The 18 Most Underrated Defenders Of All Time

In recent years, it’s become much harder to defend the honor of the best defender of all time. As fans of football become aware of the dangers of the new passing game, they’re more and more comfortable with the offense. The days when a stout defense was considered integral to a successful team are long gone.

Let’s face it; defensive players usually don’t have long careers. What are the most underrated defenders in the history of soccer? Who are the players who have not gotten the attention they deserve or are often forgotten about?

Most are forced out of the league by age 30-32, which leaves a gap for those who have already been retired for quite a while and those who have yet to start. Who are these athletes, you may ask? Let’s find out in this list of Eighteen underrated defenders of all time.

Most Underrated Defenders Of All Time

Here are The top 18, including the most underrated defensive players of all time in terms of skill, speed, and strength.

Player NameCountryPosition
Javier ZanettiArgentinaFull Back
John Arne Riise NorwayLeft back, Left winger
Daniel Van BuytenBelgiumCentre Back
Renzo De VecchiItalyLeft Back, Center Back
Alexsandar KolarovYogosloviaDefender
Branko ZebecYogosloviaLeft Full-Back, Left Winger
Franco BaresiItalyDefender
Daniel PassarellaArgentinaCentre-Back, Sweeper
Berti VogtsGermanyDefender
Roberto AyalaArgentinaCentre-Back
Lilian ThuramFranceDefender
Cesar AzpilicuetaSpainDefender
PepePortugalCentre Back
Ruud KrolNetherlandsLeft-Back, Sweeper
Alessandro NestaItalyCentre Back
  Matthias SammerGermanyDefensive, Midfielder, Sweeper
Leovegildo JuniorBrazilLeft Back, Midfielder
Fernando HierroSpainDefender, Defensive Midfielder

1. Javier Zanetti

Javier Zanetti
Full NameJavier Adelmar Zanetti
Date Of Birth10 August 1973 (Age 49)
CountryBuenos Aires, Argentina
Football ClubsInter Milan, Telleres
Achievement1 Champions League, 1 FIFA Club World Cup
Date Of Death
Height1.78 m (5 ft 10 in)
PositionFull Back

Javier Zanetti is an Argentine former professional footballer who played as a midfielder and fullback. He is widely regarded as one of the best players of his generation and one of the all-time greats of Inter Milan, with whom he spent the majority of his career. He is also the club’s most-capped player and has made the most appearances in Serie A.

A versatile and hard-working player, Zanetti was capable of playing both as a fullback and as a wing-back on either side of the pitch or even in midfield as a central midfielder. However, he was most often deployed as a right-sided fullback. In addition to his defensive abilities, Zanetti was also a skilled footballer and an accurate ball crosser, making him an effective attacking fullback or wing-back.

He was also known for his stamina, work rate, and ability to quickly cover large amounts of ground, which enabled him to make numerous tackles and interceptions throughout a match. He was underrated because his international career wasn’t that much glosious.

Zanetti is one of the most decorated players in the history of football. He has won numerous trophies with Inter, including five Serie A titles, four Coppa Italia titles, and one UEFA Champions League title.

He has also been named to the Serie A Team of the Year on five occasions. In addition, Zanetti has been nominated for the FIFA World Player of the Year award and has been named to the FIFA World Cup All-Star Team.

Zanetti is also a member of the “100 club”, having made over 100 appearances for both Inter and the Argentina national team. He is the only player to have won both the UEFA Champions League and the Copa America.

Zanetti is widely regarded as one of the best players of his generation and one of the all-time greats of Inter Milan. He is also the club’s most-capped player and has made the most appearances in Serie A. In addition to his many accomplishments on the field, Zanetti is also known for his work off the field, including his work with the Inter Forever charity.

2. John Arne Riise

John Arne Riise 
Full NameJohn Arne Semundseth Riise
Date Of Birth24 September 1980 (Age 42)
CountryMolde, Norway
Football ClubsMonaco, Roma, Liverpool
Achievement1 Champions League
Date Of Death
Height1.85 m (6 ft 1 in)
PositionLeft Back, Left Winger

John Arne Riise was born in Oslo, Norway on September 24, 1980. He is a underrated professional footballer who plays as a left-back for the Indian Super League club Chennaiyin. He has also played for the Norwegian national team.

Riise began his career with the Norwegian club Aalesund in 1998. He moved to the English club Liverpool in 2001 and spent seven years there. He won the UEFA Champions League with Liverpool in 2005. He also played for AS Roma, Fulham, and APOEL. Riise has more than 100 caps for the Norwegian national team. He represented Norway at the 2000 Summer Olympics, the 2002 FIFA World Cup, and the 2004 European Championship.

