Here’s the list of the top 10 centre backs. This is based on:
1) Strong team defensive performance
2) Strong defensive stats
3) Eye test
4) Minimum 20 appearances in league + European competition.
Special exemptions – José Giménez (Atlético), Joe Gomez (Liverpool). Missed out due to insufficient starts (less than 20 starts in league + European comipetition)
1. Virgil Van Dijk (Liverpool)
His stats are almost peerless. In the league, he’s been part of 12 clean sheets. Liverpool have conceded 21 goals in 29 games. His stats show why. 75% duel success rate overall (6.4 per game). 74% success with ground duels (1.4 per game) and 75% success with aerial duels (4.9 per game).
Also, 4.7 clearances per game. In the CL, his ground duel success rate is an insane 83% (2.4 duels per game). On the pitch, he has been dominant and has been the key figure in Liverpool’s excellent defence.
2. Yunis Abdelhamid (Reims)
Reims have the third best defensive record in Europe’s top 5 leagues (behind Liverpool and Real Madrid) and Yunis has been influential in that, playing every minute of their 28 league games so far.
Only Real Madrid have conceded less than them. He was the star performer when Reims travelled to Paris and beat them in their backyard 2-0, keeping a solid clean sheet. He has not received a single yellow or red card this season, while boasting a duel success rate of 64% (6.0 per game), with a ground duel success rate of 66% (2.9 per game). Also, 3.4 clearances per game. Reims have kept 12 clean sheets. He is the leader and influential figure in the defence who partners Axel Disasi.
He is also responsible for bringing the ball out of defence, and he has done it exceptionally well this season, with his play sometimes directly leading to scoring chances and goals.
3. Francesco Acerbi (Lazio)
Much of Lazio’s surprise title charge has been down to their excellent defence holding its own, and in Acerbi, they have a leader at the back who has been exceptional this season. His total duel success rate is 70% (4.5 per game), with his ground duel success rate at 73% (3.0 per game).
He barely gets beaten by the dribble (evidenced by his 0.2 per game dribbled past rate). Lazio have the best defensive record in Italy and he’s been key to that. He is also responsible for bringing the ball out from the back and he has done that really well so far.
4. Raphael Varane (Real Madrid)
Real Madrid have the best defensive record in Europe’s top 5 leagues and Varane has been a huge part of that. With a total duel success rate of 68% (4.6 per game), Varane has helped ensure that Madrid’s backline has remained solid. Aerially, he has been dominant, winning 71% of his aerial battles (2.8 per game).
Real Madrid have kept 11 clean sheets with him playing, and he has completed 4.0 clearances per game too.
5. Marquinhos (PSG)
When Marquinhos is not in midfield cutting out attacks and launching line-breaking passers or creating chances over the opposition defence, he is at the heart of PSG’s defence running things. Even his midfield role often sees him dropping into defence to form a 3-man wall with Kimpembe and Thiago Silva or whoever else is at the back.
His total duel success rate is 53% (4.7 per game), with ground duel success at 55% (2.7 per game). Where he excels the most is in snuffing out counter attacking opportunities by opposition teams. This is where PSG have badly needed him and he has been exceptional with his tackling (2.1 per game) and interceptions (1.3 per game).
He has also done a great job helping them build attacks and play out of aggressive presses.
6. Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid)
As usual, Ramos has been the risk-taker in Madrid’s defence, the volatile one who ventures while Varane sits. He has been key to Madrid having the best defensive record in Europe’s top 5 leagues, boasting a total duel success rate of 55% (4.7 per game) with ground duel success rate at 54% (2.5 per game).
His reading of the game has been very key for Madrid, as he constantly ventures out to intercept (1.4 per game) and snuff out attacks. Clearances, 3.0 per game. Madrid have kept 12 clean sheets with him on the pitch. In CL, his interception numbers are even larger, 2.0 per game.
7. Iñigo Martínez (Athletic Club)
Athletic Club have had a wonderful season defensively and Iñigo Martínez has played a huge part in that. His 67% total duel success rate looks extra excellent when you consider the actual figure. 6.8 duels won per game! He has been dominant in the air, winning 71% of his duels (4.0 per game).
His reading of the game has also been good and he has shown great leadership for Athletic Club’s previously porous defence, making 4.3 clearances per game.
8. Dayot Upamecano (RB Leipzig)
Leipzig have the joint-best defence in Germany and everyone agrees that Dayot has easily been the best defender in the league. His total duel success rate is 61% (5.7 per game) with a 59% ground duel success rate (3.8). What really catches the eye is his ability to dribble out of defence, evidenced by his 77% dribble success rate (1.1 per game). This has been key for Leipzig’s build-up.
His Champions League numbers are especially bonkers; 68% total duel success rate (7.8 per game), 70% ground duel success rate (5.3 per game). He has also completed 92% of his dribbles there (1.8 per game) as well as 3.2 tackles per game. Those are crazy numbers.
9. Çağlar Söyüncü (Leicester City)
A lot of praise has been heaped on Söyüncü this season and it has been well deserved. His work in defence has helped Leicester to the top 3 in England. When he has played, Leicester have kept 10 clean sheets.
He has a total duel success rate of 64% (6.0 per game) with a 66% ground duel success rate (2.9). He has been all-action in defence, producing 4.6 clearances per game. It is easy to see why he is so important for Leicester and how his defensive contributions have taken them close to the top in England.
10. Felipe (Atletico Madrid)
As usual, Atletico have one of the best defensive records in Europe and new signing Felipe has played a big part in that. His total duel success rate of 65% (5.8 per game) is boosted by his incredible aerial dominance. He has won 73% of his aerial duels (4.0 per game). His reading of the game has also helped Atleti, evidenced by his 1.4 interceptions per game.
It is 2.0 in the Champions League where he has delivered a whopping 4.7 clearances per game. Perhaps, his most impressive stat is his 5.2 clearances per game in La Liga, only better by Kenneth Omeruo (5.3) who plays for 19th-placed Leganes. That shows the immense amount of work Felipe does weekly for Atletico.