Best Right Back In the World- FootySamba Ranking System
Football is a sport that is constantly changing, and so are the roles within the game. Players are now expected to do more on and off the ball than they ever did before, and the evolution of the modern game has led to a gulf in talent between those at the top, and the rest. Take, for example, the continued debate about the right backs in the world; an argument that could last hours without a definitive consensus.
The modern right back is an intriguing beast; one that must possess multiple key attributes in order to excel in his role. Mastering these attributes is key to what makes a player excel in that role, and the really elite players will have all of these plus more. We’ve looked at the 5 attributes we believe to be most important for the ultimate right back, and ranked each one out of 10 for each player, they are:
- Positional awareness
Understanding the game, anticipating opposition’s wingers, and having a good link-up with their teammate on the same flank are all essential as well. All of the players on this list will have the vast majority of these attributes in abundance, whilst the elite players will have all plus more!
Speaking of elite… in compiling this list, we assessed three legendary right backs we feel are examples of the “complete right back,” and who helped define how the role is played today. We will analyse these all-time greatest footballers later in the article. For now, let’s take a look at what makes a player the best right back in the world.
What Makes a Player the Best Right Back in the World?
In order to be in the discussion as one of the best right backs in the world, there are plenty of key attributes a player needs to possess. Among them, it is essential to be versatile, and have a strong footballing brain. Operating in a naturally defensive role that allows for attacking flexibility is a hugely important role in the team, and it needs a particular type of player to be able to play it.
Also, being that right back is first and foremost a defensive position, it is necessary to possess a degree of defensive acumen, as well as pace, positional awareness, agility, and anticipation.
However, the modern right back must combine this with a strong offensive mindset, and be capable of taking up attacking positions in the right channel, sending in crosses, and picking up loose balls to put them into dangerous positions for goal conversions.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at my list of the best right backs in the world, as well as a small selection of some legends of the position. Together we can try to answer the ever-elusive question, who is the best right back in the world? It’s unlikely a definitive conclusion will be reached, but let’s dive in!
Who are the Best Right Backs in the World?
So, let’s examine a run down of some of the best and most talented right backs in the world right now. It’s worth noting that the best right backs in the world in 2022 may not necessarily be the best right backs in the world in 2023. Here are some of the biggest names in football who occupy that right back spot.
September 19, 1990 (age 32 years)
Current teams: Newcastle United F.C. , England national football team
Set piece maestro – 1 free kick goal, 7 assists, 24 big chances created, 393 crosses (2022/23 season)
Okay, so, a slightly controversial opening choice, but one that may have more merit than it appears.
After a long period at Spurs, which resulted in performances ranging from terrible to world-class, Trippier departed for the bright lights in Madrid, capturing a La Liga title with Atletico in a 2 ½ season stint with the Spanish club, before moving to Newcastle United in January of 2022. Since joining The Toon, he has become club captain, and helped guide the team back into the top 4, and the final of the Carabao Cup.
Known for his work rate, determination, set pieces, crossing ability, and combative nature, Bury-born Trippier has all the attributes common in English right backs, but he’s picked up some that continental flair from his time in Spain.
On his day, he is certainly up there among the best right-backs in the best league in the world.
Main weakness: Trippier is a top player, but his one major weakness is his dribbling ability, which directly impacts his confidence in-game, as well as making it more difficult for him to beat the final man.
August 7, 1997 (age 25 years)
Current teams: Aston Villa F.C., Poland national football team
Work rate machine – Played 80+ mins in 10 games under Emery, missing a month through injury (2022/23)
Another Premier League entry on the list, Cash is perhaps a surprising inclusion, but a fine display under Unai Emery’s stewardship at the tail end of last season has seen his stock rise.
Whilst the English-born Poland international won’t be winning any awards for offensive play any time soon, there is no doubting his defensive acumen, and this has proven integral to helping Villa secure European football for the first time in a good many years.
Playing with a gritty intensity, Cash is a fan favourite at Villa park, and one of the leading defensive right backs in the league. On his day, there’s an argument he can be talked about as being up there with the very best, but his erratic nature can sometimes get the best of him as well.
Main weakness: Cash is a very good right back, but one of his major weaknesses is his crossing ability, which limits his creativity, and neuters his impact in more offensive areas.
