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16.0k voters

The Best Soccer Defenders of All Time

Updated November 22, 2019 147.0k votes 16.0k voters 260.9k views452 items

List RulesOnly defense players, no mid-fielders. Please rank the players based on their on-field accomplishments

The best soccer players of all time aren't always the ones right in the action, sometimes all it takes is a step back and a bit of appreciation to realize that the grunts who are defending the goal are the best. These best football defenders (as they're called everywhere besides the US) are in the ranks of the best athletes in the world, and have earned their spots by being the best footballers in the world.

What are the qualities of the best defenders in soccer? These men are equal parts the best defense men in soccer, the top players in soccer, and the best conditioned athletes in the sport of soccer. To truly be the greatest, defenders must be quick runners and possess the ability to kick the ball FAR, all the way to the other side of the field. Defensive soccer players must also have a mastery of fancy footwork - lest they let an offensive player weave past them. All these factors and more combine to determine who should be called the best defenders in soccer.

Who are the best soccer defenders of all time? Who are the top defenders in soccer? Who are the best football defenders of all time? SO MANY QUESTIONS, all which need to be answered in this compilation of the top soccer defenders ever. If your favorite soccer player in the position of defender isn't on the list, make sure to add them so others can vote for them as the best football defender ever. If you don't add them, they won't get any play.
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  • 1
    6,343
    1,089

    PositionDefender

    BirthplaceMilan, Italy

    Paolo Cesare Maldini (Italian pronunciation: [ˈpaːolo malˈdiːni]; born 26 June 1968) is an Italian former professional footballer who played as a left back and central defender for A.C. Milan and the...  more

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    #90 of 163 The Smartest Professional Athletes#154 of 311 Unicef Goodwill Ambassadors

  • 2
    3,099
    1,505

    PositionDefender

    BirthplaceTravagliato, Italy

    Franco Baresi (Italian pronunciation: [ˈfraŋko baˈreːzi; -eːsi]; born 8 May 1960) is an Italian football youth team coach and a former player and manager. He mainly played as a sweeper or as a...  more
  • 3
    3,613
    1,145

    PositionDefender, Sweeper

    BirthplaceMunich, Germany

    Franz Anton Beckenbauer (pronounced [ˈfʁants ˈbɛkn̩ˌbaʊɐ]; born 11 September 1945) is a German former professional footballer and manager. Early in his playing career he was nicknamed Der Kaiser...  more

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    #1 of 100 The Best Bayern Munich Players Of All Time, Ranked#82 of 152 The Most Influential Athletes Of All Time

  • 4
    2,269
    1,054

    Cafu

    Brazil

    PositionDefender

    BirthplaceSão Paulo, Brazil

    Marcos Evangelista de Morais (born 7 June 1970), known as Cafu [kaˈfu], is a Brazilian former professional footballer who played as a defender. With 142 appearances for the Brazil national team, he...  more

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    #17 of 137 The Greatest South American Footballers of All Time#10 of 265 The Best Soccer Players from Brazil

  • 5
    1,420
    955

    Bobby Moore

    United Kingdom, England

    PositionDefender

    BirthplaceLondon, Barking, United Kingdom

    Robert Frederick Chelsea Moore OBE (12 April 1941 – 24 February 1993) was an English professional footballer. He most notably played for West Ham United, captaining the club for more than ten years,...  more

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    #5 of 200 The Best Soccer Players from United Kingdom#1 of 1,058 The Best Soccer Players from England

  • 6
    914
    560

    Cesare Maldini

    Italy

    PositionDefender

    BirthplaceTrieste, Italy

    Cesare Maldini (Italian pronunciation: [ˈtʃeːzare malˈdiːni, ˈtʃɛː-]; 5 February 1932 – 3 April 2016) was an Italian professional football manager and player, who played as a defender. Father to...  more
  • 7
    350
    169

    PositionDefender

    BirthplaceBochum, Germany

    Willi Schulz (born 4 October 1938 in Wattenscheid, Germany) is a German former international footballer who played as a defender....  more

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    #224 of 1,293 The Best Soccer Players of All Time#123 of 149 The Best Soccer Players from Germany

  • 8
    1,063
    894

    Frank Rijkaard

    Netherlands

    PositionDefender, Midfielder

    BirthplaceAmsterdam, Netherlands

    Franklin Edmundo Rijkaard (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈfrɑŋk ˈrɛi̯kaːrt] (listen); born 30 September 1962) is a Dutch former footballer and former manager who played as a midfielder or defender. Rijkaard...  more
  • 9

    PositionDefender

    BirthplaceTreviglio, Italy

    Giacinto Facchetti (Italian pronunciation: [dʒaˈtʃinto fakˈketti]; 18 July 1942 – 4 September 2006) was an Italian footballer who played as a defender. From January 2004 until his death, he was...  more
  • 10
    683
    597

    PositionDefender

    BirthplaceChacabuco

    Daniel Alberto Passarella (born 25 May 1953) is an Argentine retired footballer who played as a centre back, and former manager of the Argentina and Uruguay national football teams. He was captain of...  more
  • 11
    3,042
    1,070

    PositionDefender

    BirthplaceRome, Italy

    Alessandro Nesta (Italian pronunciation: [alesˈsandro ˈnɛsta]; born 19 March 1976) is a former Italian professional footballer and current manager of Frosinone. Widely considered to be one of the...  more

