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Best Premier League center-backs of all time

Wednesday09 December 2020 | 17:30
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Here is a look at the list of the best Premier League center-backs of all time.

The defenders are certainly the toughest men on the field. Unfortunately, the center-backs do not get the praises and attention earned every week by the dazzling strikers.

Over the last decades, we have been exposed to some of the best center-backs in world football, and plenty of them featured in the newly-formatted Premier League, whose formation happened at the start of the 1992/93 season.

Who are the Premier League's best center-backs ever? Let's consider the rundown of defensive geniuses without further hesitation. It's correct to conclude that old-school defending is almost a distant memory, with uncountable goals scored in previous campaigns in the Premier League.

Surprisingly, a couple of classic center-backs exist, yet in terms of doing anything necessary to keep clean sheets, they appear far behind those defenders. In this article, we take a close look at the list of the best center-backs that have ever played in the Premier League.

Best Premier League center-backs of all time

Here is a look at the list of the best Premier League center-backs of all time.

Virgil van Dijk

  • Date of birth: Jul 8, 1991
  • Place of birth: Breda Netherlands
  • Age: 29
  • Height: 1,93 m
  • Citizenship: Netherlands
  • Position: Defender - Centre-Back
  • Foot: right
  • Current club: Liverpool FC

The appearance of the gigantic center-back drives panic to the rivals. The Dutch defender is just crucial to Jurgen Klopp's team. Virgil van Dijk is the only current football player who can be included in this rundown as one of the best Premier League center-backs of all time.

Some would claim that to be called a Premier League icon he wants more awards, but maybe lifting the Premier League, Super Cup, Club World Cup, and UEFA Champions League would be enough.

He is a technically solid defender who generally plays as a center back. His speed, great technique, eye for goal, and ability to read the game makes him one of the Premier League's best center-backs ever at 29 years of age.

Ledley King

  • Name in home country: Ledley Brenton King
  • Date of birth: Oct 12, 1980
  • Place of birth: London England
  • Age: 40
  • Height: 1,88 m
  • Citizenship: England
  • Position: Defender - Centre-Back
  • Foot: right
  • Current club: Retired

We scarcely ever had seen such a great center-back. The evolution of the Tottenham Hotspur icon's career was vandalized by injuries, and yet Ledley King has still been regarded as one of the best Premier League center-backs of all time.

You'll definitely see contrasting feelings if you'd seen a Tottenham supporter speaking about the defender; disappointment of injuries and satisfaction of seeing him at all. With a dominant appearance, high speed, and fearlessness, the defender had it all.

Jamie Carragher

  • Name in home country: James Lee Duncan Carragher
  • Date of birth: Jan 28, 1978
  • Place of birth: Bootle England
  • Age: 42
  • Height: 1,85 m
  • Citizenship: England
  • Position: Defender - Centre-Back
  • Foot: right
  • Current club: Retired

Jamie Carragher is perhaps one of the best Premier League center-backs of all time who never won a trophy in the Premier League.

He was a strong defender during his tenure at Anfield, a masterful midfielder who transformed into one of the greatest center-backs in the Premier League. Who knows how many trophies he might have won with a stronger club?

Early in his tenure, he was capable of playing any role of the back four, mostly playing on both flanks and sometimes in the midfield, yet tended to devote almost all of his football at club and country level at center-back.

He was classified as a limited defender when playing on flanks at the point he was contrarily contrasted to offensive full-backs. The player gradually made a name for himself as a center back and came to be considered one of his generation's greatest English and Premier League defenders.

A powerful, flexible, and reliable center-back, known particularly for his strength, determination, leadership, and commitment, along with his fearless style of playing, Carragher was blessed with tactical awareness, which allowed him to thrive in interpreting the game. All things considered, Carragher is known as one of the best center-backs in Premier League history.

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Marcel Desailly

  • Name in home country: Marcel Odenkey Addy-Desailly
  • Date of birth: Sep 7, 1968
  • Place of birth: Accra Ghana
  • Age: 52
  • Height: 1,88 m
  • Citizenship: France
  • Position: Defender - Centre-Back
  • Foot: right
  • Current club: Retired

For many of the best soccer players in the world nowadays, the Premier League might be a dreamland, yet that was not always the case. Thus it is impossible to describe how thrilling it was when Desailly joined Chelsea in 1998.

By the time "The Rock" was almost 30, however, he still was powerful, smart, and fearless, Desailly was an experienced game interpreter as well.

Desailly is regarded as one of the most successful players of his era and one of the best French players of all time who was famous for his leadership and ability to shatter rivals' game. He mixed his toughness and flexibility along with his technical, psychosocial, and defensive abilities, with remarkable courage.

