Top 10 Right-Backs In World Football Right Now - Ranked!

Top 10 right-backs in football right now – Male

December 7, 2022

A discussion on the world’s best right-backs in the world would have hardly sparked a response 15 years ago. Indeed, the now-famous words of English pundit Jamie Carragher still ring true: “If you’re a fullback, you’re either a failed winger or a failed centre-back. No one wants to grow up and be a Gary Neville.”

The Samba duo of Cafu and Dani Alves made right-backs play trendy for consecutive generations, but despite their best efforts the Carragher’s words rang true, with fullbacks taking the more resilient and hard-working approach during the 2000s and early 2010s. While the likes of Ashley Cole, Gary Neville, and Lee Dixon starkly contrasted the majestic brilliance of the aforementioned Brazilian duo, the likes of Cafu and Alves distorted the idealist concept of the right-fullback.

Only recently have the ideals of Cafu and Alves on how the functions of a right-fullback should be performed become commonplace. Today, in 2022, not only are fullbacks, in general, fun, attacking and fashionable, but they come in all manners of iterations. To say that it has been a revolution won’t be an overstatement.

Football has never been blessed with such an abundance of unique right-back talent, and pinning down the top 10 in the world was no easy feat. Nevertheless, without any further ado, let’s dive into it and take a look at the best right-backs around the globe.

Note: Since ranking these players in some kind of order is difficult, I’ve gone with the players with the most influence, consistency, and overall quality.

Honourable mentions

#15 Malo Gusto (Olympique Lyonnais)

#14 Diogo Dalot (Manchester United FC)

#13 Nordi Mukiele (Paris Saint-Germain FC)

#12 James Tavernier (Rangers FC)

#11 Denzel Dumfries (FC Inter Milan)

The top ten

#10 Dani Carvajal

30 years old • Real Madrid CF • Spain

Although injuries have certainly slowed him down in recent years, Dani Carvajal remains one of the most reliable and complete fullbacks in world football. A stalwart at Real Madrid for almost a decade now with five UEFA Champions League titles and three LaLiga titles, Carvajal will go down in football history as one of the most decorated defenders.

Last season, too, the Spain international was involved in Real Madrid winning the Champions League and LaLiga titles. Although his overall importance to the success of Los Blancos is up for debate, there is an argument to be had when we consider that Carvajal has been a mainstay under both Zinedine Zidane and Carlo Ancelotti across their respective two spells as Real Madrid manager. 

#9 Pedro Porro

23 years old • Sporting CP • Spain

Had it not been for Manchester City already having two world-class right-backs, Pedro Porro would have never left England for Portugal’s Sporting CP in 2020, where he first moved on loan during the first COVID lockdown. However, his rise in these two years to becoming one of the brightest players in Portugal has been a joy to watch.

Porro made his name in Portugal primarily as a wing presence. With his ability to play either as a right-midfielder, a right-wingback, or a right-back, the Spaniard offers tactical flexibility in Sporting’s 3-4-3 or a traditional back-four system when necessary. Admittedly, he’s more of a wingback, with his attacking play improving each game.

If Porro continues growing and performing at this rate, it won’t be long before he cements his place in Spain’s senior national team.

#8 Giovanni Di Lorenzo

29 years old • SSC Napoli • Italy

Giovanni Di Lorenzo will no doubt go down as one of the most underrated players in the Serie A. He’s been a mainstay in the Napoli side for over three years and recently became the club captain following the departure of Lorenzo Insigne. While Napoli have been the surprise story of European football this season, with their free-scoring attack writing all the headlines, their skipper Di Lorenzo has been a rock in their back-line.

An intelligent reader of the game who contributes both in the attacking and defensive ranks, Di Lorenzo has been one of the most consistent defenders in the Serie A over the past calendar year. He’s an aggressive and robust defender who contributes in every phase of play.

#7 Trent Alexander-Arnold

24 years old • Liverpool FC • England

2022 might just go down as the most difficult year in Trent Alexander-Arnold’s career. Never has he come under quite so much scrutiny for doing his job, and never has the very premise of his role been questioned quite so often. If the Brazilian duo of Cafu and Dani Alves made fullbacks play attractive football, Trent Alexander-Arnold has completely revolutionised the concept of the modern-day fullback. Hence, any defensive flaws are vastly outweighed by his supreme play-making ability.

A creator from the fullback position, Alexander-Arnold has never been one of the game’s best defenders, and frankly, that doesn’t matter when you consider what he is and not what he isn’t. And, for a trying year, it’s come with its fair share of gold. During the second half of last season and the start of this year, the Englishman was one of Liverpool’s best players alongside since-departed Sadio Mané, and despite the Reds’ current malaise, he’s still Jürgen Klopp’s most trusted creator.

