Ranking the top five center backs in Europe

Ranking the top five center backs in Europe can be a very challenging task.

With the popular saying, “attack wins matches, while defence wins titles”, clubs have invested huge funds in reinforcing their backline.

As the game has evolved, so has the primary qualities of a center back, with many teams preferring ball-playing center backs to no-nonsense center backs.

Passing and vision replacing height and strength as the primary qualities in the new game.

FootyAreaTM brings to you a list of the top five center-backs in Europe.

With center-backs now smashing transfer records, we have done a good job of cutting a long list of deserving nominees to this list of five fine candidates


Dayot Upamecano

Perhaps, a surprise addition to the list, the 21-year-old burst into the limelight for RB Leipzig with a series of fine performances.

The French defender has stood out for his good passing range, strong tackling and speed.

His strong performances at the back led RB Leipzig to a UEFA Champions League semi-final – which they lost to Paris Saint-Germain – and a third place finish in the Bundesliga.

The 21-year-old deservedly won his first cap for the France National team and scored against Croatia in a 4-2 win, three days after his debut.

Key Stats: Upamecano kept 16 clean sheets as part of a resilient RB Leipzig defence and conceded a remarkable 1.03 goals per 90 minutes.

4. THIAGO SILVA (Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain)

Ranking the top five center backs in Europe
Thiago Silva

A not so surprising addition, the veteran has become a household name in Europe.

Thiago Silva is widely regarded as one of the greatest center-backs of his generations, with the the Brazilian defender winning almost all available trophies in his career.

The former PSG captain led his side from the back to a domestic treble and a first UEFA Champions League Final.

With a joint-record seven Ligue 1 titles, the 35-year-old has proven that age is just a number, with his performances drawing the attention of Chelsea to acquire his services.

A defender known for his pace, leadership skills and aerial ability, has also been a big threat to strikers earning him a place in the FIFPro XI three times.

Key Stats: Silva featured in 21 Ligue 1 matches, keeping 12 clean sheets and conceding just 18 goals in 35 outings across all completions.

He conceded 0.63 goals per 90 minutes


Kalidou Koulibaly

Koulibaly comes in at third place among the best center-backs in Europe.

Considered one of the most complete defenders, the imposing center-back has won applauds for his impressive displays in the heart of defence.

The Senegalese defender has been recognized for his technique and passing ability as a defender.

The large player is also feared for his aerial prowess, speed and strong tackling.

With his displays at the heart of defence helping his Napoli side to win the Coppa Italia trophy.

The 29-year-old has drawn the attention of several big clubs following his performances, with teams vying for his signature in what might be another transfer record for a defender.

Key Stats: Despite a not so convincing campaign for an unimpressive Napoli side, Koulibaly conceded 41 goals in 34 appearances across all competitions at a rate of 1.41 goals per 90 minutes.

2. VIRGIL VAN DIJK (Liverpool)

Ranking the top five center backs in Europe
Virgil Van Dijk

Virgil van Dijk has been widely rated as the best defender in the world and perhaps the best import in the Premier League.

The second most expensive defender in history has justified his transfer fee, becoming the only defender to win the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year.

He was also runner-up for the Ballon d’Or and Best FIFA Men’s Player.

The physically strong center-back who has become the focal point of the Liverpool backline is known for his technique, pace, passing range, eye for goal and his strong leadership qualities.

The 29-year-old Center-back has been in imperious form helping Liverpool to a first Premier League title in 30 years with a clean home record.

Key Stats: Van Dijk kept 15 clean sheets in 38 Premier League appearances, conceding 51 goals in 56 appearances across all competitions.

He conceded 0.87 goals per 90 minutes with just one yellow card in all competitions to highlight his good disciplinary record.

The tall center-back also contributed at the other end with 6 goals in 56 outings.

1. SERGIO RAMOS (Real Madrid)

Ranking the top five center backs in Europe
Sergio Ramos

At number one spot is no other than… Phil Jones, sorry Sergio Ramos, perhaps I’m hungry.

Ramos, perhaps considered the greatest defender of his generation has received plaudits for his defensive prowess and his goalscoring abilities.

The 34-year-old has been included in the FIFPro XI a record eleven times and the UEFA Team of the Year a record eight times – both records for defenders.

The center-back who started his career on the right side of defence, led his Real Madrid side to their 33rd La Liga title – their first since the 2016-17 campaign.

Known for his wide range of qualities, from strength, to aggressive tackling, coupled with pace and technique.

In addition to his defensive prowess, Ramos is feared for his eye for goal and his heading ability making him a goal threat.

Comfortable with the ball and able to play out from the back, the center-back is indeed a specimen.

He is also an effective penalty taker, often fond of the panenka technique.

Key Stats: Ramos kept 17 clean sheets in 35 La Liga appearances, conceding just 33 goals in 53 matches across all competitions.

He conceded 0.6 goals per 90 minutes. He also contributed greatly at the other end scoring 17 goals in 53 appearances across all competitions.

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