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Best Italian Defenders of all time

Wed 20 January 2021 | 16:30

Italy is one of the countries that has been the birthplace of many superstars in football history. Read on to find out about the best Italian defenders of all time.

Italian national team

is one of the most successful teams in the world, and so are the Italian clubs. The national team has won 4 FIFA World Cups in 1934, 1938, 1982 and 2006, only Brazil national team with 5 titles won stands above them.

Moreover, they have been runner-ups twice, and reached a third place and a fourth place in the World Cup, in addition to a one time European Championship in 1968. Also being known as "Azzurri", they are famous for their impenetrable defense which brought them all those achievements.

"Catenaccio" which is a highly defensive tactics of play which is commonly associated with Italians, both in national team and clubs in

Serie A

, with some managers still having faith in it and put it in action.

Many of the best ever football defenders have been Italian, thus the country is known to have great strong patriotic defenders who act like they are defending their lives on the pitch. The world knows Italian football because of its defenders.

The followings are some of the best Italian defenders of all time:

Let's check out some of these legendary players, best Italian defenders of all time, who made a name for themselves and for Italian football by their luminous careers.

Giorgio Chiellini

  • Full name: Giorgio Chiellini

  • Place of birth: Pisa, Italy

  • Position(s): Centre-back, left-back

Date of birth:

14

August 1984 (age 37)

Height:

1.87

m (6 ft 2 in)

Giorgio Chiellini, born 14 August 1984, is an Italian professional footballer who plays as a defender and captains both Serie A club

Juventus

and the Italy national team

.

Chiellini is the current captain of both Italian national team and the club Juventus who is widely regarded as one of the

best Italian defenders of all time

. He joined Juventus in 2004 from

Fiorentina

and never looked back, having made 517 appearances for the club ever since.

The aggressive physically strong defender has been a huge contribution to the club in winning 9 consecutive Serie A titles from 2012 until the very recent season, in addition to 4 Italian cups, 4 Italian Super Cups and one

Serie B

trophy in 2007.

The mobile defender has represented his country in all youth levels and won the 2003 European Under-19 championship with Italy. He made his debut for Italian national team in 2004 when he was 20, and went on to play in 105 matches for Azzurri and currently captaining them, they also reached the final of Euro 2012, where they lost the match to Spain and as well as being  placed the 3

rd

 in 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup.

He is widely known as one of the best defenders of his generation due to his abilities in organizing the back-line, winning aerial duels, launching attacks, man-marking, tenacity and good vision on the pitch which has made many of his former coaches praise him with phrases like, "the best defender in the world", "a force of nature" and "He is from another planet".

Furthermore, Chiellini is a very dedicated player which every team craves to have such a brilliant defender, and indeed, one of the best ever Italian defenders.

Gianluca Zambrotta

  • Full name: Gianluca Zambrotta

  • Date of birth: 19 February 1977 (age 44)

  • Place of birth: Como, Italy

  • Height: 1.81 m (5 ft 11 1⁄2 in)

  • Playing position(s): Full-back, wide midfielder

Gianluca Zambrotta Ufficiale OMRI, born 19 February 1977, is an Italian former professional footballer who played as a full-back or as a wide midfielder, on both the left and right wings

.

Zambrotta was a full back who excelled in attacking play and also did his defensive duties perfectly, which alongside his achievements, makes him one of the all-time best Italian defenders.

Moreover, he was a versatile player who could play both in right and left side of the pitch, as a defender or a midfielder. Zambrotta is mainly remembered for his time at Juventus,

AC Milan

and

Barcelona

.

He has played in 296 matches for the Zebras during 7 years, and helped them secure 2 Serie A titles well as 2 Italian Super Cups. He left his country to join Barcelona in 2006, where he achieved a Spanish Super Cup in 2007.

After a two-year journey in Spain, he returned to his country in 2008 and joined AC Milan. He went on to earn one more Serie A title alongside another Italian Super Cup with them. Furthermore, he has made 98 international appearances for his national team, having participated in 3 World Cups and 3 Euros.

