Who is the best right-back in the world?
Is he English? Brazilian? Argentine? Serbian?
There is always great interest and discussion about declaring the top players at their position. Whether ranking goalkeepers or strikers, the world wants to know who is the best.
Although there are many lists ranking the top players, the criteria often changes and creates major controversy.
Reputation, past performance, injuries and current form have all been determining factors in player rankings.
This list is the second of an entire series. From goalkeepers to managers, it will rank the top 10 men at their positions.
Players will be ranked by their abilities and contributions on the pitch, not by their team's performance. For example, Barcelona's Victor Valdés rarely lets in goals for the European and Spanish champions. Despite his impressive record, he finds himself behind Iker Casillas and Pepe Reina in Spain's pecking order. His individual abilities and displays do not warrant a top five spot on the goalkeeper list.
Players will not be judged by their special games or memorable moments, but by their consistent level of top form. For example, Manchester United's Wayne Rooney will be ranked according to his form over the latter stages of 2011's campaign. He will not be judged by his terrible form post-injury, which carried into the beginning of this season.
Injuries will have no impact on the list. For example, Arsenal's Robin van Persie will be ranked according to his performances for the Gunners this season. He has been plagued by injuries in recent years, but he will be judged by his level of play when fit.
*Note: Players who have just retired, such as Edwin Van der Sar and Paul Scholes, will not be included in this series.
This is the second installment of a series of football power rankings.
Here are the top 10 right-backs in the world.
Micah Richards - Manchester City
Christian Maggio - Napoli
Rafinha - Bayern Munich
José Bosingwa - Chelsea
Glen Johnson - Liverpool
Name: Vedran Corluka
International Caps: 46
Although injuries have often stalled Corluka's career at White Hart Lane, the Tottenham defender is a top-quality right-back.
When fit and in good form, the 6'3'' Croatian has proven to be a reliable and dependable EPL player. Corluka has emerged as the first-choice right-back for Harry Redknapp, beating out Scotland's Alan Hutton.
The Croatian, who plays at centre-back for the Croatian national team, boasts exceptional defensive qualities for a fullback. Corluka has solid anticipation, tackling technique and positional awareness, which covers for his lack of genuine pace. The Tottenham right-back reads the game well, making vital interceptions as opponents transition into the final third.
While he is strong at the back, Corluka has shown a willingness to get forward as well. The Croatian provides good delivery from the flank and shows good composure on the ball. The Tottenham defender has become as a consistent performer in England's top-flight. Corluka may not have the flair of other fullbacks, but he is a solid, well-balanced right-back.
Corluka lands at the ten spot due to his run of injuries and recent dip in form. In his time with Manchester City and early on with Tottenham, the Croatian was regarded as one of the top right-backs in England.
Although the Tottenham defender was rarely considered a world-class fullback, his tremendous defensive qualities and push to get forward made him a top-quality player. After his spell with injuries, Corluka has not recovered his best form of a few years ago.
The Tottenham right-back may be a surprise inclusion over the likes of Glen Johnson, Pablo Zabaleta and Christian Maggio. However, the Croatian's individual abilities and consistent level of top form are deserving of a spot on this list. The aforementioned players all have their strengths, but Corluka earns the number ten ranking with his balance of occasional attacking forays and strong defensive qualities.
Name: Aleksandr Anyukov
Club: Zenit Saint Petersburg
International Caps: 57
Zenit's captain and fearless leader is one of the most underrated right-backs in world football. Unlike fellow 2008 European Championships star Yuri Zhirkov, Anyukov has stayed in Russia and remains an elite player for club and country. The Russian right-back has previously been linked with major European clubs such as Liverpool and remains a hidden gem at Zenit.
Anyukov is an outstanding modern fullback. The Zenit captain's tough-tackling and hard-working mentality underlines his defensive fortitude. He has good positional sense and relentlessly closes down opponents. The Russian's tenacious defensive play makes him a great club captain.
Although Anyukov has earned rave reviews for his work behind the ball, the Zenit right-back has shown a desire to get up and down the right flank. The Russian frequently provides overlapping runs and late bursts into the final third. While he may not be a polished attacking threat, he has good touch on the ball, and the ability to deliver dangerous crosses into the box.
