Cafu and Dani Alves made right-back play trendy in back-to-back generations but despite the best efforts of the samba specialists, Jamie Carragher’s words that were heard around the world almost a decade ago still largely rang true.
“If you’re a full back, you’re either a failed winger or a failed centre back,” uttered the now revered Sky Sports pundit. “No one wants to grow up and be a Gary Neville,” he famously added.
Now, the resilient and hard-working Neville starkly contrasted the majestic brilliance of the aforementioned Brazilian tandem, but Carragher’s premise was undoubtedly fair. The likes of Cafu and Alves distorted the idealist concept of the full-back, but it hasn’t been until only recently that their ideas of how the function should be performed became commonplace.
In 2022, not only are full backs cool, trendy, and fashionable, but they come in all manner of iterations. To describe it as a revolution wouldn’t be far-fetched, and this drastic shift in full back play has most strongly been felt down the right.
Football has never before been blessed with such an abundance of unique right-back talent and pinning down the leading 25 in the world was no easy task. Nevertheless, we’ve given it a good go!
Here are our top 25 right backs in the world.
Leo Dubois’ poor 2021/22 campaign saw him usurped by a teenager as Peter Bosz’s starting right back at Lyon and the Frenchman is now plying his trade in the Turkish top-flight with Galatasaray.
Not too long ago, Dubois was regarded by admirers of French football as arguably the best right back in Ligue 1 and one of the most complete in the world.
The Frenchman is cut from a traditional cloth. He’s fundamentally sound and does the basics well.
The first of several Premier League representatives in our ranking.
While his technique does come across as somewhat desperate and erratic at times, Matty Cash loves defending. The Aston Villa man strikes you as the sort of guy who should be donning the brightest coloured boots while playing left wing for your Sunday League team. And yes, he could’ve gone pro if it wasn’t for that knee injury in ’08.
In reality, though, Cash’s style totally contrasts one of ego and faux swagger. He’s a gritty defender who often sets the tone for the Villans with his intensity down the right flank. The Poland international is one of the best defensive right backs in the Premier League.
Nahuel Molina’s stock has risen exponentially over the past 12 months or so.
His 2021/22 campaign with Udinese – which was filled with highlight-reel moments – earned the defender a move to Atletico Madrid.
His defensive work still needs some refinement, though there are few better managers in the world to work under in that regard than Diego Simeone. Molina is also a big attacking threat, an impressive dribbler and has bags of pace.
Lyon right back Malo Gusto is one to keep an eye on, folks. He has the potential to emerge as one of the world’s best attacking right backs.
The gangly Gusto boasts a unique physical profile for a player of his position. He’s a converted attacking midfielder who still needs defensive moulding, but the young Frenchman’s ability in possession and willingness to contribute higher up the field sees him make our ranking.
Gusto is super agile and so tough to stop in full stride. His athleticism is off the charts, while his technical ability and the swagger with which he plays have seen him garner comparisons to Trent Alexander-Arnold.
It wasn’t too long ago when Chelsea skipper Cesar Azpilicueta was regarded as one of the best full backs in the world. The Spaniard has proven himself as a wing back and centre back down the years, with his best football at Stamford Bridge arguably coming as a right centre back in Antonio Conte’s back three.
Thomas Tuchel utilised the dependable Spaniard in multiple roles after he succeeded Frank Lampard as manager in January 2021, but Reece James’ brilliance has reduced the need for Azpilicueta’s services.
It’s taken a while for Diogo Dalot to get up and running at Old Trafford, but Erik ten Hag’s arrival has fast-tracked his progress during the 2022/23 season.
The Portugal international’s attacking abilities have become more prominent, while he’s no slouch in defence.
Noussair Mazraoui somewhat struggled to establish himself under Erik ten Hag at Ajax following a hugely promising 2018/19 campaign.
2021/22 was Mazraoui’s most productive season from an attacking perspective as he notched seven Eredivisie goal contributions, and he’s since joined German giants Bayern Munich.
Injuries have blighted Mazraoui’s career up to this point, but his talent can’t be disputed. His schooling at Ajax means he’s as technically astute as they come, and the Moroccan is one of the few full-backs that can perform an inverted function to an elite standard. Overall, Mazraoui is an incredibly smart footballer who’s always aware of his surroundings.
The physical behemoth that is Nordi Mukiele completed a £13m move to Paris Saint-Germain in 2022. It’s a bargain price for a defender who once seemed destined to reach stratospheric heights.
