The 25 best right backs in world football - ranked

  • Right-backs are some of the most dangerous players in world football
  • Kyle Walker, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Achraf Hakimi among the top performers in world football
  • 25 best players from around the world ranked as part of 90min's Welcome to World Class series

There are plenty of incredible right-backs around the world
There are plenty of incredible right-backs around the world / Image by Briony Painter

Cafu and Dani Alves made right-back play trendy in back-to-back generations but despite the best efforts of the samba specialists, Jamie Carragher's words that were heard around the world almost a decade ago still largely ring true.

"If you're a full-back, you're either a failed winger or a failed centre-back," uttered the now revered Sky Sports pundit. "No one wants to grow up and be a Gary Neville."

The resilient and hard-working Neville contrasted starkly with the majestic brilliance of the aforementioned Brazilian tandem, but Carragher's premise was undoubtedly fair. Cafu and Alves distorted the idealist concept of the full-back, but it hasn't been until recently that their ideas of how the function should be performed became commonplace.

Football has never before been blessed with such an abundance of unique right-back talent and pinning down the leading 25 in the world was no easy task. Nevertheless, we've given it a good go!

Here are our top 25 right-backs in the world as part of our 2023 Welcome to World Class series.

25. Vladimir Coufal

Vladimir Coufal
Coufal has a stern game face / Jonathan Moscrop/GettyImages

Legend has it that a single glare from Czechia international Vladimir Coufal is enough to turn opposition wingers into stone.

The right-back certainly has an ominous aura about him, with hefty tackles never that far away in West Ham colours.

24. Serge Aurier

Aurier led the Ivory Coast to 2023 AFCON glory / FRANCK FIFE/GettyImages

Serge Aurier seemed just as dazed and confused as everyone else during his Tottenham days and a season with Villarreal didn't hint at a bright end to his career.

However, he has stood out during Nottingham Forest's return to the Premier League, leading their defence with some measured displays, and was a leading force during the Ivory Coast's 2023 AFCON win.

23. Oscar de Marcos

Oscar de Marcos
De Marcos has spent his whole career with Athletic Club / Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/GettyImages

A classic Athletic Club stalwart, Oscar de Marcos has become a fan favourite over the years for his versatility and fine technical ability.

The Spaniard most famously scored for Athletic in the 2011/12 Europa League against Manchester United.

22. Matteo Darmian

Matteo Darmian
Darmian is a regular for Inter / Marco Canoniero/GettyImages

Matteo Darmian hasn't set the world ablaze since leaving Manchester United as an unwanted defender in 2019, but he's grown into a consistent performer for a quality Inter outfit.

The Italy international remains a low-key presence and isn't an assist machine at San Siro, but his defensive nous makes him a solid option for Simone Inzaghi.

21. Lutsharel Geertruida

Lutsharel Geertruida
Lutsharel Geertruida in action / BSR Agency/GettyImages

Lutsharel Geertruida has thrived in recent seasons at Feyenoord, becoming a Dutch international and earning plenty of plaudits for his performances.

La Liga giants Real Madrid and Barcelona have been linked with moves for Geertruida, who has some eye-catching attacking statistics in the Eredivisie.

20. Matty Cash

Matty Cash
Cash is solid for Villa / Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/GettyImages

Matty Cash isn't the star of Unai Emery's enterprising Aston Villa side but the Poland international helps make them one of the toughest teams in England to face.

Cash charges into tackles and isn't shy of taking some of the player alongside the ball, making him a scrappy opponent.

19. Aaron Wan-Bissaka

Aaron Wan-Bissaka
Wan-Bissaka is improving at United / Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/GettyImages

Aaron Wan-Bissaka's skill in one-on-one situations can't be overlooked. Those spider-like legs help the former Crystal Palace defender claim the ball or clear danger time and time again.

He has improved during Erik ten Hag's spell at Man Utd but worries over his positional awareness and attacking contribution remain.

18. Benjamin Pavard

Benjamin Pavard
Pavard is playing more centrally for Inter / Giuseppe Bellini/GettyImages

World Cup winner Benjamin Pavard has consistently been one of the better full-backs in Europe for quite a while now.

However, his appearances for new club Inter have largely come at centre-back. While the Frenchman remains versatile enough to do a job out wide, it hasn't been necessary so far with both Matteo Darmian and Denzel Dumfries in the Nerazzurri squad.

