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Defender of the year: The nominees

FEATURED COLUMNIST
Top 5 / Top 10 28 Dec 2012, 22:58 IST
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The defence is the bedrock upon which any champion side is built. The defence can mean the difference between all three points or a sordid draw, the force in the team that may bring home that one extra point out of the game when the creative forces couldn’t conjure up much for the side. The defence may define a season, winning you silverware or keeping a side safe from relegation.

Taking stock of the defensive performances in the calendar year 2012, here are your nominees for Defender of the Year.

PHILIPP LAHM (Bayern Munich & Germany)

The diminutive German full-back  is considered to be one of the most acclaimed defenders around the globe. Lahm helped Bayern Munich to a second place finish in the Bundesliga last season. Among his other scalps was a successful Euro 2012 campaign which saw him guide the Germans to a place in the semi-finals, only to come unstuck against a Mario Balotelli-inpired Italian side.

With the ability to use both his feet to pass and shoot, coupled with pace and nifty footwork , the mainstay of the German and Bayern defence has the ability to carve out opportunities for his side on the offensive end, while looking stout in defence as well. A disappointing loss in the Champions League final against Chelsea again typified his year of being so close yet so far to silverware. Lahm currently is part of a Bayern defence that has conceded only 7 goals in their first 17 matches of the campaign.

DANTE (Borussia Monchengladbach & Bayern Munich)

The Brazilian defender came to the fore as he shepherded Borussia Monchengladbach to a fourth place finish in last year’s Bundesliga campaign. The 6’2? powerhouse of a defender from the land of the Samba was the mainstay of the defense that conceded only 24 goals in 34 games last season.

A transfer to German powerhouse Bayern Munich transpired in the off-season, where he has now installed himself as a pillar in the backline. Dante may be a late bloomer at the age of 29 but he is making sure that the Bavarians make a note of him before he withers away anywhere soon.

VINCENT KOMPANY (Manchester City and Belgium)

The blue moon finally rose after 44 years in May of this year as Manchester City became champions of England for the first time since 1968. Of all the countless millions that the Arab sheikhs may have showered on the team, the £6 million they paid Hamburg for the Belgian seems to have been the most rewarding.

Unflappable is one word that describes the City skipper. Commanding in aerial duels while possessing neat pace and tremendous strength, Kompany has carved out a place in English football as one of the most dominant defenders this year. With the Belgium national team fielding a revolution of their own, it will be sooner rather than later that we see Vincent Kompany on the international stage as well.

JORDI ALBA(Valencia, Barcelona and Spain)

The left back came to prominence as he took Europe by storm in Euro 2012. Alba’s arrival on the scene meant Spain finally found the last missing piece at left back. He may not have the defensive abilities of someone like Ashley Cole but with his supreme ability on the ball coupled with blistering pace and a “just-do-it attitude”, he more than makes up for it.

Alba, a product of La Masia, has firmly cemented his place in the Barca side ever since coming back from Valencia in the off-season. The goal in the final of the Euros was just an icing on the cake of what seems to be a memorable year for Alba.

SERGIO RAMOS (Real Madrid and Spain)

The year 2012 saw Ramos with a brand new neat haircut which impersonates the new found maturity on the field. The boy from Andalucia has been prolific for both club and country, whether he be deployed on the right or in the heart of the defence, like in Euro 2012. A long waited La liga title coupled with another silverware in international competition has given more credit to his inclusion in the list.

THIAGO SILVA (PSG, AC Milan and Brazil)

The second Samba boy that finds himself on the list. PSG’s capture of Zlatan Ibrahimovic may have made all the headlines but it was their second big signing from Milan that really has set the stall out for them. Silva seems to have it all as defender. Comfortable on the ball, timely in tackles while impeccable in the air, the Brazilian Silva is at the height of his defensive prowess.  His absence has really been felt by Milan this season.

GIORGIO CHIELLINI (Juventus and Italy)

Chiellini embodies the tough tackling, take-no-prisoner type defender that Italy has been known to produce through the ages. Chiellini was the lynch-pin at the back of the Juventus side that remained unbeaten throughout last season as the Old Lady finally lifted the Scudetto after nine year.

Whether it be a 4 man defensive scheme as with Italy in Euro 2012 (though injured for a major part) or a three-man backline as he plays with Juventus, Chiellini has lead the line whenever called upon to do so with great zeal, passion and an attitude of a leader.

GERARD PIQUE (Barcelona and Spain)

Another product of Barcelona‘s La Masia, Pique was a vital cog in the machinery as Spain triumphed in Europe this summer. In the absence of Puyol, he alongside Ramos provided the bedrock for Spain’s third consecutive triumph at the international stage. Major silverware may have eluded him this season at Barcelona but his performances at the heart of the Catalan defense have been meticulous as ever.

MATS HUMMELS (Borussia Dortmund and Germany)

The Bayern Munich youth product has been able to make his parent club’s drought for the Bundesliga title stretch a bit longer as he was a key protagonist as Borussia Dortmund lifted the Bundesliga title for two years in a row. Scoring 80 goals in 34 games last season is quite impressive but conceding only 25 during that period is equally as impressive. Hummels has been a big reason for Dortmund enjoying such success this season.

The only blemish of the year for the German international came when he failed to contain a certain Mario Balloteli in the semis of the Euros as Germany went out crashing out the competition. Hummels was having a stellar year until that game. However, his performances throughout the year compels me to say he has finally proved his merit both at the club as well as international stage and is currently one of the best center-backs around.


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