With the scintillating recent form of Liverpool right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold capturing the world’s attention, we thought this would be the perfect time to count down the best right-backs in the world right now. The position has had its fair share of legends, from Cafu to Lahm, but who is dominant at the moment? Strap yourselves in.
But first, for expert previews on all these stars’ weekly matches, do make sure to check out our match predictions. Right, let’s crack on with the ranking…
7. Benjamin Pavard (Bayern Munich)
Fun Fact: Pavard learned of his first call-up to the France national team while having a lunch break at his German language class. He admits he dissolved into tears upon hearing the news.
Most of us still remember Benjamin Pavard for his sumptuous volley against Argentina in the 2018 World Cup, later voted the goal of the tournament. But the versatile Frenchman has since impressed with his assured performances at club level. A solid all-round game has seen Pavard establish himself as a regular at Bayern Munich, the club he joined six months after that famous World Cup win.
Originally a product of the Lille youth academy, the right-back left the French side in 2016, citing a lack of trust between himself and then manager Frederic Antonetti. A move to the Bundesliga and VfB Stuttgart followed, where he enjoyed three seasons of great personal success mixed with difficulties in terms of the team’s results. Indeed, he featured in every single second of the 2017-18 season, but was unable to prevent the club being relegated the following year.
Now a regular for both Bayern Munich and France, Pavard has also learned to play centre-back when required. But he can most often be found on the right side of defence, where he has most certainly earned the right to make our list. And at just 23, we can expect the Frenchman to be featuring for years to come.
6. Kyle Walker (Manchester City)
Fun Fact: When substitute goalkeeper Claudio Bravo was sent off in Manchester City’s clash with Atalanta in November 2019, Walker volunteered to go in goal and kept a clean sheet as his side held on for a draw.
If this were a ranking for the world’s fastest right-backs, here’s your winner. Sadly it’s not, but Kyle Walker still comes in a very respectable 6th. Despite his brutal axing from the England setup by Gareth Southgate, Walker remains a world-class full-back. After all, he’s kept his place in the Manchester City side despite competition from £60 million summer arrival Joao Cancelo, who most expected would replace him. And what’s more, he comes in at 4th on our list of the best England players according to Fifa 20.
Blessed with lightning pace, impressive strength and a booming tackle, Walker forced his way into hometown club Sheffield United’s first team as an 18 year-old in 2008. It wasn’t long before he was snapped up by Harry Redknapp at Tottenham Hotspur, and it was in North London that the defender made a name for himself. He won Premier League Young Player of the Year at the end of the 2011-12 season and never looked back, soon becoming a regular for England as well as the Lilywhites.
His performances were so good that Pep Guardiola forked out over £50 million to bring him to the Etihad in 2017, where he replaced club legend Pablo Zabaleta on the right side of defence. Walker was a mainstay as the Citizens stormed to successive Premier League titles, and also starred for England as they reached the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup. Now 29, he remains one of the best right-backs in the world – so long as he keeps his pace.
5. Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea)
Fun Fact: Known for his versatility, Azpilicueta spent much of his youth career as a central midfielder and centre-back.
It’s hard enough to pronounce his name, let alone dribble past him. There are few who can get the better of Cesar Azpilicueta, who has been one of the Premier League’s best and most consistent full-backs for almost a decade now. Not only is the Spaniard known for his defensive qualities, but he’s also a reliable presence on the ball, very rarely conceding possession.
Azpilicueta established himself as a regular at hometown club Osasuna aged just 18, and was soon snapped up by Ligue 1 side Marseille for £7 million. After two seasons in France, during which he successfully recovered from a career-threatening cruciate ligament injury, Chelsea swooped for the defender in 2012. He soon earned the respect of the Stamford Bridge faithful, who affectionately nicknamed him ‘Dave’ as a reference to his troublesome surname.
Now club captain, Azpilicueta has starred in the Blues’ title-winning campaigns of 2015 and 2017, while in 2013 he earned a Europa League medal. He’s never quite made it at international level, however, having made only 25 appearances for Spain. That might be thanks to the presence of another Spaniard a little further down this list…
4. Ricardo Pereira (Leicester City)
Fun Fact: Pereira won the Leicester fans’ and players’ award for Player of the Season in 2018-19 – his first season at the club.