3. Daniel Van Buyten

Daniel Van Buyten
Full NameDaniel Van Buyten
Date Of Birth7 February 1978 (age 44)
CountryChimay, Belgium
Football ClubsBayern Munich, Marseille
Achievement1 Champions League
Date Of Death
Height1.97 m (6 ft 6 in)
PositionCentre Back

Daniel Van Buyten is a Belgian professional footballer who plays as a center-back for the Bundesliga club Bayern Munich. He is a tall and physically imposing defender known for his aerial ability. He began his career with Standard League before moving to the German club Hamburger SV. He spent four years with Hamburg before joining Bayern Munich in 2006.

He has since won a host of honors with Bayern, including six Bundesliga titles and the Champions League in 2013. In the football arena he is an underrated defender. Van Buyten has been a regular member of the Belgian national team, for which he has earned over 50 caps. He has also played for Standard Liege, Marseille, and Hamburg clubs.

A tall and physically imposing defender, Van Buyten is known for his aerial ability and strength in the tackle. He has also been praised for his composure on the ball and ability to bring the ball out from the back. Van Buyten has been a key player for Bayern Munich, helping the club to win several trophies.

4. Renzo De Vecchi

Renzo De Vecchi
Full NameRenzo De Vecchi
Date Of Birth3 February 1894
CountryMilan, Italy
Football ClubsMilan, Genoa
Achievement1 Champions League
Date Of Death14 May 1967 (Age 73)
Height1.63 m (5 ft 4 in)
PositionLeft Back, Center Back

Renzo De Vecchi was an Italian architect who was born in 1884. He studied at the Polytechnic University of Milan and later worked for the firm Piero Portaluppi. He also taught at the Milan Polytechnic and at the University of Rome.

De Vecchi’s work includes the Casa del Fascio in Como, the Villa Litta in Milan, and the Palazzo Della Civilta Italiana in Rome. He was also the author of several books on architectural theory. De Vecchi died in 1958.  After playing for their hometown side Pisa before joining Juventus in 1951, he helped the club win two Serie A titles and four European Cups.

In his time with Juve, he made 505 appearances and scored 60 goals. De Vecchi is also known for his work as a coach and technical director at Juventus. He died on January 6, 2019.

5. Alexsandar Kolarov

Alexsandar Kolarov
Full NameAleksandar Kolarov
Date Of Birth10 November 1985 (age 37)
CountrySR Serbia, SFR Yugoslavia
Football ClubsLazio, Roma, Inter Milan
AchievementCopa Italia
Date Of Death
Height1.87 m (6 ft 2 in)

Alexsandar Kolarov is a Serbian professional footballer who plays as a left-back for the English club Manchester City and the Serbian national team. He began his career at Serbian club Red Star Belgrade, making his first-team debut in 2003. In 2006, he moved to the Italian club Lazio for a transfer fee of €5.5 million.

Kolarov spent four seasons with Lazio, winning the Coppa Italia in 2009. In 2010, he joined Manchester City for a transfer fee of £16 million. Kolarov has made over 300 appearances for Manchester City and has won two Premier League titles, two League Cups, and an FA Cup.

He has also won the Serbian Sportsman of the Year award twice. Kolarov is known for his accurate left-footed free-kicks and his crossing ability. He has been described as “one of the best left-backs in the Premier League.”

6. Branko Zebec

Branko Zebec
Full NameBranislav Zebec
Date Of Birth17 May 1929
CountryKingdom of Yugoslavia
Football ClubsLazio, Roma, Inter Milan
AchievementCopa Italia
Date Of Death26 September 1988 (Age 59)
Height1.76 m (5 ft 9 in)
PositionLeft Full-Back, Left winger

Branko Zebec was one of the most underrated defenders Croatian footballers of his generation. A versatile and skillful player, he was equally at home in defense or midfield and was a key member of the Yugoslavia national team that reached the 1974 FIFA World Cup quarter-finals.

After starting his career with Dinamo Zagreb, Zebec played for some of the biggest European clubs, including Lazio and Roma. He won numerous trophies during his career, including the European Cup, the Intercontinental Cup, and the Bundesliga title.

Zebec was also a talented manager and coached several top clubs, including Dinamo Zagreb, Hajduk Split, and Red Star Belgrade. He is widely regarded as one of the best Croatian footballers of all time.

