All-Time Greatest Defenders In Football History (Ranked by 8 different factors)

The game of football will be dull if there’s no player going to defend. Defend holds a pivotal role in football. A great piece of defending can change the landscape of the match. With Offense, a team can win a series of matches, But with a good defense, the team can win the league. So, it will be not wrong to say that, the game of football is incomplete and incompetent without the support from defenders. Midfielders may drive the game, but defenders are the real backbone of any team. Based on research and factors-driven analysis, today I brought the All-Time Greatest Defenders In Football.

The 10 players are ranked on the below-mentioned factors. Before jumping to the final list, let’s discuss the following aspects:

  • Defenders
  • Factors to select the All Time Greatest Defenders In Football.


Defending is a piece of art and every defender can’t be an artist. It varies from position to position, formation to formation. There are undoubtedly defenders currently out there who live and die by this attitude, but they are few and far between in a culture of free-flowing, attacking, entertaining football.

Definition of defender includes the position of Full-Back, Wing-Back, Semi-Side Back, Center-Back, Stopper, Sweeper and Advanced Sweeper.

Defending skill and the tactical system were just developed and reached high potential in the recent decade especially the influence of the defensive style of playing, thereby advantage will be sided on the second part of football history. 

Ranking Factors

The All-Time Greatest defenders In Football history is ranked on the following factors:

  • Individual achivements
  • UEFA World XI appearences
  • Peak Years
  • Game impact and Presence on the filed
  • Longevity and consistency
  • Career Trophies with Club and Country
  • Career duration
  • Big-game performances

(Note: I only included players who featured and excelled regularly. Such defenders who played further up the pitch and lacked in defending were not considered).

Top 10 All-Time Greatest Defenders In Football

So, based on the factors, let’s view the Top 10 All-Time Greatest Defenders In Football.

#10. Fabio Cannavaro

Fabio Cannavaro is the only defender in history to win the FIFA world player of the year award as well as the oldest recipient. Cannavaro lead the Italian side in 2006 and won the FIFA world cup. 2006 was the best year for him, as he won 10 individual awards. Cannavaro is named in the ESM team of the year one time.

#9. Ruud Krol

Ruud Krol is regarded as the Dutch’s greatest ever defender. He finished third in the 1979 Ballon d’Or. Krol was the defensive rock behind the Ajax and Netherland side that won three consecutive European Cups and reached back-to-back World Cup finals.

Due to his range of passing with both feet, temperament, tactical intelligence, and ability to start attacking plays after winning back the ball, he played anywhere across the back.

#8. Lilian Thuram

Thuram was a strong, physical defender who also knew his way around the ball. He began playing football professionally in his homeland with Monaco and played in the top flight in France, Italy, and Spain for over 15 seasons. Thuram won The FIFA world cup in 1998 with France. Later in 2000, he won the Euro.

#7. Roberto Carlos

Roberto Carlos despite being a Full-time Left-back was feard by teams due to his offensive skill set and set pieces. He earned himself the title of greatest South American defender between the late 90s to early 2000s. His excellent technique, recuperation, high work rate, and speed helped him to score goals.He won the 2002 world cup and two Copa America with Brazil.

#6. Daniel Passarella

Daniel Passarella got himself the title of “The Great Captain” after he drove Argentina to their first-ever world cup title. Passarella is the only Argentina footballer to win two FIFA World Cups. He was excellent in the air despite his medium height and considered to be the greatest South American defender of all time.

#5. Bobby Moore

Bobby Moore is the most iconic English footballer and is one of the greatest international defenders of all time. Moore was the Captain of the England team that won the 1966 Worldcup. Football legend Pele declared him the greatest defender that he had ever played against. He was voted seventh place as the best player in the history of the World Cup by France Football.

#4. Franco Baresi

Baresi was a football leader with excellent technique, vision, and courage on the pitch. He considered the best defender in Serie A four times. Along with Maldini, he kept the record without conceding a goal in more than 900 minutes. He won 3 European Cups with AC Milan and 1982 FIFA World Cup with Italy.

#3. Sergio Ramos 

He clearly dominated club and international football with Real Madrid and Spain. He guided Real Madrid to 4 Champions League titles and remain integral part of one of the most successful Spanish team of all times winning three back to back international titles from 2008-2012.

Sergio Ramos became the most decorated defender in the world since the mid-2000s. He excels in the air due to his elevation and heading accuracy and an aggressive tackler with technical ability.Apart from his usual commanding defending, he scored a lot of crucial goals for his club and country. In 2014, he won the Club Worldcup top scorer award

#2. Paolo Maldini

Maldini is regarded as one of the best to grace the game of football. His career span was 25 years in AC Milan. Either out wide or in the center, he was an elegant defender of rare quality and supreme consistency. To his record, his defensive partnership with Baresi only allowed 23 goals in 196 games.

He was the modern defender with considerable technique, quick vision, solid defensive approach, and excellent recuperation skills. Till now, Paolo Maldini is the only player to play in the eight champion league finals.

#1. Franz Beckenbauer

Franz Beckenbauer is the greatest defender in the history of football. A World Cup winner with Germany in 1974 and he is a only defender to win two Ballon d’Or awards. He is the founder of the “Sweeper position” in Defending.

Due to his playstyle, he was labeled as the ‘Der Kaiser’ because of his elegant style, dominance, and leadership on the field. He was a class captain and one of the most versatile defenders in the history of the game.

Leave a Comment