Top 30 Premier League Centre-Backs of All Time - Ranked

Chelsea's English defender John Terry (R
Manchester United's Rio Ferdinand and Chelsea's John Terry | ANDREW YATES/Getty Images

The centre-back. Without doubt, the hardest, toughest man on the pitch. The central defender may not get the plaudits and headlines that the flashy, superstar striker receives every week, but that's okay - he wouldn't want them, anyway.

This guy turns up to work, does his job and goes home. No thrills. No fancy accessories. Just plain black boots, earring-less plug-holes and un-dyed hair. A man's man. Richard Keys' fantasy. When we think of mental centre-backs, every Briton is immediately teleported back to Terry Butcher's blood-stained, mad-eyed stare against Sweden in 1989.

Unfortunately, Butcher never featured in the newly-formatted Premier League, whose inception arrived at the beginning of the 1992/93 campaign. But we have been treated to some of the finest defenders in football history over the past three decades, and plenty of them have washed up on Great Britain's glorious shores.

And this got us thinking: Who are the best 30 centre-backs - ranked - to have ever graced the Premier League? After banging our heads together for several weeks, dozens of in-office scraps and exactly seven broken friendships, we have come to our conclusions.

Without further ado, let's dive two-footed into this elite list of defensive supermen.

30. Lucas Radebe

Lucas Radebe of Leeds United
Leeds United club legend Lucas Radebe | Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

An absolute cult hero at Leeds United, Lucas Radebe spent a decade with the Whites in the top flight. The South African's career stalled through injuries, but he still managed to make his mark in England. He also inspired the naming of the Leeds supporting band 'The Kaiser Chiefs', because of his affiliation with the club 'Kaizer Chiefs.'

29. Jonny Evans

Jonny Evans
Evans has been a consistent performer throughout his Premier League career | James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

I wonder how many Manchester United fans regret the sale of Jonny Evans to West Brom back in 2015, while Phil Jones still sits on their bench? An underrated and consistent defender throughout his career, the Northern Irishman is now a key figure at the heart of the Premier League's sweethearts, Leicester City. Right where he belongs.

28. Joleon Lescott

Lescott celebrating wildly against VIlla...little did he know, he'd be relegated with them later in his career
Lescott celebrating wildly against VIlla...little did he know, he'd be relegated with them later in his career | Michael Regan/Getty Images

A two-time Premier League winner with Manchester City. Once annoyed the entire Twittersphere by tweeting a picture of his new sports car after getting battered on the pitch with Aston Villa. It was an accident, though. Honestly.

27. Sylvain Distin

Sylvain Distin
Distin is a Premier League legend | Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Sylvain Distin enjoyed 15 solid years in the English top flight, becoming part of the Premier League fabric. Featured most often for Man City and Everton, and was instrumental in the Toffees' record 72-point finish back in 2014.

26. Wes Brown

Wes Brown
Brown was a key figure in Man Utd's successful 2007/08 season | Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Often perceived as a weak link during Man Utd's glory years under Sir Alex Ferguson, Brown was actually an impressive and necessary utility player. He featured 52 times across the famous 2007/08 campaign (albeit as a right-back), as the Red Devils claimed both the Premier League and Champions League trophy. Versatile, too.

25. Robert Huth

Robert Huth
The sweetest of Robert Huth's title successes | Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

No striker has ever relished a battle with Robert Huth.

Possibly the scariest man on this list, Huth won the league title twice with Chelsea, spent nine years battling relegation with Middlesbrough and Stoke City, before completing the unlikeliest of reunions with the Premier League trophy at Leicester City. A history-maker and an all-time great. The Huth? You can't handle the Huth!

24. Toby Alderweireld

Toby Alderweireld
One of the best looking blokes on this list, too | James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

On his way to becoming a Premier League legend. Toby Alderweireld began his English journey with Southampton in 2014, and after one year, it was evident he was too good for mid-table obscurity. Five years later, and he has proven everyone right, becoming a regular in Tottenham Hotspur's (previously) reliable defence.

23. William Gallas

Best remembered for throwing a hissy fit and sitting down on the pitch after his teammate conceded a last-minute penalty, William Gallas was actually a celebrated defender during his time at Chelsea, Arsenal and Spurs. An excellent London tourist.

22. Gareth Southgate

Middlesbrough 's British defender and ca
Heading football home | JOSE LUIS ROCA/Getty Images

Steady, unspectacular, but Mr. Reliable. Southgate's career enjoyed a wonderful rise, arriving in the top flight with Crystal Palace, leading Aston Villa to League Cup success and an FA Cup final, before eventually ending his career in a Europa League final against Sevilla. Currently bringing football home - slowly.

21. Jan Vertonghen

Jan Vertonghen
SuperJan conjuring his powers | Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

The Batman to Alderweireld's Robin, Jan Vertonghen has spent the last eight years wowing White Hart Lane with his superman heroics (and celebration). A figure of authority and leadership at the back, the Belgian will be sorely missed.

20. Gary Cahill

If his name was Garyo Cahillinho, he'd have been one of the most hailed centre-backs in football history! Well, maybe not. But Cahill epitomised what it meant to be a full-blooded, heart on sleeve defender. A warrior for Chelsea over seven years, and still going strong at 34 years of age.

19. Kolo Toure

Kolo Toure
One of a minority of Invincibles in football | Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Kolo, Kolo Kolo, Kolo Kolo, Kolo Kolo Toure! Yep, before the song, there was a man. An invincible man. A man who took no prisoners, in training or on the pitch, and led Arsenal to some of the greatest triumphs in their illustrious history. He has a brother too, apparently. If only there was a song to remember his name...

