Think of Italian football and what comes to mind?
If it’s not the theme tune of Gazetta Football Italia ringing in your ears then it’s probably the standard of Serie A defending at the start of the Noughties.
The 2001/02 season in particular sticks out, due to the pure volume of top quality defenders on show. Remember these lot?
Juventus (Finished 1st)
The Old Lady won Serie A thanks to an injection of class at the back in the transfer market.
Lilian Thuram and Gianluigi Buffon both arrived from Parma to bolster a defence already containing Uruguayan nutter Paolo Montero and Ciro Ferrara.
Ryan Giggs described Monetero, who makes Luis Suarez look like a saint, and Ferrara as the ‘hardest defenders he ever faced’, so who are we to argue?
Roma (Finished 2nd)
Roma finished an agonising point behind Juvenus, which was in no part the fault of a defence that only conceded 24 goals all season.
Walter Samuel was a classy combination of aggression and technique but it was Cafu’s domination of the right flank that really stood out.
You don’t win 142 caps for Brazil without being a bit special.
Inter Milan (Finished 3rd)
With Ronaldo, Adriano, Alvaro Recoba and Christian Vieri in their ranks most of the attention was on Inter’s attack during the 01/02 campaign.
But a defence of Javier Zanetti, Ivan Cordoba, Marco Materazzi and Laurent Blanc was equally as star-studded for fans of rearguard action.
That being said, United fans would be wondering what all the fuss was about by the time Blanc rocked up at Old Trafford.
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AC Milan (Finished 4th)
It wouldn’t be a Milan side of the Noughties without some serious quality at the back.
Paolo Maldini and Alessandro Costacurta protected Milan’s goal with the grace of a brand new Armani suit.
Just to even up the odds and give Serie A strikers a chance Milan fielded Roque Junior every now and again.
Lazio (Finished 6th)
Lazio were positively greedy when it came to defenders that season.
For a start they had Sinisa Mihajlovic, who moonlighted as one of the world’s best free-kick takers when not defending.
But when not playing Mihajlovic Lazio could call upon Alessandro Nesta, Jaap Stam and, just to really top it off, Fernando Couto.