Who are the toughest defenders according to the world’s best players

Barcelona's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is the latest forward to name his toughest ever opponent, and Aston Villa's Tyrone Mings wasn’t the name most were expecting.

Having played against the likes of Virgil van Dijk and Sergio Ramos, Mings came as a shock to many, but Aubameyang isn't the only elite striker to have named a strange opponent as their toughest duel.

Following on from the Barcelona forward's revelation, Planet Sport takes a look at the toughest opponents named by some of the world's greatest players, and while some are fairly straightforward, you may be shocked by a few.

Cristiano Ronaldo: Ashley Cole

Cristiano Ronaldo says Ashley Cole is the toughest defender he's ever faced

During the Manchester United forward's first stint at the club, the Red Devils often found themselves going toe-to-toe with the Blues, and there were plenty of duels across the pitch between world class players.

The duo faced each other over the span of three years (2006-2009), with their most memorable battle taking place in the 2008 Champions League final.

Ronaldo may have gotten the better of Cole on that day by opening the scoring in the first half, but it hasn't stopped the legendary Portuguese striker from naming him as his toughest opponent.

Lionel Messi: Pablo Maffeo

Lionel Messi named Pablo Maffeo as his toughest ever opponent

Yes that's right - seven-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi found it hardest against Girona's Pablo Maffeo.

The Spanish defender now plies his trade for RCD Mallorca, but it was at Girona where the right-back troubled Messi.

On loan from Manchester City, Maffeo's man-marking skills made it extremely hard for Messi to impact the game.

Sergio Aguero: John Terry

John Terry

A rather strange selection considering Aguero's success against Chelsea. In fact the Argentine forward scored more goals against the Blues than any other opponent, with 15 in 22 appearances.

However, Manchester City's record goalscorer still points to John Terry as the toughest defender he's faced in his career.

The former England defender also made it as Wayne Rooney's toughest opponent, with the Derby manager posting it to Twitter following Terry's retirement.

Thierry Henry: Taribo West

Thierry Henry named Taribo West as his toughest opponent

During Henry's time at Monaco, he faced Auxerre's Taribo West in Ligue 1, and the Frenchman claims the former Derby defender's man-marking skills are the best he's ever faced.

After naming him as his toughest opponent, Henry said: "He was following you everywhere, even in the dressing room."

Erling Haaland: Virgil van Dijk

Virgil van Dijk Liverpool debut Jan18

The deadly Norwegian faced Liverpool in the Champions League during his time at Salzburg, and spoke highly of the Dutchman after his clash, "I don't think I won one duel against him because he's a physical monster."

He added: "He is fast, strong and smart, and these are three important things you must have."

Kylian Mbappe: Gianluigi Buffon

Gianluigi Buffon, Italy

Whether or not Mbappe understood the question is up for debate, but it's a pretty good answer either way.

Not many goalkeepers are good enough to keep out the Paris Saint-Germain star, but Buffon clearly did enough to find his way to the top of Mbappe's list.

Neymar: Sergio Ramos

Sergio Ramos received a red card in just his second PSG appearance

Once rivals at Barcelona and Real Madrid, both Neymar and Ramos now find themselves as teammates at PSG.

Perhaps Neymar had a say in Ramos' transfer, considering the Brazilian winger says he's the toughest opponent he's ever faced.

Gareth Bale: Micah Richards

Gareth Bale named Micah Richards as his toughest opponent

Back in 2012, when Bale was playing for Tottenham, the Welsh star named Manchester City's Micah Richards as the toughest defender he'd faced.

Whether or not his opinion has changed since joining Real Madrid, who knows, but one thing for sure is that we'd love to see Bale link up with Richards in the Sky Sports studio one day.

Interestingly, Richards also named Bale as his toughest opponent.

Harry Kane: Giorgio Chiellini

Giorgio Chiellini celebrates Italy's win over Spain, Euro 2020

Kane has faced some great defenders in his time at Spurs and England, and his toughest opponent will bring back unwanted memories of the Three Lions' Euro 2020 heartbreak.

The 28-year-old named Italy's Giorgio Chiellini as his toughest opponent, and Kane isn't alone in his choice.

Edinson Cavani, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Bruno Fernandes also named Chiellini as their toughest opponent, with the latter calling the Juventus defender "underrated".

Romelu Lukaku: Laurent Koscielny

Romelu Lukaku named Laurent Koscielny as his toughest opponent

Chelsea's £100million forward named a former Arsenal captain as his toughest opponent back in 2017, labelling Laurent Koscielny as a "clever" defender.

Lukaku's former United teammate Marcus Rashford also named Koscielny as his toughest opponent, despite the 24-year-old scoring a brace against the Gunners on his Premier League debut.

Bukayo Saka: Kyle Walker

Kyle Walker in action for Manchester City

Arsenal's young star has faced Manchester City six times throughout his career and lost every time. It's not too surprising that he therefore named City right-back Kyle Walker as his toughest opponent.

Jamie Vardy: Chris Smalling

Chris Smalling out to stop Manchester United’s Europa League charge

With five goals and four assists to his name in just 14 appearances against Manchester United, it's a tad surprising that Leicester's Jamie Vardy named Smalling his toughest opponent.

The English defender sealed a move to Roma in 2020, and Vardy is probably glad to see the back of him.

David Beckham: Roberto Carlos

David Beckham named Roberto Carlos as his toughest opponent

Two legendary players in their prime, Beckham and Carlos shared the pitch on plenty of occasions, mostly as teammates for Real Madrid. But the duo also came head-to-head in their careers, and Beckham described him not only as his toughest opponent, but "one of the best players in the world".

READ MORE: Could Dejan Kulusevski join the list of best Swedish imports in the Premier League?

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