Best defenders in the world today: Van Dijk still no.1?

To name the best defenders in the world is of course subjective, but we have used a number of key metrics to determine who should at least be in the conversation.

As such, we have come up with a list of the top five best defenders in the world today, and explained our reasons for these choices…

Best defenders in the world today – Our top 5

Tah has been key in helping maintain Leverkusen's unbelievable unbeaten run this season – Matteo Ciambelli/DeFodi Images – Photo by Icon Sport

5. Jonathan Tah (Bayer Leverkusen)

We simply could not have a list of the best defenders in the world and not include one from Bayer Leverkusen. The Germans are on course for a remarkable unbeaten season and potential treble, having already won the Bundesliga and setting their sights on a DFB-Pokal and UEFA Europa League final.

One of the reasons why Leverkusen have been able to remain unbeaten is the form and consistency of Tah, who tops the charts for them in average clearances and blocks made per game in the Bundesliga, as well as aerial duels won. Nonetheless, the 28-year-old will also be expecting to line up for hosts Germany at the Euros in the summer, possibly alongside Antonio Rudiger in what would promise to be a formidable partnership.

Arsenal – Liverpool élő közvetítés
Saliba has formed a rock-solid partnership with Gabriel Magalhaes for Arsenal – Photo by Icon Sport

4. William Saliba (Arsenal)

The first of three Premier League defenders to make our list comes in Saliba. The 23-year-old has already been compared to a young Virgil van Dijk, who is widely regarded as one of the best defenders in the world, if not the best.

Saliba is the only Arsenal player to play in every minute of Arsenal's title-challenging campaign, and he has played a large part in the Gunners holding the best defensive record so far in the Premier League – as he has been nominated for the Young Player of the Season (YPOTS). When he was out injured towards the tail-end of the last campaign, it was no surprise to see Arsenal's title challenge collapse, highlighting just how important Saliba is to the team.

Stones has a unique ability on the ball that helps him play out from centre-back – Photo by Icon Sport

3. John Stones (Manchester City)

Although he has recently dropped out of the starting XI under Pep Guardiola, we still regard Stones to be one of the best defenders in the world. He has a unique ability on the ball which means he is comfortable in moving into midfield from centre-back in Guardiola's system, and has even seen himself in an attacking midfield position this season!

He was a mainstay in the City side that won the coveted treble in 2022/23, and has won no fewer than five Premier League titles at the Etihad Stadium, with the potential of a sixth this season. Playing for what many regard as the best team in the world, Stones had to make our list.

Best La Liga defenders - rudiger
Rudiger could win two Champions League titles with two different clubs – Photo by Icon Sport

2. Antonio Rudiger (Real Madrid)

Just missing out on our top spot is Rudiger, who has had a stellar career at the likes of Chelsea and Real Madrid, and will no doubt be a key player for Germany when they host Euro 2024. The 31-year-old has the chance to win the UEFA Champions League with two different clubs, after previously winning it with Chelsea, and now reaching the 2023/24 final with Real Madrid.

Rudiger is not only imposing, but can be light on his feet too, and is deceptively quick for his size. He tends to take big strides on the ball, and one of his biggest strengths is his passing range and ability to play out from the back.

Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk
Van Dijk came close to winning the Ballon d'Or – Harry Langer/DeFodi Images – Photo by Icon sport

1. Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool)

A lot of ex-players and pundits have previously claimed that Van Dijk is the best defender in the world, and we find it hard to argue against them. The Netherlands international has won both the Premier League and Champions League with Liverpool, among many other accolades, and even came close to winning the Ballon d'Or, an award notoriously difficult for defenders to win.

He has been nominated for the Premier League's Player of the Season (POTS) award as the only defender to make the list of eight nominees, despite Liverpool only having the third-best defensive record overall this season, behind Arsenal and Manchester City. One of Van Dijk's most notable strengths is his aerial ability, as the 32-year-old has averaged an impressive 3.6 aerial duels won per game on average for club and country so far this season, while his 90.3% average pass completion rate shows that he is also comfortable in playing out from the back in the modern game.

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Adam Clancy

Adam is a lead writer on Football Whispers. He is a big Arsenal fan, and also follows his local club Wealdstone, made famous by The Wealdstone Raider, of whom he has interviewed. Adam also follows darts, boxing, cricket and tennis, among many other sports.