The Premier League’s greatest ever defenders

For any side to be successful you need a solid defence. It doesn’t matter how strong you may be going forward if you are vulnerable at the back then you will win nothing in the game.

Every side from Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United side of the 1990s to Jose Mourinho’s dominant Chelsea side of the mid 2000s all have had a top drawer defences which can within stand the pressure no matter how big the circumstance may be.

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Whilst scoring goals is an important aspect of the game defending is just as if not more important. Throughout this article I will take a look at some of the greatest defenders who have ever graced the Premier League and discuss not only how great they were individually as a player but how important they were to their club’s success.

First up we have Rio Ferdinand at Manchester United. In a spell that lasted 12 years at the club, Rio Ferdinand went on to become one of the greatest defenders who have ever graced the Old Trafford turf. His excellent tackling combined with his outstanding reading of the game made him one of the finest centre backs in world football and one that played a key role in the club’s success on the pitch. His partnership with Nemanja Vidic at the heart of United’s defence became legendary and was arguably the club’s greatest ever centre back partnership in the club’s history.

If there a moment to prove just how important Ferdinand was to United it would be in the second half of the 2003/04 campaign. After missing a drugs test the defender was handed a eight month ban from football by the FA meaning that he would miss the rest of the season and in his absence United simply fell apart. No longer were the Reds able to see out games nor keep the opposition at bay they were leaking goals for fun and there was little Sir Alex Ferguson could do about it until he returned.

He finally made his long anticipated return in September 2004 helping the club secure a 2-1 victory over Liverpool at Old Trafford and well the rest is history. Ferdinand helped United to go on and dominate the Premier League winning the title an impressive five times and even helped the club win the European Cup in 2008. He played a pivotal part in the club’s success towards the late 2000s and without him they were just not the same side.

His time at Manchester United was officially brought to an end in May 2014 after it was announced he would be joining Queens Park Rangers. His time at the club may be over but his legacy will remain forever.

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Next we have Sol Campbell at Arsenal. Having made the dreaded switch from arch rivals Tottenham Hotspur to Arsenal back in the summer of 2001 Sol Campbell quickly became an integral part of Arsene Wenger’s side playing a key role in the club’s success in the early 2000s.

Campbell’s pinpoint tackling combined with his excellent leadership from the back made him one of the first names on the team sheet for Wenger and one which proved to be one of his finest signings of his managerial career. Without Sol Campbell they were simply not the same side and in having such a trusted figure like Campbell at the back it allowed the likes of Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp and Robert Pires to flourish going forward in the knowing that should they lose the ball Campbell would be there to make amends at the back.

Throughout his stay at the club he helped the Gunners win two Premier League titles three FA Cups and only narrowly missed out on a European Cup winners medal

However his finest season in a Gunners shirt arguably came in 2003/04 where he played a pivotal role in helping Arsenal go the whole season unbeaten. He was instrumental at the back and without Campbell I doubt Arsenal would have been anywhere near as successful he was just that crucial.

His time at Highbury was brought to an end back in 2006 after it was announced the defender had signed a deal with Harry Redknapp’s Portsmouth. His stay at the club might be long over but his legacy at the club will remain forever.

Next we have John Terry at Chelsea. Brought through the club’s academy system back in 1998 John Terry remained ever present in the Chelsea side going on to become one of the club’s greatest ever servants.

Terry’s excellent leadership from the back combined with his no nonsense tackling made him one of if not the greatest defender in the club’s history and played an essential role in Chelsea success over the years. Throughout his career at Stamford Bridge he helped the club win four Premier League titles one European Cup five FA Cups three League Cups and one Europa League.

If there was one period in which you could say John Terry was at the peak of his game it would be the mid 2000s. The arrival of Jose Mourinho to the club started a period of domination for Chelsea as he led the club to back to back premier league titles (2004/05, 2005/06). Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole and the likes all played a decisive role in the club’s success under Mourinho but it was John Terry who stood head and shoulders above the rest. Without his presence at the back Chelsea were not the same side.

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His time at the club was officially brought to an end in 2017 where it was announced he would be leaving the club to join Aston Villa in a cut price deal. In a stay that spanned nearly 20 years at the Bridge, Terry won everything there was to win in the game and will be remembered fondly by the Chelsea faithful for his services he gave to the club.

Last but by no means certainly least we have Jamie Carragher at Liverpool. In a career that spanned 17 years at Anfield, Jamie Carragher stands as one of the finest defenders to have ever worn the Liverpool shirt.

Having made his debut back in 1997, the defender went on to make a whopping 508 league appearances for Liverpool and in doing so helped the club achieve success on the field, winning one European Cup, two FA Cups, three League Cups and one UEFA Cup.

His terrific leadership on the field combined with his pin superb tackling ability made him one of the first names on the team sheet and without Carragher in the side leading from the back Liverpool were just not the same side.

If there was one performance to show just how important a player Carragher was to Liverpool it would be against AC Milan in the UEFA Champions League final on that famous night in Istanbul. From the first minute to the last, Carragher just never give in and his performance alone that night stood as one of if not the greatest individual performance by a defender of all time he was just magnificent and without Carragher, Liverpool wouldn’t have won the European Cup that night.

He officially announced his retirement from the game back in 2013 and almost rounded off his career with a goal! Hitting the crossbar from long range against Queens Park Rangers on the final day of the 2012/13 campaign. He was a true legend for Liverpool and is one which will be remembered forever in the hearts of every Liverpool fan.

The Author

Alex Brian

One thought on “The Premier League’s greatest ever defenders

  1. The four players chosen certainly rank amongst the greatest defenders to play in the Premier League. Some other outstanding defenders were Carvalho, King, Kompany, Vidic, Stam and Woodgate. King was more gifted than Campbell, Rio, and JT but sadly injuries blighted his career, Woodgate similarly spent more time in the treatment room than on the pitch. Stam was brilliant for Utd but he doesn’t have the longevity of other players. Vidic and Kompany were two rugged centre backs who were of vital importance to both there teams. Marcel Desailly was on his the day the best defender in the league but he did not always give it his all for Chelsea and Paul McGrath was truly immense for Aston Villa winning the footballer of the year award in 1993 despite his injury problems. But he is often overlooked as he played in the very early years of the Premier League.

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