17. Yan Couto

Yan Couto
Couto has plenty of style / Angel Martinez/GettyImages

One of the young stars making his name in a breakout season at Girona, Yan Couto could become more familiar to Premier League viewers given he's on loan from Manchester City.

The young Brazilian loves to dart into the box from wide areas and is one of the leading assisters in La Liga this season.

16. Giovanni Di Lorenzo

Giovanni Di Lorenzo
Giovanni Di Lorenzo / Claudio Villa/GettyImages

Giovanni Di Lorenzo is one of the most underrated right-backs in the world. He has been a mainstay in the Napoli team for over three years and will go down in folklore as their Scudetto-winning captain of 2022/23.

Di Lorenzo is a regular for Italy and certainly one of the best full-backs Serie A has to offer. He's an aggressive and robust defender and performs a conservative but imperative function when Napoli have the ball.

15. Noussair Mazraoui

Noussair Mazraoui
Now a starter for Bayern / Marvin Ibo Guengoer - GES Sportfoto/GettyImages

After being in and out of the Bayern Munich team last season, Noussair Mazraoui has become a regular recently.

The Morocco international likes to maraud forward and is comfortable both out wide and in central areas.

14. Vanderson

Vanderson, Willy Delajod
Vanderson is highly rated / Jonathan Moscrop/GettyImages

Vanderson has been heavily linked with a move to Manchester United, and if you've seen him play you'll understand why.

Monaco picked him up for just €11m and are sure to make a hefty profit on the former Gremio youngster, who has plenty of quality to use in the final third.

13. Diogo Dalot

Diogo Dalot
Dalot is solid / Sebastian Frej/MB Media/GettyImages

It's taken a while for Diogo Dalot to get up and running at Old Trafford, but Erik ten Hag's arrival fast-tracked his progress during the 2022/23 season.

The Portugal international's attacking abilities have become more prominent, while he's no slouch in defence.

12. Ben White

Ben White
An important player for Arsenal / Shaun Botterill/GettyImages

Eyebrows were raised when Arsenal forked out around £50m for the services of Ben White, but the defender has more than repaid that fee through his performances at the Emirates.

Be it as a right-back or centre-back, White has always been solid.

11. Davide Calabria

Davide Calabria
The Milan captain / Jonathan Moscrop/GettyImages

Italy international Davide Calabria took his time to break through at AC Milan. His debut came all the way back in 2014/15 but he's finally the first choice right-back for Rossoneri.

He still gets his thrills by tackling over goals and assists but manages an attacking contribution every now and then.

10. Dani Carvajal

Dani Carvajal
Carvajal is a five-time Champions League winner / Harriet Lander/Copa/GettyImages

A stalwart at Real Madrid for ten years with five Champions League crowns and three Spanish titles, Dani Carvajal will end his career as one of the most decorated defenders in football history.

His importance to Los Blancos' success is up for debate, but there’s a reason why the Spaniard garnered the trust of both Zinedine Zidane and Carlo Ancelotti in Madrid. 

Injuries have certainly slowed Carvajal down in recent years, but he remains one of the most reliable and complete full-backs in the world.

9. Reece James

Reece James
James is a complete right-back / Clive Mason/GettyImages

Reece James is arguably the most complete right-back in the game.

Like Trent, James possesses a fierce crossing delivery and his ball-striking is that of a prolific number nine. The England international is a powerful figure down the right and he came into his own from an attacking perspective as a wing-back when he registered 14 Premier League goal contributions in 2021/22.

James can defend as stoutly as the very best in the world and the Chelsea star's attacking prowess is complemented by his aggression without the ball, physicality in duels and sound defensive fundamentals. He just has to stay fit.

8. Joao Cancelo

Joao Cancelo
Another new club for Cancelo / Quality Sport Images/GettyImages

Some of the things Joao Cancelo has done with the ball at his feet defy belief. It's what makes his sharp decline so puzzling.

There's a rawness to Cancelo's game that facilitates unpredictability every time he steps onto the field. The Portugal international is far from the best defensive right-back in the world, but his work in possession is just obscene.

Following a difficult debut season at the Etihad, Cancelo rebounded in year two to establish himself as a regular in Pep Guardiola's side. The versatile full-back seemed so crucial for City with his ability to avoid pressure, work impossible angles and combine around opponents being distinct features of his game.

