The position of central defender is one of the most demanding in football. They are expected to kill offensive threats in their cradle, instruct teammates from deep, and play back without hesitation when necessary.
The weight of expectations is considerable, causing many of them to fumble and become the laughing stock of fans and the media.
Some, on the other hand, love a challenge and thrive under insurmountable pressure. They go out every week with one mission in mind, to give their all for the crest and gradually help their team win important trophies.
Today we’re going to take a look at a few centre-backs who have become the definition of perfection in recent years.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at the top five centre-backs ruling Europe right now:
#5 Marquinhos – Paris Saint-Germain
From understudy of Thiago Silva to undisputed leader of Paris Saint-Germain, Marquinhos has come a long way in recent years.
The Brazilian central defender, who joined PSG from AS Roma for 31.4 million euros in 2013, has won seven Ligue 1 titles, among other accolades, with the Parisians.
The 28-year-old is a fearless modern defender. He is strong, agile, excellent in the air, hardworking and good with the ball on foot, which makes him a coach’s delight.
Marquinhos is also very precise in his challenges, he is rarely sanctioned with a yellow card for unjustified challenges.
The central defender, who helped PSG win their 10th national title last season, prepared for the 2022-23 season by taking part in the four pre-season matches in Paris.
The former Roma player is expected to be in action again when PSG take on Nantes in the Supercopa de France on Sunday night (July 31).
#4 Matthijs de Ligt – Bayern Munich
At just 22 years old, Matthijs de Ligt has already established himself as one of the best centre-backs in the world.
After spending the last three seasons at Juventus, he joined Bayern Munich earlier this month, becoming their most expensive (€67m) centre-back of all time.
De Ligt, who captained Ajax to the Champions League semi-finals in the 2018-19 campaign, is one of the most physically intimidating players. He is also deceptively quick and has a natural flair for making clinical tackles in the box.
De Ligt, who won a Serie A title with Juventus, made his Bayern Munich debut in a 6-2 friendly win over DC United on July 20.
He is set to make his competitive debut when the Bavarians take on RB Leipzig in the DFL-Supercup on Saturday July 30.
#3 Ruben Dias – Manchester City
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola is rarely satisfied with perfection. He is always looking to improve and make his team play better.
It was this quest for perfection that prompted Manchester City to knock on Benfica’s door to sign their prized central defender Ruben Dias. After two seasons, we can say that Manchester City have no complaints about the player they brought from Portugal.
Dias, 25, isn’t cheeky like many of his peers because he doesn’t commit too much. More importantly, he fits like a puzzle into Guardiola’s system.
He is also a shrewd game player, brilliant interceptor and smart distributor, which makes him a complete modern defender.
The ‘2020-21 Premier League Player of the Year’ helped City to the Premier League title last season, with plenty of spectacular performances.
He will look to pick up where he left off when City take on Liverpool in the FA Community Shield on Saturday July 30.
#2 David Alaba – Real Madrid
Last summer, Real Madrid lost two of their tried and true centre-backs, Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane, to leave the club. After exhausting his contract with Bayern Munich, David Alaba joined Los Blancos as a free agent, taking over Ramos’ legendary No.4 shirt.
Since joining the club, Alaba has been a real phenomenon at Real Madrid. The left-back turned centre-back exceeded all expectations, completing the near impossible task of replacing Ramos.
Last season, the 30-year-old featured in all major La Liga and Champions League matches (42 appearances in total), putting in several quality performances. He helped Madrid achieve the Champions League-Champions League double in his first-ever season at the Santiago Bernabeu.
From dominating opponents to driving the ball deep, he did it all last season and earned the approval of Real Madrid fans.
The Austrian has already featured in two pre-season friendlies this summer and is set to be in action again against Juventus on Saturday July 30.
#1 Virgil van Dijk – Liverpool
Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk is widely hailed as the best centre-back in the world right now, and he deserves it.
Since joining from Southampton for €55million in January 2018, Van Dijk has turned the Reds’ luck. An absolute leader on the pitch, the Dutchman introduced stability into Liverpool’s back line, drastically reducing defensive lapses.
The tall centre-back is exceptionally quick, knows how to read the game and is also quite unwieldy in the opposition box. He is an excellent ball distributor and is often seen getting the upper hand on the opponent.
Van Dijk has a great partner in Ibrahima Konaté, and much of the credit for training the young Frenchman goes to the former Southampton player.
The 31-year-old, who won the FA Cup-EFL Cup double with Liverpool last season, is expected to be in action against Manchester City in the FA Community Shield on Saturday.