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Best South American Defenders of 2021

Fri 18 February 2022 | 14:30

South America as a continent has given some of the greatest players in the history of the sport and it is no different at the current point of time. Read on to find out more about the best South American defenders of 2021.

As 2021 calendar year ended – which was the year in which the 47th edition of Copa America was held - the arguments about the

best South American footballers 2021

have been extremely heated.

The competition was of such significant importance that according to pundits, Argentina’s winning the title played the pivotal role in determining the winner of 2021 Ballon d’Or which was given to Lionel Messi.

As attackers like

Neymar

, Lionel Messi,

Luis Suarez

, and Luis Diaz shine throughout the year, it is not surprising that most of the attentions are paid to goal scorers and attacker.

But what about the ones who stand against these attackers? What about the defenders who impress the world by stopping the biggest strikers? 

Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani, Neymar, and Messi were some of the big names at Copa America 2021 who had performed extraordinary performances. Stopping such forwards is not easy, but a few defenders impressed with their displays at different tournaments.

The ones whose bright performances are often neglected in the shadow of the magic that goal scorers perform. In this article, we are going to appreciate the value of these players.

On that note, let's take a look at the best South American defenders of 2021 as well as best defenders at Copa America 2021.

Best South American Defenders of 2021:

You are going to read the names of the best South American defenders 2021, and have a brief overview of their performances during the year with both their club and national team

In addition to the Copa America 2021, some South American defenders have been a vital part of their clubs’ achievements throughout the year, helping them to the conquest of titles. Read on to learn more about best South American footballers 2021 that ARE NOT attackers – surprisingly rare, right?

Thiago Silva (Brazil, Chelsea)

  • Full name: Thiago Emiliano da Silva

  • Date of birth: 22 September 1984 (age 37)

  • Place of birth: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

  • Height: 1.81 m (5 ft 11 in)

  • Position(s): Centre-back

The 37 – year – old prominent center back, who left

Paris Saint – Germain

in the summer of 2020 after 8 years to join Chelsea, was indubitably one of the best South American defenders 2021, proving once again that age is nothing but a number.

After winning 25 major trophies during 12 seasons in European football with AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain,

Thiago Silva

came to help Chelsea win the 2020/21 UEFA Champions league, a trophy that he had been craving for years while playing at Parc des Princes. Moreover, the strong defender managed to win the 2021 UEFA Super Cup with the Blues.

Following a relatively slow start, the 37-year-old quickly established himself as a key lynchpin for the Blues' backline and played a crucial role in their Champions League triumph last season.

The Brazilian is five months older than Cristiano Ronaldo and his performances sparked comparisons with the Portuguese. He has been a crucial part of Thomas Tuchel’s squad during 2021/22 season as well, and has shown no sign of tiredness or downfall despite being 37. He has been one of the best Premier League defenders since his arrival at England.

Furthermore, Thiago Silva captained Brazilian national team at 2021 Copa America which was held on Brazilian soil. However, the tournament ended bitterly for Seleção as they were beaten by their eternal rivals Argentina in the final match.

Nonetheless, he was one the

best defenders in Copa America 2021

and played a key role in taking Brazil to their 2nd successive Copa America final.

Silva won FIFA Club's World Cup Golden Ball and was named the Player of the Tournament despite giving away penalty in the final as Chelsea beat Palmeiras 2-1 to become world champions.

“I feel immense happiness,” he told FIFA after inspiring

Chelsea

to FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2021 glory, “I’ve waited 37 years for this moment.

“I’ve made a lot of sacrifices for this. It’s so, so difficult to become a world champion. I’m really happy. We’re all really happy.

“It was a really difficult game. In finals like this small details make the difference. They got a penalty through handball, we got a penalty through handball. But I think overall we deserved the result, we deserved to leave the pitch as world champions.”

