There have been many great footballers throughout history, but only a few can be called the world’s greatest defenders. Who are the best soccer defenders of all time? It has been a matter of debate and argument in many countries, with one country claiming that their player is the best while another saying otherwise. This article brings you insight into the top 5 best soccer defenders of all time. The list below ranks each player depending on their defensive statistics. None of the players in the following list are still active. Furthermore, we have also included their career achievements, titles, and records.
Best soccer defenders of all time
1. Paolo Maldini
Paolo Maldini is the best soccer defender of all time. He played as a defender in the FIFA World Cup Dream Team. He was also on the all-star team of the UEFA Champions League for three consecutive years in the early 2000s. Maldini made his debut as a fullback in 1985 and spent his whole career with Serie A club A.C. Milan before retiring at 41 in 2009.
Paolo Maldini won 25 trophies with Milan:
- the UEFA Champions League (5 times).
- Serie A titles (7 times).
- Coppa Italia (1 time).
- Supercoppa Italiana titles (5 times).
- European Super Cups (5 times).
- Intercontinental Cups (2 times).
- FIFA Club World Cup (1 time).
He is famous for being a versatile, elegant, quick, efficient, and intelligent defender. He was also known for his stamina, work rate, and leadership skills. In addition to his defensive qualities, he was also known for his technique, accurate passing, crossing ability, distribution, and long-striking ability. All these qualities made him capable of starting attacking plays after winning back possession. Maldini held the record for most appearances in Serie A (647) until John E. Charpentier. He also had the record for most appearances in all competitions (902) until Francesco Totti.
2. Franz Beckenbauer
Franz Beckenbauer, the second-best soccer defender on our list, was born in Germany. He spent most of his career playing for Bayern Munich and New York Cosmos. Nicknamed “Der Kaiser” because of his elegant style, dominance, and leadership, he is one of three men to have won the World Cup both as a player and as a manager. Twice named European Footballer of the Year, Beckenbauer appeared 103 times for West Germany and also played in three FIFA World Cups. He won the World Cup trophy as captain in 1974 and also repeated the feat as a manager in 1990.
Beckenbauer won four Bundesliga titles and three European Cups with Bayern Munich. He also won UEFA Euro 1972 and the FIFA World Cup 1974 as a member of the German national team. Furthermore, after moving to the United States, he won two North American Soccer League titles with New York Cosmos. As a manager, Beckenbauer led West Germany to victory in UEFA Euro 1980. He also won two more Bundesliga titles with Bayern Munich. He also coached Marseilles to victory in the UEFA Champions League final in 1993.
3. Bobby Moore
A defender with a unique sense of anticipation and timing was Bobby Moore. He was also an outstanding captain. After his death, England described him as ‘the greatest defender the country has ever had. He was also a great leader and organizer. Unlike many other great players, Bobby won everything there was to win. The World Cup and European Championship with England, the FA Cup twice (1964, 1975), and also the European Cup-Winners’ Cup (1965). He also won two League Championships (1967-68 and 1968-69) with Fulham. He also captained West Ham United for 12 years, from 1958 to 1970.
Moreover, he is one of only two defenders named as a member of World Soccer magazine’s list of FIFA’s 100 greatest living footballers. Moore won more than his fair share of honors and accolades. In addition to those mentioned above, he won three Hammer of the Year awards and played more than 600 games for West Ham United. Moore was also the captain of the English National Team that won the 1966 World Cup. His performances for England at the 1966 World Cup were nothing short of outstanding.
4. Franco Baresi
Nest up, the fourth-best defender on our list is Franco Baresi. He is an Italian defender who played his entire career with AC Milan and was also the captain of the Italian soccer team in 1994. Baresi was a member of Italy’s 1982 World Cup-winning team. He also played for Italy in the 1990 World Cup squad.
Franco is one of the best sweepers or libero ever. Furthermore, he is the only defensive player to have won two European Footballer of the Year awards. Baresi spent his 20-year career at AC Milan, making over 700 appearances for the club and winning three UEFA Champions League titles and also six Serie A titles.
Cafu was a member of the Brazilian squad that won the 1994 World Cup. He is known as one of the best-attacking fullbacks of all time and also the first player ever to appear in three World Cup finals, winning two. Before becoming a professional, Cafu was a shoe shiner and worked in an electronics store. Also, at 15, he joined Sao Paulo’s youth system. After making his debut for Sao Paulo, he transferred to Palmeiras, where he won the Copa Libertadores in 1999.
He joined Roma in 1997 and then finally moved to AC Milan in 2003, which proved to be a turning point in his career. Furthermore, he was appointed captain at Milan, where he established himself as one of the world’s best defenders of his generation.
Also, check out: the top 5 scorers of the Bundesliga | All-time.
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