There was a time when wingers were merely there to whip balls into big, burly centre-forwards. Not anymore.
With football evolving, some of the most talented and multi-faceted stars play on the wing, using trickery, pace and creativity to light up sides across Europe. Wingers have become more than assist-machines and tireless runners. Often, today's wingers are their teams' greatest goal threat or playmaker. Note, this is a combination of our list of the best right-wingers and best left-wingers lists.
So who would you go for? Here are our choices...
10. Moussa Diaby (Bayer Leverkusen)
While there are more polished and experienced players on this list, there aren't many burning as brightly as the Frenchman right now. Diaby was considered an exciting talent last season, but he's exploded this term...
The 22-year-old has 16 goals and nine assists in all competitions for Champions League-chasing Leverkusen, and has thrilled Werkself fans with his quick feet, balance and tenacity around the box all year. A guaranteed superstar of the future, and a player certain to be high on transfer wish-lists this summer.
9. Jadon Sancho
An incredibly slow start to life in the Premier League saw Sancho score just once in the opening 24 Premier League games of the season, with no assists to pad the numbers. Yet, gradually, he's beginning to find form under Ralf Rangnick. The Englishman has two goals and three assists in his last six league starts for United, and is growing in confidence. The 21-year-old has the speed and fancy footwork to wreak havoc in English football and is starting to show what all the fuss has been about.
8. Bukayo Saka (Arsenal)
Another player who made a slow start to the season – following England heartbreak at Euro 2020 – before hitting blistering form of late. Saka has six goals in his past nine league appearances and, at 20, is already a calm leader on the pitch for Arsenal. A player of remarkable balance and cost control, Saka is blossoming into a world class talent at the Emirates.
7. Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain)
Neymar is the only player on this list - and one of only a handful in world football - who can be described as genuinely unplayable when he’s in the mood.
The Brazilian can humiliate opponents, pick a pass, score from nothing, and bring an entire stadium to its feet if he fancies it. A far more complete playmaker than most wingers, the 30-year-old is happiest dropping deeper and affecting his team’s build up play, which goes some way to explain the less than impressive stats.
Fans need to enjoy the superstar while they still can, with rumours of a move to the MLS already surfacing. He was always been here for a good time, not a long time.
6. Serge Gnabry (Bayern Munich)
With Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller an ageing duo in Bayern's illustrious frontline, it's often left to Gnabry to provide the pace and thrust to the Bavarian's attack. The Germany international is an intelligent mover, a muscular presence and deadly in front of goal. The former Arsenal man has 13 goals and nine assists this term, including 10 Bundesliga strikes.
5. Son Heung-min (Tottenham Hotspur)
While all around him at Tottenham has slowly turned to mush over the last few years, Son has remained his usual guarantee of goals and work-rate.
The South Korean’s 11 goals this season place him fourth in the Premier League rankings, while he's also in the top five for crosses and shots on target. The 29-year-old continues to prove himself one of the best attacking players in world football.
4. Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City)
The best first touch in world football? Mahrez is pure velvet sewn into the form of a Premier League footballer. The Algerian's almost slow-motion dribbling style, pinpoint crossing and vision regularly make a mockery of markers, be it in the top-flight or Champions League, where he almost always starts for Pep Guardiola's entertainers.
Meanwhile, his record of scoring a goal every 128 minutes puts him second, just behind Mo Salah, in the Premier League this term. He has 21 in all competitions which is testament to his deadly finishing in and around the box.
3. Sadio Mane (Liverpool)
There arguably isn’t a footballer in the world like Sadio Mane. He’s right-footed but capable of using his left, his head or any part of his body necessary to get the pass, shot, cross or whatever is needed for his team. He’s the ultimate attacking weapon with speed, physicality, trickery and superb awareness of the game around him.
This hasn't felt like a vintage Mane season, yet he's still score 14 goals in all competition and ranks in the top five in the English top flight for shots and shots on target. Oh, and he also led his nation to glory at AFCON, which definitely bumps him up a few places on this list.
2. Vinicius Jr (Real Madrid)
Real Madrid’s move from signing outright galacticos to the stars of the future has had mixed results, to say the least. But Vinicius Jr’s development this season into the star that they thought Eden Hazard would be does at least give their recruitment that justification they were sort of on the right track.
Vini has been electric down the left for Carlo Ancelotti's side this season, using his samba skill and directness to change games for Los Blancos like no one else can. He’s showing the consistency that he lacked in his game and taking on the responsibility that Real always thought he could. The Brazilian has scored 17 goals in all competitions this season, including an impressive 14 in La Liga... He's still just 21.
1. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
Nobody even comes close. While some on this list are solid goalscorers and others more creative, none can genuinely rival Salah in either department. Twenty-eight goals and 10 assists in all competitions are astonishing numbers for a footballer who plays off the right, while his pace and trickery are a constant nightmare for defenders. The Egyptian is simply one of the greatest players in world football and easily the best wide man on the planet.
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Ed is a staff writer at FourFourTwo, working across the magazine and website. A German speaker, he’s been working as a football reporter in Berlin since 2015, predominantly covering the Bundesliga and Germany's national team. Favourite FFT features include an exclusive interview with Jude Bellingham following the youngster’s move to Borussia Dortmund in 2020, a history of the Berlin Derby since the fall of the Wall and a celebration of Kevin Keegan’s playing career.
- Mark WhiteStaff Writer