What is a full-back in soccer?

  • A full-back has both offensive and defensive responsibilities in soccer
  • There are always two full-backs on the pitch for each team
  • Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold is one of the best full-backs in the world
Here's what a full-back is in soccer.
Here's what a full-back is in soccer. / Copa/GettyImages

Full-backs in soccer possess a versatile skillset that allows them to contribute on both the attack and the defense for 90 minutes every match.

When most soccer fans think of the best players in the world, they are quick to name flashy goal scorers, midfield wizards, or gritty defenders. After all, when players like Erling Haaland, Jude Bellingham, and Virgil van Dijk exist, it is impossible not to sing their praises, especially as they continue to make otherworldly plays.

Full-backs rarely grab the headlines; in fact, they are often overlooked and underrated on teams full of star players. The position, though, warrants a closer look, and deserves respect from even the most causal soccer fans.

Here's a breakdown of a full-back's responsibilities on the soccer pitch to better understand the position.

Trent Alexander-Arnold
Everton FC v Liverpool FC - Premier League / Naomi Baker/GettyImages

What is a full-back in soccer?

A full-back in soccer is also known as a left-back or a right-back. In a traditional formation, a left-back and right-back play on either side of the back line, adopting a wide, yet defensive position. Their job is to mark the opposing team's wingers and make sure they close down any open space on the counter attack.

Full-backs also have an offensive responsibility. Although they are often not as impactful as midfielders in creating scoring opportunities, they are still a vital part of the attack. The best full-backs in the world, like Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold, can break free on the flanks and deliver quality crosses in the final third.

Has a full-back ever won the Ballon d'Or in soccer?

No, a full-back has never won the Ballon d'Or in soccer. In recent times, the prestigious award has primarily been given to forwards, like Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Karim Benzema. In fact, Luka Modrić, Real Madrid and Croatia's central midfielder, is the only non-forward to win the coveted award in almost two decades.

With so many emerging offensive superstars throughout the world, it is hard to imagine when a full-back could ever receive the Ballon d'Or.