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The 10 Best Right-Backs In History, Ranked​

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The 10 Best Right-Backs In History, Ranked​

A great right-back has a number of qualities – strength, pace, toughness, courage and the ability to run the overlap and put in a cross. Here we pick our top 10 right-backs of all time, who all boast all of those in varying degrees as well as their own distinctive styles.

So who are the best right-backs in history? We've used a number of achievements to quantify our rankings, as well as a player's overall contribution to the game in history. So who makes it into our top 10?

All stats come from www.transfermarkt.co.uk and are correct as of the publish date.

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10) Giuseppe Bergomi

Country: Italy

Clubs: Inter Milan

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  • 1 domestic title
  • 0 Champions League titles (European Cup)
  • 0 European Championships
  • 1 World Cup

A World Cup-winner with Italy at just 18, playing alongside Claudio Gentile and Gaetano Sciera, Giuseppe Bergomi was not to be messed with. Tough and fiery, the player who spent his entire 19-season career at Inter Milan, was a difficult proposition for opponents wherever he played along the backline.

9) Phil Neal

Country: England

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Clubs: Northampton, Liverpool, Bolton

  • 8 domestic titles
  • 4 Champions League title (European Cup)
  • 0 European Championships
  • 0 World Cups

No-frills dependability and boundless energy were what made Phil Neal the most decorated player in Liverpool’s rich history and saw the Anfield legend win the European Cup an impressive four times. Ice cold from the penalty spot, he also scored 59 goals in his career, which spanned over 700 appearances, including a Liverpool-record 366 consecutive matches between 1974 and 1983.

8) Lilian Thuram

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Country: France

Clubs: Monaco, Parma, Juventus, Barcelona

  • 2 domestic titles
  • 0 Champions League titles (European Cup)
  • 1 European Championship
  • 1 World Cup

Physical and athletic, France’s Lilian Thuram was also a tremendous reader of the game, which made him a nightmare for attackers. “He has a great awareness of the game around him and is always calm under pressure,” said former Sweden striker Henrik Larsson. “He’s a player who links well and he doesn’t give attackers any space to operate in.”

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7) Gianluca Zambrotta

Country: Italy

Clubs: Como, Bari, Juventus, Barcelona, AC Milan, FC Chiasso

  • 3 domestic titles
  • 0 Champions League titles (European Cup)
  • 0 European Championships
  • 1 World Cup

Two-footed Gianluca Zambrotta started out at left-back before switching to the right to become one of Italy’s greatest ever defenders. A member of three World Cup squads and three European Championship teams, Zambrotta was part of his country’s triumphant 2006 side in Germany and the 2000 Euros runners-up.

6) Djalma Santos

Country: Brazil

Clubs: Portuguesa, Palmeiras, Atletico-PR

  • 3 domestic titles
  • 0 Copa America
  • 2 World Cups

Djalma Santos is one of only three players to be selected to three FIFA World Cup All Star teams, which he achieved in three straight tournaments from 1954 – the others are Franz Beckenbauer and Philipp Lahm. The attacking Brazilian got his hands on the Jules Rimet trophy in two of his four appearances on the game’s biggest stage.

5) Carlos Alberto

Country: Brazil

Clubs: Fluminense, Santos FC, Flamengo, NY Cosmos, California Surf

  • 8 domestic titles
  • 2 Champions League titles (European Cup)
  • 1 World Cup

Scorer of one of the most iconic goals in football history, against Italy in the 1970 World Cup Final, Carlos Alberto was also an inspirational leader for his national team. Along with his ability to strike a ball, Alberto was blessed with exquisite control and playmaking ability to go with his expert anticipation and timing.  

4) Dani Alves

Country: Brazil

Clubs: EC Bahia, Sevilla, Barcelona, Juventus, Paris St Germain, Sao Paulo

  • 9 domestic titles
  • 3 Champions League title (European Cup)
  • 2 Copa Americas
  • 0 World Cups

Yet another Brazilian on this list, Alves is the most decorated of all his countrymen here and the most decorated player in the history of football with 43 trophies at senior level. That said, the 38-year-old who just returned to Barcelona, hasn’t lifted the Jules Rimet Trophy like Santos, Alberto and Cafu. Winner of trebles in Spain and in France (with PSG), his pace and stamina saw him become the oldest player to win an Olympic football gold this year, a remarkable 15 years after first donning the gold and green.  

3) Javier Zanetti

Country: Argentina

Clubs: Talleres RE, CA Banfield, Inter Milan

  • 5 domestic titles
  • 1 Champions League title (European Cup)
  • 0 World Cups

“The hardest player I've played against was Zanetti for Inter Milan," Ryan Giggs told MUTV Group Chat. “Just ran all day. He used to play in midfield so he was comfortable on the ball. He could defend, he was tough, he actually broke my nose in the quarter-finals. Zanetti had everything as a defender." Zanetti is one of 35 footballers to amass more than 1,000 appearances for club and country and has most appearances as captain in the Champions League, with 82.

2) Philipp Lahm

Country: Germany

Clubs: Bayern Munich

  • 8 domestic titles
  • 1 Champions League title (European Cup)
  • 0 European Championship
  • 1 World Cup

The mark of Philipp Lahm’s greatness is that he could just as easily have appeared on the left-back version of this list. “He is one of the most fantastic players I ever trained in my life and one of the most intelligent,” said Pep Guardiola, who managed the German for three seasons at Bayern Munich. “He can play in 10 positions, no problems because he understands the game perfectly. It was a huge honour for me to be his manager.”

1) Cafu

Country: Brazil

Clubs: Sao Paulo, Real Zaragoza, Juventude, Palmeiras, AS Roma, AC Milan, Garforth Town

  • 5 domestic titles
  • 1 Champions League titles (European Cup)
  • 2 Copa Americas
  • 2 World Cups

Like his predecessor Carlos Alberto, Cafu was a masterful leader as well as a versatile, spectacular footballer. Jaap Stam played alongside the double World Cup-winner at AC Milan: “People tend to forget that defensively he was very strong, but he stands out because of his attacking impulses and energy. Cafu just kept going – up and down, up and down – and never gave up.”

Featured Image Credit: PA Images

Topics: Dani Alves

Colin Hubbuck
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