The defender was also capable of playing in the midfield during his football career as well. Apart from his defensive abilities, by attempting to make aggressive runs into the box, he was additionally capable of contributing to the rushing attempts of his side with strikes.

He was listed as one of the world's best living footballers by Pele in the FIFA 100 in 2004 and is likewise included in this article as one of the best Premier League center-backs of all time.

Ricardo Carvalho

  • Name in home country: Ricardo Alberto Silveira de Carvalho
  • Date of birth: May 18, 1978
  • Place of birth: Amarante Portugal
  • Age: 42
  • Height: 1,82 m
  • Citizenship: Portugal
  • Position: Defender - Centre-Back
  • Foot: right
  • Current club: Retired

The Portuguese star displaying impressive and stylish excellence to reach the top-flight from Europe, in his 135 league matches with Chelsea, kept 63 clean sheets and conceded only 63 goals, along with winning 3 league trophies and an FA Cup.

Carvalho was an exceptional defender famous for his maturity and game intelligence. He was fast, strong in the air, and he's got the excellent technique and great passing skills.

Carvalho was compared to the iconic Italian center back Franco Baresi. Lacking the stamina of other defenders, He was renowned for his toughness and tough-tackling playing style and is regarded as one of the best Premier League center-backs of all time.

Jaap Stam

  • Name in home country: Jakob Stam
  • Date of birth: Jul 17, 1972
  • Place of birth: Kampen Netherlands
  • Age: 48
  • Height: 1,91 m
  • Citizenship: Netherlands
  • Position: Defender - Centre-Back
  • Foot: right
  • Current club: Retired

At Manchester United, the Dutch defender lasted only 3 campaigns, playing just 79 league matches, yet he turned into one of the most athletically gifted defenders in the Premier League ever and is rightfully included in this article as one of the best center-backs in Premier League history.

Having Roy Keane alongside, Jaap Stam was never given the Red Devil's armband, however, he helped his team to 3 Premier League trophies, the 1999 FA Cup and Champions League trophy.

Obviously, after he left the club to join Lazio in the wake of offering disputable remarks on the administration style of Sir Alex Ferguson in his autobiography, Stam's tenure at United came to a dramatic finish. However, Ferguson conceded later that, as per the Daily Mail, he made a bad decision in selling Stam too early.

Steve Bruce

  • Name in home country: Stephen Roger Bruce
  • Date of birth: Dec 31, 1960
  • Place of birth: Corbridge England
  • Age: 59
  • Height: 1,83 m
  • Citizenship: England
  • Position: Defender - Centre-Back
  • Foot: right
  • Current club: Retired

Creating an unbreakable shield at the defensive line to help secure 3 league trophies and three FA Cup titles, in his 414 matches for the Red Devils, Bruce scored a brilliant record of 51 goals and is known as one of the greatest center-backs in the history of Premier League.

Any shortcomings in Bruce's managerial career may, unfortunately, outweigh his performances as a player, yet his tenure at the club will surely not be overlooked by Manchester United supporters. His style of play which he later depicted as rampaging, created disciplinary issues during the initial years of playing.

He soon transformed into a strong and reliable player, described as "an honest trier who made the absolute most of limited natural ability". He was especially regarded in his prime for his composure and thoughtful passing of the ball along with his skills to control it.

Bruce was likewise renowned for his unexpectedly high goalscoring record, which came from a mixture of his heading ability and his success in taking penalty shots. While missing agility and elegance, and frequently mocked for the absence of speed, during his stint at Manchester United, his courage and capacity to take hits from rivals made him the heart of the back.

He was notable for proceeding to play in any event when injured, namely getting back to the squad soon after undergoing a hernia operation in 1992. For the United team, his unconquerable and inspirational personality was considered essential.

Vincent Kompany

  • Name in home country: Vincent Jean Mpoy Kompany
  • Date of birth: Apr 10, 1986
  • Place of birth: Uccle Belgium
  • Age: 34
  • Height: 1,90 m
  • Citizenship: Belgium
  • Position: Defender - Centre-Back
  • Foot: right
  • Current club: Retired

On 22 August 2008, Man City signed the 22-year-old defender from Hamburg on a four-year deal for an unrevealed fee. One of their most successful signings who experienced the Premier League.

His persistent style of play on the field made him an invaluable resource for the Citizens. Not only is he regarded as one of the greatest center-backs in the history of Premier League, but he's also one of the best Belgian players of all time.