Anyukov's work-rate and determination are key to the Russian's all-action style of play. The Zenit captain flies under the radar in Russia, but he is unquestionably a top-quality right-back.
Although he may not be the high-profile EPL fullback like Glen Johnson or Vedran Corluka, the Russian has the individual attributes to excel in the elite leagues of Europe. Anyukov claims the nine spot due to his impressive defensive abilities and tireless work-rate. The Zenit captain may be the most unknown player on this list, but he is an exceptional right-back for club and country.
The Russian has emerged as one of the most reliable fullbacks in the world, delivering quality performances every week. His tackling prowess, desire to get forward and determination to track back defensively earn him a place on this list.
Although Corluka plays in one of the toughest leagues in Europe, the Zenit captain climbs ahead of the Croatian fullback in the rankings. Anyukov has a better overall skill-set for the right-back position, and consistently plays at a higher level of top form. The Russian star does not get the exposure as the other top fullbacks, but he is talented and deserving of the number nine ranking.
Name: Darijo Srna
Club: Shakhtar Donetsk
International Caps: 83
The Croatia and Shakhtar captain has recently emerged as a world-class right-back. Although Srna was criticized for being a defensive liability earlier in his career, he has improved that area of his game in the past few seasons. The Croatian was instrumental in Shakhtar's UEFA Champions League campaign this year, displaying impressive attacking and leadership qualities.
With the ball at his feet, Srna is one of the most dangerous right-backs in the world. The Shakhtar captain is a set-piece specialist and consistently provides exceptional delivery from the flank as well. Srna boasts a fierce shot, scoring goals from open play and the penalty spot. The Croatian offers genuine width down the right and delivers a quality end product as well.
The captain's outstanding work-rate and stamina gives him the freedom to roam down the right flank. Although Srna has developed into an elite attacking fullback, he has improved his positioning and tackling. The Croatian shows better defensive discipline and willingness to track back.
Srna has always been a potent attacking threat from the fullback position. However, with his refined defensive qualities and intangibles, the Croatia and Shakhtar captain is now one of the top right-backs in world football.
Although Srna does not play in a top European league, the Croatian is amongst the top ten players at his position. The Shakhtar captain lands at number eight because he provides rare leadership qualities, exceptional determination and outstanding play down the flank. Srna has the versatility to play as a right midfielder or winger, but he has excelled as right-back for Shakhtar and the Croatian national team.
With only one year left on his current contract, the elite clubs of Europe will be closely monitoring the player's situation, and looking to sign the talented Croatian.
The experienced captain climbs above Corluka and Anyukov with his intangibles and attacking contributions. Although Srna has developed into an accomplished defender, he is still a dynamic dangerman in the final third.
The Croatian provides world-class delivery from crosses and set-pieces, pushing him ahead of the aforementioned players. With a move to a bigger club and better competition, Srna has all the tools to fight for a top five spot in the list.
Name: Gregory van der Wiel
International Caps: 24
The Dutch World Cup star has emerged as the best right-back currently playing outside of the elite European leagues. Van der Wiel is a first-team regular at Ajax and has been heavily linked with a move to England's top-flight. The Dutchman has impressed for club and country in recent seasons, developing into a world-class fullback.
With experience playing at centre-back in the youth ranks, van der Wiel has polished defensive qualities for a player at his position. The Ajax star is a tenacious, tough-tackling and powerful presence at the back. Rarely beaten in 1 v. 1 situations, van der Wiel has the ability to shut down the world's best wingers.
Although the Dutchman is a solid defensive right-back, his physical attributes make him one of the best fullbacks in the world. The Ajax star boasts exceptional pace, work-rate and determination. Van der Wiel's speed and stamina allows him to drive up and down the right flank.
He also provides good support in the attack, consistently pushing up into the final third. The Dutchman is a tremendous athlete and physical specimen at right-back. With his powerful, pacy and tenacious style of play, van der Wiel is clearly among the elite players at his position.
At 23 years old, the Ajax star is the youngest player on this list. While there are more experienced and polished fullbacks in Europe, Van der Wiel claims the seven spot with his outstanding physical qualities and tough defending. Although the Dutchman has the ability to be a top five right-back, his temperament and discipline are still major concerns.
