Football scouting blog

Underrated: Center backs

Being a center back is one of those positions that can at times go unappreciated by the fans and media alike. If a defender is in a struggling team and he performs well no one notices because their judged on their clean sheets. Great interceptions or well timed offside trap or even a good defensive block are usually not considered highlight material. Also, center backs are expected to be totally focused for the full game unlike the forward players who can at times switch off in games. Below are some of those center backs who remain relatively under appreciated;

Stefan Bell, CB – 24 years old, (Born 24 August 1991) : German, 6’3

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A German center back who has been flying under the radar in Mainz and is constantly overlooked despite his impressive displays. For the past two seasons, he has slowly became the most important player in the team and this season in the Bundesliga is no different. He has been spearheading the Mainz defence and currently has 2 assists and 1 goal. For a center back, he does get his fair share of assists and they usually come from him setting up his team mates from knock downs from set pieces and the odd good pass. In terms of passing, he doesn’t have the best range and he does end up with a high number of inaccurate long balls each season. As a result of his poor long balls, he averages 75% pass success percentage which is not a good reflection on his general passing accuracy. Although he doesn’t have a lot of clean sheets to his name, it doesn’t take away his great positioning and defensive awareness which is impressive for such a young defender. A player who could easily take the step up to playing for some of Germany’s top clubs and won’t be long till this becomes a reality. He is valued at £2.8 million by the Transfermarkt.

Lucão, CB – 19 years old, (Born Mar 23, 1996) : Brazilian, 6’1

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Lucão also known as Lucas Cavalcante Silva Afonso is a young center back who has already become a vital part of one of Brazil’s biggest clubs, São Paolo. At only 19 years old, he is already a regular and also quite vocal not afraid to show his authority among the older more experienced players. He is a ball playing center back with a good passing range. He is a center who prefers to play on the cover and anticipates danger very well. He uses his pace well and very rarely dives into tackle, always marks his opponents without being reckless something. He is still not the finished product and does have a few blemishes to his game but in saying that there is little to no talk of clubs being interested. There is no real hype behind the player especially not in Europe but he does seem to have all the potential to be a star of the future and the website Transfermarkt values him at only £1 million.

Joël Matip, CB – 24 years old, (Born August 8, 1991) : Cameroonian, 6’4

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Another young, calm and intelligent defender who reads the game well. He is terrific in terms of his positioning and very disciplined in his making. He also prefers to anticipate and cover for the likes of Benedict Howedes. His reputation has been on an upward curve over the last few years but he still not rated as highly as he should. He does lack the leadership quality to lead a back four, not as vocal as the other defender and does seem to be more supporting center back than a leading one. He is at his best when there is another strong center back to dominate the aerial balls and lead the line still this doesn’t take anything away from his defensive qualities. He is valued at £9.8 million on the Transfermarkt.

Davide Astori, CB – 28 years old, (Born January 7, 1987) : Italian, 6’2

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Davide Astori is the oldest center back on the list and possibly the most talented. Its bizarre why at twenty eight years and also an Italian international, he is still with minnows Cagliari. He is somehow not been deemed by any of the top Italian clubs as worth the gamble to purchase and has been on strings of loans. He has everything needed in a modern centre back from being comfortable on the ball, tactically aware to versatility to play in any system. He is currently at Fiorentina and has been playing on the left side of a 3 man defence and has managed to contribute to an incredible 7 clean sheets in 9 games. In fact, this season his team have only conceded 5 goals in the 9 games he has been involved. He averages over fifty five passes per game with an accuracy of over 85% over the past 5 seasons. A player who is likely to be signed by Fiorentina at the end of season but he would be better suited to Manchester United. His abilities defensively and on the ball are superior to any of the Manchester United center backs and he would be a good addition to their defence. He is valued at £4.8 million by the Transfermarkt website.

Nicolas N’koulou, CB – 25 years old, (Born March 27, 1990) : Cameroonian, 5’10

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He is not tall for a center back but he makes up for it with his intelligence and defensive awareness. He knows how to position himself and has been improving his ability to win headers each year, He is like the African Nicolas Otamendi, a defender who loves to tackle and also not bullied in the air. And, although he is only twenty five years old, he is already a natural leader and has captained both his national team and club as well. Not only is he strong defensively, he is also very impressive on the ball. And, he has been averaging 61 passes a game this season at 87% pass success rate – in comparison to possibly the best passing center back in the league this year, Daley Blind who also averaged 61 passes at 89% success rate, not a big difference between the two. He is an all round defender who should be playing for one of Europe’s top club. He is valued at £8.4 million by the Transfermarkt website.

Notable mentions:  Simon Kjaer, Jonny Evans, Omer Toprak, Virgil Van Dirk


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