No. 12 Thiago Silva, PSG/Brazil
Why he's ranked: In the football-obsessed nation of Brazil, boys tend to grow up dreaming of becoming the most gifted goal scorer in the game, but this one-time flying winger has proved himself to be a world leader at the other end of the pitch. Paris Saint-Germain and Brazil are fortunate to have this polished centre-back on their side.
Key stat: 92.7% passing accuracy this season, second in Ligue 1 (minimum 1000 passes).
What the experts say: "Technically speaking, he is simply the best defender in the world." - Gustavo Hofman, ESPN Brasil
"[He is] a defender who could play in any position. [He] compensates for his medium height with tremendous technique." - Leonardo Bertozzi, ESPN Brasil
"[He is] the best defender in the world, a perfect reader of the game. Captain of the Brazilian national team and a very good leader." - Paulo Cobos, ESPN Brasil
"A dressing room leader and fundamental piece in Scolari's scheme due to his tactical discipline, Thiago Silva will be at his prime in his homeland after playing for elite teams in every country where he played, including Italy and France. Not only does he look unbeatable in one-on-one situations, he also manages to transmit this attitude to the whole defence. Brazil would definitely be a different -- and weaker -- team without him." - Roberto Martinez, ESPN Argentina