The once unfashionable role of the full-back is now a vital component of many modern football systems, with the all-action defenders a key element of some of world football’s biggest sides.
A role once littered with steady, if unspectacular, talents has transformed in the modern era with full-backs now requiring a perfect blend of athletic and technical qualities, bringing thrust and dynamism to the flanks and playing a pivotal role at both ends of the pitch.
We’ve decided to look at some of the best full-backs working in tandem at present, here are the five best full-back pairings in European football right now:
5. Ricardo Pereira and Ben Chilwell – Leicester
Leicester’s resurgence under Brendan Rodgers has seen the club upset the status quo of the Premier League to move into the Champions League places this season, the Foxes exciting young side thriving under the Northern Irishman’s guidance at the King Power Stadium.
Amongst the keys to Leicester’s success has been the full-back pairing of Ricardo Pereira and Ben Chilwell, each recognised amongst the Premier League’s finest in their respective positions.
Portuguese international Pereira has arguably been the club’s stand-out star this season following a series of impressive performances, the 26-year-old having made more tackles than any other player in the division.
Pereira’s relentless drive and consistency has marked him out as one of the stars of the campaign, whilst his four goals and two assists in all competitions have been perfectly complimented by the performances of Chilwell on the opposite flank.
The England international has continued his progress since coming through the Foxes’ academy ranks, with Chelsea believed to be seriously interested in a deal to sign the 23-year-old this summer.
Chilwell has scored twice and provided three assists to attract interest from the division’s leading sides and establish himself as a first-choice for both club and country.
4. Hans Hateboer and Robin Gosens – Atalanta
Atalanta’s rise has been one of the stories of Italian football in recent seasons, the club emerging from mediocrity to establish themselves as arguably the most exciting side in Serie A.
Giao Piero Gasperini’s free-scoring side secured Champions League qualification for the first time this season before progressing into the knock-out stages, Atalanta continuing to punch above their weight and upset the established order.
Key to the club’s swashbuckling style is the full-back pairing of Hans Hateboer and Robin Gosens, the duo pushing high and wide to allow the club’s forward players to remain central and create combinations.
You won’t find a better pair of wingbacks in Europe than Hans Hateboer and Robin Gosens. So lethal in the box, so effective at freeing up space for Papu and Ilicic, so unrelenting in their runs from box to box. Both unstoppable against Valencia tonight.
— Zach Lowy (@ZachLowy) February 19, 2020
The pair have been amongst Europe’s most productive full-backs this season with left-back Gosens in particular thriving, the German having scored eight goals and provided a further five assists in all competitions.
Hoteboer has also provided an attacking outlet on the right-flank and has four assists for the campaign, whilst the Dutchman registered his first goals for the season with a brace in the club’s 4-1 Champions League last-16 thrashing of Valencia.
3. Benjamin Pavard and Alphonso Davies – Bayern Munich
Bayern Munich continue to set the standards in German football and club’s latest league leading side has been boosted by the arrivals of two exciting full-back talents, Benjamin Pavard and Alphonso Davies having starred for the Bavarians so far this season.
Pavard arrived in a big-money move from Stuttgart last summer and has quickly established himself as a key figure for the Bundesliga champions, slotting in seamlessly at right-back and providing an air of class and composure to the right-flank.
The 24-year-old has scored three goals and provided a further five assists for Bayern this season, whilst his versatility further adds to his appeal having deputised both centrally and on the opposite flank on occasion.
Happy 23rd Birthday to Benjamin Pavard! Throw back to this goal at the World Cup 😍🔥 pic.twitter.com/kuKfMBrKRC
— SPORTbible (@sportbible) March 28, 2019
Comfortable in possession and a fine passer of the ball, Pavard’s defensive strengths have allowed Joshua Kimmich to return to his favoured midfield role, the Frenchman dove-tailing with the exhilarating talent of Canadian youngster Davies who has starred at left-back.
The teenager has established himself as one of the most exciting young talents in world football this season, his electric pace bringing a new dimension to the Bayern attack.
Davies has scored twice and provided a further five assists in all competitions, whilst his significant room for improvement could see him emerge as the world’s best in the coming seasons.
2. Achraf Hakimi and Raphael Guerreiro – Borussia Dortmund
The second of the Bundesliga’s representatives to make our feature, Borussia Dortmund duo Achraf Hakimi and Raphael Guerreiro have been a key component of the club’s formidable attacking threat this season.
Hakimi has flourished during the second campaign of a two-season loan spell at the Westfalenstadion from Real Madrid, the Moroccan having emerged as one of the finest full-backs in world football.
The 21-year-old has been a rampaging presence down the Dortmund flank for much of the campaign, scoring eight goals in all competitions and providing a further 10 assists – with only four players having provided more goals in the Bundesliga this season.
Hakimi’s speed makes him a difficult proposition to stop when in full flight, marauding forward to link-up with his attacking teammates further forward.
The loanee’s productivity has been matched by the equally capable Guerreiro at left wing-back, the Portuguese having scored an impressive eight goals in just 19 Bundesliga starts so far this season, including three goals in just three fixtures following the league’s behind-closed-doors restart.
1. Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson – Liverpool
Liverpool’s rise to the summit of English and European football has been built on a relentless attacking style, with much of the creativity of Jurgen Klopp’s side dependent on full-back duo Alexander-Arnold and Robertson.
Alexander-Arnold’s emergence from the club’s academy ranks has seen the youngster already alter concepts of how a full-back should perform, breaking the Premier League’s assist records for a defender and acting as a deep-lying playmaker from his right-back position.
When the right-back sets up the left-back 😍
Are Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson the best full-backs in the world? 🧐pic.twitter.com/RjrbmRkvfZ
— Goal (@goal) October 9, 2019
The England international’s sublime technique and passing range is a fundamental part of the Reds play, his ability to effortlessly switch the play often putting his side on the front foot. Alexander-Arnold’s set-piece prowess has also added a new dimension to Liverpool’s attacking threat, the 21-year-old having 13 assists – alongside two goals – in all competitions so far this season.
On the opposite flank is Scotland captain Robertson, who can perhaps lay claim to being the most complete full-back in world football. The 26-year-old’s notorious industry has seen him become a firm fans’ favourite of the Anfield crowd, whilst he brings his own attacking impetus with two goals and a further seven assists this season.