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TOP 10 RIGHT BACKS/WING-BACKS IN THE WORLD RIGHT NOW

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6 mins read
Long gone are the days when full-backs could make do with little to no attacking output. The modern ones are now a gateway to attacking avenues, each bringing their own flavour. Here’s my list for top 10 right backs/wing-backs in the world right now


DISCLAIMER

Before you get into the list do remember that there is a myriad of reasons – many unquantifiable – that go into determining lists like these. Most of these entries might even reflect upon my subjectivity, meaning you might agree with some of my mentions, or none at all. Either way, we’d love to hear from you! Well then, here we go.

 

10 – Alessandro Florenzi

Age – 29 (11 March 1991)
Country – Italy
Current club – Paris Saint-Germain (Ligue 1 Uber Eats) (On loan from Roma)

The Italian international started his career in midfield, operating as a box-to-box player capable of both attacking and defensive manoeuvres. He was eventually slotted back into defence, where he has performed consistently ever since.

A good dribbler, capable of a decent cross and able to cut passing lanes, Florenzi can operate on either of the flanks. He’s currently PSG’s first choice right-back, having joined them on loan from Roma last summer.

 

 

9 – Ricardo Pereira

Age – 27 (6 October 1993)
Country – Portugal
Current club – Leicester City (Premier League)

The £22m Leicester paid for Ricardo in the summer of 2018 seem poultry to the performances he has given in his time at the club. The Portuguese brings with him not only defensive reliability but an aggression to thrust forward and take the occasional shot.

Pereira has gone down in this list having just recovered from a serious ACL injury, but already looks close to returning to his former self.

8 – Dani Carvajal

Age – 29 (11 January 1992)
Country – Spain
Current club – Real Madrid (LaLiga Santander)

Dani Carvajal has been the mainstay in Real Madrid’s backline ever since returning to the club in 2013 after shining for Bayer Leverkusen the season before. It’s hard to believe he isn’t past 30 yet, for Carvajal is one of Zidane’s generals within Los Blancos’ dressing room. His constant pressing and early crosses makes him a persistent threat over 90 minutes.

 

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7 – Kieran Trippier

Age – 30 (19 September 1990)
Country – England
Current club – Atlético de Madrid (LaLiga Santander)

Very few English players make a move outside the UK, and even fewer succeed during those spells. Kieran Trippier has managed to do just that. The 30-year-old has been scintillating in the Atlético backline that currently sits 10 points clear on the top of LaLiga, having conceded just 10 goals. A pin-point crosser and a deal-ball speacialist, Trippier’s defensive side has reached new heights under Diego Simeone.

 

 

6 – Aaron Wan-Bissaka

Age – 23 (26 November 1997)
Country – England
Current club – Manchester United (Premier League)

Aaron Wan-Bissaka raised a lot of eyebrows when he moved to Manchester United in 2019 for £45 million, just one year after shining for Crystal Palace having been converted from a winger to a right-back. But the keen youngster continues to improve and looks set to justify his price tag.

When it comes to one-on-one defending, Wan-Bissaka is already on of the very best in the world. His tackles are clean and immaculate, and his pace makes it hard for most wingers to get past him. There’s plenty of room for improvement though, as he frequently finds himself out of position, often making him a target for opposition teams who try to catch him off-guard with quick passing and counter attacks. He also finds himself out of sorts on the attacking side for Manchester United, but that is mainly because the Red Devils have a very inert right flank, having no out-and-out right-sided attackers to ease some pressure of young Aaron.

As Wan-Bissaka nears the end of his second year at Manchester United, he seems to have added a lot more skills to his repertoire than when he first arrived. His dribbling has improved, which allows him to go deeper (and stay longer) into the opposition half. His crosses and shooting seem to be getting more reliable, indicating that the England U21 international is progressing at the right pace.

 

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5 – Achraf Hakimi

Age – 22 (4 November 1998)
Country – Morocco
Current club – Inter Milan (Serie A TIM)

For Achraf Hakimi, sky’s the limit. The young Moroccoan is technically gifted and tactically adept to play on either side of the pitch across any position – be it winger, wide midfielder, wing-back or full-back.

