Best Tacklers in Football - Dribblers Beware!

Josip Brajkovic
Josip Brajkovic
Published: 2. siječnja 2024.

While discussing defensive players and especially ranking them used to be a fool’s errand even in a crowd of friends, let alone a public forum, now these positions are also covered with specific statistics. Concrete ones at that. Not based on algorithms, but simple and to the point, yet revealing. Discussing the best tacklers in football must consist the facts about the number of tackles attempted, tackles made, and the success rate.

Of course, the art of defending is about more, with positioning, teamwork, heading, blocking, anticipation, and so on. But here we are looking at the best tacklers in football.

It should be obvious, but not all the best tacklers are defenders positionally.

#10 Morten Frendrup (Genoa)

Morten Frendrup, FC Salzburg gegen Br?ndby IF (Championsleague Play off Hinspiel 17. August 2021).jpg
By Werner100359 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Not the most recognizable of names, yet what the 22-year-old Morten Frendrup has done in Italy has to warrant an inclusion on this list. After dominating Serie B tackling in the 2022/2023 season, the Dane is now leading the Serie A tackles won list by quite a margin. Registrating 36 tackles won at the half-season mark, he is third overall in the top five leagues representing Genoa. The midfielder is also first in the Italian championship for tackling dribblers, mostly doing his work in the middle of the pitch.

#9 Javi Galan (Atletico Madrid)

In the top five for tackles won for both the 2021/2022 and the 2022/2023 seasons, Javi Galan has to be included as one of the best tacklers in football. This earned the Spaniard a transfer to the kings of defence Atletico Madrid, where he hasn't gotten as many chances as previously. Yet his work over with Celta can't be understated. With 66 tackles won in the first mentioned campaign, and 72 in the following. Galan was attacking dribblers too, with 48 successful stops during challenges in the previous season.

#8 Vini Souza (Sheffield United)

Vini Souza

The only player besides the number one tackler on the list to find himself in the top 10 for tackles won across the top five leagues in the last two seasons. Vini Souza arrived from Belgium to Sheffield United for €12,500,000 in the summer of 2023, yet he spent the previous season with Espanyol in La Liga. The year prior, he was the first in tackles made and tackles won in the Belgian top division. With 35 tackles won in a half-season of Premier League football, and double digits in all zones of the pitch, Vini is on the radar of the league's biggest.

#7 William Saliba (Arsenal)

William Saliba

Despite being so young at 22, William Saliba has peaked in regards to the success rate of attacking dribblers in two very distinct leagues - Premier League and Ligue 1 prior. For the 2021/2022 season with Marseille, Saliba was second in France at a rate of 77.1% with 35 challenges attempted. His ratio only improved with Arsenal in the two following years with 83.3% and 92.3% in the last two campaigns. As a tackle success rate is a trait of experienced defenders who have seen it all, Saliba definitely deserves an entry.

#6 Guido Rodriguez (Real Betis)

Guido Rodriguez

Guido Rodriguez had a late start to his European adventure, after dominating the tackling game in the Mexican championship. But since arriving to Real Betis, the Argentinian has continued producing in the defensive end. Being first in the 2022/2023 La Liga for tackles won, second in Europe's top five divisions. The defensive midfielder was in Europe's top 10 for dribblers challenged in the 2021/2022 and the following season.

#5 Bryan Cristante (Roma)

Bryan Cristante

Another defensive midfielder on the list - which makes sense as they can "afford" to make tackles because there's usually someone behind them to cover up if they're unsuccessful. Roma's tall DM was first in Serie A for tackles won in the 2022/2023 season, and in the top five for tackles attempted and dribblers tackled for the two past seasons. Making the rankings in the top 10 of the European big leagues too. Jose Mourinho was pleased.

#4 Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Manchester United)

Aaron Wan-Bissaka

Known primarily for his tackling abilities, Aaron Wan-Bissaka might not be the full-back Manchester United needs, that is an all-rounder, yet he does his trade near-perfect. In the 2022/2023 season no player in the top five leagues was better than him at challenging dribblers. Of 25 attempts, AWB got the timing right times, for a success rate of 92.0% Overall, he attempted 40 tackles that season, mostly in the defensive end.

#3 Pedro Porro (Tottenham)

Pedro Porro

Pedro Porro is the player with the second most tackles won in the 2023/2024 season, 37 at the half-season. Yet he made a significant improvement when Ante Postecoglu took the lead at Tottenham. Still, at the age of 24, Porro is demonstrating the level his potential promised. Doing his tackling across all three zones of the field, the right-back is always a threat for stealing possession.

#2 Kim Min-jae (Bayern Munich)

Kim Min-jae

Now Kim Min-jae has a little bit less tackling to do as he is playing for Bayern Munich, but his ability to strip defenders of the ball is a major reason why the Bavarians paid €50,000,000 for him. Even as a centre-back, his dribblers' challenged success ratio was astronomical in the 2022/2023 season, at 86.2% with 29 attempted. Second-best in Europe's top leagues. Overall his tackles happened in a near 60-40 split across the defensive and midfield zone. Something that Bayern needed.

#1 Joao Palhinha (Fulham)

Joao Palhinha

For two seasons straight, Fulham's Joao Palhinha leads the top five leagues in the number of tackles won! But also tackles attempted and dribblers challenged! The Portuguese midfielder has been key for the Cottagers and now they face a battle in trying to keep the 28-year-old as he is now in his prime. Even though he is a midfield player, Palhinha made most of his tackles on the 2023/2024 season in the last, or defensive third of the pitch! With a tackle success rate on dribblers 53% in the previous season and 65.5% in the current!

He doesn’t have the most well-known crest on his chest while he plays (yet) but Joao Palhinha is the golden standard for best tacklers in football.


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