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The Best Soccer Defenders of All Time 

Ranker Community
Originally by Ranker Community
Updated November 22, 2019 139.4k votes 15.4k voters 256.3k views 464 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
Defender from Milan, Italy

Nationality: 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

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#1,036 of 2,181 The Best Athletes Of All Time #823 of 1,419 The Best Soccer Players of All Time #104 of 203 The Best Soccer Players of the '90s

2
Franco Baresi is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Soccer Defenders of All Time
Defender from Travagliato, Italy

Nationality: 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

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#964 of 2,181 The Best Athletes Of All Time #860 of 1,419 The Best Soccer Players of All Time #119 of 203 The Best Soccer Players of the '90s

3
Franz Beckenbauer is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Soccer Defenders of All Time
Defender and Sweeper from Munich, Germany

Nationality: 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

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#225 of 2,181 The Best Athletes Of All Time #13 of 1,419 The Best Soccer Players of All Time #152 of 357 The Best Current Soccer Players

4
Cafu is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Soccer Defenders of All Time
Defender from São Paulo, Brazil

Nationality: 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

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#353 of 2,181 The Best Athletes Of All Time #31 of 1,419 The Best Soccer Players of All Time #64 of 203 The Best Soccer Players of the '90s

5
Bobby Moore is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Soccer Defenders of All Time
Defender from Barking, London, England

Nationality: United Kingdom

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

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#30 of 2,181 The Best Athletes Of All Time #66 of 1,419 The Best Soccer Players of All Time #3 of 262 The Best Soccer Players from United Kingdom

6
Frank Rijkaard is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Soccer Defenders of All Time
Defender and Midfielder from Amsterdam, Netherlands

Nationality: 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

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#863 of 2,181 The Best Athletes Of All Time #849 of 1,419 The Best Soccer Players of All Time #121 of 203 The Best Soccer Players of the '90s

7
Giacinto Facchetti is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Soccer Defenders of All Time
Defender from Treviglio, Italy

Nationality: 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

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#183 of 2,181 The Best Athletes Of All Time #208 of 1,419 The Best Soccer Players of All Time

8
Cesare Maldini is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Soccer Defenders of All Time
veterancw added Cesare Maldini Defender from Trieste, Italy

Nationality: 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

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#760 of 2,181 The Best Athletes Of All Time #87 of 1,419 The Best Soccer Players of All Time

9
Daniel Passarella is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Soccer Defenders of All Time
Defender from Chacabuco, Argentina

Nationality: 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

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#154 of 1,419 The Best Soccer Players of All Time #33 of 136 The Greatest South American Footballers of All Time #87 of 99 The Best Hispanic Athletes

10
Alessandro Nesta is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Soccer Defenders of All Time
Defender from Rome, Italy

Nationality: 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

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#1,162 of 2,181 The Best Athletes Of All Time #59 of 1,419 The Best Soccer Players of All Time #132 of 203 The Best Soccer Players of the '90s

11
Ruud Krol is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Soccer Defenders of All Time
Defender from Amsterdam, Netherlands

Nationality: 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

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#164 of 2,181 The Best Athletes Of All Time #138 of 1,419 The Best Soccer Players of All Time #9 of 76 The Best Dutch Soccer Players from the Netherlands, Ranked

12
Alessandro Costacurta is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Soccer Defenders of All Time
Defender from Jerago con Orago, Italy

Nationality: Italy

Alessandro "Billy" Costacurta (Italian pronunciation: [alesˈsandro ˈbilli ˌkɔstaˈkurta]; born 24 April 1966) is an Italian football manager and a former professional defender, who ...more

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#1,373 of 2,181 The Best Athletes Of All Time #142 of 1,419 The Best Soccer Players of All Time #159 of 203 The Best Soccer Players of the '90s

13
Lilian Thuram is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Soccer Defenders of All Time
Defender from Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe

Nationality: France

Ruddy Lilian Thuram-Ulien (French pronunciation: ​[li.ljɑ̃ ty.ʁam]; born 1 January 1972) is a French retired professional football defender and the most capped player in the history of the ...more

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#119 of 1,419 The Best Soccer Players of All Time #39 of 203 The Best Soccer Players of the '90s #21 of 238 The Best French Soccer Players & Footballers of All Time

14
Fulvio Collovati is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Soccer Defenders of All Time
Zicopoust added Defender from Teor, Italy

Nationality: Italy

Fulvio Collovati (Italian pronunciation: [ˈfulvjo kolloˈvaːti]; born 9 May 1957) is an Italian former footballer, who played as a defender. He was a stopper (centre-back) and also played for ...more
15
Mauro Tassotti is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Soccer Defenders of All Time
berteds added Defender from Rome, Italy

