Wing-backs are slowly becoming an increasingly important part of modern football. Several teams are opting for a three centre-back partnership, coupled with the energy-filled enthusiasm of wing-backs to motor their teams from back to front. The 2021-22 season, in particular, has seen multiple examples.
Although full-backs like Dani Carvajal, Trent Alexander-Arnold, and Joao Cancelo are still very much in trend, wing-backs are proving to be just as vital. The ability to provide defensive cover and deliver the same conviction going forward is an attractive proposition and some players have excelled in that role this season.
On that note, let's take a look at the five best wing-backs in Europe right now, based on ratings. (May 2022)
Note: Only Europe's top 5 leagues have been considered and the ratings are as per Whoscored.
#5 Filip Kostic- 7.20/10
Filip Kostic may be turning 30 by the end of the year but the full-back has enjoyed one of his best seasons in the wing-back role this season.
The Serbian international has been part of the Eintracht Frankfurt side that finished 11th in the Bundesliga this season but are in the final of the Europa League.
Though they have finished in the bottom half of the table, they have conceded fewer goals than in their previous two seasons.
Kostic is a key reason for this. His attacking contributions have not gone unnoticed either. The right-wing back has scored four goals and registered nine assists in 31 Bundesliga games this term, thereby contributing to nearly 30% of the club's goals.
The Frankfurt star will now look to help his side get their hands on the European trophy when they go up against Rangers in the final.
#4 Christopher Trimmel- 7.24/10
From one Bundesliga wing-back to another. Christopher Trimmel has enjoyed a scintillating campaign with Union Berlin this season.
Since the club were promoted to the top-flight in the 2019-20 campaign, they have gone from strength to strength. Trimmel is the oldest member of the squad and the captain has played like a true veteran this season. He has led his team brilliantly and has been part of the third best defense in the Bundesliga this season.
Trimmel has also scored two goals from 25 league games, which is admirable given his aging body. The 35-year-old ace will be keen on getting Union Berlin into the Champions League before he hangs up his boots. His team's Bundesliga season saw them finishing in the fourth position.
#3 Jonathan Clauss- 7.34/10
Jonathan Clauss has been part of a brilliant Lens side this season that has garnered seven points more than their points tally last term.
The French international has been decisive, intuitive, and effective in key areas of the pitch for the Ligue 1 side. He has enough pace to track back and mop up while also having the motivation to move forward and support the attack.
In doing so, he has scored five goals and provided 11 assists from 36 league games, thereby missing only one fixture this term.
Clauss is an important part of this and will look to produce another stellar performance this weekend, in the hope of sealing Europa League football for his club.
#2 David Raum- 7.38/10
David Raum is the only left-sided wing-back on this list and for good reason. Hoffenheim may not have had the best of seasons this term but their wing-back has been a silver lining in an otherwise unconvincing campaign.
A bustling player going forward and a calm presence at the back, Raum has cracked the code of acing the role of a modern wing-back. He has the strength to hold off opponents and the pace to beat them when his side counter-attack.
The German international also has a sensational left foot, courtesy of which he has racked up three goals and 13 assists from 32 Bundesliga games this season.
If his performances continue this way into the next term, it might not be long before a big club decides to seal a deal for Raum.
#1 Reece James- 7.59/10
Reece James is a once-in-a-generation talent and this season has been an evidence of the same. The young Englishman helped Chelsea lift the UCL trophy last season and has helped them win the UEFA Super Cup and the Club World Cup this year.
The Blues have also sealed a top-four finish in the Premier League while also becoming the finalists in the FA Cup and the Carabao Cup. James has been influential to the club's run in each of these competitions, thanks to his fine technique, guile, and intelligence going forward, and at the back.
The wing-back has also scored five goals and provided seven assists from just 24 Premier League games this season. This makes him the highest-scoring defender in the top-flight this term. The 22-year-old ace will be eager to finish the season on a high note by winning his team's last two league games.