7. Franco Baresi

Franco Baresi
Full NameFranchino Baresi
Date Of Birth8 May 1960 (age 62)
CountryTravagliato, Italy
Football ClubsAC Milan
Achievement1982 World Cup Winner
Date Of Death
Height1.76 m (5 ft 9 in)

Baresi was one of the greatest defenders of all time. It doesn’t matter if you were born in Italy, Spain, France, Mexico, or any other country in Europe. You’ve probably heard about the Italian defender if you are a real football fan. He is one of the greatest defenders who ever lived. Franco Baresi made a great career in football, as he played for seven different teams throughout his career.

And no matter which team he was playing for, he had an amazing ability to control the games. He was such a great player that he helped Italy to win two world cups. He was one of the greatest defenders of all time because of his incredible play-making ability. He could pick up any pass tackle with speed and technique and always make the perfect pass. He is one of the greatest players in the history of the game because he scored the winning goal in the 1982 FIFA World Cup.

This underrated defender is the winner against Brazil in the last minute of the match. The game ended in a tie, but Baresi took the game into extra time and eventually into penalty kicks. He won the game for the Italians. You might wonder why he isn’t on the top ten or five defenders list. The answer is simple. It’s because he played a lot of defense.

8. Daniel Passarella

Daniel Passarella
Full NameDaniel Alberto Passarella
Date Of Birth25 May 1953 (age 69)
CountryChacabuco, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Football ClubsRiver Plate, Fiorentina
Achievement1986 World Cup Winner
Date Of Death
Height1.73 m (5 ft 8 in)
PositionCentre-Back, Sweeper

Daniel Passarella is a former Argentine footballer and manager. He played as a center-back and was captain of the Argentina national team that won the 1978 World Cup. He also played for River Plate, Boca Juniors, and Fiorentina. As a manager, he has coached River Plate, Boca Juniors, the Argentina national team, and Uruguay. Because he didn’t play in European clubs, he remains underrated.

Passarella started his career with River Plate in 1974. He helped the club win the 1975 Metropolitano championship and the 1976 Nacional championship. He also won the Copa Libertadores with River in 1986. In 1987, he joined Boca Juniors and won the Argentine championship with the club in 1988. He also won the Intercontinental Cup with Boca in 1989. In 1990, Passarella moved to Italy to play for Fiorentina. He won the Coppa Italia with the club in 1991.

He returned to Argentina in 1992 to play for River Plate again. He retired from playing in 1993. Passarella began his managerial career with River Plate in 1994. He coached the club to victory in the 1996 Copa Libertadores. He also coached Boca Juniors from 2000 to 2002. He led the Argentina national team to the quarter-finals of the 2002 World Cup. He has also coached Uruguay and the Argentina national team.

9. Berti Vogts

Berti Vogts 
Full NameHans-Hubert Vogts
Date Of Birth30 December 1946 (Age 75)
CountryBüttgen, Germany
Football ClubsBorussia Monchengladbach
Achievement1974 World Cup Winner
Date Of Death
Height1.68 m (5 ft 6 in)

Berti Vogts is a former professional footballer who played for several clubs, including Bayern Munich, Borussia Mönchengladbach, and Hamburger SV. He also represented his country, West Germany, at the 1974 FIFA World Cup. After retiring from playing, Vogts became a manager and has coached several national teams, including his native Germany, as well as Scotland, Nigeria, and Azerbaijan.

He is currently the head coach of the Kuwait national team. Vogts’ managerial skills have helped him become one of the most successful coaches in Europe. He has always been able to find ways to win games, even when his teams are behind. His teams have also been known for their strong offensive play, which helps them score goals at any given moment. This type of play can be done easily by a coach who knows how to work with his players.

10. Roberto Ayala

Roberto Ayala
Full NameRoberto Fabián Ayala
Date Of Birth14 April 1973 (Age 49)
CountryParaná, Argentina
Football ClubsRiver Plate, Napoli, Milan
Date Of Death
Height1.77 m (5 ft 10 in)

Roberto Ayala is a former Argentine professional footballer who played as a center-back. He is an underrated defenders of his generation. Ayala began his career with River Plate in 1996. He made over 200 appearances for the club, winning the Copa Libertadores in 1996 and the Intercontinental Cup in 1996.

He also won the Argentine league title in 1996 and 1997. In 1999, Ayala moved to Valencia, Spain. He spent six seasons at the club, winning the Copa del Rey in 1999 and the UEFA Cup in 2004.

