Even in a COVID-19-ravaged year, a bevy of defenders have made their mark in Serie A.
Despite more and more teams in Serie A playing exciting, expansive football in recent times, many fine defenders - experienced and young - have shone for their respective clubs in the league this year.
Ten best defenders in Serie A in 2020
Inter Milan have arguably been the best defensive team this year. The Nerazzurri conceded the fewest goals in Serie A last season and are presently in second place in the league table this campaign.
The likes of Napoli, AC Milan and Juventus have also been relatively frugal at the back this season. Unsurprisingly, most of the ten best defenders in Serie A this year ply their trades at one of these clubs.
Without further ado, let us have a look at the ten Serie A players who have impressed the most in the defensive third this year.
#10 Alessandro Bastoni (Inter Milan)
Alessandro Bastoni is one of the most promising young centre-backs in Serie A at the moment.
The 21-year-old played 25 Serie A games for Inter Milan last season and has appeared 11 times in the competition in 2020-21.
Bastoni has impressively clocked the most game-time of all Under-21 players in Serie A since the 2018-19 campaign.
Bastoni has impressed in Antonio Conte's three-man defence while seamlessly transitioning to a four-man backline with Italy. The player credits Conte for his rapid growth, saying in this regard:
“I am very satisfied because I think I have grown a lot thanks to him. I am well both mentally and physically; he is giving me great confidence. Last year I never made my debut in the Champions League; this year I have played all three games, this makes me very satisfied with my growth.”
#9 Gianluca Mancini (AS Roma)
Gianluca Mancini is another promising young centre-back in Serie A. The 24-year-old plies his trade at AS Roma.
Mancini, who is not related to his more illustrious namesake Roberto, has become a key player for the Roman club since his arrival from Atalanta last summer.
The Italian has played over 40 Serie A games for his new club and has scored twice for them in the league, with one of his two goals coming this season.
#8 Rafael Toloi (Atalanta)
Rafael Toloi has played nearly 150 Serie A games for Atalanta since his move from Sao Paulo five years ago.
The 30-year-old centre-back produced an impressive seven assists in Serie A last season, helping his team qualify for back-to-back Champions League campaigns.
Toloi, who also holds an Italian passport, credits Atalanta manager Gian Piero Gasperini for his prolonged stay at the club, saying in this regard:
“I am lucky to have met Gian Piero Gasperini; he is always very concentrated. I have been in Bergamo since the coach arrived.
#7 Matthijs de Ligt (Juventus)
Matthijs de Ligt is arguably one of the finest young defenders in the game at the moment.
After leading Ajax on a fairytale run to the Champions League semi-finals last year, the Dutch centre-back was swooped up by serial Serie A winners Juventus.
Expectedly, the 21-year-old could only provide glimpses of his potential during his debut season in Italy and lost his place in the starting XI towards the end of the season.
Under a new manager this season, De Ligt may have played only seven Serie A games due to injury, but the young centre-back is finally beginning to show the qualities that made the Bianconeri splurge big for his services.
Juventus boss Andrea Pirlo has tipped De Ligt as one of the future captains of the club, saying in this regard:
“(Matthijs) de Ligt’s return is important to us. We’re more aggressive with him and he helps a lot when we’re in possession too. He’s only 20, but he already has the qualities of a captain.”