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Over the past 10-15 years, many positions in football have evolved but perhaps none more so than the winger. In years gone by, wingers would primarily be outlets whose sole responsibility was to get the ball take their full-back on, and whip a ball into the cross for the striker to attack.
While that is still a core part of their job, there is now so much more to it. Generally speaking, wingers now play a lot more narrowly than they used to and in many teams, their average positions are further forward than strikers. They are now expected to contribute significant numbers in terms of goals and assists making it a very demanding and high-pressured position.
Some of the most exciting footballers in world football currently play on the wing but who are the very best around? Let’s take a look at the top ten.
10. Jack Grealish – Manchester City
- 1 10. Jack Grealish – Manchester City
- 2 9. Serge Gnabry – Bayern Munich
- 3 8. Rafael Leão – AC Milan
- 4 7. Riyad Mahrez – Manchester City
- 5 6. Bukayo Saka – Arsenal
- 6 5. Marcus Rashford – Manchester United
- 7 4. Khvicha Kvaratskheli – Napoli
- 8 3. Neymar – PSG
- 9 2. Mohamed Salah – Liverpool
- 10 1. Vinicius Jr – Real Madrid
Jack Grealish is the exception to the rule in this list of ten in the sense that he isn’t a goal or assists machine. Despite that, he has become an integral part of Pep Guardiola’s side and was a regular in their recent treble-winning campaign.
Grealish’s strengths are drawing players over to him with his tight ball control before releasing a forward-running midfielder with an intricate through ball. He isn’t explosive in terms of taking people on nor is he an expert finisher, but he rarely loses the ball and his strengths allow City to suffocate opponents in around their penalty area.
9. Serge Gnabry – Bayern Munich
After famously being told he wasn’t good enough for West Bromwich Albion by Tony Pulis in 2016, Serge Gnabry has gone on to have a sensational career at Bayern Munich. The German winger has been a regular in the Bayern side for many years now and has been remarkably consistent along the way.
Over the past two seasons in the Bundesliga, Gnabry has played in every single game for Bayern and has recorded a combined 28 goals and 10 assists. His form hasn’t dipped in the absence of Robert Lewandowski, either, displaying just important he is to the club.
8. Rafael Leão – AC Milan
In a league more famed for rigid football and defensive stalemates, Rafael Leao has managed to shine above all others over the past couple of seasons. The Portuguese winger helped Milan to their first Serie A title in eleven years in 2022 but on a personal note, last season was his best yet.
Leao was prolific, scoring 15 goals and providing ten assists in Serie A while he also added a combined six G/A in 11 Champions League appearances as AC Milan made it through to the semi-finals of the competition. Earlier this month, the 24-year-old ended all speculation around his future by penning a new contract at the San Siro.
7. Riyad Mahrez – Manchester City
Riyad Mahrez became one of the most feared wingers in the Premier League back in 2015/16 when Leicester City stunned the world and won the title against all odds. After playing a huge role in that, the Algerian moved to Manchester City where he has gone on to win it all under the guidance of Pep Guardiola.
Although he has enjoyed spells in and out of the team, Mahrez is a constant threat down the right wing for City. In many ways, he is the opposite of Jack Grealish – direct, unpredictable, more of a goal-threat but perhaps more frustrating which sometimes puts him out of favour with the perfectionist known as Pep Guardiola.
6. Bukayo Saka – Arsenal
Saka broke into the Arsenal team at the age of 17 and almost immediately, everyone knew they were watching a future superstar. A couple of years later he was an England regular and suffered the crushing feeling of missing a penalty in the final of an international tournament.
However, the way Saka has bounced back has been remarkable. Last season he became a key cog in a young Arsenal team that led the Premier League for most of the season, netting 14 league goals and providing 11 assists in the process.
5. Marcus Rashford – Manchester United
From one Englishman who burst onto the scene as a teenager to another now as we take a look at Marcus Rashford – the Jewell in Manchester United’s crown. While the potential has always been there, Rashford took his game up several levels last season as he filled out and started bullying opposition defences from the left wing.
He is freakishly quick, with dribbling skills to match and his finishing is improving by the month. Last season was his best from a goalscoring point of view, with the 25-year-old scoring 30 goals across all competitions. The key for Rashford is now to keep that level up as he enters the peak years of his career.
4. Khvicha Kvaratskheli – Napoli
Khvicha Kvaratskheli is one of those rare footballers who are bought by a club out of seemingly nowhere before going on to lead them to exceptional things. The Georgian signed for Napoli last summer and the impact he had on the team is quite easily measured – the club won their first Serie A title in over 30 years.
Kvaratskheli struck up a great partnership with Victor Osimhen at the top of the pitch and the 22-year-old ended the season with 14 goals and 17 assists in 43 appearances for Napoli. If he can repeat that form next season then he will surely command a huge fee if Napoli elect to cash in.
3. Neymar – PSG
While many people in the footballing world consider Neymar to be one of the most frustrating players around, his numbers are simply too stunning to discard him from the upper echelons of this list. During his time in European football, Neymar has averaged more than one goal or assist per game which is a magnificent record considering he has been in Europe for ten years.
Originally at Barcelona, he was part of one of the most formidable forward lines in football history alongside Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez and at PSG he has struck up a similar partnership with Kylian Mbappe. Neymar is a maverick who also has the numbers to back up his game – he is a one-off who should be appreciated rather than ridiculed as he considers his next move.
2. Mohamed Salah – Liverpool
When Liverpool signed Salah from Roma in 2017, there were many sceptics due to his indifferent form when he was a Premier League player with Chelsea. To say he has silenced those sceptics would be the understatement of the century with the Egyptian taking Liverpool back to their glory years.
Over his six years at Anfield, Salah has almost single-handedly revolutionised the role of a winger in English football due to his obscene goalscoring levels season after season. His outside-to-in runs have become a trademark and he is as good a finisher as anyone in world football. Even last season, in a supposed off-year for the Egyptian, he still scored 19 goals and provided 12 assists in 38 league appearances.
1. Vinicius Jr – Real Madrid
Over the past couple of seasons, Vinicius JR has cemented himself as the best winger in world football due to his performances for Real Madrid in La Liga and the Champions League. Last season, the Brazilian scored 23 goals and provided 20 assists for Real Madrid and the year before he scored 22 goals and provided 20 assists, displaying his consistency at an elite level.
It isn’t just his output that is impressive about Vinicius Jr, but also how he performs on the biggest stage. In 2021/22, he scored the winner for Los Blancos in the Champions League final and to put it simply, there is no winger in world football more consistent or reliable in big games than this man.
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