Europe’s top five leagues are blessed with some of the most prolific right-wingers in world football, but who are the top 10 right-wingers on the planet right now? In this article, I’ve tried to come up with the answer using advanced metrics sprinkled with a little opinion.
With the 4-4-2 becoming more and more redundant in modern football, a myriad of formations and positional tweaks mean wide men now are a different specimen to the classic crossers and providers of the 1990s.
The modern-day wingers have a lot on their plate considering the tasks given to them on both ends of the pitch, making it one of the most difficult and vital positions in the sport. These days, they’re goalscorers, pressers, raumdeuters and much more.
While the overall criteria for judging wingers remain the same as before, nowadays, they are evaluated based on their goal-scoring abilities and contribution to the team’s build-up play in addition to their dribbling and delivering abilities.
First of all, I’ve cautiously walked the divide between ‘forwards’ and ‘right-wingers’, since my first objective was to limit this list to genuine right-wingers. That means the likes of Neymar Jr, Diogo Jota, Raheem Sterling, and Paulo Dybala don’t make this list.
Now, in order to rank these wingers, I have used some commonly-used and advanced metrics to analyse their performances over the past 18 months. Moreover, unlike my Top 10 male strikers in world football right now piece, I’ve taken stats from every domestic and continental competition to make my assessment. I’ve used metrics like goals scored, assists, non-penalty expected goals (npxGoals), expected goal involvement (xGi), goals-penalty kicks (Goals-PK), Big Chances Created (BCC), Key Passes/90’, shot-creating actions per 90’ (SCA/90’), and goal creating actions per 90’ (GCA/90’) to quantify each player’s contributions, but that doesn’t mean whoever has the best stats, wins. I’ve also factored in the importance of each player to his team’s cause and his overall contribution to play.
Thus, in this article, I will guide you through some of the best right-wingers football has to offer at the moment. So, without further ado, let’s get into it.
#20 Gonçalo Guedes
#19 Josip Iličić
#18 Hakim Ziyech
#17 Marco Asensio
#16 Ángel Di María
#15 Ousmane Dembélé
#14 Ferran Torres
#13 Jarrod Bowen
#11 Kingsley Coman
Top 10 male right-wingers – Ranked
Age: 24 years (25-10-1997)
Current Club: Juventus FC
The young 24-year-old forward has shown consistent growth over the past two seasons and deserves his place on this list despite sitting out the rest of the 2021/22 season with an ACL injury. Chiesa managed to produce 26 goal contributions from 46 matches across all competitions last season, while before his season-ending injury this season, he had 8 goal contributions in 18 games.
Despite his diminutive stature and slender build, Chiesa is a technically-gifted player with raw pace, acceleration, dribbling and good vision. He is adept with either foot but prefers the right one just a bit more, which enables him to put crosses from the byline or lay off runners with his vision and passing. Chiesa works hard for the team whenever they need him defensively. He’s a genuine threat on the counter given his pace and physicality, while as a forward, his defensive work is undoubtedly crucial for his team’s progression.
In 64 matches across all competitions, Chiesa netted the ball 19 times and provided 12 assists. He comprehensively outperformed his xGi (22.3) while creating 18 big chances and making 1.63 key passes/90’. He also performed 3.08 dribbles/90’ over this period, while his 3.55 SCA/90’ and 0.62 GCA/90’ rank him highly among all forwards across the front three.
Age: 22 years (25-03-2000)
Current Club: Manchester United FC
In the 2019/20 season, Jadon Sancho announced himself onto the world stage with a ludicrous 20 goals and 20 assists in just 44 appearances. He became the target of some of the most elite clubs in world football, including Manchester United. His transfer saga dragged on from the summer of 2020/21 to that of 2021/22, but he eventually ended up with Manchester United as part of a record £73 million deal.
Typically a right-winger, Sancho was primarily tasked with the role of a wide midfielder on either wing or as a second striker behind the likes of Erling Haaland and Paco Alcácer at Borussia Dortmund. Regarded as a quick, highly technical and creative player with excellent ball control and dribbling skills, the 22-year-old is known for his trickery and use of feints in one-on-one situations. Although he is known for his ability to get past opponents and create spaces for his teammates, Sancho is a more-than-decent finisher, capable of scoring goals and getting at the end of long balls and crosses like a poacher.
