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Top 10 Best Right Backs Of All Time

  • Post category:Football
  • Reading time:25 mins read
  • Post last modified:June 16, 2024

Discover the top 10 best right-backs of all time that have dominated football’s history with their defensive prowess and attacking contributions.

Football, often referred to as the beautiful game, has seen a plethora of talented players grace its pitches over the decades. Among these, right-backs have played pivotal roles, combining defensive solidity with offensive prowess.

The position demands a unique blend of attributes: speed, stamina, tactical intelligence, and the ability to deliver pinpoint crosses.

While they may not always bask in the limelight like strikers or attacking midfielders, the contributions of right-backs are crucial to any team’s success.

In this blog post, we embark on a journey to celebrate the top 10 best right backs of all time, delving into their careers, achievements, and the memorable marks they’ve left on football history.

Top 10 Best Right Backs Of All Time

10 Djalma Santos

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When discussing the greatest right-backs of all time, Djalma Santos‘ name inevitably comes up. Born on February 27, 1929, in São Paulo, Brazil, Santos is widely regarded as one of the pioneers of modern full-back play.

His career spanned two decades, from the early 1950s to the early 1970s, a period during which he set new standards for defensive solidity and attacking flair.

Santos made his professional debut with Portuguesa, a club based in São Paulo, where he quickly established himself as a formidable defender.

His exceptional tackling skills, impeccable positioning on the field, and tireless stamina were invaluable assets to the team.

At a time when defenders were primarily focused on their defensive duties, Santos would frequently join the attack, showcasing his exceptional crossing ability and composure on the ball.

His performances at the club level earned him a call-up to the Brazilian national team, where he would go on to make a lasting impact. Santos represented Brazil in four FIFA World Cups, winning the prestigious tournament twice, in 1958 and 1962.

His consistency and reliability were unmatched, as evidenced by his remarkable feat of being selected for the World Cup All-Star team in three different tournaments (1954, 1958, and 1962).

In the 1958 World Cup final against Sweden, Santos delivered a flawless performance, helping Brazil secure their first-ever World Cup title.

Djalma Santos’ legacy is one of innovation and excellence. He redefined what it meant to be a right-back, blending defensive rigor with offensive creativity.

Even decades after his retirement, Santos remains a benchmark for aspiring defenders, a symbol of the perfect balance between defense and attack.

9 Carlos Alberto

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Carlos Alberto Torres, commonly known as Carlos Alberto, is a name that resonates deeply within the footballing world.

As the captain of Brazil’s legendary 1970 World Cup-winning team, Carlos Alberto showcased a blend of defensive solidity and attacking flair that has rarely been matched.

He began his professional career with Fluminense, where he quickly rose to prominence as a versatile defender. His leadership on the field was evident as he commanded the defense with authority, while his technical prowess allowed him to effortlessly blend into Brazil’s dynamic attacking style.

The crowning moment of his career came in the final against Italy, where he scored one of the greatest goals in World Cup history.

A sweeping team move involving multiple players culminated in Carlos Alberto’s thunderous strike from the edge of the penalty area, sealing Brazil’s 4-1 victory and securing their third World Cup title. This goal epitomized the essence of the “beautiful game” and remains a defining moment in football history.

After his success with Santos, he had a notable stint in the North American Soccer League (NASL) with the New York Cosmos, where he continued to display his exceptional skills and leadership. He demonstrated that a defender could be both a stalwart at the back and a creative force going forward.

In remembering Carlos Alberto, we celebrate a player who embodied the spirit of Brazilian football, combining skill, flair, and an unwavering commitment to excellence.

8 Giuseppe Bergomi

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Giuseppe Bergomi, affectionately known as “Beppe,” is a towering figure in the annals of football, particularly revered in his native Italy. His illustrious career, primarily spent with Inter Milan, cemented his status as one of the greatest right-backs of all time.

Making his debut at the tender age of 16, he showcased a maturity and understanding of the game that belied his years.

Bergomi’s defensive prowess was evident from the outset, characterized by his impeccable positioning, astute reading of the game, and fierce, yet fair, tackling.