The Ajax star has a history of bad attitude, which has given him great defensive instincts but poor decision-making as well. Van der Wiel still flies into tackles and commits mistimed challenges.
Van der Wiel's pace, determination and tenacity make him a clear cut above the likes of Anyukov and Srna. With his skill-set and physical attributes, the Dutchman could easily challenge for a higher spot on the list. The Dutchman has been outstanding for club and country, contributing on both sides of the ball.
Van der Wiel's work-rate, speed and tough-tackling make him an elite talent at the position. The Dutchman has bags of potential and could develop into a top three right-back in the future.
Name: Branislav Ivanovic
International Caps: 41
After a slow start to his career at Chelsea, Ivanovic has quickly become one of the top defenders in the EPL. The Serbian right-back was sensational in the 2009-10 season, earning a spot in the PFA Premier League Team of the Year. Ivanovic followed that performance with a solid year, emerging as an integral player and mainstay in the Chelsea first-team squad.
Although occasionally slotting alongside John Terry at centre-back, Ivanovic has excelled out at the right-back position. The Serbian is arguably the most natural defender on this list, boasting exceptional tackling technique and aerial prowess. Ivanovic is strong and committed in the challenge, playing with the mentality of a true no-nonsense defender.
The Serbian's aerial strength makes him an ideal defender for the physical EPL. Ivanovic is strong in the air and has become a serious threat from set-pieces. With his defensive mentality and tackling ability, the Chelsea star has developed into a consistent and reliable right-back.
Ivanovic may not have the pace of the elite attacking fullbacks, but he has shown a willingness to support the forward play and push up the right flank. While the Chelsea defender may not have the physical appearance of a top-quality fullback, he has developed into a world-class right-back.
Ivanovic claims the six spot due to his excellent level of good form and impressive defensive qualities. The Serbian star has been outstanding for Chelsea over the past two seasons. With his tough-tackling, aerial ability and reading of the game, Ivanovic is arguably the best right-back in England.
Although the Chelsea star is one of the better pure defenders on this list, his lack of pace, persistent fouling and poor end product keeps him outside of the top five. In his two years as a Chelsea first-team regular, Ivanovic has accumulated at least ten yellow cards in all competitions.
The Serbian's defensive strengths, aerial ability and experience against top competition push him above Srna and van der Wiel in the rankings. Ivanovic has been one of Chelsea's best performers, giving them top-quality play at right-back. While he has the attributes and ability to challenge for a spot higher on the list, Ivanovic can be beaten for pace and is prone to dive into tackles.
The Chelsea star has endured a meteoric rise at Stamford Bridge, becoming a world-class right-back for club and country.
Name: Bacary Sagna
International Caps: 30
With another stellar season for the Gunners, Sagna was recently named so his second PFA Premier League Team of the Year. Since his move from Auxerre in 2007, the Frenchman has earned the title of the EPL's best right-back. Although Sagna played a part in France's horrific 2010 World Cup performance, he has been a defensive stalwart and key player for France over the past few years.
The Frenchman is arguably the best defensive right-back in the world. Sagna boasts exceptional positional awareness, as well as solid tackling technique and timing. He is a hard-working defender that anticipates well and breaks up opposition play.
The Arsenal defender's good turn of pace and defensive instincts make him one of the most difficult fullbacks to beat when isolated 1 v. 1. Although Sagna does not have a tremendous leap, he can cover crosses to the back post and contest in the air at 5'9".
The Arsenal right-back may not deliver quality balls into the area, but he consistently provides support down the flank. Sagna is comfortable with the ball at his feet and gives the Gunners another option out wide.
Although the Frenchman does not have the flair or attacking skill of other fullbacks, he has the ideal defensive qualities for a player at his position. Sagna's work behind the ball, reading of the game, and pace make him the most reliable right-back on the planet.
After the Frenchman's outstanding year in England, he deserves a top five ranking on the list. Sagna earns the number five spot due to his defensive instincts and consistency.
The Frenchman has a perfect combination of speed and awareness to excel playing at fullback. With Sagna's impressive displays in an Arsenal and France shirt, he has emerged as one of the elite right-backs in the world.
