Many of us cannot imagine our lives without football. The experience of watching the harmonious performance of our favorite football team can bring us an indescribable sense of pleasure.
Indeed, for most of us, goals are more exciting. However, as proven, the great feeling of winning matches requires more than scoring goals. We all have felt the cardinal role of defense in football whole-heartedly. We may have proudly shouted with joy when a defender clears the ball up the field or, we may have mumbled curse words after witnessing an unforgivable mistake in the backline.
To highlight the importance of defenders’ performance, here is a review of the best football defenders of 2019-20 season based on what we have seen so far.
Time to take a look at them:
2019 has been unkind to the 28-year-old Muslim as he has been racially abused, injured, suspended, and has made unforgivable individual errors. Nonetheless, even in the midst of Napoli’s colorless form, Kalidou Koulibaly deserves to be placed amongst the best football defenders of 2019-20 season. Having finished the last two seasons as runners-up to Juventus, Napoli is now enduring a rather disappointing season. The position of the club may cause worries for the fans, as its’ loyal defender, Kalidou Koulibaly, who has drawn a lot of attention to himself for some time, is now heavily linked with a January move. The Senegalese center-back joined “Gli Azzuri” in 2014 and gradually, as a result of his stable performances, became a regular starter for the club. Central to Napoli’s success, Koulibaly earned the Serie A Award as the best defender in 2018-19 season.
Koulibaly’s aggressive style of play proves to be a costly problem for him at times. Nevertheless, his physical prowess enables him to make Napoli’s own half a living hell for Serie A’s attackers. “K2” is a beast in duels, and his positioning, tackling, and passing abilities have led him to be praised by the fans as one of the most qualified center-backs in football.
Caglar Soyuncu has made a name for himself as one of the most promising center-backs. Being a distinctive figure in the backline, the 23-year-old center-back has played a crucial role in Leicester City’s success in 2019-20 season. Described as “a defender made for the modern game” by Martin Known in BBC Sport, the Turkish player is one of the main reasons why Leicester City, which finished in 9th in 2018-19 season, is now following the Premier League giants with 45 points in the third place. Before joining Leicester City, the defender played a total of 55 matches for Freiburg during 2016-2018. His mature personality combined with his agility and timing made him a well-known center-back after a very short time. Soyuncu’s reliable style of play resembled the eminent Bundesliga defenders such as Mats Hummels and swiftly alerted the interest of Premier League clubs. In the end, it was Leicester City that managed to successfully persuade him with a five-year contract in August 2018. Harry Maguire’s exceptional performance in the 2018 World Cup, however, cast a shadow on what seemed to be an excellent choice for the Turkish center-back. Football fans saw very little of Soyuncu as he played a total of 5 games for “The Foxes” in their insipid run during the 2018-19 Premier League season. With the departure of Maguire, Brendan Rodgers decided to give Caglar Soyuncu a chance to earn his trust. Indeed, this decision proved to be highly rewarded as Soyuncu became a perfect match for Johnny Evans, a pillar for Leicester City, and one of the best center-backs in 2019-20 season.
Debuting for Leipzig in September 2015 in the 2. Bundesliga, Halstenberg did not imagine to see himself competing for the Bundesliga title 4 years later. The German left-back joined RB Leipzig in 2015, and found himself to be a regular starter for the team in no time. As an integral part of Leipzig, he made 25 appearances in his first season and was a key player for them in their successful run in the 2. Bundesliga. The 28-year-old defender had a significant role in Leipzig’s qualification in the 2019-20 UEFA Champions League and continues to impress in the current season. He is great with the ball, and his defensive and offensive skills are some of the reasons why Leipzig is on the top of the Bundesliga’s table now. However, in accordance with what Halstenberg said in an interview with bundesliga.com “being top of the table now buys you nothing”. Leipzig has to continue their current form in order to win the 2019-20 Bundesliga season; an honor they failed to achieve last year.
Ricardo Pereira left Porto and agreed to join Leicester City in May 2018. In a rather gloomy season for “The Unbelievables”, the Portuguese defender was one of the few positive delights to keep an eye on. Finishing the last season as his team’s Player of the Season, the 26-year-old has kept his impressive form in the 2019-20 season. He is currently known as one of the best right-backs in the world, and his resistance, aggression, and pace are some of the reasons why Leicester’s fans are optimistic about securing a top 4 finish in the world’s most competitive league.
