The 10 Best Premier League Defenders of All Time, Ranked

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The 10 Best Premier League Defenders of All Time, Ranked

Since the start of the Premier League in 1992, the competition has seen many good to great centre-backs come and go. Many of the bigger and well-known clubs have had numerous talents throughout their history.

Picking ten defenders from 29 years of Premier League football was a tough task, with many great defenders playing before the re-branding of the English football landscape. Because of that, many players will miss out here.

Before we begin, players like Ledley King, Steve Bruce, Sami Hypia and Jamie Carragher will all miss out here, not that they weren’t good players, they were, but the level of quality in the league eventually got higher and higher as more teams entered the fray and teams got stronger.

With the being said, here are the top ten defenders in Premier League history.

The 10 Best Premier League Defenders of All Time, Ranked:

10. Virgil Van Dijk (Liverpool)

Appearances: 174

Clean Sheets: 68

Goals: 14

PL Titles Won: 1

The only player on the list who is playing in today’s football scene. Liverpool’s Virgil Van Dijk has proven himself to be the best defender in the world since his arrival in January 2018 for a then world-record fee of £75 million.

Since his debut, he has been colossal at the back for Jurgen Klopp’s side, changing Liverpool’s shaky defence into a well-oiled machine. Becoming a major factor in Liverpool’s recent resurgence, winning the Champions League, Super Cup, Club World Cup, a first Premier League title and their first title in over 30 years.

Great on the ball, composed and a nuisance to go up against, Van Dijk has the potential to go down as one of the best defenders the league has ever seen but has a long way to go in order to be compared to some of the true greats of English football.

9. Marcel Desailly (Chelsea)

Appearances: 158

Clean Sheets: 54

Goals: 6

PL Titles Won: 0

The legendary defender may not have been at his best during his six years in England, but there is no doubting the class and ability he showed while at Chelsea. Nicknamed ”The Rock”, Desailly was an ever-consistent, strong and tenacious defender.

A Champions League winner with AC Milan and Marseille, he won numerous titles in Italy alongside a World Cup and European Championship with his native country France in 1998 and 2000 respectively.

Joining Chelsea in 1998, he went on to win an FA Cup and UEFA Super Cup in his six years with the club, cementing a solid partnership with fellow Frenchmen Frank Leboeuf before leaving in 2004 under the ownership of Roman Abramovich, he led the groundwork for a young John Terry and never looked back.

8. Jaap Stam (Manchester United)

Appearances: 79

Clean Sheets: 22

Goals: 1

PL Titles Won: 3

The powerful Dutch defender has become a cult figure around Old Trafford after his three years with the club from 1998 to 2001, winning practically every major honour at his disposal.

He was a major figure under Sir Alex Ferguson, winning three consecutive Premier League titles and being part of the infamous treble-winning side of 1999.

Besides being a really talented defender, Stam was known for his no-nonsense and old school style of defending. Often sliding into crunching tackles and being really ”hard”, he fit in perfectly with the rough nature of English football at the time.

He would have been higher up on this list but placing him above more deserving players after spending a mere three years in England would be unjustified.

7. Ricardo Carvalho (Chelsea)

Appearances: 135

Clean Sheets: 63

Goals: 7

PL Titles Won: 3

Bought in for £20 million in the summer of Mourinho, Carvalho was part of the Porto team that captured the Champions League under Mourinho’s stewardship back in 2004.

He came into partner John Terry that season, and in doing so became an instant success. Creating one-off (if not) the greatest central defensive partnership in Premier League history.

Questioned upon his arrival in England, Carvalho had the speed and on-the-ball talent to accompany Terry wonderfully. Being part of the spine that conceded 15 goals in the 2004/05 Premier League season.

He was a ”sexy” defender with top-notch footballing ability, which at the time was not the norm for a centre-back, nonetheless, he was a constant professional that won three Premier League titles, three FA Cup’s and two League cups in his six years at the club.

6. Vincent Kompany (Manchester City)

Appearances: 265

Clean Sheets: 94

Goals: 18

PL Titles Won: 4

The spine of Manchester City’s dominance in the past decade, City’s captain fantastic will go down as one of their greatest ever players and certainly their greatest ever defender. Bought during the club’s financial takeover in 2008, Kompany proved himself almost immediately.

Strong, hardworking and a constant leader on and off the pitch, the Belgian lifted the Premier League 4 times during his stint in Manchester, with the player himself scoring crucial goals in two of those title-winning seasons.

