Undoubtedly one of the most difficult positions in football, the modern-day winger has a lot to think about at both ends of the pitch. Long gone are the days when simply beating a man and crossing the ball into the box was their only responsibility.
The overall premise certainly remains the same nowadays, but many wingers are increasingly judged on their goalscoring abilities to go alongside their dribbling and delivering skills. Many are often even expected to put in a defensive shift as well, with raw pace and tricky footwork also central components to their game.
Thankfully there are several wingers out there who can do all of the above. But who are the top ten currently plying their trade in world football?
10. Heung-min Son – Tottenham Hotspur
A versatile forward, but one whose best performances in a Tottenham Hotspur shirt this season have come from the left-wing. The South Korean is crucial for club and country, and almost single-handedly guided Spurs through a tough time without captain Harry Kane.
Son ended another fantastic campaign in north London with 18 goals and 12 assists in all competitions, with his sensational solo effort in the 5-0 win against Burnley in December recently voted as the Premier League’s Goal of the Season.
9. Serge Gnabry – Bayern Munich
Arsenal’s forgotten man, and a transfer that they have come to regret in recent years. The 25-year-old has been a regular in a star-studded Bayern Munich attack this season, with his 12 and 11 goals and assists respectively helping the Germans to their eighth successive Bundesliga title.
Utilised on both the left and right flanks, Gnabry has also shown his abilities on the European stage, netting four goals in 35 minutes on his return to the English capital at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in the Champions League. His tally in all competitions this season currently sits at 21 goals and 14 assists after adding one of each in the 8-2 thrashing of Barcelona.
8. Jadon Sancho – Borussia Dortmund
A goal, assist and man of the match display in his side’s DFL-Supercup victory over rivals Bayern at the beginning of the campaign was a sign of things to come, with Sancho adding a further 19 goals and 19 assists across the Bundesliga and Champions League. It’s quite a feat for any attacker, never mind a 20-year-old.
Already an important player for both Dortmund and England, expect Manchester United to fork out a hefty fee if they are to have any chance of bringing the youngster back to England.
7. Neymar – PSG
The Brazilian hasn’t had much of an opportunity of late to showcase the skills that helped him reach the riches of PSG, but he never fails to disappoint when the time finally arrives. A joint-record of 16 successful dribbles against Atalanta in their recent Champions League encounter was just a glimpse of his full range of talents.
He’s one of the most divisive footballers on the planet, but there’s no denying his raw ability and flair going forward. His 19 goals and 11 assists from just 25 appearances throughout the season now just needs the right attitude to produce the perfect player.
6. Mohamed Salah – Liverpool
From Chelsea misfit to one of the most feared forwards in world football. It’s now 32, 22 and 19 goals in his three Premier League seasons as a Liverpool player respectively, a simply extraordinary feat for a wide player.
The Egyptian is sure to go down in Liverpool folklore for helping bring so many years of Anfield hurt to an end and, at 28 years old, he still has plenty of time to somehow get even better.
5. Raheem Sterling – Man City
Another phenomenal campaign saw Sterling finish with 40 goal involvements across all competitions, with the winger scoring 31 of those and setting up the other nine. A cunning knack for being in the right place at the right time has helped him achieve much of that success.
While his offensive contributions have been key to City’s slick attacking scene, it’s important not to overlook his defensive attributes, with the 25-year-old constantly tracking back and offering support across all areas of the pitch.
4. Kylian Mbappe – PSG
An astounding talent, and one with a list of honours longer than most strikers twice his age. Mbappe’s short cameo in the recent Champions League clash with Atalanta changed the match, with his speed, trickery and deadly finishing certain to cause havoc for even the world’s best defenders.
At 21 years of age, fully expect the youngster from Bondy to take over from the greatest forwards currently involved in the game in the near future. With over 100 club goals in his brief but electric career, he’s almost there already.
3. Sadio Mane – Liverpool
An unstoppable force down the left for the Reds, and one which opposition defenders hate to see coming. One of the quickest and trickiest customers in the game, with his finishing second to none throughout Europe.
A real hero to the Anfield faithful, Mane’s 18 goals and seven assists helped the Reds lift their first league title in 30 years, with his link-up play in the final third crucial to the club’s success. Getting him to stay in Merseyside is Jurgen Klopp’s next challenge.
2. Cristiano Ronaldo – Juventus
A serial winner wherever he goes, and still at the very top of his game at 35 years old. The versatile forward netted an incredible 37 times throughout the season, with 31 of those helping Juventus to a ninth successive Serie A title.
His passion for winning is incomparable, with his innate desire to constantly reach for the very top one of the reasons behind his lengthy success on the pitch. Raw ability and an eye for an important goal have also been key.
1. Lionel Messi – Barcelona
His 31 goals in all competitions in 2019/20 have essentially single-handedly prevented his club from falling further into disrepute, with the Argentinian simply doing what he does best and getting on with matters on the pitch despite the negativity off it. The winger has backed up his goals with the small matter of 26 assists, overtaking former team-mate Xavi as the player with the most assists in a single Spanish top-flight campaign.
Despite a disappointing end to the season, Messi has still broken a further ten records, including picking up La Liga’s top scorer award for the seventh time, and scoring against 34 different clubs in the Champions League, more than any other player.
Who should or shouldn’t have made the list? Let us know!