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16.0k voters

The Best Soccer Defenders of All Time

Updated November 22, 2019 146.9k votes 16.0k voters 261.5k views452 items

List RulesOnly 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.
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  • 1
    6,350
    1,088

    PositionDefender

    BirthplaceMilan, 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 and the...  more

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    #90 of 163 The Smartest Professional Athletes#154 of 311 Unicef Goodwill Ambassadors

  • 2
    3,099
    1,498

    PositionDefender

    BirthplaceTravagliato, 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
    3,612
    1,137

    PositionDefender, Sweeper

    BirthplaceMunich, 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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    #1 of 100 The Best Bayern Munich Players Of All Time, Ranked#98 of 152 The Most Influential Athletes Of All Time

  • 4
    2,247
    1,064

    Cafu

    Brazil

    PositionDefender

    BirthplaceSão Paulo, 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, he...  more

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  • 5
    1,421
    953

    Bobby Moore

    United Kingdom

    PositionDefender

    BirthplaceBarking, London, 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 years,...  more

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    #4 of 200 The Best Soccer Players from United Kingdom#1 of 211 The Best Soccer Players from England

  • 6
    908
    571

    Cesare Maldini

    Italy

    PositionDefender

    BirthplaceTrieste, 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
  • 7
    1,047
    899

    Frank Rijkaard

    Netherlands

    PositionDefender, Midfielder

    BirthplaceAmsterdam, 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. Rijkaard...  more
  • 8

    PositionDefender

    BirthplaceTreviglio, 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
  • 9
    673
    599

    PositionDefender

    BirthplaceChacabuco

    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 captain of...  more
  • 10
    3,045
    1,073

    PositionDefender

    BirthplaceRome, 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 the...  more

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    #59 of 1,293 The Best Soccer Players of All Time#921 of 1,316 The Best Athletes Of All Time

  • 11

    PositionDefender

    BirthplaceJerago con Orago, Italy

    Alessandro "Billy" Costacurta (Italian pronunciation: [alesˈsandro ˈbilli ˌkɔstaˈkurta]; born 24 April 1966) is an Italian football manager and a former professional defender, who usually played as a...  more
  • 12
    85
    44

    Richard Gough

    Scotland, Sweden

    PositionDefender

    BirthplaceStockholm, Sweden

    Charles Richard Gough (born 5 April 1962) is a Scottish former footballer, who played as a defender. He came to prominence in the successful Dundee United team of the early 1980s, winning the...  more
  • 13
    935
    509

    PositionDefender

    BirthplacePointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe

    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 France...  more

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    #31 of 215 The Best French Soccer Players & Footballers of All Time#95 of 205 Celebrities Born On New Year's Day

  • 14
    339
    278

    PositionDefender

    BirthplaceRome, 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 serves as...  more
  • 15
    317
    290

    PositionDefender

    BirthplaceTeor, 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 Italy at...  more
  • 16
    2,567
    1,539

    PositionDefender, Midfielder

    BirthplaceCamas, Seville

    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 national team...  more

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    #13 of 49 The Best Real Madrid Midfielders Of All Time#1 of 32 The Best Real Madrid Defenders Of All Time

  • 17
    442
    317

    Giuseppe Bergomi

    Italy

    PositionDefender

    BirthplaceMilan, 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 man, Bergomi...  more
  • 18
    1,314
    858

    PositionDefender, Midfielder

    BirthplaceRio de Janeiro, Brazil

    Thiago Emiliano da Silva (Brazilian Portuguese: [tʃiˈaɡu ẽmiliˈɐ̃nu dɐ ˈsiwvɐ]; born 22 September 1984), commonly known as Thiago Silva, is a Brazilian professional footballer who plays as a central...  more
  • 19
    108
    68

    PositionDefender

    BirthplaceLiverpool, United Kingdom

    Roy Leslie McFarland (born 5 April 1948) is an English former football manager and former player. With Derby County, he played 442 league games, helping him to earn 28 caps for England....  more
  • 20
    304
    284

    Jürgen Kohler

    Germany, West Germany

    PositionDefender

    BirthplaceLambsheim, Germany

    Jürgen Kohler (born 6 October 1965) is a World Cup-winning German footballer and manager, who played as a centre-back. Kohler has retired from professional sports, but still occasionally plays for...  more
  • 21
    247
    194

    Paul Breitner

    West Germany, Germany

    PositionDefender, Midfielder

    BirthplaceKolbermoor, Germany

    Paul Breitner (born 5 September 1951 in Kolbermoor, Bavaria) is a former German footballer, who played as a midfielder or as a defender. One of Germany's most controversial players, he earned 48 caps...  more

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    #33 of 103 Coolest Soccer Players#7 of 31 The Best Bayern Munich Defenders Of All Time

  • 22
    2,328
    925

    PositionDefender

    BirthplaceNaples, 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
  • 23
    286
    252

    Andreas Brehme

    West Germany, Germany

    PositionDefender, Midfielder

    BirthplaceHamburg, Germany

    Andreas "Andy" Brehme (born 9 November 1960) is a German football coach and former football defender. At international level, he is best known for scoring the winning goal for Germany in the 1990...  more
  • 24
    324
    132

    Virgil van Dijk

    Netherlands

    PositionDefender

    BirthplaceBreda, Kingdom of the Netherlands

    Virgil van Dijk is a Dutch footballer who currently plays as a centre back for Scottish Premiership club Celtic and the Netherlands national football team. He was born to a Dutch Father and...  more

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  • 25
    382
    331

    Claudio Gentile

    Italy, Libya

    PositionDefender

    BirthplaceTripoli, Libya

    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. Gentile...  more