While he did suffer from niggling injuries throughout his Manchester City career, his legacy at the club will never be questioned, with a statue being unveiled outside the Etihad Stadium in recent times.

5. Sol Campbell (Tottenham Hotspurs, Arsenal, Portsmouth, Newcastle United)

Appearances: 503

Clean Sheets: 154

Goals: 20

PL Titles Won: 2

Starting out from boyhood club Tottenham Hotspur, Sol Campbell became a legend and hero for many Spurs fans in the 1990s and the early 2000s with his performances earning him the captaincy prior to Spur’s League Cup success in 1999.

Come 2001, Campbell was one of the hottest commodities in world football, a world-class defender in the prime years of his career. He would shockingly sign for Tottenham’s most hated rivals Arsenal in a free transfer that summer.

The move paid off as Campbell won two Premier League titles with the Gunners, including an invincible season, along with three FA Cups.

He went on to win a fourth FA Cup with Portsmouth in 2008, captaining an unlikely Pompey side to success under the stewardship of Harry Redknapp.

Regarded as one of the best centre backs of his generation, Campbell was a strong defender with excellent awareness and positioning, physically imposing and a strong tackler, he will go down as an Arsenal and Premier League legend at the annoyance of Spurs fans.

4. Tony Adams (Arsenal)

Appearances: 255

Clean Sheets: 115

Goals: 12

PL Titles Won: 2 (2 First Division titles)

A player who can only be referred to as ‘Mr Arsenal’, Tony Adams encapsulated what Arsenal was in the 1990s and early 2000s, strong-willed, ferocious, and hard to beat.

He did manage to win two successive First Division titles from 1989 to 1991 with the Gunners before the Premier League era began, but his game improved massively with the arrival of Arsene Wenger in 1996.

Spending a decade in the Premier League, Adams won two league titles, one League Cup and three FA Cups along with European success with the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup.

While he did possess numerous qualities on the pitch it was his leadership that was ultimately his greatest attribute. Easily Arsenal’s greatest ever captain and defender, Adam’s was truly a special player back in his era.

3. Nemanja Vidic (Manchester United)

Appearances: 211

Clean Sheets: 95

Goals: 15

PL Titles Won: 5

Being part of one of the greatest centre-back pairings with Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic was an aggressive defender similar to that of a prime Jaap Stam.

Making 211 Premier League appearances for United from 2006 to 2014, Vidic is the only defender in Premier League history to win two Player of the Year awards. He also made the PFA Team of the Year on four separate occasions.

Winning 5 Premier Leagues, 8 domestic trophies and two European trophies during his 8 seasons.

While he did have moments of madness, picking up 8 red cards and 58 bookings, and struggled on occasion against powerful and quick strikers of his era, he will go down as one of the greatest and scariest defenders in United’s history.

2. Rio Ferdinand (West Ham United, Leeds United, Manchester United, QPR)

Appearances: 504

Clean Sheets: 189

Goals: 11

PL Titles Won: 6

Acting as captain throughout his United career, Ferdinand joined United from Leeds United for a record £30 million at the time.

Often described as a Rolls Royce of a defender, Ferdinand is arguably the most gifted defender with the ball at his feet on this list. He went on to make 504 Premier League appearances, scoring 11 goals in the process.

A defender with pace, elegance and an astute reading of the game, Ferdinand is United’s greatest ever Centre-Back and formed an unquestionably formidable partnership with Nemanja Vidic which saw the pair win mostly everything.

1. John Terry (Chelsea)

Appearances: 492

Clean Sheets: 214

Goals: 41

PL Titles Won: 5

Arguably Chelsea’s greatest ever player, John Terry was a world-class central defender during his 19-year spell at Stamford Bridge.

One of the few academy graduates to make a name for himself at the club, Terry is ‘Mr. Chelsea’, becoming their greatest ever captain during the club’s golden era of the noughties and beyond.

A consistent starter in his mid-30s, Terry made 492 league appearances for the club, becoming the highest-scoring defender in Premier League history with 41 goals. He also played every minute of the 2014/15 Premier League season, winning the title at a canter.

Underrated with the ball at his feet, a great passer who could utilise both feet with superb positional sense and an outstanding leader, Terry was truly a gifted player.

He went on to lift five Premier League titles as captain, five FA Cups, three League Cups, one Europa League and a historic Champions League win in 2012.

The 10 Best Premier League Defenders of All Time, Ranked

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The 10 Best Premier League Defenders of All Time, Ranked

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