Right-backs have undergone a remarkable transformation in recent years, evolving into versatile players who play crucial roles in modern football. Their significance in ensuring defensive solidity, contributing to the offense, and creating scoring opportunities cannot be overstated. In this article, we’ll rank the best right-backs in the world, celebrating their extraordinary skills and contributions to the beautiful game.
Best Right Backs of All Time
Right-backs have left an indelible mark on the world of football, showcasing their remarkable skills and versatility. Their contributions to both defense and offense have elevated the position to new heights, making them true legends of the game.
1) Cafu – Brazil
When it comes to producing world-class right-backs, Brazil reigns supreme, and Cafu stands as a testament to their dominance. Cafu, often considered one of the greatest soccer players of all time, redefined the right-back role.
He combined elegance, dynamism, and grace with incredible speed and athleticism. Cafu was known for his relentless runs up and down the field, making crucial tackles, interceptions, and overlapping with the attack.
Notably, he wore the iconic number 2 jersey throughout most of his illustrious career, representing top clubs like AC Milan and AS Roma. But it was on the international stage with Brazil that he truly shone, representing his nation in four FIFA World Cups and achieving the remarkable feat of appearing in three consecutive World Cup finals.
Cafu captained Brazil to World Cup glory in 2002 and holds the record for the most appearances for the Brazilian national team with 142 caps.
2) Philipp Lahm – Germany
Philipp Lahm’s versatility was his hallmark, capable of excelling at right-back, left-back, or even in defensive midfield, making him a manager’s dream. His tactical intelligence compensated for his lack of speed and physical strength, and his exceptional ball control, dribbling, and passing accuracy made him a joy to watch.
Lahm’s leadership skills were evident as he captained Bayern Munich to numerous honors, including the 2013 UEFA Champions League. He also led Germany to victory at the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
Philipp Lahm’s consistency and excellence earned him a spot in the World Cup and UEFA Team of the Tournament on multiple occasions, underlining his status as one of the greatest right-backs in history.
3) Lilian Thuram – France
Lilian Thuram was a quick, powerful, and versatile defender capable of playing both as a center-back and right-back. His relentless marking and aggressive tackling made him a formidable opponent. Thuram’s contributions extended to the offensive end, as he was known for his attacking runs up the flank, adding an extra dimension to his team’s play.
His career included stints at Monaco, Parma, Juventus, and Barcelona, where he won several trophies. Thuram was instrumental in France’s triumph at the 1998 FIFA World Cup and UEFA Euro 2000, solidifying his status as one of the greatest wingbacks in soccer history. With 142 appearances, he remains the second most capped player in the history of the France national team.
4) Dani Alves – Brazil
Dani Alves, the most decorated player in professional soccer history, boasts an impressive 41 senior-level titles. He’s celebrated as one of the finest full-backs of all time, known for his pace, stamina, and overlapping attacking runs. Alves’ technical skills enable him to play in midfield or as a winger, and his crossing accuracy and distribution make him an effective assist provider.
Notably, his time at Barcelona, where he played a crucial role in their success from 2008 to 2012, showcased his ability to create scoring opportunities. His partnership with Lionel Messi was extraordinary, and his ability to shine in both defensive and offensive roles sets him apart as one of the greatest right-backs ever.
5) Javier Zanetti – Argentina
Javier Zanetti may not have garnered the same excitement as other full-backs, but his greatness is unquestionable. His career spanning over 22 years at the highest level is a testament to his enduring quality.
Zanetti’s versatility allowed him to excel on both flanks as a full-back and in midfield. He possessed exceptional physical attributes, including speed, strength, and technical prowess. His quickness, ball control, and dribbling ability made him a unique talent. Zanetti’s iconic presence as Inter Milan’s captain further solidifies his status as one of the best right-backs in history.
6) Carlos Alberto – Brazil
Carlos Alberto, famously known as “O Capitão do Tri,” is considered one of the greatest right-backs in soccer history. He was not only a superb defender but also an inspirational leader for the Brazilian national team. His ability to read the game, anticipate opponents’ moves and make crucial tackles and interceptions set him apart.
Alberto was adept at marking opposing players and preventing them from advancing down the right flank. His exceptional control, playmaking ability, and timing further enhanced his value. Not to forget, he scored one of the most iconic goals in football history during the 1970 FIFA World Cup final, cementing his legacy as a legendary right-back.
7) Giuseppe Bergomi – Italy
Giuseppe Bergomi’s remarkable 20-year career at Inter Milan showcased his versatility and adaptability. Known primarily as a right-back, he could seamlessly slot into any defensive position and adapt to different formations. His athleticism, consistency, and strong aerial presence made him a formidable defender.
Bergomi was equally effective at contributing to his team’s offensive plays with his right foot, crossing ability, and powerful shots from outside the area. His excellent man-marking skills as a “stopper” added another layer to his defensive prowess. Bergomi remains an icon in Inter Milan’s history.
8) Djalma Santos – Brazil
Djalma Santos was a quick and physically strong defender known for his stamina, marking, and tackling ability. His excellent ball control, dribbling skills, creativity, and accurate distribution set him apart. He was one of the first full-backs to venture forward and make overlapping attacking runs down the flank, contributing to his team’s offensive plays.
Santos was also known for his proficiency in taking long throw-ins and excelled as a penalty kick and set-piece taker. His inclusion in three FIFA World Cup All-Star teams is a testament to his exceptional skills and impact.
9) Phil Neal – England
Phil Neal’s career at Liverpool is nothing short of legendary, with seven First Division League titles, four League Cups, and numerous other honors to his name. He holds a remarkable record of 366 consecutive league matches, underscoring his consistency and reliability.
Neal’s presence in Liverpool’s lineup was pivotal to their success, and he remains one of the most successful English soccer players. His contributions to the right-back position and his unwavering commitment to Liverpool have left an indelible mark on the game.
10) Gianluca Zambrotta – Italy
Gianluca Zambrotta’s versatility allowed him to excel on both the left and right sides of the pitch, making him a tactically valuable asset. His attributes included pace, marking ability, tackling skills, strength, intelligence, tenacity, discipline, and stamina. Zambrotta’s ability to make surging, overlapping attacking runs with the ball up the flank added dynamism to his team’s play.
He was a mainstay in the Italian national team and earned recognition in the Team of the Tournament at Euro 2004, despite Italy’s early exit. His contributions to both the defensive and offensive aspects of the game established him as one of the top right-backs in soccer history.
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