Sports
15.8k voters

The Best Soccer Defenders of All Time

Updated November 22, 2019 141.3k votes 15.8k voters 259.5k 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.
Photo:
...more
  • Paolo Maldini1
    6,606
    1,125

    PositionDefender

    BirthplaceMilan, Italy

    Paolo Cesare Maldini (Italian pronunciation: [ˈpaːolo malˈdiːni]; born 26 June 1968) is an...  more

    More Paolo Maldini 

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

  • Franco Baresi2
    3,205
    1,555

    PositionDefender

    BirthplaceTravagliato, Italy

    Franco Baresi (Italian pronunciation: [ˈfraŋko baˈreːzi; -eːsi]; born 8 May 1960) is an...  more
  • Franz Beckenbauer3
    3,742
    1,184

    PositionDefender, Sweeper

    BirthplaceMunich, Germany

    Franz Anton Beckenbauer (pronounced [ˈfʁants ˈbɛkn̩ˌbaʊɐ]; born 11 September 1945) is a German...  more

    More Franz Beckenbauer 

    #1 of 31 The Best Bayern Munich Defenders Of All Time#4 of 100 The Best Bayern Munich Players Of All Time, Ranked

  • Cafu4
    2,347
    1,081

    Cafu

    Brazil

    PositionDefender

    BirthplaceSão Paulo, Brazil

    Marcos Evangelista de Morais (born 7 June 1970), known as Cafu [kaˈfu], is a Brazilian former...  more

    More Cafu 

    #19 of 138 The Greatest South American Footballers of All Time#8 of 266 The Best Soccer Players from Brazil

  • Cesare Maldini5
    925
    554

    Cesare Maldini

    Italy

    PositionDefender

    BirthplaceTrieste, Italy

    Cesare Maldini (Italian pronunciation: [ˈtʃeːzare malˈdiːni, ˈtʃɛː-]; 5 February 1932 – 3...  more
  • Bobby Moore6
    1,469
    968

    Bobby Moore

    United Kingdom, England

    PositionDefender

    BirthplaceLondon, Barking, United Kingdom

    Robert Frederick Chelsea Moore OBE (12 April 1941 – 24 February 1993) was an English...  more

    More Bobby Moore 

    #1 of 1,058 The Best Soccer Players from England#6 of 200 The Best Soccer Players from United Kingdom

  • Frank Rijkaard7
    1,089
    903

    Frank Rijkaard

    Netherlands

    PositionDefender, Midfielder

    BirthplaceAmsterdam, Netherlands

    Franklin Edmundo Rijkaard (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈfrɑŋk ˈrɛi̯kaːrt] (listen); born 30...  more
  • Giacinto Facchetti8
    1,014
    894

    PositionDefender

    BirthplaceTreviglio, Italy

    Giacinto Facchetti (Italian pronunciation: [dʒaˈtʃinto fakˈketti]; 18 July 1942 – 4 September...  more
  • Daniel Passarella9
    691
    605

    PositionDefender

    BirthplaceChacabuco, Argentina

    Daniel Alberto Passarella (born 25 May 1953) is an Argentine retired footballer who played as...  more
  • Alessandro Costacurta10

    PositionDefender

    BirthplaceJerago con Orago, Italy

    Alessandro "Billy" Costacurta (Italian pronunciation: [alesˈsandro ˈbilli ˌkɔstaˈkurta]; born...  more
  • Alessandro Nesta11
    3,167
    1,116

    PositionDefender

    BirthplaceRome, Italy

    Alessandro Nesta (Italian pronunciation: [alesˈsandro ˈnɛsta]; born 19 March 1976) is a...  more

    More Alessandro Nesta 

    #55 of 1,310 The Best Soccer Players of All Time#1017 of 1,427 The Best Athletes Of All Time

  • Mauro Tassotti12
    341
    268

    PositionDefender

    BirthplaceRome, Italy

    Mauro Tassotti (Italian pronunciation: [ˈmauro tasˈsɔtti]; born in Rome, 19 January 1960) is...  more
  • Lilian Thuram13
    956
    528

