Ramos, Pique, Neville, Alves: The 25 greatest defenders in history as voted by fans

  • Kobe Tong

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.

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Which club has won the most UEFA Champions League titles?

The 25 greatest defenders of all time

And the people have well and truly spoken, voting in their droves on the thetoptens.com in an interactive list of the ‘Best Soccer Defenders’ where they can opine who is the greatest of the greats.

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.

Brazil’s Robinho (23) jumps for the ball against France’s Lilian Thuram (15) during their World Cup 2006 quarter-final soccer match in Frankfurt July 1, 2006. FIFA RESTRICTION – NO MOBILE USE REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi (GERMANY)

24. Ashley Cole

This feels like a pretty sensible placement for the greatest left-back in Premier League history within the all-time standings given his undoubted quality for Arsenal, Chelsea and England.

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.

20. Cafu

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.

Brazilian captain Marcos Cafu holds up the FIFA trophy, celebrating their record fifth World Cup title, during a friendly match against Paraguay at Castelao stadium in the northeastern city of Fortaleza, August 21, 2002. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes SM/SV

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.

Italy’s Fabio Cannavaro lifts the World Cup Trophy after the World Cup 2006 final soccer match between Italy and France in Berlin July 9, 2006. FIFA RESTRICTION – NO MOBILE USE REUTERS/Michael Dalder (GERMANY)

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.

Football – FC Barcelona v Juventus – UEFA Champions League Final – Olympiastadion, Berlin, Germany – 6/6/15 Barcelona’s Gerard Pique celebrates with the trophy after winning the UEFA Champions League Reuters / Darren Staples

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.

Football – Stock Franz Beckenbauer – West germany Mandatory Credit:Action Images

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.

Benfica’s Rui Costa talks with AC Milan’s Paolo Maldini (R) at the end of their Champions League Group D soccer match at Luz stadium in Lisbon November 28, 2007. REUTERS/Nacho Doce (PORTUGAL)

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.

Soccer Football – Champions League Final – Real Madrid v Liverpool – NSC Olympic Stadium, Kiev, Ukraine – May 26, 2018 Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos lifts the trophy as they celebrate winning the Champions League REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

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.

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