In an eventful Indian Super League (ISL) season that witnessed a remarkable total of 384 goals across 139 games, the spotlight often fell on forwards, overshadowing the contributions of defenders. Nevertheless, numerous defenders played pivotal roles in their teams' success, demonstrating adept defensive skills while thwarting opposition attacks.

Amidst the increased pace and intensity of the league, defenders faced heightened challenges this season. However, certain players rose to the occasion, showcasing exceptional performances in the backline.

As the curtains drew on this eventful season, let's reflect on the standout defenders who stood tall for their respective teams.

Rahul Bheke (Mumbai City FC)

The Mumbai City FC captain successfully led the Islanders to their second ISL Cup triumph, having defeated Mohun Bagan Super Giant in the final with a 3-1 win, bouncing back from a goal down. The Islanders finished off the season conceding the least number of goals in the league stage (19).

As the leader on the pitch, Bheke has contributed to eight out of Mumbai City FC’s nine clean sheets this season, winning 21 tackles and 74 duels in the process. Hailing from Mumbai, Bheke further registered 25 interceptions, seven blocks, and 48 clearances, while also creating nine goal-scoring chances up front.  

Odei Onaindia (FC Goa)

Since joining FC Goa from Hyderabad FC, the Spaniard has once again showcased his class under Manolo Marquez's guidance. Despite the Gaurs falling short of silverware, their season boasted several positives.

Defensively, FC Goa emerged as the second-best team in the ISL 2023-24 season, conceding only 21 goals during the league stage, with only Mumbai City FC conceding fewer.

Onaindia played a crucial role, contributing eight clean sheets along with 30 interceptions, 16 blocks, and 94 clearances. Additionally, he won eight tackles and 67 duels while also finding the back of the net himself.

Tiri (Mumbai City FC)

Having previously excelled for Jamshedpur FC and Mohun Bagan SG, Tiri joined Mumbai City FC as one of their marquee signings in the summer. Establishing himself as one of the league's most dependable centre-backs, the Spaniard proved to be a stalwart in Mumbai City FC's defence, helping them concede the fewest goals in the ISL 2023-24 season.

Throughout the season, Tiri contributed to five clean sheets, showcasing his defensive prowess with nine blocks, 90 clearances, and 29 interceptions. Additionally, he won 11 tackles and 77 duels while also finding the back of the net once.

Subhasish Bose (Mohun Bagan SG)

Guiding his team to their inaugural League Shield in the ISL 2023-24 season and securing an AFC Champions League 2 berth, Bose has exemplified leadership both on and off the pitch. A mainstay at Mohun Bagan SG since 2020, Bose has solidified his reputation as a defensive stalwart for the Mariners.

In the 2023-24 season, Bose played an integral role in Mohun Bagan SG's defensive solidity, contributing to nine clean sheets across all 25 games. Alongside his defensive contributions, the Indian international demonstrated his tenacity with 37 tackles won and 145 duels contested. Additionally, he registered 33 interceptions, 27 blocks, and 77 clearances, while also finding the back of the net on one occasion.

Hector Yuste (Mohun Bagan SG)

Yuste has been a pivotal defender for the Mariners this season, playing a crucial role in securing their first ISL Shield and finishing as runners-up in the ISL Cup.

With eight clean sheets, 34 interceptions, 17 blocks, 86 clearances, 18 successful tackles, and 101 duels won, the Spaniard has made significant defensive contributions in his debut season in India. Additionally, he notched a goal and an assist, further showcasing his versatility and impact on the pitch.

Hijazi Maher (East Bengal FC)

Hijazi Maher has enjoyed a standout debut season in India, earning his place on this list as the lone defender representing a team that missed out on the ISL 2023-24 playoffs.

Despite East Bengal FC's ninth-place finish in the league, Maher played a pivotal role in their triumph at the 2024 Kalinga Super Cup, their first national trophy in 12 years. The Jordanian defender has been a stalwart in the Red and Gold Brigade's backline.

Throughout the season, Maher showcased his defensive prowess, contributing to six clean sheets while recording 17 interceptions, 99 clearances, and 22 blocks. Additionally, he won 15 tackles and 74 duels, emerging as a silver lining for East Bengal FC despite their league performance.

Amey Ranawade (Odisha FC)

Ranawade has solidified his reputation with a stellar season representing Odisha FC in the league. His presence in the Kalinga Warriors' backline has posed a consistent threat to opposing attackers, thanks to his maturity and physical prowess.

The 26-year-old played a pivotal role in Odisha FC's historic campaign, guiding them to their best-ever finish in the ISL 2023-24 season, including their first-ever qualification for the semi-finals. He contributed to eight clean sheets, showcasing his defensive acumen with 29 interceptions, 34 clearances, and 10 blocks. Additionally, Ranawade excelled in duels, winning 35 tackles and 86 battles.

In attack, Ranawade displayed versatility, scoring a goal and providing six assists, further highlighting his impact across the pitch.

Milos Drincic (Kerala Blasters FC)

In his debut season, the Montenegrin centre-back has established himself as a standout defender in the ISL while wearing the yellow jersey.

Across 19 matches, Drincic has showcased his threat on both ends of the pitch, netting twice for the Blasters.

In his usual role, he has accumulated 81 clearances, 16 blocks, 20 interceptions, 14 successful tackles, and won 65 duels. Drincic has played a pivotal role in Kerala Blasters FC's five clean sheets.

Carlos Delgado (Odisha FC)

Carlos Delgado has been a reliable presence in the defense for the Kalinga Warriors, even notching a crucial semi-final goal against Mohun Bagan SG.

The Spaniard played a pivotal role in Odisha FC's highly successful ISL season, contributing 69 clearances, 15 blocks, 33 interceptions, 22 successful tackles, and 68 duels won. His efforts have helped his team secure eight clean sheets, and he also provided an assist. Moreover, Delgado concluded the ISL 2023-24 season with an impressive passing accuracy of 89%.

Jay Gupta (FC Goa)

Gupta has truly made his mark as one of the standout players in the 2023-24 season, showcasing his versatility and dynamism.

His remarkable work rate has been consistently impressive, tirelessly patrolling the pitch to disrupt opposition attacks while also creating scoring opportunities and crucial assists for his teammates.

The 22-year-old full-back has played a pivotal role in FC Goa's defensive solidity, contributing to nine clean sheets. Additionally, he has registered 41 successful tackles, 19 interceptions, eight blocks, and 33 clearances, while also winning 131 duels. On the attacking front, Gupta has demonstrated his prowess with a couple of goals, three assists, and 30 goal-scoring chances created.

Notable mentions: Ryan Edwards, Akash Mishra, Anwar Ali, Seriton Fernandes, Jerry Lalrizuala, Aakash Sangwan, Asheer Akhtar, Pratik Chaudhari, Dimitrios Chatziisaias.