Seventeen years have passed since the Golden Ball for the best football player in the world was awarded to a defender. In 2006, Fabio Cannavaro claimed the triumph of Italy at the World Cup.
Ten years earlier, Matthias Zammer won the Ballon d’Or, thanks to the triumph of the Germans at the European Championship. Before him, the only defender who received the prestigious award was Kaiser Franz Beckenbauer.
Only three historical cases say we will have to wait until a defensive player gets recognised as the best in the world, especially in the era of Messi and Ronaldo.
Even when the competition was more equal (not to say weaker), legendary players like Maldini or Vidic failed to win the Ballon d’Or.
1. Achraf Hakimi – PSG
Even though he is still very young, Hakimi has played for some of the biggest European teams like Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid, Inter and PSG. He became the best modern full–back, with incredible skills and speed.
2. Trent Alexander Arnold – Liverpool
Jurgen Klopp uses Arnold in many different positions now, but his natural position is full-back. He has amazing anticipation, and it’s like he can see 3 to 4 moves ahead and easily interrupts his opponent’s attacks. Of course, his trademarks are long crosses and free kicks.
3. Alphonso Davies – Bayern Munich
Some are already calling him the best Canadian player ever, and he is only 22 years old. His ability to convert from defence to attack is unmatched. With his speed, he runs through the whole pitch and creates a dangerous chance or scores a goal. He was the main player for Canada in the FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
4. Kyle Walker – Manchester City
Walker was already seen in other clubs this season, but it’s hard to find a replacement for such a great defender. For many years, he was the fastest defender in the Premier League, and even today, he is one of the defenders who are hardest to dribble.
5. Joao Cancelo – Barcelona
Cancelo played for the best teams in Europe, Manchester City and Bayern Munich, and now he is loaned to Barcelona. Even though he is a defender, he often goes into the attack and creates chances for his teammates. It’s not unusual to see him scoring goals or making an assist.
6. Kieran Trippier – Newcastle United
The experienced Englishman brought stability and confidence to Newcastle. He is the true captain of the team and commander of the defence.
His blocks and tackles are what he is known for, and his speed is something that not many defenders have. Trippier is often doubted and underrated, but he was the main player who led Newcastle to the Champions League last season.
7. Denzel Dumfries – Inter Milan
Even though he is a defender, Dumfries often plays as a winger in Inter. He is very fast and skilled, and he easily adapts to attack and defence.
Some are saying that he is more dangerous and plays better when he has more offensive tasks, but his defending abilities can’t be disputed, and we saw it in the World Cup in Qatar when he played for the Netherlands.
8. Theo Hernandez – Milan
Hernandez plays for the red and black team in Milan, and he is everything that a modern defender should be. He is a fast, skilled player who can join the attack and often score a goal. His most important characteristic is his fighting spirit, which affects the whole team to play better and to push their limits.
9. Pervis Estupinan – Brighton
It’s only a matter of time before Estupinan leaves Brighton and joins some European giant, as he is perhaps the most wanted fullback.
Although he is a defender, he is often the creator of the game for his team, and he is strong, fast, full of energy and often goes all the way to the opponent’s box to score or create a chance.
10. Giovanni Di Lorenzo
Giovanni Di Lorenzo was one of the most important players in Napoli last season, that led the team to the title.
He plays several positions in the defensive line, making him a special and unique player. He showed character last season when the team had minor issues or dropped the form. In the end, he, as captain, lifted the trophy.