It’s not that Mukiele’s declined as such, but he certainly hasn’t continued to grow as many projected. The Frenchman is a versatile defender who played his best football with RB Leipzig while Julian Nagelsmann was at the helm.
The Frenchman is a stout defender who excels in the air and one-vs-one situations. Impressively, too, Mukiele can contribute in attack and is always keen to enter the opposition’s box when necessary.
A fantastic 2021/22 season for Lens in Ligue 1 earned Jonathan Clauss his first call-up for France in March 2022.
Clauss was an output machine as a right wing back for Franck Haise as he notched a mighty 16 Ligue 1 goal contributions, including 11 assists.
The late-blooming Frenchman was pivotal to the way a good Lens side both attacked and defended, and his presence down their right flank will be sorely missed.
Now at Marseille, Clauss’ ranking here is hurt by his omission from France’s 2022 World Cup squad.
Good luck stopping Manuel Lazzari in full flight.
The Lazio winger-turned-defender is one of Serie A’s quickest players and his ability to burst in behind opposing defences saw him thrive as Simone Inzaghi’s right wing back.
The arrival of Maurizio Sarri and his 4-3-3 had many predicting Lazzari would return to his old position, but such was his development as a defender under Inzaghi that he has been used prominently in Sarri’s back four.
Lazzari may not be the most productive of defenders given Lazio’s tendency to dominate possession, but the Italian carries the ball upfield with aplomb and is technically secure enough to contribute to the Biancocolesti’s patient possession play.
Celik joined Roma in 2022 with pretty high expectations despite his modest fee.
He was long one of Ligue 1’s best right backs and he played a big role in Lille’s 2020/21 league title win with stout defensive play and five goal contributions going forward.
Rangers stalwart James Tavernier has long been one of the best performers in Scotland, if not the best. The Englishman’s output from right back is nothing short of absurd.
The right back was a protagonist in Rangers’ return to glory in 2021 as he contributed to 21 league goals in the Gers’ first title-winning campaign in a decade.
While many will hold the quality of opposition against him, Tavernier proved in Europe that he should be regarded as one of the world’s best attacking right backs.
Many Spurs fans were content with allowing Kyle Walker-Peters to leave for Southampton to facilitate the arrival of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg. Very few projected the slight full back to boom as he has on the south coast.
Walker-Peters’ rise culminated in his first England call-up and cap in March 2022, but the Three Lions’ stockpiling of elite-level talent at right back means the Saints star has little chance of representing his national side at major tournaments.
Still, the ex-Spurs full back is one of the Premier League’s best defensive right backs. Walker-Peters, who is also adept at left back, is the epitome of reliability and consistency.
The flying Dutchman was the Netherlands’ standout performer in a disappointing Euro 2020 campaign, and he had the difficult task of replacing Achraf Hakimi at Inter.
Dumfries feasted in the Eredivisie at PSV and he’s since risen to greater prominence following his deserved move to Milan. Simone Inzaghi utilised Dumfries as an auxiliary winger.
While he isn’t the cleanest of technicians – both defensively and offensively – Dumfries is a physical behemoth and unstoppable when on song. His numbers will continue to boom under Inzaghi.
Juan Cuadrado has been polarising opinion in Turin for the past half a decade. The Colombian burst onto the calcio scene as an exciting entertainer at Lecce and Fiorentina before a failed move to Chelsea did some damage to his once blossoming reputation.
A loan to Juventus brought Cuadrado back to life and he’s since established himself at right back under Massimiliano Allegri.
The veteran may not be the perfect full back but his ability in one-v-one situations, athleticism and impressive versatility have seen him smoothly take to the position.
A stalwart at Real Madrid for almost ten years, with five Champions League crowns and three Spanish titles, Dani Carvajal will end his career as one of the most decorated defenders in the sport’s history.
His importance to Los Blancos’ success is up for debate, but there’s a reason why the Spaniard has garnered the trust of both Zinedine Zidane and Carlo Ancelotti in Madrid.
Injuries have certainly slowed Carvajal down in recent years, but he remains one of the most reliable and complete full backs in the world.
Danilo has done a stellar job in ensuring he’s no longer viewed through the prism of Joao Cancelo in Turin. The Brazilian joined Juventus in a part exchange deal that saw the maverick Cancelo join Pep Guardiola at Manchester City.
