Top 5 most valuable centre-backs in the world right now (June 2022)

Real Madrid defender Eder Militao (left) and Barcelona's Ronaldo Araujo.
Real Madrid defender Eder Militao (left) and Barcelona's Ronaldo Araujo.

The role of the centre-back has changed a lot over the years. Earlier, they were solely responsible for thwarting opposition attackers by any means necessary. Today, they are also tasked with additional duties such as ball retention and distribution. Mixing press resistance and low-level playmaking with old-school centre-back stability is hardly a straightforward task.

Very few centre-backs manage to achieve that, with most falling short in one area or the other. But those who do are worth their weight in platinum in today’s market, and then some.

Below, we will take a look at five in-form centre-backs who are all the rage right now. Here are the top five most valuable central defenders in the world:

Data via: CIES Football Observatory

#5 Dayot Upamecano (Bayern Munich): €77.7 million

FC Bayern München v Borussia Dortmund - Bundesliga
FC Bayern München v Borussia Dortmund - Bundesliga

Bayern Munich splurged €42.5 million to sign centre-back Dayot Upamecano from RB Leipzig in the summer of 2021. The 23-year-old has completely justified his price tag, producing a string of impressive performances for the Bavarians.

The French centre-back is comfortable with the ball at his feet, has a knack for charging down the pitch, and is a reliable distributor of the ball.

Upamecano, who is currently valued at €77.7 million, is also quite formidable in one-on-one situations and is excellent in the air.

In the 2021-22 Bundesliga season, Upamecano took part in 28 games, bagging a goal and six assists. He helped the Bavarians keep eight clean sheets in those games and four clean sheets in eight Champions League matches. He completed 2048 passes, made 10 key passes, and saw 184 passes enter the final third of the pitch.

He was in commendable form at the back as well, winning 33 tackles, making 69 interceptions, and registering 75 clearances (via FbRef).

#4 Ronaldo Araujo (Barcelona): €89.1 million

FC Barcelona v A-League All Stars
FC Barcelona v A-League All Stars

Barcelona did not have the best of campaigns in the 2021-22 season, with most of their players struggling to live up to their potential. Centre-back Ronald Araujo was certainly not one of them.

He brought calmness to the Barcelona backline and helped his team progress the ball. Without him steadying the ship, the Blaugrana probably would not have managed to snag a second-place finish.

The Uruguayan centre-back, who is valued at €89.1 million, took part in 30 games in the 2021-22 La Liga campaign, scoring four times. He completed 1485 passes, played six key passes, and delivered two crosses into the 18-yard box. He helped Barcelona keep nine clean sheets in those games.

On the defensive front, Araujo won 33 tackles, blocked 21 shots, made 37 interceptions, and recorded 78 clearances (via FbRef).

#3 Eder Militao (Real Madrid): €90.3 million

Real Madrid v Manchester City Semi Final Leg Two - UEFA Champions League
Real Madrid v Manchester City Semi Final Leg Two - UEFA Champions League

With Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane both leaving the club ahead of the 2021-22 campaign, Real Madrid needed a couple of centre-backs to step up and fill in for them.

David Alaba and Eder Militao made sure the Whites did not miss the all-conquering duo in the 2021-22 season.

Brazilian centre-back Militao was one of Los Blancos’ most improved players in the 2021-22 campaign. He was a towering figure at the back, intercepted threatening balls, demonstrated excellent passing range, and carried the ball forward with unimaginable ease.

Had Militao not performed as consistently as he did, Real Madrid would not have managed to win the Champions League and La Liga in the 2021-22 season.

The Brazil international, who is valued at €90.3 million, played 34 La Liga 2021-22 matches, recording a goal and two assists. Militao has proven himself to be an alert defender, making 70 intercepetions and 125 clearances, helping Los Blancos keep an impressive 13 clean sheets in La Liga.

The centre-back also passed with flying colors when it came to distribution. He completed 1779 passes, made 11 key passes, and saw 141 passes enter the final third (via FbRef).

#2 Josko Gvardiol (RB Leipzig): €99.8 million

SpVgg Greuther Fürth v RB Leipzig - Bundesliga
SpVgg Greuther Fürth v RB Leipzig - Bundesliga

Josko Gvardiol is the only central defender on our list today who is not part of a traditionally 'top' European club. However, if the RB Leipzig defender keeps up his performances, he could find himself there sooner rather than later.

The 20-year-old has emerged as an immovable object in the Bundesliga, impressing onlookers with his passing range, aggressive runs, no-nonsense defending, and long ball distribution.

The young Croatian centre-back rarely gets directly involved in front of goal for obvious reasons, but his forward-mindedness plays a key role in Leipzig’s relentless attacks.

🤤 Of the 87 players to attempt 40 or more dribbles, Josko Gvardiol had the best dribble success rate (75.5%) in the Bundesliga last season

Gvardiol, who is valued at €99.8 million, was one of the best defenders in Germany in the 2021-22 campaign. He has featured in 29 Bundesliga games for Leipzig, scoring twice and providing two assists and helping his side keep eight clean sheets.

Gvardiol completed 1758 passes out of 2100, played 11 key passes, and saw 165 of his passes enter the final third.

The centre-back was rock solid defensively as well, winning 33 tackles, making 89 intercepting, and registering 80 clearances (via FbRef).

#1 Ruben Dias (Manchester City): €109.6 million

Newcastle United v Manchester City - Premier League
Newcastle United v Manchester City - Premier League

Manchester City signed Ruben Dias for a €68 million fee from Benfica in the summer of 2020. Having become the most expensive defender in the club's history, Dias was under insurmountable pressure to perform.

Brilliant as he is, he, of course, did not put a single step wrong and completely justified his lofty price tag in his debut season itself.

Instilling calm and composure in City’s backline, he helped Pep Guardiola’s team become the most formidable defensive unit in the league.

En route to their 2020-21 Premier League title, City only conceded 32 goals, the least in the division. For his heroics, the centre-back was chosen as the 'Premier League Player of the Season'.

𝙇𝙚𝙖𝙙𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙗𝙮 𝙚𝙭𝙖𝙢𝙥𝙡𝙚! 💪Let’s take a look back at @rubendias’ best 21/22 moments! 👊#ManCity

Dias, who has a whopping €109.6 million valuation, is an excellent distributor, is brilliant in one-on-one skills, and has the ability to beat the press when needed.

In the recently concluded 2021-22 Premier League season, the centre-back made 2267 passes, created four big chances, provided four assists, and scored twice.

The Portuguese centre-back also registered 108 recoveries, won 88 duels, and made 23 interceptions, helping the Citizens keep 12 clean sheets in 29 matches (via the Premier League).

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Edited by Samya Majumdar
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