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    #923 of 1,316 The Best Athletes Of All Time#117 of 164 The Best Soccer Players of the '90s

  • 12

    PositionDefender

    BirthplaceJerago con Orago, Italy

    Alessandro "Billy" Costacurta (Italian pronunciation: [alesˈsandro ˈbilli ˌkɔstaˈkurta]; born 24 April 1966) is an Italian football manager and a former professional defender, who usually played as a...  more
  • 13
    83
    38

    Richard Gough

    Sweden, Scotland

    PositionDefender

    BirthplaceStockholm, Sweden

    Charles Richard Gough (born 5 April 1962) is a Scottish former footballer, who played as a defender. He came to prominence in the successful Dundee United team of the early 1980s, winning the...  more
  • 14
    930
    517

    PositionDefender

    BirthplacePointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe

    Ruddy Lilian Thuram-Ulien (French pronunciation: ​[li.ljɑ̃ ty.ʁam]; born 1 January 1972) is a French retired professional football defender and the most capped player in the history of the France...  more

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    #33 of 222 The Best French Soccer Players & Footballers of All Time#95 of 205 Celebrities Born On New Year's Day

  • 15
    336
    272

    PositionDefender

    BirthplaceRome, Italy

    Mauro Tassotti (Italian pronunciation: [ˈmauro tasˈsɔtti]; born in Rome, 19 January 1960) is an Italian manager and former footballer who played predominantly as a right-back. He currently serves as...  more
  • 16
    327
    285

    PositionDefender

    BirthplaceTeor, Italy

    Fulvio Collovati (Italian pronunciation: [ˈfulvjo kolloˈvaːti]; born 9 May 1957) is an Italian former footballer, who played as a defender. He was a stopper (centre-back) and also played for Italy at...  more
  • 17
    105
    62

    PositionDefender

    BirthplaceLiverpool, United Kingdom

    Roy Leslie McFarland (born 5 April 1948) is an English former football manager and former player. With Derby County, he played 442 league games, helping him to earn 28 caps for England....  more
  • 18
    2,573
    1,541

    PositionDefender, Midfielder

    BirthplaceCamas, Seville

    Sergio Ramos García (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈseɾxjo ˈramoz ɣaɾˈθi.a]; born 30 March 1986) is a Spanish professional footballer who plays for and captains both Real Madrid and the Spain national team...  more

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    #14 of 49 The Best Real Madrid Midfielders Of All Time#1 of 32 The Best Real Madrid Defenders Of All Time

  • 19
    447
    317

    Giuseppe Bergomi

    Italy

    PositionDefender

    BirthplaceMilan, Italy

    Giuseppe "Beppe" Bergomi (Italian pronunciation: [dʒuˈzɛppe ˈbɛrɡomi]; born 22 December 1963) is an Italian retired footballer who spent his entire career at Internazionale. A one-club man, Bergomi...  more
  • 20
    273
    262

    Alan Hansen

    United Kingdom

    PositionDefender

    BirthplaceSauchie, United Kingdom

    Alan David Hansen (born 13 June 1955) is a Scottish former football player and BBC television football pundit. He played as a central defender for Partick Thistle, for the successful Liverpool team...  more
  • 21
    1,313
    857

    PositionDefender, Midfielder

    BirthplaceRio de Janeiro, Brazil

    Thiago Emiliano da Silva (Brazilian Portuguese: [tʃiˈaɡu ẽmiliˈɐ̃nu dɐ ˈsiwvɐ]; born 22 September 1984), commonly known as Thiago Silva, is a Brazilian professional footballer who plays as a central...  more

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    #57 of 305 The Best Current Soccer Players#66 of 161 Who's the Best Player in the Premier League?

  • 22
    300
    289

    Jürgen Kohler

    Germany, West Germany

    PositionDefender

    BirthplaceLambsheim, Germany

    Jürgen Kohler (born 6 October 1965) is a World Cup-winning German footballer and manager, who played as a centre-back. Kohler has retired from professional sports, but still occasionally plays for...  more
  • 23
    435
    372

    Lucio

    Brazil

    PositionDefender

    BirthplacePlanaltina, Federal District, Brazil

    Lucimar Ferreira da Silva (born 8 May 1978), commonly known as Lúcio, is a Brazilian footballer who plays for Brasiliense as a central defender. Lúcio began his professional career in 1998 with Sport...  more
  • 24
    245
    195

    Paul Breitner

    West Germany, Germany

    PositionDefender, Midfielder

    BirthplaceKolbermoor, Germany

    Paul Breitner (born 5 September 1951 in Kolbermoor, Bavaria) is a former German footballer, who played as a midfielder or as a defender. One of Germany's most controversial players, he earned 48 caps...  more

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    #41 of 103 Coolest Soccer Players#6 of 31 The Best Bayern Munich Defenders Of All Time

  • 25
    380
    334

    Claudio Gentile

    Libya, Italy

    PositionDefender

    BirthplaceTripoli, Libya

    Claudio Gentile (Italian pronunciation: [ˈklaudjo dʒenˈtiːle]; born 27 September 1953 in Tripoli, Libya) is an Italian association football manager and former defender of the 1970s and 1980s. Gentile...  more