Pick out the many flaws in this one, then.
The World's Top Ten Centre Halves
After the roaring response to his selection of the world's top ten creative players, Joshua Noble decided to do justice to those who invariably get left out in such lists. He runs the rule over the top centre-halves in the world, on current form.
So often you have replays of great goals that show defenders being made to look stubid by the creative players. How many famous vidoes show those very defenders keeping those creative genuises in their pockets? Here is my tribute to them.
Before we begin our countdown a quick word on those who came close: Sergio Ramos, who needs to play more regularly as a centre-half, Chivu and Mexes, who have come on in leaps and bounds this season and Daniel Agger, who has shown much promise. Then there are the likes of Gabriel Milito and Javi Navarro, who have also done the business without much fuss.
And a life-time achievement award, perhaps, to a certain Paolo Maldini!
These are the world’s top ten centre backs on current form:
10. Carles Puyol - Barcelona
The leader for club and country, Puyol is highly regarded among football fans, pundits and players alike. Last season Puyol has a slight disadvantage as a centre back as he is only 5ft 10. This could be seen as a shortcoming but does it matter? But he has a huge leap on him and has better aerial ability than most centre backs.
Barcelona have not been at their defensive best this season, but he has been the man who has kept his head when all around him have been losing theirs. But for him, their season could well have been over in December, with Marquez and Thuram both mixing good games with very poor ones. One cannot but help feel that he has always been under-rated. At this time last year, he would probably have been among the top three.
9. Nemanja Vidic - Manchester United
The big Serb has been one of the gems of the Premiership. Manchester United fans questioned the signing of a relative unknown, who had only played in weak leagues such as the Russian and Serbian. Once he adjusted to the English game, the fans and Vidic knew they made the right decision.
Vidic is a classic centre back who can head the ball and tackle well; his ability at the other end is quite sensational as well. He has popped up with vital goals for Manchester United this season, steering them to the Premiership gong. A brief spell of injury is a slight blemish, particularly being rushed back when clearly not match fit, and being made to look ordinary at the San Siro. However, that cannot take away from a superb Premiership season.
8. Fabio Cannanvaro - Real Madrid
Although the Italian international was named the FIFA player of the year ahead of the likes of Buffon and Henry, Cannanvaro has not had the best of seasons. But he still has had a good season, which is getting better as I write. He would have been at the top of this list last July, and very much deserves his place among the best.
Cannanvaro began his career at Serie B side Napoli, but went onto bigger things with Inter Milan and then Juventus. After the terrible match fixing scandal, Cannanvaro lifted the World Cup. Then he was on the move again as Real Madrid captured the Italian international. This season has been disappointing for the Ballon d’or winner as Real Madrid’s frailty has continued even with the supposed “best centre back in the world.”
In recent weeks Madrid’s luck has turned and they are riding high at the top of the table. Unsurprisingly, this has corresponded with Cannanvaro's upturn in form. His presence has breathed life into Helguera, inspired Sergio Ramos, and helped Casillas feel more comfortable protecting his net. He is similar to Barcelona captain Puyol, as he is shorter than most, but his passion for the game steers him through. A legend of the game, who could have and should have been higher up.
7. Marco Materazzi - Inter Milan
Has had a blinder of a season, love him or loathe him! One of the game's more controversial figures, Materazzi was drafted into the World Cup picture after Alessandro Nesta was ruled out of the international showpiece. Who would have thought the former Evertonian’s rise to fame would come about the way it did. Not the most elegant, certainly not known to be the most gentlemanly, but boy has he been effective over the last 12 months?
Italy and France crossed paths in Berlin, each team desperate for immortality. It was seen as Zidane’s footballing farewell, but that’s not how it turned out. With two minutes to spare the unexpected occurred. Matterazi and Zidane clashed as the master’s career ended in devastation. Fans of the game around the world pointed the finger at the offender, and it wasn’t Zidane.
However, he was in top form alongside Cannavaro right through the World Cup, and carried that into the club season. He has been Inter’s rock at the back, and his brutality has helped the Nerazzurri lift the Scudetto. All along, he has been pitching in with absolutely vital goals for club and country. You can be sure that every match Matterazzi is involved in, he will give his heart, his soul and will be that player who will do and say exactly what is on his mind. Matterazzi is a force to be reckoned with in the beautiful game.
6. Rio Ferdinand - Manchester United
The most expensive central defender ever, Rio Ferdinand is a dominant figure in the centre of defence and for good reason. After his famous drug ban in 2004, Manchester United remained loyal with their expensive acquisition. Often labelled over-rated (sometimes fairly, it has to be said) Ferdinand has repaid the Red Devils this season by helping them lift the Premiership. Ferdinand and Vidic have formed one of the top partnerships in England and Europe.