What is more, the most remarkable achievement of his professional career is most certainly winning the 2006 FIFA World Cup with Italian national team. He was a fast strong player with great tackling ability and high stamina, and has a good control on the ball.

In addition, his shots were very powerful and his crosses were accurate. He is deservedly considered as one of the best Italian defenders of all time.

Tarcisio Burgnich

  • Full name: Tarcisio Burgnich

  • Date of birth: 25 April 1939 (age 82)

  • Place of birth: Ruda, Italy

  • Height: 1.75 m (5 ft 9 in)

  • Playing position(s): Defender

Tarcisio Burgnich, born 25 April 1939, is an Italian former football manager and player, who played as a defender.

Burgnich was a strong defender who is mainly remembered for his performances in

Internazionale

and

Napoli

. However, he has played for Juventus in 16 matches alongside winning a Serie A title in 1961.

Burgnich has represented Internazionale in 471 matches and helped them secure 4 Serie A trophies, 2 European champion clubs' cup winner and 2 intercontinental Cups. Moreover, he claimed 1 Italian Cup with Napoli in 1976, where he has made 121 appearances for.

Burgnich excelled in Catenaccio system due to his persistency, strength and speed. He was a vital part of the national team which won the European championship in 1968 and has played 66 matches for his national team.

Furthermore, He was a hard-working intelligent defender who was very hard to get past in one on one situations, as well as his tenacity and stamina that are his other abilities that stands him out as one of the best Italian defenders of all time.    

Antonio Cabrini

  • Full name: Antonio Cabrini

  • Place of birth: Cremona, Italy

  • Position(s): Left-back

Date of birth:

8

October 1957 (age 63)

Height:

1.78

m (5 ft 10 in)

Antonio Cabrini, born 8 October 1957, is an Italian professional football manager and a former player. He has played left-back, mainly with Juventus. He won the 1982 FIFA World Cup with the Italian national team

.

Cabrini is one of the best Italian defenders of all time who has spent most of his professional career with Juventus and won all of his club achievements with Bianconeri.

He has made 440 appearances for Juventus and won 6 Serie A titles, 2 Italian Cups, 1 European champion clubs' cup, 1 UEFA Cup, 1 Intercontinental Cup, 1 UEFA Cup Winners' cup and 1 UEFA Super Cup with them during 13 years. Cabrini, with the help of the legendary Dino Zoff, formed one of the unbeatable defensive unites in the history of football.

Moreover, he has a stunning international career with Italian national team. To clarify the point, he was named as the best young player in the 1978 World Cup where the placed 4TH , and 4 years later, he helped Azzurri win the 1982 World Cup after reaching another 4th place in EURO 1980.

Furthermore, he is one of the very few players to have won all off the UEFA competitions as the name were mentioned previously, he managed to win all of them with Juventus. He was known for his pace, strength, crossing ability as well as his technique with the ball, and is regarded as a revolutionary person in his position due to his finishing ability in front of the goal. He also took penalty kicks and free kicks.

The mentioned capabilities of his, in addition to his ability in aerial battles and tenacity are what make him one of the

best Italian defenders ever

, with great popularity due to his athletic open disciplined character.

Claudio Gentile

  • Full name: Claudio Gentile

  • Date of birth: 27 September 1953 (age 68)

  • Place of birth: Tripoli, Kingdom of Libya

  • Height: 1.77 m (5 ft 10 in)

  • Playing position(s): Defender

Claudio Gentile, born 27 September 1953, is an Italian association football manager and former defender of the 1970s and 1980s

.

Claudio Gentile is regarded to be one of the best Italian defenders ever and one of the best defenders of his generation.

He spent most of his career in Juventus, having made 411 appearances for Bianconeri in 11 years and winning numerous titles and honors, he will be remembered by Juventus fans, as well as all of the Italians, since he was a pivotal part of the 1982 World Cup winning team and has made a total of 71 appearances for Azzurri.

