Europe's top 50 - Defenders
14th June 2013 1:25pm BST
SportsDirect News surveys the European football scene in search of the best players the continent has to offer.
With the football campaign of 2012-13 having now come to a close, we take a look at the players who impressed the most last season in each position - with the second part looking at defenders.
No top defenders list would be complete without at least one Italian on it and Chiellini is the pick of a strong field. The Juventus man has taken over the chalice from Fabio Cannavaro at the Turin club and leads by example for his teammates. He is a tough tackler, intelligent marker and strong in the air. He has amassed over 50 caps for Italy since making his debut as a 19-year-old in 2004.
The Brazilian is generally regarded as the premium defender in the world. Plying his trade at Paris Saint-Germain, Silva has all the requisite skills of being a top defender. He has strength, skill, pace, intuition and is commanding in the air. He dictates the play and is capable of stepping into midfield, to initiate the attack.
Varane is a bright spot in a relatively poor season for Real Madrid. The Frenchman emerged as a first class defender in a difficult season for the Spanish giants. Technically and tactically sound, the 20-year-old also proved to be a significant attacking threat in the air. Despite not even a full season in the first team at the Bernabeu, Spanish newspaper Marca named him in a ‘Best foreign 11 in Real Madrid history’.
Another Brazilian centre-half makes the top ten defenders list. Dante deserves his place for his achievements last season alone. He joined Bayern Munich last summer and has been the rock that saw them win the German treble for the first time in history. The 29-year-old is a late bloomer but possesses power, aerial prowess and tactical awareness that frees his teammates around him.
It was a tough choice between Hummels and Borussia Dortmund teammate Nevan Subotic. There is an argument that Subotic is a better defensively while Hummels is prone to the odd mistake. However, Hummels is also a very adept attacker and his ability to bring the ball out of defence and attack quickly won him his spot. After all, attack is the best form of defence. He has strength in abundance and is good reader of the game, but his most telling ability is his technical skills.
The Serbian defender did not have his best season at Manchester United after a spate of injuries, but is still regarded as one of Europe’s best. He has phenomenal ability in the air that makes him an attacking threat as well as an imposing barrier in the Premier League. He has great leadership skills and bedrock of the Serbian national team.
While many expunged how Ashley Cole was the best full-back in the world, Lahm quietly went about his business winning the Bundesliga, Champions League and German Cup for Bayern Munich. The right-back is equally as adept at left back possesses fantastic energy that sees him up and down the Munich pitch. He also has a fantastic shot off either foot that has seen him score some spectacular goals from distance for club and country.
Alves has been a mainstay in the Barcelona team since he moved from Sevilla in 2008. Since then he has won four La Liga titles and two Champions Leagues in a team that has been described as the greatest club side of all time. The Brazilian has boundless energy that sees him maraud up the wing for Barca. Although his defensive capabilities have been questioned at times, who cares when he offers such potency going forward?
The lesser known of the Polish triumvirate at Borussia Dortmund, Piszczek is another with boundless energy that likes to turn defence into attack at pace. He forms a superb partnership with compatriot and Dortmund teammate Jakub Blaszczykowski on the right in a team that has earned rave reviews across Europe. Skilful and quick, he is also a very good defender.
The Everton full-back maybe a surprise to some, especially over his aforementioned national team colleague. However, Baines has excelled at Goodison Park this season again adding an exciting, potent threat down the left to the attack while not neglecting his defensive duties. He also possesses a stunning left foot that is capable of some fantastic strikes. His free-kick against Newcastle last season was stunning.