Cristian Romero (Argentina, Atalanta – Tottenham Hotspur)

  • Full name: Cristian Gabriel Romero

  • Date of birth: 27 April 1998 (age 23)

  • Place of birth: Córdoba, Argentina

  • Height: 1.89 m (6 ft 2 in)

  • Position(s): Centre-back

Cristian Romero

moved to Spurs from Atalanta last August, with the selling club announcing it would be – at first – a loan until the end of the season. The purchase price is €55m (£46.4m) and it is locked in for the 23-year-old Argentina center-half, who Conte described as feeling like a “new signing”.

2021 was the breakthrough year for the 23 – year – old man. Romero was unquestionably one of the

best players in South America 2021

. He came into prominence while showing astonishing performances for

Atalanta

during 2020/21 season, the season at the end of which he was named best Serie A defender of the year.

Moreover, Romero was a part of Argentina’s title – winning team in Copa America 2021. Not only was he one of the Best defenders in Copa America 2021 but his astounding performance against Brazil in the final match that kept the rivals from scoring will be remembered by all Argentina fans.

Argentina won the game 1 – 0 and Romero was a key player in protecting

Angel Di Maria

’s goal and eventually placing Albiceleste on the pinnacle of South American football after 28 years.

Shortly after, while being eyed by a number of other big European clubs, the man was bought by Tottenham Hotspur for a transfer fee of €55.00m in the summer of 2021.

We must wait and see if he can be as shining as he is expected to be in the Premier League. So far, Romero’s performances have been satisfactory, although the Spurs are not having very bright days.

The Argentina defender, one of the club's key signings in the offseason, sustained a hamstring injury during the World Cup qualifying match against Brazil.

Tottenham boss

Antonio Conte

says defender Cristian Romero is “perfect” for the physicality of the Premier League.

“Romero is perfect for the Premier League. He’s strong physically, he has the timing to anticipate and good personality to play with the ball. Despite being a young player, he has good experience, he’s strong. I like him. For sure, he has a lot of space for improvement,” Conte said.

Eder Militao (Brazil, Real Madrid)

  • Full name: Éder Gabriel Militão

  • Date of birth: 18 January 1998 (age 24)

  • Place of birth: Sertãozinho, São Paulo, Brazil

  • Height: 1.86 m (6 ft 1 in)

  • Position(s): Centre-back

When both

Sergio Ramos

and Raphael Varane left in the same transfer window, Real’s defensive stability was heavily compromised. However, the new center-back partnership between David Alaba and

Eder Militao

made things tweak for Real Madrid defensively.

Even then Real Madrid was vulnerable to counters and the side didn’t look like one that could secure too many clean sheets, but, one man above all, has made it possible for this defense to secure successive clean sheets and, he is none other than Real Madrid’s Brazilian Center-back Eder Militao.

Real Madrid’s 24 – year – old center back showed that he was worth the €50.00m that Real Madrid had paid Porto. He hadn’t been able to prove himself only until Sergio Ramos suffered a long-lasting injury in the middle of 2020/21 season.

Militao entered the starting XI after that and took the best advantage possible of the situation. He became one of Real Madrid’s most pivotal players of the squad as well as being regarded as one of best South American defenders 2021.

His performance was so brilliant during the latter half of the 2020/21 season for Los Blancos that he was given the chance to play in 5 out of Brazil’s 7 games during 2021 Copa America, and scored Brazil’s only goal in a 1 – 1 draw against Ecuador.

Moreover, he has now become Real Madrid’s unquestionable starter during 2021/22 under

Carlo Ancelotti

’s management. No Real Madrid player has been able to perform more clearances than Militao this season (75), and he has also made 39 interceptions which is only fewer than his fellow countryman Casemiro among Los Blancos players.

While in Portugal, his performance adapted quickly to a big club, the next step at

Real Madrid

was for Militao a stage split in two.

In the first stage, he had few minutes and confusion within the team and in the second stage, a series of consecutive matches awakened his potential and he connected all the pieces, as reflected on the radar of his 1712 minutes in 2020/21, being one of the great stars of the team.

In fact, Militao is doing a little more than just succeeding at Real Madrid. The team is depending on this young man’s shoulders!

