Sir Alex Ferguson once said, “Attack wins you games, defence wins you titles“. That point still stands today as many teams rely on a strong defensive spine for success. The attack can score as many goals as they wish but if the defence stays leaky, victory can remain difficult. We’ve compiled a list of the 10 best young defenders (all aged under 24) of Soccer Manager 2022. The defenders will cover any position on the backline, some may cover more than one, and some may even be able to play outside of the zone as well. The potential options are endless and so there is a further list of honourable mentions at the bottom of the page.
Note: As the game may be regularly updated throughout the season, the ratings are subject to change and so the images below may not be consistent all year.
Soccer Manager 2022: 10 Best Young Defenders
1. Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)
Alexander-Arnold is a player lots of teams would do anything to have. An injury last Summer saw the wingback miss out on international football but there’s no doubt about the impact he’d have had, should he have been in the squad. Coming up from the youth academy, Trent established himself in the Liverpool starting XI back in 2018/19 and has since been pivotal to Liverpool’s success. At just 22 years old, he has won both the Premier League and the Champions League and is still hungry for more. Managers would have to break the bank to sign this high-value player in SM22, but it would definitely be worth every penny.
2. Ruben Dias (Manchester City)
Manchester City’s big-money signing during the 2020/21 Summer transfer window came in the form of Ruben Dias. As a Benfica youth prospect for the greater majority of his career, it was surprising to see Dias hit the headlines for his £60 million move to the English giants. However, since then, he’s removed all doubts with a year of consistent, top-tier performances. He was a key asset to Manchester City’s charge to the double last season, winning both the PL title and the EFL Cup. Dias’ individual performances were particularly recognized among the rest after he claimed both the FWA Footballer of the Year award and the PL Player of the Season award.
3. Matthijs De Ligt (Juventus)
De Ligt was one of the gems in Ajax’s UCL semi-finalist side. As soon as he dropped his solid performances for the world to see, all the best clubs in Europe you could name were lined up eager to grab his signature. At the age of just 18, De Ligt moved to Juventus for a bumper package worth just over £75 million. Now 21, the Danish defender fits modern-day football nicely and is also comfortable with either foot – a trait that can come in handy for many tactical set-ups.
4. Achraf Hakimi (Inter Milan)
Hakimi has had a wild career so far, and he is still just 22 years old. Starting out at Real Madrid’s youth academy, the Moroccan has experienced the Bundesliga with Dortmund, the Serie A with Inter Milan, and now the Ligue 1 with PSG. He’s proved himself in each of these sides with his technical ability, and the threat from the wide areas. Although expensive, Hakimi can also cover the more advanced wing positions as well, including the attacking midfield.
5. Dayot Upamecano (Bayern Munich)
Upamecano was just recently on the move, switching from Leipzig to Bayern Munich last Summer. For the price of just under £40 million, the German giants have got their hands on one of the most sought-after center-backs in football. The 23-year-old is well suited to modern-day football with his composure on the ball, and ability to hit accurate long balls. It won’t be easy to pull the Frenchman away from his current club though, since he is a new signing and still has 5 years on his contract, though he is definitely one to watch for the future.
6. Theo Hernandez (AC Milan)
Theo Hernandez has been all over the place in his career, representing a total of 6 clubs ever since his youth. Although born in France, Hernandez started his career in Spain with CF Rayo Majadaho as his first youth club. He then switched over to Altecio Madrid‘s youth side to begin his climb up the ranks. After a loan spell with Alaves, the French man switched sides and went to Real Madrid, earning Atletico a fee of just under £22 million. After another loan spell with Real Sociedad this time, Hernandez finally left Spain in 2019/20 for AC Milan. Since then, he’s been a star in the side, recording a total of 17 goals and 18 assists during his time in Italy. Despite being an LB, Hernandez loves to get in the opposition box, and he’d make a great statement signing.
7. Alphonso Davies (Bayern Munich)
Bayern Munich picked up a wonder kid from Vancouver for £9 million back in 2018/19, and since then, that player has been quickly building up to his high potential. Alphonso Davies is a constant thorn for his opposition, at times proving to be almost unstoppable with his speed and control over the ball. Having won 3 Bundesligas, 2 German Cups and 1 Champions League already at just 20 years old, he’s one of the most wanted youngsters on the planet. Initially a winger, Davies was converted to wing-back, but can still operate in his first position at a string level in SM22 as well. At a starting overall of 85, there’s no doubt that Davies is up there for the best wing-backs available in the game.
8. Jules Kounde (Sevilla)
Last Summer, it looked as though Kounde was set on a move to the Premier League with Chelsea heavily interested. Although it didn’t go through in the end, the interest is alive, and more top European clubs are joining the race. Originally a Bordeaux youth academy player, Kounde switched to Spain, joining Sevilla for £22 million in 2019/20. From there, he began to attract interest due to his composure and suitability to modern football. The Frenchman has a huge price tag attached to him, but he looks set on some kind of move in the near future anyway.
9. Reece James (Chelsea)
Reece James is having a wild campaign with Chelsea in the Premier League. Ranking as the 2nd top scorer for the club despite being a defender, James has totaled 4 goals and 5 assists in 14 appearances. He is regarded as one of the best outputs from Chelsea’s academy in recent years and has only ever played for Wigan on loan aside from Chelsea. James also brings some useful versatility to the squad, with the ability to play in CB, wing-back, and wide midfield. It’s unlikely the Englishman could leave his youth club anytime soon, but nevertheless, he’d be a fantastic signing for most European competitions.
10. Sergino Dest (Barcelona)
Dest is one of the many wonder-kids being churned out of the Ajax youth academy, and back in 2020/21, he made a dream switch to sleeping Giants, Barcelona. He hasn’t made the impact he’d wished to since then though. The Spanish outlet is reportedly looking to cash in on the 20 million they spent since it’s no secret about their poor financial structure at the moment. Now almost reaching 60 appearances for Barca, Dest has played in a variety of positions, including in defense and closer to goal. He can function on either side of the field and is capable of playing on the attacking wings as well.
Other Best Young Defenders in Soccer Manager 2022
What you see above is merely just the tip of the iceberg. SM22 has a huge database of quality youth defenders, and a list of the top 10 would not do the rest justice. Below is a table of yet more under 24s that are all talented editions to any squad, and have a high potential to build towards in the future.
|Alessandro Bastoni||Inter Milan||85||41 million|
|Pau Torres||Villareal||84||34.5 million|
|Joe Gomez||Liverpool||84||35 million|
|Ben Chilwell||Chelsea||82||29.5 million|
|Renan Lodi||Atletico Madrid||82||29.5 million|
|Kieran Tierney||Arsenal||81||25.5 million|
|Eder Militao||Real Madrid||82||33 million|
|Nordi Mukiele||RB Leipzig||81||28.5 million|
|Davide Calabria||AC Milan||82||30 million|
Note: All values and data were taken close to the release of the game, and are subject to change throughout the season. The numbers in the table may not match exactly with those in the game.
Did you find our guide on the best young defenders of Soccer Manager 2022 helpful? Do let us know in the comments section below!