He played a vital role in winning  6 Serie A titles, 2 Italian Cups, 1 UEFA Cup and 1 UEFA Cup winners' Cup for Juventus. Gentile was a strong ruthless defender who could play in many different positions, and being helpful in each of them.

Alongside his teammates Cabrini, Dino Zoff, Scirea and Brio, they formed one of the most formidable defense lines in the history of football both in Juventus and Italian national team.

Moreover, he had an aggressive style of play with hard tackles and a hard-working personality. Gentile is unquestionably one of the

best Italian defenders of all time

for having such and impressive career. 

Alessandro Nesta

  • Full name: Alessandro Nesta

  • Date of birth: 19 March 1976 (age 44)

  • Place of birth: Rome, Italy

  • Height: 1.87 m (6 ft 2 in)

  • Playing position(s): Centre back

Alessandro Nesta, born 19 March 1976, is an Italian professional football manager and former player who currently manages Serie B club Frosinone

.

Nesta is deservedly considered as not only one of the best Italian defenders ever, but he is known to be one of the best center backs of all time. Nesta spent most of his career in

Lazio

and AC Milan and has won some prestigious awards with both of them.

Nesta has played in 261 matches for Lazio, where he earned 1 Serie A title in 2000, 2 Italian Cups, 1 UEFA Super Cup and 1 UEFA Cup winners' cup before joining AC Milan in 2002. He stayed at San Siro for a decade and played in 326 matches and helped them secure 2 Champions league titles, 2 Serie A titles, 1 Italian Cup, 2 Italian Super Cups, 1 FIFA Clubs World cup and 2 UEFA Super Cups.

Moreover, he has also played in 78 caps for Italian national team including 3 World Cup tournaments and 3 European championships. He was a part of the team that won 2006 World Cup. He was an agile player with great vision and passing ability, who stood out for his extraordinary tackling skills and control on the ball.

Furthermore, Alessandro Nesta was known to have perfect balance, wonderful stamina and acceleration for a defender as well as astonishing heading ability and exceptional talent in anticipating the opponent and notable positioning.

He was also famous for his acrobatic clearances.  Nesta is indubitably one of the best Italian defenders of all time whose achievements will show his greatness.

Fabio Cannavaro

  • Full name: Fabio Cannavaro

  • Date of birth: 13 September 1973 (age 48)

  • Place of birth: Naples, Italy

  • Height: 1.75 m (5 ft 9 in)

  • Playing position(s): Centre-back

Fabio Cannavro is the last defender who managed to win the Ballon d'Or and the best FIFA Men's player award, which happened in 2006 due to the Italy's championship in World Cup with him being the captain. He is regarded as one of the best Italian defenders of all time and one of the best defenders in his time.

He has played in Napoli, Juventus,

Real Madrid

, Inter Milan and

Parma Calcio 1913

. He spent the last few years of his career in UAE until his retirement in 2011. The agile defender won 1 UEFA Cup, 1 Italian Super Cup and 2 Italian Cups with Parma, where he had made 228 appearances, before moving to Inter in 2002.

He went on to join Juventus in 2004 but could not win any major trophies with either of them until he joined Real Madrid inn 2006. He helped the Whites secure 1 Spanish Super Cup and 2 Consecutive

La Liga

titles in 2007 and 2008. He has also won 2 European Under-21 Championship with Italy in 1994 and 1996.

Cannavaro was excellent at reading the game, in addition to his awareness, intelligence, versatility and his ability in playing with the ball. Moreover, he had a great pace and stamina, as well as his expertise in aerial battles, with very accurate headers that led to many goals, in spite of the fact that he is not considered tall as a defender.

Furthermore, Cannavaro's slide tackling ability was out-standing. He also had admirable leadership and could organize his defense line very well. He could arouse interest in his teammates, stay calm under high pressures, and was disciplined on and off the pitch, thus he was a brilliant captain for any team who lack a leader.

