No great side is ever complete without a strong centre-back partnership, whether you’re Pep Guardiola or embarking on your own managerial adventure on Football Manager.
Indeed some of best sides to have ever graced the game can be defined by the formidable duo at the back: Laurent Blanc and Marcel Desailly; Alessandro Costacurta and Franco Baresi; Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol.
More recently Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez have formed a pretty sturdy partnership at the back for Liverpool. The duo have established an impressive bulwark in their own half, which has thwarted the attacking exploits of numerous teams and made Anfield a sanctuary.
Jurgen Klopp famously made Van Dijk the most expensive defender in world football when he paid £75m to Southampton for the Dutchman’s signature in 2017; the move has since proven inspired by the Liverpool boss.
But, not every club has pockets deep enough to lavishly wave that sort of cash around, so we’ve scoured the market in search of some of the best centre-back options FM20 has to offer, and you won’t be spending Van Dijk/Harry Maguire money either.
FM20 best cheap CBs to sign – Under £1m
Ricardo Ferreira (unattached)
It doesn’t come much cheaper than a free agent to kick things off. Canada-born Portugal international Ferreira is one of the shrewdest signings you’ll make this year.
The former AC Milan, Porto and Braga man is a modern centre-back in every sense, with his natural role being that of a ‘Ball Playing Defender’. He has strong stats for tackling, passing, marking and technique, while at 6 ft 3 in he comes with a physically-imposing frame, but certainly knows how to pass the ball.
Nicolo Armini (Lazio)
Join the queue as teenage prodigy Armini is being courting by European heavyweights Arsenal, Inter Milan and Liverpool among others upon loading up your new save.
The talented defender is yet to sign his first professional contract with Lazio, so you have the ability to prise him away from the Eternal City while paying a measly compensation package. With excellent defensive attributes, including 14 for heading, marking and tackling, this one really is a no-brainer.
Strahinja Pavlovic (Partizan)
Moving on to another wonderkid, only this time in the guise of Pavlovic, and while you won’t be able to approach him without his parent club’s permission, Partizan aren’t commanding a huge fee anyway.
Indeed, you can sign this precocious tackler for less than a £1m and really you shouldn’t think twice. He may only be 18, but he stands at an impressive 6 ft 4 in and boasts incredible metrics for a player still in the formative years of his career. If nurtured and blooded in methodically, you will certainly reap the rewards down the line.
FM20 best CBs to sign for £1m-£10m
Solomon Kvirkvelia (Lokomotiv Moscow)
Some of Georgia’s most renowned players have been defenders, Kakha Kaladze and Zurab Khizanishvili to name but two, and another who has been making considerable strides for the national colours is Kvirkvelia.
The two-time Georgian Footballer of the Year is something of a hidden gem on FM20 and can be picked up for an exceptionally cheap price from Lokomotiv Moscow. For middling top-flight clubs this will be one of the wisest investments you make, and like many on this list, the centre-back comes with a mountainous frame but very competent ball-playing skills.
Alan Franco (Independiente)
Moving on to another under-the-radar centre-back, though this time we’re travelling across the pond, with Argentina international Franco.
The Independiente defender is a bit of a brute to say the least, with key stats for strength, bravery and heading. He may not come with the size advantage of those above, but what he lacks in height — he is still 6 ft in fairness — he more than makes up for in his reading of the game, positional awareness and tackling ability.
Scott McKenna (Aberdeen)
From Argentina to Aberdeen and another relatively unknown centre-back who packs a punch but certainly doesn’t pack a huge price tag.
The Scotland international is a more traditional centre-back, boasting strong attributes for heading, tackling and marking, as well as a whole host of key physical traits. He’s certainly not a world beater, but for under £10m he’s an astute acquisition and has tremendous potential.
FM20 best CBs to sign for £10m-£20m
Filip Benkovic (Leicester City)
Move aside Caglar Soyuncu, there’s a new modern centre-back with vast potential at the King Power, and his name is Benkovic.
The hulking Croat emerged from Dinamo Zagreb’s esteemed academy and transferred to Leicester two years ago, but he is yet to make a Premier League appearance. Despite this he remains one of the most gifted centre-backs — in terms of potential — on FM20 and can be acquired for less than £20m — that fee will triple in just a few year’s time.
Next up is an absolute weapon at the back in Torino’s Lyanco, who possesses a perfect blend of hard-hitting defensive characteristics with a refined passing range.
The Brazilian packs a South American bite, but also boasts that illustrious Selecao silk; he’s able to pick a pass, operate as a springboard for attacking transitions and can carrying the ball forward comfortably. He won’t cost you over £20m, but he will in just a couple of seasons, so act quick.
Jerome Onguene (Red Bull Salzburg)
Ah Red Bull Salzburg, a breeding ground for rich, unpolished talent. Only this time we’re not looking to plunder their attacking ranks, but rather, raiding their often-overlooked backline.
The likes of Sadio Mane, Erling Braut Haaland and Takumi Minamino have stolen the headlines in recent years, but the club are certainly no laggards when it comes to producing top defensive talent, as we will see later on in this list. The latest to rise to prominence at the Red Bull Arena is Onguene, who truly transforms into a leading centre-back on the game.
FM20 best CBs to sign for £20m and above
Alessio Romagnoli (AC Milan)
Crazy territory now, so time to join the party ‘mini-Mourinhos’ and Guardiola wannabes. If you have £40m lying around and need defensive reinforcements, then look no further than the San Siro.
Romagnoli is a truly exceptional talent, embodying the true catenaccio spirit of elegant Italian defending. He is blessed with an elite all-round game and can function effectively in any defensive role, even as a libero if you want to go old school Franz Beckenbauer.
Kristoffer Ajer (Celtic)
In fact, if you’re genuinely considering a libero, then Ajer would actually be the perfect choice.
He has world class mental attributes, including 18 for determination, 16 for leadership and 17 for teamwork, while his ball-playing credentials are simply outrageous: 14 first touch, 15 passing, 14 technique, 15 vision — 12 finishing for goodness sake! Those are truly incredible stats for a centre-back. That said Ajer’s versatility also allows him to play comfortably as a deep-lying playmaker or even in central midfield.
Dayot Upamecano (RB Leipzig)
And here we have it. The piece de resistance of Salzburg’s esteemed scouting network and academy. The club may be a treasure trove for exceptional attacking quality, but here we have a defensive wunderkind shining through – albeit at another club.
Upamecano — now with affiliated club RB Leipzig — is a must-sign at any price for those in the elite bracket. His attributes far transcend his young age, and given time, he will be a £70m-valued player.
FM 20 best centre backs to sign – for every budget
- Ricardo Ferreira (unattached)
- Nicolo Armini (Lazio)
- Strahinja Pavlovic (Partizan)
- Solomon Kvirkvelia (Lokomotiv Moscow)
- Alan Franco (Independiente)
- Scott McKenna (Aberdeen)
- Filip Benkovic (Leicester City)
- Lyanco (Torino)
- Jerome Onguene (Red Bull Salzburg)
- Alessio Romagnoli (AC Milan)
- Kristoffer Ajer (Celtic)
- Dayot Upamecano (RB Leipzig)