Internationally, Bergomi’s star shone brightly early in his career. He made his debut for the Italian national team in 1982, famously helping the Azzurri clinch the World Cup that same year at just 18 years old.

His interpretation throughout the tournament was remarkable, particularly in the final against West Germany, where he played with a level of poise and confidence that belied his youth.

Throughout his time at Inter Milan, Bergomi became a symbol of loyalty and consistency. He captained the team for many years, leading them to numerous domestic and European successes.

Notably, he played a crucial role in Inter’s UEFA Cup victories in 1991, 1994, and 1998, demonstrating his enduring quality and leadership. Bergomi’s longevity in the game is a testament to his exceptional fitness, professionalism, and dedication.

Bergomi’s playing style was the embodiment of the Italian defensive philosophy known as “catenaccio,” which emphasizes organization, discipline, and tactical rigor.

His grants to Inter Milan and the Italian national team have left a lasting impact on the sport, solidifying his place among the greatest right-backs of all time.

7 Gary Neville

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Gary Neville is synonymous with the golden era of Manchester United and the Premier League. As a one-club man, his entire professional career was spent at Manchester United, where he became one of the most reliable and respected right-backs in football history.

Under the guidance of Sir Alex Ferguson, Neville developed into a player known for his defensive solidity, tactical awareness, and unyielding work ethic.

His partnership with Beckham on the right flank became one of the most effective and iconic duos in Premier League history.

He won an astonishing array of trophies with Manchester United, including eight Premier League titles, three FA Cups, and two UEFA Champions League titles.

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Neville’s supervision qualities were recognized in 2005 when he was appointed club captain, a role he held with distinction until his retirement in 2011.

Neville’s international career with England was equally significant. He earned 85 caps and represented his country in multiple European Championships and World Cups.

His understanding of the game, combined with his experience and leadership, made him an integral part of the national setup for over a decade.

One of Neville’s defining characteristics was his professionalism. He approached every match and training session with the same level of commitment and intensity, setting high standards for himself and his teammates.

He has made immense contributions to Manchester United and English football, and his influence continues through his media work and his role in developing future football stars. Neville’s influence on the game is lasting, and his place among the greatest right-backs of all time is well deserved.

6 Gianluca Zambrotta

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Gianluca Zambrotta stands out as one of the most versatile and skilled right-backs in football history. He enjoyed success at both the club and international levels, earning a reputation as a player who could seamlessly transition between defensive and offensive roles.

Zambrotta’s professional journey began with his hometown club, Como, before he moved to Bari, where his performances caught the attention of Juventus. It was at Juventus where Zambrotta truly flourished, joining the club in 1999.

Initially starting as a winger, his defensive capabilities soon became apparent, leading to his transition to a full-back role.

Zambrotta’s proficiency to contribute both defensively and offensively made him a key player for Juventus, where he won multiple Serie A titles and was instrumental in their runs in the UEFA Champions League.

Zambrotta’s technical skills, including precise passing, dribbling, and crossing, combined with his defensive acumen, made him a complete player.

His work rate, stamina, and ability to read the game ensured he was always a step ahead, whether defending against top wingers or pushing forward to support the attack.

His crowning achievement came in 2006 when he played a pivotal role in Italy’s triumphant World Cup campaign. Zambrotta’s performances were consistently outstanding, and his versatility allowed him to excel in different roles throughout the tournament.

After his successful stint at Juventus, Zambrotta continued his career with notable spells at Barcelona and AC Milan. At Barcelona, he won the La Liga title, further showcasing his ability to adapt to different leagues and styles of play.

His time at AC Milan added another chapter of success to his career, where he continued to demonstrate his high level of performance and professionalism. Gianluca Zambrotta is number 6 in our list of top 10 best right-backs of all time.

5 Lilian Thuram

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Lilian Thuram is celebrated as one of the most formidable right-backs in football history, renowned for his defensive prowess, physicality, and intelligence on the pitch.

His impressive performances at Monaco earned him a move to Parma in Italy’s Serie A in 1996. At Parma, Thuram’s reputation grew as he played a crucial role in the club’s successes, including winning the UEFA Cup and the Coppa Italia.

