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Best Serie A Defenders of All Time

Italian football have always produced great defenders. In this article, we will discuss the best Serie A defenders of all time.

Defense plays a crucial role in Italy’s elite league Serie A. Known for its tactical and disciplined approach, Italian football places great emphasis on defensive solidity. The defensive aspect of the game is highly valued, and teams strive to maintain a strong defensive structure to neutralize opposing attacks.

Serie A has witnessed the emergence of numerous exceptional defenders throughout its history. These defenders have showcased their skills, intelligence, and physicality to establish themselves as stalwarts at the back. They have provided the foundation for their teams’ successes, contributing to the overall balance and resilience of their respective sides.

The presence of great defenders in Serie A has enriched the league’s history. Their contributions have been pivotal in securing league titles, domestic cups, and European successes for their respective clubs. They have left a lasting legacy through their unwavering commitment, exceptional defensive skills, and influence on the game.

Credit: SempreMilan

Before delving into the list of the best Serie A defenders of all time, it’s worth acknowledging some honorable mentions who could have a strong case for inclusion in the list:

Claudio Gentile, Antonio Cabrini, Giuseppe Bergomi, Alessandro Costacurta, Mauro Tassotti and Gianluca zambrotta.

For more Serie A goodness, check out our list of the best Serie A defenders of 2022-2023 as well.

Now without further ado, here is our list of the best Serie A defenders of all time:

Cafu

Our Number 10 in the list of best Serie A defenders of All time is Cafu. Marcos Evangelista de Morais, is a Brazilian football legend who left an indelible mark as one of the best Right-backs in Serie A history. Born on June 7, 1970, in São Paulo, Brazil, Cafu had a distinguished career that spanned over two decades.

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Cafu played in Serie A for two Italian clubs: AS Roma and AC Milan. He joined Roma in 1997 and spent six successful seasons with the club, from 1997 to 2003. During his time at Roma, Cafu helped the team achieve notable success, including winning the Serie A title in the 2000-2001 season.

In 2003, Cafu made a move to AC Milan, where he continued to excel as a right-back. He played for AC Milan until his retirement in 2008, adding more accolades to his name. With AC Milan, Cafu won two Serie A titles in the 2003-2004 and 2010-2011 seasons. He was also instrumental in the club’s UEFA Champions League triumphs in 2003 and 2007.

Cafu’s playing style was characterized by his remarkable speed, stamina, and attacking prowess from the right-back position. His legacy in Italian football and beyond is one of excellence and success. Cafu’s impact extended beyond his club performances, as he represented the Brazilian national team and played a pivotal role in their triumphs, including winning the FIFA World Cup in 1994 and 2002. His remarkable achievements and consistent performances established him as one of the best right-backs of all time.

Lilian Thuram

Lilian Thuram is our Number 9 in the list of best Serie A defenders of All time. Born on January 1, 1972, in Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe, he is a retired French footballer and one of the best right-backs in Serie A history. He is also one of the best center-backs of all time.

Credit: EuroSports

Thuram’s career in Serie A spanned from 1996 to 2006, during which he played for Parma and Juventus. In Parma he won the Uefa Cup and Coppa Italia in 1999. Thuram joined Juve from Parma in 2001 and made an immediate impact, becoming an integral part of Juventus’ formidable defense. He played a key role in their triumphs in the 2001-2002, 2002-2003, 2004-2005 and 2005-2006 seasons.

Positioned primarily as a right-back, Thuram possessed incredible physicality, speed, and defensive prowess. His robust style of play and exceptional tactical intelligence made him a formidable force on the pitch. Additionally, Thuram was known for his impeccable timing in tackles, strong aerial presence, and excellent positioning. His defensive contributions were instrumental in Juventus’ defensive solidity and their ability to shut down opposing attacks.

Thuram’s legacy extends beyond his time in Serie A. He also was a vital component of the French national team during their historic FIFA World Cup victory in 1998 and their run to the final in 2006. Off the pitch, Thuram recognized for his advocacy against racism and social injustice. He has used his platform to promote equality and fight against discrimination, making him an influential figure in football beyond his on-field achievements.