November 14, 1997 (age 25 years)
Current teams: FC Bayern Munich, Morocco national football team
Highly versatile – 3 apps at RM and 3 apps at LB for club and country (2022/23)
After developing a name for himself in the Eredivisie as part of Erik Ten Hag’s dominant Ajax side, Mazraoui enjoyed domestic success, as well as a run to the 2018/19 Champions League final.
But it was the 2021/22 season that really put him on the map in terms of Europe’s elite right backs, and another Eredivisie, in which he registered 7 goal contributions earned him a move to Germany with Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich.
Whilst Mazraoui’s time at Bayern has been blighted by injury, there is no doubt that he is a special talent, who has all the tools to become one of the best right backs in the world.
An intelligent and technically astute footballer, he is also versatile enough to be able to play the much-coveted inverted role that can be so effective when done well. If he can stay fit and get a run in the side, he will no doubt return to his best, and position himself as one of the world’s elite right backs.
Main weakness: Mazraoui is a great right back, but his poor acceleration makes him slow out of the traps, and impacts his reflexes and anticipation both on and off the ball.
February 17, 1997 (age 26 years)
Current teams: A.S. Roma, Turkey national football team
Intelligent positional play – Tackles (91st percentile), shots blocked (71st percentile), interceptions (60th percentile)
The Turkey international made a name for himself as one of Europe’s most prominent right backs, following a 4-year stint in Ligue 1 with Lille, where he helped the club capture its 4th top flight league title.
In 2022 he transferred to Roma, where he was a key part of the side that made it to the Europa League final. Celik has continued his impressive form for the Italian sleeping giants, and remains one of the biggest names in European football.
Known for his strong defensive game, and having improved considerably offensively, the former Istanbulspor right back is one of the best right backs in the world.
Who knows where his journey will end, but, at the age of just 26, he could well make a move to another top flight European league before too long.
Main weakness: Celik is a very good defensive right back, but his major weakness comes with his dribbling ability, which means he will likely never develop into any kind of attacking threat for his team.
Excellent athleticism – Missed just 5 of 47 games through injury at the age of 35
May 26, 1988 (age 35 years)
Current teams: Juventus F.C., Colombia national football team
Amazingly, Cuadrado originally began life as a fearsome winger, terrorising full-backs and wing-backs alike with his pace, direct style of play, and dribbling skills. After impressing at Fiorentina for 2 ½ seasons, Cuadrado got a big move to Chelsea in January 2015, but it didn’t work out for the Colombian. After two loan spells at Juventus, he joined I Bianconeri permanently in 2017.
The move reignited his form, and the veteran reinvented himself as Juve’s first choice right back under Allegri.
His athleticism, natural fitness, and impressive versatility have helped to make him one of the best performing right backs in Europe in recent years, and he has certainly impressed enough to sit alongside the best right backs in the world in 2023.
Main weakness: At 35, Cuadrado has great experience, but his major weakness lies in his ability to anticipate both challenges, and the flight of a ball, and this can cause his team defensive concerns.
Giovanni Di Lorenzo
A natural born leader – Club captain for 47 games across all comps
August 4, 1993 (age 29 years)
Current teams: S.S.C. Napoli, Italy national football team
Napoli’s captain and defensive stalwart, 29-year-old Lorenzo is one of the best and most overlooked right-backs on this list. Playing his trade at Reggina and Empoli, before a 2019 move to Napoli for €8 million, Lorenzo became an immediate starter, winning the Copa Italia in his first season with the club.
He has since proven to be an integral part of this thrilling Napoli side, and captained the club to its 3rd Serie A title last season.
A versatile right back, who is also capable of playing as a centre-back, wing-back, or a right winger, Lorenzo is the complete right-back.
He is talented and dangerous going forward into attacking positions, and his height, stamina, physicality, and ability to play with both feet make him an excellent defender who relishes on-field battles. Lorenzo is definitely one of the best right-backs in the world in 2023.
Main weakness: Acceleration is Di Lorenzo’s biggest weakness, and makes it difficult for him to effectively control his winger, or to gain the upper hand in one-on-one situations.
Technically gifted – Dribbles, 78th percentile
November 4, 1998 (age 24 years)
Current teams: Paris Saint-Germain F.C., Morocco national football team
Regarded as one of the best right-backs in the world, Spanish-born Morocco international Hakimi is one of the biggest names on this list. And whilst it may be true that PSG failed to win the Champions League once again, there is no doubt that Hakimi is one of the most recognisable and revered names across Europe.
