The domestic season may not have concluded just yet, but international football is only just around the corner.
The 2022/23 Nations League will see Europe’s best teams battle it out this year in League A of the competition for a spot in 2023’s finals, with the venues for those games still to be decided.
Key to each team’s hopes will be at the back, with some of the world’s finest defenders ready to play in the newly-manufactured tournament.
Here are the 2022/23 Nations League’s best defenders from League A.
11. Andreas Christensen (Denmark)
Christensen was a key figure in Denmark’s heroic Euro 2020 run and even scored a long-range sizzler in their last-16 victory over Russia.
The Danes are an excellently drilled international team these days and Christensen alongside Simon Kjaer keeps things tight at the back to allow players like Christian Eriksen to do the damage up front.
10. Aymeric Laporte (Spain)
It’s taken some time for Laporte’s international career to take off. He had been called up for France previously but is now turning out for Luis Enrique’s Spain.
They’re a little weak in central defence but Laporte’s allegiance switch has been a big boost. He’ll need to be at his best to deal with Cristiano Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes, Diogo Jota and club teammate Bernardo Silva in the 2022/23 Nations League.
9. Trent Alexander-Arnold (England)
Whether Alexander-Arnold actually gets the chance to play in the Nations League is doubtful, given England manager Gareth Southgate’s clear preferences elsewhere, so that reflects his rank here.
However, his creative ability from right back is unmatched worldwide and it’s surely only a matter of time before he becomes a mainstay for the Three Lions.
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8. Leonardo Bonucci (Italy)
Nobody delighted in Italy’s Euro 2020 triumph more than Bonucci. That victory may have later been tainted by their inability to qualify for the World Cup, but that failure hardly takes away from the Juventus stalwart’s reputation.
The centre-back has been at the heart of some of the stingiest defences of the past ten years and always puts his body on the line for the cause.
7. Kyle Walker (England)
Kyle Walker’s extreme pace makes him an undroppable asset for England and Gareth Southgate.
The previously mentioned Alexander-Arnold and Chelsea’s Reece James have had limited opportunities due to Walker’s versatility, which has seen him deployed both at full back and in a back three.
6. Matthijs de Ligt (Netherlands)
A slow start to life at Juventus was tough for De Ligt, but with some old timers gradually seeing less game time in Turin the Dutchman has stepped up to great effect.
Alongside another centre back who we’ll get to in a bit, De Ligt forms part of a mean Netherlands defence which is improving year on year.
5. Raphael Varane (France)
The curse of Manchester United may have hit Varane hard this season, but for France he remains an intimidating defender for any striker to deal with.
Les Bleus’ disappointing exit at Euro 2020 will have stoked the fire to return to winning ways, with Varane needing to be at his best to deal with threats like Christian Eriksen and Luka Modric in the Nations League group stage.
4. Antonio Rudiger (Germany)
One of the most in-demand defenders in world football right now, Rudiger’s pace and composure make a devastating pairing.
Germany have been much improved in defence since Euro 2020 and the Chelsea defender’s contributions have been key.
3. Joao Cancelo (Portugal)
Cancelo never managed to impress at Juventus but is now undroppable at Manchester City, playing a major role in their creative attacks.
A positive Covid-19 test saw the full back miss out on Euro 2020 but he’ll undoubtedly be part of the Portugal team that will look to retain their Nations League crown.
2. Ruben Dias (Portugal)
A fully-fledged international since 2018, Dias’ move to Manchester City has helped his reputation flourish.
He’s also injected fresh young blood into a Portugal defence that had been allowed to age to an extreme extent, with his powerful performances at the back making the Selecao a tough nut to crack.
1. Virgil van Dijk (Netherlands)
The undisputed number one defender in world football, let alone the 2022/23 Nations League, is Van Dijk.
The Liverpool centre back is never rushed in possession, always takes up excellent defensive positions, and keeps his cool in one-v-one situations.