Top Five Defenders In The World Right Now
Here are the five best defenders in the European football according to the opinion of many pundits this season.
It was incredibly difficult for me to pick out the top five defenders so far this season especially given the fact that so many teams have been maintaining very fine defensive records and so many players have contributed to that. Add to that to have to choose between steeliness of center backs and attacking supremacy of raiding full-backs, the job was even more difficult to hand pick between two contrasting traits in different players.
But here I have tried to present my views on who have been the best defenders – center-backs and full-backs alike – so far this season(2017/2018) in Europe’s best leagues.
5. Philip Max (Augsburg)
Philip Max of Augsburg is an unfamiliar name to many to start off this list. Left-back by trait, he has taken Bundesliga by storm this season with his raiding runs from the deep, and his pin-point crosses causing havoc in the opposition area.
Cast an eye around the leading assist makers in Europe, and you will find an unknown name of Philip max right at the top alongside the global superstars like De Bruyne, Neymar, and Messi.
With another one goal to his name alongside nine assists, he has been the most productive defender in Europe’s big leagues this season. His delivery to the box has been particularly outstanding. Also, he has had three assists from the corners as well which underlines him as a serious threat from dead-ball situations as well.
Max has been so good that he is already linked with a host of top clubs around Europe including the likes of both the Manchester clubs, Chelsea, Liverpool and as well as Everton. It will be interesting to see how his season unfolds further but for now, he is already one of our top five defenders so far this season.
4. Samuel Umtiti (FC Barcelona)
Say it quietly, but Samuel Umtiti probably has been the best center-back in the world for the last two seasons, and he is perhaps the best right now as well. And he has been thoroughly magnificent this season. It is only due to injury that he is in fact not ranked higher in this list.
As per the list published by CIES, Umtiti is the most valuable defender in the world(€101m), and it is easy to see why. He, describing in Barca way, is a mixture of Pique and Puyol. He exhibits same class as Pique with the ball and also he is as steely as the no-nonsense Puyol.
Technically gifted, he has been organizing Barca’s play right from the back with his impressive passing with as much as 92% passing completion. But more impressive are his defensive abilities.
The Frenchman’s anticipation and game-reading have been superb. He regularly comes out of the back-line and thwarts the opposition attack either by interception or by a clean tackle. He has 2.31 interceptions and 0.83 blocks per 90 minutes this season which is very impressive especially given the fact that he plays in the team who usually dominates much of the ball.
Umtiti has all the attributes of a quality defender. He is good with the ball, strong in tackles, dominant in the air and his game awareness is second to none. He is always in the right position which is the reason why he is never hurried and rarely has to make sliding or last-ditch tackles.
To have usurped Mascherano from the team is no easy feat but not only Mascherano, but he might also as well be better than any other defenders in the world football right now.
3. Milan Skriniar (Inter Milan)
Milan Skriniar looks like the next big thing emerging from the pool of defenders in Serie A. But unlike so many other Italian league old-school defenders, he is a defender from the same mold as Pique or Stones or Hummels or Bonucci. He is a modern ball-playing center back that knows how to defend.
Playing for Inter Milan, he has been superb so far continuing the rich vein of form he had showed in the previous season. He forms an important part of one of the meanest defense in Europe which has conceded just 17 goals in the league so far despite the apparent gulf in quality in the team in comparison to other European super clubs.
Speaking in terms of individual quality, he looks a classy defender who is mightily impressive with the ball. Aged just 22, he has shown a maturity that belies his age. It is clear for everyone to see that Skriniar possesses the intelligence, tactical flexibility and awareness needed to thrive on the Serie A.
At 6 foot 2, he is strong in the air and very good along the ground as well. He has made 5.14 clearances, 0.64 blocks, and 1.18 interceptions per 90 minutes this season which is highly impressive.
What has been more impressive is that he has come up against the likes of Higuain, Dybala, Mertens, Immobile, Dzeko, and Belotti and he has looked formidable against all of them.
He has had zero errors leading to the goal and has made just around 20 fouls in about 2000 minutes of football. To time his challenges that well is hugely impressive and it has seen him collect only one yellow card, a feat that is quite astonishing.
His excellent form has seen him attract interest from the best of clubs like Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Manchester City and if he can continue the upward trajectory, he is sure to be one of the best center-backs in the world in the near future.
2. Jordi Alba (FC Barcelona)
Up next in our list is the speedster from Barcelona who has been impeccable this season. He was uncharacteristically out of form for many parts of the last season, and there was a worry if we were beginning to see a decline of Alba.
But 2017/18 has calmed our fears and Jordi Alba is back and firing once again. Maybe reinvigorated due to new management under VValverde Jordi Alba has become the most fearsome left back in the world after Marcello.
His contribution to the overall Barca forward play has been remarkable this season. He already has 6 assists and 1 goals in the league so far. What’s more impressive is his understanding with Messi this season. He has already contributed 5 of Messi’s goals in this season.
The Spaniard’s attacking play has been superb this season. He knows exactly what to do with or without the ball. He is making the right runs at the right time and knows exactly when to run off the ball especially when the ball is in Messi’s feet.
And after reaching the byline, he has been consistently picking out his team-mates in scoring positions. His passing has been impressive too which has been useful in both playing out from the back and in finding team mates in more advanced positions. His pace and willingness to go up and down continuously make him one of the finest raiding attacking full back in the world. And this season he has churned in the outputs as well.
Defensively also, he has formed a part of a defense that has conceded just 10 goals in 21 matches in Laliga. He has been solid and good one on one against the wingers. His pace also has been hugely helpful while making recoveries.
The fact that Neymar is no longer at the helm of Barcelona has opened up the whole left wing to Alba and it is safe to say he has made the maximum use of the space he has been getting.
1. Mehdi Benatia (Juventus)
Who would have thought this name would me popping up as the No. 1 in this list when this season began? Perhaps nobody and yet here he is. He has not played as many minutes as some of the names listed above but my word, he has been to us the best in Europe this season.
He had a forgettable 2016/17 season. He played very sporadically for Juventus and was considered at best a back up to the formidable back three of Chiellini, Barzagli and Bonucci. But after Bonucci left Juventus at the beginning of the season, Benatia has stepped up for Juventus and made them forget Bonucci, who was for sure the best defender in 2017 which speaks volumes of the impact Benatia is having for Juventus right now.
He is the highest rated defender this season(7.37) as per whoscored.com. He has made a whooping 4.75 clearances and 2.58 interceptions per 90 minutes which is breathtaking. He has also made 0.67 blocks per game which is again very impressive. He has also chipped in at the other end with 2 goals to his name in the league. He has excelled at every facets of defending in this season.
The Moroccan’s positional play and reading of the situations has been excellent. He has been dominant in the air and strong in tackles and he has been brave in cutting out oppositions attack with neat interceptions and offside traps. Purely on defending terms, nobody has been as good as him this season and it remains to be seen if he can continue to perform in similar manner till the end of the season.
Making Juventus forget Bonucci must be Benatia’s one of the best ever achievements and the one who replaced the No.1 of 2017 i.e. Bonucci in the Juventus team is our No.1 in this list of the best defenders so far in 2017/18 season.