9. Pierre Kalulu
Simon Kjaer’s long-term injury has thrust young Pierre Kalulu into a favoured centre-back role this season having initially lined up as a right-back for Stefano Pioli’s Rossoneri.
Kalulu has been a revelation for the Scudetto-chasing Milan at the heart of the defence, and he’s developed a stout partnership with Fikayo Tomori.
The 21-year-old is your archetypal modern-day centre-half: athletic, aggressive and technically proficient. Kalulu’s ability to defend as part of a high line and a low block has allowed him to thrive in the tactically savvy and flexible Serie A.
8. Giorgio Chiellini
The wily veteran proved at the Euros last summer that he still ranks among the very best at his position, and while injuries have once again capped Chiellini’s minutes this season, he’s barely put a foot wrong when called upon.
The Italian still defends the Juventus box like it’s his baby, and Max Allegri’s conservatism has allowed the grittiness of one of his generation’s greatest defenders to manifest frequently.
Chiellini might not possess the athleticism of Kalulu, nor the recovery speed of Tomori, but no defender, perhaps in European football, understands and appreciates the underrated art of defending quite like the Juventus stalwart.
7. Stefan De Vrij
There’s no doubting that De Vrij has taken a step back this season following two imperious years under Antonio Conte. Nevertheless, he’s still a stabilising force at the heart of Inter Milan’s stellar back three.
Some will say that the Dutchman performs the ‘easiest’ role in football, but, boy, the consistency with which he plays is remarkable.
De Vrij is an astute reader of the game and a tranquil presence in defence. There’s a distinct serenity to his game that paradoxically stands out alongside the brutish Milan Skriniar and graceful Alessandro Bastoni.
6. Fikayo Tomori
Tomori has been nothing short of a sensation since he switched west London for Lombardy in 2021. Chelsea are already living to regret their sale of the English defender to Milan for a meagre £25m.
Having initially developed a sturdy partnership with Simon Kjaer, Tomori has since formed what is surely the most athletic and exciting centre-back tandem in Europe alongside Pierre Kalulu.
His recovery speed is remarkable and his defensive fundamentals are ever-improving. However, the odd positional error here and there prevents him from squeezing into our top five.
Continues on the next slide…