In his piece titled “Premier League football is witnessing the death of defending as I knew it - and it's not coming back”, former Manchester United defender and now successful television pundit Gary Neville argues how the standard of defending in the English Premier League is on the decline despite huge improvements in all other areas.
Neville, who is considered the best right-back of his generation, points at one astonishing statistic – since 2010, every Premier League season goal scoring chart has crossed the 1000-goal barrier. In 2009, the 20 clubs scored 942 goals between them, which was bettered by an all-time high 1052 goals in the last season.
Sir Alex Ferguson once famously said, “Attack wins you games, defense wins you titles”. Clubs have made significant investments in strengthening their defense over the years and in doing so several spending records have been shattered.
Whether clubs have reaped the benefits of that investment, is a matter of debate. But there is no denying that the English Premier League has seen some of the biggest deals brokered for defenders in world football. So here’s a look at the five most expensive defenders in the history of the English Premier League:
1) Eliaquim Mangala - £32m
Eliaquim Mangala joined Premier League champions Manchester City for an eye-bulging figure of £32m from Portuguese side FC Porto, making him the costliest defender in the history of the English Premier League. The 23-year-old is a center-back and represents France in international football.
Mangala began his professional career at Belgian club Standard Liege in 2008. He moved to FC Porto in 2011 and spent three successful years in Portugal before moving to City.
Didier Deschamps rewarded the defender for his consistent performances for his club side with a first international cap in June 2013 against Uruguay. However, Mangala did not play any part in the campaign of Les Blues at the 2014 FIFA World Cup despite being a part of the squad.
2) Luke Shaw - £31m
Southampton's Luke Shaw became the most expensive teenager in world football when he signed for Manchester United for a whopping £31m in July 2014. The 19-year-old is a left-back and represents England in international football.
Shaw was a product of the Southampton youth academy and went on to play for their senior side from 2011-14 with great distinction. His ability in the left-back position made him one of the most promising prospects in British football.
It was hardly any surprise when Manchester United came calling for his signature at the end of the 2013-14 season.
Even England manager Roy Hodgson left the experienced Ashley Cole back home and decided to take Shaw to Brazil for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The youngster played one game for England against Costa Rica during the tournament.
3) Rio Ferdinand - £30m
Rio Ferdinand became the most expensive defender in Premier League history in 2002 when he made the transition from Leeds United to arch-rivals Manchester United. At the time of his signing, such a price tag on a defender was unheard of, which is why it took 12 years for the record to be broken by Luke Shaw's transfer to United.
Rio was a product of West Ham United's youth system and played for their senior team until 2000. He then spent two years at Elland Road with Leeds United before embarking on his world record transfer to United in 2002.
The 35-year-old is regarded as one of Sir Alex Ferguson's best buys considering he accumulated 312 appearances for United and helped them win several trophies including the Champions League in 2008.
Along with Nemanja Vidic, Ferdinand formed one of Premier League's all-time great centre-back pairing. It can be safely concluded that United’s massive investment and faith in the defender bore rich dividends.
4) Joleon Lescott - £22m
Joleon Lescott moved from Everton to Manchester City for £22m in August 2009. The 32-year-old is a centre-back and represents England in international football.
Lescott played his youth football with Wolverhampton and went on to play for their senior team from 2002-06. He then moved to Everton and spent three years at Merseyside. It was here that he rose to prominence and was even handed his England debut.
In 2009, new owners to build a strong squad were pumping a lot of money in at City. Mark Hughes signed Lescott from Everton, thereby making him the second most expensive defender in the league at the time.
Lescott enjoyed considerable success at Eastlands but his career was also marred by frequent injuries. After a stay of five years in Manchester, the club offloaded the defender to West Brom in the summer of 2014.
5) David Luiz - £21m
Roman Abramovich’s Chelsea signed David Luiz in 2011 from Benfica for £21m. The 27-year-old is a centre-back and represents Brazil in international football.
Luiz spent his youth career at Sao Paulo and then Vitoria, who gave him his senior team debut in 2006. Portuguese club Benfica signed him on loan and converted the deal into a permanent one in the very same year in 2007.
Four successful years in Portugal were sufficient for Luiz to establish himself as a highly sought after defender, which is why Chelsea signed him in the winter transfer window in 2011.
The Brazilian won the Premier League as well as the Champions League with the London club. However, after Jose Mourinho's return to Stamford Bridge, the defender fell out of favor at the club and was sold to Paris Saint-Germain for a world record fee of £50m.