Top 10: Central defenders of the 21st Century

GMF rates John Terry as the greatest centre-back in world football over the past 13 years

Amir Razavi
Published 04/01/2013 10:35 by Amir Razavi, read by 43,421 people.

Great teams are undoubtedly built on a strong platform at the back, and goals would mean nothing without solidarity in defence. This list gives a unique look back at some of the greatest centre-backs of the 21st Century.


A huge defender who's aerial attribute and physical presence is almost unmatched, the Brazilian is also great going forward.

An essential part of the Inter Milan team that lifted the 2010 UEFA Champions League, and also played the entire 630 minutes of the 2002 FIFA World Cup, which Brazil won. These are just some highlights of an illustrious career spanning over a decade.

Vincent Kompany

The towering Belgian centre-half was instrumental in Manchester City's title victory last season, captaining the side to glory.

One of the only signings of the early-rich City era that they weren't ripped off for, he has proved a huge bargain, being named in the 2011 and 2012 Premier League Team of the Year respectively, as well as receiving the Premier League Player of the Year award last season. Still only 26, we still have a lot to see from Kompany.

Gerard Pique

Always a clearly talented footballer, it wasn't until his return to Barcelona in 2008 that we have seen his true potential utilised. Part of the hugely famed Barca Cantera, he clearly learnt to play their way, with terrific passing ability long or short accompanied by excellent composure.

Pique has played a huge part in the success of both the Catalans and Spain, where he's won the World Cup in 2010 and the European Championships in 2012, along with his host of individual accolades.

Rio Ferdinand

A brilliant English talent, Rio Ferdinand is a rare kind of central defender. With great strength and blistering pace, his best components are arguably his composure on the ball and exhilerating skill. Unseen in a player of his position, Rio is the perfect example on how to be a world-class centre-back.

Throughout his career he's breezed into every squad he's been associated with at both club and international level, and has received rave reviews from many pundits for his high level of consistency.

A back injury has troubled him in recent years, but with that seeming to have been sorted out through a complicated programme, this season we really have seen him return to his very best.

5. Alessandro Nesta

A phenomenal defender, Nesta was a player that has cemented a place in top teams no matter how old. An intelligent player with a great reading of the game, he played for both broke into the Lazio first team as a 17-year-old, and just four years after he became club captain.

Making a move to Milan later in his career, he held down a starting place at the club all the way until the end of the 2011/12 season when his contract ended, signalling the end of an incredible era at the top of European football with a series of winners' medals to add to his haul of individual honours.

4. Lilian Thuram

Playing at the very highest level for his entire 18-year career, Lilian Thuram has played for Monaco, Parma, Juventus and Barcelona. Part of the stalwart Juve defence that were almost unplayable from 2001-2006, he was bought by the Old Lady for £25million - a price tag that expresses his huge talent.

The highest-capped player for his country, with 142 in total, this shows how essential he was in all of the teams he featured in. Unfortunately he was forced to retire through a rare heart disease, but he will be remembered as a phenomenal defender with all the correct attributes.

3. Nemanja Vidic

An old-fashioned defender, Vidic does not hesitate to put his body on the line to prevent any opportunity for the opposition. Though his last two seasons have been blighted by injury, he is club captain and for all the right reasons.

A true leader of men, the Serb is well-known for being a stern, no-nonsense opponent who intimidates many strikers with his presence. Also a loyal servant, Vidic has been at Manchester United for the past seven years where he has accumulated a giant cabinet of achievements.

2. Fabio Cannavaro

From his image, you would not portray Cannavaro as a domineering centre-back. Standing at 5ft 9in, he was a very strong player who could anticipate situations many others could not, and brilliant in aerial battles regardless of height.

Only the second defender to ever win the Fifa World Player of the Year award, and being the oldest recipient, this just shows his sheer class as a footballer. Also an inspirational dressing room personality, the Italian was captain at most of his teams, including the national team.

Unfortunately we saw him have a run of bad form in his last few seasons in Europe, but he will be earmarked as a key figure of all of his team's successes.

1. John Terry

'Mr Chelsea' has been through it all with his club and has pledged admirable loyalty to the Blues. Showing true desire and appetite to win a football match, he has been the driving force of a team that has won three league titles, a Champions League and not to mention the four FA Cups and various other trophies.

Also the club's top scoring defender ever, the awards he's received are testament to his incredible talent, and despite off-field troubles, rightly the pick of the bunch.

DISCLAIMER: This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeFootball Writing Academy and does not represent the views of or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

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