Defenders are renowned for their robust tackles, interceptions, and ability to thwart opponent attacks, forming a stalwart defensive line that denies the opposition offensive opportunities.

However, imagine if a defender not only excels in these defensive duties but also contributes significantly in the attacking third. This dual role can profoundly influence a team's style of play, adding versatility and boosting their chances to score.

For many teams, centre-backs with height, strength, and aerial prowess are expected to contribute in set-piece situations, where their precise heading can turn defensive moments into scoring opportunities. Meanwhile, full-backs are expected to build up play and advance with the ball and become crucial figures in transitioning from defence to attack.

The Indian Super League (ISL) 2023–24 season has witnessed several defensive heroes making a notable impact offensively through goals and assists. Let’s figure out the best five defenders who recorded the most goal contributions last season.

Amey Ranawade (Odisha FC) – 7 goal contributions


Under Sergio Lobera’s leadership, the right full-back of Odisha FC maintained excellent form throughout the season, finishing with the highest number of assists among defenders and helping his team reach the semi-finals for the first time.

Ranawade was a consistent presence in the Kalinga Warriors lineup, demonstrating his potential with accurate crosses and visionary passes. The 26-year-old also scored his first ISL goal, securing the winner against Bengaluru FC as Lobera’s men edged past the Blues with a 3-2 scoreline.

Jay Gupta (FC Goa) – 5 goal contributions


Playing in his debut ISL season, Jay Gupta showcased commendable performances, aiding FC Goa’s semi-final qualification. Gupta's impactful season began with a memorable 96th-minute left-footed goal against Odisha FC. 

Besides recording the highest number of tackles (41), Gupta was effective with his quick overlapping runs down the left flank and powerful strikers from the edge of the box. The full-back created 30 chances and provided three assists in the ISL 2023-24 season.

Mourtada Fall (Odisha FC) – 3 goal contributions


Renowned for his imposing presence in the defensive line, Mourtada Fall holds the league record for most goals scored by a defender. The Senegalese centre-back posed a potent threat during dead-ball situations and was particularly effective with his precise headers. Fall showcased his heading prowess with a brace in Odisha FC’s 2-3 loss against the Gaurs, both goals coming from corner kicks.

Ankit Mukherjee (Chennaiyin FC) – 3 goal contributions


Ankit Mukherjee thrived with consistent playing time under Owen Coyle's guidance. The Kolkata-born defender clinched a dramatic 91st-minute winner against NorthEast United FC and also contributed a goal against Odisha FC, playing a pivotal role in Marina Machans’ late qualification for the playoffs. Mukherjee also created 15 scoring opportunities last season and registered an assist, enjoying a memorable campaign.

Nishu Kumar (East Bengal FC) – 3 goal contributions


In his debut season for East Bengal FC, the full-back impressed with his performances across both flanks, playing a crucial role under head coach Carles Cuadrat. Despite being a defender, Kumar emerged as a key playmaker for the Red and Gold Brigade, finishing as their joint top-assist provider with three assists. Known for his pinpoint accurate crosses, intelligent passing, and ability to play with both feet, the versatile defender showcased his offensive prowess by creating 11 scoring opportunities in the ISL 2023-24 season.