90min's 2020 edition of 'Welcome to World Class' series is now into it's second week, as we define
what the term 'world class' means and how to go about measuring it.
We've already spun you through the five goalkeepers who fit the criteria using our brand spanking new metric (which you can find here), and it's one that was designed to measure a player's greatness across ten different categories.
Over the coming weeks, we'll be covering all on-field positions, and we start that journey with centre-backs. You may have already stumbled across our shortlist and spotted a few players across our social channels and website along the way, but now we're getting down to the nitty gritty.
To do that, we're putting the top five centre-backs in the world in ranked order, revealing exactly why they're world class. So let's not waste any more time, let's begin, shall we?
5. Matthijs de Ligt
There are some who may feel that 21-year-old Matthijs de Ligt is too young to be recognised as a world class defender.
He has only been playing in one of Europe's famed 'top five' leagues for just over a year, after all.
But De Ligt's inclusion is testament to how good he was for Ajax during the formative years of his career, how quickly he's settled into life at Serie A dominators Juventus and how likely he is to be at the top of the game for many years to come.
Make no mistake, the Dutchman is a generational talent, and has all the attributes - both physical and mental - to not only be a world class player now, but be remembered as one of the all time greats once he hangs up his boots.
Matthijs de Ligt ranks fifth in 90min's Welcome to World Class centre-backs list. Read more about why De Ligt is world class here.
4. Raphael Varane
Real Madrid may currently be going through another one of their brief turmoil cycles, but you'd be hard pressed to find a centre-back who ticks as many world class boxes as Raphael Varane.
A serial winner at club and international level, the Frenchman's career resumé speaks for itself - but what makes Varane stand out is that he could, and perhaps should - have been the first defender since Fabio Cannavaro to win the Ballon d'Or.
Varane won the Champions League and the World Cup in 2018, a feat that the six players who finished ahead of him in the final rankings failed to achieve.
He's had a slight dip since, but Zinedine Zidane's affirmation that Varane is under any circumstances "non-transferable" tells you all you need to know about his quality.
Raphael Varane ranks fourth in 90min's Welcome to World Class centre-backs list. Read more about why Varane is world class here.
3. David Alaba
Becoming world class in one position is hard enough, but not for Bayern Munich's David Alaba.
Such is the Austrian's skillset, he could quite easily have been considered a world class left-back, had he not made the switch inside over the past 12 months under Hansi Flick.
We could write some more nice words about good Alaba has been in 2020, but instead it's probably best to show what he's achieved this calendar year - a key factor in our scoring metric.
- 2019/20 Bundesliga winner
- 2019/20 UEFA Champions League
- 2019/20 DFB-Pokal
- 2020 UEFA Super Cup
- 2020 DFL-Supercup
Says it all, doesn't it?
David Alaba ranks third in 90min's Welcome to World Class centre-backs list. Read more about why Alaba is world class here.
2. Sergio Ramos
As football continues to evolve, staying at the top of your game well into your 30s is seemingly becoming the norm.
But that's about as far as the norm goes in relation to Sergio Ramos, as everything else about Real Madrid and Spain's captain is absolutely extraordinary.
The fiercest competitor of all, Ramos is a born winner - destined to deliver at clutch moments, destined to be take centre stage and destined to outlast all who come before him.
If his career accolades and ridiculous trophy cabinet don't do it for you, take note of his 100+ goal record for Los Blancos and what happens when he's not in the team and you'll start to appreciate why he oozes world class.
Sergio Ramos ranks second in 90min's Welcome to World Class centre-backs list. Read more about why Ramos is world class here.
1. Virgil van Dijk
To be a world class player, you need to be a game changer capable of doing things that others can't.
You need to have qualities about you that immediately improve the game of those you play with, inspiring confidence and belief that success can - and will - follow in due course.
In the case of Virgil van Dijk, he was the ultimate game changer in 2018 and the catalyst for the mountain of success that has come Liverpool's way over the past couple of years.
Put simply, without the signing of £75m Van Dijk - as good as Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and co. have been - Liverpool are unlikely to be where they are now. That's how important he was, that's how important he is and that's how important he will be for many, many years to come.
Virgil van Dijk ranks first in 90min's Welcome to World Class centre-backs list. Read more about why Van Dijk is world class here.