The top 5 right-backs in the world 2021 - ranked

Who will be among the best right-backs on the planet?
Who will be among the best right-backs on the planet? / 90min

We're into the full swing of Welcome to World Class 2021, and it's time to debate the best right-sided defenders on the planet.

While the title may read 'right-backs', the rise to prominence of the wing-back role means we've also incorporated those who are adept at doing the best of both: providing width to attacks as they bomb forward and always mucking in at the back.

There has already been plenty to discuss in our rankings of goalkeepers, centre-backs, defensive midfielders, central midfielders, attacking midfielders, left-backs AND left forwards.

If you are somehow unfamiliar with #W2WC, we've spent the last couple of weeks judging the game's top players against a series of metrics, and now we're releasing our top fives per position in ranked order.

But before we get to that, some ground rules on how we arrived here.

  • A world class footballer is defined as one of the top five players in the world in their position.
  • All players can fit into one of 10 on-field positions; GK, RB, LB, CB, DM, CM, AM, RF, LF, ST.
  • All players have been graded across ten different subcategories in the decision-making process - you can find more information on everything mentioned above here.
  • Performances for club and country are considered.
  • We want you to have your say - check out details on how to get involved below.

#W2WC21 runs until Friday, December 24, with some final freebies coming your way on Christmas Day.

You can read all about it in more depth here.

We want you to follow along, place your votes (you can do so below) and have your say throughout. But let's get on with it.

All statistics are provided by StatsPerform over the period of January 1, 2021 to November 30, 2021 (inclusive of domestic and continental cup competitions).

5. Reece James (new entry)

Reece James
Reece James' rise has been meteoric / 90min

Games played: 46
Goals: 5
Tackles: 76
Interceptions: 26
Clearances: 50
Clean Sheets: 14

Reece James' rise over the past two years has been nothing short of meteoric. The Chelsea academy product didn't even make the W2WC shortlist in 2020, but finds himself among the very best in his position this year - and that is undisputed.

The embodiment of the ingrained do or die attitude at Stamford Bridge, James is already a master of the wing-back role and has been unplayable there at times in 2021, combining monstrous strength with wicked crossing technique and finishing ability.

Just 22 years old, he earned huge plaudits for his defensive performance against Manchester City in the Champions League final victory (big metric points), and he has more than demonstrated his attacking prowess this season with five goals and assists at the time of writing.

4. Kyle Walker (-)

Kyle Walker
Kyle Walker has consistently been among the best right-backs for a number of years. / 90min

Games played: 39
Goals: 2
Tackles: 42
Interceptions: 29
Clearances: 30
Clean Sheets: 16

Barring a few rushes of blood to the head on and off the pitch, Kyle Walker has been the picture of consistency for Man City and England over the years, and that's demonstrated by the 31-year-old holding on to fourth place in our right-back rankings.

Although he may rely on his recovery pace on occasion, Walker is an excellent defender who is also able to pose a significant attacking threat despite being deployed in a flat back four.

Walker finishes the year with another Premier League winner's medal, he reached the Champions League final and was a key member of England's back line - keeping James out of the team - as the Three Lions just fell short in the final of Euro 2020 in the summer.

3. Cesar Azpilicueta (new entry)

Cesar Azpilicueta
Cesar Azpilicueta has had a stellar club career / 90min

Games played: 44
Goals: 1
Tackles: 93
Interceptions: 45
Clearances: 95
Clean Sheets: 18

In 2012, if you had told a Chelsea supporter that a relatively unknown Spanish right-back signed from Marseille would go on to win (almost) everything there is to win at club level for the Blues over a nine-year period, they would surely have laughed in your face.

Well, that became a reality in 2021 when Cesar Azpilicueta held the European Cup aloft in Porto in May.

Despite never being the most technically gifted defender, Azpilicueta has battled to become one of the best around - developing an excellent tactical understanding of the game to compensate for his lack of pace, and adapting to become an ever-reliable option in four positions: right-back, wing-back, centre-back and left-back.

2. Achraf Hakimi (up 3)

Achraf Hakimi
Achraf Hakimi had another fine year / 90min

Games played: 46
Goals: 6
Tackles: 81
Interceptions: 32
Clearances: 35
Clean Sheets: 10

Having come fifth in the 2020 W2WC right-back rankings, Achraf Hakimi's stock has only risen in 2021.

Like James, he has become an expert in the right wing-back role and was a key player from that position last season as Inter secured a first Scudetto in 11 painful years by running away with the title in Serie A, finishing the campaign with a ridiculous seven goals and 11 assists.

Despite an enforced summer move to Paris Saint-Germain and a flat back four system after just one season in Milan, Hakimi has stayed true to his attacking values and provides another dimension to PSG's glittering front line (as if they needed one). That's not to detract from his work at the back; a physically imposing defender, he is a formidable foe for any winger.

1. Trent Alexander-Arnold (-)

Trent Alexander-Arnold
Trent Alexander-Arnold is our number one yet again / 90min

Games played: 41
Goals: 3
Tackles: 65
Interceptions: 64
Clearances: 50
Clean Sheets: 16

There was only ever going to be one winner. While the other names on this list may have reinvented themselves and risen to stardom in an unfamiliar position, Trent Alexander-Arnold has redefined what it is to be a right-back altogether - and no-one does it better.

Almost a deep-lying, right-sided playmaker at this stage, Alexander-Arnold has racked up a ludicrous 18 assists in 2021 for club and country - 13 of which have come this season. Although his defensive ability has been called into question, the stats demonstrate that he is adept at both ends of the pitch.

While Liverpool didn't land any silverware and the 23-year-old missed out on the England squad for Euro 2020, his form - and that of his club - has been outrageous this calendar year.


We've had our say in the right-back rankings, but now we want yours - and we want to know 'Who is England's best right-back?'.

Get involved in the tweet below.

We're taking your votes until 8pm (GMT) this evening. So vote above and head over to our global Twitter page each day to play your part. Have your say and influence the rankings.

The winner of the poll will be announced this evening. And keep your eyes out on our YouTube channel at 3pm for the guys in studio to have their discussion on the five world class right-backs in the game today.

For more from Krishan Davis, follow him on Twitter.