Defenders are frequently overlooked and underappreciated. A crucial interception or a crucial block does not receive the same amount of attention as a game-winning goal.
Certain actions, however, can catapult defenders into the spotlight. A well-executed tackle, for example, or a goal-line clearance. It is easier to assess the significance of these actions.
Tackling, in particular, is an art that not every player can master. It takes excellent timing and a lot of faith, because one small mistake can result in a penalty or a red card. We take a look at the top five tacklers in world football right now.
Number 5: Fabinho
Fabinho, arguably the best defensive midfielder in the Premier League, has been a key component of Liverpool’s success under Jurgen Klopp.
Many people were surprised when Liverpool announced the £40.5 million acquisition of Fabinho from AS Monaco in 2018. Although the Brazil international had performed admirably in France, few expected Liverpool to sign him. Fabinho arrived at Liverpool with a big reputation and, after a slow start, has flourished for the club.
Fabinho has made 134 appearances for the club in all competitions, winning the Premier League and the Champions League. Last season, the 28-year-old was frequently used as a center-back and impressed with his performances. Fabinho is a shrewd operator with excellent game reading and physical attributes.
Number 4: Casemiro
Casemiro, the world’s best defensive midfielder, is the main reason Fabinho’s appearances for Brazil have been limited.
He moved to Real Madrid from Sao Paulo in 2013 for £5.4 million, but he made his name during a loan spell with Porto. During the 2015-16 season, the Brazilian joined Real Madrid’s first team and has not looked back. He has made 301 appearances in all competitions for the club, scoring 30 goals and providing 25 assists.
The 29-year-old is a physical player who isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. Luka Modric and Toni Kroos have arguably improved as a result of Casemiro’s presence. With Los Blancos, he has four Champions League titles and two La Liga titles.
Number 3: Aaron Wan-Bissaka
Aaron Wan-Bissaka is not a full-fledged right-back. His attacking play leaves a lot to be desired, and he has been heavily chastised for his inability to contribute in the future.
He is, however, one of the Premier League’s best one-on-one defenders. Wan-Bissaka joined Manchester United from Crystal Palace in 2019 for a fee of £49.5 million, having already established himself as an excellent tackler. His long legs undoubtedly aided him, and many of his tackles have been breathtaking to watch.
However, the 23-year-old remains an extremely limited right-back, with his defensive positioning under scrutiny. Wan-Bissaka has made 114 appearances for Manchester United in all competitions, scoring two goals and providing ten assists.
His play has improved slightly since the move, but much more is expected of a player who cost Manchester United nearly £50 million.
Number 2: N’Golo Kante
N’Golo Kante, one of the best midfielders in the world, has been a revelation for Chelsea. Football fans all over the world adore the diminutive midfielder.
During his time with Leicester City, Kante emerged as an exciting talent, helping the club win the Premier League in 2016. Chelsea did well to sign him for £32 million that year. The France international has established himself as a world-class midfielder for Chelsea.
Kante is known for his ball-winning ability and is full of energy and dynamism. For a brief moment, the 30-year-old was in contention to win the Ballon d’Or this time around. He was a key figure in Chelsea’s Champions League victory last season.
Number 1: Wilfred Ndidi
Wilfred Ndidi has been linked with a move away from Leicester City in every transfer window, but nothing has come of it.
Ndidi has been a standout performer for the Foxes. The Nigeria international is a top-tier defensive midfielder who combines physical prowess with strong defensive instincts. Ndidi joined Leicester City from Genk in 2017 for nearly £16 million, and his current club will almost certainly profit handsomely if he is sold.
Ndidi’s game continues to improve, with noticeable improvements in his ball-handling and passing ability in recent seasons. Potential suitors will notice, however, that he appears to be becoming more prone to knocks and injuries.
For some time now, the 24-year-old has been linked with a move away from Leicester City. Manchester United, Chelsea, and Manchester City have all been mentioned as possible landing spots.