Starting his career with Real Madrid, before moving to Inter Milan, and then PSG, he has won 9 trophies in a career that is just getting started.
Capable of also playing left back, or as a winger, Hakimi is well known for his quick and dynamic movement, excellent pace and off-the-ball work, and is an exceptionally gifted technical player.
With strong tactical nous, and an excellent passing range, many rate him as the best right back in the world right now, and he’s certainly in the running.
Main weakness: Hakimi is a very good player, but his major weakness is his off the ball work, which negatively impacts both his defensive and offensive capabilities.
Positionally astute – Clean sheets 14 (80th percentile)
October 8, 1997 (age 25 years)
Current teams: Arsenal F.C., England national football team
Something of a new kid on the block among the range of natural right-backs on this list, White is actually a centre-back by trade. However, it is his versatility, and his integral role in Arsenal’s unexpected title challenge last season, that earns him a position on this list.
A technically excellent player, who is positionally aware, strong in the challenge, and capable of bringing the ball out from the back, White has been a revelation for Arsenal filling in at right back.
In fact, he has performed so well in the role that he has kept former first choice right-back Takehiro Tomiyasu out of the side. What’s more, the overlaps he provides for Bukayo Saka have illustrated the importance of team connection in football, as well as the fact that many players have attributes that allow them to play out of position and still excel, as White has done at right back.
Main weakness: White has enjoyed a strong breakout season, but his biggest weakness is his dribbling, which makes it very difficult for him to beat players, and to get crosses into the opposition’s box.
Dominates one-on-ones – Dribbled past just 9 times (77th percentile)
November 12, 1998 (age 24 years)
Current teams: FC Barcelona, France national football team
Whilst more of a natural centre-back, the Frenchman occupied the right-back slot for most of last season with Barcelona, thrilling the Camp Nou with a series of wonderful performances.
The versatile 24-year-old was instrumental in his team securing their 27th La Liga title, and first since 2018-19. Before this, he was also a mainstay in the Sevilla side that romped to the Europa League title in 2019-20.
Positionally superb, strong aerially, and dominant in one-on-one situations, Kounde has been a revelation at right-back. Indeed, his performances have been so good that seeing a long-term positional shift out wide would not feel unlikely.
Barca could well have found their right-back replacement after all these years, and there’s no question he is one of the best right-backs in the world.
Main weakness: Kounde’s biggest weak point is his dribbling ability, which renders him ineffectual in any offensive situation.
Excellent technique – 6.35 xA & 85% pass completion rate
July 15, 1991 (age 31 years)
Current teams: Juventus F.C., Brazil national football team
Excellent technique – 6.35 xA & 85% pass completion rate
Brazilian Danilo joined Juventus Manchester City, in a deal that saw Joao Cancelo move the other way. The 31-year-old immediately set about making the right back spot his own, and has made over 100 appearances for The Old Lady to date. With more than 15 trophies won in a career that dates back to his days in Brazil, there is no question that many may view Danilo as the best right back in the world.
And it’s true that an argument could be made for this; he’s as reliable as they come, tireless, driven, and relentless. Whilst in recent years we’ve seen the less joyful side of Brazilian football, the old-school flair of players like Danilo still continue to excite. What makes him such a great player is his excellent technique, no doubt perfected in his home country, as well as his attacking prowess and flair.
Main weakness: Though he is a top player, Danilo’s biggest weakness is his lack of concentration, which is a by-product of his eccentricity on the pitch. He will need to improve this element of his game to become a better player.
Technical dynamo – 3.99 xA, successful dribbles 99th percentile
May 27, 1994 (age 29 years)
Current teams: FC Bayern Munich, Portugal national football team
Though his star might have fallen slightly this season after being exposed a few too many times, Cancelo remains perhaps the only player on this list who is world class in two positions.
Whether playing as an auxiliary inverted left back, drifting forward and sending in crosses, or the more traditional right back Cancelo, staying wide and stretching opponents, the Portuguese dynamo is one of the biggest names in world football.
Having played right back for Manchester City, and, most recently, Bayern Munich too, Cancelo is certainly one of the 10 best right-backs in the world. And, whilst he may have fallen out of favour at City, and played no role in Pep Guardiola’s path to the 2023 Champions League final, there is no question that other teams will be lining up to make Cancelo their newest right-back this summer.
