Happy birthday, Sergio Ramos.
The Real Madrid legend might not be living his best life at Paris Saint-Germain right now, but he’s long since achieved enough in the beautiful game to go down as one of its greatest ever defenders.
From captaining Los Blancos to three consecutive Champions League wins to lifting the World Cup with Spain, Ramos has been there, done that and got the t-shirt when it comes to the sport’s highest echelons.
Happy birthday, Sergio Ramos
As such, there is a very legitimate conversation to be had about where Ramos ranks amongst the finest ever male defenders in football history alongside absolute icons like Paolo Maldini and Franco Baresi.
Fear not, we aren’t claiming that Ramos is threatening those GOAT contenders just yet, but even the most ardent Barcelona fan would have to hold their hands up and say that he’s up there near the top.
As such, while Ramos blows out 36 candles on his birthday cake this week, we thought that the time was right to take a closer look at where the Spaniard fits into the list of all-time defenders.
The 25 greatest defenders of all time
Naturally, any ranking system involving football fans isn’t without its problems and inaccuracies, but it’s nevertheless a fascinating, if not occasionally infuriating, collation of view on defensive icons.
So, be sure to check out who supporters have voted as the top 25 greatest defenders in the history of the men’s game, as well as where Ramos fits into things, by reading the list at the time of writing below:
25. Lilian Thurman
A strong start. Thuram is one of the finest full-backs of the modern era, turning out for Juventus and Barcelona as well as lifting the World Cup with France.
24. Ashley Cole
23. Djalma Santos
An absolute icon of the Brazilian game with two World Cup triumphs and a historic place in the FIFA World Cup All-Time Team to his name.
22. Denis Irwin
Look, we think Irwin is as underrated for his Premier League excellence with Manchester United as much as the next fan, but he’s most certainly not the 22nd greatest defender in history.
21. Dani Alves
This doesn’t half feel brutal on the most decorated footballer in the history of the men’s game.
Sigh. There’s good reason to think that Cafu is the finest right-back to have ever manned the defensive flanks, so seeing the two-time World Cup winner all the way down in 20th is certainly disappointing.
19. Gary Neville
Neville above Alves and Cafu. We love you, Gary, we really do, but we have no idea how you’ve gotten away with this one.
18. Vincent Kompany
Again, at the expense of sounding like a broken record, Kompany’s undoubted status as a Premier League great shouldn’t give him a one-way ticket to the highest heights of the all-time rankings.
17. Jaap Stam
A little more understandable, it must be said. Stam was a colossus at the heart of United’s defence when they won the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup all in one go.
16. Rafael Márquez
A certified legend – of that there is no doubt – but you’ll forgive us for thinking that a few too many Mexican fans were really trigger happy with the voting button.
15. Fabio Cannavaro
Back on solid ground now as the last defender to win the Ballon d’Or secures a respectable finish as the skipper behind Italy’s World Cup triumph in 2006.
14. Alessandro Nesta
One of the classiest defenders to ever occupy a back-line, the Italy and AC Milan great had tackling down to an art and will always endure as the connoisseur’s choice for footballing hipsters.
13. Thiago Silva
A colossus of the 21st century with trophies coming out of his ears at PSG, Chelsea and Brazil, but one who can feel a little lucky to be knocking on the door of the top ten.
12. Franco Baresi
This is a disgrace. Let’s start a campaign to raise votes for Baresi because he should be finishing in second place at the very, very worst.
11. Rio Ferdinand
Come on. Surely even Ferdinand would admit that fans need to calm down voting him as the 10th best defender to have walked the planet despite all his incredible achievements at Old Trafford.
10. Gerard Pique
The extent to which Pique’s insane repertoire of Champions League, World Cup, La Liga, Premier League and Euros wins should paper over some of the recent cracks is up for you to decide.
9. Philipp Lahm
There’s only so much that you can possibly overrate a captain who galvanised Champions League and World Cup triumphs. Few players have ever mastered the art of defending better than Lahm.
8. Roberto Carlos
Arguably the greatest left-back of all time more than deserves his place in the top ten, so there are no complaints from us here.
7. Bobby Moore
Revered as Pele’s toughest ever opponent, England’s World Cup-winning captain is another proud member of the FIFA World Cup All-Time Team, as well as the World Team of the 20th Century.
6. Sergio Ramos
A solid, albeit generous, placement for the man of the hour. Ramos boasts more than 100 goals for Real Madrid from defence and a trophy cabinet so large that it probably needs its own mortgage.
5. Franz Beckenbauer
There are understatements and then there are understatements like ranking a defender with two Ballon d’Or wins, three Champions League victories and the World Cup in fifth place. Dearie me.
4. John Terry
Is the greatest defender in Premier League history also the fourth greatest defender in football history? No chance.
3. Carles Puyol
A top, top defender who captained Barcelona with the gusto and heart of old times, but it’s hard to see him placing above Beckenbauer, Baresi and Moore without tearing your hair out in confusion.
2. Nemanja Vidic
Look, Vidic was an absolute titan that shone so brightly in the Premier League that he ranked amongst its greatest players, never mind defenders, but we can’t fathom how he’s finished second here.
1. Paolo Maldini
Phew. We were half expecting Laurent Koscielny or someone similarly random to finish first, but we’re relieved to see Maldini rather uncontroversially taking the throne of football’s greatest ever defender.
Ramos finishes in sixth place
Goodness gracious me. There were certainly some eyebrow-raising and head-turning decisions throughout the list but mercifully, Maldini coming out on top saved proceedings at the last second.
As for Ramos, the birthday boy can feel pretty smug about finishing comfortably within the top ten, remarkably collecting more votes than Baresi, Moore, Cafu, Alves and countless other legends.
Don’t get it twisted, we’re not confident at all that Ramos should be finishing in quite such a lofty position when you consider the competition, but it’s not as though he looks like a fish out of water.
And while there is still time for Ramos to add to his legacy during his time at the Parc des Princes, we’re pretty certain that he can rest easy in the knowledge that he’s already made a huge impact on the sport.
Besides, no matter how farcical the vote might have been at times, you know you’re doing something right if you’re breathing down the neck of Beckenbauer.