One of the most interesting aspects of football's evolution over the years has been the ever-increasing importance of full-backs. The likes of Dani Alves, Marcelo Vieira, Phillip Lahm and other stellar names made the role their own and went on to redefine the expectations from full-backs in the 21st century.
No longer are they just expected to be adept defensively and guard their flank. They're tasked with covering the length of the pitch on a regular basis and providing a constant attacking threat down wide areas.
Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson took the world by storm over the last couple of years and were crucial components of the Anfield juggernaut that went on to win the Premier League and UEFA Champions League in successive campaigns. They highlighted the importance of having dynamic full-backs and the X-factor it could offer a side.
While they haven't been at their very best this season, there have been many other full-backs who have impressed profoundly with their displays so far. On that note, here is a look at some of the best right-backs in Europe this year.
#5 Juan Cuadrado | Juventus
Not many would have expected to see Colombian star Juan Cuadrado on a list of right-backs until a year or two ago, and understandably so. Cuadrado was shoehorned into the position by Maurizio Sarri on occasion, and the wide man has reinvented himself as Juventus' go-to right-back and wing-back, based on the system deployed by Andrea Pirlo.
The 31-year-old has made himself an excellent outlet down the right-hand side of the Bianconeri, constantly bombing down the flank and supplying crosses to Cristiano Ronaldo and Alvaro Morata. Cuadrado has registered a staggering six assists this year in six UEFA Champions League games, the most accumulated by any player in the competition so far. He has a further six in Serie A to show for in 19 appearances.
While defending might not be the former Chelsea man's strongest suit, he most certainly holds up his own and makes his fair share of defensive contributions to Pirlo's men. It is his attacking prowess, however, that earns him a place on this list as he's racked up more assists than all the others who feature here.
#4 Kyle Walker | Manchester City
Pep Guardiola's usage of full-backs throughout his career has been a fascinating feature of his management career. The Catalan has paid more money for full-backs than any manager in the 21st century, and one among the many purchases he has overseen is that of Kyle Walker. Nearly four years since his £45m move, a record at the time, it isn't difficult to see why Guardiola was so keen on signing him.
Walker was one of the most crucial players to Manchester City's successive league titles and remains as important as ever despite sharing his duties with Joao Cancelo this year (more on him later). The 30-year-old has been one of the most consistent full-backs this season, with his awareness, seemingly endless stamina and versatility being some of his many notable qualities. He has played as a traditional right-back as well as at centre-back when called upon by Guardiola.
Walker is held in very high regard by the Manchester City manager, and the level of consistency in his displays this year speaks for itself. Guardiola reserved high praise for the defender's 'ability to play and play and play' and his 'regeneration capability'. Despite missing a few games due to testing positive for COVID-19, Walker has continued to impress and could be on his way to winning a third Premier League title in four years.