These players will marshal the backline of their respective teams in the tournament.
The 16th edition of the UEFA Euro 2020 will bring fans back to the stadiums once again. The European Championships will be played in a new format in this edition, with games set to be held across 11 countries to address concerns surrounding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The best players on the continent will chase national glory once again. While the goalscorers and attackers will the centre of attraction, plenty of quality defenders will also be in action during Euro 2020.
Some players would be playing for their impending chance to shine on the international stage. Some others will hope for their performance to facilitate moves to big clubs, who will grab on any opportunity to sign top stars in the ongoing summer transfer window.
So let’s take a look at the top 10 defenders to watch out for in Euro 2020.
10. Caglar Soyuncu (Turkey)
Soyuncu had a successful season with Leicester City, winning the FA Cup in a memorable final with the Foxes. The defender was instrumental in his side’s campaign and is being regarded as one of the finest defenders in the Premier League.
His impact on the team’s defence was felt when he missed 12 games due to injury this season. In that time, Leicester lost five games and won just four, thereby losing their grip on the top spots in the Premier League.
Now, with Turkey, Soyuncu will look to continue his good form and lead his side into the knockouts.
9. Milan Skriniar (Slovakia)
Skriniar enjoyed a successful season with Inter Milan winning the Serie A title with the Nerazzurri. He is also expected to be the leader at the defence for Slovakia in the Euros.
Skriniar has often been linked with a move out of the Italian club but has stayed the course. If he has a successful tournament with Slovakia, his stock could rise and more teams could show interest to buy the centre-back.
8. Aymeric Laporte (Spain)
Laporte will be looking to make a mark in his first international tournament. The Manchester City defender switched nationalities from France to Spain after failing to break into Didier Deschamps’ squad.
Laporte’s ball-playing ability will also be useful for the Spanish philosophy of playing from the back. Therefore, a lot of eyes will be on Laporte this summer. He is also being courted by the Classico duo Real Madrid and FC Barcelona.
7. Jules Kounde (France)
Kounde is one of the most sought-after defenders in Europe. But he would be second-choice behind Presnel Kimpembe and Raphael Varane in the France national team.
Kounde, therefore, could play from the bench. He will look to give the best account of his world-class potential, which has interested the likes of Real Madrid and Manchester United. His performances in Euro 2020 will be watched with keen interest.
6. Pau Torres (Spain)
Like Kounde, Spain’s Pau Torres is also one of the most in-demand defenders in Europe right now. Real Madrid and Manchester United are in contention to sign the Villarreal defender if they fail to land Kounde.
Torres put in a Man of the Match performance in the Europa League final against Manchester United. He led his side to a sensational win in the final.
The Villarreal youth academy graduate will look to carry his form into Euro 2020 and lead his nation to title glory. If his performances with Spain match the quality he has shown in club football, many more clubs will enter the race for Torres.
5. Matthijs De Ligt (Netherlands)
De Ligt has had a quiet time since his breakthrough 2018-19 season and subsequent move to Juventus. No doubt, he is an important part of Juventus’s defence but hasn’t reached the highest peak of his potential.
De Ligt, who led his boyhood club Ajax to a Champions League semifinal at the age of 19, endured a topsy-turvy season with Juventus as the Turin club secured Champions League football by the barest of margins.
The Ajax academy graduate has the huge task of leading his nation’s defence in the absence of Virgil van Dijk. He certainly has the potential and Euro 2020 is a great chance for him to showcase his quality in defence for the Netherlands.
4. Antonio Rudiger (Germany)
Rudiger has turned himself into one of the best defenders in Europe after Thomas Tuchel took over at Chelsea. The German has undergone a massive transformation under Tuchel as the Blues went on to win the UEFA Champions League. Chelsea also broke the record of the least goals conceded in a Champions League season (4).
Rudiger has 40 international caps to his name. But, he faces the tough task of leading his nation out of the Group of Death that pits Germany against world champions France and Euro title holders Portugal.
3. Raphael Varane (France)
The Frenchman will look to erase the hurt he endured in 2016 by winning the European Championship this time. He missed a golden opportunity in 2016 when his nation lost the final to Portugal at home. Varane is the most experienced player on this list with 74 international appearances.
Varane will lead his side’s quest for European glory with the tough task of qualifying from Group F. The group also has three-time winners Germany, who France defeated in the semis in the previous edition and Portugal, who handed them agony in the final in 2016.
His contract with Real Madrid expires in 2022, which has kept him in the middle of the transfer buzz. Therefore, his performances in Euro 2020 will also impact his future in club football with Manchester United and Chelsea interested in his signature.
2. Harry Maguire (England)
Maguire endured a heartbreaking season after Manchester United lost the Europa League final against Villareal CF. Denied a chance of winning his first title with his club, Maguire has an opportunity to international glory this summer.
He attained stardom with superb performances in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, helping his side to advance to the semifinals. Now he will be the main man in the Three Lions’ defence and set-piece routines.
Maguire endured a thigh injury towards the end of the season, which has raised concerns over his fitness. However, he will certainly be an important feature in the Three Lions setup.
1. Ruben Dias (Portugal)
The Benfica graduate had a dream debut season with Manchester City in the last term. Dias won the Premier League, the Carabao Cup and led his club to their first-ever UEFA Champions League final.
Ruben Dias won the Premier League and Manchester City’s Player of the Season award for his stellar performances, keeping 19 clean sheets in the league. He has established himself as one of the best defenders in the game, but a successful Euro campaign with Portugal would firmly establish his credentials as the best.
Dias was also a part of his side’s UEFA Nations League triumph in 2018 and already has 27 appearances with his country.