We have taken a look at strikers and midfielders but now let’s take a look at the defense and see who are the best young defenders of 2020?!
In our series of looking at great young talents across Europe’s big leagues, it’s finally time to look at the best young defenders of 2020. There has been this huge influx of great young players in recent years which is just exciting to watch and perhaps now more than ever fans and football clubs alike look to find the next big star among these players, especially defenders, whose skills are in high demand.
It seems like football is getting faster and faster every day and because of that defenders are bound to make mistakes often, which has left many teams, including the Europe’s top clubs, wanting in the defense department. So naturally when a defender, especially a young one that can develop even further, shows that he is capable of dealing with the speed of the game and is in control, whether he is a full back or a central defender, then big clubs usually fight over that said player. So let us see who are some of these young defenders:
While some of these players are certainly better than the rest, we have decided to not rank these players simply because we are talking about players who have shown great potential in just 2020. So let’s find out who are these current best young defenders?!
We start our list of greatest young defenders of 2020 with Manchester City’s Eric Garcia. The 19-year-old Spaniard has shown great potential and has even made 4 appearances for the Spain’s senior side, which shows he is not only trusted by Guardiola but he is also highly rated by others. Despite being in the headlines recently for the transfer saga that is surrounding him, there is no doubt that his performances promise a bright future for the youngster.
Garcia is the product of Barcelona’s famous La Masia academy and he is represented by none other than Barca legend and former captain, Carles Puyol, who saw that young players didn’t get chances to play for Barcelona’s senior side anymore and advised Garcia to leave and make a name for himself somewhere else and then perhaps come back to Barcelona, which has been the teenagers plan all along.
His contract runs out at the end of the season so naturally he has been used less by Guardiola but his average of 1.4 interceptions per game from last season shows that he is a defender than wants to neutralize the threat early by reading the game, rather than getting physical with the attackers. He was of great help for Manchester City last season after Laporte’s injury and showed great maturity for a young defender which is why we have picked him as one of the best young defenders of 2020 and are excited to see his development.
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Emerson may be a player that goes under the radar and isn’t noticed by many but the Brazilian’s performances from pas and this current season promises of a great future for the youngster and shows why he is one of defender talents of 2020. Emerson previously played for Ponte Preta and Atletico Miniero in his home country Brazil before joining the La Liga side Real Betis in 2018.
In fact, Emerson’s transfer to Real Betis is kind of a strange one since it was a joint transfer between Barcelona and Real Betis, with Barcelona having the right to purchase him at the end of the 2021 season for €6 million. So naturally with that incentive and with Barcelona’s lack of full-back options, Emerson has been putting in good performances for Real Betis since last season. He has been a regular starter for Betis and made 32 appearances for them last season.
This season however Emerson’s defensive numbers have gone up significantly. The right back has shown that he is great in the air and is among the best of La Liga in terms of average tackles (3.2), clearances (2.5) and interceptions (1.9) made per game which is a significant improvement on his last season’s numbers.
He has also shown he is capable in attack as he scored 3 goals and assisted 6 more in the 2019-20 season. So if all goes well and he continues his development Emerson could very well be a great right back in the future. For now, his potential and performances put him amongst the best young defenders of 2020.
One of the many French center backs that could’ve easily made the list of current best young defenders is Sevilla’s Jules Kounde whose performances from the last couple of seasons both at La Liga and Ligue 1 has shown why he is a great defender.Kounde was a product of Bordeaux’ youth academy and went on to play for the club 70 times. After his breakout season of 2018-19, Kounde joined Sevilla for a fee of €25 million at the start of last season.
His first season at Sevilla was a great success, both for him personally and also for the club, as Kounde helped Sevilla greatly in reaching and eventually winning the Final of Europa League and thus receiving his first trophy and medal. In fact, it was his performances in Europa League that grabbed headlines and rightfully so as he was later named in the competition’s Squad of the Season. He also made 25 appearances in La Liga for Sevilla and his performances were as good as the ones in the Europa League.
