Update: The January transfer window is done and teams around the world have made their move to shore up their back lines with some of the best defenders in football. We've updated our picks to reflect this, as well as highlight some of the breakout defensive stars of the season so far.
In the arcadey world of FIFA 23, putting an end to the high-scoring action requires the unique talents of the best defenders in world football.
While it might not be as exciting as bearing down on the goal to score in the last minute, last-ditch defending is its own exhilarating reward. So even though a solid defence can’t win you a match on its own, it can definitely stop you from losing.
The best centre backs in FIFA 23 aren’t the lumbering behemoths traditionally associated with the position. They’re as fast, strong and technically proficient as the skillful attackers they’re trying to stop, with more and more emphasis being placed on their ability to start attacks by top managers.
Then there’s the modern full back position, which is morphing more and more into an offensive wing back role where crossing and long passing is just as important as stopping attacks.
This means that the best left backs and right backs in FIFA 23 excel both offensively and defensively, with incredible physical attributes being a necessity.
Legendary Italian striker Gianluca Vialli once said that the right back was always the worst player on the pitch, because if they were good at defending they would be a centre back and if they were good at attacking they would be playing right midfield. Try telling that to the likes of Joao Cancelo, Kyle Walker, or Reece James.
First we’ll go through the absolute top class defenders in FIFA 23, as judged by overall rating, so you know who you will likely be up against in the latter stages of the biggest competitions.
Then we’ll list some slightly lower overall players with huge potential for the future. These are the Career Mode bargains who will be lighting up world football for years to come.
Finally, we will go over some of our favourite players to sign in FIFA 23 Career Mode. We’ll cover players for a variety of budgets, but they’re all awesome.
If you're looking to do a long term Career Mode though, made sure to check out our list of FIFA 23 Wonderkids, as well as our rundowns of the best strikers and wingers in FIFA 23, the best CAMs, CMs and CDMs in FIFA 23 and the best Goalkeepers in FIFA 23.
Who are the best Defenders to sign in FIFA 23 Career Mode?
- Anthony Rouault - Toulouse - 21 - £5.6m Value/ £9,000 Wage - 73 OVR/ 84 POT
A solid, accessible and realistic signing who's having a breakout season in Ligue 1.
Anthony Rouault doesn't have the speed or strength of some of the more overpowered options below, but makes up for it with good defending stats and a touch of class on the ball with decent long and short passing.
- Calvin Bassey - Ajax - 22 - £7.7m Value/ £9,000 Wage - 74 OVR/ 83 POT
After an incredibly impressive turn in Rangers' European run a couple of seasons ago, Calvin Bassey got a big move to Ajax, but an up-and-down time has left him with a lower potential ceiling than before.
However, in FIFA 23 Career Mode that just makes him more accessible and dynamic potential can sort out any weaknesses you find in his game.
Starting with 88 Sprint Speed and Strength means you have plenty of athleticism to compensate for his lack of Defensive Awareness, that will quickly grow with training.
- Antonio Silva - Benfica - 18 - £10.3m Value/ £3,000 Wage - 75 OVR/ 87 POT
Still incredible value for the price given his starting stats and potential, Antonio Silva is sure to be one of the most popular pick-ups in FIFA 23.
His overall has shot up more than 5 ratings since the start of FIFA 23 and shows no signs of stopping.
It's hard to imagine that 80 sprint speed, strength and stamina, along with around 75-ish defending and passing only equals 75 overall, but who's complaining when that means he can be bought for cheap relatively cheap by a wide range of teams.
- Fikayo Tomori - AC Milan - 24 - £55m Value/ £70,000 Wage - 84 OVR/ 90 POT
With great speed and strength to complement his awesome defending stats, if you’re playing with one of the world’s richest clubs and are in need of a centre back, Fikayo Tomori should be your go-to choice.
But that’s not all, with 90 potential to grow into as well, his 85 pace, 85 strength and 85 Defending should get even more overpowered quite quickly.
