A familiar sight this weekend saw Sergio Ramos receive his marching orders for the 11th time in his La Liga career. Only 11 players have committed more fouls than the Real Madrid man in Spain this season, but here we’re looking at the opposite end of the spectrum.
In an attempt to collate a list of Europe’s cleanest tacklers we’ve looked at those to make the most tackles per foul this season, with a number high profile names making the top 10.
We have only considered players who have made at least 50 tackles this season (of which there are 249 over Europe's top 5 leagues) to ensure that those analysed are frequently making challenges. When fouls are mentioned in the piece this excludes handballs due to their irrelevance in this study.
10. Ashley Cole (Chelsea) - 4.5 tackles per foul
It seems Chelsea's left-back is staying in London this summer after signing a one-year extension on his contract, with the 32 year old proving this season that defensively he is still up there with the best full-backs in Europe. Cole has made 54 tackles this season - second behind Ramires at the Bridge - yet only committed 12 fouls, with his timing in the challenge often immaculate.
9. Zdenek Pospech (Mainz) - 4.53 tackles per foul
Veteran right-back Zdenek Pospech has been a key player for Mainz this season in helping his club push for a Europa League place. The 34 year old Czech has also made the second most tackles for his club (68) and only committed 15 fouls in the process. In turn he has received just 1 booking all season, despite making 21 appearances.
8. Matteo Darmian (Torino) - 4.71 tackles per foul
23 year old full-back Matteo Darmian has made more tackles per game than any other player in Europe's top five leagues (5.2), so the fact that he should make this leaderboard suggests that the young Italian is remarkably impressive in the challenge. He's committed just 21 fouls all season having made 99 tackles and a tally of 8 yellow cards seems very harsh looking at these figures.
7. Michele Canini (Atalanta) - 4.91 tackles per foul
A January signing from Genoa, 27 year old Michele Canini has cemented his place at centre-back immediately for Atalanta, and his tackling may well have played a large part in their interest. The defender has made 54 tackles in 20 appearances in total over the season and committed just 11 fouls, with 5 yellow cards also a little misleading with regards to his discipline.
6. Phil Jagielka (Everton) - 5.1 tackles per foul
It's fair to say that England international Jagielka's average of 2 tackles per game isn't particularly outstanding but the cleanness with which he has won the ball is laudable. With an overall tally of 51 tackles this season the centre-back has been called up for just 10 fouls - an incredibly low figure for a player in his position, which has seen him pick up just 1 yellow card in 26 appearances.
5. Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund) - 5.42 tackles per foul
At 24, Dortmund centre-back Hummels looks like being a mainstay in the German national side for many years to come and his form this season has been superb. The defender has won more tackles than any teammate (65) yet only Lukas Piszczek has committed fewer fouls per game than his lowly average of 0.6. He, like Jagielka, boasts an exceptional disciplinary record with just a single yellow card this season.
4. Nathaniel Clyne (Southampton) - 5.58 tackles per foul
Many saw Southampton's capture of Nathaniel Clyne as somewhat of a coup in the summer, with the young right-back attracting a number of suitors. If there were any who felt that his defensive game may need some work they have been muted during the course of the campaign and the 21 year old's tally of 67 tackles is the second most at the club, while he has committed just 12 fouls and received only 2 bookings.
3. Javier Zanetti (Inter) - 5.7 tackles per foul
The evergreen Javier Zanetti has made more league appearances for Inter than any other player this season at the age of 39, missing just one game thus far. It isn't hard to see why when looking at his statistics, with the versatile Argentinian committing just 12 fouls - the second fewest of regular outfielders at the club - despite making 57 tackles. He's picked up just 1 caution in the process.
2. Carlos Cuellar (Sunderland) - 7.63 tackles per foul
A free transfer from Aston Villa in the summer, Spaniard Cuellar has been reunited with Martin O'Neill and impressed in his first season in the North East. His average of 3.2 tackles per game is the most for the Black Cats but he has committed just 8 fouls - fewer than any outfield teammate to make more than 5 appearances. The 31 year old's timing is a real strength and only one player can better his remarkable record here.
1. Carlos Martinez (Real Sociedad) - 7.71 tackles per foul
Right-back Carlos Martinez has established his place in the Real Sociedad having shared playing time with Daniel Estrada for much of last season. The 26 year old has made the third most tackles (57) for the Spanish Europa League hopefuls but committed just 7 fouls all season. Such clean tackling has helped the defender to an excellent WhoScored rating of 7.63 - enough to see him take his place in the La Liga team of the season thus far.