Cannavaro is undisputedly one of the

best Italian defenders in football history

, especially for his Ballon d'Or, which is very rare for a defender to win it, and that makes his achievement even more impressive.

Giuseppe Bergomi

  • Full name: Giuseppe Bergomi

  • Date of birth: 22 December 1963 (age 58)

  • Place of birth: Milan, Italy

  • Height: 1.85 m (6 ft 1 in)

  • Playing position(s): Defender

The legendary defender, who spent his entire career in Inter Milan, is widely regarded as one of the best Italian defenders of all time. He has made 754 appearances for the club and played an important role in winning 2 Serie A titles, 1 Italian Cup, 1 Italian Super Cup and 3 UEFA Cups.

Moreover, the player is a world champion, since he was a part of the Italian squad who won the 1982 FIFA World Cup. Bergomi is known for his versatility, to clarify the point, he could play in any defensive positions.

He was a hard-working player with offensive style of play, high stamina, superb man-marking ability, tenacity, balance and skills with the ball. Due to his rough style of play he was sent off 12 times in his career. In addition, he was a tremendous contribution to the attack line, with great shot power from outside of the box and excellent crossing ability. Bergomi is a legend to Inter fans and to all the Italians, and has engraved his name in their minds as one of the

best ever Italian defenders

.

Giacinto Facchetti

  • Full name: Giacinto Facchetti

  • Date of birth: 18 July 1942

  • Place of birth: Treviglio, Italy

  • Date of death: 4 September 2006 (aged 65)

  • Place of death: Milan, Italy

  • Height: 1.91 m (6 ft 3 in)

  • Playing position(s): Left-back

Faccheti is a genuine legend to Inter Milan, for he has spent his entire career in the team and was a pivotal part of the "grande Inter" under the management of Helenio Herrera that claimed numerous prestigious titles.

As one of the best Italian defenders in football history, Facchetti has played in 637 games in 18 years and scored 76 goals, an impressive goal record for a defender at the time. Faccheti, regarded as one of the best Italian defenders of all time, has helped the club secure 4 Serie A titles, 2 European champion clubs' cups, 1 Italian Cup and 2 intercontinental cups with his astonishing performances in the defense phase.

Since he had been a midfielder-forward before his professional career, Facchetti had marvelous attacking abilities in scoring and providing assists, and also in launching attacks from the back line.

Moreover, he was a hard-working, elegant, intelligent and a great man-marker with out-standing physical and technical features who could distribute the ball very well. He could play with his both feet and was reliable in the air.

The calm defender has been sent off once in his career. Furthermore, he was placed 2nd in Ballon d'Or in 1965. Not only is Facchetti regarded as one of the best Italian defenders off all time, he is also one of the greatest full-backs in the history of the sport.

Gaetano Scirea

  • Full name: Gaetano Scirea

  • Date of birth: 25 May 1953

  • Place of birth: Cernusco s. N., Italy

  • Date of death: 3 September 1989 (aged 36)

  • Place of death: Babsk, Poland

  • Height: 1.78 m (5 ft 10 in)

  • Playing position(s): Defender

Gaetano Scirea is a very unique defender in the history of football due to his style of play and achievements, which makes him to be known as one of the

all-time best Italian defenders

.

Scirea is one of the only 6 football players who managed to achieve every international trophy for clubs by FIFA and UEFA, and he is one of the 9 players to have one all of the 3 major UEFA tournaments, which he did when playing for Juventus.

Aside from a two-year stay at Atalanta, the legendary defender spent 14 years of his career in Juventus, where reached the summit of his career. He played in 550 matches for Bianconeri, helped them secure 7 Serie A titles, 2 Italian Cups, 1 European Champion Clubs' cup, 1 UEFA Cup, 1 Intercontinental cup, 1 UEFA cup winners' Cup and 1 UEFA Super cup.

As mentioned, he achieved every international and European trophy possible for a football club. He was an elegant player who benched the great "Baresi" in ITALIAN NATIONAL TEAM until his Scirea's retirement.

