Ferdinand, Terry, Van Dijk: Ranking the best centre backs in Premier League history


Rio Ferdinand and John Terry have got into a Twitter argument over the best centre backs in Premier League history.

Earlier this week, Ferdinand – appearing alongside Virgil van Dijk – picked the top five central defenders the Premier League has ever seen.

Rio placed Terry in fifth place (Virgil put Terry in 4th) and the Chelsea legend responded on Instagram with the comment ‘Opinions are great but stats don’t lie…’

Ferdinand has since engaged with Terry and told him “The moment one has to start pushing their own records and stats it’s really time to start addressing the fragile ego.”

But the exchange got us thinking: Who are the best central defenders in Premier League?

Well, we’ve turned to the trusty Tiermaker to rank the best centre backs the Premier League has ever seen in tiers.

John Terry and Rio Ferdinand

We’ve selected 18 of the best centre backs and placed them into five tiers – Overrated, Very Good, Amazing, Incredible and GOAT.

Now, we’re fully aware that all 18 of these defenders were world class on their day. But for the sake of this Tiermaker, we have to be harsh when it comes to our ranking.

Be sure to let us know in the Facebook comments section if you don’t agree with our selections.

So, without further ado, here is our ranking of the best centre backs in Premier League history.


  • Jamie Carragher
  • Gary Cahill

Look, hear us out.

Both Carragher and Cahill were brilliant and deserving of a place in the top 18 Premier League defenders in history.

Carragher was a one-club man, making 737 appearances for Liverpool. While you won’t find a more passionate and committed defender, we believe there were faster, stronger and technically better centre backs around.

It’s a similar case for Cahill who enjoyed eight brilliant seasons at Chelsea. However, he was helped by having an incredible centre back partner in Terry.

Jamie Carragher at Liverpool

Very Good

  • Kolo Toure
  • Sami Hyypia
  • Marcel Desailly
  • Gary Pallister
  • Martin Keown
  • Ledley King

Six ‘Very Good’ defenders here but they aren’t quite in conversation when it comes to the greatest defenders in Premier League history.

Toure is something of a cult hero and played for three of the biggest clubs in the country in Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool.

Hyypia is one of best buys in Liverpool history having been signed for just £2.6 milion. He spent a decade at Anfield and captained them to multiple cup victories.

Desailly was already a legendary defender before his move to Chelsea in 1998. He spent six seasons at Stamford Bridge.

Pallister is a Manchester United legend after spending nine years at the club – although his early years were spent in the old First Division rather than the Premier League. He helped the club win four titles during his time.

Also in this tier is Arsenal’s Keown who spent 12 seasons at the north London club, winning three league titles.

Ledley King of Tottenham


  • Tony Adams
  • Steve Bruce
  • Sol Campbell
  • Jaap Stam
  • Ricardo Carvalho

It’s getting tasty now. We’re now in the top 10 centre backs in Premier League history.

First up is Adams. He played almost 700 times for Arsenal and captained them to countless trophies. A proper leader for club and country.

Most of Bruce’s career came pre-Premier League but he did have four seasons in the division with Manchester United – winning three titles.

Campbell may be hated by half of north London for crossing the Tottenham-Arsenal divide but there can be no denying he was a quality defender.

Stam was included in both Ferdinand’s and Van Dijk’s top five but he doesn’t make our top five. He was class but he only spent three seasons in the Premier League so just the ‘Amazing’ tier seems fair.

Carvalho formed an incredible defensive partnership with Terry at Chelsea and won three Premier League titles in his six seasons in west London.

Jaap Stam in Man United legends vs Bayern Munich legends in 2019


  • Virgil van Dijk
  • John Terry
  • Vincent Kompany
  • Nemanja Vidic

So, based on our rankings, these four players are in the top five defenders in Premier League history. In truth, they all have an argument to claim they’re the best ever.

We’ll start with Van Dijk who has arguably been the best defender in world football for a few years now. He may not have won as many Premier League titles as the others but he’s got plenty more years to add to his legacy.

Many will claim Terry is the best ever and we totally understand that argument. He was incredible for Chelsea and led them to 17 trophies during his career – including five league titles.

Kompany is one of the most important players in Man City’s history, joining them in 2008 and spending 11 seasons at the club. If it wasn’t for his injury issues towards the end of his City career, he may well have been rated even higher.

Vidic and Ferdinand were incredible together at Manchester United. The Serbian was as hard as nails and helped United to five titles in his nine years.

Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk


  • Rio Ferdinand

We’re giving this one to Ferdinand. To be honest, it was an incredibly difficult decision between Rio and Terry but we think the former Man Utd just edges it.

Ferdinand had it all. Strength, pace, good in the air, equally as competent with the ball at his feet. His 12 years at Old Trafford returned 14 trophies, including six Premier League titles.

Rio Ferdinand – The greatest defender in Premier League history

Final rankings

So, there we have it.

Eighteen of the best centre backs in Premier League history ranked into five tiers with Ferdinand coming out on top as the GOAT.

Do you agree? Probably not.

Whether you think it’s Ferdinand, Terry or someone else there has been some incredible defenders in Premier League history. They don’t get the headlines or the awards that attacking players do but as the saying goes: ‘Good defences win titles.’ And this lot certainly helped their respective sides do that.

Greatest Premier League centre backs
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