Why are world-class centre-backs so hard to find in modern football?

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From the age of five-years-old, there were many centre-backs in the Premier League and across Europe wearing that very number whose game I sought to replicate on a Sunday morning.

In England's top flight, we saw Rio Ferdinand and Martin Keown sport the famous number; on the continent, the likes of Paolo Maldini and Fabio Cannavaro dominated some of the world’s best strikers from the heart of defence wearing the very same.

With football today more about tactics than ever before, though, this raises the question: why is there such a lack of world-class centre-backs?


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Across Europe, for all the fearsome attacking duos or trios out there, defence always seem to prove a sticking point for clubs.

Take Barcelona, for example. The Catalans arguably boast the best attacking line on the planet, and yet they've failed to sufficiently replace Carlos Puyol at centre-back and often look prone to conceding.

Real Madrid, meanwhile, continue to concede sloppy goals - it's just a good job they have the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema to bail them out.

As for Bayern Munich, their £23 million+ number five, Medhi Benatia, is nothing compared to former greats Jorginho and Daniel Van Buyten.

Dare I say that a major reason behind this lack of world-class centre-backs is the new style of football and coaching implemented across Europe? Football Associations have become so obsessed with beautiful football that defending seems to have taken a back seat.

Attractive football may well benefit attack-minded players, but it does little in the way of producing quality centre-backs.

Ferdinand was technically strong, as was Paulo Maldini, but rarely would you see either play dangerous football at the back, instead playing it safe like all good centre-backs should, either into their midfield or up the pitch - decision making played a vital part in their respective rise.

Everton's John Stones is a perfect case in point with regards to the new generation of centre-backs.

For all the Englishman's strength, composure and reading of the game, his inclination to play dangerously at the back has seen him make mistakes and cost his side goals - this is the difference between class and world-class.

Centre-backs must be taught to defend first and foremost; all else must come at a later point.

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