Georgio Chiellini

Our Number 8 in the list of best Serie A defenders of All time is Georgio Chiellini. He was born on August 14, 1984, in Pisa, Italy. Chillini is an Italian football legend and one of the best center-backs of Serie A history. Chiellini has spent the entirety of his professional career at Juventus, joining the club in 2004. He quickly established himself as a key figure in the Juventus defense.

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With Juventus, Chiellini has enjoyed tremendous success, winning numerous domestic titles. He has been a part of Juventus’ dominance in Serie A, helping the team secure ten Scudetto titles. Additionally, he has lifted the Coppa Italia and the Supercoppa Italiana multiple times.

Chiellini’s playing style is characterized by his physicality, aerial dominance, and strong tackling ability. Additionally, he possesses excellent anticipation, allowing him to neutralize opposing attacks effectively. His leadership qualities have also been evident throughout his career, as he has often captained both Juventus and the Italian national team. Chiellini’s longevity in the game is a testament to his physical and mental attributes. Despite battling injuries throughout his career, he has consistently maintained a high level of performance, showcasing his determination and resilience.

Beyond his on-field contributions, Chiellini’s impact extends to his role as a mentor and leader in the Juventus dressing room. Giorgio Chiellini’s legacy in Italian football is unquestionable. He is one of the greatest defenders of his generation, revered for his defensive abilities, leadership qualities, and dedication to the game. His contributions to Juventus and the Italian national team have left an indelible mark on the sport.

Giacinto Facchetti

Our Number 7 in the list of best Serie A defenders of All time is Giacinto Facchetti. Born on July 18, 1942, in Treviglio, Italy, he was an Italian football legend and an iconic figure in the history of Inter Milan. He is one of the best left-backs in Serie A History. Facchetti spent his entire professional career at Inter Milan, joining the club in 1960 and retiring in 1978. He was the epitome of loyalty and dedication, serving as the captain of Inter Milan for over a decade.

Credit: Thesefootballtimes

As a left-back, Facchetti revolutionized the role by adding an attacking dimension to his game. He was known for his marauding runs down the left flank, exceptional stamina, and crossing ability. Additionally, Facchetti’s elegant playing style, combined with his defensive solidity, made him a complete and influential player. Therefore, He is one of the best left-backs of All time.

With Inter Milan, Facchetti achieved significant success, winning numerous domestic and international titles. He played an integral role in Inter’s domination of Italian football in the 1960s and 1970s. He helped the club secure four Serie A titles and two Coppa Italia titles. However, his greatest triumph came in 1964 and 1965 when he captained Inter Milan to back-to-back European Cup victories, becoming the first Italian club to achieve such a feat.

Tragically, Facchetti passed away in 2006, leaving behind a lasting legacy in Italian football. His contributions to Inter Milan and Italian football as a whole were immense. He was an ambassador for the sport, an icon of fair play, and a symbol of dedication and professionalism. He will forever be remembered as a true legend of Italian football and an icon of Inter Milan.

Javier Zanetti

Our Number 6 in the list of best Serie A defenders of All time is Javier Zanetti. Born on August 10, 1973, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, he is an Argentine football legend who spent the majority of his illustrious career at Inter Milan in Serie A. He is one of the greatest full-backs in the history of football.

Credit: Uefa

Zanetti joined Inter Milan in 1995 and became an iconic figure at the club, serving as its captain for over a decade. During his time at Inter Milan, Zanetti achieved remarkable success. He won an impressive number of domestic and international titles, making him one of the most decorated players in Serie A history. He helped the club secure four Serie A titles, four Coppa Italia titles, five Supercoppa Italiana titles and also Uefa Champions League in 2010.

Zanetti’s longevity and consistency were remarkable, as he remained a key player for Inter Milan even into his late 30s and early 40s. Additionally, He possessed exceptional stamina, versatility, and technical ability, which allowed him to excel in both defensive and offensive roles. Zanetti’s leadership on the pitch and his ability to rally his teammates were instrumental in Inter Milan’s success.

