Kim Min-Jae rarely puts a foot wrong in defense and doesn't shy away from tackles, making him one of the best centre-backs in the world.
Centre-backs are integral to any football team’s defence. They are saddled with the responsibility of protecting their team’s goal as well as preventing the opposition from scoring.
Alex Ferguson famously said: “Attack wins you games, defence wins you titles.”
In recent years, the role of centre-backs has evolved; they are now expected not just to be able to defend, but also good on the ball and capable of playing out from the back.
In this post, FootballOrbit presents you with the top 10 most outstanding centre-backs in the world in 2023.
1. Kim Min-Jae
Napoli’s Khvicha Kvaratskhelia is the best signing of the 2022 summer transfer window, and next after him has to be teammate, Kim Min-Jae.
The South Korean joined Napoli from Fenerbahce for around €18m as the direct replacement for club legend Kalidou Koulibaly, who departed for Chelsea.
Kim has quickly help transform Napoli into arguably the best team in Europe this season.
The club are clear favourites to win the Serie A and have also reached the quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League.
The 26-year-old was named Serie A player of the month for September 2022, just in his second month in Italy.
Capable of scoring goals and involving in Napoli’s build-up play, Kim Min-Jae rarely puts a foot wrong in defense and doesn’t shy away from making tackles.
He has played 39 matches in all competition so far this season, contributing 2 goals and 2 assists.
2. Antonio Rudiger
If forcing his way into a Champions League-winning Real Madrid team isn’t enough to portray Antonio Rudiger’s class, then looking at how terrible Chelsea have become since his departure will do.
The German centre-back is a tough tackler, extremely fast, has a commanding presence in the air, reads the game well and can carry the ball forward.
In addition to his strong physical attributes and aggressive playing style, Rudiger is also known for his leadership qualities and passing ability.
Furthermore, he is versatile and can play in both full-back positions.
He has made 41 appearances in all competitions this season, netting 2 goals.
3. Ruben Dias
Ruben Dias has been a revelation since joining Manchester City in 2020 from Benfica.
In his first season, he was named in the FIFPro World XI and won the FWA Footballer of the Year, Manchester City Player of the Year, Premier League Player of the Season and the UEFA Champions League Defender of the Season.
An impressive feat for a young defender!
Dias’ defensive prowess, composure, passing range and leadership skills always makes him stand out on the pitch.
The Portuguese has made 34 appearances so far this term and has 1 goal.
Widely regarded as one of the best centre-backs in the world, Marquinhos has been around for so long that it will be easy to forget that he is only 28 years old.
After Thiago Silva’s departure in August 2020, Marquinhos became PSG’s captain.
He is noted for his anticipation, pace, intelligence, technical skills, composure, passing ability and elegance on the ball.
Furthermore, his confidence in possession enables him to play the ball out or initiate attacks from the back.
Marquinhos — who can also play as a full-back or as a midfielder — has played 38 games so far this season, scoring 2 goals.
5. David Alaba
David Alaba joined Real Madrid last season and won the La Liga, Supercopa and UEFA Champions League titles in his debut campaign.
What is remarkable about the very versatile 30-year-old is the fact that he now primarily plays as a centre-back for Real.
The Austrian made his name at Bayern Munich as one of the best left-backs in the world, but has made the transition into the middle of defence seamlessly.
David Alaba has played 33 matches in 2022/23 so far, registering 2 goals and 3 assists.
6. Dayot Upamecano
Bayern Munich have some of the best defenders in the world in the likes of Matthijs de Ligt, Dayot Upamecano, Benjamin Pavard, Alphonso Davies, Noussair Mazraoui, Joao Cancelo and Lucas Hernandez.
Amongst these wealth of defenders, Dayot Upamecano has stood out in 2022/23.
The Frenchman was signed last season, but was inconsistent and regularly gets caught out of position in his debut season. He has significantly improved this term though.
Upamecano is arguably the most naturally gifted centre-back in the world, as his ball-playing abilities and athleticism are simply on another level.
Moreso, he is an imposing figure, difficult to get past, tactically sound and efficient in decision making.
The 24-year-old was crucial as France reached the final of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
Dayot Upamecano has made 38 appearances in all competitions so far, scored 1 goal and provided 2 assists.
7. Virgil van Dijk
Since joining Liverpool in January 2017, Virgil van Dijk has regularly been among the best centre-backs in the world.
Liverpool have been out of shape in 2022/23, and Van Dijk has equally failed to live up to the lofty standards he has set in recent years.
However, due to his impeccable qualities, the Dutchman still remains among the best center-backs in soccer.
His intelligence, composure, tackling, leadership skills and quality of passing still shines through.
The 31-year-old has made 33 appearances for Jurgen Klopp’s side this season, and has 3 goals in all competitions.
8. Cristian Romero
Tottenham centre-back Cristian Romero is very quick, strong, aggressive, good in the air and comfortable with having the ball at his feet.
In addition, the Argentine is very determined, disciplined and has a brilliant sense of awareness — which regularly allows him to intercept passes or anticipate opponents.
Romero was integral has Argentina won the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, playing all matches.
9. Eder Militao
With his exceptional tackling, marking and aerial abilities; Eder Militao is one of the best defenders in the world.
He joined Real Madrid from FC Porto in 2019 and gradually established himself at the Santiago Bernabeu — winning 2 La Liga, 2 Supercopa de Espana, the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup.
Furthermore, the Brazilian formed a solid partnership with David Alaba last season. While the arrival of Antonio Rudiger has made the competition for places stiffer; Milito has already made 40 appearances in 2022/23, scoring 6 goals.
10. William Saliba
William Saliba was one of the most highly-rated young centre-backs in the world, which convinced Arsenal to sign him from Saint-Etienne in 2019.
He failed to break into the Gunners’ first team and was sent on loan to gain more experience.
Last season, he made 52 appearances for Marseille, helping the club reach the semi-finals of the inaugural Europa Conference League season — whilst also securing Champions League football for the following season.
Deservedly, Saliba was named as Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year and made the Team of the Year.
He returned to Arsenal ahead of the 2022/23 campaign and hit the ground running immediately, cementing his place in Mikel Arteta’s starting XI.
The 22-year-old has been one of the best players at the Emirates Stadium this season as Arsenal seek to win the Premier League trophy for the first time since 2003/04, when they famously went unbeaten.
Saliba has played 33 games so far, scored 3 goals and provided an assist.
¶Matthijs de Ligt