The Full-Back. A frequently passed over position in terms of importance due to it not forming part of the central ‘spine’ of a team, some of the most influential and best players in world football have been left or right-backs.
7. Ashley Cole
The former Arsenal youth product has become one of the best defenders of his generation and has been a model of consistency throughout his years with both the English national team (101 caps) and also with his two clubs, Arsenal and Chelsea. He holds the records of being England’s most-capped full-back and the man with the most FA Cup winners medals, with 7. He is a attackingly-minded player but the defensive elements of his game are still at a very high standard and is renowned for being incredibly difficult to get past.
6. Sergio Ramos
Although he has now been moved infield to play at centre back, Ramos was consistently superb at right-back throughout his current stint at Real Madrid where he showed a goal-scoring ability unbeknownst to most modern full-backs, scoring 20 goals in his first 4 seasons in the Spanish capital. Since his record-breaking move from Sevilla to Madrid in 2005, Ramos has won a World Cups, two European Championships, three La Liga titles, a Copa Del Rey and not to mention garnered 101 caps for Spain, despite only being 27. The future still looks golden for the 2012 La Liga Best Defender award-winner.
5. Javier Zanetti
Zanetti is perhaps the only truly great full-back ever to be produced in Argentina and his caps record for the Albicelestes certainly reflects his consistency (He is known as ‘The Tractor’). He is the all time leading appearance maker with 145 and he has made 600 Serie A appearances the most for a Non-Italian and the most in his clubs history. With a career spanning 22 years that shows no signs of ending, consistent brilliance on the right flank, and undying passion for his club of 18 years, Zanetti has to form part of this list.
4. Roberto Carlos
An iconic player due to his incredible overlapping runs on the left flank for Madrid and his remarkable banana free-kicks. His powers in the attacking side of his game place him at the head of this list, but his occasional defensive mishaps place him in third. One of the Brazilian legends, he accumulated an incredible haul of 125 caps for his country and during an 11 year spell at Real Madrid he won 3 Champions League titles, a World Cup and 4 La Liga titles.
The man that captained Brazil to 2002 World Cup glory, Cafu is truly one of the all-time great defenders. He is Brazil’s most-capped player and unlike most other South American full-backs, he showed incredible defensive capability and combined this effortlessly with his main attributes, those of attack. His speed and crossing ability were second to very few and he essentially was a second winger of sorts for both club and country. He is the only man to play in 3 World Cup finals.
Although he originally played at centre-back, it was at right back where Thuram really reached his prime. He has been rated as the best French defender of all time and this seems justified when one looks at his career history. He is the most-capped player in French international history and played for Juventus for 5 years as a part of perhaps one of the greatest and most-feared defensive units of all time. He won a World Cup in 1998 and a European Championships in 2000.
1. Paulo Maldini
The man who defines AC Milan. He made 647 league appearances for the club that his father also played for and in that time won the Champions League an incredible 5 times, Serie A 7 times and one Coppa Italia title. He won 125 caps for his country, Italy, and played in 4 World Cups. He is renowned for his two-footedness, his defensive consistency and vision. With a career spanning 25 years and numerous personal and team awards, there is surely no better man to head this list.