Javier Zanetti’s legacy in Italian football is one of excellence, leadership, and unwavering commitment. His exceptional skill set, versatility, and remarkable achievements have secured his place among the all-time greats of Serie A. Also, he is regarded by many fans as one of the top 10 defenders in the history of football.

Fabio Cannavaro

Our Number 5 in the list of best Serie A defenders of All time is Fabio Cannavaro. Born on September 13, 1973, in Naples, Italy, he is an Italian football legend. Cannavaro is one of the greatest center backs of all time. He had a successful career playing for several clubs in Serie A, most notably Parma and Juventus. Cannavaro is regarded as one the top 10 defenders of all time.

Credit: EuroSports

He joined Parma in 1995 and quickly established himself as a reliable and tenacious defender. Cannavaro played a pivotal role in Parma’s success, helping the club win the UEFA Cup in 1999 and secure multiple top-four finishes in Serie A. In 2004, Cannavaro made a move to Juventus, where he reached the pinnacle of his career. He helped the team to win two consecutive Serie A titles in 2005 and 2006. Cannavaro’s performances earned him numerous individual accolades, including the FIFA World Player of the Year award in 2006.

Perhaps the highlight of Cannavaro’s career came during the 2006 FIFA World Cup, where he captained the Italian national team to victory. His exceptional defensive displays, composure, and leadership guided Italy to their fourth World Cup title. As a defender, Cannavaro renowned for his anticipation, reading of the game, and exceptional tackling ability. Despite his relatively small stature for a central defender, he compensated with his agility, strength, and positional sense.

Fabio Cannavaro’s legacy in Italian football defines by his exceptional defensive skills, remarkable achievements, and leadership qualities. He remains one of the most influential and respected defenders in the history of Serie A. Cannavaro’s impact transcends his playing career, as he has continued to contribute to football as a coach and ambassador for the sport.

Alessandro Nesta

Our Number 4 in the list of best Serie A defenders of All time is Alessandro Nesta. Born on March 19, 1976, in Rome, Italy, Nesta is one of the greatest defenders of all time. With his elegant playing style, exceptional defensive abilities, and leadership qualities, He has left an indelible mark on Italian football.

Credit: Lazionews

Nesta began his professional career with Lazio, joining the club’s youth academy at a young age. He quickly rose through the ranks and made his senior debut in 1993. During his time at Lazio, Nesta played a key role in the club’s success, helping them secure several domestic and international titles. He was an integral part of the Lazio team that won the Serie A title in the 1999-2000 season, as well as the Coppa Italia and the UEFA Super Cup in the same year. At that moment, he was one of the best young defenders of all time.

In 2002, Nesta made a high-profile move to AC Milan, where he continued to excel as a central defender. He formed a formidable defensive partnership with Paolo Maldini and played a crucial role in AC Milan’s successes. Nesta won multiple Serie A titles, including the Scudetto in the 2003-2004 season and the 2010-2011 season. He also helped AC Milan secure the UEFA Champions League trophy in 2003 and 2007, contributing with his exceptional defensive performances.

Nesta’s playing style was characterized by his elegance, composure, and outstanding defensive skills. Additionally, He possessed excellent anticipation, exceptional positioning, and impeccable timing in his tackles. His calmness under pressure and ability to initiate attacks from the back made him a complete defender. Nesta’s impact on Serie A and Italian football remains significant, and his performances continue to inspire future generations of defenders.

Gaetano Scirea

Our Number 3 in the list of best Serie A defenders of All time is Gaetano Scirea. Born on May 25, 1953, in Cernusco sul Naviglio, Italy, Scirea was an Italian football legend and one of the greatest defenders in the history of football. Scirea’s exceptional skills, intelligence, and sportsmanship made him a revered figure both on and off the pitch.

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Scirea spent his entire professional career at Juventus, joining the club in 1972 and retiring in 1988. He was an integral part of the Juventus team that dominated Italian football during the 1970s and 1980s. With Scirea in their ranks, Juventus achieved remarkable success, winning numerous domestic and international titles. During his time at Juventus, Scirea won seven Serie A titles, two Coppa Italia titles, and a UEFA Cup. He played a crucial role in the club’s success in the European Cup, helping them lift the prestigious trophy in 1985.