- Josko Gvardiol - RB Leipzig - 20 - £50m Value/ £40,000 Wage - 81 OVR/ 89 POT
Already amazing despite being just 20 years old, Josko Gvardiol has been easily the best defender to sign in Career Mode for the last couple of years. FIFA 23 is no exception, only this time his solid starting overall makes him inaccessible to all but the clubs with the deepest pockets.
Alongside pace, strength and decent defending all in the mid-80s, Gvardiol’s ability to play at left back means he’s also a strong dribbler and passer - making him the perfect ball-playing defender.
- Noah Mbamba - Bayer Leverkusen - 17 - £1.5m Value/ £500 wage - 64 OVR/ 84 POT
Despite getting a pretty brutal potential nerf coming into FIFA 23, Noah Mbamba is still one of the best Road to Glory signings you can make in FIFA 23 Career Mode.
A variety of decent stats make him usable from the start in weaker teams, and you can’t argue with a fee that cheap for such high potential.
Since his move to the Bundesliga with Leverkusen he's been re-classified as a CDM, but still has CB in his listed positions.
- Jurrien Timber - Ajax - 21 - £40m Value/ £14,000 Wage - 80 OVR/ 88 POT
With Lisandro Martinez’s transfer to Manchester United, short kings at the centre of defence are all the rage (as if Franco Baresi, Carles Puyol and Bobby Moore never existed).
If you want to bring a taste of the technical, athletic, ball-playing Total Football style to your defence, look no further than Ajax’s Jurrien Timber - because who else would he play for, really?
He makes up for his lack of imposing stature with good defensive awareness and tackling, as well as rapid pace, solid strength and mid-80s jumping to win aerial duels.
- Jeremiah St. Juste - Sporting - 25 - £9m Value/ £12,000 Wage - 76 OVR/ 80 POT
A bit cheaper because he’s a bit older, Jerry St. Juste is one of my favourite centre backs for mid-tier clubs.
The standout stats here are 90 acceleration and 96 sprint speed, which makes it very unlikely he’ll be beaten in a straight race during transition. But he’s not just about pure speed, with around 80 defending and 85 jumping to make up for a lack of strength, he’s got good stats all-round considering his 76 overall.
Not a player to sleep on given his accessibility. And just so you’re aware, you have to put the period after “St.” to make him come up when searching players.
- Maxence Lacroix - Wolfsburg - 22 - £13.3m Value/ £30,000 Wage - 76 OVR/ 85 POT
Very similar to St. Juste, but younger with more potential and a much higher price tag.
Disastrously, Lacroix has had his sprint speed reduced in FIFA 23 - RIP. That means he’s not quite as much of a cheat code as last year, but with a starting potential growth of 9 he’ll probably earn all of that back and more with a good season.
A recent reduction in overall rating and starting potential has taken Lacroix price tag down a bit too, but it's a decent trade-off since his stats are still so solid.
- Oumar Solet - RB Salzburg - 22 - £9m Value/ £17,000 Wage - 74 OVR/ 83 POT
Yet another ridiculous deal for a physical monster. 85 pace and nearly 90 strength make Oumar Solet almost a must-buy for any mid-tier club that can afford him.
And again, a starting potential growth of 9 is more than enough ratings for him to smooth out some of his more raw stats - defensive awareness and positioning need some work in particular.
He’s a decent passer too, so it’s not all brute force.
- Josip Sutalo - Dinamo Zagreb - 22 - £18.9m Value/ £1,000 Wage - 77 OVR/ 85 POT
For a more realistic signing for a variety of teams, who’s still a really good pickup, check out the Croatian Josip Sutalo at Dinamo Zagreb.
Pretty much all of his key stats are around or approaching 80, and with tons of potential he has room to grow into a dominant defender in his own right.
- Giorgio Scalvini - Bergamo Calcio - 18 - £3m Value/ £5,000 Wage - 70 OVR/ 85 POT
If you’re after cheaper signings for a Road to Glory save, Giorgio Scalvini at the team formerly known as Atalanta is an option.