After 4 seasons with MSK Zilina in Slovak Super Liga, Skinnier joined Sampdoria in January 2016. He soon found himself to be a regular member of the starting eleven and finished the 2016-17 season as the youngest defender who has made at least 35 appearances in Serie A. A year and a half after arriving in Italy, and as a result of his steady improvement, the Slovak defender joined Inter Milan as their first signing of the summer in July 2017. Ever since, the 24-year-old is respected for his strength and positioning, and has been a significant player for “The Black and Blues”. Inter Milan has had the best defensive line up so far in 2019-20 Serie A season and is closely following Juventus from the second place.
Liverpool signed Andrew Henry Robertson in July 2017. Throughout the first two seasons, the Scottish defender established himself as a trustworthy player for Liverpool fans and has been praised by many football pundits, including Phil Neville, as the best left-back in the world. The 25-year-old captain of Scotland national football team is known for his endurance, pace, and exceptional crossing ability. After winning the UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup in 2019, he is now looking to secure the first Premier League championship for “The Reds”.
Born in Toledo, a small city in Uruguay, Jose Maria Gimenez signed a contract with Atletico Madrid in April 2013. “Being at Atletico is a dream” the 18-year-old defender said during his presentation. During 7 seasons and a total of 167 appearances for “Los Rojiblancos”, the Uruguayan center-back has lived a long-lasting dream and is now recognized as one of the best defenders in the world. The youngest player to play for Uruguay at a World Cup, Gimenez is known for his outstanding defensive strategies, such as marking and provoking the forwards of the opposing team. He has won 2017 EUFA Europa League and 2018 UEFA Super Cup and is a two-time runner-up in 2013 and 2015 UEFA Champions Leagues.
With the departure of Diego Godin from Atletico Madrid, Gimenez inherited the No. 2 shirt in the beginning of 2019-20 season. Being rivals and friends in Uruguay and Atletico Madrid, the pair have learned a lot from each other in the \ 166 matches played alongside each other. The conclusion of this bidirectional dance, however, does not seem to stop Gimenez from doing his job. So far, he has effectively assumed the obligations of his long-time teammate, and as a result, Atletico Madrid has the second best defense in La Liga by conceding only 14 goals in 20 matches.
Leonardo Bonucci was signed by Juventus on 1 July 2010 and became Giorgio Chiellini’s partner in defense. With Andrea Barzagli, the trio formed one of the best defensive lines in the world and earned the nickname of BBC. Bonucci won 3 consecutive Coppa Italia titles and has earned the Serie A championship for 6 consecutive seasons. After a disappointing season with A. C. Milan, the Italian defender returned to Juventus and continued to shine for “La Vecchia Signora”. The vice-captain of Juventus and Italy national football team is admired for his strength, positioning, and passing range. As one of the best defenders in 2019-20 season, Bonucci is helping Juventus to maintain in their place at the top of the table, hoping to earn the ninth consecutive title in Serie A for “The Black and Whites”.
Beginning his career in Ligue 2, Clement Lenglet helped Nancy to win French Second Division and be promoted back to Ligue 1 after 3 years of absence. His dominant presence in Nancy’s backline caught the attention of the 2016 UEFA Europa League champions. Sevilla were able to talk the left-footed defender into moving to Spain and sign him a contract until 2021. Clement Lenglet made 73 appearances for “Los Nervionenses”. However, his contract was terminated after 2 seasons as he joined Barcelona on 12 July 2018.
The French center-back is known for his excellent decision-making. He was able to establish himself as a noteworthy replacement for Samuel Umtiti, the World Cup champion who got an early injury in 2018-19 season. The 23-year-old’s top-class defensive skills alongside his sharp vision for long passes have made the “Blaugranes” trust him as Gerard Pique’s companion at the heart of Barca’s defensive end. Although Barca was knocked out in the semi-final 2019-20 Supercopa de Espana, they are having a rather successful season so far. Currently sitting on the top of the La Liga’s table, they will face Napoli in about 5 weeks, hoping to further their run in UEFA Champions League.