The English international has been simply dominant at the back for United. His height benefits his ability in the air. He is very vocal with his defence, which relieves the pressure on Van Der Sar. He has the likes of Carragher, Woodgate, King, and Dawson breathing down his neck for a place in the England starting line up, but has managed to hold his own, and that just about tells you how strong a player Ferdinand is.
5. John Terry - Chelsea
The Chelsea captain joined from West Ham as a youngster after the Blues beat title challengers Manchester United to the centre back. He quickly rose through the ranks and at 18 made his debut against Aston Villa. In 2004, Chelsea met the “invincibles” and was told to mark the French maestro Thierry Henry. The toughest task yet, but in the same match the 26 year old joined the attack for a corner and headed the ball into the bottom left hand corner of the net - one of many goals of his illustrious career. John Terry was really starting to establish himself.
Going forward, Terry is as prolific as they come. He acts like a striker from set pieces, always in a position to score, and that he does. On the defensive, he is even better. Not the fastest, his tackling, heading, and ability to be in just the right place at the tight time sets him apart. Then of course, his love for the Blues is quite incredible, as he grew up a Manchester United supporter. He puts his body on the line in every game he plays, and the Carling Cup final where he dived into the ball and was inadvertently kicked in the face by Diaby is just one example. That’s putting your heart on your sleeve!
He has probably played when less than fully fit more than any other player in the world. Injuries have hurt his season, or he could well have been further up.
4. Alessandro Nesta - AC Milan
Highly rated as a youngster, Alessandro Nesta attracted suitors from across Europe. After starring for Lazio, Nesta was hailed as the best centre back in the world. They weren’t far wrong, Serie A is the most challenging league to score in, and with players like Nesta around you can see why. He signed for AC Milan for a fee in excess of € 30 million as a longe term replacement for Rossoneri legend Paolo Maldini.
Maldini has carried on, but Nesta has etched himself into Milan's history nonetheless. His timing of his tackles is of a high standard, and he can head with a great deal of power. Another player who relies more on positioning and intelligence than sheer pace, he has long been among the best in the business now.
Nesta is reluctant to sign a new contract at the San Siro just yet, and with that will come the mêlée of clubs lining up for his precious signature. The odds are still on him continuing with the Rossoneri. Once again, a player who has been undone by a few injuries, or he could well have ended up in the top three! Importantly, he has come good when Milan have needed him the most.
3. Roberto Ayala - Valencia
The Argentine is all of 34, and continues to improve. His displays for Valencia this season have been nothing short of extraordinary. The only thing more extraordinary is, perhaps, Valencia's decision to let him go. He wanted to stay, really wanted to stay, but was subsequently forced to sign for local rivals Villarreal so as to not uproot his family. There is already talk of Valencia buying him back. Talk about gaffes!
He has been, undoubtedly, the best, most consistent centre-half in Spain this season, despite having had to deal with a number of injuries in key positions all around him. He can still jump higher than anyone else, make those wonderfully timed tackles, and live on the edge without ever going over it. He is one of the most rugged, and yet, has not been sent off, nor given away a penalty this season. No wonder Real Madrid and Barcelona have tried to sign him repeatedly.
2. Ricardo Carvalho- Chelsea
Chelsea’s unsung hero, Carvalho has kept the blues strong at the back in John Terry’s absence. Along with compatriot Jose Mourinho, in 2004 the unfancied Porto side won the UEFA Champions league, as much due to Ricardo’s defensive efforts. After completing his Portuguese dream, Carvalho followed Mourinho to Stanford Bridge for £19 million. In his first season Ricardo brought the title to north London, and repeated it again.
However, he was under the shadow of skipper John Terry. That, of course, is also why is so popular among Chelsea fans, because he lets John Terry get the attention. He has finally been given his due credit, though, thanks to his marshalling of the Blue defence in the absence of his skipper. Partnering Boulahrouz, Essien or even Paolo Ferreira, and often in the absence of Petr Cech, he has continued to defend Chelsea's honour, prompting Jose Mourinho himself to put him above Terry, and mark him as Chelsea's main man this season.
1. Jamie Carragher - Liverpool
Jamie Carragher is a real Anfield man. The Liverpudlian is no pushover. After making his debut in February 1997 against Middlesbrough, people saw the shrewd centre back as a future England international. They weren’t wrong. If it wasn’t for England’s extraordinary depth in the centre back position, Carragher would be an international regular for both club and country.
Carragher is not only a fantastic centre back, but also a sensational leader. Through times of struggle, Carragher has strengthened Anfield even without the legendary armband, shouldering just as much of the responsibility as Gerrard. In has never been more apparent than through the Champions League campaign, with two breathtaking displays against Barcelona, and two more sensational ones against Chelsea making him simply the best.
Amid grazed knees, cramps, blood, swears and tears, but with his heart still intact, he has led Liverpool to another Champions League final. The leader of the meanest defence in Europe this season - look at any statistic you will - is the number one man. It is time he is given the credit.