#6 Benjamin Pavard

26 years old • FC Bayern Munich • France

Whenever Benjamin Pavard’s name pops up, that sidewinder volley of his against Argentina in the Round of 16 match of the 2018 FIFA World Cup comes to mind. Pavard’s stock skyrocketed post France’s 2018 World Cup win. Emerging onto the scene as a makeshift fullback, Pavard is still the archetypal soft right-back for a possession-based team who want a traditional defender to hang back and contribute in the build-up play. He can still get forward and attack from time to time, but Pavard remains one of Bayern’s most reliable men at the back.

The former Stuttgart man is a huge contributor during the build-up play and somewhat of a ball-progression machine. Although the Frenchman isn’t the most physical of defenders, any shortcomings in that regard are mitigated by his shrewd positioning and sound fundamentals.

#5 Kyle Walker

32 years old • Manchester City FC • England

Few predicted the journey Kyle Walker would go on to have as a footballer. While he became one of the world’s most complete fullbacks at the Etihad under Pep Guardiola, much of the foundations of his game were laid at White Hart Lane under the guidance of Mauricio Pochettino. The England international was as raw as it could get before Poch arrived. Soon, Walker became a £50m fullback by the time he was just hitting his stride.

Now 32, Walker is the elder statesman of his defence, using his electric recovery pace to become more of an old-school fullback, content with pocketing wingers than doing laps up and down the touchline. We all thought he would’ve lost a couple of yards by now, but Walker is ageing like fine wine, not unlike Dani Alves himself.

#4 João Cancelo

28 years old • Manchester City FC • Portugal

One of the few players to be genuinely world-class in two different positions on a football pitch, João Cancelo is an artist with the ball. There’s a rawness to his game that facilitates unpredictability every time he steps on the field. Although the Portugal international is far from the best defensive right-back in the world, his work in possession is just obscene.

Cancelo only plays right-back for his country nowadays. Perhaps the aforementioned evergreen Walker has pushed him to left-back – Manchester City’s pursuit for Marc Cucurella in the summer certainly suggests so.

From the left, we see the 28-year-old drift in-field into Jack Grealish’s space and ping balls with the outside of his right foot, if need be. From the right, his game is much more simplified: fewer trivelas, more forward runs, keeping to the width of the pitch and stretching the opposition out of shape with his sublime incision. Cancelo would’ve been a close shout for the top spot if he actually played right-back more often.

#3 Kieran Trippier

32 years old • Newcastle United FC • England

From Burnley to Spurs to Atlético Madrid to, now, Newcastle United, the 32-year-old England international has had quite the career path. Besides, a manager’s first signing at a new club says a lot about both the manager and the player.

When Trippier was announced as a Newcastle player earlier this year, the criticism was that his move had everything to do with money and nothing else. However, Eddie Howe’s decision to bring Trippier in has been nothing short of a masterstroke. His experience and reputation precede him, while his crossing ability is among the best England has ever produced in his position. Trippier is a menace from dead-ball situations, has the creativity to unlock the lowest of blocks, and, with a stint in LaLiga with Atléti, has become one of the most well-rounded defenders. Moreover, over the last calendar year, Trippier has undoubtedly been the best right-back in the Premier League, and it’s not even close.

#2 Achraf Hakimi

24 years old • Paris Saint-Germain FC • Morocco

The Morocco international has played for Real Madrid, dazzled in the Bundesliga with Borussia Dortmund, conquered Italy with Antonio Conte’s Inter, and has starred in a star-studded line-up alongside the likes of Kylian Mbappé and Lionel Messi at PSG. The most incredible part about this, is that he’s still just 24.

Besides, evidently, both Pochettino and current PSG head coach Christophe Galtier looked to implement systems around Hakimi’s ability down that right flank. Although he’s been criticised for his defensive actions (well, who hasn’t on this list), Hakimi’s the ultimate tool for any possession-based team to throw forward. The Moroccan feels like a throwback to the classic care-free wide men that flanked the great Brazilian sides. He’s both technically and tactically brilliant, and what’s scary is that he’s nowhere near his peak either.

#1 Reece James

23 years old • Chelsea FC • England

At 23, he might not be the revolution Trent Alexander-Arnold is, nor is he as technically secure as João Cancelo is in possession or possesses the electric pace of Achraf Hakimi or Kieran Trippier’s dead-ball qualities, but Reece James is currently the most complete right-back in world football. However, much of the credit also goes to his former coach Thomas Tuchel, who, on his arrival at Chelsea, immediately made James the jewel in his side. His all-round game is arguably the most impressive of any fullback in Europe, left or right.

Just like Alexander-Arnold, James has an exceptional crossing delivery, while his ball-striking is as good as a number-nine. The Englishman is an exciting attacking option, having made 14 goal contributions last season, while on the defensive front he is as stout as defenders get. Whatever James does offensively is complemented by his aggression off the ball, his physicality, as well as his sound defensive fundamentals. With more than ten years of peak-level professional football left in him, it’s frightening to think what James might eventually become in the years to come.

Rahul Saha

An engineer taking the road less taken. I love writing, live and breathe football, and am always up for a tactical conversation.

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