In 2001, Thuram transferred to Juventus, where he continued to excel and solidify his status as one of the world’s best defenders. A

t Juventus, he won multiple Serie A titles and consistently performed at the highest level, both domestically and in the UEFA Champions League.

Thuram was an integral part of the squad that won the 1998 FIFA World Cup on home soil, where his defensive solidity was crucial to France’s triumph.

His most memorable moment came in the semi-final against Croatia, where he scored both goals in a 2-1 victory, his only goal for the national team.

Thuram’s success continued with the French team as they won the UEFA Euro 2000, further cementing his legacy as one of the best defenders of his generation.

His presence in defense provided a sense of security and confidence, making him a cornerstone of France’s golden era of football.

Even in the latter stages of his career, Thuram’s performances remained exemplary, and his experience and leadership were invaluable to the teams he played for.

He was a defensive colossus who combined physical attributes with tactical intelligence, making him one of the greatest right-backs of all time.

4 Javier Zanetti

top 10 best right backs of all time
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Javier Zanetti is widely regarded as one of the finest right-backs in football history, known for his remarkable consistency, versatility, and leadership.

Spanning over two decades, his journey in football left an unforgettable mark on both Inter Milan and the Argentine national team.

In 1995, he made a pivotal move to Inter Milan, a club where he would spend the next 19 years and become an iconic figure. From the outset, Zanetti’s work ethic, technical skills, and tactical intelligence stood out.

He quickly became a mainstay in the team, known for his tireless running, precise tackling, and ability to read the game.

While primarily a right-back, he seamlessly transitioned into playing as a left-back, central midfielder, and even a winger when needed. His fitness levels were extraordinary, allowing him to maintain peak performance well into his late 30s, a rare feat in professional football.

He won five Serie A titles, four Coppa Italia titles, and the UEFA Champions League in 2010, among other honors. As the captain of Inter Milan for much of his tenure, Zanetti exemplified leadership on and off the pitch.

His serene composure, unwavering dedication, and ability to motivate those around him made him a cherished figure among fans and teammates alike.

The 2010 Champions League triumph, where Inter completed a historic treble, stands out as a crowning achievement in his illustrious career.

Although he never secured a major international trophy, he was a pillar of the national team’s defense, providing invaluable experience and stability.

3 Philipp Lahm

top 10 best right backs of all time
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Philipp Lahm is hailed as one of the most intelligent and versatile right-backs in football history. His remarkable tenure at Bayern Munich and with the German national team has solidified his place among the all-time greats in football.

After a successful loan spell at VfB Stuttgart, he returned to Bayern Munich in 2005, ready to make his mark on the first team.

Lahm’s ability to play with both feet and his understanding of the game allowed him to excel as a right-back, left-back, and even as a central midfielder later in his career.

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His character was unmatched, rarely putting a foot wrong in any match. Lahm’s leadership qualities emerged early, and he eventually became the captain of Bayern Munich, guiding the team to numerous domestic and international successes.

Under his captaincy, Bayern Munich won multiple Bundesliga titles, DFB-Pokal cups, and the UEFA Champions League in 2013, completing a historic treble.

Lahm’s tactical flexibility and composure under pressure were instrumental in Germany’s triumph, and he famously lifted the World Cup trophy as captain, cementing his legacy on the international stage.

Lahm’s football intelligence was one of his defining traits. He was often referred to as the “thinking man’s footballer” due to his renowned ability to read the game and make crucial decisions.

His understanding of positioning and space allowed him to neutralize some of the world’s best attackers while also contributing to his team’s offensive play.

Lahm’s retirement in 2017 marked the end of an era for Bayern Munich and German football. He left the game at the top of his form, having won every major club and international honor.

Philipp Lahm’s legacy is one of unparalleled intelligence, versatility, and leadership. He set a new standard for the modern full-back, demonstrating that the position requires not just physical attributes but also a deep understanding of the game.

2 Cafu

top 10 best right backs of all time
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Cafu is widely recognized as one of the greatest right-backs in football history. At São Paulo, he won multiple domestic titles and the prestigious Copa Libertadores, showcasing his ability to perform on the big stage.

