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The Best Soccer Defenders of All Time  

Ranker Community
Originally by Ranker Community
131.4k votes 14.5k voters 243.2k views 461 items

List Rules Only defense players, no mid-fielders. Please rank the players based on their on-field accomplishments

The best soccer players of all time aren't always the ones right in the action, sometimes all it takes is a step back and a bit of appreciation to realize that the grunts who are defending the goal are the best. These best football defenders (as they're called everywhere besides the US) are in the ranks of the best athletes in the world, and have earned their spots by being the best footballers in the world.

What are the qualities of the best defenders in soccer? These men are equal parts the best defense men in soccer, the top players in soccer, and the best conditioned athletes in the sport of soccer. To truly be the greatest, defenders must be quick runners and possess the ability to kick the ball FAR, all the way to the other side of the field. Defensive soccer players must also have a mastery of fancy footwork - lest they let an offensive player weave past them. All these factors and more combine to determine who should be called the best defenders in soccer.

Who are the best soccer defenders of all time? Who are the top defenders in soccer? Who are the best football defenders of all time? SO MANY QUESTIONS, all which need to be answered in this compilation of the top soccer defenders ever. If your favorite soccer player in the position of defender isn't on the list, make sure to add them so others can vote for them as the best football defender ever. If you don't add them, they won't get any play.
list ordered by
1
Paolo Maldini is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Soccer Defenders of All Time
Italy
Paolo Cesare Maldini (Italian pronunciation: [ˈpaːolo malˈdiːni]; born 26 June 1968) is an Italian former professional footballer who played as a left back and central defender for A.C. Milan ...more
2
Franco Baresi is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Soccer Defenders of All Time
Italy
Franco Baresi (Italian pronunciation: [ˈfraŋko baˈreːzi; -eːsi]; born 8 May 1960) is an Italian football youth team coach and a former player and manager. He mainly played as a sweeper or as a ...more
3
Franz Beckenbauer is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Soccer Defenders of All Time
Germany
Franz Anton Beckenbauer (pronounced [ˈfʁants ˈbɛkn̩ˌbaʊɐ]; born 11 September 1945) is a German former professional footballer and manager. Early in his playing career he was nicknamed Der Kaiser ...more
4
Djalma Santos is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Soccer Defenders of All Time
Brazil
Djalma Pereira Dias dos Santos known simply as Djalma Santos (Brazilian Portuguese: [diˈʒawmɐ ˈsɐ̃tus]; also spelled Dejalma Santos), (27 February 1929 – 23 July 2013) was a Brazilian footballer ...more
5
Mauro Ramos is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Soccer Defenders of All Time
Andrea Pillerè added Brazil
Mauro Ramos de Oliveira (30 August 1930 – 18 September 2002), known as Mauro Ramos or simply Mauro, was a Brazilian professional association footballer. He played as a central defender for ...more
6
Cafu is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Soccer Defenders of All Time
Brazil
Marcos Evangelista de Morais (born 7 June 1970), known as Cafu [kaˈfu], is a Brazilian former professional footballer who played as a defender. With 142 appearances for the Brazil national team, ...more
7
Alessandro Nesta is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Soccer Defenders of All Time
Italy
Alessandro Nesta (Italian pronunciation: [alesˈsandro ˈnɛsta]; born 19 March 1976) is a former Italian professional footballer and current manager of Frosinone. Widely considered to be one of ...more
8
Bobby Moore is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Soccer Defenders of All Time
United Kingdom, England
Robert Frederick Chelsea Moore OBE (12 April 1941 – 24 February 1993) was an English professional footballer. He most notably played for West Ham United, captaining the club for more than ten ...more
9
Leovegildo Lins da Gama Júnior is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Soccer Defenders of All Time
Brazil
Leovegildo Lins da Gama Júnior (born 29 June 1954), known simply as Júnior or Léo Júnior, is a Brazilian former professional footballer who played as a left back or ...more
10
Ruud Krol is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Soccer Defenders of All Time
Netherlands
Rudolf ("Ruud" or "Rudi") Jozef Krol (born 24 March 1949) is a Dutch retired footballer who was capped 83 times for his native country. Most of his career he played for his ...more
