Over the years, several fine players have graced the Premier League. Despite the game evolving, the importance of a solid defensive line remains a constant. As the saying goes, attack wins you games, but defense wins you trophies.
On that note, let's take a look at the top five defenders to have graced the Premier League.
#5 Vincent Kompany
Vincent Kompany is a bonafide legend of Manchester City. Joining in 2008 from Hamburg, Kompany captained the Cityzens to several titles . His arrival coincided with a change of ownership at the club, the catalyst that enabled City to compete for the country's top honours.
Renowned for his defensive acumen, Kompany is regarded as one of the best defenders in Premier League history. Blessed with impeccable aerial ability, Kompany rarely lost duels in the air. His distribution and work rate, along with his brilliant leadership qualities, endeared himself to the club faithful.
Appointed the club captain in 2011, Kompany won four Premier League titles with City as well as four League Cups and two FA Cups. He was a key figure in the emergence of Manchester City on the biggest stage, establishing them as a force to be reckoned with.
Kompany ended his City career in style, scoring the winner in a game against Leicester City to lead the Cityzens to the Premier League title. He moved to Anderlecht, where he spent a year before announcing his retirement. He is often regarded as the best defender in Manchester City's history and one of the best ever to play in the Premier League.
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#4 Ashley Cole
Ashley Cole is a name that divides opinion. Despite criticism for his move from Arsenal to Chelsea in 2006, the fact remains that Cole was an excellent defender.
Playing primarily as a left-back, Cole started his professional career with London giants Arsenal in 1999. He made his Premier League debut the next year and went on to earn a spot in the starting lineup.
Renowned for his attacking mindset, Cole often embarked on blistering runs on the left flank. Blessed with a killer left foot, Cole could also produce inch-perfect crosses. He often created goals for teammates up front,
Cole spent six years with the Gunners, winning two Premier League titles and three FA Cups. He was a mainstay in Arsenal's title-winning challenge in 2003-04, where the Gunners went unbeaten for the entire season. He made 156 appearances for Arsenal before making a move to their London rivals Chelsea in 2006.
As expected, Cole's move to a direct Premier League rival sparked outrage from fans. Nevertheless, Cole went on to win four FA Cups and one Premier League title with the Blues. He also won the UEFA Champions League in 2012 for the first time, etching his name in the club's history books.
Cole had a successful Premier League career before he announced his retirement in 2019.
#3 Nemanja Vidic
Vidic formed a formidable centre-back partnership with Rio Ferdinand. His record with Manchester United was phenomenal, as the Serb won five Premier League titles and three League Cups. He also won the UEFA Champions League in 2008, with United defeating their Premier League rivals Chelsea in the final.
Revered for his fearlessness, Nemanja Vidic was a massive force in defence. His calmness under pressure and aerial prowess made him one of the best defenders in the game at the time. His exploits earned the Serb the Premier League Player of the Season award on two different occasions, making him just one of four defenders to win the award and the only player in history to win it twice.
Vidic parted ways with United in 2014 to join Inter Milan, where he spent two years before his retirement. Many critics argue that Vidic has still not been adequately replaced at Manchester United. But there is another school of thought suggesting that a player of Vidic's calibre can never be replaced as he remains one of the best overseas defenders to have played on English shores.
#2 Rio Ferdinand
Rio Ferdinand is arguably one of the best defenders in Premier League history. Ferdinand had a trophy-laden career, winning six Premier League titles and two League Cups with Manchester United. He also won the UEFA Champions League with United in 2008.
Originally from the West Ham academy, Ferdinand was scouted by Leeds. They signed the Englishman in 2000 for a massive £18 million fee, which made Ferdinand the world's most expensive defender. He went on to captain Leeds before his eventual move to Manchester United in 2002.
United paid approximately £30 million to acquire the defender's services, making him the world's most expensive defender for the second time. He immediately impressed for the Red Devils and went on to spend 12 years at Old Trafford.
Arguably one of the best defenders in Manchester United's history, Ferdinand received widespread praise for his defensive acumen. His distribution and ball progression were key elements to his game.
After his Manchester stint, Ferdinand moved to Queens Park Rangers in 2014, where he played for a year before announcing his retirement.
#1 John Terry
John Terry was a Chelsea man for most of his career, winning every club-level competition with the Blues.
Starting off in Chelsea's youth system, Terry earned a first-team spot in the 2000-01 season. He became a regular the same year and continued to impress defensively. The arrival of Jose Mourinho in 2004 saw Terry become the club captain.
Terry led the Blues to several trophies, including their historic Premier League triumph in 2004-05. This season was simply phenomenal as Terry and the Blues conceded a record-low 15 goals.
Terry impressed for England as well, wearing the captain's armband before being replaced by Ferdinand in 2010. The Englishman was well known for his no-nonsense style of defending and his aerial ability. Commanding in the box, Terry was adept in dealing with aerial threats because of his physical strength.
John Terry played for Chelsea till 2017 before he moved to Aston Villa. He spent a year with them before his retirement and subsequent venture into management. He is currently the assistant manager at Aston Villa. While Terry is one of the best defenders to have graced the Premier League, it remains to be seen what he achieves on the other side of the touchline.