Best Defenders Ever in the Premier League History
Almost all of them are retired by now but the mark they have left in the Premier League history will remain forever! That’s why we have chosen them as the best Premier league defenders ever.
People like John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, and Sol Campbell will surely fit on the list of Best Premier League Defenders Ever. They have done great services to their teams and were considered not only the best defenders in EPL but also among the greatest defenders in the world in their own times.
The List of the Best Premier League Defenders Ever
The list of the Best Premier League Defenders Ever starts with John Terry, and Rio Ferdinand. These two are from England, however, the list of the Best Defenders in the Premier League History doesn’t have to necessarily comprise of English players as it is not - we have players from other nationalities on this list.
One of the best Premier League defenders ever, John George Terry, simply known as John Terry, was considered even one of the best defenders in the world some time during his career - in fact, when he was at his peak.
He played all his senior career for Chelsea, namely from 1998 to 2017, except for one season (2017-18) that he played for Aston Villa. Terry retired in the same season and currently works as the assistant head coach at Aston Villa.
Terry appeared 492 times for Chelsea and even captained the team for some time scoring 41 goals for them in the process despite being a defender. In fact, with that number of goals, he’s Chelsea’s highest scoring defender ever.
And with the number of titles Terry has won with Chelsea, namely five Premier League titles, five FA Cups, One UEFA Europa League, and One UEFA Champions League, they say the 39-year-old retired English defender is one of the most successful captains Chelsea have ever had.
Terry has also made 78 appearances for the England national team between 2003 and 2012 and scored 6 goals for them in the process. He was named in the FIFA World Cup All-Star Team in 2006, in PFA Team of the Year for four seasons, and even PFA Team of the Century in 2007.
He was also named Chelsea Player of the Year in two seasons between 2000 and 2005, PFA Players' Player of the Year in 2004-05 season and UEFA Club Defender of the Year for three years.
With all these honors, Terry is for sure one of the all-time best defenders in EPL history, if not the best Premier League defender ever. He is also the only captain ever in the Premier League history to have won five Premier League titles with the team he captained (Chelsea).
The well-known Manchester United center-back, Rio Gavin Ferdinand, simply known as Rio Ferdinand, is actually a product of West Ham United.
However, he made the most number of appearances for the Red Devils during his footballing career, actually 312 appearances which was almost two to three times higher than the appearances he had made for his mother club, West Ham (127).
One interesting fact about Ferdinand is that he broke the transfer fee record twice during his footballing career, once when he was transferred to Leeds United for a transfer fee of €19.8 million in 2000, and a second time in July 2002 when he moved to Manchester United for a transfer fee of €33.11 million.
Not only a tall defender - he’s 189 cm - Ferdinand was also a confident and elegant one in style who was known for his great technical ability. He also broke the record of the youngest defender ever to play for the England national team at his own time by playing for the team at the age of 21.
As for Ferdinand’s honors, he was named West Ham United Hammer of the Year - the counterpart of other teams Player of the Year! - in 1997-98 season, and also in the Premier League Team of the Year for six seasons.
With Manchester United, Ferdinand won six Premier League titles, two Football League Cups, one UEFA Champions League, and one FIFA Club World Cup. He was also inducted into English Football Hall of Fame in 2016. One of the best Premier League defenders ever? For sure!
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One of the best defenders in the Premier League history and a center-back like his counterpart, Rio Ferdinand, Sulzeer Jeremiah Campbell, simply known as Sol Campbell, played for two Premier League clubs, namely Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, for the majority of his footballing career.
And for Tottenham, he made more than 100 appearances than Arsenal - he made 255 appearances for Tottenham while he appeared only 146 times for Arsenal.
However and despite his lesser appearances for Arsenal, Campbell has won more titles and trophies with the English club. In fact, he has won two Premier League titles and FA Cups and one UEFA Champions League with Arsenal during his career, while he has only won one Football League Cup with Tottenham during the same period, namely in 1998-99 season.
Although born in England, Campbell is of Jamaican origin - like John Barnes of Liverpool - so he’s expected to be as strong and athletic as other African footballers as he really is - better said was!
And like other African footballers he used his physical powers to win the duels both on the ground and in the air since he was also a tall defender - he’s 188 cm. The 45-year-old retired English defender was also part of the Arsenal squad who were known as the invincibles for their undefeated run in 2003-04 season.
A product of Arsenal who only played for the English club during his career, Tony Alexander Adams, simply known as Tony Adams, is, with no doubt, one of the best Premier League defenders ever.
