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O CAPTAIN! MY CAPTAIN!

In celebration of Diego Godin — the ACTUAL best defender of the 2010s

"There is a subtle distinction between best defender and best centre-back..."

Diego Godin’s Madrid stewardship is in its last days.

The 32-year-old is set to join Inter Milan on a free at the end of the current season, his ninth as an Atletico Madrid player.

Diego Simeone may have moulded Atleti in his image over the course of his tenure, but Godin has been his lieutenant in the field.

A hero’s hero

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A hero’s hero

No player has embodied Simone’s Atleti more — pragmatic yet emotional, disciplined yet ambitious, streetwise yet professional.

In terms of defending, pure defending, Atletico are rivalled only by Juventus in the modern era.

And so, there’s every chance Godin has actually been the best defender of the 2010s.

A competitor, always

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A competitor, always

There is a subtle distinction between best defender and best centre-back.

Modern centre-backs are required to be more than defenders; they must be equal parts deep playmaker and box-office attraction too.

Given these credentials, Sergio Ramos would certainly fancy himself as the best centre-back of the 2010s.

But in the realm of old-fashioned defending – the dark of art of preventing goals by any means necessary – only Giorgio Chiellini sits alongside Godin.

A diligent servant

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A diligent servant

It’s the modern way to cite honours in discussions of individual status.

Many dismiss Mauricio Pochettino’s managerial credentials because he’s yet to win a trophy.

Steven Gerrard’s failed pursuit of a Premier League medal is swiftly deployed as a retort whenever someone cares to compliment the Liverpool legend.

Too much importance is put on product and not enough on process.

In such a world, Ramos is the easy answer.

Real Madrid’s captain is second only to Cristiano Ronaldo when it comes to posterboys of Los Blancos’ recent Champions League supremacy.

Worthy rivals

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Worthy rivals

Too infrequently do we consider relativity.

A hat-trick of European Cups is a phenomenal accomplishment in any regard, but Real Madrid, as the biggest club in the world, are supposed to win trophies.

Expectancy is so high at the Bernabeu, even five-time Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldo was not spared the whistling treatment when he went four games without a goal for the first time in years.

Trophies are not a minimum requirement for Real’s neighbours.

Godin has won a league title, a Copa del Rey and two Europa League crowns in the red and white stripes — all hard-earned, not taken for granted.

Farewell

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Farewell

My point is that Ramos’ honours list is not sufficient justification for him over Godin in a hypothetical crowning of the decade’s best defender.

As the talisman of Atletico’s parsimonious rearguard, the Uruguayan deserves to be recognised as the modern goalscorer’s most effective nemesis.

A tenacious firefighter who wrings every drop of ability and motivation from himself whenever he steps onto a pitch, he seems capable of building defensive momentum.

Every block, clearance, tackle and interception doubles his gravity until his head is the only possible destination for every cross and long ball.

All great defenders take enjoyment from defying narrative and frustrating superstar forwards.

Godin is no exception in this regard.

And in Italy, spiritual home of defending, he will surely relish the next phase of his imperious career.


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