Marquinhos (Brazil, Paris Saint – Germain)

  • Full name: Marcos Aoás Corrêa

  • Date of birth: 14 May 1994 (age 27)

  • Place of birth: São Paulo, Brazil

  • Height: 1.83 m (6 ft 0 in)

  • Position(s): Defender / Defensive midfielder

Another Brazilian player who is on the list of the

best South American defenders of 2021

is PSG’s captain

Marquinhos

. The 27 – year – old versatile player – who can also be used as a defensive or central midfielder – was one of the best players of his club and undoubtedly one of the best South American footballers 2021.

Marquinhos seems to be in his best – ever form at the age of 27, captaining one of the most powerful clubs in Europe while Lionel Messi and Sergio Ramos also play for PSG.

He played in 6 out of 7 games during 2021 Copa America for Brazil, and also scored the opening goal of the tournament against Venezuela. He played a pivotal role in taking Brazil to their second consecutive Copa America final, however, unlike 2019, they failed to win their 10th ever Copa America trophy.

Marquinhos also has been an irreplaceable part of the starting lineup over the past years, and now his role in the team is more pivotal than ever. In addition to outstanding technical capabilities, Marquinhos is revered by the fans for his leadership ability as well.

Marquinhos is a ball-playing center-back and strides out of defense with ease and purpose. He arrived at Paris Saint-Germain in the summer of 2013 and has grown a lot since. The centre-back has risen through the ranks with patience, humility and dedication.

Marquinhos was vice-captain until Thiago Silva left in the summer of 2020. He became the official captain of the Red and Blue, which was the culmination of an impeccable sporting and human journey for him.

Jose Gimenez (Uruguay, Atletico Madrid)

  • Full name: José María Giménez de Vargas

  • Date of birth: 20 January 1995 (age 27)

  • Place of birth: Toledo, Uruguay

  • Height: 1.85 m (6 ft 1 in)

  • Position(s): Centre back

Although Uruguay national team did not find much happiness in the Copa America 2021 where they were eliminated by Colombia in round of 8, Gimenez spent a memorable year with his club. He helped his team to the conquest of 2020/21 La Liga title.

Moreover, Jan Oblak – Atletico’s goalkeeper - wouldn’t have kept 18 clean sheets and won the Zamora trophy without Gimenez’s bright performances. The 27 – year – old defender was definitely one of the

best South American defenders of 2021

, and with regard to his age, his best years might still lies ahead of him.

Upon performing 61 clearances and making 21 interceptions throughout 2020/21 La Liga, he was considered as one of the best defenders of the season and a pivotal player for

Diego Simeone

.

The Atletico Madrid defender was once linked with a move to Stamford Bridge, but he delivered the latest news on his future and announced that he would stay in the Spanish capital.

Gimenez has insisted he will be an Atletico Madrid player despite rumors linking him with Chelsea. The Blues were reportedly interested in signing a central defender and Gimenez had been one of the names.

Ronald Araujo (Uruguay, FC Barcelona)

  • Full name: Ronald Federico Araújo da Silva

  • Date of birth: 7 March 1999 (age 22)

  • Place of birth: Rivera, Uruguay

  • Height: 1.88 m (6 ft 2 in)

  • Position(s): Centre-back

Barcelona’s 22 – year – old defender is another player whose breakthrough occurred in 2021. As the club’s other defenders – who were more prominent – were not having good days- the 22 - year - old blossomed into quite a player at Camp Nou, and shortly later,

Araujo

became a starter.

The Uruguayan man is now considered Barça’s most reliable defender by the fans and has made 18 La Liga appearances in 2021/21 so far. Furthermore, he has also entered his national team’s starting lineup during World Cup qualifiers. He is a man of tall and powerful stature despite being only 22, and already so many of the biggest European clubs are eying him.

However, Barcelona doesn’t seem to be willing to sell one of the best players of their squad. In addition to his brilliant defensive abilities such his astonishing pace and good man-marking, Araujo is a huge contribution to the club’s attacking line, as he has scored 3 goals within 18 matches for Blaugrana only this season, all of which have been determining and vital goals: 2 equalizers against Granada and

Sevilla

, and the team’s second goal in a memorable 4 – 2 victory against Atletico Madrid.