Jules Kounde, who is now 21, has shown that he is a defender that likes to think before jumping into tackles, although it’s to be noted that his tackling ability isn’t all that great and has to be improved upon. He likes to start attacks with his well-timed and precise passes and is also great under pressure and great in the air too, winning most aerial duels.
Despite being one of the best young defenders of 2020, Kounde faces a tough competition to get a call-up for France’s national team when they go to the Euros next summer, we’ll just have to wait and see if his performance this season will earn him a place there or not.
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Another underrated player but this time from everyone’s current favorite second team, Atalanta. The Argentinian central defender, who started his career with Belgrano back in Argentina, has been experiencing an upwards trajectory in his career ever since joining Serie A side Genoa, which is why Cristian Romero is considered to be one of wonderkid defenders of football in 2020.
Romero’s performances at Genoa actually earned him a move to Juventus after only one season, but the Italian champions loaned him again to Genoa and subsequently to Atalanta with an option to buy at the end of 2022, so it’s unclear if he will ever play for them but what is apparent is Romero’s impressive numbers when it comes to defending since he has been one of Serie A’s best defenders this season.
With the average of 4.2 interceptions and 2.3 tackles per game, Romero has been one of standout defenders of Serie A since joining Atalanta in the summer and he has even carried those performances into the Champions League which has earned him quite a praise from numerous fans and critics. There is no doubt that if he keeps his performances he will eventually be called up to Argentina’s senior squad. But for now he has been exactly the right boost that Atalanta needed in defense and that is why he is one of the best young defenders of 2020.
Part of a new wave of American youngsters who are dominating Europe’s top leagues at the moment, Sergino Dest is another one of greatest young defenders of 2020. The youngster, though American, had been part of Ajax since he was 12, first as a part of Jong Ajax and later making his debut for the senior side last season. Before his eventual move to Barcelona at the start of this season. One thing is for certain and that is the fact that Dest’s life has been a whirlwind in the past year and we have to see if he can deal with that pressure.
Dest, like many great modern fullbacks, is extremely effective in attack in attack, with him having excelling dribbling skills as well as an unbelievable pace. His pace actually allows him to cover great distances which could allow him to not be caught out of position, a problem many modern fullbacks share. Although he is originally a right back he can also play as a left back, which suits Barcelona well since they are short on options on the fullback positions.
Dest has a dual nationality of American and Dutch, so working with Barcelona’s Dutch manager and former captain, could actually help him adapt to life at Barcelona more quickly. The only worry that Barcelona fans have are all the young players and transfers that have not worked out for them in recent years, otherwise, regarding Dest’s talent, it’s apparent that he is one of the best young defenders of 2020, he just has to build on that and establish himself at Nou Camp.
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The 22 year-old Trent Alexander-Arnold, who broke out into Liverpool’s first team back in 2017-18, has already been nominated for a Ballon d’Or award and that tells you all about his quality as a player and why he is one of current best young defenders. Unlike his partner in crime, Andy Robertson, Arnold is a Liverpool academy graduate that actually played as a midfielder at youth levels.
The fact that he used to be a midfielder makes him a much more effective player while going forward. Although he is not particularly bad at defending, he seems to be weaker at it, which has resulted in some teams exploiting the fact, especially in Liverpool’s horrible 7-2 loss to Aston Villa where Arnold’s flank was bombarded with attacks.
Though in attack there isn’t any right back who is better than him, as he is capable of producing a high number of assists which has helped Liverpool immensely in them winning the Champions League trophy in 2018-19 season and also winning the Premier League win in 2019-20 season. He even created one of the most memorable scenes of the Champions League in recent years with his famous assist to Origi against Barcelona being, which was from a corner taken quickly!
With 25 assists over the last two seasons, an impressive number especially for a defender, Arnold has shown to be one of the primary sources of creating chances at Liverpool. He is also somewhat of a free kick expert and has managed to occasionally score goals from the set pieces. If he ends up improving his defensive skills, he will certainly be one of the greatest right backs in recent memory but for now let’s just say he is one of the greatest players working today and certainly one of the best young defenders of 2020.