And not only one of the best defenders in the Premier League history, but also he is one of the greatest players in Arsenal history based on fans’ votes.
Adams made more than 500 appearances for Arsenal during his career and even scored 32 goals for them during this time. He is and was a tall defender, even taller than the top Premier League defenders already mentioned, though only by a few centimeters - he’s 191 cm.
So, no wonder that he had the upper hand in aerial duels. He was even once called the “stopper” by Tom Sheen of The Guardian in 2014. However and despite all these advantages, he suffered from lack of pace on the pitch.
Adams has captained both Arsenal and England national team during his career, for the latter he appeared 66 times and even scored 5 goals.
As for his honors, The 53-year-old retired English center back has won two Football League First Division - the top tier of English football league system before the formation of the Premier League - titles, two Premier League titles, three FA Cups, and two Football League Cups with Arsenal - he has indeed won more with the Premier League club!
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Adams was also named on the list of Football League 100 Legends which is a list of 100 greatest footballers who spent all or part of their careers in English football.
He was named in the PFA Team of the Century and was inducted into English Football Hall of Fame in 2004. And last but not least, he is a member of The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for his services to football.
Another of the best defenders in the Premier League history with African origin, Kolo Abib Touré, simply known as Kolo Touré, is from and was born in Ivory Coast in 1981 (Aged 39).
Touré is best known for being an Arsenal player since he made 3 to 5 times more appearances for Arsenal (actually 225) than any other club he played for during his career.
Unlike other best defenders in EPL history already mentioned, Kolo Touré is not a very tall defender - he’s 178 cm (almost 10 cm shorter than the top defenders already mentioned), however, according to the Premier League website, the 39-year-old retired Ivorian defender has taken part in 638 aerial duels during his career of which he has won 308.
That counts for almost half of the aerial duels he’s been part of. So, by these records, we can say he has been not very good but reasonably good in the air.
Touré has made 120 appearances for the Ivorian national team in several international competitions including three FIFA World Cups and seven Africa Cup of Nations between 2000 and 2015.
He’s, in fact, the second most capped footballer in Ivory Coast, and if he just made 4 more appearances, he could break the Didier Zokora’s record of 123 caps.
One interesting fact about Touré is that he actually started his career as a striker, and although later he shifted to center back position, he retained some of his attacking ability and could even use it if he was not deployed in the center of defense.
As for his honors, Touré has earned most of them with Arsenal. These include one Premier League title, two FA Cups, and two FA Community Shield trophies. He has also one Scottish Premiership and one Scottish League Cup in the bag both of which he earned when he served Celtic in 2016-17 season. And add to that one Africa Cup of Nations, too (in 2015).
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Named as Tottenham’s 25th best player of all time by Time Magazine and one of the best ever defenders in the club’ history, Ledley Brenton King, simply known as Ledley King, is a product of Tottenham and has played all his career for the English club, namely from 1999 to 2012, and if his chronic knee injury did not stop him, he even served the Lilywhites for longer.
During his short 13-year-long career, King appeared 268 times for Tottenham at league level (323 times in total) and even scored 10 goals for them. He also won the Football League Cup with the English club in 2007-08 season and was named Premier League Player of the Month in 2004.
And as an international, King represented England in 21 matches across two competitions, namely Euro 2004 and 2010 FIFA World Cup, between 2002 and 2010, and even managed to score two goals.
The 39-year-old retired English defender also captained Tottenham from 2005 on, however, the knee injury he received during a training session in 2006 actually proved to be a chronic one with no cure or redemption and finally caused his pre-matured retirement in 2012.
A non-English footballer among the best Premier League defenders ever, Nemanja Vidic is actually a Serbian defender who served Manchester United more than any other club during his footballing career, actually for 8 years from 2006 to 2014.
He has also served other top-tier clubs, including Inter Milan, Spartak Moscow, and Red Star Belgrade, during his career as a player.
And if you know the number of appearances Vidic has made for Manchester United (actually 211 at league level) are 3 to 5 times higher than the other clubs he served, you’ll admit that he should be best known, as he is, as a Manchester United player.
Vidic was actually a tall defender - he’s 190 cm - and that meant, besides being a tough and strong defender in ground challenges, he was also good in the air.
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Described once as a “no-nonsense” defender by the Guardian, the 38-year-old retired Serbian defender was also a good set-piece taker. He was also praised for his aggressive style of play in defense and bravery on the pitch by his Man Utd teammates.
