The days of defenders being one-dimensional brutes are a thing of the past as they are also expected to dictate play from the back and help create overloads in midfield.

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Welcome to the era of ball-playing central defenders and inverted full-backs, with managers looking for the slightest tactical gain to get their team taking control on the pitch and winning games.

The sheer variety of defenders that grace the modern game makes building a list of the world's best a tricky puzzle to piece together. However, the number of trophies a player has lifted, their current form and key long-term stats help inform our top 10.

RadioTimes.com brings you our definitive list of the 10 best defenders in the world in 2024.

Check our more football features: Best players of all time | Best players in the world 2024 | Best strikers 2024 | Best wingers 2024 | Best midfielders 2024 | Best goalkeepers 2024 | Best young players 2024 | Best teams in the world 2024

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Gabriel in action for Arsenal on a green background
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10. Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool)

Virgil van Dijk holds his arms wide in action for Liverpool
Virgil van Dijk. Getty Images

It's fair to say Virgil van Dijk has lost a bit of the aura that made him the world's most-feared defender a few years ago, but he continues to operate at an incredibly high level.

The Dutchman was the final piece in the jigsaw for Jurgen Klopp as Liverpool finally won the Premier League in 2020 while Champions League, FA Cup and EFL Cup successes also feature on his CV.

9. Kim Min-jae (Bayern Munich)

Kim Jae Min in action for Bayern Munich
Kim Jae Min. Getty Images

It's incredible to think Kim Min-jae is playing just his third season of professional football in Europe, but the South Korea international had a key role in Napoli's historic Serie A triumph last term, which earned him a transfer to Bayern Munich.

A powerful force in the air, the 27-year-old has plenty of years left at the top of the game.

8. Kyle Walker (Manchester City)

Kyle Walker applauds following a Man City victory
Kyle Walker. Getty Images

Kyle Walker is like a fine wine. He just gets better with age.

Whether it's marauding down the right wing, using his lightning pace to stop counter attacks, stepping into midfielder or playing on the right-hand side of a back three, the Manchester City full-back can do the lot.

7. Alphonso Davies (Bayern Munich)

Alphonso Davies in action for Bayern Munich
Alphonso Davies. Getty Images

At the age of 23, the explosive Alphonso Davies is in his fifth season as a regular fixture at left-back for Bayern Munich.

The Canadian has already won nine major trophies at club level including the 2020 Champions League. One of the fastest players in the game, Davies has a wicked left foot.

6. Eder Militao (Real Madrid)

Eder Militao in action for Real Madrid
Eder Militao. Getty Images

Eder Militao's turn of foot and excellent reading of the game makes the Real Madrid man one of the most formidable defenders on the planet.

The Brazil international has won plenty of trophies for club and country, but he's suffering an injury-plagued 2023-24 season.

5. Marquinhos (PSG)

Marquinhos leaps to head a ball
Marquinhos. Getty Images

Marquinhos is hardly the biggest name at PSG, but he has been a leader at the back for the star-studded French side for a number of years.

A reliable figure, which is all a manager can ask for, the Brazilian has won more than 20 major trophies for club and country.

4. William Saliba (Arsenal)

William Saliba runs to celebrate a penalty shootout victory
William Saliba. Getty Images

After spending the first three years of his Arsenal career out on loan, William Saliba returned to the Emirates Stadium with a bang and has, arguably, become the most important member of Mikel Arteta's team.

It's hardly surprising that the collapse of the Gunners' title challenge in the 2022-23 campaign coincided with the Frenchman suffering an injury.

3. Ruben Dias (Manchester City)

Ruben Dias applauds after a Man City game with a bandaged hand
Ruben Dias. Getty Images

Manchester City invested a huge sum to prise Ruben Dias from Benfica in the summer of 2020 – and he's been a top addition at the heart of Pep Guardiola's defence.

Named the Premier League Player of the Season in his first season, the Portuguese comprises pace and power with superb composure on the ball.

2. David Alaba (Real Madrid)

David Alaba in action for Real Madrid
David Alaba. Getty Images

A trophy-winning machine, David Alaba is the defensive real deal as he's capable of playing at centre-back, left-back and further forward in midfield.

The Real Madrid man has all the attributes required from top-class technique to reading the game so well. A steal on a free transfer from Bayern Munich in 2021.

1. John Stones (Manchester City)

John Stones in action for Man City
John Stones. Getty Images

John Stones is the Rolls Royce of defenders and has the talent to play pretty much anywhere on the pitch. The Manchester City star has become synonymous with stepping out of defence and moving into midfield thanks to his ease in possession and passing range.

Don't let his skills on the ball fool you, however, as the England international also does the dirty stuff well. A chequered injury record means he sometimes doesn't get the credit he deserves... until now!

Who is the best defender in the world?

Manchester City maestro John Stones is the best example of a modern central defender thanks to his passing ability, vision and tackling skills. You can see why Pep Guardiola rates him so highly. It's just a shame that spells in the injury room have limited his time on the pitch over the years.

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