Nationality: Italy

Mauro Tassotti (Italian pronunciation: [ˈmauro tasˈsɔtti]; born in Rome, 19 January 1960) is an Italian manager and former footballer who played predominantly as a right-back. He currently ...more

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#1,065 of 2,181 The Best Athletes Of All Time #198 of 1,419 The Best Soccer Players of All Time #123 of 203 The Best Soccer Players of the '90s

16
Sergio Ramos is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Soccer Defenders of All Time
Defender and Midfielder from Camas, Seville

Nationality: Spain

Sergio Ramos García (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈseɾxjo ˈramoz ɣaɾˈθi.a]; born 30 March 1986) is a Spanish professional footballer who plays for and captains both Real Madrid and the Spain ...more

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#1,870 of 2,181 The Best Athletes Of All Time #30 of 1,419 The Best Soccer Players of All Time #241 of 343 The Most Obnoxious Athletes

17
Gerard Piqué is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Soccer Defenders of All Time
Defender from Barcelona, Spain

Nationality: Spain

Gerard Piqué Bernabeu (Catalan: [ʒəˈɾaɾt piˈke βəɾnəˈβew], Spanish: [ɟʝeˈɾaɾ piˈke βeɾnaˈβeu]; born 2 February 1987) is a Spanish professional footballer who plays as a centre-back for ...more

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#139 of 1,419 The Best Soccer Players of All Time #24 of 357 The Best Current Soccer Players #21 of 103 The Best FC Barcelona Players Of All Time, Ranked

18
Lúcio is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Soccer Defenders of All Time
shisu added Lucio Defender from Planaltina, Federal District, Brazil

Nationality: Brazil

Lucimar Ferreira da Silva (born 8 May 1978), commonly known as Lúcio, is a Brazilian footballer who plays for Brasiliense as a central defender. Lúcio began his professional career ...more
19
Nílton Santos is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Soccer Defenders of All Time
Defender from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Nationality: Brazil

Nílton dos Santos (Brazilian Portuguese: [ˈniwtõ ˈsɐ̃tus]; 16 May 1925 – 27 November 2013) was a Brazilian footballer who primarily played as a wingback. At international level, he ...more
20
Claudio Gentile is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Soccer Defenders of All Time
Defender from Tripoli, Libya

Nationality: Libya, Italy

Claudio Gentile (Italian pronunciation: [ˈklaudjo dʒenˈtiːle]; born 27 September 1953 in Tripoli, Libya) is an Italian association football manager and former defender of the 1970s and 1980s. ...more
21
Manfred Kaltz is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Soccer Defenders of All Time
Defender from Ludwigshafen, Germany

Nationality: West Germany, Germany

Manfred Kaltz (born 6 January 1953) is a former German football player and manager, who played as a right back.Kaltz played in the Bundesliga for Hamburger SV and 13 times (one goal) for FC ...more

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#53 of 2,181 The Best Athletes Of All Time #388 of 1,419 The Best Soccer Players of All Time #59 of 155 The Best Soccer Players from Germany

22
Alan Hansen is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Soccer Defenders of All Time
Defender from Sauchie, United Kingdom

Nationality: United Kingdom

Alan David Hansen (born 13 June 1955) is a Scottish former football player and BBC television football pundit. He played as a central defender for Partick Thistle, for the successful Liverpool ...more

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#210 of 1,419 The Best Soccer Players of All Time #39 of 262 The Best Soccer Players from United Kingdom #10 of 140 The Best Liverpool Players Of All Time

23
Giuseppe Bergomi is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Soccer Defenders of All Time
Giuseppe Bergomi Defender from Milan, Italy

Nationality: Italy

Giuseppe "Beppe" Bergomi (Italian pronunciation: [dʒuˈzɛppe ˈbɛrɡomi]; born 22 December 1963) is an Italian retired footballer who spent his entire career at Internazionale. A one-club ...more

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#2,142 of 2,181 The Best Athletes Of All Time #197 of 1,419 The Best Soccer Players of All Time

24
Aldair is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Soccer Defenders of All Time
Defender from Ilhéus, Brazil

Nationality: Brazil

Aldair Nascimento dos Santos (Brazilian Portuguese: [awdaˈiʁ]; born 30 November 1965), known simply as Aldair, is a retired Brazilian footballer who played as a defender, and who was part of the ...more

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#240 of 1,419 The Best Soccer Players of All Time #49 of 264 The Best Soccer Players from Brazil

25
Carlos Alberto Torres is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Soccer Defenders of All Time
Defender from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Nationality: 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

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#535 of 2,181 The Best Athletes Of All Time #761 of 1,419 The Best Soccer Players of All Time #42 of 136 The Greatest South American Footballers of All Time