Rank the best defenders you've ever seen

After all the chatter about Varane’s performances at the world cup (I wasn’t sure what the fuss was about tbh) it got me thinking who the best defenders are that I’ve ever seen.

Would be interested to k is what you guys think too and get some different discussion going other than the depressingly mediocre state Arsenal find themselves in. What better escape than nostalgia? (but modern day names could feature if you want them to)

Now I’d like to say you’ve got to have watched them live (as in, us younger guys can’t really say Beckenbauer or Moore cos we haven’t really watched their games live so imo can’t make a fair assessment) to rank them properly.

For me:

  1. Nesta
    I mean this guy was just the don when I started watching football. I missed his Lazio days but he was a part of that brilliant Milan side Ancelotti had between 03-07. And then a well past his prime Nesta bitched Messi at the San Siro in the 2012 CL quarters like it was nothing. He had lost his pace, especially compared to what was peak 90 goal year Messi, but he still rolled back the years with an awesome performance.

  2. Maldini
    Again I’m too young to have seen his LB pomp, but was able to watch him play as a commanding CB in his later years and not lose a step. Watching him during Milan’s 2003 and against the odds 2007 CL wins was great.

  3. Terry
    May be a scumbag human but was absolutely class and England’s best centre back during the golden generation. A great leader and positionally astute. He also put it all out on the line on the pitch. Without him, Chelsea wouldn’t have won half the stuff they have done. The 2012 CL, the 2005, 2006 PLs etc.

He marshalled imo the best defence in the PL for pretty much a decade, an incredible level of consistency. The only time I saw him fazed was during the I’ll fated AVB era, but with Di Matteo was well and truly back to his best. The last truly great PL CB imo and there hasn’t been one since.

  1. Puyol
    He was what people think Ramos is. Strong, tenacious, and brilliant on the ball, he is what any manager today would want as a CB and a peak Puyol would walk into any team in the world. Another great leader.

  2. Cannavaro
    His performances during the 2006 world cup for Italy were something else and then he followed it up with La Liga titles at Real Madrid built upon a strong defence under Capello. Before that, a stalwart of the Juventus defence until Calciopoli.

  3. Vidic
    He could be higher up on this list (United fans would think so). An absolute bargain from SAF to get him for something like £6 mil back on 2006 iirc. A strong no nonsense defender that was a key part of that later SAF united team spine. However, the way Torres used to make him his bunny at times means he is below the others which isn’t really a shame.

  4. Lucio
    Was great for Bayern Munich and Brazil as he helped them win the World Cup in 2002 as he held that defence down on lock, letting Ronaldinho Rivaldo and Ronaldo go and create.
    Moved to inter and was part of Jose Mourinho’s treble side.

  5. Thuram
    Was an absolute beast for Juventus and France, and a nightmare to get past. Could play full back or CB and still had enough in the tank along with Zidane to go out and get France to the 2006 WC final again, 8 years after winning it.

  6. Ferdinand
    Rio Ferdinand was brilliant and again very consistent. Kept his performances at a very high level for a long long time, which is hard to do these days imo. Strong and very quick, even if he made a mistake he could recover quickly.

  7. Boateng
    It’s a shame to see Jerome Boateng now, but he was absolutely fantastic in 2014. World cup, CL winner. One of the best CB seasons in recent times, and I thought we were seeing a CB we could compare to some of the great names above on the list.

Honourable mentions: Sol, Ayala, T Silva, Samuel, Ramos, Godin, Chiellini, Barzagli and Pique

I’d love to know your guy’s:


Nesta :heart_eyes:

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  1. Nesta
  2. Maldini
  3. Cannavaro
  4. Thuram
  5. Lucio
  6. Stam
  7. Terry
  8. Puyol
  9. Godin
  10. Chiellini

Honourable mentions: Barzagli, Ferdinand, Samuel, Pique, Aldair, Thiago Silva, Ramos, Hummels


Nesta/2006 Cannavaro

Puyol, Thuram


Anyone else is before my time or tbh not even worth talking about.

Tony fucking Adams


Not necessary in any order but

  1. Tony Adams
  2. Lee Dixon
  3. Nigel Winterburn
  4. Steve Bould
  5. Martin Keown

All masters of defence.

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Roberto Carlos

Paul McGrath never gets any love in lists like these but the guy was absolutely immense. The fact that he produced what he did as both a drunk and a crock is amazing.

I really don’t watch enough football and nor did I ever watch enough to properly construct a list but I just wanted to mention him because it’s almost nailed on that no one else will. :slight_smile:


So few Tony Adams mentions :o

Going back a bit any list of defenders would have to include Beckenbauer who was a class player.
Also Maldini, Baresi, and Nesta would have to be in there.
In the modern game my favourite would be Boateng who is one of the best CB’s I’ve seen.

In the PL Man U have had several great defenders like, Stam, Ferdinand, and Vidic and even though I can’t stand him, Terry was a very good CB.

We’ve had some decent ones as well, including Adams and Campbell.

Adams was the bravest defender I’ve seen, and he would never pull out of a challenge.
I remember a game at Highbury where the ball was loose in the box, about knee height, and there were two opposition players going for the same ball with their feet, and Adams dived in with his head to clear it away.

Best defender and captain in the PL, along with Ferdinand and Terry.

I never really got to watch him play, but I read his autobiography and it was great. Desperately fucking sad, sounds like he was a genuine world class talent plagued by injuries and his demons.

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I didn’t put him in my list because I didn’t really see him play live, he was basically retired when I got into football

Edit: how tf did I forget Jaap stam ffs he would definitely go on the list.



A lot of great names mentioned. Personal favourites are Maldini, Puyol, Stam, Nesta, Sol, Adams, Cannavaro, Desailly, Thuram, Godin, Vidic, Terry…

Number one out of all of those…probably Maldini.

In terms of current players, think Godin has been the best defender in the world for a few years now.


I gotta get that book and read it. Been meaning to do so for years!

He, along with Pearce, were the two hardest players in the league.
Like you say, he always had knee problems and his drinking, along with with several other Man U players like Robson who was the England captain, was well known.

He was that good that when he went to Aston Villa he was often allowed to skip training with the rest of the squad, because of the risk of injury, but was still one of the best defenders in the league.


You will not be dissapointed.

Jurgen Kohler (the best against Van Basten)