The fullback positions, right back and left back, have emerged as some of the more important positions in world football, but when one thinks about the best footballers in the world, one rarely recalls a right back. With the emergence of the 4-2-3-1, the fullback positions have given added width as they're given the lease of the field to overlap with the wide midfielders. The 4-3-3 also facilitates attacking football and one simply has to observe Barcelona in order to realize the importance of the position.
Javier Zanetti, Gianluca Zambrotta, Lillian Thuram, Carlos Alberto, Djalma Santos, and of course Cafu are all memorable players that lit up world football with their performances. Cafu is considered to be the best right back of all time and he possessed all the attributes necessary for the position. His overlapping runs were a thing of beauty and he was consistently seen bombing up the right flank to support the attack. These attacking forays have become increasingly prevalent today and Cafu's ability to join the attack and still get back to defend was brilliant.
Let's take a look at some of the world's best right backs of today.
Mattia De Sciglio, AC Milan, Italy
: Being a Milan fan I had to throw him in. Brilliant crosser. Just 20 years old. Come 2014, he will likely be included in Italy's World Cup squad and could be Milan and Italy's right back for the next decade.
10. Branislav Ivanovic, Chelsea, Serbia:
By trade, Ivanovic is a central defender but he has adapted quite well to the right back position. Gets forward quite well for a player his size and uses his height to great effect of set pieces. Red carded once this season. Drives the attack from the back with his average of 3.1 accurate long passes per game.
9. Ignazio Abate, AC Milan, Italy:
The man who is about to get pipped for a starting spot at Milan by De Sciglio has a ton of quality in his own right. Quick, gets forward and tracks back very well. One of Milan's most consistent performers.
8. Bacary Sagna, Arsenal, France:
The longest serving member of Arsenal right now, Sagna has proven himself to be an extremely reliable player for Arsene Wenger. He will be out of contract soon and Arsenal do not seem to be keen on signing the player to more than a one-year deal which is a shame. Sagna came back from a horrific leg injury and has picked up right where he left off. He excels both offensively and defensively and possesses a phenomenal work rate.
7. Kyle Walker, Tottenham, England:
Probably the fastest right back in the world today. Bombs up the right flank and has the necessary stamina to sustain his runs for 90 minutes. Provided three assists this season. Just 22 and capped four times for England. Should start at World Cup 2014.
6. Pablo Zabaleta, Manchester City, Argentina:
Roberto Mancini purchased Maicon from Inter to be his starting right back, however Pablo Zabaleta has been too good. The fiery Argentine is a huge part of the Premier League's best defense that has conceded only 24 goals in 28 games this season
. He's scored twice, assisted twice, and even won the man of the match award
for Manchester City in two games this season.
5. Dani Alves, Barcelona, Brazil:
Perhaps the most recognizable name on this list, Dani Alves receives most of his plaudits based on his attacking ability. He has five assists on the season, courtesy of his willingness to join the attack and his world class teammates at the Camp Nou. Alves can be a defensive liability at times because he can get caught so far up the pitch that it's impossible to track back and repel a counter attack on his side. Still a world-class right back, his stats are inflated largely because of the team he plays for. He's arguably the best attacker of this group but the right back position requires versatility and Dani Alves just doesn't have the defensive chops that some of the other players on this list do.
4. Rafael, Manchester United, Brazil:
He's been brilliant for Manchester United this season scoring three goals and providing three assists from the defense. Rafael received only four bookings this season and averages 3.3 tackles per game and 4.6 clearances per game.
The Brazilian has stepped up his game big time this season and based on form, would be Brazil's starting right back over Dani Alves. He has a penchant for getting forward like his compatriot but won't get caught out of position nearly as much as Barcelona's number 2.
3. Darijo Srna, Shakhtar Donetsk, Croatia:
Croatia's captain has made an amazing 100 appearances for his national team and scored 20 times for the Croatian national team. Playing out in Ukraine for Shakhtar Donetsk means that Srna doesn't get the acclaim that he deserves but Shakhtar have become regulars in Europe, allowing Srna to show his brilliance on the big stage. He's certainly the best free kick practitioner on this list and is also regularly seen taking corners for his team. The all-action Srna deserves much more praise than he receives but he's quietly went about his business and become one of the world's foremost right backs.
2. Lukasz Piszczek, Borussia Dortmund, Poland:
Lukasz Piszczek is a star and is a part of that incredibly gifted, nucleus of talent at Borussia Dortmund. He's been booked only once this season and averages 2.1 tackles per game
. That's not a ton of tackles by any means but he's a very efficient and accurate tackler. He's provided six assists this season, good for second most out of any player on this list.
He's an all-around talent and if you ask world football pundits, Piszczek should have been named to the FIFPro World XI in 2012. That honor was bestowed to Dani Alves and you'd be hard pressed to find a regular follower of world football that rates Dani Alves higher than Lukasz Piszczek. At 27 years old, he's in the prime of his career and with Borussia Dortmund primed to make a UEFA Champions League title run, the Poland international will have the opportunity to further cement himself among the world's best.
1. Philipp Lahm, Bayern Munich, Germany:
For me, Philipp Lahm is the best fullback in the world. He began is equally brilliant at both right and left back, yet is used primarily as a right back for Bayern Munich because Jupp Heynckes opts for David Alaba on the left. Lahm has provided an astounding nine assists and is captain of both Bayern Munich and Germany. If you have been following the Bundesliga this season, you know that Bayern Munich has been absolutely demolishing the competition in arguably Europe's second best league. FIFA President Sepp Blatter went as far as to say it was the best league
in the world.
Bayern Munich find themselves in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals this season, after finishing last season as runners up to Chelsea. Lahm's other team, the German national team, is widely considered to be the second best team of the world. Not enough can be said about Philipp Lahm. He averages
nearly six accurate long passes per game and passes the ball at a success rate of almost 90%. Philipp Lahm is a brilliant player and when his career is finished, he could go down as one of Germany's best players ever.