Rio Ferdinand crowns the world's best defender

SoccerBy Kevin Palmer
Ferdinand name his top defender
Ferdinand name his top defender

Former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand had claims to be the best defender in world football when he was at the peak of his powers - and now he has nominated a former team-mate to assume that mantle.

A young Gerard Pique was forced to leave United as he appreciated his path to Alex Ferguson's first team was certain to be blocked by the dominant presence of Ferdinand and his long-time centre-back partner Nemanja Vidic.

Yet Pique has emerged as a world star since making the move to Barcelona in 2008, with BT Sport pundit Ferdinand offering this glowing tribute to the Spanish World Cup winner. 

"He was always great on the ball, but it was just a question of whether he had the strength and the pace to survive in the Premier League," said Ferdinand.

"He went to Barcelona and for me, he is now the best centre back in the world.

"The confidence he has to play out at the back, I don't see many people doing that at the moment. He also has the capacity to defend well, better than people give him credit for."

The lack of candidates to the title of 'world's best defender' is a subject Ferdinand discussed with the Sunday World last year, as he suggested defending is no longer the primary art in the game.

"It is all about the attacking players now and you can't really say there are too many great defenders in the world any more," he told us.

"Pique, John Terry in his prime, Vincent Kompany maybe, but there are not too many. It is just the way the game has gone. 

"You look at Barcelona, Real Madrid, even Man Utd. They have all the focus on their attacking players. That is just the way it is now."