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The Dutch center back, Matthijs de Ligt, is actually one of the top defensive prospects that has been seen in quite a few years. The towering defender, who is now 21 years old, made himself known to the world by captaining Ajax while still being 19. His impressive physique, skills as a defender and his leadership skills is what makes him one of the best young defenders in the world 2020. Whether he shapes that great potential into a great career or not is only up to him.
After captaining Ajax to the semi-finals of Champions league in the 2018-19 season de Ligt joined Juventus from Ajax at the start of 2019-20 season, after which was a lengthy transfer saga involving many of Europe’s top clubs. The 21 year-old de Ligt was brought in to help rejuvenate Juve’s aging backline and to also learn from great defenders like Bonucci and Chielini.
Matthijs de Ligt, who has a height of 1.89 meters, is extremely good in the air but also with his feet too and also possesses a tactical and intelligent way of defending that seems rare nowadays, all of which point to the fact that he has every attribute for being a top level center back. He is also a natural leader evident in the fact that he led Ajax to Europa League glory and Champions League semi-finals in back to back seasons.
After De Ligt’s €85.5 million transfer to Juventus, de Ligt is now being paid €8 million a year in wages and is one of Serie A’s top earners right now but he has earned that by being one of the best young defenders of 2020. Although there has been a dip in his performances since he has joined Juventus, he will undoubtedly get out of that rut and start fulfilling his potential. It will be certainly interesting to observe what footballing heights Matthijs de Ligt will climb to in the future.
The Canadian wonder kid, Alphonso Davies, took the Bundesliga and even Europe by storm last season with him turning in several world class appearances, particularly in Bayern Munich’s impressive Champions League last season, showing why he is considered to be one of the greatest young defenders of 2020. Davies’ resilient character, which saw him rise from a refugee camp in Canada after leaving Ghana to the top of the pyramid of European football is an inspirational story for any young kid who wishes to play football.
That resilient character eventually earned him a contract with Vancouver Whitecaps and after a couple of great seasons at Vancouver Whitecaps, that even earned him an MLS All-Star appearance, Alphonso Davies decided to join Bayern Munich in the January of 2019 with a transfer fee of 13.5 million dollars. Although he is primarily a left-winger, Davies would later be used as a full back or a wing back at Bayern because of his speed, dribbling and crossing ability. But he certainly lacks some of the defensive capabilities that a full back should have.
Davies’ performances against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge or the one against Barcelona, which resulted in Bayern Munich’s emphatic 8-2 win, have already been seared into football fans’ brains as Davies tore through Chelsea and Barcelona’s defense and helped his team reach the final. It will be interesting to see how his development goes and if Bayern’s manager decides to use him in more attacking roles or does he opt to play him as a defender again. Although despite being one of the best young defenders of 2020, he faces tough competition from Lucas Hernandez.
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One of the most sought after defenders in the past two years is Dayot Upamecano, who is certainly one of the current best young defenders if not the best. The Frenchman has consistently shown what a composed and level-headed defender he is, but perhaps Leipzig’s run of reaching the Champions League semi-final last season really showcased his abilities to the world, which have resulted in even more suitors.
Despite being French, Upamecano actually never played for any French side at senor level. He started his senior career at Liefering, a feeder club for RB Salzburg, before joining Salzburg itself. Finally, he joined RB Leipzig in the January of 2017. He has been playing regularly for them ever since. He was actually listed for the Golden Boy award the very next year, which shows the amount of talent he had even as a teenager.
With Europe’s big clubs being in short supply of good young defenders, players like Upamecano, who possess the traditional traits of a good defender like being good at tackling, interceptions and aerially as well as being comfortable with the ball and having great technique, are much sought after and Leipzig will definitely profit a lot when they decide to sell him.
With Upamecano recently being called up to France’s national team, he has proven that he is certainly one of the best young defenders of 2020. After all, if you find a place in a team that are the World’s reigning champions, you must certainly be a great player.