In 2005, Ayala returned to Argentina to join Boca Juniors. He spent two seasons at the club, winning the Copa Libertadores in 2005 and the Intercontinental Cup in 2006. Ayala retired from professional football in 2013. He made over 700 appearances for club and country during his career.

11. Lilian Thuram

Lilian Thuram
Full NameRuddy Lilian Thuram-Ulien
Date Of Birth1 January 1972 (Age 50)
CountryPointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe
Football ClubsMonaco, Juventus, Barcelona
Achievement1998 World Cup
Date Of Death
Height1.82 m (6 ft 0 in)

Lilian Thuram is a retired French professional footballer who played as a right-back or center-back. He is widely considered to be one of the greatest defenders of all time and was named one of the 100 greatest living footballers in 2004.

Thuram is the most capped player in the history of the French national team. He also represented the French national team on 140 occasions, winning the 1998 FIFA World Cup and 2000 UEFA European Championship. Thuram played for several top European clubs during his career, including Monaco, Parma, Juventus, and Barcelona.

12. Cesar Azpilicueta

 Cesar Azpilicueta
Full NameCésar Azpilicueta Tanco
Date Of Birth28 August 1989 (Age 33)
CountryZizur Mayor, Spain
Football ClubsMarseille, Chelsea
Achievement2010 World Cup
Date Of Death
Height1.78 m (5 ft 10 in)

Cesar is a very underrated player. He is a defender who has been overlooked for quite a while. His skills were very obvious when he was playing with Chelsea. And, although he doesn’t have a long career like Reggie White, he has a long list of achievements.

His nickname in Spain is “El Buitre,” which means “The Rat Catcher.” A very nice nickname and one that is accurate for Azpilicueta. He is one of the best players in the English Premier League. He is rated as one of the top four defenders in England, which says something about his skills and his performance on the field.

Azpilicueta is a versatile defender. He is an attacking-minded central defender, and his offensive skill and ability are very good. Some people may say that he needs to be better to be a defender, but his defensive skills are extremely good.

Some people have said that he is one of the worst defenders in Premier League history, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. His performance in the English Premier League matches up against that of the greats like John Terry and Gerard Pique. For the past couple of years, he has been one of the best players in the Premier League.

13. Pepe

Full NameKepler Laveran de Lima Ferreira
Date Of Birth26 February 1983 (Age 39)
CountryMaceió, Brazil
Football ClubsPorto, Real Madrid
Achievement3 La Liga, 3 Champions League, 2 Copa Del Rey
Date Of Death
Height1.87 m (6 ft 2 in)
PositionCentre Back

Pepe is a Portuguese footballer who plays for the Spanish club Real Madrid. He is a central defender and is widely regarded as one of the best defenders in the world. He has won three UEFA Champions League titles, four La Liga titles, and two Copas del Rey. In 2007, he was named Portuguese Footballer of the Year.

Pepe has played for some of the biggest clubs in Europe, including Real Madrid, FC Porto, and Besiktas. He has won a number of major trophies, including the UEFA Champions League and the FIFA World Cup.

14. Ruud Krol

Ruud Krol
Full NameRudolf Jozef Krol
Date Of Birth24 March 1949 (Age 73)
CountryAmsterdam, Netherlands
Football ClubsAjax, Napoli, Cannes
Date Of Death
Height1.84 m (6 ft 0 in)
PositionLeft-Back, Sweeper

Ruud Krol is a retired Dutch footballer who played as a defender. He is an underrated defender of his generation though he was named Dutch Footballer of the Year in 1978. Krol began his career with Ajax in 1967, winning eight Eredivisie titles and three European Cups with the club. He moved to Italy in 1978, spending four seasons with Napoli before returning to Ajax in 1982.

He also had spells with PSV and Feyenoord, winning another Eredivisie title with the latter in 1984. Krol represented the Netherlands at the 1974 and 1978 World Cups and was a member of the Dutch team that reached the final of the 1974 tournament.

Krol retired from football in 1988, having made a total of 787 appearances in all competitions. He was named to the FIFA World Cup All-Star Team in 1974 and was inducted into the FIFA World Cup Dream Team in 2002. He subsequently worked as a coach and was appointed as technical director of the Dutch national team in 1998.

15. Alessandro Nesta

Alessandro Nesta 
Full NameAlessandro Nesta
Date Of Birth19 March 1976 (Age 46)
CountryRome, Italy
Football ClubsLazio, Milan
Achievement2006 FIFA World Winner
Date Of Death
Height1.87 m (6 ft 2 in)
PositionCentre Back

Nesta was one of the underrated defenders in the history of the game. He played for two teams, Lazio and Inter Milan. This guy is one of those defensive players that was so good that people forgot that he is Italian and not American. Nesta was so great that he helped change the way that defenders play in the world. Before him, defenders relied on being big and strong to stop opposing forwards.