While Barcelona are having their worst season within a decade, having a young promising center back like Ronald Araujo has given the Culers high hopes about the future.

Araujo is a player with excellent physical and defensive conditions, and hardly any forward is able to beat him in a duel. Standing at 1.93 meters allows him to be an imposing figure in both areas.

Araujo can play equally well with both feet, helping him to control the ball comfortably and unpredictability in tough situations.

He has good aerial abilities and he has quite some pace. We have often seen him tracking back the opponents’ so well, something we haven’t seen Umtiti,

Lenglet

, and even Pique doing it.

Juan Cuadrado (Colombia, Juventus)

  • Full name: Juan Guillermo Cuadrado Bello

  • Date of birth: 26 May 1988 (age 33)

  • Place of birth: Necoclí, Colombia

  • Height: 1.79 m (5 ft 10 in)

  • Position(s): Winger, full-back

The versatile player who can be deployed anywhere on the right side of the pitch – right back, right midfielder, or even a right winger – was one of Juventus’s best players in a year that didn’t go on so well for the Bianconeri.

He is the only right back on our list of the

best South American defenders of 2021

, and this clearly suggests how good he has been during the year.

Juan Cuadrado

featured in 30 Serie A matches for Juventus, scored 2 goals and provided 10 assists.

He was the league’s 3rd – highest assist provider and the best among Juventus players. Additionally, the Colombian player was 2020/21 UEFA Champions League’s best assist provider with 6 assists although Juventus were knocked out in the round of 16!

He commented on his transfer rumors, "I am very happy in

Juventus

and in the city. My family is adapted to the city, and I have one more year of contract, but not only depends on me."

Moreover, his performance on international level was just as good, where he played a pivotal role in Colombia’s reaching the semi – finals in 2021 Copa America where they were eliminated by the eventual champions Argentina in penalties.

Cuadrado scored 1 goal and provided 1 assists throughout the tournament and was not only considered to be among best defenders in Copa America 2021, but also as one of the most shining players of the tournament alongside Lionel Messi and Neymar Jr – who were named the 

Copa America best player 2021

- and his fellow countrymen

Luis Diaz

, who has recently joined Liverpool.

Cuadrado has shown attributes such as pace, personality, and perseverance ever since joining Juventus in the summer of 2015. A seemingly endless source of energy, the Colombia international has built a reputation as a game-changer, his unique skillset brings something completely different to the pitch.

Best known for his trickery and ability to dribble past his marker down the flank, Cuadrado is also an extremely sharp shooter and has netted a number of wonder strikes in the black and white jersey.

After their opening Group A fixture in the Copa America, Cuadrado was quick to point out the importance of the team above all else.

"No one is more important than the team," Cuadrado said. "We are always stronger when we are united.

"If someone goes against this idea, everything starts to weaken."

Nicolas Otamendi (Argentina, SL Benfica)

  • Full name: Nicolás Hernán Gonzalo Otamendi

  • Date of birth: 12 February 1988 (age 34)

  • Place of birth: Buenos Aires, Argentina

  • Height: 1.83 m (6 ft 0 in)

  • Position(s): Centre back

The 34 – year – old defender is still Argentina’s first choice center back, and has proved to be competent for the job as he was one of Argentina’s most shining players on their way to the conquest of the Copa America.

He was undoubtedly one of the best defenders in Copa America 2021 upon making a total of 10 interceptions and performing 9 clearances within 6 matches including his astounding performance against Brazil in the final match, which led to Argentina’s 1 – 0 victory over Seleçao, and thus achieving their 15th Copa America trophy.

In addition, he has been a crucial player of Benfica’s lineup ever since he moved from

Manchester City

to play for the Eagles in the September of 2020.

The then 32-year-old defender embarked on a new challenge in Portugal after five years of fantastic service during which he helped the Club lift every major honor in English football. He signed a contract with

Benfica

until 2023.

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source: SportMob

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