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Like many roles across a football pitch, the position of right-back is one that has evolved in recent years. Once a crucial part of a rigid back four – where focus, balance and an eye for a tackle were of the utmost importance – it is now an area occupied by those with a willingness to get forward and create havoc for their opposing full-back.
Preventing tricky wingers from delivering crosses to lively strikers is undoubtedly still of huge importance, but the priorities of the modern-day right-back have seemingly reversed, with the majority in the position now relying on their ability to attack as opposed to their defensive diligence.So, who are the ten best right-backs in world football right now?
10. Nelson Semedo – Barcelona
Filling the boots of Dani Alves at Barcelona was always going to be an impossible task, but the Portuguese international is giving it his best shot. Signed from Benfica in 2017, the pacey full-back has quickly cemented a permanent status at the Catalan club, and has already taken in over 100 appearances.
Several English and Italian clubs are reportedly showing interest in the 26-year-old, and despite sharing game-time with Sergi Roberto this season, he is very much favoured by the Nou Camp faithful and Barca boss Quique Setien.
9. Giovanni Di Lorenzo – Napoli
With two goals and seven assists in all competitions this season, the former striker evidently hasn’t lost his touch in front of goal. Now a regular in Gennaro Gattuso’s Napoli side, Di Lorenzo is hitting the best form of his career.
His international venture with Italy only just took off last year, beginning life for his country with an assist in a 2020 European Qualifier. More recently, however, he has played a key role in his club’s successful Coppa Italia journey this season, culminating in a penalty shoot-out win over Juventus earlier this month.
8. Aaron Wan-Bissaka – Manchester United
Exciting, eager and an instant favourite at Old Trafford, the young defender has already established himself as one of the top right-backs the country has to offer. His 103 tackles in the Premier League this season is second only to Leicester’s Ricardo Pereira, with United fans welcoming a passion and tenacity on the pitch that has been lacking in recent years.
At just 22, the former Crystal Palace defender will only get better, particularly if his club can continue on their current upward trajectory. A promising club career is not the only reward on offer, with Wan-Bissaka set to rival the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Kyle Walker for a spot in the England national team.
7. Ricardo Pereira – Leicester
The man who has kept Semedo out of the Portugal scene in recent years, Leicester’s Pereira has held nothing back in becoming one of the world’s best right-backs. The 26-year-old is adored by the King Power Stadium faithful, and was voted as the club’s Player of the Season and Players’ Player of the Season in his first campaign in England.
He has gone from strength to strength since then, with his iconic bursts down the right and pinpoint crosses often resulting in a well-worked goal for a grateful Jamie Vardy. Sadly, an anterior cruciate ligament injury looks set to rule him out for the remainder of the season, but it’s one in which he boasts three goals, two assists, ten clean sheets and a league-high 119 tackles.
6. Kieran Trippier – Atletico Madrid
Kyle Walker’s big-money move to Manchester City in 2017 certainly left a gap in the Tottenham Hotspur defence, but it wasn’t long before that void was filled by Trippier. The 29-year-old has since moved on to Spanish outfit Atletico Madrid, where he has been enjoying life under the charismatic Diego Simeone.
Once on the books at City himself, the England international could well return to the Premier League one day, but for now he is content playing alongside some of the world’s best. He began life in the Spanish capital with a debut assist for former London rival Alvaro Morata, and recovered from the 2019 Champions League final heartache with Spurs by dumping Liverpool out of this season’s competition.
5. Kyle Walker – Manchester City
Pep Guardiola has spent millions in an attempt to strengthen his squad at Manchester City, and the position of right-back has been no exception. The likes of Danilo and Joao Cancelo have been brought in to the Etihad in recent years, but Walker stands tallest as the Spaniard’s number one choice.
Quick, direct, and a key part to much of City’s recent success, he has been one of the most consistent players in the English top-flight over the years, while also featuring heavily in Gareth Southgate’s England setup. His honours list has grown rapidly while in Manchester, and he’s still certainly at the top of his game.
4. Benjamin Pavard – Bayern Munich
World Cup winner in 2018 and now Bundesliga winner in 2020, the French international has slowly but surely become one of the best right-backs in world football, with his presence felt at both ends of the pitch. Coach Hansi Flick took a huge risk by switching Joshua Kimmich into a more central role, but it is one that has massively paid off, with Pavard settling effortlessly into the vacant right-back spot.
Netting twice upon the resumption of German football, he now has four for the campaign, along with four assists. But it is perhaps his defensive duties that have been even more important to the league title, with Bayern conceding just 32 league goals with one game left to play.
3. Achraf Hakimi – Borussia Dortmund
Another youngster at 21, and another who has lit up the football pitch both domestically and in Europe. The Moroccan is currently thriving on a two-year loan at Borussia Dortmund from Real Madrid, and is close to being fully converted into a flying winger given his pace and tenacity to get forward, with his Bundesliga speed record of 36.49km/h only recently beaten by Bayern Munich star Alphonso Davies at 36.51km/h.
The Dortmund man is, however, leading the way from defence in Germany this season with ten assists and five goals. Hakimi has also netted four times in the Champions League, with braces coming against Inter Milan and Slavia Prague, having introduced himself on the European stage back in 2018 with three assists in the 4-0 thumping of Atletico Madrid.
2. Dani Carvajal – Real Madrid
The man whose boots Hakimi may just fill in the years to come, but it’s safe to say that Carvajal still has several years at the top remaining. It’s worth remembering that despite his lengthy honours list and consistency at right-back for so long, the Spaniard is just 28. He’s not only keeping Hakimi out of the picture at the Bernabeu, but also Alvaro Odriozola, another Spanish international and another Bundesliga loanee, this time at Bayern Munich.
Underrated, underappreciated and fading away in Madrid’s reserve side a decade ago, he headed for Germany with Bayer Leverkusen, with a buy-back clause in his contract a stroke of genius by those pulling the strings at the Spanish outfit. The four-time Champions League winner boasts five assists and one goal in the current La Liga campaign, and has formed a formidable defence alongside Sergio Ramos, Raphael Varane and Ferland Mendy.
1. Trent Alexander-Arnold – Liverpool
Perhaps the most talented of all currently plying their trade, the Liverpool youngster has enjoyed a meteoric rise from Melwood academy prospect to Champions League winner in just a few years. At 21-years-old, the local lad is living his dream, and it’s certainly showing on the pitch.
His 12 league assists last season is a record for a defender, and he’s already matched that this time around with eight games still to play. His tally of 325 crosses in the league is well ahead of any other, highlighting just how hungry he is to get involved with the attacking talents of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane.