Will Jonny Evans go down as Northern Ireland’s greatest defender of all-time?

For one reason or another, Jonny Evans doesn’t seem to get the praise that his glittering career is deserving of. Perhaps it has something to do with Evans’ decision to avoid the limelight and lead a quieter life off the pitch than some of the Premier League’s glitzier stars.

There may also be an argument to be made about Evans being considered a bit-part player who came through the Manchester United ranks alongside players like John O’Shea and Darron Gibson. When looking back on his formative years at Old Trafford, it’s easy to assume that Evans was more of the consummate professional who chipped in rather than ever stood out. 

Whilst the undeniable truth is that Evans has made a career out of being a reliable teammate, the Belfast-born defender has also won every major club trophy there is to win over the course of a 16-year career that, incredibly, is still going strong.

Indeed, Evans will help Leicester City challenge for a top-four finish in the 2022/2023 season which is an eventuality priced at 13/1 in the latest football odds. This will, in all likelihood, be the Northern Irishman’s swansong at the King Power Stadium as his contract comes to an end in the summer of 2023, with Evans turning 35 only a few months prior to that. 

It may not be the end of the road for the player in the professional game, but if it is, then he would have staked his claim as the greatest defender in Northern Ireland’s history. Astonishingly, Evans has accumulated three Premier League titles, one Champions League trophy, an FA Cup, and two League Cups. On top of this, Evans was also part of the Manchester United team that became the first British side to win the FIFA Club World Cup in 2008.

The records are varied and impressive when it comes to the 34-year-old’s feats in the game and this haul of trophies, statistically speaking at least, makes him the most decorated player, never mind defender, in Northern Ireland’s history. 

The only accolade missing in the race to be crowned the Northern Irish player to have won the most is the Ballon d’Or that George Best was able to walk away with in 1968. But still, Evans managed to win one more Premier League title and a League Cup, which Best retired without having ever done. Despite this, however, very few would put Evans above Best in terms of ability, and rightly so. But as a central defender, the 34-year-old was as skilled as any centre-back to have played in England’s top flight. 

Indeed, Evans’ game has been built on expert timing when tackling as well as a composed temperament when the opposition is in the ascendancy.

Of late, this assured approach has been vital in helping a young Leicester side win the FA Cup in 2021 after beating a star-studded Chelsea team who weren’t able to score on an unforgettable day at Wembley for the Foxes.

This was, of course, just one of many triumphant moments for Evans in a career that was full of them, and in reality, there can be very little debate about it, the Belfast-born centre-back is the greatest defender in Northern Ireland’s history.

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