The Premier League era has seen some absolutely world-class defenders
Whatever else you think of the elite Premier League sides and their ability to thrill (or not thrill) with their attacking play, the quality of their centre-backs cannot be questioned.
The Premier League’s centre-backs have scaled some enormous heights, but which one ranks highest of all? Squawka have ranked the top 15.
15. William Gallas
Clubs: Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs
Years active: 2001-2013
Games played: 321
Trophies won: Premier League (2), 2004/05 League Cup, 2005 FA Community Shield
Gallas was a spectacular pre-Abramovich defender for Chelsea. He had the tenacity, timing and skills to shut down even the most electrifying of opponents. But what knocks him down here is that his most prosperous years in England came playing left-back for Chelsea.
14. Ledley King
Years active: 1999-2012
Games played: 268
Trophies won: 2007/08 League Cup
Ledley King was a monumental centre-back when fit, he just wasn’t fit very often. King could do it all, defend 1v1, defend space, mark tightly, be aggressive, sweep up and make recovery tackles. But those injuries, man… King is the Crown Prince of “what could have been.”
13. Kolo Toure
Clubs: Arsenal, Manchester City, Liverpool
Years active: 2002-2016
Games played: 353
Trophies won: FA Cup (2), FA Community Shield (2), Premier League (2)
Easy to forget as he morphed into something of a meme (especially when his brother, a genuine world-class superstar, joined the league in 2010) but Kolo Toure was spectacular once upon a time. A phenomenally athletic defender, he was a key part of Arsenal’s “Invincibles” season.
12. Vincent Kompany
Club: Manchester City
Years active: 2008-present
Games played: 234 (and counting)
Trophies won: 2010/11 FA Cup, Premier League (2), 2012 FA Community Shield, League Cup (2)
Captain. Leader. Legend. Vincent Kompany is an absolute colossus at the back for Manchester City, playing a huge role as the club emerged from the shadows to become a genuine force in England (backed by billions, but still!) – the only reason he’s so far down is because he misses so much time due to picking up various injuries and City are hideous without him. The King of “what could have been.”
11. Jaap Stam
Club: Manchester United
Years active: 1998-2001
Games played: 79
Trophies won: Premier League (3), 1998/99 FA Cup, 1998/99 UEFA Champions League, 1999 Intercontinental Cup
Beloved by Manchester United fans probably because, in addition to being excellent, he was really “hard” and his exit was followed by a slew of United centre-backs that were anything but. Yes, he was excellent for two years, but it was just two years. So let’s not go nuts.
10. Sami Hyypia
Years active: 1999-2009
Games played: 318
Trophies won: FA Cup (2), League Cup (2), FA Community Shield (2), 2000/01 UEFA Cup, UEFA Super Cup (2), 2004/05 UEFA Champions League
A decade of destruction from this Finn who was a rock at the back for Liverpool through good seasons and bad. Won everything except a Premier League title, but that should not diminish his stature as there were times when he genuinely looked impassable.
9. Jamie Carragher
Years active: 1996-2013
Games played: 508
Trophies won: FA Cup (2), League Cup (3), FA Community Shield (2), 2000/01 UEFA Cup, UEFA Super Cup (2), 2004/05 UEFA Champions League
Learned his trade as a right-back before shifting to centre-back. Was never the most glamorous of players and his penchant for own goals (and his lack of Premier League medal) knock him down this list, but he was an incredible defender and key to Liverpool’s 08/09 title challenge that fell short because of attacking woes, not any issue with him.
8. Steve Bruce
Club: Manchester United
Years active: 1992-1996
Games played: 148
Trophies won: FA Cup (3), FA Community Shield (3), 1990/91 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, 1991 UEFA Super Cup, 1991/92 League Cup, Premier League (3)
A brilliant all-action centre-back and the first ever Premier League winning captain. Bruce even managed to score the goal that sealed the title way back in 1993. He led United to two further triumphs before leaving after his second double in 1996. Old-school, but absolutely mighty.
