5. Diego Godin
When Diego Godin rose above the Barcelona defense on Saturday afternoon, he headed home the decisive goal that gave Atletico Madrid the 1-1 draw they needed to securing the La Liga title. With that strike, Godin sealed his place in Atleti history, but his efforts for the season are not yet complete. Godin and Atleti still have to face their hometown rivals Real Madrid in the UEFA Champion’s League Final this coming Saturday. If they win, Godin will add to his impressive resume which includes a Copa del Ray, the Europa League crown, the La Liga title, and two UEFA Super Cup victories.
Godin will also be standing guard for Uruguay during the World Cup in Brazil. He appeared in five matches during Uruguay’s 2010 World Cup run in South Africa, where the club ultimately finished as semi-finalists. At 28 years of age, the defender is in the prime of his career, and Atletico Madrid has been savvy enough to lock up the Uruguayan defender through 2018. After humble beginnings in Montevideo with Cerro he then transferred to Nacional where he became captain. Since transferring to Villarreal and then Madrid, he has matured and developed into a world class talent that has signaled his arrival on the world football scene.
4. Gary Cahill
Three years ago, Gary Cahill would not have been anywhere near this list. Today he is arguably the most improved central defender in the world. Cahill lead all Chelsea players in minutes played, logging a total of 4184 minutes out of a possible 5160 minutes in 57 matches. During his time on the pitch he has performed as one half of the most formidable defensive tandem in world football. Gary Cahill has benefitted tremendously from his partnership with the legendary John Terry. He has also benefitted from Jose Mourinho’s defensive tactics that saw Chelsea concede only 3 goals and go undefeated in the six matches against their fellow top 4 Premier League clubs.
Chelsea also managed to keep 7 clean sheets in the UEFA Champion’s League with Cahill featuring in all but one match during Chelsea’s semi-final run. Cahill also contributed two goals to Chelsea this season thanks to his aerial ability on set pieces. Gary will be joining the England squad at the World Cup in Brazil, likely alongside of Everton’s Phil Jagielka. Cahill brings fantastic closing speed, tackling ability, and his ability to make goal saving tackles to the Three Lions. If they hope to succeed in the tournament, Cahill will have to provide the backbone and leadership the squad relies on.
3. Vincent Kompany
Few captains in world football continuously demonstrate the poise and leadership that Vincent Kompany exudes in virtually every act on and off the pitch. He led Manchester City to their second Premier League title in three years and earned his third appearance in the PFA Team of the Season. Kompany gave the squad stability under the transition to manager Manuel Pellegrini and fought through nagging injuries. He has juggled the burden of being the captain of Belgium along with the expectations associated with wearing the captain’s armband of Manchester City. Through all of his efforts, Kompany remains the consummate professional.
At 6’4’’, Kompany makes the most of his considerable physical gifts with relentless hard work. He is often seen playing the key first ball that launches Manchester City into attack and contributed a total of five goals to Manchester City during their 2013-14 campaign. Last year, he signed a six year contract with Manchester City, the longest contract in the club’s history. He goes into Brazil as the captain of Belgium, a squad considered to be in the midst of a Golden Generation. Kompany is not only an exemplary leader on the football pitch. Away from the pitch, Kompany serves as a FIFA ambassador to the charity SOS Children and has bought struggling Belgian third division club FC Bleid. He is also enrolled in Manchester Business School where he is studying Business Administration.
2. Sergio Ramos
Sergio Ramos has been at the heart of the most successful teams in world football over the last decade. He featured prominently for the Spanish sides that captured Euro 2008, World Cup 2010, and Euro 2012 titles. Ramos has also won three La Liga titles, two Copa del Ray’s. and two Spanish Supercopas. Ramos is one of the most decorated defenders in the world, earning spots in the FIFPro World XI four times, UEFA Team of the Year three times, and was named La Liga’s Best defender in 2012 and 2013.
In Real Madrid’s 2013-14 campaign, Sergio Ramos was the most capped player, appearing in 50 matches for Real Madrid. He will feature at the center of the defense for Real Madrid in Saturday’s UEFA Champion’s League tie with Atletico Madrid where he looks to earn the first Treble of his career. Ramos excels at leaping above defenses on set pieces and has scored 6 goals for Madrid this season. These goals include the two goals from headers against Bayern Munich in the semi-final of the Champion’s League. This summer he will be a central figure for Spain as the squad looks to capture an unprecedented fourth consecutive major tournament.
1. Thiago Silva
When PSG shelled out €42 million for Thiago Silva in July 2012, it was a signal of their arrival in the world football elite. By purchasing the Brazilian defender, PSG immediately had the backbone of a team destined to win Ligue 1. In the two seasons since his arrival, they have done just that. Silva is a complete defender in every sense of the world. He is poised in possession, possesses unrivaled closing speed, and has developed a knack for creating scoring opportunities. Silva also contributed to PSG’s success in the Coupe de la Ligue, captaining the defense that conceded only four goals against the elite teams of France.
Silva has been selected as the captain of the Selecao for the upcoming World Cup. This summer he will look to add to the Olympic bronze and silver medals and Confederations Cup that he has so far earned with Brazil. Going into the world’s largest tournament as captain of the host nation, will be a familiar burden for Silva, after leading them to victory over Spain last year at the Marcana. This year he joined the world’s elite on the FIFPro World XI alongside Sergio Ramos, to add to his decoration as a three time member of the UEFA Team of the Season. As the world looks for Brazil to fall on home soil, Thiago Silva will be a decisive factor between victor and defeat.