Top 10 best defenders in the world in 2023

Josip Brajkovic
Josip Brajkovic
Published: 8.6.2023.

While sports brands are running to sign the attacking stars - as that's where the majority of fans look towards - the experience sporting directors and managers know that backlines bring trophies. These top 10 best defenders in the world might not have the Instagram followers of their colleagues up front, but they get the job done. Or got it done.

As in this breakdown of the best defenders in the world, we're not looking at career achievements. Rather the performances placed across the 2022/2023 season, in all competitions. The highest weight is given to the leagues and the Champions League, followed by the World Cup, other European club competitions, and cup games.

As football is a team sport, the team's performances are the dominating factor towards choosing the best defenders for the campaign. League placement, goals conceded, as well as competition duration for the knockout tournaments. Followed then by the individual stats. While not overlooking the attacking ones regardless of the primary role: goals and assists win matches. With the general impact on the pitch also taken into consideration.

Best defenders in the world for the 2022/2023 season

Gabriel Magalhaes (Arsenal), centre-back

By Valencia CF -<, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

At the back of Arsenal's unexpected title race was the 25-year-old Brazilian who steadily became a Premier League household name. The centre-back who arrived from Lille in 2026 for €26,000,000 played in every game of the 2022/2023 PL campaign. Scoring three goals too! While also managing to get 10 appearances in Europe and cup competitions. Mikel Arteta's team was deemed as too defensive to compete at the top, yet the stability provided by Gabriel and his colleagues almost made for the biggest upset of the season.

Facundo Medina (Lens), centre-back

Entraînement du RC Lens - 15 juillet 2020 21.jpg
By Supporterhéninois; - Own work;, CC0, Link

The fact that Lens finished Ligue 1 second, in their third season back at the top of the French football pyramid was impressive enough. Doing so while conceding 29 goals, 11 fewer than the omnipotent title-winner PSG - well that was a whole different story. In the centre of it Facundo Medina. Certainly the least-known player out of these top 10 defenders of 2022 and 2023. Playing in 32 league games, 35 matches total, scoring three times and making five assists as a centre-back, well the 24-year-old made France and Argentina take notice.

Kim Min-Jae (Napoli), centre-back

Kim Min-Jae

Arguably the best defender of 2023 even though Kim Min-Jae isn't yet a household name. Outside of Naples. In the city of Italian champions, he is much more. The 26-year-old centre-back played in 35 games of the Scudetto-winning season, while also providing solid performances in nine Champions League matches. Alongside two goals and two assists, getting 1.5 tackles per game across all competitions. Considering he was signed before the long-awaited title-winning season for just €18,500,000, Min-Jae Kim is rightfully celebrated as a major reason why Napoli won Serie A.

Jules Kounde (Barcelona), centre-back

Jules Koundé 2020.jpg
By;, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Of all the teams in the top five leagues, none conceded fewer goals than Barcelona - only 20! That's eight fewer than the closest Napoli. At the centre of the achievement - the most experienced starter - Jules Kounde. Fresh of his arrival from Sevilla, the 24-year-old CB played in 40 games, scoring once and making six assists! Jules also played in the World Cup for France, reaching the final and losing only on penalties. Cementing his place as one of the best defenders in the world. Also making his fee of €55,000,000 a steal for Blaugrana.

Giovanni Di Lorenzo (Napoli), right-back

Di Lorenzo in Salzburg v Napoli.jpg
By Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

While the question who is the best defender in the world will not have his name as the answer even amongst the fiercest Napoli fans, the one about the most important defender for his team, well Giovanni Di Lorenzo shines there. Not just his 11 goal involvements (five goals, six assists) in the 47 matches played for Napoli, but the fact that he wore the captain's armband driving down the right flank. The 2019 signing from Empoli for less than €10,000,000 was the man to break the fast and lift the Scudetto trophy after an impressive league run. After all, Napoli is the second-best defensive team in Europe, with only 28 goals conceded.

Benjamin Pavard (Bayern Munich), right-back, centre-back

Benjamin Pavard

Defending wins titles, and even though Bayern Munich stumbled into its own, the fourth Bundesliga title for Benjamin Pavard is the one he had the most credit for. Overall, the Frenchman who didn't arrive at the Allianz Arena as a big star, scored seven goals in 43 matches! Getting one assist too! Extraordinary in his achievement as a defender due to his demonstrated versatility - playing as a right-back and a centre-back. Almost equally. FCB had its most turmoiled season in recent history, and Pavard was a rare calming figure. Especially as his backline colleague Dayot Upamecano spoiled his reputation..

Theo Hernandez (Milan), left-back

Theo Hernandez

In terms of impact on the team, Theo Hernandez might be the most influential defender on this list of best defenders in the world alongside Di Lorenzo. Contributing in the back as much as in the front, yet Hernandez shines with his rare attitude. A winning aura that made Milan enter the league as the defending champion, and made them qualify for the Champions League and reaching the semis in the competition. The French international played in 45 matches this season, having four goals and five assists. He also performed for his country on the biggest stage, getting to the finals and skipping only one World Cup game for rest.

Nahuel Molina (Atletico Madrid), right-back

Nahuel Molina

If one team in Europe’s top echelon of football is known for defending, it's Atletico Madrid. So it's hard not to include one of their own in a group of the best defenders in the world. Especially if they won the World Cup during the season too. Nahuel Molina played in every single game of Argentina's successful run in Qatar. On a club level, the 25-year-old played in 43 matches, scoring four goals and making as many assists. All after he just arrived at the club in July of 2022 for a modest fee of €20,000,000.

Raphael Guerreiro (Borussia Dortmund), left-back

Raphaël Guerreiro (cropped).jpg
By - CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Even though Borussia Dortmund seemingly stumbled in and out of a title, mostly riding the waves of Bayern's unexpected turmoil to get in the spot, some of their players truly delivered. Centre-back Nico Schlotterbeck was immense with nine goal involvements in his first season with the club, yet the man to his left outperformed him. In his final season with BVB Raphael Guerreiro bagged 20 goal involvements! Scoring six times and making 14 assists in just 36 games total!

Kieran Trippier (Newcastle United), right-back

Kieran Trippier

Newcastle United's rise towards the top of English football came quicker than anyone has hoped, even the Magpies themselves. Their first purchase of the new era proved crucial as Kieran Trippier came with a stellar attitude and bags of assists. His partner in defence Sven Botman definitely deserves a spot amongst the top 20 best defenders in the world for the year, yet Trippier edges in the first ten. Having played in all PL games, bagging 10 assists and scoring once in 46 games total.


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