Legendary Italian defender Paolo Maldini once said that if he had to make a tackle, it meant that he had already made a mistake.
The former AC Milan skipper was right in one sense, but some would argue that there were pitfalls to his statement as well. The primary duty of a defender is to stop the opposition’s forwards using any means necessary. One such means of doing so is through a well-timed tackle
Over the years, many defenders have been adjudged to be among the best due to their ability to keep opponents from breaching their goal. However, cleansheets are often the product of a team effort, which makes it difficult to gauge the individual brilliance of a defender.
Each player’s individual stats offer a much more definitive picture. Here, we rank five defenders who have had the best tackle success rate since 2009:
#5 Loic Perrin (84.5%)
￼French centre-back Loic Perrin is one of the few one-club men in France in the 21st century.
The defender spent his entire career on the books of AS Saint-Etienne, having risen through the ranks at the French club. The centre-back had a tackle success rate of 84.5% between 2009 and 2020, when he finally hung up his boots.
Perrin was one of the most highly-rated defenders in Ligue 1 due to his consistency. The central defender made his professional debut for Saint-Etienne in 2003 and featured for the club regularly until his retirement. He attempted a total of 762 tackles over the period under review and won an excellent 644 of them.
Perrin captained his boyhood club before his retirement and was named in the Ligue 1 Team of the Year in 2014. The Frenchman also won the Coupe de la Ligue in 2013.
His last match for Saint-Etienne was the 2020 Coupe de la Ligue final defeat against Paris Saint-Germain.
#4 Mamadou Sakho (84.5%)
The second French centre-back to make it into the list, Mamadou Sakho enjoyed playing at a very high level for some of Europe’s best clubs during his career.
He made his professional debut for Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) in 2007 and remains the youngest captain in French football ever. Sakho first captained PSG in 2007 as a 17-year-old in his first senior season at the club. He made over 200 appearances for the Parisians before leaving for Liverpool in 2013.
Sakho delivered consistent performances for the French club and Liverpool before a wrongful doping accusation earned him a ban. He subsequently joined Crystal Palace, where he continued to impress despite a few error-prone displays.
The 32-year-old has attempted 530 tackles and won 448 of them since 2009.
Sakho currently features for Montpellier in Ligue 1, having joined the club after his contract with Crystal Palace expired. The centre-back has also featured for the French national team 29 times so far and played in the 2014 FIFA World Cup as well.
#3 Virgil Van Dijk (87.3%)
Liverpool star Virgil van Dijk has been touted as one of the best defenders in the history of the Premier League. The centre-back has been an important player for the Reds since arriving at the club and has played a vital role in their recent success under Jurgen Klopp
Van Dijk made his professional debut for Groningen in 2011 before making the switch to Celtic two years later. He quickly became one of the best defenders in the Scottish league, earning a move to the Premier League with Southampton.
The Dutchman joined Liverpool for a world-record fee for a defender worth £75 million in 2018, helping the side slowly become one of the best in the world again. Van Dijk is known for his calm nature in defending and this is characterized by the relatively low number of tackles he has made over the last 11 years.
He has won 268 of his 307 attempted tackles since he made his senior debut in 2011.
Van Dijk is also a regular for the Netherlands, having made his debut for his national team in 2015. However, despite winning 47 caps for the Oranje, he has astonishingly never played for them in a major tournament.
The Dutchman most notably finished a close second behind Lionel Messi in both the Ballon d’Or and FIFA The Best Men’s Award races in 2019.
#2 Nemanja Vidic (87.7%)
Manchester United legend Nemanja Vidic enjoyed an incredibly successful career. The centre-back maintained a tackle success percentage of 87.7% from 2009 until the end of his professional career.
Vidic started his career at Red Star Belgrade in 2000 before joining Spartak Moscow in 2004. The Serbian defender completed a move to Manchester United in 2006 and became a fan favorite before earning legendary status at the club.
His partnership with Rio Ferdinand is seen as one of the best centre-back pairings in Premier League history. Vidic was a physically robust centre-back in his playing career and completed 272 of the 310 tackles he attempted between 2009 and 2016, when he retired.
He also featured regularly for Serbia, winning 36 caps. The centre-back is also one of only four players to win the Premier League Player of the Season award twice in his career.
#1 Alex (88.1%)
Known for his canon-like free-kicks and tough tackling style, Alex seemingly got his big break when Chelsea signed him from Brazilian club Santos in 2004.
However, he joined PSV on loan for the next three seasons. Following several impressive displays, the Brazilian returned to his parent club where he established himself as a top defender. He maintained a tackle success percentage of 88.1% between 2009 and 2016, the year he retired.
Alex won three Eredivisie titles with PSV before returning to Chelsea in 2007. He was a success at Stamford Bridge, lifting the Premier League title and the FA Cup before leaving the club in 2012.
The centre-back joined Paris Saint-Germain in 2012 before moving to AC Milan just two years later. Alex completed 310 of the 352 tackles he attempted in the last seven years of his career.
The defender played 18 times for Brazil and won the 2007 Copa America with his country. He retired in 2016 after spending two seasons in Italy with AC Milan.