Last week we took a look at the best goalkeepers in the history of the Hyundai A-League, as we continue to move through the off-season, it’s time that we took a look at the men in front of the keepers.
Defenders in many ways can make or break the man behind them with their decision-making and ability to follow direction, or their ability to read a play and time a challenge, their ability to unlock opposition midfields with precision passing or their ability to be an aerial or dead-ball threat at the other end is also vital to their team.
With those assets all in play picking a top ten became a tough process and some big names just failed to make the cut.
Honourable mentions have to go out to the following players: Cassio, Luke DeVere, Mark Milligan, Jon McKain, Michael Beauchamp, Nikolay Topor-Stanley, Ivan Franjic, Curtis Good, Bas van den Brink and Josh Rose.
Now that you have seen who has missed the cut, let us know who you think should be in the top ten below, as we begin our countdown with two defenders a day over the course of the week.
10. Michael Zullo (Queensland Roar)
At just 23 years of age Zullo is the youngest man on the list but the fact he is included in indicative of what a big future could lay in front of the Utrecht star.
Thrust into the limelight as part of what seemed to be a youth initiative by Ange Postecoglou at the Roar, Zullo impressed immediately as a wingback, with his pace and ability to set up a goal becoming big asset to the Roar.
He showed his best form in the 2008/09 season when he played his only full season in the A-League making 23 appearances for one goal and five assists and made his full Qantas Socceroos debut in the same year.
A potential long-term solution to the problems the Socceroos have had at left back, Zullo has a bright future and it’s his potential and brilliance with the ball that has him on this list.
9. Tony Popovic (Sydney FC)
The man charged with bringing immediate success to Western Sydney was also one of the best defenders this country has ever produced and if his then NSL spell at Sydney United was his A-League spell he would probably be at the top of this list.
However, father time has a habit of catching up with everyone and the Popovic that returned to the Sky Blues wasn’t the same man who left Sydney 10 years before and starred in the J-League, but also most notably for Crystal Palace.
Popovic was instrumental in helping the team gain promotion to the Premier League for the 2004/05 season, unfortunately they would be relegated back to the Championship the following year, but the Qantas Socceroos defender did make a positive impact during his time in England.
Unfortunately though he might be best remembered for his heel flick own goal against Portsmouth, which still rates among the best own goals of all time.
When he did arrive back in Australia Popovic took the Sydney FC captaincy from fellow veteran Mark Rudan and helped lead the club to the finals, where they ultimately fell short against the Roar.
As always the man who scored eight times for the Socceroos throughout his career was still an aerial threat, but he retired after one season of A-League action due to the rigours of football after a 20-year career.
The views in this article are those of the author, and do not represent those of Football Federation Australia