Van Dijk, Ramos, Maldini: Fans have ranked the 50 greatest defenders in history

Paolo Maldini - the greatest defender of all time?

Who is the greatest defender of all time?

It's a question with no right or wrong answer, as there have been so many great pragmatic players throughout the history of professional football.

Paolo Maldini, Franz Beckenbauer and Sergio Ramos are just some of the names that normally always crop up when discussing the greatest defenders the game has seen.

Those three all feature in a list of the 50 greatest defenders in history, as voted for by football fans.

But given that supporters of the beautiful game have sole control over the rankings, some big names miss out, including Marcel Desailly (57th), Rio Ferdinand (59th), John Terry (62nd), Nemanja Vidic (64th) and Fernando Hierro (72nd).

Ferdinand & Vidic with Manchester United

Let's take a look at the results over on Ranker...

50-41

50. Javier Zanetti

49. Danny McGrain

48. Hans-Peter Briegel

47. Uli Stielike

46. Jamie Carragher

45. Jaap Stam

44. Gerrard Pique

43. Aldair

42. Morten Olsen

41. Emlyn Hughes

Pique in action

Pique only in 44th? Zanetti in 50th? The list starts off in a rather controversial manner.

Carragher ahead of the latter is just wrong, but at least Pique features ahead of the Englishman. We're not saying the Liverpool legend was a bad player, but the 46th greatest defender of all time? Not for us.

40-31

40. Andreas Brehme

39. Maicon

38. Manfred Kaltz

37. Dani Alves

36. Philipp Lahm

35. Nilton Santos

34. Carles Puyol

33. Paul Breitner

32. Fabio Cannavaro

31. Virgil van Dijk

Van Dijk in action

Van Dijk ahead of Alves, Lahm, Puyol AND Cannavaro? We know the Dutchman is brilliant, but he hasn't been among the best in the business for long enough to warrant a place ahead of the aforementioned quartet.

Cannavaro's 32nd-place finish is the most bizarre of the lot because, unlike virtually every other defender in history, the Italian actually won the Ballon d'Or in 2006.

30-21

30. Roberto Carlos

29. Marcelo

28. Jurgen Kohler

27. Antonio Cabrini

26. Gary Neville

25. Sol Campbell

24. Ruud Krol

23. Phil Neal

22. Wim Suurbier

21. Thiago Silva

Silva in action

Marcelo beats Carlos in the battle of the Brazilian left-backs, although both are comfortably behind fellow countryman Silva.

Neville and Campbell are somehow ahead of Puyol, Cannavaro and many other legends of the game, which is rather puzzling.

20-11

20. Claudio Gentile

19. Alan Hansen

18. Lucio

17. Guiseppe Bergomi

16. Sergio Ramos

15. Luis Pereira

14. Lillian Thuram

13. Mauro Tassotti

12. Fulvio Collovati

11. Alessandro Nesta

Ramos in action

Some legendary figures here. Ramos is the highest ranked active player, with Italian defenders making up five of the 10 positions between 20th and 11th.

The country's remaining pragmatic stars of yesteryear feature heavily in the top 10 as well...

10-1

10. Alessandro Costacurta

9. Giacinto Facchetti

8. Daniel Passarella

7. Frank Rjikaard

6. Bobby Moore

5. Cesare Maldini

4. Cafu

3. Frank Beckenbauer

2. Franco Baresi

1. Paolo Maldini

Maldini with AC Milan

Once again, five Italians make the cut in this section, Maldini and Baresi - members of AC Milan's impregnable defence from the 1980s and 1990s - taking the top two spots and deservedly so.

Cafu and Beckenbauer's places in the top four are merited as well, the former one of the greatest full-backs of all time and the latter a player who revolutionised the sport during his playing days.

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