In 76 matches since the start of the 2020/21 season, Sancho has been directly involved in 43 goals for both Borussia Dortmund and Manchester United. However, it is important to highlight that he had a very slow start to life in Manchester following his big-money move as he scored just one goal in his first 24 appearances for United. Under Ralf Rangnick, however, playing in a system that has some resemblance to the one he played in at Dortmund, Sancho has scored 3 and assisted another 3 goals over his next 20 games. The talent and end product are definitely there, and it is just a matter of time before someone unlocks it and uses it to the team’s advantage.
Age: 22 years (07-07-1999)
Current Club: Bayer 04 Leverkusen
The young 22-year-old enjoyed his breakthrough season during the 2019/20 campaign as he netted 8 goals and provided another 8 assists in 39 games across all competitions. Diaby exploded spectacularly the following season, in which he scored 10 goals and provided 15 assists in 43 matches across all competitions, earning the tag of the ‘Next Big Thing’ coming through Bayer Leverkusen’s ranks alongside teenage sensation Florian Wirtz.
Diaby is a technical player who is a good passer of the ball, has vision, is pacy, and can play anywhere across the front line, though he primarily operates as a right-winger. He likes to dribble and beat his marker using feints, while his 28 assists so far are testament to his rapidly improving playmaking skills. However, despite all of his offensive qualities, Diaby rarely tracks back to aid his team defensively, while keeping discipline on the field of play has also been an issue for the young Frenchman.
In 83 appearances for Leverkusen, Diaby has contributed 54 goals, scoring half of them and turning provider for the rest. His actual goal involvement-to-expected goal involvement ratio is only bettered by Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah, while for a 22-year-old, his creative numbers are rather impressive. Diaby has created 31 big chances in total and played 1.74 key passes per 90’. Besides, his numbers for Shot Creating Actions and Goal Creating Actions are right up there with some of the very best. If he continues his rich vein of form and keeps improving at this same frightening pace, there is no doubt he could make it inside the top five of this list come 2023.
Age: 28 years (04-05-1993)
Current Club: Atalanta BC
The 28-year-old Ukrainian has registered 55 goal contributions since the start of the 2019/20 season and has been instrumental in Atalanta’s recent resurgence towards regular European football. Having started his football career with Shakhtar Donetsk in 2011, Malinovskyi spent the next six years on loan at different leagues and clubs, having never made a senior appearance for Shakhtar. He spent two seasons in Belgian club Genk before securing his move to Atalanta, where he finally shone through under Gian Piero Gasperini.
Having started as a No. 10 for most of his career, under Gasperini, Malinovskyi has seen his powers being used in a slightly different way. He is known for his strong dribbling skills, impeccable crossing and set-piece abilities. He also likes to shoot from distance and cuts inside when the opportunity arises. He is aerially sound, winning most of his duels, but he lacks discipline and defensive cover. He rarely tracks back or presses to aid his team’s defence, which is one of the few glaring holes in his play.
In 82 appearances for Atalanta since the start of the 2020/21 season, Malinovskyi has scored 20 goals and provided 18 assists, taking his goals contribution tally to 38. He has also created 34 big chances and produced 2.91 key passes per 90’, both of which are extremely impressive numbers. He has also created 5.41 Shot Creating Actions per 90’, which is only bettered by Lionel Messi in that period, while he also carries out 4.11 dribbles per 90’ and 0.59 Goals Creating Actions. Thus, factoring in the level of opposition and the level of his teammates, Malinovskyi’s numbers are very impressive and deserve to be talked about.
Age: 20 years (05-09-2001)
Current Club: Arsenal FC
The youngest player on this list, Bukayo Saka has arguably been one of the best young players in world football over the last 12 months. He was Arsenal’s best player last season, he was instrumental in England reaching the Euro 2020 final, and after a subdued start to this current season, Saka has exploded into one of the best right-wingers in the world right now.
Things have changed over the last 18 months for Saka, a player who would take up any position on the pitch just to don the Arsenal shirt. If fit, no one can dislodge him from that right-winger role at Arsenal and, to a certain extent, England as well. He has raw pace but impeccable control. He has remarkable balance, great dribbling skills and is one of the few players in world football who are consistently doubled or tripled up on the flank. The 20-year-old has great vision and is already a quiet leader on the pitch. However, despite having played as a left-back during the early days of Mikel Arteta’s tenure, tackling has been an issue for Saka and has already landed him in a spot of bother a few times.
In 85 appearances for Arsenal, Saka has scored 19 goals and provided 13 assists, which is remarkable considering the rebuilding work that has been going on behind the scenes, not to forget that Saka is only 20. He has created 17 big chances and played 1.66 key passes per 90’, both of which are commendable numbers, while he also creates 3.77 Shot Creating Actions, though he needs to add more cutting edge to his final balls since his Goal Creating Actions index (0.47) is the lowest among the players listed here.
Also Read – Top 5 Arsenal players to watch in 2022
#5 Lionel Messi
Age: 34 years (28-07-1984)
Current Club: Paris Saint-Germain FC
Categorising this superstar to one position was one of the toughest tasks. Messi spent nearly 70% of the matches last season playing as a second striker for Barcelona, while his 20-odd games for Paris Saint-Germain have been almost equally spread across the second striker, No. 10, and right-winger roles. However, it is only when I carefully scrutinised his heat maps across different competitions and oppositions that I concluded this to be his main position.
A legend of the game and arguably the greatest player of all time, Messi has been a great ambassador for the game for nearly two decades now. His balance, close control, technical ability, dribbling and menacing solo runs are still effective and wreak havoc consistently. However, one of the main reasons why he is placed fifth on this list is due to the lack of end product and influence in games against teams who have been similarly matched or a bit superior to his sides. Over the last 18-24 months, this has certainly become a recurring theme with the Argentine forward. The bigger teams find it quite easy to nullify his strengths, while he has been able to stat pad against teams who are comfortable with sitting deep and giving away possession.
In 78 matches over the last 18 months, the 34-year-old has scored 47 goals and provided 25 assists. However, it is important to point out that 51 of his 72 goal contributions came last season, playing for Barcelona. His performances this season have been rather disappointing and only look a shade better due to his recent performances in Ligue 1. Messi also created 44 big chances in this period, while his 6.08 dribbles per 90’ and 6.69 Shot Creating Actions per 90’ is the best across Europe’s Top 5 leagues. Messi has also created 1.03 Goal Creating Actions per 90’, which is only bettered by Josip Iličić in the whole of Europe.
Age: 27 years (01-08-1994)
Current Club: US Sassuolo Calcio
The 27-year-old Italian has been one of the most in-form forwards over the last two seasons. Berardi plays for Serie A side Sassuolo and has represented them more than 300 times ever since making his debut back in 2012. He was one of the standout performers in the Serie A during the 2020/21 season, which he then backed up with scintillating displays for Italy during the Euros as they lifted their first major silverware since the 2006 FIFA World Cup.
A quick, tenacious, technically gifted and hardworking forward with an eye for goal, Berardi is capable of playing across all three positions in the forward line. While he has been seen on occasions as a striker or a supporting forward, his preferred position is that of a right-winger, which allows him to cut inside and shoot with his stronger left-foot or link-up play with other teammates to create goal-scoring opportunities. The Italian is also known for his positional awareness, movement, off-ball defensive duties, maturity, tactical intelligence and composure, making him one of the most complete wingers in the modern game. However, one aspect of his game that has received criticism is his lack of discipline and tendency to pick up unnecessary cards even when things go his team’s way at a steady pace.
In 61 appearances for Sassuolo across all competitions, Berardi has scored 31 goals and provided 16 assists to take his goal contributions tally to 47, which, in all honesty, is a better conversion rate than any other player featuring on this list especially due to the drop in quality of Sassuolo compared to some of Europe’s elite clubs. Berardi also plays an impressive 2.31 key passes per 90’, while his Shot Creating Actions per 90′ and Goal Creating Actions per 90′ stand at 4.66 and 0.68 respectively, making him stand out as one of the elite right-wingers in the modern game.
Age: 26 years (14-07-1995)
Current Club: FC Bayern Munich
Serge Gnabry came to Arsenal at the age of 15, but injuries and lack of fitness meant he failed to cement a place for himself at the club, and his subsequent loan at West Bromwich Albion didn’t pay off either, with the then-West Brom manager Tony Pulis having famously said that “he isn’t good enough for top-flight football”. In the end, Gnabry moved to German side Werder Bremen, where he finally shone through, before Bayern Munich came calling for his signature in 2017, and the rest is history. Gnabry has since gone on to represent the Bavarians 122 times, scoring 45 goals and providing 44 assists to date.
With Thomas Müller and Robert Lewandowski ageing and entering the twilight stages of their careers, it is often Gnabry who is tasked with providing the extra burst of pace and thrust to Bayern’s attacks. The Germany international is technical, intelligent, physical and clinical in front of the goal. His physicality allows him to hold the ball and link up play, while his quick feet and menacing forward runs allow his teammates to exploit the spaces he creates. The 26-year-old also possesses good vision and doesn’t hold back to play line-breaking passes.
In 79 appearances across all competitions, Gnabry has 27 goals and 11 assists to his name. That’s roughly one goal contribution every two games. He has also created 36 big chances in that period—behind only Leo Messi—and played 1.93 key passes per 90’. He also attempts 3.96 dribbles per 90’ while creating 4.43 Shot Creating Actions and 0.65 Goal Creating Actions, which is truly elite if you ask me, given he has only completed 59.5 full 90’s out of his 73 games (if you convert his playing minutes to blocks of 90’s).
Age: 31 years (21-02-1991)
Current Club: Manchester City FC
Arguably the player with the best first touch in world football at the moment, Riyad Mahrez is pure velvet sewn into the form of a footballer. The Algerian started his professional career in France before making the jump to English football with Leicester City in 2014. He was instrumental in Leicester’s miraculous Premier League-winning campaign alongside Jamie Vardy, and it didn’t take long for Pep Guardiola and Manchester City to come calling for his signature in 2018 for a then club-record £65 million fee. Since then, in 185 appearances for the Cityzens, Mahrez has scored 63 goals and assisted 45 goals, which is ridiculously good considering the amount of rotation each Man City player has to go through.
A left-footed player who primarily occupies the right-wing, Mahrez is a quick, creative and technically-gifted player. Some of his main traits are his trickery, balance, turn of pace, flair and dribbling skills. Moreover, he is a versatile player capable of playing anywhere across the forward line: in a central role as a No. 10, as a winger on either flank, or even a centre-forward as a False 9. Besides, if you are one of Pep’s trusted deputies and play regularly, you can be certain that you are one of the best players in the world in your position.
In his 92 appearances for City, Mahrez has scored 38 goals and provided 16 assists to take his overall goal contribution tally to 54. What’s more impressive is that he averages one goal contribution every 120 minutes, which is only behind Mohamed Salah in Europe’s top five leagues. Mahrez also averages 2.04 key passes per 90’, 3.96 Shot Creating Actions per 90’ and 0.64 Goal Creating Actions per 90′. Thus, the Algerian is definitely performing at the peak of his powers, but catching someone like Salah, who is on a level of his own, is a different conversation altogether.
Age: 29 years (15-06-1992)
Current Club: Liverpool FC
While all of the other players on this list are elite footballers and world-class professionals, no one even comes close to the Egyptian in this particular conversation at the moment. Ever since joining the Reds on a £36.5 million deal from Serie A outfit AS Roma, Mo Salah has arguably been the best player in the Premier League. He was key to Liverpool making it to the 2018 UEFA Champions League final and then winning it the following year, while also having gone on to gradually establish himself as one of the best forwards the Premier League has ever seen for the best part of four seasons now.
Regarded as a quick, agile, hard-working and tactically-intelligent player with great technical abilities and an eye for goal, Salah is predominantly known for his speed, movement, prolific goal-scoring ability, agility, dribbling skills, first touch and ball control as well as his ability to use both pace and flair to beat his markers and create goal-scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates. While he has made the right-winger role his own in that Liverpool setup, Salah remains a versatile forward who can play as a winger on either flank or through the middle as a second striker.
In 97 appearances for Liverpool, the Egyptian has scored a staggering 61 goals and provided 21 assists for his teammates to take his goals contribution tally to 82. He has the best goals involvement-to-expected goals involvement ratio (+11.5), which means he has been prolific in terms of both scoring goals and providing assists, while he has also been a creative force with 35 big chances created and 1.61 key passes per 90’. Salah has also been responsible for 3.62 Shot Creating Actions and 0.57 Goal Creating Actions per 90’. The Egyptian is up there among one of the best players in the world right now and is simply the best in this position.