10. Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham)
Alderweireld endured a difficult time at Spurs while a contract dispute led to his awkward benching. Yet the Belgium international came back with an excellent World Cup as his country finished third in Russia, and he soon returned to Mauricio Pochettino’s first team despite being heavily linked with a move to Manchester United in the summer. An extension to his contract was triggered, but that only means he can leave for a cut-price fee this summer.
Alderweireld is rarely caught out of position and is equally comfortable playing in a back three or back four. He’s a terrific passer too, and is particularly adept at spraying long diagonals out to the flanks.
9. Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham)
Now into his seventh season as a Tottenham player, Vertonghen has developed into one of the world’s leading centre-backs – and arguably the foremost in the Premier League – over the last couple of years.
Alderweireld’s team-mate for club and country is aggressive and an expert at wrestling the ball away from opposition strikers high upfield. He’s strong in one-on-one duels and comfortable when forced to defend in wide areas – and the Belgian is also surprisingly adept at left-back, where he put in a stunning display against Borussia Dortmund earlier this season.
8. Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus)
The grizzled Italian stalwart may have turned 34 in August, but he remains one of the standout players in his position. Strong in the tackle and commanding aerially, Chiellini is a wonderful reader of the game and an underrated passer from deep.
Juve’s defensive stalwart is still a mainstay in the Bianconeri backline and will be integral as they look to land a Champions League win for the first time since 1996.
7. Samuel Umtiti (Barcelona)
Little was known of Umtiti outside his native France before summer 2016, but it didn’t take long for the centre-back to become a household name. Confirmation of his move from Lyon to Barcelona came midway through that year’s European Championship, when the defender turned in a flawless display on his international debut against Iceland in the quarter-finals.
Umtiti isn’t the biggest at 6ft tall, but he more than makes up for his lack of height in other areas. Mobile, powerful and quick to anticipate danger, he’s also a good passer and ball-carrier from the heart of the backline. He was a key member of the France side that triumphed to win the World Cup in Russia.
6. Diego Godin (Atletico Madrid)
Godin probably isn’t the type of centre-half who would thrive under Pep Guardiola or Maurizio Sarri, but he’s the perfect fit for Atletico Madrid and Uruguay. While he’s by no means poor in possession – the 32-year-old has shown that he’s perfectly capable of carrying the ball upfield when the situation demands – Godin is more of an old-fashioned defender than most of his peers on this list.
Gritty, rugged and aggressive, the former Villarreal stopper is invariably in the right places at the right times. Blessed with great powers of anticipation, he also has a useful knack for popping up with vital set-piece goals.