Having already won 8 major trophies in his career, and with Arsenal apparently interested, the future could be big for Cancelo, wherever he goes.
Main weakness: There is no doubting Cancelo’s talent, but his biggest weakness is a big problem, and that is his attitude and behaviour, meaning he cannot stay at top clubs for very long. He will need to change this to get back to the top.
December 10, 2000
Current teams: Bayer 04 Leverkusen, Netherlands national football team
Speed machine – 22.76mph max speed
Dutch right-back Frimpong has been a mainstay for Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen since 2021, and is highly regarded throughout Europe. Beginning his youth career at Manchester City, he moved to Celtic for a two-year spell during which time he won a domestic treble.
In January of 2021, the 22-year-old joined Leverkusen, and has been impressing ever since, playing a key role in the team’s run to the Europa League semi-final and a 6th-placed Bundesliga finish last season.
In addition to his skill, trickery, movement, and positioning, Frimpong is known for being one of the fastest football players ever, clocking a top speed of 22.76MPH! In a modern game that is so direct and fast-moving, Frimpong’s pace, coupled with his other attributes, make him one of the best young right-backs in the world.
Main weakness: Frimpong’s biggest weakness comes in the form of his crossing ability, which needs work if he is to make the most of his electrifying pace as a potent attacking weapon.
March 28, 1996 (age 27 years)
Current teams: FC Bayern Munich (#5 / Defender), France national football team
Intelligent all over the pitch – Interceptions 83rd percentile, successful passes 99th percentile
Pavard first rose to prominence with his eye-catching performances during France’s 2018 World Cup-winning campaign. Though he is not the most physical of right-backs, his brilliant technique and reading of the game makes him a formidable defensive asset, and he’s not too bad going forward either!
The former Stuttgart man was snapped up by Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich after his World Cup heroics, and he’s been a mainstay ever since.
Still just 27-years-old, Pavard has a long career ahead of him, and, with 13 trophies already secured for club and country, there is no question that he is in the bracket of best right-backs in the world right now.
This is a player who is going to excel in the coming years, and continues to help Bayern dominate domestically.
Main weakness: As great as he is defensively, Pavard’s greatest weakness comes from his inability to dribble effectively, which severely limits him as an attacking threat for his team.
April 18, 1996 (age 27 years)
Current teams: Inter Milan, Netherlands national football team
Physically imposing – 6”2 and 80kg
Dumfries first came to recognition on the global stage following his star-making displays for the Netherlands national team in their ill-fated Euro 2020 campaign.
At the time he was playing for PSV in the Eredivisie, and was regarded as one of the league’s top talents. His performances at the Euros earned him a big money move to Italian giants Inter Milan, where he has won 3 trophies to date, and made the Champions League final.
His stature and physicality make him one of the biggest right-backs around, with excellent aerial ability and brilliant strength, which he uses to his advantage.
His physical attributes, combined with his technique and reading of the game have made him one of the top defenders on the planet, and is widely regarded as being among the best right-backs in the world.
Main weakness: Dumfries is on the cusp of superstardom, but he will not get there until he overcomes his biggest weakness, which is his concentration and composure at the back, particularly towards the end of games.
May 28, 1990 (age 33 years)
Current teams: Manchester City F.C., England national football team
Lightning pace – Fastest Premier League player, 23.18mph
When considering who is the best right back in the world, it’s likely that Kyle Walker would not make most people’s lists. And this is largely because he doesn’t have the majestic flair of Hakimi, or the attacking prowess of Trent. In fact, most of what Walker does so well flies under the radar, and this is what makes him so accomplished in his position.
Adapting to Pep’s bold new Manchester City system, the Yorkshireman has thrived in an inverted role, adding a more creative dimension to his game.
His greatest asset remains his electric pace, which allows him to recover, and to track back against any winger in the game. At 33, it will be interesting to see if he can maintain the physical attributes that have made him part of the conversation for the best right back in the world.
Main weakness: Walker is an elite defender, but his biggest weakness comes in the form of his flair, which greatly reduces his contribution to City’s attacking build-up.
January 11, 1992 (age 31 years)
Current teams: Real Madrid CF, Spain national football team
Big game player – 3 league titles & 5 Champions League titles
A mainstay in a Real Madrid side that has been nothing short of European royalty these past few years, Carvajal will retire one of the most decorated defenders the game has ever seen.
