Top Tenner: The enforcers of European football

While goal-scorers get the headlines and midfield wizards receive the praise of pundits, it is football's enforcers who do the dirty work to ensure victory for their teams. These men will go to great lengths to achieve just that, making them a nightmare to play against, but a dream to have on your side.

Here is a top 10 of Europe's enforcers, football's toughest players across the big leagues.

10. Giorgio Chiellini

If it's impossible to conceive of football without goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, it's almost as tough to think of the game without one of the men who plays in front of him at Juventus. Giorgio Chiellini has seemingly been around forever, a defender who looks more like he was quarried than born, granite features towering over most strikers foolish enough to cross his path. Chiellini is the hard man's hard man, a player who looks as though he can persuade a forward away from goal through sheer menace, the prospect of imminent physical harm making them surmise that scoring actually isn't that important after all. A man you'd want on your side in any frank exchange of views.

9. Grzegorz Krychowiak

It's usually a good sign when a manager moves clubs and takes a particular player with him. So when Polish hard man Grzegorz Krychowiak joined manager Unai Emery at PSG this summer, having worked together at Sevilla, you can be fairly sure that the midfielder has something about him. And that something is broadly tackling -- lots of tackling, and lots of hard tackling. "I've not coached many players who will tell their coach they're willing to play through the pain barrier for you," said Emery when discussing his man, who describes himself as being "very aggressive." Indeed.

8. Bruno Alves

Bruno Alves was neatly summed up during Portugal's pre-Euro 2016 friendly against England when, in this game of absolutely no importance, he decided that the best way of winning a header with Harry Kane was to not head the ball, but rather use his foot. And not use his foot to get the ball, but rather Kane's head. It was the sort of act that Andoni Goikoetxea, the legendary "Butcher of Bilbao" and the man who kept the boot with which he destroyed Diego Maradona's ankle ligaments in a glass cabinet in his house, might have said "Rein it in a bit Bruno -- it's just a friendly." Alves admitted after the game: "This is an uncontrolled gesture. I did not want to foul, but I am late. I put too much commitment." To say the least.

7. Nigel De Jong

It's perhaps unfortunate that Nigel de Jong's lasting legacy in football will be that of a ruthless hard case, the hatchet man who put his studs in Xabi Alonso's chest during the 2010 World Cup final, and who broke Hatem Ben Arfa's leg with a particularly spicy challenge later that year. Because for a while he was a very impressive central midfielder, a weighty piece of concrete around which Manchester City's first league title-winning team was built, and not merely a thug. But that reputation for physicality is well-founded, as Portland Timbers midfielder Darlington Nagbe found out earlier this year, forced to leave the pitch in a wheelchair after getting the De Jong treatment.

6. Diego Godin

If it's possible for a player to be underrated in modern football, with footage and statistics and opinions available on every under-17 starlet to emerge from South America, then Diego Godin is perhaps that player. There can surely be no defender currently playing who more exemplifies the concept of "none shall pass" more than Godin, a man who expresses his toughness in less ostentatious ways than many: you won't see much vein-bulging or flying tackles from the Uruguayan, but if you look close enough you will see a quiet steel to rival any player in the world.

5. Pepe

By all accounts, Pepe is actually a pretty nice guy off the pitch. In interviews he certainly comes across as personable and friendly, and few people have a bad word to say about him away from football. If this is true, he must have the world's worst case of white line fever, that near-mania that descends over athletes when they cross the markings onto the field of play. We probably don't need to run down Pepe's long list of misdemeanours here, so we'll just recap perhaps the most notorious: in April 2009 Real Madrid were playing Getafe, and Pepe got into what we'll call a "disagreement" with Javier Casquero. He not only chopped his opponent down, but kicked him twice, once in the back, pushed his head into the turf and stamped on him a couple of times. Then, just for good measure, after he was sent off -- because of course he was sent off -- he swung at another opponent, Juan Angel Albin. He was given a ten-game ban.

4. Scott Brown

Joey Barton must be a brave man. "He ain't in my league," the new Rangers signing said, discussing his future Old Firm opponent, Scott Brown. "He is nowhere the level I am as a player. He can't get to me. If I play well, Scott Brown doesn't stand a chance. That is not me being blase. That is me just stating what I believe." Bold stuff, and one looks forward to the first Celtic vs. Rangers game of the season to see if Barton's big talk will be met with some big tackles by Brown, because boy, does he tackle big. Wiry, eyes pulsing with menace and above all very, very tough, Brown might not be the best footballer in the world, but he's one of the hardest.

3. Lorik Cana

During Euro 2016, it took Lorik Cana just 37 minutes of Albania's first game to receive a red card, and the only surprise was that his punishment was for something as prosaic and non-violent as a handball. "If the ball is between two players and I think I can win it, then I will go for it with everything," he said while playing for Sunderland. "Two-footed? I don't think I have ever done that but sometimes you are stretching to reach the ball with one foot and the other foot leaves the ground." That last sentence reads like a threat to every other midfielder in the world, the equivalent of a movie bad guy idly wandering around someone's car and saying "Very nice vehicle you've got here...it'd be an awful shame if something bad happened to it..."

2. Leonardo Bonucci

Back in 2012, Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci was at a Ferrari garage, looking to buy a new car, when two men arrived on a scooter, pointed a gun at him and demanded that he hand over his watch. Rather than handing over the timepiece, the standard line of thinking that most people would follow, Bonucci instead punched the armed villain to the ground, then chased him as he tried to escape with his accomplice. "What are you doing? Are you mad? I'll shoot you," the would-be mugger reportedly said as he ran away, terrified, gun unused. If you think you're tough, then weigh up whether you're "punch an armed robber in the face then chase him" tough, then reconsider.

1. Gary Medel

Even if you knew nothing of Gary Medel's reputation, you would only have to take one look at his bulldog features to decide not to mess with him. More a wall of muscle than a man, tackling Medel must be akin to kicking a brick wall. He's actually calmed down a little in the last couple of years, sent off just once in the last three seasons, but before that he'd been on the receiving end of a whopping seven red cards in two campaigns.

The most notorious came in 2013 while playing for Sevilla, when he was dismissed for slapping Diego Costa (something most opponents have probably wanted to do down the years), had to be dragged off the pitch, furious, and took out his frustration on an innocent nearby plastic chair. The plastic splintered and struck a policeman in the face. Even garden furniture isn't safe with Medel around.