Whilst claims that the role of a full-back has been revolutionised in recent years are somewhat exaggerated, there is no disputing the ever-increasing importance of a once unfashionable position in modern football.
Several of world football’s leading sides now depend greatly on the performances of their full-backs, all-action stars who can influence proceedings at both ends of the pitch. The increased popularity of inside forwards who drift into central areas has only added to the demands of a modern full-back, with the game’s best tasked with providing width and quality to the flanks.
We’ve decided to look at some of the very best incumbents of an ever evolving and vital role, here are five of the best full-backs in European football right now:
Bayern Munich’s brilliant run to Champions League success was built on a formidable all-round side, but the displays of the ever-improving Alphonso Davies were a highlight of the German’s historic treble-winning season.
The teenager became the first Canadian to win European football’s biggest prize following a breakthrough season with Bayern, establishing himself as one of the most exciting young talents in world football with a series of scintillating performances at left-back.
Davies is a phenomenal athlete with blistering pace, his athleticism allowing him to recover dangerous situations and allowing the Bayern defence to play with a markedly high line. The 19-year-old has taken to top level football with an ease that belies his inexperience and tough journey to the pinnacle of the game.
Bayern’s other left-back options are the outstanding David Alaba – who has been shifted into central defence – and club-record signing Lucas Hernandez, a player who formed part of France’s World Cup winning side just two years ago.
Davies’ talents, however, means he is currently a shoo-in for the best side on the continent, their roadrunner at full-back capable of reaching even greater heights in the coming seasons.
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Another stand-out of an emerging generation of young footballers, Trent Alexander-Arnold has already achieved a significant amount in his fledgeling career to date.
The Liverpool local has come through the academy ranks at his boyhood side to establish himself as one of the Reds’ most important players, a right-back who is helping reinvent the position with his ability to create chances with elite regularity.
Jurgen Klopp’s side have secured Champions League and long-awaited Premier League success over the past two seasons, with the role of their full-backs crucial to the best side in English football at present.
Alexander-Arnold provides width which allows the club’s fabled front three to wreak havoc in central areas, but it is his passing range and delivery which mark the 21-year-old out as a special talent.
The England international broke the Premier League’s assist record for a defender during the 2018/19 season with 12, before breaking his own record with 13 the following campaign as Liverpool were crowned as champions of England for the first time in three decades.
Possessing exquisite technique from either open play or set-pieces, only Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne provided more Premier League assists than Liverpool’s rampaging right-back last season.
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Okay, so we know that Joshua Kimmich is a midfielder by trade, but he has spent a large portion of his career at full-back and is that good we just didn’t feel right leaving him off this list.
Kimmich once again demonstrated this season why he is regarded as one of the most intelligent and multi-functional players on the planet, excelling in a variety of roles for a Bayern Munich side crowned as champions of Europe for a sixth time.
Outstanding positionally and a fine passer of the ball, Kimmich possesses all the ingredients needed to thrive in whatever role he is placed, the Bayern star a manager’s favourite for both his talent and will to win.
The Germany international finished Bayern’s Champions League campaign at right-back and once more produced performances of consistent – and now expected – excellence, the 25-year-old an improbably complete footballer whose versatility only adds to his appeal.
Debate continues to rage over just what is Kimmich’s best position, but in truth, it matters little. The German, who created more chances than any other player this season in the Champions League, is world-class wherever he is placed and amongst the most valuable players in world football right now.
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The second of the flying full-backs so essential to Liverpool’s Premier League title success this season, Robertson provides the dynamism on the opposite flank to the aforementioned Alexander-Arnold for Jurgen Klopp’s side.
Robertson is amongst the most complete full-backs in the game at present and equally capable at either end of the pitch, an inexhaustible presence on the left-hand side who has become a huge fans’ favourite since moving to Merseyside.
The Scotland captain’s penetrative runs from deep are a key component of Liverpool’s attacking play and he possesses the quality to deliver when arriving into dangerous positions, providing double figures for Premier League assists in each of the past two seasons.
Recognised now as one of the best left-backs in world football, Robertson’s committed displays and reputation as somewhat of a sh*thouse has only added further to his appeal amongst the Anfield supporters.
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The sole player to make this feature that doesn’t adorn the colours of either Bayern Munich or Liverpool, Achraf Hakimi has flourished during the second of a two-season loan spell at Borussia Dortmund this term.
The Moroccan international was loaned to the Bundesliga side from Real Madrid amid a host of competition at the Bernabeu, where his exposure to regular first-team football has seen him develop into one of the best attacking full-backs in Europe.
Hakimi’s breakthrough season has seen the 21-year-old incredibly register double figures for both goals and assists in all competitions, starring during Dortmund’s Champions League campaign with match-winning braces against both Slavia Prague and Inter Milan.
His attacking output has been similarly impressive in the Bundesliga with 10 assists registered for the season, more than any other defender in the division.
Hakimi’s lightning pace and impressive performances persuaded Inter Milan to secure his signing in a €40m deal earlier this summer, where it is expected the youngster will continue his impressive developmemt further at the San Siro.
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