In 1997, Cafu joined AS Roma, where he became an integral part of the team. His time at Roma was marked by his tireless running, precise crossing, and ability to contribute to both defense and attack.

Cafu’s performances were pivotal in helping Roma win the Serie A title in 2001, their first in nearly two decades. His consistency and work rate endeared him to fans and made him one of the most respected right-backs in the world.

In 2003, Cafu left Roma to join AC Milan, where his success continued. He added several more titles to his name, including the Serie A, the UEFA Champions League, and the FIFA Club World Cup. Cafu’s experience, leadership, and tactical intelligence were invaluable to Milan’s successes during this period.

His overlapping runs and pinpoint crosses were a constant threat to opponents, and his defensive reliability made him a key player in one of the most successful periods in the club’s history.

Cafu’s international career with Brazil is equally legendary. He earned 142 caps, making him the most-capped Brazilian player of all time. Cafu played in four FIFA World Cups, winning the tournament twice, in 1994 and 2002.

Cafu’s stamina and endurance were legendary, earning him the nickname “Il Pendolino” (The Express Train) in Italy. He was renowned for tirelessly patrolling the right flank throughout the entire match, contributing both defensively and offensively.

His relentless energy and commitment to the game were remarkable, and he maintained his high level of performance well into his late 30s, a testament to his physical conditioning and professionalism. Cafu’s legacy is one of extraordinary achievement and inspiration.

1 Dani Alves

top 10 best right backs of all time
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Dani Alves is a name synonymous with flair, creativity, and an unparalleled winning mentality. His dynamic style of play, combined with his extensive list of trophies, has earned him a place among the elite right-backs of all time.

Alves’ professional journey began in Brazil with Bahia, where his talent quickly drew attention. His move to Sevilla in 2002 marked the start of his European adventure, where he would become a crucial figure in the Andalusian club’s rise.

During his six years at Sevilla, Alves won two UEFA Cups, a UEFA Super Cup, and a Copa del Rey, establishing himself as one of the most exciting attacking full-backs in the game.

In 2008, Alves joined Barcelona, where he would reach the pinnacle of his career. At Barcelona, Alves became a key component of one of the greatest teams in football history, under the management of Pep Guardiola.

His partnership with Lionel Messi on the right flank was particularly formidable, with Alves providing countless assists for the Argentine superstar. Alves’ skill in blending defense with attacking prowess was crucial to Barcelona’s dominance in both domestic and European competitions.

During his time at the club, Alves won six La Liga titles, three UEFA Champions League titles, four Copa del Rey titles, and several other domestic and international trophies.

Alves’ versatility was one of his defining characteristics. While primarily a right-back, he could also play as a winger or midfielder, adapting seamlessly to different tactical demands.

His technical skills, vision, and creativity allowed him to influence games in ways few defenders could. Alves was known for his overlapping runs, pinpoint crosses, and his ability to link up play, making him a constant threat in the attacking third.

He has earned over 120 caps and has participated in multiple World Cups and Copa America tournaments. Alves played a crucial role in Brazil’s Copa America victories in 2007 and 2019, showcasing his enduring quality and leadership on the international stage.

Following his decorated tenure at Barcelona, Alves further enriched his trophy collection through fruitful periods at Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain, and São Paulo.

His capability to adjust to various leagues and sustain outstanding performance well into his late 30s demonstrates his professionalism and commitment to the sport.

Dani Alves has redefined what it means to be a modern full-back, combining defensive solidity with offensive creativity in a way that few have matched.

Frequently Asked Questions:-

Who is the best Right-Back in World History?

Dani Alves is widely regarded as the best right-back in history, due to his exceptional skillset, longevity, and numerous trophies won throughout his career.

Who is the best Right-Back in Premier League history?

Gary Neville is widely considered the best right-back in Premier League history due to his exceptional defensive ability, and offensive contributions across his career with Manchester United.

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Kamran Khan

A geek, who just loves to update sports, gaming, and tech updates from around the world to the other geeks out there. A passionate sports lover, a tech geek from the mind, and a gamer from the heart.