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Ranked! The 10 best right-backs in the world

Achraf Hakimi
(Image credit: Getty)

Discussing the world's best right-backs was not something most would have considered doing even 15 years ago. 

"Nobody grows up wanting to be a Gary Neville" as the famous Jamie Carragher line goes. He may have had a point, with right-back not always considered the sexiest position on the field in days gone by. 

Times are changing, though, with the role having a greater impact on attacking play and team shape than ever before. Here, we take a look at the ten best. 

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10. Dani Alves (Barcelona)

Alves Barcelona

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We know what you're thinking. This is 2022, not 2009. Yet Dani Alves, at 38, has still got it.

The larger-than-life Brazilian made a romantic return to Barcelona last year, helping his beloved club at their time of need when they had no money to spend on new signings. He took a reduced contract and joined up in November, training for two months before he was clear to play in January.

And he's been brilliant. Of course, this is not the Alves of the Pep Guardiola Barcelona era, who would spend the whole game terrorising defenders and control passes from Xavi with ease before laying goals on a plate for Lionel Messi.

But the 2022 Alves is a far more intelligent player and now knows where he needs to be, whether that is supporting Ousmane Dembele on the right wing or helping out Sergio Busquets and dropping into holding midfield.

And he still has the ability to influence the biggest games. Take his performance against Atletico Madrid last month, when he set up a goal, scored one and was then sent off. That was Alves in a nutshell and his return has coincided with Barcelona's revival under Xavi.

And we don't think that's a mere coincidence.

9. Zeki Celik

Zeki Celik

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Zeki Celik was superb for Lille last season as the underdogs lifted the title ahead of Paris Saint-Germain. He's superb at offering overlapping runs down the right and he's an asset down that flank.

While a number of clubs looked at him in the summer, Celik stayed at Lille. At just 24, he has plenty of growing to do and could become one of the most reliable full-backs in Europe over the next few years. 

8. Kieran Trippier (Newcastle)

Kieran Trippier Newcastle

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How many English players can you fit on one list about the world's best right-backs, you ask?

The standout right-back in La Liga last season, Kieran Trippier was defensively solid while weighing in with six assists to help Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid side climb to the apex of the Spanish top flight.

Then there was the small matter of the Euros last summer, while he has been talismanic for Newcastle since returning to the Premier League in January.

He is likely to be out for the rest of the season with a broken metatarsal but he has already proved vital to Newcastle turning the tide and sailing towards Premier League safety, looking forward to a dominant future.

Tripper isn’t the quickest or strongest right back in the world, but his composure, crossing and pinpoint set-pieces make him a danger going forward, and his positioning means he rarely gets caught out by opposition wingers. 

And he can hit a real mean free-kick.

7. Dani Carvajal

Dani Carvajal

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Dani Carvajal is just 29 years old - you may have thought he was older. Though the Spaniard has suffered with injuries recently though, he's still one of the best right-backs in the world: he was the gold standard during Real Madrid's threepeat.

Carvajal is a complete player, valuable in any phase of the pitch. He's one of the most underrated aspects of Real's side when he plays, as his experience and positioning is invaluable in that backline. When he's on top of his game, no winger in the world wants to go up against him. 

6. Benjamin Pavard

Benjamin Pavard

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Perhaps your introduction to Benjamin Pavard was during the 2018 World Cup, listening to Mark Lawrenson on the BBC at the end of his tether with the French full-back. He's a lot better now than Lawro seemed to think in that group game against Australia. 

The Bayern defender is the archetypal "soft full-back", who stays back in build-up, doesn't overlap his winger often and provides an option inside the pitch. He's grown into a superb defender over the past few years, allowing Alphonso Davies to bomb up and down the opposite side of the pitch. 

5. Reece James (Chelsea)

Reece James

(Image credit: PA)

The fact the Chelsea youngster has forced his way into the England set-up, despite the wealth of right-back options, is testament to his ability and character. James might not have the delivery of Trent Alexander-Arnold, or the lighting pace of Walker, but he’s a better all-rounder than both. 

Solid at the back and intelligent going forward, Blues fans will tell you he's the best right-back in the country. Perhaps that's a little premature - but at 21, he has plenty of time to develop into a truly magnificent defender.  

But it is his attacking traits that have shone through this season.

James has 13 goal contributions this campaign (seven goals, six assists), only bettered in his team by Mason Mount.

4. Kyle Walker (Manchester City)

Kyle Walker, best right-backs

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For the first time in his Manchester City career, Kyle Walker found a starting berth harder to come by when a new right-back was signed by City. Such has been the excellent form of teammate Joao Cancelo (more on him further down), Walker has watched more than a few games from the bench. 

That doesn’t mean he’s regressed, however. He remains the same blend of power, pace and determination he has always been. His delivery can lack at times - he’s managed only 15 assists in more than 175 appearances for his club - but his defensive ability makes him a shoe-in for big games and important assignments. A leader for club and country, Walker would probably walk into almost any back four in Europe. 

3. Achraf Hakimi (Inter Milan)

Achraf Hakimi

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The rumours were that Real Madrid didn’t particularly want to let Achraf Hakimi leave after his blazing loan spell at Borussia Dortmund. After joining Inter Milan in 2020, however, the Moroccan right-back became one of the standouts in Antonio Conte’s side, providing creativity in abundance and even chipping in with goals. 

Now he's part of Les Galactiques in Paris, alongside the likes of Ramos, Neymar and Mbappe, providing overlapping runs for Messi and Di Maria. It says a lot of the Moroccan's ability that he's one of the stars of this side, despite the wealth of other superstars in the team. He's still got his best years ahead of him, too. 

2. Joao Cancelo (Manchester City)

Joao Cancelo, best right-backs

(Image credit: Getty)

It’s not often that a full-back manages to become the outstanding asset in a title-winning side. But watching Joao Cancelo for Manchester City last season, the Portuguese has often been the star of the show.

Cancelo functions as a defender, a midfielder and an attacker all in one. He’s always available for a pass, always where he needs to be and has refined his game to be a go-to man for Pep Guardiola to fashion into whatever City need from him. He’s a superb passer, calm on the ball and resilient defensively, making him excellent in whichever phase of play he finds himself in.

And as if he wasn’t good enough on the right, he can also play at left-back, too. Cancelo has been one of the best players in the world in any position this season and a big reason that City have been so good over the past 18 months.

1. Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)

Trent Alexander-Arnold, best right-backs

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Gareth Southgate’s decision to leave the Liverpool starlet out of the England squad during March’s fixtures felt astonishing. No, Trent hadn’t been at his best over the course of the season, but this was one of the best right-backs in the world cast aside ahead of a major tournament.

Trent’s standards became so high that last season in which he’s chipped in seven assists and two goals feels like a disappointment. Liverpool’s makeshift back four didn't help him play his best football, yet their no.66 was an ever-present, working hard to keep the Red’s Champions League ambitions on course. 

Well, he's back to his best, now. Alexander-Arnold is almost unique in world football as a full-back who acts as a playmaker and he's started the 2021/22 season with the same verve that he had when the Reds won the league. At 23, he's only getting better, too. 

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Mark White has been a staff writer on FourFourTwo since joining in January 2020, writing pieces for both online and the magazine. Over his time on the brand, he has interviewed the likes of Aaron Ramsdale and Jack Wilshere, written pieces ranging on subjects from Bobby Robson's season at Barcelona to Robinho's career, and has been to the FA Cup and League Cup finals, working for FFT