Italy has always been stamped with the mark of quality when it comes to defenders. From Cesare Maldini through to his even more successful son Paolo, from the majestic Giacinto Facchetti to the equally imperious Franco Baresi and onwards to the World-Cup winning captain Fabio Cannavaro each has influenced a generation to become the protectors of the perfect Italian scoreline: 0-0.
From abroad, some of the best exponents of nullifying attackers have also graced Serie A and of the current crop of homegrown and foreign talent. Here are the top ten.
10. Davide Astori
Something of the nearly man of Italian football, in that he nearly made it at AC Milan, nearly made the Italy squad for Euro 2012 and in the summer nearly joined AS Roma. Something of a hostage to misfortune at Cagliari the 26-year-old is a stylish performer who would flourish at a bigger club.
9. Hugo Campagnaro
Marauding along the right flank for Napoli had been the Argentine’s trademark and so it has continued with his switch to Inter where at 33 he has shown no signs of slowing down or holding back in tackles as John Terry would testify in this summer’s pre-season encounter.
8. Philippe Mexes
He may have added a few pounds and lost a yard or two of pace but the AC Milan man still stands out when it comes to the spectacular; be it a last-ditch challenge in his own area or a last-second winner at the other end. The Frenchman still brings the ball out as if he the coolest defender in the world.
7. Leandro Castan
AS Roma have had rich tradition of South American defenders from the classy Aldair to the hard as nails Walter Samuel and Castan has a touch of both in his game although he will never reach the heights of either. Having said that he brings some Brazilian flair to the Giallorossi backline.
6. Andrea Ranocchia
The Italian has been the rock in an Inter defence that has crumbled since the impenetrable bastion it was under Jose Mourinho. Classy on the ball with excellent positioning and an eye for goal at set-pieces a series of injuries has curtailed his progress but at 25 there is still time to reclaim his Italy spot in time for the World Cup finals.
5. Gonzalo Rodriguez
Fiorentina were always a joy to watch going forward but a disaster at the back until the rugged Argentine arrived from Villarreal last season. A throw-back to the time when a man-marker was inclined to take man and ball, the 29-year-old has reignited the tradition much in the same vein his compatriot Daniel Passarella once did for the Viola.
4. Andrea Barzagli
The brains of both the Juventus and Italy rearguard, the 32-year-old is the unruffled presence whose positional sense makes up for a lack of pace. More likely to nick the ball away than he fly into a crunching tackle he was also a member of the Azzurri World Cup winning squad in 2006.
3. Leonardo Bonucci
Not only does the Juventus central defender power his way forward at set-pieces but he is comfortable on the ball to splay passes to all areas of the pitch. Considered the Italian Nemanja Vidic, the towering Italy international holds the backline together.
2 . Mattio De Sciglio
AC Milan have been crying out for an heir Paolo Maldini and finally they have unearthed him in another local boy. The 20-year-old came through the Rossoneri youth ranks as a right-back but was switched to left-back to such positive effect that he broke into the Italy squad for the World Cup qualifiers.
1. Giorgio Chiellini
Has developed into the first choice on the left-side of the Juventus three-man defence and the tough-tackling 29-year-old is equally at home at left-back. Under Antonio Conte he has also improved his passing and link-play. Will be the first name on the Italy team-sheet at next summer’s World Cup finals.