Top 10 Centre-Backs in the world

Josip Brajkovic
Josip Brajkovic
Published: 24. studenog 2023.

It's harder to select the best centre-back for a season than a striker for instance, because there aren't as many clear stats that can be used to back up the eye test. But trophies, the overall impact on the team, and the individual importance to collective successes matter considerably. Yet, advanced statistics back up our claims for the top 10 centre-backs in the world too.

Looking at not just the previous, 2022/2023 season, but the impact the players have had on their respective sides on a broader multi-seasonal scale. Yet not allowing anyone to coast on old glory. As proven by our perhaps controversial #10 pick.

Although the margin is thin on who gets to be included in the top 10, the spacing becomes a bit wider when we drop down into the five best centre-backs on the planet.

#10 Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool & The Netherlands)

Virgil van Dijk

For several seasons, Virgil van Dijk was considered the golden standard for his generation of centre-backs. Yet, after a massive injury, the Dutch international has had a tough time reaching back the form that made him a €84,650,000 player who has actually justified his price tag. But in the 2023/2024 season, VVD has shown enough of his old self to be included as one of the 10 best centre-backs in the world.

A heading asset in defence and threat in attack, Van Dijk is the second in the current season of the Premier League when it comes to the percentage of aerial duels won. Being a constant name in the top 10 rankings for overall numbers of aerials won overall past PL seasons.

#9 Sven Botman (Newcastle United & The Netherlands)

Sven Botman

Perhaps the inclusion on this list of top 10 centre-backs that will raise the most eyebrows, as usually such lists are regarded only for players of top clubs. Yet who can now say that Newcastle United hasn't become that? Neither City nor Chelsea propelled themselves so fast, against lesser competition, and Botman has been one of the main reasons why NUFC overperformed.

Even though he is only 23, Botman has a title-winning season in a top-five league behind him. Doing it in PSG's monopoly nonetheless. While Lille's trophy was won on defence primarily. Additionally: in the title-winning 2020/2021 season, Botman had the third most touches in Ligue 1! He was fifth in progressive carrying distance! The Ajax school of football graduate complimented his block-like build with a fine education and pressured tribulations while he was still young. The sky is the limit, but also not far away.

#8 Marquinhos (Paris Saint-Germain & Brazil)

Marquinhos

Another player who may wish to forget 2023 - mostly due to international football failures - yet Marquinhos has been on a similar high level for too many years to be ignored. He bounced back strong and is fourth in the big European leagues for progressive carrying distance, first in his league. The Brazilian took more responsibility on and is now fourth in the league for passes into the final third!

Marquinhos has won eight Ligue 1 titles with PSG, 12 cups in France, a Copa America with Brazil, and he is only 29 still!

#7 Ronald Araujo (Barcelona & Uruguay)

Ronald Araujo

It seems that Barcelona's rebirth has been mostly credited to the backroom staff, and the DNA of the club fitting Gavi and Pedri. But Ronald Araujo was the first cork to stop the ship being overfilled with water. The Uruguayan centre-back arrived to the B squad of the club in 2018 and now already has 124 appearances for Blaugrana, aged 24. The Uruguayan was exactly seventh for three seasons straight in La Liga when it comes to percentage of aerial duels won.

Besides his physicality that made him stand out ever since he landed in Catalonia, Araujo developed other aspects of his game. Worthy of Barca's shirt, he was in the top 10 players for pass completion percentage in Primera. Now a stat that is a must for any players considered as top 10 centre-backs.

#6 Antonio Rudiger (Real Madrid & Germany)

Antonio Rudiger

In the lists of top 10 centre-backs for a while now, Antonio Rudiger changed the scenery later in his career. But top CBs adapt to different leagues without issue and many state that Rudiger improved since arriving at Santiago Bernabeu. So far, he is only ahead of most of the league in progressive carrying distance, ranked fourth overall. But Rudiger, aged 30, has proven to be one of the stabilizers in the transitional period of Real. Even though he arrived only in 2022.

By being able to fill up at right-back was important for Carlo Ancelotti, but also for increasing his stature amongst the natives of Santiago Bernabeu. In a team filled with technical stars, Rudiger is the one player the opponents genuinely fear combating.

#5 Cristian Romero (Tottenham & Argentina)

Cristian Romero

For a long time, Argentina seemed to have missed a world-class centre-back. When it got one, the attacking-talent-filled nation got its World Cup again. Of course, Romero doesn't get all the credits, not even in the backline, yet his impact has been immense. Aged only 25, as a WC winner, Romero has entered the 2023/2024 season in a new partnership with a "rookie" pushing Spurs to the head of the table. After losing their best player ever.

Romero is what you expect from your Argentine player, let alone a defender. He is combative, passionate, eager to get stuck in, but he combines it with the tacticality he acquired in Italy. In the 2020/2021 season with Atlanta, he was the player with the second-most interceptions in the top five leagues! The year prior he had the same position in blocks rankings!

#4 Min-jae Kim (Bayern Munich & South Korea)

Min-jae Kim

Kvaradona and Victor Osimhen got the virality from Napoli's long-awaited Scudetto season, Min-jae Kim got a transfer to one of Europe's biggest juggernauts - Bayern Munich! In that Serie A-winning campaign, Kim had the fourth most clearances in the league. A robust and fully committed to defending his goal, Kim is also an offensive machine. In his last year with Napoli, he led the league for touches of the ball, and was second in progressive carrying distance! He was additionally third with passes into the final third.

While he's now in the top five in the Bundesliga for the same metric, and sixth for progressive passes! While also being the sixth most successful aerial duelist when he conquered Italy. With him, Bayern got one of the most complete centre-backs in the world.

#3 Alessandro Bastoni (Inter & Italy)

Alessandro Bastoni

Seemingly out of nothing, Inter got a Champions League final spot. While no one truly predicted it, hindsight shows that the Italian spine of Bastoni-Barella served as the biggest pillar for Simone Inzaghi. The left-footed centre-back is still only 24, but is the leader of the team from the back. As well as European champion with his country. As a centre-back, he has been amongst Serie A's top five players for progressive carrying distance. Amongst the top seven in a season for touches on the ball. Showing his importance to the team's building, not just for disrupting the opponents. A modern top centre-back. With a class of old.

#2 Ruben Dias (Manchester City & Portugal)

Ruben Dias

Yes, the Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne get most of the plaudits (alongside Pep himself), but much of City's dominance starts from the back. Simply proven that in the current and his second Premier League season, Ruben Dias was the 10th player with the most passes into a final third. He has had a pass completion rate worthy of the top 10 in the PL for all his time in England!

Dias is still only 26 but already has the captain's experience from Benfica, and the trophy sweeps at City. While being consistent in blocks, interceptions, and tendency to go for the tackle.

#1 John Stones (Manchester City & England)

John Stones

Few would’ve believed it several seasons ago, yet what John Stones achieved in the 2022/2023 season cements him as the best centre-back in the world. A modern centre-back is an understatement for Stones, as he was employed in a unique role by Pep Guardiola. Stones acted as a defensive midfielder when his side had the ball, and reverted to the backline as a regular CB during defence. Many analysts believe this is the main tactical difference of the treble-winning season (having Erling Haaland in the team helps too).

Stones was seventh in the top five leagues regarding pass completion rate! And he wasn't a CB that pushed it to the keeper. He was nearly playing as a raumdeuter (space explorer position invented for Thomas Muller) but in central midfield. This unexpected player development added on to his existing aerial threat, as he was the first in Europe when it comes to aerial duels won in the 2021/2022 season!



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