Like every aspect of the modern game, the role of a defender has evolved. While defenders are still expected to be able to defend resolutely, they are also required to be comfortable on the ball. They are expected to make simple passes as well as create goalscoring opportunities by pushing forward or playing through-balls. This development came mainly as a result of the tiki-taka playing style which is attractive in modern football, and also to counter the high presses of the opposition, and to overwhelm opposition teams who decide to defend deeply.
In this article, TOP SOCCER BLOG brings you the top 10 ball-playing defenders in 2022
1. TRENT ALEXANDER-ARNOLD
The Liverpool fullback is very good with the ball, having started his career as a midfielder. Arnold is very integral to how Liverpool play, with him and Andre Robertson supplying and supporting the forwards against opposition defenses.
He regularly racks up plenty of assists every season and is in charge of most of the team’s set-pieces, which is unusual for a defender!
2. ANDRE ROBERTSON
The other half of Liverpool’s impressive fullback duo, who are mainly the creative hub of the team… strange! The Scottish captain regularly overlaps to play in dangerous crosses and through balls for the forwards.
3. RUBEN DIAS
Dias has been a revelation since his move to Man City from Benfica. Apart from his resolute defending, he is very comfortable on the ball which is an imperative in Pep Guardiola teams. Dias is a good passer of the ball as he is adept with both feet, which means he is capable of dictating play in any direction all the way from the back! The Portuguese has been one of the best ball-playing central defenders since he joined Manchester City. Apart from the top class ball-playing capabilities, Dias is also known for his strength, leadership, and ability on the air.
4. ACHRAF HAKIMI
Since departing Real Madrid, Hakimi has proven himself to be one of the best fullbacks in the world, and it is not surprising that PSG paid a huge fee to sign him this summer. He scored 7 goals and made 11 assists as Inter Milan won the Serie A last season. He has continued his fine form at PSG with 3 goals and 2 assists so far, as well as forming a good partnership with Lionel Messi.
5. GERARD PIQUÉ
Gerard Piqué has often faced criticism in his time at FC Barcelona, but one fact that cannot be ignored is his ball-playing ability. The Spaniard likes bringing the ball out from the back to create chances and to initiate counter-attacks, which is very vital to how FC Barcelona play. He played very well under Xavi Hernandez last season, and is undoubtedly one of the best ball-playing centre-backs in football.
6. DAVID ALABA
Alaba’s versatility makes him very comfortable as a full-back, defensive midfielder, winger, or center-back. He is very comfortable with the ball at his feet and can make simple passes under pressure, play through balls and powerful crosses.
7. VIRGIL VAN DIJK
VVD is one of the best defenders in the world not just due to his defensive ability, but also his ball playing and carrying ability, which is so important to how Liverpool play.
8. JORDI ALBA
Alba is one the best attacking left-backs in the world. He struck a very good partnership with Luuk de Jong at Barcelona. He is very comfortable with the ball, can make dangerous crosses, and can link up well with the attackers. In the 2021/22 season Jordi Alba was the player with the most average passes per game in La Liga.
9. LEONARDO BONUCCI
Bonucci is one of the best ball-playing centre backs in the world. The Italian is very comfortable with the ball, even under pressure, and has an impressive passing range. He can draw opposition players to himself, thereby freeing his team’s attackers during plays. The Euro 2020 is undoubtedly one of the best ball-playing centre-backs in the world right now, even at his age.
10. JOAO CANCELO
Cancelo’s skills on the ball had Guardiola chasing him for many years before eventually signing him for City. The Portuguese’s ability to play in both left and right back, his overlapping runs, coupled with his dangerous crosses and through balls, makes him an invaluable asset for Guardiola. Cancelo also regularly slots into midfield to enable City to overcrowd opposition teams in the middle, and he also drops back to join the center-backs off the ball. He is a very integral part of City’s complex tactics, and is widely regarded as one of the best right-backs in the world.
- Aymeric Laporte
- Thiago Silva
- David Luiz
- Marcus Alonso
- Reece James
- Matt Hummels
- Denzel Dumfries
- Dayot Upamecano
- Benjamin Pavard
- Eric Garcia
- Alphonso Davies
- John Stones
- Jules Koundé