After he came along, everyone started playing in a different way. Defensive players like Nesta became much more mobile. He helped change the sport of football, making it more physical. His style of defense helped create the modern game of soccer. He won four league titles with both teams he played for and scored two goals. He was a very good soccer player who is still remembered fondly even though his career was so short.

16. Matthias Sammer

Matthias Sammer
Full NameMatthias Sammer
Date Of Birth5 September 1967 (Age 55)
CountryDresden, East Germany
Football ClubsVfB Stuttgart, Inter Milan, Borussia Dortmund
Achievement1996 UEFA Euro Winner, Champions League & Bundesliga Winner
Date Of Death
Height1.81 m (5 ft 11+12 in)
PositionDefensive Midfielder Sweeper

Matthias Sammer is a former German footballer who played as a midfielder. Sammer won the Ballon d’Or in 1996 and was a member of the German team that won the 1996 European Championship and the 1997 FIFA Confederations Cup. After his playing career, Sammer became a coach, and he was the assistant manager of the German national team when they won the 2014 World Cup. He is currently the sporting director of Bayern Munich.

17. Leovegildo Junior

Leovegildo Junior
Full NameLeovegildo Lins da Gama Júnior
Date Of Birth29 June 1954 (Age 68)
CountryJoão Pessoa, Brazil
Football ClubsFlamengo, Torino
Date Of Death
Height1.72 m (5 ft 8 in)
PositionLeft Back, Midfielder

Leovegildo Lins da Gama Júnior was born in 1954 in Brazil. He is a retired Brazilian footballer who played as a striker and was a totally underrated defender by the football world. He is best known for his time with Flamengo, where he won three Campeonato Brasileiro Série A titles, one Copa do Brasil, and one Taça Guanabara. He also had a brief spell with the Brazil national team.

Lins da Gama started his career with Flamengo in 1984 and scored 33 goals in 65 appearances for the club. He won his first major trophy in 1986 when Flamengo won the Campeonato Brasileiro Série A. He also helped the club win the Copa did Brasil in 1987 and the Taça Guanabara in 1988. He was part of the Flamengo team that won the Campeonato Brasileiro Série A again in 1992, and he scored 13 goals in 27 appearances that season.

Lins da Gama left Flamengo in 1993, and he had spells with a number of different clubs in Brazil and Japan before retiring in 2003. He made two appearances for the Brazil national team in 1991 but did not score any goals.

18. Fernando Hierro

 Fernando Hierro
Full NameFernando Ruiz Hierro
Date Of Birth23 March 1968 (Age 54)
CountryVélez-Málaga, Spain
Football ClubsValladolid, Real Madrid
Achievement5 La Liga, 3 Champions League
Date Of Death
Height1.87 m (6 ft 2 in)
PositionDefender, Defensive Midfielder

Hierro is one of the most underrated players in football history. He is most known for winning three European Cups with Real Madrid, though he is an Underrated Defender. He was not a defensive player in the traditional sense. He was a center-back. He was best known for his amazing ability to intercept passes.

At Real Madrid, he would run all the way across the field to try to take an intercept pass. It was because of his speed and agility that he was able to do this. In addition, he was extremely agile when playing in tight spaces, like in goal kicks.

He would also move the ball really well. He was a very smart player. He was never caught out by a ball that came into his box. On top of all this, he is from Spain. Only a few players from Spain play in Europe, especially in the Spanish league. So he deserves mention in this list.


We hope you enjoyed our list of the 18 most underrated defenders of all time. Whilst many defenders are often rated highly in the world of football, others have often gone under the radar throughout their careers. Here are some of the most underrated defenders of all time, and we will be looking at the reasons why they have often gone unnoticed.

It was really fun to put together this list of talented defenders and see how other members of our team voted on who they thought was the most underrated. We hope you enjoyed this blog and learned much from it!

People Also Read:

Previous articleKylie Jenner’s Net Worth vs Travis Scott’s Net Worth: Who is richer?
Next article10 Best Underrated Horror Movies on Amazon Prime That You Cannot Miss
Al Amin Sagor is simply a movie freak who is passionate about writing entertainment content. He loves to watch web series, and movies and write on celebrity gossip or trendy movie news. He also covers media and entertainment news on various online platforms. He is one of the "Jewel" of The News Titan.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here