10 Best Centre-Backs in World Football Right Now [Ranked]


  • There are a number of incredible central defenders in world football right now, with the majority plying their trade in the Premier League.
  • Virgil van DIjk, Ruben Dias and William Saliba rank among the top 10 centre-backs on the planet.
  • David Alaba of Real Madrid is unfortunate to miss out on the list due to a serious injury sustained earlier in the 2023/24 season.



In the world of football, the role of centre-back stands as one of the crucial components of any team’s spine. Pillars in any line-up, they’re the ones who hold the line, thwart opponents’ attacks, and build up their own.

It was Sir Alex Ferguson who said ‘Attack wins games, defence wins titles,’ and there are some defenders who are the epitome of that statement. With that in mind, below is a list of the top 10 central defenders in the world today, ranked in order. From Champions League to World Cup winners, it was a difficult list to decide on.

Our rankings will depend on a variety of different factors, including:

  • Performances in the 2023/24 season
  • Performances in the three previous seasons
  • Trophies won
  • Overall impact on the current team and national team

Top 10 Centre-Backs in World Football





Antonio Rudiger

Real Madrid


William Saliba



Virgil van Dijk



John Stones

Manchester City


Ruben Dias

Manchester City





Mats Hummels

Borussia Dortmund


Alessandro Bastoni

Inter Milan


Ronald Araujo



Eder Militao

Real Madrid


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10 Eder Militao

Real Madrid

Eder Militao warming up for Real Madrid

Eder Militao has been unfortunate to miss a lot of the 2023/24 season due to an ACL injury suffered in August 2023, but he returned just in time to play a part in helping the team over the line in the title race. The Brazil international is also likely to partner another man on this list in the Champions League final against Borussia Dortmund.

Carlo Ancelotti has displayed how highly he regards Militao by restoring him to the starting line-up as soon as he was back to full fitness. He has now played three consecutive 90-minute games at the time of writing, and it’s no surprise with his brilliant anticipation and ability to win the ball back.

9 Ronald Araujo


Barcelona defender Ronald Araujo waving to the supporters

Barcelona may not be in the era of dominating world football with Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol anchoring the defence, but they are fortunate enough to have one of the brightest stars sticking it out in their back four.

Over the last four years, Ronald Araujo has been able to become more comfortable in Catalonia and the Uruguayan has been a crucial part of Xavi’s team. The only thing that is seemingly preventing him from moving higher in the ranks and improving as a player, is injuries. The 25-year-old has picked up 12 knocks that have sidelined him during his time in Spain. His clean bill of health since September 2023 has allowed the versatile defender to prove just how good he is and how important he will be for Barca going forward.

8 Alessandro Bastoni

Inter Milan

Alessandro Bastoni celebrates

Transitioning away from long-standing stalwarts Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci was always going to be a challenge for the defending European champions. Thankfully, Alessandro Bastoni was the ready-made leader for the Italian backline.

The 25-year-old was integral to Inter Milan’s run to the Champions League final in the 2022/23 season and has continued to play a similar role as they reclaimed the Serie A title. Having not entered the prime of his career yet, there is plenty of time for Bastoni to improve further. He could be the talisman for a period of domestic domination of the Nerazzurri that they haven’t had for years.


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7 Mats Hummels

Borussia Dortmund

Mats Hummels celebrates for Borussia Dortmund

Mats Hummels has undergone a resurgence in 2024, with the German defender playing a starring role in Borussia Dortmund’s journey to the Champions League final. The Bundesliga outfit will need the veteran to be at his best to keep out the likes of Vinicius Junior and Jude Bellingham when they meet Real Madrid at Wembley Stadium.

The 35-year-old was named as the Man of the Match in both legs of Dortmund’s semi-final in Europe’s elite competition against Paris Saint-Germain. Despite his advancing age, Hummels has proven to be a Rolls-Royce at the back for Edin Terzic’s men with his intelligence and positioning shining through in continental competition particularly.