After excelling as a complete wide player during his two-year loan spell at Borussia Dortmund (2018-20), Hakimi moved to Inter Milan for €40 million last summer from Real Madrid. He’s currently a crucial player in Antonio Conte’s side, who’s 3-men defensive system plays right into Hakimi’s hands (or legs).

 

4 – Jesús Navas

Age – 35 (21 November 1985)
Country – Spain
Current club – Sevilla (LaLiga Santander)

Jesús Navas spent the better part of his career as a traditional right-winger, terrorising the opposition with his quick dribbling and acute crossing. Now 35, he has managed to prolong his career at the very top level by converting to a right-back, leveraging his experience for a fraction of his pace, of which he still has plenty.

 

 

3 – Kyle Walker

Age – 30 (28 May 1990)
Country – England
Current club – Manchester City (Premier League)

Kyle Walker can often be a divisive figure because of his personality, but his defensive acuity is seldom doubtful. Known for his aggression on the pitch Walker is a tough opponent to deal with, especially when he’s running at you. Despite reaching 31 years of age, he continues to be one of the fastest footballers in the world, with his burst of pace almost unmatchable. The advancing years have made Walker positionally more aware, allowing him to also play as a right-sided centre-back. With his pace and physicality, that is a very scary prospect.

 

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2 – Trent Alexander-Arnold

Age – 22 (7 October 1998)
Country – England
Current club – Liverpool (Premier League)

It might have taken an injury crisis to accelerate Trent Alexander-Arnold’s rise through Liverpool’s ranks, but the England international has seamlessly taken the modern game into his stride.

As far as defensive positioning and tackling goes, Alexander-Arnold is not the best; not yet anyway. But Jürgen Klopp’s system invites his full-backs to provide attacking impetus, of which Trent has plenty. Apart from being a dead-ball specialist, Trent is already considered one of the best passers in the game right now, with his technique often compared to that of David Beckham’s. He doesn’t venture deep into the opposition half, rather prefers to send his balls early, which is a tasty prospect given his passing range. It is frequently assumed that with his skillset, Trent will eventually be converted into a midfielder, but for now he proves himself more than capable of holding down the right side of the defence.

With Liverpool’s centre-backs’ injuries, Trent Alexander-Arnold’s season has been slightly underwhelming so far. That said, at 22 I suppose he is allowed some off days. His career trajectory will be one of the most fascinating ones to track over the next 10-15 years.

 

1 – João Cancelo

Age – 26 (27 May 1994)
Country – Portugal
Current club – Manchester City (Premier League)

With his skillset, it’s surprising to have taken this long for João Cancelo to finally emerge as one of the most impactful full-backs in Europe. The former Benfica, Valencia, Inter Milan, and Juventus man had an on-and-off first season at Manchester City, but has been absolutely ruthless with Pep Guardiola’s new system this season, that is specifically created to cater to Cancelo’s strengths.

Under this new system, Guardiola likes to deploy an unorthodox four-men defence, in which Cancelo prefers to be played on the right-back position, though he can play down the left as well. Then, the full-back on the other side of the defence usually tucks in with the centre-backs, forming a wide three-men defence that allows Cancelo to drift into midfield alongside Guardiola’s preferred defensive pivot for the day. Playing from the midfield allows Guardiola to further exploit Cancelo’s close dribbling and passing abilities, while also further pronouncing his pace.

Playing in a revamped defensive system with appropriately young players that has seen only 13 goals conceded in the Premier League this season, João Cancelo looks set to be an enigmatic threat to Premier League teams for many years to come. 


Honourable Mentions

Benjamin Pavard (Bayern Munich), Thomas Meunier (Borussia Dortmund), Youcef Atal (OGC Nice), Matt Doherty (Spurs), Nelson Semedo (Wolves), Daniel Wass (Valencia), Hans Hateboer (Atalanta), Nordi Mukiele (RB Leipzig).

Do you agree with this list? Who would you rather have in your top 10?

Anshuman Joshi is a senior writer at SportsKhabri with special focus towards all things football. His other interests include languages, world history and some good fiction.

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