Top 10 Best football center Back in the world 2023.
Center back is a difficult part of the pitch to judge though. Perhaps some defenders are better than they seem and simply playing in a difficult system – while others are not necessarily the best players but protected by their side’s shape.
Well, British football magazine 442 has analyzed the best out there right now with an order.
10. Ronald Araujo
There was an aura around Ronald Araujo as soon as he landed at Barcelona. He was barely out of his teens yet looked fully-formed physically and prepared to lock European strikers up in the Barça backline.
His supreme build is matched with his ability on the ball, as you’d expect at that club. While there have been plenty of light weight defenders who have thrived in Catalonia – the shorter likes of Javier Mascherano and Carles Puyol – Araujo is very much cut from a cloth of defenders his parents would have watched.
He bullies, he battles. But he’s as intelligent as Cules would expect, too. That he can also play at right-back and keep the likes of Vinicius quiet, is proof of his raw materials, too.
9. Virgil van Dijk
Previously the undisputed best center back in the world, over the last 12 months, Virgil van Dijk has failed to live up to the ridiculous standards he has set over the last half-decade. However, his qualities certainly haven’t diminished, and Liverpool still rely on the Dutchman’s presence in some of the biggest games.
Van Dijk transformed Liverpool into an unstoppable force when he joined from Southampton in 2018, and his pace, intelligence and ability to command the defence certainly hasn’t been lost from his game. He may not ever reach his incredible heights of yesteryear but even now, he’s one of the best center backs in the world. Of that, there is no doubt.
8. Cristian Romero
Tenacious. Clever. Resolute. These are all adjectives used to describe the way Cristian Romero approaches football, but it doesn’t tell half the story.
The World Cup winner has been adored by both Conte and Postecoglou equally: which is saying something, considering the two bosses are quite so different. ‘Cuti’ is seen as aggressive and front-footed but that doesn’t do justice to his exceptional reading of the game, his ability on the ball, his dominance in the air and his leadership in the backline. For the way he and Micky van de Ven have started the season, we could have picked either Tottenham titan for our list.
7. Kim Min-jae
Kim Min-jae will go down as one of the greatest pieces of business in European football ever. Bought by Napoli for €18 million from Fenerbahce to replace a club legend Kalidou Koulibaly, he quietly rose to become one of the best on Earth in his position in 12 months, scooped a Scudetto and then left for a cool €40m profit.
Serie A’s loss is Bayern Munich’s considerable gain: and already, Kim is king of Bayern’s defence. Imposing and composed in equal part, the South Korean is reliable on the ball and a quiet leader out of possession. In the past 12 months, he’s been head and shoulders above either Upamecano or De Ligt in consistency, too: if Bayern are to re-conquer Europe, he’ll be pivotal to the tilt once more.
6. Josko Gvardiol
The 21-year-old looks almost concocted in a petri-dish. He’s 6ft 1, unbelievable in one-vs-one situations, his passing is meticulous and despite his left-footedness, there’s very little angle bias when receiving and playing out. And then there’s the ball-carrying ability: you can see the experience at left-back but his driving runs with the ball are phenomenal.
If the 2010s were defined defensively by the ball-playing center back trend that became the norm across the world, Gvardiol is the press-punishing poster-boy of the next 10 years, skating through the thirds and into the future. He’s one of the best in the world already: he will be the best before long.
5. Antonio Rudiger
Coming into a Champions League-winning team and asserting your authority in central defence is never easy, but Antonio Rudiger took to the challenge like a duck to water.
A lightning quick stopper, who reads the game sublimely and carries the ball forward with relentless intent, Rudiger has also proved his versatility occasionally, filling in at full-back to see games out. He’s one of the strongest defenders on Earth and has risen a level or two ever since he made the move from Stamford Bridge.
4. William Saliba
William Saliba turned Arsenal from top-four hopefuls to title contenders. When he got injured, they slipped from top spot.
The Frenchman is elite at all aspects of a centre-back’s job – and he’s only 22. He’s excellent positionally and phenomenally quick, which is fun to see when he plays an offside trap before chasing down a striker anyway, like a predator toying with prey. Saliba is good on the ball, able to cover plenty of ground and there’s a strong case that he’s been the single most important player to Mikel Arteta developing Arsenal into what they are today.
3. David Alaba
David Alaba is not only one of the best center backs in the world, he’s one of the best left-backs, a good midfielder, a decent left-winger… hell, give him some gloves and he’d probably keep a clean sheet, too.
The Austrian has been an ever-present in a backline which took Real Madrid to La Liga and Champions League glory. Such is his remarkable ability, Alaba is as much of a goal threat as he is strong in keeping the ball out of his own net, creating chances for his teammates with a superb passing range and composure in starting possession often under pressure at the back.
2. Ruben Dias
The week before the Portuguese joined, Manchester City leaked a Jamie Vardy hat-trick and looked a shadow of themselves defensively. Since then, the Premier League has been a closed competition. And Dias’s level has remained remarkable. He won the FWA Footballer of the Year in his first season: he hasn’t worsened over time.
Dias is everything that his manager stereotypically loves in a centre-back – he’s cultured, cool in possession and able to break lines at will – yet he offers the kind of leadership and tenacity that go hand-in-hand with serial success. He’s more than just a centre-back. Which brings us nicely to…
1. John Stones
It’s not just English bias. John Stones has put in performances over the past 12 months that few could have ever imagined from a modern centre-back, from the British Isles or beyond. He is the final boss of Guardiolaball: a central defender so in tune, so unbelievably good at reading the game, that he can write it, too.
The ‘Stones Role’ at City has been so long in the making, from Guardiola suggesting that the Barnsley Beckenbauer could play in midfield, to his short-lived fascination with deploying him at full-back.
The England international’s realisation in 2023 to become an all-action, box-to-box defender may be a slow evolution of Guardiola’s system but it’s a role that only this man could have ever played under the Catalan. He’s been the most unexpected member of a Treble-winning team – at times, the most unplayable – and that’s a side that contains Erling blooming Haaland.
Do you agree with 442’s ranking? Which players are left out?