Moreover, he has played in 78 caps for Italian national team and won the 1982 World Cup.  He is renowned for having an innate talent of technical skills and tactical abilities, as well as fair play and his leadership capabilities, since he has never been sent off during his career.

Scirea's vision on the pitch alongside his other abilities and achievements have made him one of the most notable defenders of all time, and definitely one of the best Italian defenders if all time. 

Franco Baresi

  • Full name: Franchino Baresi

  • Date of birth: 8 May 1960 (age 61)

  • Place of birth: Travagliato, Italy

  • Height: 1.76 m (5 ft 9 in)

  • Playing position(s): Defender

Franco Baresi is known to be one of the best Italian defenders ever, and one of the best center-backs of all time.

He spent all of his 20-year career in AC Milan, where he captained for 15 years, made 714 appearances and won numerous titles including 3 European championship titles ( 2 European champions clubs' cups and 1 Champions league), 6 Serie A titles, 4 Italian Super Cups, 2 Intercontinental Cups, 3 European Super Cups and 1 Miropa Cup. Baresi has played in 81 matches for Italian National team and won the 1982 FIFA World Cup.

In addition, he captained the national team which placed runner-up in 1994 World Cup where lost to Brazil in penalty-shout outs. He was also named in the 1990 World Cup all-star team. Baresi formed one of the most formidable defensive-dous with Paulo Maldini in the history of football.

He seemed a perfect defender with astonishing physical and mental talents as well as his outstanding tenacity, stamina, pace, concentration, vision and technique on the ball. Although he was not considered tall, he was great in the air as well.

Moreover, he was excellent at winning back possession and distributing the ball, and he was a reliable penalty kicker. Indeed, he is one of the

best Italian defenders of all time

who had a remarkable devotion to his club and his loyalty will forever stand him out.

Paulo Maldini

  • Full name: Paolo Cesare Maldini

  • Date of birth: 26 June 1968 (age 53)

  • Place of birth: Milan, Italy

  • Height: 1.87 m (6 ft 2 in)

  • Playing position(s): Defender

Paulo Maldini is the most remarkable Italian defender of all time without any doubt, and to some experts' opinions, he is the best defender of all time. He is a symbol of AC Milan who has played in 901 games for them, a club's record. Maldini is definitely among the best ever Italian defenders.

He spent 25 seasons in Milan, and won may titles during his glittering career; 7 Serie A titles, 5 European Championships (3 champion leagues and 2 European champion clubs' cups), 1 Italian Cup, 5 Italian Super Cups, 1 FIFA Club world Cup, 2 Intercontinental cups and 4 UEFA Super Cups.

When he was 39, he was named the best defender from UEFA Club Football Awards, and he was named the Serie A defender of the year in 2004. After his retirement in 2009, Milan retired his number (3) as a tribute to his achievements and dedications during 25 years at the club.

He made his international debut for Italian national team in 1988, and went on to play in 126 caps for them. However, he could not win any major international trophies with the national team since he retired from international football in 2002, 4 years before Italy winning the World Cup in Germany.

The versatile brilliant defender could play both as a left back and a center back. He was renowned for his admirable technical ability on the ball, as if he was a midfielder with elegant control on the ball, sliding tackles, astounding crossing ability, stamina and superb man-marking ability.

He was excellent at positioning and anticipating the opponents' next move, hence he avoided unnecessary challenges. His long range passes and the expertise in launching attacks from the back line made a complete player out of him.

Indubitably, Paulo Maldini is one of the best Italian defenders of all time, maybe "the best" defender in the history of the football.

In a country like Italy, it is very challenging to try to make a list of

all-time best Italian defenders

, since the nation is rich in talented elegant defenders who are very dedicated to their club and national team.

The sure thing is, many youths are on their way to fill in for the above-mentioned retired legends, and sooner or later, they will be added to the list of the best Italian defenders of all time!

 

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