gerard Piqué (Barcelona and Spain)

Piqué may be coming to the end of his powers, but it is impossible to ignore the impact he has had, and still holds, on the game. The Spanish center back has been an integral part of Barcelona’s golden generation and he won eight league titles and three European Cups with Barca. At the same time, he played a key role for his country and won the 2010 World Cup and European Championships in 2014.  

7. Sergio Ramos (PSG and Spain)

Sergio Ramos’ list of achievements arguably mean he should be higher on this list, and no doubt he would be back in his prime. Not only did he win 22 major honors with Real Madrid, including four Champions League wins, he was elected to the UEFA Team of the Year nine times – the third-most of any player and a record for a defender. Love him or hate him, he’s world class.

6. Aymeric Laporte (Manchester City and Spain)

The man who will be tasked to step into Sergio Ramos’ huge shoes in the Spain national side could well be Aymeric Laporte. Previously at Athletic Bilbao, Laporte made a record-breaking £57 million move to Manchester City half-way through their 2017-18 title winning campaign. He was a key part of the following campaign in which they retained their title, and it was no surprise that their grip on the title slipping coincided with Laporte undergoing knee surgery.

5. Jules Koundé (Seville and France)

One of Chelsea’s main transfer targets last summer was Jules Koundé, and it is no surprise why. The 22-year-old is the heart of Seville’s defensive line that has been one of the most reliable teams in Europe in recent years, conceding just 33 goals in 38 games last season. For a player so young, his ability to read the game is incredible.

4. Marquinhos (PSG and Brazil)

Thiago Silva led PSG’s rise to a European superpower, but now he has gone Brazilian Marquinhos has stepped up to the plate. He became one of the most expensive teenagers in the world when he moved to PSG for €31.4 million in 2013, and since then has won 23 trophies with the French side. Not only is he an excellent defender, but he has a deadly eye for goal and is a modern ball-playing centre-back who begins attacks with his pinpoint passing.

3. Milan Skriniar (Inter Milan and Slovakia)

One of Serie A’s most formidable defenders is Milan Skriniar, who excelled under Antonio Conte’s tenure at the club. The 2019 Slovakian Player of the Year is already a Serie A winner after being a key part of the Milan team that ended Juventus’ nine years of dominance. No team conceded fewer goals than Inter that year, and Skriniar was a large part of that.

2. Raphaël Varane (Manchester United and France)

Arguably the greatest centre back of his generation, Raphaël Varane is strong, fast, can read the game incredibly well, and is tactically and technically sound. A three-time La Liga winner and four-time Champions League winner with Real Madrid, Varane continued his success with his country as he played every minute of France’s 2018 World Cup win. Now at Manchester United he’ll be hoping to prove himself in the Premier League and add to his trophy haul.

1. Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool and Netherlands)

Liverpool and Netherlands captain Virgil van Dijk is head and shoulders above everyone in this list, and it’s hard to argue with him being named the top centre back in the world right now.

The only defender to win the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year and the Ballon d’Or runner-up, van Dijk was instrumental in ending Liverpool’s 30-year wait for a league title. He also made back-to-back Champions League finals after his world record €75 million transfer, and continues to be the first name on Jurgen Klopp’s team sheet every week.