    PositionDefender

    BirthplacePointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe

    Ruddy Lilian Thuram-Ulien (French pronunciation: ​[li.ljɑ̃ ty.ʁam]; born 1 January 1972) is a...  more

    More Lilian Thuram 

    #34 of 222 The Best French Soccer Players & Footballers of All Time#95 of 205 Celebrities Born On New Year's Day

  • Fulvio Collovati14
    332
    287

    PositionDefender

    BirthplaceTeor, Italy

    Fulvio Collovati (Italian pronunciation: [ˈfulvjo kolloˈvaːti]; born 9 May 1957) is an Italian...  more
  • José Ramón Alexanko15

    PositionDefender

    BirthplaceBarakaldo, Spain

    José Ramón Alexanko Ventosa (Spanish pronunciation: [xo'se ra'mon alek'saŋko βen'tosa]; born...  more
  • Sergio Ramos16
    2,679
    1,593

    PositionDefender, Midfielder

    BirthplaceCamas, Seville

    Sergio Ramos García (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈseɾxjo ˈramoz ɣaɾˈθi.a]; born 30 March 1986) is...  more

    More Sergio Ramos 

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

  • Giuseppe Bergomi17
    454
    314

    Giuseppe Bergomi

    Italy

    PositionDefender

    BirthplaceMilan, Italy

    Giuseppe "Beppe" Bergomi (Italian pronunciation: [dʒuˈzɛppe ˈbɛrɡomi]; born 22 December 1963)...  more
  • Claudio Gentile18
    392
    327

    Claudio Gentile

    Libya, Italy

    PositionDefender

    BirthplaceTripoli, Libya

    Claudio Gentile (Italian pronunciation: [ˈklaudjo dʒenˈtiːle]; born 27 September 1953 in...  more
  • Lucio19
    450
    374

    Lucio

    Brazil

    PositionDefender

    BirthplacePlanaltina, Federal District, Brazil

    Lucimar Ferreira da Silva (born 8 May 1978), commonly known as Lúcio, is a Brazilian...  more
  • Thiago Silva20
    1,361
    880

    PositionDefender, Midfielder

    BirthplaceRio de Janeiro, Brazil

    Thiago Emiliano da Silva (Brazilian Portuguese: [tʃiˈaɡu ẽmiliˈɐ̃nu dɐ ˈsiwvɐ]; born 22...  more
  • Alan Hansen21
    274
    264

    Alan Hansen

    Scotland, United Kingdom

    PositionDefender

    BirthplaceSauchie, United Kingdom

    Alan David Hansen (born 13 June 1955) is a Scottish former football player and BBC television...  more
  • Terry Butcher22
    81
    41

    Terry Butcher

    Singapore, England

    PositionDefender

    BirthplaceSingapore

    Terence Ian Butcher (born 28 December 1958) is an English former professional footballer and...  more
  • Fabio Cannavaro23
    2,409
    969

    PositionDefender

    BirthplaceNaples, Italy

    Fabio Cannavaro (Italian pronunciation: [ˈfaːbjo kannaˈvaːro]; born 13 September 1973) is an...  more
  • Roberto Carlos24
    2,608
    1,041

    PositionDefender, Midfielder

    BirthplaceGarça, Brazil

    Roberto Carlos da Silva Rocha (born 10 April 1973), more commonly known simply as Roberto...  more

    More Roberto Carlos 

    #13 of 103 Coolest Soccer Players#2 of 108 The Best Real Madrid Players Of All Time, Ranked

  • Virgil van Dijk25
    296
    110

    Virgil van Dijk

    Netherlands

    PositionDefender

    BirthplaceBreda, Netherlands

    Virgil van Dijk is a Dutch footballer who currently plays as a centre back for Scottish...  more

    More 

    #23 of 356 The Best Current Soccer Players#1 of 164 Who's the Best Player in the Premier League?