18. Sami Hyypia

Sami Hyypia
He's not finished, he's only 46! | Etsuo Hara/Getty Images

A Finnish legend (see caption for joke). Sami Hyypia was a regular at the heart of Liverpool's defence for almost a decade, and all at the price of £2.6m. Part of the famous cup treble winning side. A Red through and through.

17. Colin Hendry

Colin Hendry
You would not mess with this fella | Clive Mason/Getty Images

Premier League winner with Blackburn Rovers. Treble winner with Rangers. Tough as old boots. Played for 20 years. A proper warrior. A shoe-in for our list. Nice one, Colin.

16. Martin Keown

Martin Keown of Arsenal after the UEFA Champions League match
Keown waving at Van Nistelrooy | Ian Walton/Getty Images

Solid defender, once physically and emotionally assaulted Ruud van Nistelrooy in one of the worst acts of poor sportsmanship that football has ever seen. Solid defender, though.

15. Ledley King

Didier Drogba, Ledley King
King demonstrating his superhuman flying powers over Drogba | Michael Steele/Getty Images

The finest centre-back we hardly ever saw. Injury ruined the vertical trajectory of the Tottenham Hotspur legend's career, and yet, Ledley King is still considered one of the greats. What might have been, but what still was.

14. Paul McGrath

McGrath was a quality defender | Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Spent seven excellent years at Man Utd, then going onto Aston Villa to defy his physical capacities and recurring injuries to cement his place in Premier League folklore. FA Cup and double League Cup winner. Bosh.

13. Jamie Carragher

Jamie Carragher
Eyes on the prize | Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

One of the best centre-backs never to have won a Premier League title? Probably. Consistency and reliability were the name of the game for Jamie Carragher, and he rarely let the side down.

12. Marcel Desailly

Desailly celebrates scoring the second
Back when shaking hands was socially acceptable | Ben Radford/Getty Images

An OG Chelsea legend. Not one of these new money heroes. Nicknamed The Rock, Marcel Desailly could turn his hand to anything on the pitch. Could probably be a top box office actor if he fancied, too.

11. Gary Pallister

Gary Pallister
What a lovely jersey that was | Chris Cole/Getty Images

Voted in the Premier League Team of the Year four times. Just as many Premier League titles too. You can't argue with the people, and he is the people's champion.

10. Ricardo Carvalho

Ricardo Carvalho
"Why aren't all defenders as competent and glorious as me?" | Clive Mason/Getty Images

Half of one of the best central partnerships in Premier League history, Ricardo Carvalho had the hair and sharp looks of a sexy, mysterious foreigner, but the spirit and fight of a 90's British defender.

9. Virgil van Dijk

"What? Only ninth?!" | MICHAEL REGAN/Getty Images

The critics sharpened their knives when Liverpool splashed £75m on Virgil van Dijk in January 2018, but he has gone on to become a club legend. One league and one Champions League title later, the doubters have been forced to withdraw their unbloodied weapons.

8. Jaap Stam

Jaap Stam
Jaap Stam charging at a quaking opponent | Gary M. Prior/Getty Images

One of Sir Alex Ferguson's only major regrets was allowing Jaap Stam to leave Man Utd too soon - that says it all really. Hard as nails and a striker's nightmare. No one fancied coming up against Stam.

7. Steve Bruce

Brucey with one of many career trophies | Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

The greatest player in English football history - never to have played for England. A no-nonsense, passionate and commanding defender, Steve Bruce threw his body on the line countless times to claim all three points - and it shows. In all seriousness, a quality, quality defender - and a top bloke.

6. Vincent Kompany

Vincent Kompany, Roberto Mancini
Kompany posing with a fan | Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Started at the bottom now we're here. Vincent Kompany is Man City. The Belgian defender joined the Citizens at the beginning of their ascent, and carried them all the way to the summit. Rock solid in defence, a leader off the field and scorer of the odd vital goal in title winning seasons. Couldn't ask for more.

5. Nemanja Vidic

Nemanja Vidic
He doesn't look right when he smiles | Alex Livesey/Getty Images

The heir to Stam's throne. Nemanja Vidic produced eight of the most consistent and terrifying years of football at the heart of Man Utd's defence, winning it all with the Red Devils. How the Theatre of Dreams misses a presence like this man in their side.

4. Sol Campbell

Dejection for Arsenal players Sol Campbell and Lauren
Campbell looking for any defenders better than him | Phil Cole/Getty Images

Sol Campbell made the unforgivable move across north London, but in the long run, it was the right decision. He became an icon of the game for Arsenal and England, as a graceful, bullish and speedy centre-back.

3. Tony Adams

Tony Adams
Belting out the national anthem in all likelihood | Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

If Tony Adams could rip his beating heart out of his chest to show you how much Arsenal, England and football meant to him, then he'd probably give it a go. An uncompromising, full-blooded, committed, talented defender. Had his iconic moment with the title-winning goal against Everton in 1998. Deserved.

2. Rio Ferdinand

Rio Ferdinand
This guy means business | Gallo Images/Getty Images

One of the best ball-playing defenders in football history, Rio Ferdinand was always destined for the top. Six league titles in 12 years, the better half of some of the greatest partnerships the game has seen, and a wonderful, classy operator. The game is still missing a Rio.

1. John Terry

John Terry
The greatest | Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Say what you want about the guy off the field, but on it, he was the very best the Premier League has ever witnessed. A leader, an inspiration, reliable, evergreen: a legend. The heartbeat of Chelsea for 20 years, we might never see another defender quite like John Terry.