Kompany was twice named the Premier League Team of the Year in a row, and at twenty-three years of age, he ranked on The Guardians' 100 World's Best Footballers.

The Belgian superstar was known as one of world football's top defenders and considered to be a physically dominant defender, with outstanding aerial ability and agility, along with great technique and passing of the ball. He was additionally a precise tackler with a clear sense of position.

Nemanja Vidic

  • Name in home country: Немања Видић
  • Date of birth: Oct 21, 1981
  • Place of birth: Titovo Uzice Jugoslawien (SFR)
  • Age: 39
  • Height: 1,87 m
  • Citizenship: Serbia
  • Position: Defender - Centre-Back
  • Foot: right
  • Current club: Retired

From 2007 to 2009, At the point when the Red Devils won the Premier League thrice in a row, they only conceded 27, 22, and 24 goals. Obviously, the goalie deserves plenty of praise, however, the absolutism of the team was mainly due to the center backs, a finely balanced combination of Vidic and Ferdinand.

"How many center-backs would you be able to name who really like defending?" Alex Ferguson once inquired. "Vidic enjoyed it. He adored the test of putting his head in there. You could tell that the excitement of challenging those 50-50 balls enlivened him." Portrayed by David Pleat of The Guardian as a straightforward defender, Vidic was known as a complete defender, who was sadly known for his injuries as well.

Thanks to his defensive stability and vision, along with his endurance, composure noticeable all around, and prowess in the air, which made him a danger on free kicks, he was regarded as one of the world's best center-backs in his prime and is included in this article as one of the best Premier League central defenders ever.

All things considered, Vidic formed an efficient and reliable defensive duo with Ferdz. In contrast to Ferdinand, rather than seeking to play out from the back, his style of play concentrated mainly on the defensive side of the play.

He was additionally lauded by his teammates for his physical defensive approach and was well respected in the media for his courage during his career. As a result, among the United fans, he gained a reputation and was frequently linked to legendary defender Steve Bruce, who had common qualities.

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Sol Campbell

  • Name in home country: Sulzeer Jeremiah Campbell
  • Date of birth: Sep 18, 1974
  • Place of birth: London England
  • Age: 46
  • Height: 1,88 m
  • Citizenship: England
  • Position: Defender - Centre-Back
  • Foot: right
  • Current club: Retired

After Campbell dramatically left Spurs to join their hated North London opponents Arsenal, he played a key role in the "Invincibles" campaign of the club in 2004. He got vital to the manner in which Arsene Wenger needed his team to play the game, with absolute self-assurance pushing forward from the defensive line, connecting the defense to the midfield, and often even to the striker.

When Sol Campbell first returned to White Hart Lane in an Arsenal shirt, he was greeted with the most hostile reception in Premier League history.

Campbell's anomaly as an individual was that he was a prevaricate and timid person, yet on the pitch, he was a commanding player with an aerial prowess that few others could dream about. Loyalty may not be Sol Campbell's greatest quality, but his status as one of the best Premier League central defenders ever is unarguable.

Tony Adams

  • Name in home country: Tony Alexander Adams
  • Date of birth: Oct 10, 1966
  • Place of birth: London England
  • Age: 54
  • Height: 1.91 m
  • Citizenship: England
  • Position: Defender - Centre-Back
  • Foot: right
  • Current club: Retired

Upon taking the managerial role of Arsenal FC, Wenger saw himself in a team that still cherished the old-fashioned and obsolete values and traditions of football that were once fashionable in England. Tony Adams despite being a cornerstone of the old ways, was able to transcend Wenger’s reform programs.

Tony Adams has by far been one of the greatest central defenders in EPL history. Most importantly, apart from being a defender, he was a leader of his team, making it no surprise that he held the captaincy of Arsenal from the young age of 21.

Adams was also highly-skilled in both game reading and tackling. His skills and leadership played an instrumental role in earning four Premier League Championship titles from 1989 to 2002.

Wenger may look back at Adams as the most important player he ever had, considering the role he played in transforming the footballing culture at Arsenal.

In Arsene Wenger’s eyes, Tony Adams was perhaps the central figure and the most important player of the club as his leadership was crucial to the success of Wenger’s reforms of the dominant football culture and traditions of Arsenal.

He was a tall, fearless, strong, and zealous defender for his team. He was an excellent man-marker which resulted in being called a ‘stopper’ by The Guardian correspondent Tom Sheen in a 2014 article. Adams was also highly regarded for his skills in aerial battles and for his game reading skills which made sure he perfectly timed his sliding tackles.

