Thomas Muller considers Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos and Bayern Munich team-mate Mats Hummels to be among the finest defenders in world football.
The World Cup-winning forward has been fortunate enough to play against and with some of the finest performers in the business with Bayern and Germany.
He has collected numerous major honours working alongside the likes of Hummels, Javi Martinez and Jerome Boateng, while challenging for more on domestic, European and global scenes.
Picking the best of the bunch is no easy task for a man of Muller’s calibre, but he concedes that certain defensive figures stand out above the rest.
He told Goal when asked to select a top three of the world’s toughest defenders: “I met Jaap Stam one time in Mark van Bommel's testimonial. It was a friendly match and he was in my team. So I was lucky!
“Of course, Real Madrid won three Champions League titles, I think Sergio Ramos is one top level defender.
“But also with Mats Hummels, Javi Martinez, Jerome Boateng – when I play against them in the training sessions, it’s very tough.”
Muller has not had too much trouble breaching defences down the years, having forged a reputation as one of the finest deep-lying forwards on the planet.
Those efforts have seen him net over 150 times for Bayern and on 37 occasions for Germany – with that haul including 10 at World Cup finals, which leaves him just six short of record-setting countryman Miroslav Klose.
Pressed on whether he could set a new benchmark on the grandest of stages, Muller said: “I think [Klose] has a little fear that I can overcome him and score more goals but I don’t know.
“We have to watch what happens in Russia. But of course with my character, I will try. So we will see.”
Muller will likely be one of Germany's key players at next summer’s showpiece in Russia, but the 27-year-old admits that he still does not hold such a status in the eyes of his mother.
He said: “For her, I’m her child, also now in this moment!
“But in the world of football, I become a bigger and bigger star, that’s right.”
Muller collected a sixth Bundesliga title in 2016-17 and will be looking to help defend that crown when the new season gets underway on August 18.
Prior to that, Carlo Ancelotti’s side have a Super Cup clash to take in with Borussia Dortmund and a DFB Pokal first round tie with Chemnitzer FC to negotiate.