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Top 10 Premier League defenders of the decade

Sports Mole selects its top 10 Premier League defenders of the decade, including players from Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool.

As another memorable decade of Premier League action comes to an end, it provides the perfect opportunity to reminisce about some of the greatest players to have graced the league over the past 10 years.

It is a period which has seen Manchester City rise back to the top of English football, winning their first title for 44 years in 2012 and going on to add three more Premier League crowns over the course of the decade.

Chelsea lifted the trophy on three occasions while Manchester United took their record tally up to 20 before suffering a dramatic decline following the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson.

The most remarkable of successes came from Leicester City, though, as Claudio Ranieri's Foxes overcame 5,000-1 odds to win the title in 2015-16 - one of the greatest sporting stories of all time.

Here, Sports Mole chooses its 10 best Premier League defenders from the last 10 years.

10. Andrew Robertson (Hull City, Liverpool)

Andrew Robertson in action for Liverpool on October 2, 2019© Reuters

A player who began the decade coming through the ranks at Scottish Third Division side Queen's Park and ends it as a European champion, Andrew Robertson's rise has been meteoric. Even when he made it to the Premier League with Hull City in 2014-15, no-one could have expected him to become such a key figure for one of the world's best teams, particularly when he was unable to prevent the Tigers from being relegated that year.

Hull secured promotion at the first time of asking, but a second relegation in three years was Robertson's cue to leave as Liverpool snapped him up for £10m in 2017. Initially regarded as a back-up to Alberto Moreno, Robertson quickly overtook the Spaniard in the pecking order and has now established himself as one of the best full-backs in world football.

The Scot was named in the PFA Team of the Year last season, and his extra Premier League experience is enough for him to hold off competition from Trent Alexander-Arnold for a place in this countdown.

9. Patrice Evra (Manchester United, West Ham United)

Patrice Evra pictured for Manchester United in 2013© Reuters

Manchester United may be some way from their former glories right now, but at the beginning of the decade they were still the dominant force in English football and one of the best teams in Europe. Patrice Evra was a key element of that, establishing himself as the undisputed first-choice left-back at Old Trafford by the time the 2010s had begun.

The Frenchman secured his third selection in the PFA Team of the Year in 2009-10 and lifted the Premier League trophy two further times during the decade to take his overall tally up to five. Evra eventually left United for Juventus in 2014 after making 273 league appearances for the club, although there was a brief return to the Premier League with stint at West Ham United in 2017-18.

8. Branislav Ivanovic (Chelsea)

Branislav Ivanovic pictured for Chelsea in December 2015© Reuters

Branislav Ivanovic endured a slow start to his Chelsea career after joining in January 2008, but it was in this decade that he solidified his place in the team and forged his reputation as a no-nonsense defender. The Serbian won everything there was to win at club level during the 2010s, including three Premier League titles and the 2012 Champions League.

Ivanovic's performances in the 2009-10 and 2014-15 title-winning campaigns earned him a place in the PFA Team of the Year, playing all 38 matches of the latter season. His performances had begun to dip prior to his February 2017 exit, but he had still played enough games to pick up another winner's medal when Chelsea went on to claim the title again that season.

7. Kyle Walker (Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City)

Kyle Walker in action for Manchester City on August 31, 2019© Reuters

Kyle Walker was being shipped out on loan by Tottenham Hotspur at the beginning of the decade and his long-term future at White Hart Lane looked uncertain until he broke into the first team in 2011-12, going on to miss just three league games over the course of the next two seasons. During that 2011-12 campaign he won the PFA Young Player of the Year award and was elected to the PFA Team of the Year for the first time.

Another Team of the Year selection came in 2016-17, after which his form earned him a £50m switch to Manchester City. It is at the Etihad that he has enjoyed most of his success so far, winning the title in both of his full seasons with the club and earning a third PFA Team of the Year position in 2017-18.

6. Gary Cahill (Bolton Wanderers, Chelsea, Crystal Palace)

Chelsea captain Gary Cahill is lifted by teammates after his final home appearance for the club on May 5, 2019© Reuters

Gary Cahill made his Premier League debut in 2006 and is still going strong with Crystal Palace 14 years later, having made his name at Bolton Wanderers before enhancing his reputation with Chelsea. The England international moved to Stamford Bridge in January 2012, with his £7m fee quickly proving to be one of the club's best bargains of recent times.