When on the ball, he wasn’t particularly known as a technical player initially but under Wenger’s tutoring, he improved his on-the-ball skills and was later acknowledged as a defender who could win the ball and carry it to the opposition’s third of the pitch and also as a master of individual runs.

Despite these, he was never a fast running player and he lacked pace but still, he is known as one of the best center-backs in Premier League history.

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Rio Ferdinand

  • Name in home country: Rio Gavin Ferdinand
  • Date of birth: Nov 7, 1978
  • Place of birth: London England
  • Age: 42
  • Height: 1,89 m
  • Citizenship: England
  • Position: Defender - Centre-Back
  • Foot: right
  • Current club: Retired

A team-mate of John Terry’s when playing as England national football team but a rival of his when playing in their respective clubs in the league, Rio Ferdinand was a dedicated center back who saw some success at the beginning of his career in West Ham United and Leeds United but was catapulted to international fame only when he joined the Red Devils.

A club which made him a well-known legend especially in the home venue at Old Trafford. Rio Ferdinand played over 500 matches in the Premier League, and he almost never made a wrong move when playing for the Man United who won the lion’s share of Premier League titles under the management of Sir Alex Ferguson.

It’s no surprise that after having so much experience at the top level football, he has recently become a successful pundit in the media. The world-class defender was considered to be one of the best stoppers in the world at his peak. Ferdinand is regarded as one of the greatest central defenders in EPL history and as one of England's and Manchester United's best ever center-backs.

Some commentators have called him the best central defender that England national football team, Manchester United, or maybe even the Premier League has ever seen. In his prime, he was also praised for his pace, work-rate, and tackling, in addition to his positioning, consistency, intelligence, and ability to read the game.

He was also an athletic and physically strong defender, who was reliable in the air, although at times he was criticized in the media for his aerial game, as well as his ability to defend high balls and set pieces, in particular in his youth.

Rio Ferdinand has been consistently described as one of the best defenders of his age and of all time. In addition to his defensive skills, he also possessed significant leadership qualities.

Despite his ability, however, his later career was marked by injuries, which led him to lose the exceptional pace which had characterized him in his early career, and which previously allowed him to compensate for the occasional lapses in concentration he experienced in his youth; as such, he occasionally struggled against faster opponents with his advancing age.

Ferdinand was highly regarded as a great stopper at the international level, particularly when he was in his prime. In his golden days, Ferdinand was well known as a peaceful player and a great tackler with an immense work-rate with a muscular and strong physique and as for the cognitive and mental aspects, he was known as a great game reader and an intelligent footballer who was always at the right place and knew how to position himself.

One of his many other skills was his ability to lead and organize the defense. One can also note that in his youth and occasionally beyond, Ferdinand was sometimes criticized by the media for his performance in aerial battles and his handling of set-pieces, crosses, and other high balls.

But it wasn’t due to these perceived weaknesses that he showed up a less-than-satisfying performance in his older days, but the main reason behind it was the numerous injuries he suffered which led to him losing his fast pace and having trouble with faster and younger opponents. However, Ferdinand is fairly included in this article as one of the best Premier League center-backs of all time.

John Terry

  • Name in home country: John George Terry
  • Date of birth: Dec 7, 1980
  • Place of birth: London England
  • Age: 39
  • Height: 1,87 m
  • Citizenship: England
  • Position: Defender - Centre-Back
  • Foot: right
  • Current club: Retired

When it comes down to the question of “who has been the best Premier League defender ever?” the answer is rarely anyone but John Terry, and it wasn’t without a reason. Terry’s strong body along with his ability to clear the ball in the aerial games and his inch-perfect tackles.

He capped a total of 492 Premier League matches which included 214 clean sheets. Terry also scored many important goals when he mobilized his capacity as more than merely a defender.

Nowadays, the 40-year-old John Terry is a assistant head coach in Aston Villa, there can be little doubt about how rewarding and beneficial his presence is for the youth prospects of that club.

In 2011, John Terry was ranked the third most accurate passer in the world among the players with 1000 or more passes. With an accuracy of around 91.6 percent, Terry closely followed Xavi Hernandez (93 percent) and Leon Britton (93.3 percent) who played for FCB and Swansea City respectively.

Occasionally, he found himself playing in the three-defender formation, especially when he played under the management of Antonio Conte. Though this formation didn’t exactly match his style as he lacked pace because of his age.

As reputable and acknowledged when playing a defensive role as he was, Terry garnered much controversy and criticism in the media due to his involvement in many incidents and scandals both on and off the football pitch but still he is considered one of the best Premier League center-backs of all time.

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source: SportMob
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