Probably the least known on this list, but certainly not the least talented, Ricardo Pereira has been outstanding since his arrival in the Premier League eighteen months ago. The Leicester full-back has earned plaudits for his speed, technical qualities and ability to make a tackle. In other words, he’s all you could ever want in a right-back.
He’s done the rounds though – stints at Vitoria Guimaraes, Porto and Nice preceded his move to England. It was during this period that he made his transition from winger to full-back, having previously been a prolific goalscorer from wide positions. Signs of his attacking past are still very much evident in his present game, where he loves to bomb forward and whip in dangerous crosses. Fantasy football managers across the country will pay testament to his knack for assists.
Having featured for his native Portugal 35 times at youth level, he’s surprisingly only earned 7 caps for the senior team so far. But if his stock continues to rise while current first-choice Joao Cancelo continues to struggle, we can expect that figure to rise significantly in the coming years.
3. Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)
Fun Fact: The Liverpool right-back’s agent is none other than his older brother Tyler, who was allowed onto the pitch to lift the Champions League trophy in 2019.
There’s nobody in better form right now than Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold, who has now firmly established himself as the best right-back in the Premier League. A Merseysider born and bred, he is now the star of a colossal mural near Anfield which reads ‘I’m just a normal lad from Liverpool whose dream has just come true’. And what a dream it has been so far.
Despite being only 21, Alexander-Arnold has already played the cheekiest corner in Champions League history, is halfway towards Paul Scholes’ Premier League assist record, and has established himself as a regular for England. BBC Sport has even written that he’s ‘making playing full-back sexy’. Indeed, he has an absolute wand of a right-foot, and is probably the best crosser the country has seen since David Beckham.
So, why isn’t he top of this list? Well, to be fair his defending isn’t perfect yet – a slight problem for a defender. But given many believe he will soon move further up the pitch, that weakness might not even matter in a couple of years.
2. Dani Carvajal (Real Madrid)
Fun Fact: Carvajal’s nickname among his Real Madrid teammates is ‘Kiwi-head’. He must be delighted.
Similar to Alexander-Arnold, here’s another local hero. Born in the Spanish capital, Carvajal has been at Real Madrid since the age of 10. He’s described as a world class all-rounder, possessing impressive speed as well as very strong attacking and defensive capabilities.
Carvajal initially plied his trade for Real Madrid Castilla – the club’s B team – where he made 68 appearances. Struggling to get into the first team, he left for Bayer Leverkusen, where he excelled. At the end of the 2012-13 season, his first and only in Germany, he was voted the Bundesliga’s third-best right-back. Luckily for Real, they had a buyback clause on the defender, and exercised it to recoup their former prodigy for just £5 million.
Since then, Carvajal has established himself as one of the best right-backs in the world. He’s already won an incredible four Champions League trophies, making him one of Los Blancos’ most decorated players, and at only 27, will be looking to add more to his tally. Yep, a couple of years ago, we would have named him the best right-back in the world. But a certain German has arrived on the scene and changed all that…
1. Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich)
Fun Fact: Kimmich’s idols growing up were Zinedine Zidane, Bastian Schweinsteiger and… Tomas Rosicky.
Alright, he doesn’t always play on the right side of defence, often being deployed in a holding midfield role instead. But it’s at right-back that Joshua Kimmich made his name, and it’s at right-back that he often still plays. So, how to describe him? Well, first there’s his aggression. This is evident in his style of play, but also in the way he screams orders at his teammates and reprimands them when they make mistakes. But he also possesses fantastic technical qualities – there are few better crossers in world football right now, to give one example.
Having spent much of his youth career at VfB Stuttgart, he moved to RB Leipzig at the age of 18. After two highly successful seasons in their first team, Pep Guardiola and Bayern Munich swooped for the defender in 2015. Kimmich recalls how Guardiola travelled to Leipzig himself to convince him to join the Bavarians, praising his qualities and telling him ‘I want you on this team’.
It was at Bayern that he made the move from centre-back to right-back, and has since won a host of domestic titles. He made his international debut at Euro 2016 and has already amassed 48 caps for Germany despite being only 24. The sky’s the limit for this man, who has been the perfect replacement for Philip Lahm at both club and international level. Indeed, there are a number of parallels between the two, not least that both are capable of playing in defensive midfield as well as right-back. You can find betting tips on Kimmich and the rest of the Bundesliga here.
Well, there you have it – our complete ranking of the best right-backs in the world right now. If you want more football, make sure to check out our football tips!
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