He became unsettled at City and a loan exit to Bayern didn't yield a positive outcome. It hasn't got too much better at Barcelona, either.

7. Jeremie Frimpong

Jeremie Frimpong
Frimpong has earned rave reviews at Leverkusen / BSR Agency/GettyImages

Jeremie Frimpong spent much of his youth in England and played with Jadon Sancho during the pair's time together in Manchester City's academy.

The Netherlands Under-21 international was a former fan favourite at Celtic and took his good form over to Xabi Alonso's Bayer Leverkusen, where he has enjoyed the vast space the Bundesliga offers wide players.

6. Pedro Porro

Pedro Porro
Impressing under Ange / Stu Forster/GettyImages

Pedro Porro was hung out to dry in his first half-season at Tottenham, entering a rather toxic environment during Antonio Conte's final days in charge.

He was often left isolated out wide but has since shown his quality under Ange Postecoglou, strolling inside and creating some wonderful goals for Spurs.

5. Denzel Dumfries

Denzel Dumfries
Dumfries excites crowds at San Siro with Inter / Francesco Scaccianoce/GettyImages

Flying Dutchman Denzel Dumfries was the Netherlands' standout performer in a disappointing Euro 2020 campaign and had the difficult task of replacing Achraf Hakimi at Inter.

Dumfries feasted in the Eredivisie at PSV and he's since risen to greater prominence following his deserved move to Milan. Simone Inzaghi utilised Dumfries as an auxiliary winger.

While he isn't the cleanest of technicians - both defensively and offensively - Dumfries is a physical behemoth and unstoppable when on song. His numbers will continue to boom under Inzaghi.

4. Kieran Trippier

Kieran Trippier
Trippier is bossing things at Newcastle / George Wood/GettyImages

From Burnley to Madrid, England international Kieran Trippier has had quite the career path.

Trippier is back in the Premier League with the enriched Newcastle United and the full-back played a key role in their Champions League qualification.

The diminutive right-back is a stellar technician whose ability from dead ball situations once catapulted an entire nation into a state of utter jubilation. Gareth Southgate has often favoured the versatile and reliable Trippier over perhaps more talented individuals for the Three Lions.

3. Achraf Hakimi

Achraf Hakimi
A quality player / Jonathan Moscrop/GettyImages

Achraf Hakimi's union with Antonio Conte at Inter was nothing short of a match made in heaven. The Moroccan wing-back was the missing piece to the demanding Italian's jigsaw as the Nerazzurri claimed the 2020/21 Scudetto with Hakimi starring.

However, he was forced to take his exploits elsewhere as Inter endured a mini exodus ahead of the 2021/22 campaign. Paris Saint-Germain came calling and Hakimi returned to playing in a back four.

Hakimi is a ridiculous athlete who boasts track speed, while his decision-making with the final pass is improving. His attacking prowess is complemented by a sound defensive repertoire too.

2. Trent Alexander-Arnold

Trent Alexander-Arnold
Hugely gifted / Matt McNulty/GettyImages

Trent Alexander-Arnold has utterly revolutionised our concept of the modern-day defender.

Any defensive flaws are vastly outweighed by his supreme playmaking ability. His emergence into Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool side was one of several factors in the Reds' meteoric rise under their chest-pumping German boss.

The Reds are once again looking to evolve and Alexander-Arnold was pushed forward by Klopp in the second half of the 2022/23 campaign, grabbing headlines with some sublime assists and playmaking.

1. Kyle Walker

Kyle Walker
Walker is a versatile defender / Michael Regan/GettyImages

Mauricio Pochettino played a pivotal role in Kyle Walker's development.

The England international was as raw as they got before Poch arrived at White Hart Lane and the stoic Argentine's guidance helped Walker evolve into one of the world's most complete right-backs. You don't survive in Pep Guardiola's meticulous system for so long if you're not any good.

Walker, whose recovery speed and technical security remain crucial to his success, has played a key role in City's reign of Premier League dominance. The England international is no longer relied upon in the final third as much and is instead tasked with shunning opposition counter-attacks and ensuring City can establish a numerical superiority in midfield when they have the ball.

He stepped in at crucial moments during City's treble winning campaign and will firmly be regarded as one of the finest full-backs England has ever produced.