Manchester United defender Phil Jones has been ranked as the best centre-back, aged 23 or under, in Europe this season - above the likes of Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane and Paris Saint-Germain’s Marquinhos.
New research carried out by International Centre for Sports Studies (CIES) found that Jones had outperformed every other central defender this season who was born on or after January 1 1992.
The research assessed centre-backs in Europe’s top five leagues, who have played at least 50 per cent of matches this season, and scored them against a series of Key Performance Indicators - and Jones emerged with full marks: 100 out of a possible 100.
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Second on the list was Atletico Madrid’s Jose Gimenez, followed by Varane, with the two defenders scoring 89 and 77 respectively.
Marquinhos was joint-fourth on the list with 70 points, while Athletic Bilbao’s highly-rated centre-back Aymeric Laporte failed to even make the top 10, coming in at 11th place with a total score of 50.
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CIES also scored players in other positions, with some similarly interesting results.
France international Layvin Kurzawa, who plies his trade for AS Monaco, was named as the best full-back; PSG’s Marco Verratti the best defensive midfielder; Real Madrid’s Isco the best attacking midfielder, and Lazio’s Felipe Anderson the best forward, ahead of Barcelona star Neymar.
Jones must become more consistent - and avoid injuries
While Jones has enjoyed a fairly decent season, it’s a stretch to say he has been the best centre-back - aged 23 or under - in Europe this season.
For starters he has only played 19 Premier League matches for Manchester United this season - the England international has struggled to steer clear of injury - and secondly he has looked a little unconvincing at times.
The 23-year-old, who arrived at Old Trafford from Blackburn Rovers in 2011, is expected to sign a new deal this summer - but he could find himself relegated to the subs’ bench if Manchester United strike a deal for Borussia Dortmund captain Mats Hummels.
Jones, once touted to become the best player in Manchester United’s history by Sir Alex Ferguson, has finally nailed down a position after years of playing in a variety of roles.
But he must become more consistent in order to cement his status as one of Europe’s best central defenders.
Is Phil Jones a better centre-back than Raphael Varane and Marquinhos? Have your say in the comments below!