While Ivanovic shows more defensive grit and strength in the tackle, the Frenchman's pace and positioning push him into the top five. Based on physical abilities and understanding of the game, Sagna could challenge for a spot amongst the top three in this list. However, the Arsenal defender provides poor crosses from wide positions and rarely makes a significant impact in the final third.
The French international has proven that he is an elite, world-class fullback. Sagna has excelled as the Gunners' first-choice right-back, playing in arguably the toughest European league.
Although he offers the defensive qualities of an ideal modern fullback, Sagna cannot surpass the other players on this list due to his lack of attacking skill and ability. The Frenchman gets into great positions with his pace and drive down the right flank, but he cannot provide the end product of the players ahead of him in the rankings.
Although he may not be the attacking threat of other fullbacks, Sagna is an exceptional defender and world-class right-back.
Name: Sergio Ramos
Club: Real Madrid
International Caps: 76
Ramos could possibly be the most talented defender of this generation. Although the Spaniard does not have the polish or defensive discipline of the elite players at his position, in terms of skill and raw ability, he is among the best. Ramos, who is arguably better as a centre-back, has been a constant presence on the right for Real Madrid and the Spanish national team.
The Madrid vice-captain has emerged as one of the most athletic and dynamic right-backs in the world. Ramos frequently gets forward in support of the attack, providing quality crosses into the area and another option out wide. For a natural defender, the Spaniard boasts exceptional skill on the ball. Ramos is good dribbling with pace and makes deft cut-backs to create separation from defenders.
In addition to his ability on the ball, the Madrid right-back is one of the most dangerous set-piece threats in Europe. Ramos uses his explosive leap to win the majority of headers, often re-directing the ball to teammates or going for goal. The Spaniard's aerial prowess has become a trademark of his game.
Although Ramos has exemplary attacking qualities, he is a powerful and tenacious defender. The Spaniard is committed in the challenge and strong in the tackle. While Ramos has good defensive qualities and technique, his temperament and lack of positional awareness are major areas of concern. The Spaniard occasionally flies into tackles, commits mistimed challenges and loses his discipline on the pitch.
Ramos has all the tools and skills to be the best defender in the world. Although he is still refining key aspects of his game, the Spanish World Cup star is still one of the elite right-backs on the planet.
Based on raw ability and potential, the Spaniard would be challenging for the top spot on the list. However, he currently lacks the discipline and awareness to climb higher in the rankings.
Ramos lands at four because he provides exceptional talent and defensive strength to the right-back position. Although the Spaniard's temperament has been an issue in recent years, his skill on the ball and all-action style of play make him a world-class right-back.
Although Sagna is the more accomplished defensive fullback, Ramos has a rare balance of attacking and defensive abilities. While his discipline and tendency to dive into tackles are still areas that need improvement, the Spaniard's tackling technique has improved under manager Jose Mourinho.
The Spanish World Cup winner has become more solid at the back and still provides quality support down the right flank in open play. Ramos' skill on the ball and aerial prowess edges him above the likes of Ivanovic and Sagna.
The Spanish international could soon challenge for a top three spot on this list. Ramos will continue maturing and improving his defensive play under Mourinho. However, his current skill-set does not warrant a spot amongst the best three players at his position. Ramos is unquestionably the biggest aerial threat on this list, but other fullbacks are more accomplished attacking and defending.
Ramos has the talent and potential to claim the top spot on this list. Although he is currently a world-class right-back, he could become the best player at his position in the next few years.
Name: Philipp Lahm
Club: Bayern Munich
International Caps: 80
The Germany and Bayern Munich captain has been impressive for both club and country, emerging as one of the top right-backs in the world. Lahm excelled playing at left-back earlier in his career, and has enjoyed equal, if not more, success on the right. The German star has teamed up with Dutch winger Arjen Robben on the flank, giving Bayern a right-sided duo that can compete with Barcelona's deadly combination of Dani Alves and Lionel Messi.
Although standing at 5'7'', Lahm is amongst the best defending fullbacks in world football. The German captain is an exceptional tackler, using his anticipation and technique to win the ball and break up opposition play.
Lahm rarely commits poor challenges, keeping him out of the referee's book for most matches. The Bayern star's tremendous pace allows him to recover and close down opponents quickly. Lahm defensive instincts and positional awareness make him difficult to beat in 1 v. 1 situations.
