The 2018/19 Serie A season was chock full of surprises, from breakthrough attacking performances to unsung goalkeeping heroes aiding in the survival of a relegation battle. But, as far as defensive efforts go, it was business as usual for these top-rate guardians whose exploits were conducive to achieving their respective club’s objectives for the campaign.
Here are the top five ranked defenders from this past season.
1. Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli) During Napoli’s heart-pounding UEFA Champions League group stage matches vs Liverpool, the world witnessed a full-on defensive exhibition between Virgil van Djik and the 27-year old Koulbaly who both solidified themselves amongst the cream of the crop in their respective roles. Many top Premier League clubs want what they can’t have, and that is the Partenopei’s complete central defender, Kalidou Koulibaly, whose value is deemed priceless at this point by club president Aurelio De Laurentiis after yet another classy 38 rounds of football.
2. Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus) Leonardo Bonucci returned after one season away from the Turin giants, and helped restore order to ‘the Old Lady’s’ backline, but it was once again Giorgio Chiellini’s defensive prowess and warrior-like moniker that confirmed what we all knew was true: the Italian is irreplaceable, and we saw that firsthand as Juventus succumbed to Ajax in leg two of the UCL quarter-finals. Even into his mid-30s, the long-serving Azzurri star showed no signs of slowing down in 2018/19, and remains more important than ever before as the club aspires for European glory.
3. Alessio Romagnoli (AC Milan) Since arriving to Milano in 2015/16 upon request of Siniša Mihajlović, Romagnoli has been the model central defender for the Rossoneri, this despite not having enjoyed the luxury of a consistent partner in the back. Despite all that, the Italian’s steady growth and ability to lead prompted skipper Gennaro Gattuso and upper management to award him captaincy. A heavy armband in need of personality and security, Romagnoli wore it with tremendous pride, proved his worthiness and further established himself as one of Europe’s best young defenders today.
4. Milan Skriniar (Inter) During the summer, Inter acquired Stefan de Vrij from Lazio on a free transfer, helping forge one of Italy’s best pairings. But make no mistake about it, Skriniar remains the main man protecting Samir Handanovic’s goal as both a colossus defensively but also an outlet to effectively play out of pressure and build from the back. The Slovak also signaled his intent to remain a pillar of the Nerazzurri when he warded off a slew of Premier League clubs by signing a contract extension through 2023. Successive stellar seasons at a big club means he belongs in the conversation as one of the game’s premier central defenders.
5. Armando Izzo (Torino) Salvatore Sirigu had a fine season in net for Torino, and was vital to their strong defensive record and ambition to remain in the hunt for top four as long as they did. But, for every top goalkeeping season, there is typically a steady defensive effort to compliment. The 27-year old Izzo rose to the occasion this past campaign and showed why he may have in fact emerged as a late blooming defender capable of joining a bigger club. Toss in four goals from a central defensive position for good measure and Izzo finds himself more than worthy of a spot in these rankings.
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