Top 10 Defenders in Serie A

December 15, 2021

Italian football is widely known for having some of the greatest defenders over the years. Quite a few of the greatest defenders of world football have been Italian; the likes of Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Nesta, Fabio Cannavaro, Giorgio Chiellini — the list is never-ending.

Even in their recent Euro 2020 win, the Italians were defensively solid as they only conceded a total of four goals in their campaign. All of this stems from the attention to detail that is paid to defending in Serie A, the Italian topflight of football. If a player like Cristiano Ronaldo calls it the toughest league to score goals in, you know there is some truth to it.

Serie A is, to date, filled with quality defenders, and here I share with you my Top 10 Defenders in Serie A for the 2021/22 season.


10) Matteo Darmian | Inter Milan | RB/RWB

It might not have worked out for the Italian full-back at Manchester United, but Darmian played a sporadic yet effective role in Inter Milan winning the Scudetto last season. He has now been promoted to starting right-back after the club sold Achraf Hakimi to PSG in the transfer window.

Darmian has proven his doubters wrong. This season, he is showing that he can play in the first XI of a top quality team. For Inter, he has been very comfortable on the ball and has shown defensive solidity. This season, Darmian has 2 goal contributions, a 63% tackle success rate, and 81% pass completion rate, showing how his all-round abilities have been beneficial for Inter Milan this season.


9) Leonardo Spinazzola | AS Roma | LB

The Italian was a joy to watch in Italy’s road to winning the 2020 Euros. Spina was one of the best players at the Euros and it was very sad that he missed the final with a broken leg. His blistering pace and pinpoint delivery are only few of the qualities that made him stand out in the tournament held this summer.

Going into this season under new manager José Mourinho, the 28-year-old full-back is still recovering from his injury, but he is putting up exciting attacking numbers. He has only played 4 games this season, but has a passing completion rate of 89% while also taking 1.75 shots per game.


8) Giovanni Di Lorenzo | Napoli | RB

The 28-year-old right-back has been a mainstay in Napoli’s backline and one of the reasons for their high-flying start this season. The Italian full-back loves to bomb forward while also providing solid defensive cover for his team.

Di Lorenzo’s strengths from the full-back position also include progressive ball-carrying into the final third. He has completed the most passes in the league (918) and is also third in most passes into the final third (285). The right-back also wins most of his aerial duels and makes 2.92 tackles per game.

Overall, Di Lorenzo is one of the most well-rounded defenders in Serie A at the moment, who is as comfortable off the ball as he is on it.


7) Joakim Mæhle | Atalanta | RWB/LWB

The Danish wingback was one of the main reasons that Denmark reached the semi-finals of the 2020 Euros. He put a lot of clubs on notice as he scored 2 and assisted 1 in the tournament, but it was his industrial running as he went up and down the left flank that really caught the eyes of the big clubs.

For Atalanta, Mæhle likes to play short and quick passes, and he likes to get in behind the opposition defence. He has a successful pass percentage of 81%. His strengths also include reading the game very well as he registers 1.5 key interceptions per game.


6) Matthijs de Ligt | Juventus | CB

Juventus have had a very poor start to their Serie A campaign this season, and hence, only one player from their team makes the list. Matthijs de Ligt is a monster in the air, winning 4.44 aerial duels per game. For a team that have been very poor in the attacking third, the Dutch centre-back is also averaging 5.89 passes into the final third, which is the highest in the team.

With Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini not sticking around for much longer, the Juventus defence will definitely be undergoing a rebuild, and there is no better man to structure their defence around than Matthijs de Ligt.


5) Theo Hernández | AC Milan | LB

The 24-year-old left-back is easily one of the quickest players in world football right now. Since moving to AC Milan, the France international has improved his game by leaps and bounds and is now easily one of the best attacking full-backs in the world. Theo has 4 assists via open play in the league, which is the second-most, and fifth-most with set pieces included.

Hernández has been AC Milan’s main attacking outlet with 0.25 expected assists per 90’, while also providing 0.33 key passes in the build up play for his side. His defensive duties are really helped by his blistering pace, as it gives him the opportunity to make easy defensive recoveries. He tallies up a total of 2.3 pass interceptions in a game and 2.8 tackles a game.


4) Milan Škriniar | Inter Milan | CB

The Slovak professional has been on the radar of some big Premier League clubs due to his ball-playing abilities and his dominance in the air. The centre-back has scored both his goals with his head and is also one of the most commanding centre-backs in the league. Škriniar is the main ball-playing centre back for the Nerazzurri and is in 13th for building up expected goal plays.

In his U21 days, Škriniar used to be deployed as a defensive midfielder, showing where he gets his on-the-ball qualities from. He is also widely adored by the fans as someone who is a hard tackler and believes in no-nonsense clearances whenever his defence gets into trouble.


3) Davide Calabria | AC Milan | RB

The current Rossoneri squad is one filled with a lot of strong characters. However, with Alessio Romagnoli not being a regular starter anymore, the captaincy has fallen to the 25-year-old Italian right-back, Davide Calabria.

Calabria is an AC MIlan academy product. He is having a good season as club captain and might even get the opportunity to lift the Scudetto.

Calabria has always been good on the ball and manages to play passes with both feet. This season, the AC Milan captain has been great at blocking crosses from coming into his side’s box. He has also been very solid in making 3.7 tackles per game and 5.4 pass interceptions. His passes in the game are also mostly progressive, which adds more quality to his game, and hence he is third on my list.


2) Fikayo Tomori | AC Milan | CB

The 23-year old, who was on loan from Chelsea last season, made his move permanent in the summer transfer window and has not disappointed since. The English centre-back has received huge praise from Paolo Maldini, and has been a regular feature in the AC Milan backline.

Tomori is one of the quickest centre-backs in the league. He also has great ability, breaking lines with his passing, and is in the league’s top 10 for completion of passes into the final third (86.4%). He is also a great reader of the game and has a total of 71 pass interceptions this season (10th in the league).

It is normally very difficult for English players to settle abroad, but Tomori has done it with real ease, and if he continues his top form in Serie A, he is likely to get a big transfer in the future.


1) Kalidou Koulibaly | Napoli | CB

The Senegalese defender is not only the best in Serie A but is also considered to be one of the best in the world. Big teams like Man City and PSG have chased him in previous transfer windows, but his release clause has simply been too much.

The 30-year-old centre-back’s main strengths are his height and physique. He is quick, dominant in the air, and very powerful. Koulibaly is also a big threat in attacking corners, and has a 100% completion rate of big chances converted. He is well-rounded in his defensive abilities, whether it be tackling, aerial duels or interceptions.

Napoli’s main defender can do it all, and if the team defend like they are doing currently throughout the season, they have a great chance of lifting the Scudetto.

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