15 Best Italian Soccer Defenders of All Time

Who is the greatest Italian defender of all time?

Italy is known as a country that produces hundreds of great defenders whose reputation have been recognized throughout the world of football. Those defenders also play important roles in Italian football tactic called as "catenaccio," an ultra-defensive tactics that give more importance to the defense rather than offense. Some of Italian defenders such as Fabio Cannavaro and Paolo Maldini are even regarded as the best footballers of all time.

The question is, who is the best defensive players in the Italian national team? To answer this question, I wrote this article. Here, I provide a list of 15 best Italian defenders who have established themselves as world-class players. Among these fifteen players, which one of them is the greatest?

15. Marco Materazzi

Marco Materazzi was a tall central defender who often scored from penalty kicks and corner kicks situation. He even holds the record for the highest scoring defenders in Serie A. During his career, Materazzi is known as a great defender, but he also often played dirty and aggressive. He received a lot of yellow cards and red cards and even provoked a French player, Zinedine Zidane, in the World Cup final 2006. Zidane was so angry so he headbutted Materazzi. As a result of his anger, Zidane was sent-off, and his team was lost in the match. Regardless of his dirty tricks, Materazzi is also known as an accomplished player. In addition to winning the 2006 World Cup with Italy, he also won five Serie A titles and one Champions League trophy with Inter Milan.

14. Gianluca Zambrotta

Gianluca Zambrotta is a retired wing-back with great attacking instinct. He often runs forward to the enemy's defense, gives accurate passes to the strikers, and even scores goals. Throughout his career, Zambrotta played for two big Italian clubs, Juventus and AC Milan, as well as winning three Serie A titles with both clubs. His best international achievement was winning the 2006 World Cup.

13. Antonio Cabrini

Cabrini is a retired left back who became a mainstay of the Italian national team when they won the 1982 World Cup. Not only strong in defense and attack, Cabrini also has good leadership. He was trusted to be the captain of Juventus and the Italian national team for several years. During 13 years playing for Juventus, Cabrini won six Serie A titles, two Coppa Italia trophies and one Champions League trophy.

12. Alessandro Costacurta

Alessandro Costacurta was a true partner of Paolo Maldini in AC Milan's defense for over a decade. He spent his entire professional career as a player of AC Milan from 1986 to 2007. Over 21 years joining AC Milan, Costacurta won so many prestigious trophies, including five Champions League trophies, seven Serie A titles, one Coppa Italia trophy and. Costacurta also played in 59 games for the Italian national team and scored two goals.

11. Tarcisio Burgnich

Burgnich was a formidable sweeper who was trusted to be a general of "catenaccio" tactics that was developed by Inter Milan's coach, Helenio Hererra. He was part of a golden generation of Inter Milan in 1960s, where he won five Serie A titles and two Champions League trophies. Not only that, Burgnich was the mainstay of the Italian national team's defense that won the Euro 1968 tournament. He was also given an important task to mark Pele in the 1970 World Cup final.

10. Claudio Gentile

If Burgnich was given the task to mark Pele, then Gentile was also given a difficult task to stop Diego Maradona. Gentile was a mainstay of the Italian national team in the 1970s until the mid-1980s. He helped Italy win the 1982 World Cup. Not only in the national team, Gentile was also quite successful at the club level. This player won six Serie A titles and two Coppa Italia trophies when he played for Juventus in the period 1973-1984.

9. Aristide Guarneri

Guarneri was a partner of Tarcisio Burgnich who became the main pillar of the Inter Milan's defense line in the 1960s. He is known as one of the Italian defenders who have very consistent performances, strong, and very rarely made mistakes. Considering his quality as a footballer, it is not surprising to know that Guarneri won many trophies during his career. As Inter Milan's player, he won six Scudetto titles and two Champions League trophies. Not only that, Guarneri was also part of Italian squad that won the Euro 1968 tournament.

8. Mauro Tassotti

Tasotti is the all-time best right-back ever to play for AC Milan. This player partnered with Maldini, Baresi, and Costacurta; formed the strongest defense quartet in the 1990s. Throughout 17 years playing for AC Milan, Tasotti claimed five Serie A titles and three Champions League trophies. He was also part of the Italian national team that became the runner-up in the 1994 World Cup tournament.

7. Giacinto Facchetti

Fachetti is an Italian legend who was regarded as one of the best players of Inter Milan. His loyalty and talent as a footballer helped his club win dozens of trophies. Not only that, Fachetti was also known as a highly respected captain. Playing for 18 years for Inter Milan, Fachetti presented four Serie A titles, two Champions League titles, and one Coppa Italia trophy. He ended his career in 1978 and his favorite jersey numbers, 3, was also retired by Inter Milan.

6. Alessandro Nesta

Alessandro Nesta started to be recognized as a world-class defender when he played for Lazio in the late 1990s. Although he was still young, Nesta was trusted to be the team captain. The result was not disappointing, where he was finally able to lead Lazio win the Serie A in 2000. His career, popularity, and achievements dramatically increased when he moved to AC Milan in 2003, where he claimed two Serie A titles and two Champions League trophies.

5. Giuseppe Bergomi

Bergomi is one of the legendary players of Inter Milan. He was praised for his loyalty for this club. He played for La Beneamata for 20 years in the period 1979 to 1999. Although he did not win too many trophies when compared to the other defenders on this list (Bergomi only won one Serie A title and three UEFA Cup trophies), his toughness on the defense line was amazing. He is known as a fast, tough defender who has a high spirit of leadership.

4. Gaetano Scirea

In addition to Franz Beckenbauer, Scirea is known as one of the best libero in his time. The players underwent a glorious career with Juventus in the 1974-1988 period. Although he is known to be very tough, Scirea rarely played dirty. He is regarded as a defender who has the best spirit of fair-play. In addition to leading the Italian national team win the 1982 World Cup, Scirea also claimed seven Serie A titles and a Champions League trophy with Juventus.

3. Fabio Cannavaro

Although he has short stature, Cannavaro's skills as a central defender cannot be doubted. He is very strong, fast, and smart in applying the coach's tactics. Cannavaro is regarded as the most important player that helped Italy win the 2006 World Cup. His career with Juventus, Real Madrid, and Parma was also very successful. He even became the only defender in the 21st century to win the Ballon d'Or. Throughout his career, Cannavaro played in 136 matches for Italy national team.

2. Franco Baresi

Baresi is the best sweeper ever to play for AC Milan. As a defender, Baresi is perfect. He is tough, fast, and smart. Not only that, Baresi also sometimes went forward to help the attack and even scored goals. Throughout his career, Baresi won the 1982 World Cup trophy, six Serie A titles and three Champions League titles. Before the emergence of Paolo Maldini, he was regarded as the greatest AC Milan's captain of all time.

1. Paolo Maldini

Maldini is an example of a complete defender. He was determined, strong, fast, possessed good leadership skills, loyal, and can be played as a center back or wing-back. He played for AC Milan for 24 years, from 1985 to 2009. Maldini also known as a defender who wins the most trophies in Italian football history. He claimed seven Serie A titles, five Champions League trophies, and one Coppa Italia trophy.

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