Greatest Ever: Football: The Top 10 Right-Backs of All Time

Barney Corkhill@@BarneyCorkhillSenior Writer IFebruary 19, 2009

The 21st installment of Barney Corkhill's Greatest Ever series is here!

In this series I will look at the greatest talents to grace various sports. I continue to look at football, this time counting down the top ten right-backs of all time! It wasn't easy!


10. Gianluca Zambrotta (ITA)

His marauding runs up the right, and occasionally left flank have thrilled Italians for a decade, and he may not be done yet. Zambrotta has played for three of the world's biggest clubs in Juventus, Barcelona, and AC Milan, so it's no surprise he has an impressive trophy haul.

He has won two Serie A titles with Juventus, not including the two stripped of him following the match-fixing scandal. However, his greatest achievement has come at international level, where he helped his country to win the 2006 World Cup. He currently has 81 caps for Italy.

9. Gary Neville (ENG)

He has been Mr. Reliable for so long and has been a key part in Manchester United's dominance for most of the past two decades. A one-club man, Sir Alex Ferguson has placed his trust in Neville, making him United's club captain.

He has seven Premier League titles to his name, along with three FA Cups, a League Cup, and a Champions League. Neville was a key part of United's unprecedented treble in 1999 and has, to date, played 565 matches for them.

At international level he is England's most capped right-back with 85 appearances.

8. Phil Neal (ENG)

Phil Neal was to Liverpool what Gary Neville has been to United, just with a few more goals thrown in. During Liverpool's dominance of the '70s and '80s, Phil Neal was a vital cog in the machine.

He was a part of eight championship winning teams, a UEFA Cup winning team, four League Cup winning teams and, amazingly, four European Cup winning teams. He could have made it a remarkable five European Cups but for the loss in the 1985 final which will always be tainted by the Heysel disaster.

His almost faultless penalty taking allowed him to get on the score-sheet more than most defenders, and he scored over 70 league goals in his career. He also got on the score-sheet five times for England in his 50 appearances for the national team.

7. Wim Suurbier (NED)

It may have been Johan Cruyff who was making all the headlines, but Wim Suurbier was a vital part of Holland's "Total Football." His great stamina and pace allowed him to charge down the right flank from the first whistle to the last for both club and country.

He was a part of the great Ajax side of the 70s, helping them to seven league titles, four Dutch Cups, and three consecutive European Cups.

He was to taste heartbreak on an international level, though, as his 60 caps included losing twice in World Cup finals, in 1974 and 1978.

6. Jose Nasazzi (URU)

Jose Nasazzi holds a unique place in history in that he was the first captain to ever lift the World Cup, doing so with Uruguay in 1930. Even before that, Nasazzi had led his country to two Olympic gold medals and three Copa America titles throughout the 1920s.

He never got a chance to defend the World Cup title with Uruguay, however, as they refused to particpate in the 1934 World Cup, which was eventually won by Italy.

5. Giuseppe Bergomi (ITA)

Bergomi could have made the list of top ten centre-backs as well, a small sign of his quality and versatility. He was a main-stay in the Inter Milan and Italian defensive line for years, playing over 750 games for Inter, who were the only club he played for.

He suffered from AC Milan's dominance throughout that time, however, and thus his trophy haul is not as impressive as others on this list. At club level he managed one Serie A title, one Italian Cup crown and three UEFA Cup titles.

His crowning glory came in 1982, however, as he helped Italy to success in the World Cup, despite being just 18. He went on to win 81 caps for the Azzuri.

4. Djalma Santos (BRA)

One of the greatest defenders to have ever played for Brazil, players don't come that much more experienced than Djalma Santos. He played in four World Cups for Brazil (1954, 1958, 1962, and 1966), winning the 1958 and 1962 tournaments.

In teams that boasted the likes of Pele, Garrincha, and Jairzinho, Djalma Santos was always considered one of the most important members. At the time of the 1966 tournament, he was still playing for Brazil aged 37.

3. Lillian Thuram (FRA)

A great of the modern era, Thuram is another player who could've probably made the centre-back list as well. At club level he helped his respective clubs to a French Cup, an Italian Cup, a UEFA Cup and two league titles.

His impressive resume continues into his international career where he remains France's most capped player with 142 appearances. In those 142 matches, Thuram only scored two goals, both of which came in a 2-1 win over Croatia in the 1998 World Cup semi-final. They went on to win the competition.

Two years later Thuram got his second major international trophy by winning the European Championships. He was part of the French side that finished as runners-up in the 2006 World Cup as well.

2. Carlos Alberto Torres (BRA)

Carlos Alberto will be remembered for many things, but perhaps none as much as scoring the final goal in the 1970 World Cup final which was later voted the best goal in World Cup history.

He captained that great side to success that year, and was considered every bit as important as Pele, Jairzinho, Clodoaldo, Gerson, Rivelino and Tostao. In 2000, he was voted the greatest right-back of the 20th century.

1. Cafu (BRA)

The third Brazilian in the top fiveβ€”not bad for a country renowned for their attacking prowess rather than their defending abilities. Even in his final season at AC Milan, aged 38, Cafu was bombing down the wing like he was 20 years previously.

He has twice won the Serie A title, and has also claimed a Cup Winners' Cup winners medal and a Champions League winners medal. But most of his accolades come at international level, where he is the most capped Brazilian of all-time, with 143.

During that time, Cafu has helped Brazil to a Confederations Cup, two Copa Americas and two World Cup successes. He was also part of the squad who came runners-up in 1998. In 1994 he was named as the South American Footballer of the Year.

Cafu is the greatest right-back ever!

Other articles from this series include:

Top Ten Goalkeepers of All Time

Top Ten Centre-Backs of All Time

Top Ten Left-Backs of All Time

Top Ten Right Midfielders of All Time

Top Ten Centre Midfielders of All Time

Top Ten Left Midfielders of All Time

Top Ten Strikers of All Time