Sergio Ramos Garcia has been known as one of the best defenders in the world for more than a decade now. The Real Madrid Legendary center-back is gifted with everything a defender needs: Strong physics, speed, aggression, short and long range passing abilities, competency in one to one encounters, heading accuracy, and an eye to scoring goals. In his prestigious career, the 2010 World Cup winner has won La Liga, Supercopa de Espana, UEFA Champions League, and FIFA Club World Cup 4 times. Sergio Ramos holds the record of the defender being included in UEFA Team of the Year for 8 times. Additionally, he has claimed the La Liga Award for the best defender 5 times.
In 2005, Real Madrid paid €27 million and secured the signing of the most expensive Spanish defender to sign Ramos. Capable of playing in various positions, he became a critical figure in Real Madrid’s defensive line with no delay. After 15 seasons, the 33-year-old defender has played more than 630 games for Real Madrid and continues to shine in the current campaign. Thanks to the experience of captain Ramos, Real Madrid has the best defensive line in Spanish football in 2019-20 season so far.
Trent Alexander-Arnold is just 21 years old, but he is already being admired as one of the best right-backs in 2019-20 season, if not the best. The English Defender is an academy product and has been a Red since 2004. He was the club’s Under-16 and Under-18 captain and many, including Steven Gerard, the Liverpool legend, predicted a bright future for him. He started his senior career in 2016, and even though he had some shaky performances, Nathaniel Clyne’s back injury provided an opportunity for him to prove himself. His creativity, ruthlessness, and impressive passing abilities claimed him a spot as a regular starter for the club in 2017. Consequently, the 2018 Golden Boy runner-up, has the Guinness World Record for the most Premier League assists by a defender in a single season. With just 116 appearances for Liverpool, he has won 2018 UEFA Champions League, 2019 UEFA Super Cup, and 2019 Fifa Club World Cup.
Unsurprisingly, when discussing the best center-backs in the world in 2019, Virgil Van Dijk takes the top spot. The right-footed center-back was admired by Lionel Messi in a 2019 interview with Marca, where the best football player of all time said: “He is a defender who knows how to judge his timing and wait for the right moment to challenge or jockey. He is very fast and big, but he has a lot of agility for height. He is fast because of his great stride, and he is impressive both in defense and attack because he scores lots of goals.”
We could not agree more with Messy as being in the peak of his career, the 28-year-old center-back is an absolute football legend already.
Joining Liverpool as the world’s most expensive defender, Virgil Van Dijk did not need much time to be revered by Kopites. He made his debut for Liverpool in the Merseyside derby and scored the winning goal with a late header to earn a sweet victory against Everton. However, a great number of football fans still treated him with skepticism. After all, the Dutch center-back had cost Liverpool a reported fee of £75 million. “The Reds” expected a lot, and Van Dijk, not yielding to the pressure, certainly delivered. He went on to receive a lot of nominations and awards for his stable performance throughout 2018-19 season. Strong and agile, the leader of Liverpool’s defense won UEFA Player of the Year award in August 2019, and further finished runner-up behind the Argentine genius, Lionel Messi, in the 64th annual ceremony of the Ballon d’Or in December 2019. He was the first center-back who was able to secure a place in the first three spots in Ballon d’Or in the last 13 years, after Fabio Cannavaro won the award in 2006. Van Dijk’s success was followed in the 2019 Fifa Club World Cup with Liverpool winning the prestigious trophy for the first time ever in the club’s rich history. Chasing the longest unbeaten run with Liverpool, Van Dijk has experienced the sweet taste of victory in 21 matches out of the first 22 matches he has played in the Premier League, while conceding only 14 goals so far. It has to be mentioned that Van Dijk has had an illustrious time in 2019-20 season, and his goal in Liverpool’s latest match against their old enemies, Manchester United was the icing on the cake. We just have to wait and see what more awaits the stellar center-back throughout the season, and enjoy a wonderful sense of awe by watching his solid performances.
Whose name do you think is missing in the list? Let us know in the comment section.