When it comes to the best defenders in La Liga, Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos and Barcelona’s Gerard Pique have been the two clear choices for the past decade. The two, who have also been the Spanish national team’s top central defensive partnership for years, have been so crucial to their respective clubs’ success and defensive solidity.
But the two Spanish stalwarts, who are now in their mid-30s, have continued to take a step back this season, so much so that they no longer deserve their place among the handful of top defenders in the league.
In their place, SBOTOP selects some newer faces who have shown with their strong performances this season that they are now part of La Liga’s list of elite defenders.
5. Sergio Reguilon, Sevilla
Reguilon’s rise in Sevilla has been one of the revelations of the season. The on-loan Real Madrid product was one of several players brought in by former Madrid boss Julen Lopetegui this season, and it didn’t take him long to stake his claim as La Liga’s top left-back.
Like most modern full-backs, Reguilon provides most of his value in attack. He has made his share of La Liga 2020 highlights with four assists this season and has been one of Sevilla’s most consistent creative forces. But the 23-year-old more than holds his own in defence, which makes him all the more valuable.
With Jordi Alba now in his 30s, Reguilon has a great chance to become a regular in the Spain setup if he continues the fine play he’s shown this season.
4. Felipe, Atletico Madrid
Felipe had massive shoes to fill at Atletico this season following the departure of captain Diego Godin to Inter Milan. The Brazilian, who cost a mere 20 million euros, finally made the jump to a big-league squad at the age of 30. And he quickly proved himself to be a terrific bargain as his transition to La Liga has been seamless.
Felipe has been the rock-solid central defender Atleti needed alongside Jose Gimenez. He’s averaging four aerial duels won this season, which is certainly a Godin-like number. He’s also chipped in with two goals in 27 appearances.
Thanks to Felipe’s strong performances, Atletico’s defence remains one of the strongest in the league with just 21 goals conceded. He also did his part in Atleti’s famous conquest of Liverpool in the Champions League round of 16.
While Felipe is not one for the future, he is definitely one for the present as he continues Atleti’s proud tradition of finding top-quality defenders.
3. Dani Carvajal, Real Madrid
There are several factors for Real Madrid’s surprising rise as the best defensive side in La Liga with just 19 goals conceded this season. But perhaps the most under-appreciated factor has been Dani Carvajal.
The Spanish international right-back has never been the flashiest player in the world, but he was having one of the best seasons of his career to date before the halt in play.
Not only was he doing his part in attack — he has already contributed a goal and five assists in the league while completing over 85 per cent of his passes — but he was also putting in a shift in defence. He has 38 tackles won (11th most in the league) and 30 interceptions this season.
Thanks to his strong performances, Carvajal has clearly set himself apart from the competition as the best right-back in La Liga.
2. Inigo Martinez, Athletic Bilbao
Despite their struggles in attack, Athletic Bilbao have defied the La Liga 2020 and have remained in the top half of the table thanks to their terrific defence. They’ve conceded just 23 goals in 27 matches this season, the third-best defensive record in the league behind only the two Madrid clubs.
Inigo Martinez has been instrumental in their solidity at the back. The 28-year-old was signed from fierce Basque rivals Real Sociedad to replace Aymeric Laporte, and he has filled those big boots impressively for Bilbao.
Martinez has stepped up as the leader of that Bilbao backline and has formed a formidable partnership with Yeray Alvarez at the heart of the defence.
Martinez’s standout performances have seen him break into the Spanish national team, and as Ramos and Pique continue to age, he figures to be among the top contenders to succeed them in the starting XI.
1. Raphael Varane, Real Madrid
Varane has now been at Real Madrid for close to a decade, and for most of that time, he has been overshadowed by his centre-back partner Sergio Ramos.
But it’s been clear for the longest time that the Frenchman would eventually succeed the Real captain as the best defender in the league, and that transition finally happened this season.
Varane has been an absolute rock at the heart of Real’s resolute defence. As Ramos’ aggressive style becomes less effective in his advancing age, Varane’s composure and ability to clean up behind his captain becomes even more crucial.
At just 26 years of age, Varane is only now reaching the peak of his powers, which likely means the title of top defender in La Liga will be his for years to come.
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