The Portuguese international’s rise at the Etihad put Danilo in a difficult situation at the Allianz Stadium, but the veteran’s importance to an albeit not-so-imperious Bianconeri can’t be overstated.
The veteran is so reliable and there are no doubts that he’d be held in a higher regard if Cancelo had nothing to do with his Juventus arrival.
Benjamin Pavard’s reputation sky-rocketed in the wake of France’s 2018 World Cup triumph in which the defender scored one of the tournament’s most iconic goals.
Pavard’s sidewinder volley in the victory over Argentina exemplified the Frenchman’s stellar technique, and he’s since gone on to lift the Champions League with Bayern Munich.
The former Stuttgart man is a huge contributor in the build-up and he’s somewhat of a ball-progression machine. The Frenchman isn’t the most physical of defenders, but any shortcomings in that regard are mitigated by shrewd positioning and sound fundamentals.
Giovanni Di Lorenzo has to be regarded as one of the most underrated right backs in the world. He been a mainstay in the Napoli team for over three years and he was named the club’s captain for the 2022/23 season following Lorenzo Insigne’s departure.
Di Lorenzo is a regular for Roberto Mancini’s national team and is certainly one of the best full backs that Serie A has to offer. He’s an aggressive and robust defender while he performs a conservative but imperative function for Luciano Spalletti when Napoli have the ball.
He can contribute in every phase, and he looks to have taken to his new leadership role in Naples with ease.
Mauricio Pochettino played a pivotal role in facilitating the maturation of Kyle Walker. The England international was as raw as they got before Poch arrived at White Hart Lane but, thanks to the stoic Argentine’s guidance, Walker has evolved into one of the world’s most complete right backs.
You don’t survive in Pep Guardiola’s meticulous system for this long if you’re not any good.
Walker, whose recovery speed and technical security remain crucial to his success, has played a key role in City’s reign of Premier League dominance. The England international is no longer relied upon in the final third as much as he once was and he’s instead tasked with shunning opposition counter-attacks and ensuring City can establish a numerical superiority in midfield when they have the ball.
He’s performed an incredibly difficult function to the highest level for several years and, when he eventually hangs up his boots, he’ll be regarded as one of the finest full backs England has ever produced.
Brazilians Cafu and Dani Alves made full back play fashionable, but Trent Alexander-Arnold has utterly revolutionised our concept of the modern-day defender.
Any defensive flaws are vastly outweighed by his supreme playmaking ability. His emergence into Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side was one of several factors in the Reds’ meteoric rise under their chest-pumping German boss.
While Liverpool have been blessed with heaps of attacking talent amid their ongoing modern-day golden era, they’re unique in that their primary creative sources arrive from full back. Alexander-Arnold possesses the crossing delivery of David Beckham and Roberto Carlos’ ability to strike a football with such venom.
He’s registered double-digit assist hauls in three Premier League seasons, and he’ll undoubtedly inspire a new generation of full backs.
From Burnley to Madrid, England international Kieran Tripper has had quite the career path.
Trippier is back in the Premier League with the enriched Newcastle United and the full back played a key role in their second-half resurgence last season.
The diminutive right back is a stellar technician whose ability from dead ball situations once catapulted an entire nation into a state of utter jubilation. Gareth Southgate has often favoured the versatile and reliable Trippier over perhaps more talented individuals for the Three Lions.
Achraf Hakimi’s union with Antonio Conte at Inter was nothing short of a match made in heaven. The Moroccan wing back was the missing piece to the demanding Italian’s jigsaw as the Nerazzurri claimed the 2020/21 Scudetto with Hakimi starring.
However, he was forced to take his exploits elsewhere as Inter were forced into a mini exodus ahead of the 2021/22 campaign. Paris Saint-Germain came calling and Hakimi returned to playing in a back four.
Hakimi is a ridiculous athlete who boasts track speed, while his decision-making with the final pass is improving. His attacking prowess is complemented by a sound defensive repertoire and, in combination, they forge to create one of the best right backs in the world.
We’re not sure whether some of the things Joao Cancelo does with the ball at his feet are entirely legal. The Manchester City star is an artist; a science-defier.
There’s a rawness to Cancelo’s game that facilitates unpredictability every time he steps onto the field. The Portuguese defender is far from the best defensive right back in the world, but his work in possession is just obscene.
