Full-backs are more influential than ever before and it’s a position that continues to evolve with each passing season.
The current campaign has already seen new iterations of the role emerge. From buccaneering full-backs who stretch the pitch, to defenders tasked with stepping inside into the midfield, it is a role which is constantly changing in the modern game.
As such, it was a difficult task to select the five best right-backs in the game right now, with each of these five names all offering something a little different.
Here are our top five right backs in the world right now.
5. Kieran Trippier
Newcastle are on the verge of securing Champions League football for the first time in two decades, with one win required to secure a place in Europe’s elite.
Kieran Trippier has been a standout performer in an excellent season at St James’ Park, with the England international producing the best football of his career on Tyneside. Trippier was the first signing made following the club’s Saudi-backed takeover and has proven a superb addition, emerging as a leader of the Magpies’ team under Eddie Howe.
Tripps. 💪 pic.twitter.com/10Xegv5IUB
— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) May 12, 2023
The 32-year-old was perhaps under-appreciated during his first spell in the Premier League, but has returned improved from winning La Liga at Atletico Madrid and is now among the most influential defenders in the division.
Newcastle have conceded just 32 goals from their 36 league games this season, while Trippier’s threat going forward – from both open-play and set-pieces – is a major part of their attacking play. The defender ranks second in the Premier League for chances created (107) and has provided seven assists so far this season. He is the only defender named on the Premier League Player of the Season shortlist.
4. Jules Kounde
Barcelona have been crowned as champions of La Liga for the first time since 2018/19 this season and the success of the Spaniards has been built on a record-breaking defence.
Xavi’s side have conceded just 13 goals from their 34 league games and are targeting Chelsea’s record (15 – 2004/05) for the least goals conceded in a season in one of Europe’s top five leagues.
Another defender scores 🔵🔴
Jules Koundé nets his first Barcelona goal after connecting with De Jong’s ball 👏 pic.twitter.com/gEXbdZ8iZT
— Viaplay Sports UK (@ViaplaySportsUK) May 14, 2023
Jules Kounde has been excellent as part of Barcelona’s brilliant backline, starring despite spending much of the season at right-back. The Frenchman’s natural role is a central one, but he has adapted to the change impressively to contribute at both ends of the season.
The Frenchman is dominant defensively in one-vs-ones and uses his athleticism to win duels, while he is assured in possession and confident when striding forward into the final third. The 24-year-old took time to adjust to the positional change, but now can now offer Barcelona elite-level performances in either role.
3. Kyle Walker
Kyle Walker continues to rise to whatever challenge Pep Guardiola’s tactical plan presents, having had one of the most interesting evolutions of any player at the Etihad.
Walker arrived as a bullet-train of a full-back from Tottenham six years ago, a defender who rampaged forward at breakneck speed to join the attack. Since then he’s been tweaked and tutored to succeed in a number of different roles, impressing when inverting into midfield and as a security measure to stop counters centrally on occasion.
That Kyle Walker pace ⚡️#UCL pic.twitter.com/xAPjRMOQDL
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) May 18, 2023
Walker’s improved range of passing is often overlooked with the focus on his elite athleticism, with his electric pace utilised on the recovery and to nullify the threat of Europe’s best wingers.
His recent duel with Vinicius Junior highlighted that, even as he approaches 33, there remains plenty in the tank for Walker. His ability to outpace almost any winger in world football leaves some of the best attackers second guessing their own game.
2. Trent Alexander-Arnold
Trent Alexander-Arnold was not the first footballer to make full-back fashionable, but the Liverpool right-back has helped revolutionise the role.
The 24-year-old had a difficult start to the season with heavy criticism and question marks surrounding his defensive ability, but the latter period of the campaign has everyone discussing Alexander-Arnold for the right reasons.
Jurgen Klopp has tweaked his role, with Alexander-Arnold starting nominally at right-back before roving to spend large periods of games in midfield. The results have been spectacular.
Since the change, Alexander-Arnold leads the Premier League for assists (6), through balls (10), touches (750), passes in the opposition half (279), passes in the final third (187) and, perhaps crucially, possession won (63).
STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING AND WATCH THIS STRIKE FROM TRENT ALEXANDER-ARNOLD 🤯 pic.twitter.com/gEFjyatEfI
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) May 15, 2023
It is the sort of impact no full-back in world football can replicate and has led to an upturn from Liverpool, who have won seven straight games to raise faint hopes of Champions League football.
Alexander-Arnold’s upside has always outweighed the downside of defensive lapses, regardless of the scrutiny he has faced this season. Fortunately, Jurgen Klopp has always appreciated him for what he is, an utterly superb footballer.
1. Achraf Hakimi
Achraf Hakimi perhaps has it all when it comes to modern full-back play. The Moroccan boasts blistering speed, end product, versatility and technique, having collected quite the list of career achievements aged just 24.
Hakimi came through the ranks at Real Madrid and those inside the Spanish side’s hierarchy will be regretting their decision to allow the defender to leave. The right-back starred on loan at Borussia Dortmund before going on to win league titles with Inter Milan and Paris Saint-Germain.
PSG might be blessed with an abundance of superstars in their forward line but Hakimi is one of the pivotal pieces in the Parisian’s puzzle. His endless endeavour down the right and ability to fashion chances is a key part of the club’s attacking approach.
— Achraf Hakimi (@AchrafHakimi) May 13, 2023
He enhanced his reputation on the world stage last winter, as an inspirational figure in Morocco’s World Cup campaign. Hakimi starred as the north Africans became the first African nation to reach a World Cup semi-final and showcased his full range of forward threat in Qatar.
Hakimi’s powerful running, set-piece threat and dangerous drives forward in possession make him a perfect wing-back option.
Read – Five top-class centre-backs Premier League clubs will fight over this summer
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