Liverpool's plight this season has highlighted the importance of centre-backs this season; in the absence of Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez, and Joel Matip, Jurgen Klopp's men have endured a difficult season.
Modern centre-backs are required not just to defend, but to start attacks. The evolution of football has seen the need for centre-backs to be more elegant on the ball, capable of making good passes while also having the athleticism to cover for their marauding full-backs.
With the likes of van Dijk and Sergio Ramos missing major chunks of this season due to injury, centre-backs like Ruben Dias and Jules Kounde have staked their claim to being the best centre-back in the world this season after some top performances.
We take a look at the:
Top 5 centre-backs in the world this season
#5 Raphael Varane - Real Madrid
Varane joined Real Madrid from Lens in 2011 for €10 million, and has enjoyed a phenomenal spell with Los Blancos. The 27-year old has made 355 appearances in all competitions for the club, playing a key role in Real Madrid's stupendous success in the UEFA Champions League.
The Frenchman has made 36 appearances in all competitions this season. In Sergio Ramos' absence, Varane has shouldered the responsibility of marshaling the defense. Real Madrid face Liverpool in the Champions League quarter-finals and are still in the hunt for the league title. Varane's contributions could prove to be crucial in the next two months.
#4 Jules Kounde - Sevilla
Already linked with top clubs like Manchester City, Manchester United and Real Madrid, it seems unlikely that Jules Kounde will be a Sevilla player next season.
The centre-back joined Sevilla from Bordeaux in 2019 for €25 million, and the Spanish club look set to sell him for at least double that price. Kounde has impressed with his consistent performances in the Sevilla backline, with his passing and defensive acumen appreciated.
This season, the 22-year old has made 39 appearances in all competitions for Sevilla, and has been an everpresent under the management of Julen Lopetegui. Sevilla will have a tough job keeping hold of their star in the summer.
#3 John Stones - Manchester City
26-year-old centre-back John Stones looked set to leave Manchester City last summer amid suggestions that manager Pep Guardiola had lost confidence in the player.
Cue to this summer, and Stones looks ready to play a key role for England at the Euros after an incredible season so far for Manchester City. The 26-year old has looked imperious for his club, forming an excellent defensive partnership with Ruben Dias.
Such have been Stones' performances that he has managed to keep Aymeric Laporte out of the side; after a poor season last time around, the former Everton man is at the top of his game.
#2 David Alaba - Bayern Munich
David Alaba has announced that he will leave Bayern Munich on a free transfer in the summer, bringing to an end a long and trophy-laden chapter in his career.
Having made his debut for Bayern Munich in 2010, Alaba has made 421 appearances in all competitions for the club, scoring 33 goals. Well-renowned for his versatility, Alaba is capable of playing as a left-back, centre-back, on the wings and in midfield.
Under manager Hansi Flick, the Austria international has predominantly been used as a centre-back and played a key role as Bayern Munich won the treble last season. The 28-year old has been linked heavily with Real Madrid, while Chelsea, Barcelona and Manchester City have also been suggested as potential destinations.
#1 Ruben Dias - Manchester City
Manchester City were linked with quite a few centre-backs last summer. Napoli's Kalidou Koulibaly and Sevilla's Jules Kounde were reportedly close to joining the club, but a move failed to materialize for either of them.
When Manchester City paid Benfica €68 million for Ruben Dias, it was seen as a sign of desperation. However, the centre-back has emphatically responded with world-class performances for Manchester City since his debut for the club.
The Portugal international has seamlessly slotted into Pep Guardiola's backline, forming a strong centre-back partnership with John Stones. The 23-year old has been a constant presence this season, making 38 appearances in all competitions.