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5 best right-backs of all time

Dani Alves has enjoyed an incredible career
Dani Alves has enjoyed an incredible career
Abhinav Anand
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Modern football has seen an evolution in the role of right-backs, with much more expected from them in attack and in defence nowadays.

In general, full-backs these days are expected to be tactically versatile with strong attacking capabilities. Managers demand a lot from them, be it acting as a centre-back in a three-man defence or as a right-back in a four-man backline.

Apart from this, they are often utilised on the wings and in certain cases in midfield. Such demands create elite full-backs, with the likes of Manchester City's Joao Cancelo and Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold being prime contemporary examples.

However, history has provided us with some amazing right-backs who transformed the position as well, paving the way for the future generation.

We look at the 5 best right-backs of all time.

#5 Cafu

Cafu is regarded as one of the greatest full-backs of all time
Cafu is regarded as one of the greatest full-backs of all time

The most internationally capped Brazilian of all time, Cafu played much of his club football in Italy.

An attack-minded, intelligent right-back, Cafu played for Brazilian clubs like Sao Paulo and Palmeiras before joining Roma in 1997. Here the right-back established himself as one of the best in the world, winning Serie A once before joining AC Milan in 2003. Cafu was often utilised as a right-winger due to his offensive prowess.

For Brazil, Cafu registered 142 caps, winning the World Cup and the Copa America twice. The 50-year old retired from international duty in 2006 and from club football in 2008.


#4 Javier Zanetti

Javier Zanetti enjoyed an illustrious career for Inter Milan
Javier Zanetti enjoyed an illustrious career for Inter Milan

One of Inter Milan's greatest ever players, Javier Zanetti enjoyed a storied career at the very top and represented the Nerazzuri for 19 years.

The Argentina international joined Inter Milan from Banfield in 1995, and made his name with his energy and dynamism. Applauded by many for his longevity, Zanetti made 858 appearances in all competitions for Inter Milan, and was also used as a midfielder for his tactical versatility and intelligence.

Zanetti won five Serie A titles with Inter Milan, as well as a Champions League trophy. He retired in 2014, and is currently the vice-president of Inter Milan.


Also Read: 5 players who have scored the most goals in UEFA Champions League semi-finals and finals


#3 Philipp Lahm

Philipp Lahm is a Bayern Munich legend
Philipp Lahm is a Bayern Munich legend

A product of the Bayern Munich academy, Philipp Lahm has been hailed by many as one of the greatest players to have ever played for the club.

Apart from a two-year loan spell with Stuttgart, Lahm spent his entire playing career with Bayern Munich. A highly intelligent, tactically versatile and disciplined player, the Germany international was well-regarded by all the managers he played under, and captained Bayern Munich during his latter years at the club.

Lahm made 517 appearances in all competitions for Bayern Munich, winning eight Bundesliga titles and one Champions League trophy. He was part of the Germany side which won the World Cup in 2014 as well.


#2 Dani Alves

Dani Alves in action for Sao Paulo
Dani Alves in action for Sao Paulo

One of modern football's great right-backs, Dani Alves does not often get the credit he deserves for the many splendid performances he has put in over the years, mainly for Barcelona.

Alves made his name with Sevilla, and then earned a £32 million move to Barcelona in 2008. There, the Brazil international would establish his legacy as one of the greatest right-backs of all time, with his incredible attacking performances ensuring that he became one of the most important members of Pep Guardiola's all-conquering Barcelona side.

Technically strong, with excellent creativity and crossing ability, Alves' skill-set has seen him being used as a winger and in midfield. For his current club Sao Paulo, the 37-year old plays as an attacking midfielder, highlighting his unique skills. Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold, regarded as one of the best right-backs in the world, is often compared to Alves.


#1 Carlos Alberto

Carlos Alberto was renowned for his leadership
Carlos Alberto was renowned for his leadership

Nicknamed "Capita", Carlos Alberto captained Brazil to triumph in the 1970 FIFA World Cup, scoring a goal in the final as well.

A strong defender who was good on the ball, Carlos Alberto spent the majority of his playing career playing for Santos as a defensive heartbeat. The Brazil international did not shirk away from his attacking responsibilities either and managed to score at a good rate for a right-back when he was at Santos.

Alberto appeared for the likes of Fluminense, Flamengo, New York Cosmos and California Surf before retiring in 1982. After his retirement he started a career as a manager, managing clubs like Flamengo, Corinthians, Botafogo and Atletico Mineiro, as well as countries like Oman and Azerbaijan.


Also Read: 5 most valuable midfielders in La Liga (2021)

Edited by S Chowdhury
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