#35: Giorgio Chiellini, ITA

© Claudio Villa/Getty Images

The Italian national side has enjoyed a long succession of genuinely world-class center backs, and following on from the likes of Paolo Maldini, Fabio Cannavaro and Alessandro Nesta is Juventus star Giorgio Chiellini. The 27-year-old, alongside club colleague Andrea Barzagli, forms a fearsome partnership that will be the foundation of any Italian challenge this summer.

Uncompromising and rugged, Chiellini uses every inch of his frame to make life difficult for opposition attackers, while his impressive reading of the game means that he often deals with potential danger without having to get physical with an opponent. The advantages of having a familiar center-back partnership are numerous, and given Juventus' form this season, few would bet against Italy proving rock-solid in defense at Euro 2012.

In his first international tournament at Euro 2008, Chiellini impressed after he received an opportunity midway through the group stage, putting in his best performance against Spain in the quarterfinals. However, the Confederations Cup and the World Cup have been a disappointment for Italy in the years since, and the defender and his colleagues will hope to right some wrongs in Poland and Ukraine.

Expert's take: If Italy is famous for producing world-class defenders, Chiellini is perhaps the only one of the current crop who truly belongs in that pantheon. Italy manager Cesare Prandelli will rely on the rugged and versatile defender to organize and inspire. -- Andy Brassell

Stats That Matter:

• Played 34 of 38 games in defense for Juventus side that won 2011-12 Serie A, and allowed only 20 goals, best by any team since Serie A expanded in 2004-05.

• Named Serie A Defender of the Year three consecutive seasons from 2008 to 2010.

• Finished as Italy’s joint top scorer and was named in the Team of the Tournament at the 2007 UEFA U-21 Championship.

• After Juventus was relegated to Serie B for 2006-2007, he scored a brace against Arezzo in May to secure promotion back to Serie A.

• Won bronze medal at 2004 Olympic Games with Italy.

To comment, you must be a registered user. Please Sign In or Register