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The unadulterated thrill of witnessing a magical moment of attacking inspiration is what keeps many of us hooked on the beautiful game but let us never forget that at the heart of every great football team is always a truly world-class central defender.
Red Rants interviewee and Manchester United ‘rock’ Nemanja Vidic unquestionably falls into that category, so I thought it was the perfect excuse to examine the world of defending in search of the best centre-backs around today…
The Serbian is an immense presence in the Premier League champions’ back four and the perfect foil for Rio Ferdinand. Powerful, strong in the tackle and a fine reader of the game, Vidic also boasts an excellent goalscoring record for a centre-back. He has been at the heart of Serbia’s impressive World Cup qualifying campaign.
Voted best defender in Serie A last season, the Juventus defender has developed into one of the world’s most reliable centre-halves. Since switching from his original position of left-back, the 25-year-old has been outstanding and uses his athleticism to full effect. The way he nullified Spain’s Fernando Torres and David Villa at Euro 2008 was magnificent.
Barcelona’s iconic veteran has more than 400 appearances for the club under his belt and is showing no signs of hanging up his boots in the near future. His lack of pace was a concern earlier in his career but the Catalan defender’s intelligence and fierce determination continue to mark him out as one of the best around. A proven big-match performer.
Consistently immaculate performances for club and country have become a trademark of the slick Manchester United defender’s game in recent seasons. Below par displays in the Champions League final and England’s recent friendly with Holland can be blamed on injury concerns but when he is fully fit, there is no better ball-playing central defender on the planet.
Every top centre-back should have leadership qualities and there can be no denying that the Chelsea skipper has these in abundance. Brave and resolute, Terry is the greatest specimen of an ‘old fashioned’ centre-half in the modern game. His selection as UEFA defender of the year shows the esteem in which he is held.
Best Centre-Back Partnerships
Wonderful defensive partnerships are also a vital ingredient to all successful sides. In the past we’ve marvelled at the likes of Hansen and Lawrenson, Maldini and Nesta, Bruce and Pallister but who are the current holders of the crown? Here are three prime candidates…
Carles Puyol & Carlos Marchena (Spain)
Spain’s resurgence at international level may have been long overdue but much of the credit has to go to their brilliant centre-back partnership. Since becoming European champions, the Barca and Valencia duo have continued to shine alongside one another, conceding just two goals in seven matches.
Rio Ferdinand & Nemanja Vidic (Manchester United)
The fact Sir Alex Ferguson has compared his current centre back pairing with Steve Bruce and Gary Pallister shows just how highly he rates them. Since becoming partners three years ago, United have won trophies galore and that is no coincidence. These two players fit perfectly next to each other.
John Terry & Ricardo Carvalho (Chelsea)
Jose Mourinho brought these two internationals together in 2004 and they have formed a rock solid partnership ever since. Recent seasons have been disrupted by injuries but whenever these two are paired at the heart of Chelsea’s defence, the Blues look a much more formidable side.
Well, that’s my view – do you agree? I’d love to hear your thoughts and alternative suggestions…