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Top 10 Right-Backs in Premier League History

The position of right-back is one that is seemingly constantly evolving, with those currently in the role expected to join in on attacks just as much as they are expected to carry out their defensive duties, if not more so.

Fortunately for England, there is a long list of rising stars who are more than capable of stepping up to the role at international level, with the majority currently residing in the Premier League.

But whether they can force their name into a debate around the competition’s best ever right-backs is another matter entirely.

We take a look at the top 10 Premier League right-backs of all time.

1. Gary Neville

A Manchester United and Premier League legend, whose loyalty at Old Trafford saw him rewarded with eight league titles, three FA Cups and two Champions Leagues. The defender retired as a United hero in 2011, having amassed 602 appearances in all competitions.

A true one-club man, Neville has since moved into punditry with Sky Sports, with his views undoubtedly respected due to his successful career on the pitch. No-nonsense defending and tough tackling were very much his thing.

2. Lee Dixon

Former Arsenal man Dixon is another to try his hand at punditry since retiring, but he is another who will be remembered for his top displays on the right hand side of defence. He enjoyed spells at Burnley, Chester, Bury and Stoke before becoming a legend in north London.

And that is exactly where he racked up his 305 Premier League appearances, winning the competition twice. He had previously clinched two First Division titles, and also boasts two FA Cup trophies in a stunning career at the back.

3. Pablo Zabaleta

A serial winner in English football, and a key figure in Manchester City’s recent domination across several competitions. Almost a decade at the club saw him clinch two league titles, two League Cups and an FA Cup.

With younger and more attacking talents moving in under Pep Guardiola, Zabaleta was moved on to West Ham in 2017, where he took his Premier League appearance tally to the 300-mark, with his tackling numbers falling just short of 1000.

4. Branislav Ivanovic

The former Chelsea man will undoubtedly be remembered most for his displays in blue, where his ten year stay at Stamford Bridge saw him clinch almost every trophy out there. He left in 2017 having lifted three Premier Leagues, three FA Cups, and the small matter of one Champions League and one Europa League.

The Serbian is back in the English top-flight after making a surprise switch to struggling West Brom, having spent three years in Russia with Zenit St Petersburg. With his ruthlessness and rigidity at the back, he is certainly one of the more traditional right-backs that the league has seen in recent years.

5. Lauren

The Cameroon man may have ended his English career at Portsmouth, but he was another full-back of huge quality who earned his reputation at Highbury. He left the country with 115 wins from his 184 appearances.

With the names of Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry, Robert Pires and Dennis Bergkamp often taking the headlines, Lauren is perhaps an unsung hero in Arsene Wenger’s famous Invincibles season, having played 32 times at right-back in the club’s unforgettable campaign.

6. Bacary Sagna

Sagna arrived at Arsenal from French outfit Auxerre in 2007, immediately landing with huge pressure on his shoulders having been given the number three shirt, previously worn by the recently-departed Ashley Cole.

But it was pressure that the right-back excelled under, with his 267 appearances for the Gunners and subsequently Man City producing just four goals, such was his appetite for defending. The France international enjoyed a brief spell at Italian side Benevento upon leaving England, before spending two seasons in Major League Soccer with Montreal Impact.

7. Trent Alexander-Arnold

At just 22 years of age, the Liverpool man has already won almost everything there is to win at club level, from lifting the Premier League title to lifting the Champions League trophy. Moreover, the local lad was recently named as captain in their fixture with FC Midtjylland.

Many may suggest his defensive work could still be refined, but Alexander-Arnold more than makes up for any errors at the back with his passing and crossing abilities that have helped him stand out from the crowd in recent seasons. The ‘Best Right-Back in the World’ tag has now been placed on his young shoulders by many throughout the industry.

8. Kyle Walker

Another current Premier League player, and one that has been consistently among the competition’s best full-backs for several years now. Walker is also a regular in the England national team, such has been his positive displays at both ends of the pitch in the last decade.

Tottenham were the first top-flight club to see just what he is capable of, but the defender’s best performances have been at current side Man City, where he has made the right-back spot his own despite a huge influx of world-class talent across Pep Guardiola’s backline.

9. Gary Kelly

Another extremely loyal one-club man, Kelly spent a decade and a half in the white of Leeds United, beginning life in the First Division before becoming a first-team regular for ten seasons in the newly-formed Premier League.

Injuries perhaps forced him into an early retirement at the age of 32, but his heroic displays in Yorkshire will be remembered and appreciated for many years to come, with fellow Leeds legends Allan Clarke, Mick Jones, Paul Reaney and Frank Worthington giving him the send-off he deserved on the final day of the 2006/07 Championship campaign.

10. Stephen Carr

Another enthusiastic Irish international, Carr became a hugely popular figure in English football, firstly at Tottenham, then at Newcastle and Birmingham, making 377 appearances in the top-flight.

Club trophies may not have been his speciality, but he certainly made individual awards his own, twice securing a spot in the Premier League PFA Team of the Year for his performances for Spurs 2000/01 and 2002/03.

About the author

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Peter Lynch

Sports Journalism graduate from the University of Stirling, huge Liverpool and Northern Ireland fan, currently working as a freelancer.

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