There is a changing of the guard occurring in world football at the moment. The great defenders of the 21st Century are seemingly coming to the ends of their careers.

Rio Ferdinand, John Terry and Carles Puyol are all well in to their thirties and are seeing their super powers on the pitch diminish by the day.

So who are the players set to take their place at the top of world football?

We take a look at five young hot-shots who are likely to supersede these old maestros.

5. Marquinhos | 18 | AS Roma and Brazil 

Marquinhos has taken the Serie A by storm, putting in solid defensive performances every week. The teenage sensation has started 12 games for Italian giants Roma and is a much-vaunted prodigy already. His ability to read the game is incredible, making him look like an experience central defender even though its his first year in professional football. 

4. Kyriakos Papadopoulos | 21 | Schalke 04 and Greece 

The Greek youngster made his debut with Olympiacos at the age of 16 and has not looked back since. A 2010 move to Schalke helped him evolve as a player and defender. He has helped Schalke to reach the Champions League semi-final in 2011. 

The footballing fraternity has acknowledged his impressive performances in the Bundesliga. He also has an eye for goal, scoring seven for Schalke since he joined them and he has also scored four times for Greece making him one of the most prolific defenders around. 

3. Phil Jones | 21 | Manchester United and England

A versatile youngster, Jones rose to prominence during his time with Blackburn where his defensive performances as a central defender helped them stay in the PL during the 2010/11 season. 

He then made a sensational summer move to Manchester United where he has been used in many positions such as a defensive midfielder and right back. 

His performances as a centre back have still been solid as seen in the Manchester Derby. Jones has an incredible presence in the air and loves to have a physical battle with an attacker. 

2. Matija Nastasic | 20 | Manchester City and Serbia 

The young Serb has often been compared to fellow countryman Nemanja Vidic for their style of no-nonsense defending. Nastasic has been vital for City this season with Vincent Kompany struggling with injury for most of it. 

They have the best defensive record in the Premier League mainly due to his efforts at the back. His start at City was shaky but he soon settled in and won their Player of the Month award for November. Now he's cemented his place in the starting 11, relegating Lescott to a place on the bench. 

1. Raphael Varane | 19 | Real Madrid and France 

The Frenchman joined Real Madrid from Lens in 2011 but struggled in his first season there and ended up playing most games from the bench or in the reserves. 

His second season however, has thrust him into the spotlight. His performances have made him the best young defender in world football right now. 

He produced a man of the match performance in the El Clasico where he cleared the ball off the line and scored a headed goal to salvage a 1-1 draw for Real Madrid. He also scored in the return fixture of their Copa del Ray match against Barcelona. 

Varane hit the headlines in England after a stellar performance against Manchester United in the Champions League. His strong tackling and powerful headers have been noticed by many football greats as they continue to praise the youngster. 


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