The Bayern captain is a solid defensive right-back, but his contributions in the final third make him a world-class fullback. Lahm frequently marauds up the right flank, providing overlapping runs and good delivery into the box.
The German's work-rate allows him to get up and down the channels, supporting the attack and tracking back defensively. Lahm's turn of pace causes havoc in the final third, as he streaks to the byline or manufactures a strike on goal.
Lahm has been fantastic for club and country, making him one of the best right-backs on the planet.
The German captain breaks into the top three with his impressive form over the past few seasons, and accomplished defensive qualities. Lahm has consistently been at his best for Bayern and Germany, providing quality support in the final third and exceptional defensive awareness behind the ball.
Lahm has the quality to challenge for the top spot on this list. The Bayern captain has performed at a level above Sagna and Ramos. He is a more potent attacking threat than the Arsenal fullback and a better overall defender than the Madrid star.
The German claims the No. 3 spot because the players ahead of him are special athletes and talents at the right-back position. Lahm has stronger defensive instincts, but his size can be an issue when protecting the back post.
Although Lahm is a top-quality defender and accomplished attacker, the other right-backs on the list can deliver the spectacular. Lahm had an unbelievable 2009-10 season, with a career high in assists. However, the German's numbers have come down towards his average attacking contributions.
Lahm may not consistently provide the quality end product of the top two right-backs, but he is still a cut above the rest and an elite player at his position.
International Caps: 64
The Brazilian World Cup star is the ideal, modern fullback. Maicon has emerged as the most complete and dynamic right-back in the world.
The Inter star was instrumental in the club's treble-winning season last year, earning praise from his fellow professionals by being named in the 2010 FIFPro World XI. Maicon earned rave reviews for his displays at right-back and has recently been linked with Real Madrid with the chance to reunite with manager Jose Mourinho.
The Inter star has the perfect balance of attacking skill and defensive quality, making him a world-class right-back. Maicon frequently pushes up in support of the attack, consistently offering late overlapping runs down the flank. The Brazilian provides good delivery from wide positions, but the fullback is most dangerous when playing one-two's with the strikers.
Although Maicon may not be the quickest player, when he shows great pace when he gets in stride. The Brazilian causes havoc in the final third playing one-touch, combination football that open up space down the right. Maicon has become a serious threat when on the ball, using his skill, power and close control to beat opponents and get in behind the defense.
In addition to his excellent support play, Maicon is a solid defender. The Brazilian boasts good positional awareness and anticipation, making him a complete player at right-back. Maicon reads the game well, allowing him to make key interceptions and quickly extinguish danger.
Although the Brazilian frequently pushes forward, he rarely gets caught upfield. Maicon's outstanding athleticism, stamina and willingness to track back distinguish him from conventional attacking fullbacks. The Inter star is a well-balanced, dynamic force at right-back.
Although Maicon's physical attributes make him a top-quality fullback, his ability to produce the spectacular makes him one of the elite players at the position. The Brazilian's wonder-goals against Juventus and North Korea are two examples of what he can produce when at his best. Maicon has exceptional shooting and volleying technique, making him a dangerman from outside the area on corners.
Maicon has been sensational for the past few seasons, and he is arguably the best right-back in the world.
The world's top three right-backs could all claim the No. 1 ranking. Although Lahm deserves to be in the conversation, the two elite right-backs have emerged as the clear frontrunners.
Maicon is the most complete player at the position, and could easily be considered the top right-back in the world. The Brazilian is an elite athlete, and has the skill to complement his powerful style of play.
The Inter star edges out Ramos and Lahm with his well-balanced game, quality end product and ability to produce the spectacular. Maicon has been sensational in recent years, earning him a starting place in Brazil's World Cup squad.
The Brazilian falls short of the top spot due to his consistent level of top form and the brilliance of the right-back ahead of him. Maicon was highly criticized for his poor performances against Tottenham winger Gareth Bale. The Welshman's pace proved too much for the Inter right-back, as Bale skinned Maicon on multiple occasions.
The Brazilian endured a first half of the campaign fighting with injuries. Although he will not use it as an excuse, Maicon was not at his top form against Bale. The Welshman was outstanding and capitalized on the Brazilian's poor defending and overall level of play.