Cahill went on to win every trophy available to him at the Blues, including Premier League crowns in 2014-15 and 2016-17. The centre-back was named in the PFA Team of the Year for both of those campaigns, in addition to the 2013-14 season.

5. Pablo Zabaleta (Manchester City, West Ham United)

Pablo Zabaleta pictured for Manchester City in 2017© Reuters

The esteem in which Pablo Zabaleta is held was clear to see when he left Manchester City after nine seasons in 2017. The full-back was one of the key foundations on which Man City built their way up to the top of English football, joining right at the start of the Abu Dhabi revolution in 2008 and going on to help the club to two Premier League titles.

A marauding presence down the right side, Zabaleta was voted to the PFA Team of the Team in 2012-13 and played 230 Premier League games for the club before joining West Ham, where he has taken his tally up to almost 300 outings in England's top flight.

4. Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea)

Cesar Azpilicueta in action for Chelsea on October 23, 2019© Reuters

Rarely one to make the headlines, Cesar Azpilicueta has nonetheless been one of the most consistent Premier League performers over the past 10 years. The Spaniard has featured all across the back four without allowing his high standard of performance to dip, and since 2015 he has missed just four Premier League games.

That run includes an ever-present 2016-17 campaign as he picked up his second league title with the Blues, having also helped them to glory in 2014-15. Azpilicueta has somehow never been included in the PFA Team of the Year, but his individual performances were recognised with the Chelsea Players' Player of the Year award in 2013-14.

3. John Terry (Chelsea)

John Terry lifts the Premier League trophy in 2017© Reuters

When it comes to Chelsea stalwarts in the Premier League era, there are none who can match John Terry. Many of the former England captain's best days may have come before 2010, but there was still no shortage of glory afterwards, including three of his five Premier League titles.

The skipper admittedly played a limited role in the 2016-17 triumph, but he only missed one match in the 2009-10 success and played every minute of every game as Chelsea won the title in 2014-15. Terry earned his fourth PFA Team of the Year selection in the latter campaign and went on to play for Chelsea until 2017, when his 22-year career with the club came to an end after almost 500 top-flight appearances.

2. Virgil van Dijk (Southampton, Liverpool)

Virgil van Dijk celebrates scoring for Liverpool on November 30, 2019© Reuters

A theme of this countdown has been relatively cheap transfer fees, but Virgil van Dijk became the world's most expensive defender when Liverpool splashed £75m to sign him from Southampton in 2018. Most would agree that it was money well spent, though, and the deal may have changed the nature of defensive transfers forever with the Dutchman showing just how important a top-class centre-back can be.

Van Dijk's arrival almost immediately transformed Liverpool into title contenders, and he was an ever-present as the Reds missed out to Man City by one point last season. Even so, he was named the PFA Player of the Year and Premier League Player of the Season, in addition to being included in the PFA Team of the Year.

Now in his fifth Premier League campaign including his Southampton days, Van Dijk has established himself as one of the world's best players and finished second in the voting for the 2019 Ballon d'Or - the only Premier League player to have finished in the top three over the past decade.

1. Vincent Kompany (Manchester City)

Vincent Kompany celebrates his crucial goal during the Premier League game between Manchester City and Leicester City on May 6, 2019© Reuters

When looking back over the past 10 years there are a number of Premier League moments which stick out, and Vincent Kompany is responsible for a few of them. The Belgian's towering header to win the Manchester derby and lift City above United towards the end of the 2012 campaign ranks among the most important Premier League goals of all time, while his incredible long-range strike against Leicester City last season proved crucial too as City pipped Liverpool to the title.

Of course, it was in defence that Kompany's value was more regularly felt, and he is arguably the most important player in City's recent history having joined before the Abu Dhabi investment in 2008 and gone on to lead them to their finest moments. Kompany won four Premier League titles as captain over the course of the decade, in addition to lifting eight more trophies as skipper.

Particularly talismanic during the 2011-12 campaign, Kompany won the Premier League Player of the Season award that year and also earned one of his three PFA Team of the Year selections. The captain left City after 11 seasons in 2019, and his impact has been sorely missed during the first half of the 2019-20 campaign.

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