With almost a decade played at the Bernabeu, the versatile and professional nature of this 31-year-old has made him first choice under both Zinedine Zidane and Carlo Ancelotti.
As a reliable, focused defender, who reads the game well, and slots in nicely alongside some of the superstar names that have played for Madrid over the years, Carvajal is the ideal defender for this vibrant and attacking side.
Though he is over 30 and more injury prone these days, he will go down as one of the all-time great footballers, and remains one of the best right-backs in the world right now.
Main weakness: Whilst Carvajal is one of the biggest names on this list, his major weakness is the fact that he is injury prone, which will have a big impact on his physical capabilities as he gets older.
October 7, 1998 (age 24 years)
Current teams: Liverpool F.C., England national football team
Assist machine – 54 Premier League assists so far (all-time)
Trent is one of the most divisive names on this list; a player adored by Liverpool fans, whilst rival fans will insist his defensive shortcomings prevent him from being in the conversation.
Whatever your allegiance, there is no doubt that Alexander-Arnold is one of the world’s best right-backs, and could even be named as the best, considering his age and what he has achieved in his short career so far.
The Liverpool youth player has become a fearsome offensive weapon from deep for Jurgen Klopp’s Reds, but is often the target of opposition attacks.
Whilst not even the most one-eyed Kopite would argue Alexander-Arnold is elite defensively, he is also not as poor as rival fans might have you believe.
Indeed, Trent’s offensive prowess shines more of a spotlight on his defensive shortcomings than they would if he were average at both. And, taking into account his stunning Premier League assists record of 54 in 198 games, an argument could be made that Trent Alexander-Arnold is the best right-back in the world or even one of the best midfielders in the world!
Main weakness: Trent is a world class right back, but his biggest weakness is his ability to anticipate the ball, particularly aerially, as well as anticipating runs in behind.
December 8, 1999 (age 23 years)
Current teams: Chelsea F.C., England national football team
No real weaknesses – 98th percentile pass completion rate, 83rd percentile ground duels won
Is Reece James the best right back in the world? Well, your answer to this will most likely depend on club allegiance – and many Chelsea fans would feel they could put forward a good case.
The youngster may have endured an injury plagued campaign in the 2022-23 season, but, when fit, there is no doubting this young man’s quality.
As good as anyone on his day, James can be devastatingly effective bombing forward from right wing-back, but is defensively solid enough to be trusted on the right of a back three as well. James’ stand out season was the 2021-22 campaign, where he netted 6 times in 39 appearances, helping Chelsea to a 3rd placed finish, as well as two domestic cup finals.
Main weakness: With a few long-term injuries already, James’ biggest weakness seems to be staying fit and healthy, and this could be an issue that holds him back in the years to come.
Legendary Right Backs Who Defined the Role
As we pay tribute to the right back position, and look at the players who should be in convention for the title of best right back in the world, it is important to look at those who came before, and who defined the role and made it their own. With that in mind, here are three legendary right backs, we believe paved the way for the new generation.
The long-time Bayern Munich and German national team captain is widely regarded as one of the greatest right backs in history, and for good reason. His versatility, reading of the game, relentless work-rate, defensive nous, and technical ability made him a force to be reckoned with, and assured him of a long and successful career at club level, where he won 21 trophies, and international level, winning the World Cup
Mr. Reliable was never the most technically dazzling of players, but Neville remains one of the greatest defensive right backs ever to play the game. His longevity, mental fortitude, and reading of the game made him an integral part of Manchester United’s success under Alex Ferguson. There is no question Neville has had a strong influence on the new generation of right backs.
Known for his speed, energy, attacking prowess and shrewd defensive work, Cafu is rightly regarded as a legend of the game. The Brazilian transformed how the role was played, and remains one of the most iconic and influential players ever. Combining discipline and leadership with a genuine joy for the sport, Cafu remains a beloved figure in football.
There are so many different types of players who occupy the right-back role, and the diverse range of talent on offer is a joy to experience. There are a lot of different players to admire on this list, and many will go down as some of the all-time greats. As the right back position evolves, and becomes more all-encompassing, the players who are well-rounded tend to stand out from the crowd.
One thing is sure, we are witnessing the Golden Generation of right backs in world football right now.