He’s more of a traditional defender than the athletic players I’ve listed so far, favouring positioning and tackling over speed and strength. If that’s your kind of thing, he has enough potential to be a really good addition to your lineup.
- Leonidas Stergiou - St. Gallen - 20 - £2m Value/ £2,500 Wage - 67 OVR/ 84 POT
Another Road to Glory Career Mode signing, Stergiou is a shorter centre back (about 5ft 9”), but with 88 jumping to compensate.
He’s got decent stats in strength and defending and should be good enough for lower leagues. While his technical stats are quite spartan - a bit like his name, ha ha - he’s got enough potential growth to turn into a good player.
- Micky van de Ven - Wolfsburg - 21 - £3m Value/ £10,000 Wage - 69 OVR/ 84 POT
One last Road to Glory option, but left-footed this time. Micky van de Ven has really good sprint speed and strength, as well as decent defending for his overall rating.
Pick him up on a cheap fee and reap the rewards as you climb the leagues.
Who are the best left backs and right backs to sign in FIFA 23 Career Mode?
- Balde - Barcelona - 18 - £12.9m Value/ £23,000 Wage - 76 OVR/ 87 POT
Some impressive performances - particularly in the Spanish Super Cup against Real Madrid - have made Balde one of the hottest full-back prospects in world football.
Rapid pace, decent crossing and dribbling and passable defending stats make him usable in just about any squad.
- Bjorn Meijer - Club Brugge - 19 - £3.7m Value/ £7,000 Wage - 71 OVR/ 85 POT
At nearly 6ft 3", Bjorn Meijer is more dominating physical presence than flying wing-back, but for a versatile technical player with a wide skill-set and lots of potential, you can't ask for much more.
- Tom Rothe - Dortmund - 17 - £1.5m Value/ £500 Wage - 65 OVR/ 82 POT
For an even cheaper, and even more imposing, option check out Tom Rothe from Dortmund's reserves, who at 6ft 4" has the stature to use his potential growth in a variety of different ways.
- Destiny Udogie - Udinese (Spurs) - 19 - £14.6m Value/ £29,000 Wage - 76 OVR/ 89 POT
A bumper boost of +7 to his starting potential has turned Destiny Udogie from a decent looking player into an almost must-buy when he returns to White Hart Lane from loan.
Solid speed, strength, stamina and crossing make him the ideal wing-back.
- Fran Garcia - Rayo Vallecano - 22 - £12m Value/ £12,000 Wage - 75 OVR/ 83 POT
A mix of great physical attributes and solid defending make Fran Garcia a versatile pickup for a wide variety of teams, whether it’s in the starting 11 or on the bench.
He's also Real Madrid-bound from next season, so take this opportunity to snap him up before he's freshly transferred.
- Milos Kerkez - AZ Alkmaar - 18 - £2.5m Value/ £1,000 Wage - 68 OVR/ 85 POT
A huge upgrade has made Milos Kerkez an awesome Career Mode option with blistering pace, decent defending and dribbling and enough stamina to play 90 minutes week-in-and-week-out.
- Quentin Merlin - Nantes - 20 - £3.5m Value/ £8,000 Wage - 70 OVR/ 84 POT
Quentin Merlin is a wizard on the ball - see what I did there?
With 78 dribbling and 77 crossing he’s a great offensive option, with a huge 14 points of starting potential growth to build his physical capabilities.
- Liberato Cacace - Empoli - 21 - £5m Value/ £5,000 Wage - 72 OVR/ 82 POT
After a couple of years on loan, Liberato Cacace has moved to Empoli per menantly. He’s kind of the opposite of Merlin, with great physical stats but is more raw technically.
This makes him a great Road to Glory signing in FIFA 23, with a lot of potential to buff out his weaknesses.
- Jeremie Frimpong - Leverkusen - 21 - £30m Value/ £35,000 Wage - 80 OVR/ 86 POT
If you’re playing with a top side, definitely check out Jeremie Frimpong, who is an elite attacking option at just 21 years old.
When you’re going forward 95 pace with 85 stamina, dribbling and crossing is tough to argue with, while 75-ish defending should be good enough too.