7. Ricardo Carvalho
Years active: 2004-2010
Games played: 135
Trophies won: Premier League (3), League Cup (2), FA Community Shield (2)
Brought an air of class and skill to Chelsea in 2004/05, helping turn the Blues into bonafide title winners. His composure, skill and winning mentality were superb and he taught John Terry everything he knows. Left after helping Chelsea win their third title in six years.
6. Gary Pallister
Clubs: Manchester United, Middlesbrough
Years active: 1992-2001
Games played: 262
Trophies won: FA Cup (3), FA Community Shield (5), 1990/91 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, 1991 UEFA Super Cup, 1991/92 League Cup, Premier League (4)
A magnificent centre-back, Gary Pallister could do everything. He was powerful, he was tall and yet he was also fast. He possessed an incredible skill level and was absolutely essential for Manchester United as they established their dominance over the early years of the Premier League.
5. Nemanja Vidic
Club: Manchester United
Years active: 2006-2014
Games played: 211
Trophies won: League Cup (3), Premier League (5), FA Community Shield (5), 2007/08 UEFA Champions League, 2008 FIFA Club World Cup
After some initial jitters, this Serbian powerhouse fit perfectly into Manchester United’s defence and was the powerful presence they needed as they ran roughshod over the Premier League for nearly a decade. Would be higher up the list but the routine eviscerations he suffered at the hands of anyone with pace and skill (Milan Baros, Fernando Torres, Samuel Eto’o, etc.) knock him down.
4. Tony Adams
Years active: 1992-2002
Games played: 255
Trophies won: 1992/93 League Cup, FA Cup (3), 1993/94 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, Premier League (2), FA Community Shield (2)
Mr. Arsenal was perhaps the embodiment of Arsene Wenger’s transformative effect on the Gunners. Had big success before the Premier League era began, but once it had he was still the leader of Arsenal’s legendary back four, the peerless defensive platform that allowed Wenger to build one of the best attacks in England in such a short time. Also: that goal against Everton.
3. Sol Campbell
Clubs: Spurs, Arsenal, Portsmouth
Years active: 1992-2009
Games played: 485
Trophies won: 1998/99 League Cup, Premier League (2), FA Cup (3), 2004 FA Community Shield
During his 17 year career, Sol Campbell won trophies for Spurs and Portsmouth. In between that he was Arsenal’s best defender as they won the Premier League unbeaten. But seriously, he won trophies for Spurs and Portsmouth.
His 2008 FA Cup prevented a Manchester United Treble, and his 1999 League Cup stopped United’s Treble from being a Quadruple. He was an absolute colossus.
2. Rio Ferdinand
Clubs: West Ham, Leeds, Manchester United, QPR
Years active: 1995-2015
Games played: 504
Trophies won: 1999 UEFA Intertoto Cup, Premier League (6), FA Community Shield (6), League Cup (3), 2007/08 UEFA Champions League, 2008 FIFA Club World Cup
A Rolls Royce of a defender. Often looked as though he wasn’t trying, but that was mostly because he was just that god damn good. Incredibly gifted with the ball at his feet, his presence at the back allowed the Uniteds (West Ham, Leeds and Manchester) to play with the ball from back to front. Despite his reputation as a joker, he was an incredible leader who was pivotal a young Leeds side to the 2001 Champions League semi-finals.
Later, he even captained Manchester United to their 2008 Champions League triumph; playing particularly well in the semi-final where, despite Vidic’s absence, they blanked Barcelona twice. He was simply magnificent.
1. John Terry
Years active: 1998-present
Games played: 493 (and counting)
Trophies won: FA Cup (5), Premier League (5), League Cup (3), FA Community Shield (2), 2011/12 UEFA Champions League, 2012/13 UEFA Europa League
Terry had the pleasure of being a leading part of some of the Premier League’s great sides at Stamford Bridge. His laundry list of character defects cannot take away from his defensive excellence. John Terry has the most clean sheets of any single defender in Premier League history and is also the highest scoring defender in Premier League history. Whatever else he is, he is very good at defending on a football pitch.