Ranking the five best centre-backs in the world right now - Virgil van Dijk Liverpool
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Ranking the five best centre-backs in the world right now

The pillars on which successful sides are built, the best centre-backs in world football dominate defensive duels and instil confidence in those ahead of them.

Whether taking to the skies to win contests or sweeping up whenever danger threatens, the finest central defenders are leaders, organisers, warriors and increasingly influential ball players.

We’ve attempted to rank the top five in world football right now, which left us deliberating for some time.

Ranking the five best centre-backs in the world right now:

5. William Saliba – Arsenal

William Saliba seems set to find himself at the top of this list if his trajectory can be maintained, having made a huge impact since being introduced to the Arsenal side.

His return from a successful loan at Marseille has coincided with Arsenal’s transformation from Champions League hopefuls to genuine title contenders – and that’s not chance.

Saliba has everything a modern centre-back needs, with excellent positioning, athleticism and comfort on the ball. There’s an effortless to his defending, as only the elite have, rarely looking flustered when faced with danger.

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Having just celebrated his 23rd birthday, this Rolls-Royce has more gears to go through.

4. Ruben Dias – Manchester City

Ruben Dias might just be viewed as the signing that turned Manchester City from great to legendary. Pep Guardiola’s side had achieved plenty in their Centurions and Domestic Treble seasons, but at the time of Dias’ arrival had finished 18 points behind runaway champions Liverpool in the 2019/20 title race.

Since then, Dias has been the rock of their three-in-a-row title triumphs, earning the FWA Footballer of the Year award and Premier League Player of the Season in his first year at the Etihad.


His authoritative defending has added steel to a City side famed for its attractive aesthetic, with Dias a defensive leader in the traditional mould, but with the ease in possession of modern football’s finest.

Should the Citizens claim a record-breaking fourth Premier League title in a row, or even defend their treble-winning feats of last season, his case as one of the club’s most influential-ever signings will grow.

3. Antonio Rudiger – Real Madrid

Having edged towards the elite bracket at Chelsea, Antonio Rudiger has cemented that status since swapping Stamford Bridge for the Spanish capital.

Rudiger is aggressive and adventurous in equal measure, relishing nothing more than a heated battle with opposition forwards or rampaging run forward in possession.

This season he has helped Real Madrid combat the absences of Eder Miliato and David Alaba, with Los Blancos boasting comfortably the best defensive record in La Liga. Cantering towards a coronation as Spanish football’s finest, Rudiger’s role should not be understated.

2. John Stones – Manchester City

Manchester City have a squad stacked with world-class talents but there’s perhaps none as universally appreciated at the Etihad as John Stones.

Not so long ago, there was a time when Stones appeared to be reaching the end at Manchester City. Now, he’s the centre-piece of Pep Guardiola’s latest innovation, the footballer who can quite literally – and does – do it all.

Stones has become a marauding marvel in Guardiola’s game plan, essentially a box-to-box centre-back. He’s not just great gracefully gliding forward with the ball at his feet, but he’s exceptional when high up the pitch, combining with the forwards and handling tight situations with his back to goal.

His evolution has been something special.

1. Virgil van Dijk – Liverpool

Virgil van Dijk has returned to his perch as world football’s finest centre-back this season, with suggestions the Dutch defender was on the wane proving premature.

The 32-year-old has been outstanding since taking the captain’s armband at Liverpool in the summer, returning to his monstrous best.

He’s won more aerial duels (113) than any other player in the Premier League and boasts the best duel success rate (83.4%) in Europe for that matter too. So domineering has he been, he’s not lost a single aerial duel in league action since January.

Gargantuan, in frame and importance, for Jurgen Klopp and his side. After a slight slip in standard last season, Van Dijk is the crème de la crème of central defenders once again.

Read – Ranking the five best right-backs in the world right now

See more – Ranking the five best left-backs in world football right now

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