Following a difficult debut season at the Etihad, Cancelo rebounded in year two to establish himself as a regular in Pep Guardiola’s side. The versatile full back is so crucial to what City achieve with the ball every week, with his ability to avoid pressure, work impossible angles, and combine around opponents being distinct features of his game.
Cancelo has taken to Guardiola’s demands with aplomb and he has become one of the most fascinating players to watch.
Reece James might not be the revolutionary that is Alexander-Arnold, nor is he as electric as Hakimi or possess Cancelo’s freakish technical repertoire, but he’s currently the most complete right back in the game.
Like Trent, James possesses a fierce crossing delivery, and his ball-striking is that of a prolific number nine. The England international is a powerful figure down the right and he came into his own from an attacking perspective as a wing back last season as he registered 14 Premier League goal contributions.
Overall, it’s James’ ability to defend as stoutly as the very best in the world that sees him top our ranking. The Chelsea star’s attacking prowess is complemented by his aggression without the ball, physicality in duels, and sound defensive fundamentals.
Monterrey signs midfielder Jordi Cortizo from Puebla
Rayados de Monterrey have signed midfielder Jordi Cortizo from Club Puebla, ahead of the 2023 Liga MX Clausura.
He joins the Guadalajara team on a four-season contract, according to Diego Armando Medina of TUDN.
“I have been delighted since the opportunity to come here was given, I always knew that I had to make a leap to these big leagues with one of the biggest clubs in Mexico,” Cortizo said of his transfer.
Cortizo kicked off his professional career with Queretaro in 2017, recording four goals in 76 appearances over the course of three years before seeing stints with Tijuana and Puebla. He managed well in Liga MX, but it wasn’t until the 2022 Apertura that he became a standout.
The offensive midfielder recorded five goals in 20 overall matches to inspire Puebla to eighth on the table and the Liguilla quarterfinals.
Overall, Cortizo has 12 goals in 149 Liga MX appearances.
“They are going to see a player who always tries, that will never fail, who will go for the ball, will try to play, propose offensive play, go forward and who will always give himself up for the club. It is my dream to be champion of the Liga MX, there is no better option today than to be sitting here and with this squad to achieve it,” he said.
Cortizo stands as the first signing under new Monterrey president Jose Antonio Noriega, who replaced Duilio Davino following the team’s elimination from the 2022 Apertura. Upon his arrival, Noriega insisted he needed to evaluate the team’s needs before making drastic changes.
But the arrival of Jordi Cortizo will now set off the several moves already planned.
The 2023 Liga MX Clausura kicks off on January 6.
Club America sign defender Israel Reyes from Puebla
Club America has finally signed defender Israel Reyes from Club Puebla.
He stands as the team’s first reinforcement ahead of the 2023 Liga MX Clausura, joining on a four-year contract. The Mexico City team reportedly paid $4.5M for Reyes, after he established himself as one of the most promising defenders in the Mexican league.
Reyes kicked off his professional career with Atlas in 2019, before quickly securing a loan deal to Puebla. After 19 games with the Franja, the team exercised his purchase option to make Reyes a staple of the backline.
But it wasn’t until the 2022 Apertura that he became a standout in the Mexican league. The 22-year-old managed three goals in 17 games of the 2022 Apertura, inspiring Puebla to eighth place in the regular season and the Liguilla quarterfinals.
Overall, he recorded six goals in 76 appearances with Puebla before joining Club America.
Internationally, the player holds one cap with the Mexican national team. He made his debut on December 8, 2021, coming on as a substitute in the 68th minute of a friendly against Chile.
England vs Senegal: Confirmed lineups
On Sunday, England and Senegal, their opponents in the last-16 of the World Cup, square off at Al Bayt Stadium in a battle for a spot in the quarterfinals.
The Three Lions take on the Lions of Teranga, who advanced to the knockout stages thanks to a crucial intervention from their captain, in a first-ever meeting after Gareth Southgate’s team defeated Wales to win Group B.
England XI: Pickford; Walker, Stones, Maguire, Shaw; Rice, Henderson, Bellingham; Saka, Foden, Kane.
Senegal XI: E. Mendy; Sabaly, Koulibaly, Diallo, Jakobs; Ciss, N. Mendy; Diatta, Ndiaye, Sarr; Dia.
Monterrey signs midfielder Jordi Cortizo from Puebla
Club America sign defender Israel Reyes from Puebla
England vs Senegal: Confirmed lineups
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