Scirea’s leadership and defensive prowess were instrumental in Juventus’ defensive stability and their ability to nullify opposing attacks. He possessed excellent passing skills, which allowed him to initiate attacks from the back. He also was renowned for his technical abilities, composure, and exceptional reading of the game. Scirea’s elegant playing style, combined with his tactical intelligence, made him a complete and influential defender.

Tragically, Scirea’s life was cut short when he passed away in a car accident in 1989 at the age of 36. His untimely death shocked the footballing world, and he was mourned as a true legend of the game. Scirea’s impact on Serie A and Italian football as a whole is immeasurable. He will forever be remembered as one of the greatest defenders in the history of the game.

Franco Baresi

Our Number 2 in the list of best Serie A defenders of All time is Franco Baresi. Born on May 8, 1960, in Travagliato, Italy, he is an Italian football legend and one of the most iconic and influential defenders to have graced Serie A. Baresi’s exceptional defensive skills, leadership qualities, and longevity in the game have cemented his status as one of the all-time greats.

Credit: Fifa

Baresi spent his entire professional career at AC Milan, joining the club’s youth academy and making his senior debut in 1978. At that moment, he was one of the best young defenders in Seire A. Years later, he went on to become the bedrock of AC Milan’s defense, symbolizing the club’s dominance in Italian and European football during the 1980s and 1990s. With Baresi in their ranks, AC Milan achieved unparalleled success, winning six Serie A titles and three UEFA Champions League trophies. His leadership as captain was instrumental in guiding AC Milan to their period of dominance.

Baresi was renowned for his impeccable defensive skills, superb positioning, and exceptional reading of the game. Additionally, He had remarkable anticipation, which allowed him to intercept passes and neutralize opposing attacks. Baresi’s composure and ability to win aerial duels made him a formidable force in the heart of AC Milan’s defense. His performances for the national team further solidified his reputation as one of the finest defenders of his generation.

Franco Baresi’s legacy in Italian football is one of greatness, longevity, and leadership. He is one of the greatest defenders in the history of the game, admired for his defensive prowess, vision, and ability to lead by example. Baresi’s impact on Serie A and AC Milan will forever be remembered, and his influence continues to inspire future generations of defenders.

Paolo Maldini

Our Number 1 in the list of best Serie A defenders of All time is Paolo Maldini. Born on June 26, 1968, in Milan, Italy, he is an Italian football legend and one of the greatest defenders to have ever graced the game. Maldini spent his entire professional career at AC Milan, joining the club in 1985 and retiring in 2009. He comes from a footballing family, with his father Cesare Maldini also being a legendary Italian defender.

Credit: SkySports

During his time at AC Milan, Maldini achieved unparalleled success. He won an astonishing number of domestic and international titles, becoming one of the most decorated players in the history of Serie A. Maldini won seven Serie A titles and five UEFA Champions League trophies with AC Milan, showcasing his incredible consistency and ability to perform at the highest level for an extended period.

Maldini’s versatility was a defining characteristic of his playing style. He excelled as both a left-back and a center-back, possessing exceptional defensive skills, unmatched positioning, and incredible timing in tackles. Additionally, His ability to read the game, intercept passes, and nullify opposing attacks made him a formidable force to be reckoned with. Maldini’s performances for the national team were as exemplary as his club career, solidifying his reputation as one of the greatest defenders of all time.

Paolo Maldini’s legacy in Italian football is unparalleled. He is celebrated for his exceptional defensive skills, leadership qualities, and longevity in the game. He is also one of the best young defenders in the history of football. Maldini’s commitment to AC Milan, remarkable success, and exemplary conduct both on and off the pitch have made him an eternal symbol of the club and an inspiration to aspiring defenders worldwide.

Alex Lundy
Alex Lundy
A lifelong football fan, Alex loves to dabble in its history, especially FIFA World Cup. But his love for sports doesn't end at football since he loves watching NBA and Formula1 too. Reading novels and watching classic films takes the rest of his time.
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