11
Carlos Alberto Torres is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Soccer Defenders of All Time
Brazil
Carlos Alberto "Capita" Torres (17 July 1944 – 25 October 2016), also known as "O Capitão do Tri", was a Brazilian footballer. He is widely regarded as one of the best ...more
12
Cesare Maldini is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Soccer Defenders of All Time
veterancw added Cesare Maldini Italy
Cesare Maldini (Italian pronunciation: [ˈtʃeːzare malˈdiːni, ˈtʃɛː-]; 5 February 1932 – 3 April 2016) was an Italian professional football manager and player, who played as a defender. Father to ...more
13
Roberto Rosato is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Soccer Defenders of All Time
Zicopoust added Italy
Roberto Rosato (Italian pronunciation: [roˈbɛrto roˈzaːto]; 18 August 1943 – 20 June 2010) was an Italian footballer, who played as a defender. A strong, hard-tackling, and reliable centre-back, ...more
14
Tarcisio Burgnich is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Soccer Defenders of All Time
Italy
Tarcisio Burgnich (Italian pronunciation: [tarˈtʃiːzjo ˈburɲitʃ]; born 25 April 1939) is an Italian former football manager and player, who played as a defender. Throughout his career, Burgnich ...more
15
Frank Rijkaard is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Soccer Defenders of All Time
Netherlands
Franklin Edmundo Rijkaard (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈfrɑŋk ˈrɛi̯kaːrt] (listen); born 30 September 1962) is a Dutch former footballer and former manager who played as a midfielder or defender. ...more
16
Marius Trésor is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Soccer Defenders of All Time
France
Marius Paul Trésor (born 15 January 1950) is a French former professional footballer who played as a defender. He was named by Pelé as one of the top 125 greatest living ...more
17
Giacinto Facchetti is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Soccer Defenders of All Time
Italy
Giacinto Facchetti (Italian pronunciation: [dʒaˈtʃinto fakˈketti]; 18 July 1942 – 4 September 2006) was an Italian footballer who played as a defender. From January 2004 until his death, he was ...more
18
Karl-Heinz Schnellinger is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Soccer Defenders of All Time
Germany
Karl-Heinz Schnellinger (born 31 March 1939, in Düren) is a former German footballer who played as a defender. An athletic and hard-tackling player, with a strong physique, he was nicknamed ...more
19
Elías Figueroa is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Soccer Defenders of All Time
Chile
Elías Ricardo Figueroa Brander (born 25 October 1946 in Valparaíso) is a Chilean former football player. Figueroa played for several clubs during his long career, notably his ...more
20
Roberto Carlos is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Soccer Defenders of All Time
Brazil
Roberto Carlos da Silva Rocha (born 10 April 1973), more commonly known simply as Roberto Carlos, is a Brazilian retired professional footballer who now works as a football ambassador. He ...more
21
Fabio Cannavaro is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Soccer Defenders of All Time
Italy
Fabio Cannavaro (Italian pronunciation: [ˈfaːbjo kannaˈvaːro]; born 13 September 1973) is an Italian former professional footballer and current manager of Chinese club Guangzhou Evergrande. ...more
22
Carles Puyol is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Soccer Defenders of All Time
Spain
Carles Puyol Saforcada (Catalan pronunciation: [ˈkaɾles puˈjɔl i safoɾˈkaða]; born 13 April 1978) is a Spanish retired professional footballer who played his entire career for Barcelona. ...more
23
Daniel Passarella is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Soccer Defenders of All Time
Argentina
Daniel Alberto Passarella (born 25 May 1953) is an Argentine retired footballer who played as a centre back, and former manager of the Argentina and Uruguay national football teams. He was ...more
24
Manuel Sanchís Hontiyuelo is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Soccer Defenders of All Time
Andrea Pillerè added Spain
Manuel "Manolo" Sanchís Hontiyuelo (Spanish pronunciation: [maˈnolo sanˈtʃis]; born 23 May 1965) is a Spanish retired footballer who played as a sweeper. A part of the famous ...more
25
Philipp Lahm is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Soccer Defenders of All Time
Germany, West Germany
Philipp Lahm (German pronunciation: [ˈfɪlɪp ˈlaːm]; born 11 November 1983) is a German retired professional footballer who played as a right back or defensive midfielder and spent much of his ...more