6 Gabriel


Gabriel of Arsenal celebrates

It seemed as though Jurrien Timber was brought in by Mikel Arteta in 2023 to transition Gabriel into a rotational role. The Gunners started the season with their new arrival on the right and Ben White partnering William Saliba in the middle. Unfortunately, a long-term injury to the Dutchman has meant that Arsenal have reverted to the partnership that worked for them in the previous term, and it’s doing the trick again.

In 2024, Arsenal have conceded just eight Premier League goals. Their centre-back pairing has been vital towards those efforts. Whilst many hand Saliba the majority of the plaudits, Gabriel is more than deserving of his place in this top 10. The Brazilian is the aggressor of the partnership, and he complements the Frenchman extremely well, leading by example throughout the season.

5 Ruben Dias

Manchester City

Ruben Dias

Ruben Dias is a man who had the rare privilege of being immediately integrated into Pep Guardiola’s starting XI from the moment he arrived. And with good reason. The Portugal ace was already one of the hottest prospects in the position during his time at Benfica.

It was only a matter of time before one of Europe’s elite snapped him up. Since he arrived at the Etihad in 2020, the likes of Eric Garcia and Aymeric Laporte have been and gone, but the Portuguese has remained a constant. There’s an argument he should be higher on the list as he closes in on a fourth consecutive Premier League title at the heart of the Citizens’ defence.


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4 John Stones

Manchester City

Manchester City's John Stones

It has been a long road for John Stones at Manchester City, but the Citizens’ historic treble in the 2022/23 season was the crowning achievement for a player who has had a roller-coaster journey in the North West. The Englishman has had spells where he has been unfavoured by Pep Guardiola and left out of the team.

However, he has continued to strive to improve. In a new role where the central defender steps into midfield with the ball, Stones has become the master. Alongside another defensive monster in Dias, Stones has transformed into one of the best in his position and will be crucial to England’s chances of winning their first major trophy since 1966.

3 Virgil Van Dijk


Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk celebrates beating Chelsea in Carabao Cup final.

If there was one signing that transformed Liverpool under Jurgen Klopp, Virgil Van Dijk would have to be that player. During Liverpool’s title-winning run in 2020, the Dutchman was unbeatable. He even went 50 games without being dribbled past.

An injury in the 2020/21 campaign seemed to have rocked the 32-year-old. The Dutchman no longer seemed to be the domineering presence as the Reds began to falter. However, Van Dijk returned to his very best during the 2023/24 season, epitomised by leading a youthful Liverpool side to a Carabao Cup victory against Chelsea by scoring a late stoppage-time goal. Being handed the captain’s armband appears to have given the former Celtic and Southampton star a new lease of life at the heart of the Merseysiders’ backline.


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2 William Saliba


Arsenal's William Saliba

The brilliant defensive record Arsenal have mustered since the start of the year has already been touched upon. While one-half of the duo in the middle may not have been the manager’s first choice at the start of the season, there can be no doubt about how highly William Saliba is thought of at the north London club.

It is incredible to think that the Frenchman has been a feature of the club for less than two years. The fact he has been a mainstay throughout makes it feel as though he has been there for over a decade. Primed to lead France’s defence at Euro 2024, Saliba has all the qualities to replicate the talent of Raphael Varane before him. To highlight his rise to prominence, Saliba has been named Man of the Match at Old Trafford, the Etihad and Anfield in the same campaign.

1 Antonio Rudiger

Real Madrid

Antonio Rudiger celebrates-1

German star Antonio Rudiger takes top spot on this list due to his contributions to Real Madrid’s 2023/24 season that has seen the Spanish giants secure a 36th La Liga title. The central defender has played over 40 games in all competitions for his club with injury issues keeping both Eder Militao and David Alaba out of action for large parts of the camapign.

A former Champions League winner with Chelsea, the 31-year-old has now won the first league title of his career as Los Blancos reclaimed their crown from fierce rivals Barcelona. Rudiger has been an integral part of that title success, featuring in all but five of the 35 games so far, leading in blocks and clearances per game. Remarkably, he ranks among the fastest players in the world in 2024.

All statistics in this article are via Transfermarkt and the Premier League (Correct as of 13/05/2024)

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