As for his honors, Vidic was named Serbian Footballer of the Year in 2005 and 2008, Manchester United Players' Player of the Year in 2008-09 season, and Premier League Player of the Season in 2008-09 and 2010-11 seasons.
Vidic is also the winner of five Premier League titles, three Football League Cups, five FA Community Shield trophies, One UEFA Champions League, and one FIFA Club World Cup with Man Utd. Quite a sum! So, by all these honors, we could surely call him one of the best EPL defenders ever.
Not more than a year since he has retired, Ashley Cole is considered to be one of the best EPL defenders of all time. He is actually a product of Arsenal and has played the majority of his footballing career for two Premier League clubs, namely Arsenal and Chelsea.
And in the 15 years that he served these two clubs, he made more appearances for Chelsea (229) than Arsenal (156), despite the fact that he served them almost for the same number of years.
Ashley Cole is the second most capped English defender ever with 107 caps won between 2001 and 2014, and if he just made one more appearance - Just one more appearance! - he would rank first jointly with Bobby Moore on the list of English defenders with the most number of caps.
Like Sol Campbell, Ashely Cole was also part of the Arsenal team who became known as “the invincibles” for their season-long unbeaten run in in 2003-04 season - maybe because they had these two top defenders in their first-team squad?
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One interesting fact about Cole is that, as a youngster, he liked attacking and scoring, and maybe that’s why he was known as an attacking defender throughout his career, a defender who loved to attack as was described once by the former Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger.
Cole was also named the England Player of the Year in 2010 and won a little bit more than a handful of titles and trophies, including Premier League, FA Cup, and UEFA Champions League, during the time he served Arsenal and Chelsea.
A product of Manchester United who only served Manchester United during his career, Gary Neville was one of the best in the business at his own time and is also considered to be one of the best EPL defenders ever.
He also ranks fifth on the list of players who have served Manchester United the most with 602 appearances for the Premier League club, according to statista.com - the list covers appearances between 1902 and 2019. In that regard, Neville is even in front of Wayne Rooney who has made 559 appearances for the Red Devils during his career.
As a defender, Neville was known for his aggressive style of play; he was a hard-tackling defender with determination who was able to support his then-teammates (people like David Beckham) with accurate passes and advances that he made to the opposing half.
And it was for his play style that he was sometimes described as a traditional defender. However, that didn’t mean he was bad, it just meant he was a combatant on the pitch!
As for the 45-year-old retired English defender’s honors, we should say that he’s a prolific winner with 8 Premier League titles, 3 FA Cups, 2 Football League Cups, 3 FA Community Shield trophies, 2 UEFA Champions League titles, 1 intercontinental Cup, and 1 FIFA Club World Cup.
Neville was also named in the PFA Premier League Team of the Year in 5 seasons and also in the PFA Team of the Century in 2007. He was also inducted into English Football Hall of Fame in 2015.
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Another non-English footballer who is indeed among the best defenders ever in the Premier League history; Vincent Kompany is actually from Belgium and is a product of the top-tier Belgian club, Anderlecht.
He has also played for Anderlecht during his footballing career, but it is Manchester City that he has served the most - actually for 11 years from 2008 to 2019.
Unlike all the other top Premier League defenders already mentioned, Kompany is still in the business - he’s not retired - and the interesting thing is that he’s back to his mother club, Anderlecht, (since 2019).
The 34-year-old Belgian defender has also served his country’s national team since 2004 making 89 appearances and scoring 4 goals for them in the process.
Kompany has also a number of honors in the bag some of them include Belgian Golden Shoe in 2004, Belgian Young Professional Footballer of the Year in 2004 and 2005, Manchester City Player's Player of the Year in 2010-11 season, and Premier League Player of the Season in 2011-12 season. He has also won 4 Premier League titles, 2 FA Cups, and 4 EFL Cups during his time at Manchester City.
And the list of the Best Premier League Defenders Ever continues!
In this post, we just mentioned the defenders that not only have had the best performances in the Premier League but also they have been in the major English league for most of their careers.
However, there are or have been still great defenders in the Premier League who deserve to be mentioned here, but have not been since it’s out of our readers’ patience. These great players have served one or more Premier League clubs at least for half of their careers, if not more.
- Virgil van Dijk (and he has the potential to become the best Premier League defender ever!)
- David Luiz
- Kyle Walker
- Gary Pallister
- Pablo Zabaleta
- Jacob Harry Maguire
- Jamie Carragher
- Sami Hyypiä
- Andrew Robertson