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Center defenders are central to a team’s security at the back, a keeper can be outstanding but his net’s safety is largely dependent on how many times he’s exposed during the game.
Across the game of football, defenders have been appreciated and respected for their craft, the days of Paolo Maldini, and Fabio Cannavaro who was once voted as the best player in the world in 2006 after winning the World Cup with Italy.
The Premier League has had its fair share of world-class defences and NaijNaira ranks the fifteen best we have seen.
15 Best Defenders In Premier League History
15. Ledley King
Club: Tottenham Hotspur
Years active: 1999-2012
Matches played: 268
Trophies: 2007/08 League Cup
Ledley King is a Tottenham legend having played 268 Premier League games for the club between 1999 and 2012.
Yes, it’s a shockingly low number game considering the number of years he was active but the injury problems he dealt with limited his potential and limited him to number fifteen on this list.
14. Kolo Toure
Clubs: Arsenal, Manchester City, Liverpool
Years active: 2002-2016
Matches played: 354
Trophies: FA Cup (2), FA Community Shield (2), Premier League (2)
The Toures ruled the Premier League at different times but before Yaya became a thing at City, the elder Kolo ran riots at City and in the city of London.
Kolo Touré played for Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City playing a huge part in Arsenal’s invisible era. Very athletic and strong, Touré will be remembered by some of the Premier League’s great strikers.
13. Sami Hyypia
Years active: 1999-2009
Games played: 317
Trophies: FA Cup (2), League Cup (2), FA Community Shield (2), 2000/01 UEFA Cup, UEFA Super Cup (2), 2004/05 UEFA Champions League
The only thing lacking for Sami Hyypia’s Liverpool CV was the Premier League trophy. The Fin won every other thing available.
Hyypia had ten years and 317 games for the Reds and was at most times fantastic.
12. Jamie Carragher
Years active: 1996-2013
Matches played: 508
Trophies: FA Cup (2), League Cup (3), FA Community Shield (2), 2000/01 UEFA Cup, UEFA Super Cup (2), 2004/05 UEFA Champions League
Jamie Carragher also led the backline of Liverpool with aplomb gathering 508 matches between 1996 and 2013.
Initially, he was a right back before moving to center back.
Like Hyypia, he won everything available except the Premier League title of course although he does have a minus to his game – own goal.
11. Jaap Stam
Club: Manchester United
Years active: 1998-2001
Matches played: 79
Trophies: Premier League (3), 1998/99 FA Cup, 1998/99 UEFA Champions League, 1999 Intercontinental Cup
Stam’s time was short at Manchester United but he did stamp his quality and love in the hearts of Manchester United fans.
He was known to be tough in his approach but it will be tough for others to win what he won in his three years at the club.
10. Vincent Kompany
Club: Manchester City
Years active: 2008-2019
Matches played: 265
Trophies: FA Cup (2), Premier League (4), FA Community Shield (2), League Cup (4)
The leader of Manchester City’s first set of legends, Kompany as City’s captain had quality players for company in his eleven years at the club.
His trophy return Is massive not only because he was part of the squad but because he was a leader in fact scoring some title-winning goals.
9. Steve Bruce
Club: Manchester United
Years active: 1992-1996
Matches played: 147
Trophies: FA Cup (3), FA Community Shield (3), 1990/91 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, 1991 UEFA Super Cup, 1991/92 League Cup, Premier League (3)
Steve Bruce was the first captain to lift the Premier League in 1993 and even did it by scoring the winning goal.
Steve was at Old Trafford for four years but it was a trophy-laden four years. Did someone say old but gold?
8. Ricardo Carvalho
Years active: 2004-2010
Matches played: 135
Trophies: Premier League (3), League Cup (2), FA Community Shield (2)
Carvahlo and Terry formed a solid blues defence and it all started in 2004, and by the end of his time there, he had won three Premier League titles, League cups and two community shields.
7. Gary Pallister
Clubs: Manchester United, Middlesbrough
Years active: 1992-2001
Matches played: 262
Trophies: FA Cup (3), FA Community Shield (5), 1990/91 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, 1991 UEFA Super Cup, 1991/92 League Cup, Premier League (4)
You don’t remember Gary Pallister? The former Manchester United and Middlesbrough center back had almost everything you want in a defender.
6. Virgil van Dijk
Clubs: Southampton, Liverpool
Years active: 2015-present
Trophies won: 2018/19 Uefa Champions League, 2019/20 Uefa Super Cup, 2019 FIFA Club World Cup, 2019/20 Premier League, 2022 League Cup, 2022 FA Cup
Virgil van Dijk moved to the Premier League in 2015 with Southampton from Celtic. Since then he’s moved from decent to world-class and from middle-class Saints to title winners and contenders Liverpool.
He may have been reduced in quality largely due to injuries but he will continue to be in arguments about the Premier League’s best defenders ever.
5. Nemanja Vidic
Clubs: Manchester United
Years active: 2006-2014
Matches played: 211
Trophies: League Cup (3), Premier League (5), FA Community Shield (5), 2007/08 UEFA Champions League, 2008 FIFA Club World Cup
You didn’t expect that we will exclude Vidic, we saved the best and got the last, at least that’s what they said.
The Serbian didn’t really start his United time perfect but he did end it as a household name, a powerhouse even though age did catch up with him.
4. Tony Adams
Years active: 1992-2002
Matches played: 255
Trophies: 1992/93 League Cup, FA Cup (3), 1993/94 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, Premier League (2), FA Community Shield (2)
Arsene Wenger’s success at the club that is closely named to him but not his was majorly due to someone who was christened Mr. Arsenal.
Tony Adams had huge success even before the Premier League became the PL. Tony Adams led the backline that gave Wenger the confidence to build one of the most dangerous attacking teams.
3. Sol Campbell
Clubs: Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, Portsmouth
Years active: 1992-2009
Matches played: 503
Trophies: 1998/99 League Cup, Premier League (2), FA Cup (3), 2004 FA Community Shield
Sol Campbell played for the two North London rivals during his 17-year career in the league plus a stint at Portsmouth.
Sol Campbell was at the heart of the black line that won the unbeaten squad but the trophy wins weren’t limited to the Gunners. He had Wins at Spurs and Portsmouth too.
2. Rio Ferdinand
Clubs: West Ham, Leeds, Manchester United, QPR
Years active: 1995-2015
Matches played: 503
Trophies: 1999 UEFA Intertoto Cup, Premier League (6), FA Community Shield (6), League Cup (3), 2007/08 UEFA Champions League, 2008 FIFA Club World Cup
Rio Ferdinand would even fit anywhere in the tip two or even on the number one, often considered as Rolls Royce of a defender, his two decades of activeness were eventful.
His presence alone settles the defence and makes goalscoring difficult for the opposition. Asides from United, he played for West Ham and Leeds united.
He captained Manchester United to their 2008 UEFA Champions League win against Chelsea.
1. John Terry
Years active: 1998-2017
Games played: 492
Trophies won: FA Cup (5), Premier League (5), FA Community Shield (4), League Cup (3), 2011/12 UEFA Champions League, 2012/13 UEFA Europa League
The cleanest sheets of any single defender in Premier League history and the highest-scoring defender in Premier League history are no jokes.
The Chelsea legend was a defender with all the flowers he deserves, besides the trophies, it’s not something every player does, to play all the minutes of the 2014/2015 PL season.
So those are the top 15 Premier League defenders in history but you can disagree or put your addition in the comment box.
This article was updated 3 months ago