- Tiago Djalo - Lille - 22 - £10m Value/ £20,000 Wage - 75 OVR/ 82 POT
His top listed position is centre back, but Tiago Djalo can play at both left back and right back as well.
With good speed and strength he has enough presence to deal with even top wingers, which is really important given all of the overpowered attackers in FIFA 23.
- Hugo Siquet - Freiburg - 19 - £3m Value/ £5,000 Wage - 70 OVR/ 81 POT
Despite a bit of a potential downgrade, Hugo Siquet’s 80 crossing from last year is still intact, making him one of the best value attacking full backs you can pick up in Career Mode.
- Juan Escobar - Cruz Azul - 25 - £7m Value/ £40,000 Wage - 75 OVR/ 78 POT
The South American leagues have a lot of really good full backs considering the overall ratings in those leagues. The Paraguayan Juan Escobar has nearly 85 pace, strength, jumping and stamina, as well as 75 dribbling and tackling.
He looks like a great pickup for mid-tier teams.
- Tiago Santos - Estoril - 19 - £2.8m Value/ £2,000 Wage - 69 OVR/ 83 POT
But for more modest budgets, Tiago Santos is fast, with good stamina and dribbling, for a cheap fee and wage.
He's also got mid-70s Defensive Awareness and Standing Tackle, which is rare for teenage full-backs. This means he can grow into his solid potential without compromising your back-line like some other options.
Best overall defenders in FIFA 23
|Best overall defenders in FIFA 23|
|Player name:||Age:||Position(s):||Team:||Overall:||Starting Potential:|
|Virgil van Dijk||30||CB||Liverpool||89||89|
|Ruben Dias||25||CB||Man City||88||91|
|Joao Cancelo||28||RB, LB||Man City||88||88|
|Antonio Rudiger||29||CB||Real Madrid||87||88|
|Aymeric Laporte||28||CB, LB||Man City||86||87|
|David Alaba||30||CB, LB||Real Madrid||86||86|
|Theo Hernandez||24||LB||AC Milan||85||90|
|Matthijs de Ligt||22||CB||Bayern||85||89|
|Niklas Sule||26||CB, RB||Dortmund||85||87|
|Kyle Walker||32||RB||Man City||85||85|
|Fikayo Tomori||24||CB||AC Milan||84||90|
|Jules Kounde||23||CB, RB||Barcelona||84||89|
|Eder Militao||24||CB, RB||Real Madrid||84||89|
|Lucas Hernandez||26||CB, LB||Bayern||84||86|
|Dani Carvajal||30||RB||Real Madrid||84||84|
|Stefan Savic||31||CB||Atletico Madrid||84||84|
|Raphael Varane||29||CB||Manchester United||84||85|
|Stefan de Vrij||30||CB||Inter||84||84|
Lower overall, high potential defenders in FIFA 23
|Lower overall, high potential FIFA 23 Defenders|
|Player name:||Age:||Position(s):||Team:||Starting overall:||Starting potential:|
|Jurrien Timber||21||CB, RB||Ajax||80||88|
|Mohamed Simakan||22||CB||RB Leipzig||78||86|
|Marc Guehi||21||CB||Crystal Palace||78||86|
|Rayan Ait Nouri||21||LB||Wolves||76||83|
|Giorgio Scalvini||18||CB||Bergamo Calcio||70||85|
|Piero Hincapie||20||LB, CB||Leverkusen||78||85|
|Pierre Kalulu||22||CB, RB||AC Milan||78||85|
|Sergino Dest||21||RB, LB||AC Milan (Barcelona)||77||85|
|Aaron Hickey||20||RB, LB||Brentford||75||82|
|Alessandro Fontanarosa||19||CB, LB||Inter||67||84|
|Micky van de Ven||21||CB, LB||Wolfsburg||71||85|
|Adrien Truffert||20||LB||Stade Rennais||76||84|
|Eric Martel||20||CB||FC Koln||67||84|
|Noah Mbamba||17||CB||Club Brugge||64||84|