Critics have used Maicon's terrible display against Bale to generalize the fullback's entire season. While he did struggle early on, the Brazilian returned to form towards the final months of the campaign. Although Maicon did not reach his 2009-10 level of top form, the Inter star still showed that he is a world-class fullback.
The Brazilian's dip in overall form is the main reason that keeps him from the top spot. He could easily swap rankings with the number one player. However, the top right-back has been brilliant once again and is deserving of his place on the list.
Name: Dani Alves
International Caps: 47
Alves has been nothing short of brilliant for Barcelona and Brazil in recent seasons. The Brazilian was lauded as the world's best right-back following his move from Sevilla, and he has lived up to the title. Although Inter's Maicon edged out the Barcelona star for a starting place in Brazil's World Cup squad, Alves has emerged as the first-choice fullback under new manager Mano Menezes.
The Brazilian has become the most dangerous attacking right-back in the world. Seemingly built to play in Barcelona's passing and possession-based system, Alves is given freedom to roam down the right flank and provide genuine width. The Brazilian has formed a great understanding with Lionel Messi, which has been a large part of Barcelona's success.
Alves boasts exceptional pace, which allows him to get into the final third. When the team is in possession, the Brazilian pushes up in support of the attack, where he can pick out players running incisive diagonals or help keep possession.
When off the ball, the Barca star times his runs well and shows good movement in and around the area. Alves is a constant threat to break the offside trap and get through on goal.
The Brazilian's impressive assist's tally is testament to his ability to deliver a top-quality end product. Alves is the ultimate provider from the right-back position, chipping in with a few goals and roughly 10 assists per season.
Alves' skill distinguishes the right-back as an elite player at his position. The Brazilian boasts exceptional touch on the ball and close control. The Barca star has the composure to match the majority of midfielders as well. With his turn of pace and dribbling skill, Alves has the ability beat midfielders and defenders when isolated in 1 v. 1 situations.
In addition to his contributions from the run of play, the Brazilian provides quality set-pieces. Alves can hit a thunderous free-kick from distance and deliver dangerous corners.
Although Alves is not the most talented defender, he shows good tenacity and determination to close down defenders. The Barca star is frequently caught up-field, which leaves the team vulnerable at the back.
However, when playing for Brazil, Alves shows more defensive discipline and awareness. Alves is not the most balanced or best defensive right-back in the world. He occasionally fails to track back and assume responsibility behind the ball.
While the Brazilian is not the conventional or archetypal fullback, he is the best right-back in the world. Alves' attacking contributions are unmatched by other players at his position. The spark and creative threat that the Brazilian provides on the right flank are what distinguish him as football's top right-back.
Although Maicon could easily claim the top spot, Alves is deserving of the number one ranking. The Barca star has been in impressive form for club and country, consistently playing at the top of his game. Alves' attacking skills are off the charts, and his individual contributions on the pitch cannot be understated.
Alves may not be the ideal or defensive-minded right-back, but his creativity and ability to produce in the final third make him the best right-back in the world. Although the Brazilian is the perfect fit for Barca, he is still a world-class fullback individually.
For Brazil, Alves has shown a slightly more balanced approach to the position. He still marauds down the right, but also tracks back defensively.
Maicon is more than deserving of the top spot. Last year, he was the runaway number one right-back in the world. However, his dip in overall form and Alves' continued excellence pushes the Barca right-back ahead of the Inter star.
Maicon is undoubtedly the more complete and dynamic fullback. He has a strong case to climb ahead of his compatriot in the rankings. However, Alves has earned the title of football's best right-back.
The Brazilian is a special attacking talent, providing energy, width and quality down the flank. Alves needs to improve defensively to create space between him and the other elite right-backs. However, with his current abilities, he still edges out a close race amongst the top three players at the position.
Alves has been magnificent over the past few seasons and he deserves to be named the top right-back in the world.
Previous Power Rankings: The Top 10 (position) in the World:
- The Top 10 Wingers
- The Top 10 Attacking Midfielders
- The Top 10 Central Midfielders
- The Top 10 Defensive Midfielders
- The Top 10 Left-Backs
- The Top 10 Centre-Backs
- The Top 10 Goalkeepers
From goalkeepers to strikers, a new Top 10 list will be published every week.