The art of defending can come in many forms. It can be made into a simple one, as it is at clubs such as Stoke, with the 'put head/body in way' approach paying dividends in the most part, though the classic all-round defender is lost to many these days.
With defensive partnerships meaning that one player is often more limited than the other, WhoScored has decided to factor in 5 of the key attributes to a successful centre-back to gauge Europe's best all-round centre-halves. For inclusion, each player must have completed at least 1 tackle and interception apiece, won at least 1 aerial duel, completed at least 5 clearances and at least 0.5 blocks (all per game).
The players' respective total figures over the whole season were then gathered and combined, and divided by the number of appearances made. So, without further ado, here is a rundown of the top 6 for tackles, interceptions, aerial duels won, clearances and shots block combined.
6. Richard Dunne (Aston Villa) - 16.6 per game (414 total)
There is no getting beyond the fact that Aston Villa have been poor to watch under Alex McLeish thus far. Sadly for the fans their relatively negative tactics may have led to the 8th best defensive record in the league (34 conceded), but have only heralded 6 wins thus far.
A key component to their decent record at the back is veteran defender Richard Dunne, whose commitment on the field has never wavered and often sees him as the most frustrated player when those ahead of him aren't attacking. He has had to get through plenty of work this season, making 2.4 tackles and 2 interceptions per game, as well as a hefty 9 clearances per match.
5. Bruno Ecuele Manga (Lorient) - 17.5 per game (350 total)
Gabon international centre-back Bruno Ecuele Manga has returned from playing for the host nation in the African Cup of Nations and his form has dipped a little since. Nevertheless he has proven to be very adept jack-of-all-trades when it comes to defending, as well as possessing an excellent pass accuracy of 83.8%.
Part of a Lorient defence that has conceded just 6 home goals all season - the least in the league - the 23-year-old clearly has a big future ahead of him and could follow the likes of Laurent Koscielny before him, to a higher level. He certainly has the tools to do so, with 3 aerial duels won per game his standout statistic, though 2.1 tackles, 1.9 interceptions and 9.9 clearances per game are extremely useful figures.
4. Kyriakos Papadopoulos (Schalke) - 18 per game (395 total)
At just 20, Greece international defender Papadopoulos is one of the most unassuming young centre-backs you could find. His giant frame and rather Bond villain-esque image are enough to ensure that opposing strikers know that they are in for a tough time, though his all-round statistics are superb for a man of his age and deserve recognition.
Perhaps most impressive of the strings to the Schalke-man's bow is his ability to read the game, making a remarkable 4.2 interceptions per game. Coupled with a figure of 3.8 tackles per game, the youngster is also of the braveheart ilk, throwing his body in the way of 1.2 shots per game and winning 2.7 aerial duels a match.
3. Younes Kaboul (Tottenham) - 18.2 per game (400 total)
Prior to this season, when considering Spurs' fantastic resources at centre-back Younes Kaboul would probably be the fourth named reeled off by the fans if questioned as to their best defender. With the season now 26 games in, and the Frenchman having played 22 of said games, there has been no lull in form from the 26-year-old who is fast becoming one of the first names on the teamsheet.
Kaboul's appearance on the list, like Papadopoulos before him, is testament to his commitment in a side that do not do as much defending as most others in the league, making his figures all the more commendable. An average of 4.1 aerial duels won per game is the most of any centre-back in England, while 9.3 clearances a match is indicative of a no-nonsense attitude supplemented by an impressive near-84% pass accuracy.
2. Aldo Angoula (Evian Thonon Gaillard) - 18.4 per game (368 total)
Edging Kaboul into third having made just 20 appearances, experienced Evian centre-back Angoula is perhaps the least recognisable name on our leaderboard. Part of a side that many would have expected to make a swift return to Ligue 2, the Frenchman has helped Evian to a highly respectable 12th in the elite division in France, and the club will need him to keep up his impressive statistics if they are to ensure survival.
Excellent across the board defensively, Angoula averages over 2 per game for tackles, interceptions and aerial duels won. However, the work put in inside his own box has seen him make an outstanding 10.2 clearances and 1.2 blocks per match, ranking first in the entire league for both statistics.
1. Lucio (Inter) - 19.8 per game (436 total)
At 33, Lucio isn't getting any younger but, judging by his appearances on the field as part of an increasingly busy Inter defence, the Brazilian doesn't seem to be getting any older either. His tally of 19.8 per game across the 5 analysed statistics leave him streets ahead of the chasing pack and justify opinions that he remains one of the world's greatest centre-halves.
Known for his frequent rampages out of defence, continuing to complete 1.5 dribbles per game, Lucio really does have it all, with an 81.6% pass accuracy proving that his ability on the ball is a key asset. His most telling stats, though, lie in his defensive attributes, making a huge 4.6 interceptions per game as well as a weighty 3.1 tackles. His lanky frame means that his aerials won per game average of 1.5 is perhaps lower than expected, though 10.1 clearances and 0.5 blocked shots a match prove that he is putting the effort it in where it counts - in front of a rather wobbly Julio Cesar.