These footballers have proved to be tough in the air.

Heading the ball is hard enough but winning aerial duels against an opposition player is even tougher. A defender’s prime responsibility is to clear the ball away from their goal and winning headers is a must to achieve that. 

Some of the best centre-backs today are great at winning aerial duels, owing to their judgement of the flight of the ball, towering height and incredible physique. Therefore, here is a compilation of five defenders that have the best aerial duels win percentage this season in all of Europe.

The data has been sourced from CIES Football Observatory’s report dated 16 November 2020, and the players that have won more than 20 headers have been included in the current season.

Pablo Nascimento (Girondins Bordeaux) – 88.0% 

Pablo Nascimento is a 29-year-old centre-back from Brazil that plays in the Ligue 1 for Girondins Bordeaux. The defender has a physical presence in the backline and commands his fellow teammates well. He is one of the best in winning headers, in fact, the best in French division football.

He has won a total of 22 headers out of 25 contested, taking his aerial dual percentage to 88.0%. 

Raphaël Varane (Real Madrid CF) – 88.0%

Real Madrid’s long-time serving centre-back, Raphaël Varane, is the best heading defender in the Spanish La Liga. He has also won 22 out of the 25 aerial duels he has been involved in.

The 27-year-old is a World Cup winner with France and has won almost every trophy at all levels with club and country. He is technically one of the most sound defenders around and rarely gets caught in a tangle. 

Harry Maguire (Manchester United) – 90%

Manchester United’s captain and English international, Harry Maguire, has the third-best aerial duels win percentage in Europe and second-best in the Premier League. He has won 27 headers out of the 30 aerial contests he’s been involved in.

Maguire is not only good at winning headers at the back, but is also a constant threat during corner kicks and free kicks. His towering height and presence often make him the target of long balls inside the box during set plays.

Berat Djimsiti (Atalanta) – 95.7%

Coming in second with the best aerial duel win percentage from the Italian Serie A is Atalanta’s Berat Djimsiti. The Albanian center-back is a rock-solid defender and is a silent performer in a side that is known to be proficient in attack.

The 27-year-old has won a total of 22 out of 23 contested aerial duels, taking his win percentage to an unbelievable 95.7%. He is one to watch out this season and is reportedly under the focus of many top European clubs.

Read More: World Football | Premier League | Serie A

Kurt Zouma (Chelsea FC) – 96.3%

At the top with the best aerial duel win percentage of 96.3% is Kurt Zouma. He has been in a great run of form for Chelsea FC in all competitions and has only lost one aerial duel as well, winning 26 headers out of 27 contests.

Standing tall at 6’3” feet, the French international is a powerhouse. In addition to being impressive defensively, Zouma has also contributed with four goals as of yet. He is an ever present threat and loves to get on the end of free kicks and corner kicks. 

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