Some say the best offense is having a good defence, and the five players below are a testament to that statement.
Their infallibility at the back has provided their teams with the confidence to push forward in attack, safe in the knowledge that should they lose possession, there's someone at the back they can count on to repel opposition attacks.
Some are classy ball-playing defenders, while others hail from the old school of no-nonsense defending.
In no particular order, here are ESPNSTAR.com's top five defenders of 2011.
Nemanja Vidic (Man United, Serbia)
At times, the best way to gauge how important a player is to his side is to assess their performances when he isn't playing. And Manchester United captain Nemanja Vidic is an ideal case-study in that regard.
In his first season as club captain, Vidic led the Red Devils to a record 19th league title, before his start to the 2011/12 season was curtailed by injury - his absence most notable when United were humiliated in a 6-1 loss to arch-rivals Manchester City at Old Trafford.
Following that abject display, the Serbian, who is now retired from international football, was hurried back into the starting lineup, and his return coincided with four wins and a draw in United's following five games, during which they conceded just once.
Unfortunately, it is unlikely he will be featuring in this list next year, after another injury ruled him out for the rest of the season.
Thiago Silva (AC Milan, Brazil)
In May, AC Milan claimed their first Serie A title since 2004, finishing six points ahead of city rivals Inter Milan. While they had the second-best strike rate in the land, scoring four goals less than the Nerazzurri, they had the best defensive record, conceding just 24 goals, fifteen less than Napoli and Lazio.
Plenty of credit has to go to Thiago Silva, who formed an outstanding partnership with veteran Alessandro Nesta at the heart of the Rossoneri defence. The Brazilian was strong in the air, sharp in the tackle and hardly afforded his opponents a yard of space. Furthermore, Silva was extremely inventive from the back, regularly initiating Milan attacks from their own half.
With Barcelona reportedly keen on signing him, the Rossoneri face a tough fight keeping him at the San Siro.
Vincent Kompany (Man City, Belgium)
2011 will forever be remembered as the year Manchester City established themselves as a dominant force in European football. But while the Citizens' highlight reel over the last twelve months will mainly feature the likes of David Silva, Carlos Tevez, Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero, all their good attacking work would be for naught if not for a solid defence.
And for that, we give credit to Vincent Kompany, who has been an absolute rock at the back for Roberto Mancini's side. However, it is his leadership qualities that truly make him stand out from the rest, standing in for the injured Tevez early on in the year, helping City to the FA Cup, before taking over on a permanent basis following the Argentinean's indiscretions.
Kompany has led his charges by example, even remonstrating with his team-mates on a number of occasions when they are out of line (like chastising Mario Balotelli after a provocative goal celebration against Villarreal). Still only 25, there's plenty more to come from the towering Belgian centre-back.
Yuto Nagatomo (Inter Milan, Japan)
At the start of 2011, hardly anyone would have heard of a pint-sized Japanese fullback by the name of Yuto Nagatomo. Then at Cesena, the 25-year-old was still trying to make a name for himself in Italy, having joined from FC Tokyo in the summer of 2010.
However, he impressed Inter scouts sufficiently in his sixteen Serie A appearances for the Nerazzurri to sign him on loan for the rest of the 2010/11 season, sending Davide Santon in the other direction.
And the dynamic defender slotted in seamlessly into Leonardo's starting eleven, scoring two goals in 19 appearances and convincing the Inter hierarchy to sign him on a permanent deal. Since then, he has featured prominently under both Gian Piero Gasperini and Claudio Ranieri.
Nagatomo not only tasted success with Inter, being part of the Coppa Italia-winning squad, but also on the international front, when he helped Japan to the Asian Cup in January, despite missing a penalty in the semi-final shootout victory over Korea Republic.
Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich, Germany)
The first half of 2011 was a forgettable few months for Bayern, as they were bundled out of the Champions League in the first knockout round by Inter Milan, and finished third in the Bundesliga - embarrassing by their lofty standards.
Throughout that torrid spell, Lahm was a constant shining light for the Bavarian outfit, leading his charges by example and putting in accomplished displays despite regularly being switched between the two flanks.
Six months on, and Lahm's proficient displays and leadership has helped Bayern to the top of the Bundesliga, where they currently lead Borussia Dortmund and Schalke by three points. In addition, Bayern made light work of being drawn in the Champions League's "Group of Death", finishing ahead of Napoli, City and Villarreal.
On the international front, Lahm was part of the Germany side that qualified for Euro 2012 by finishing top of Group A with ten wins from ten, scoring 34 goals in the process and conceding just seven.