Full-back is one of the hardest positions to operate in the modern game, requiring great stamina among other attributes to succeed. 

Here is a list of the best full-backs we've seen since 2000, featuring five left-backs and five right-backs.

Before I start the list, however, I am going to mention a left-back who just misses out on my list, but is an inspiration to all of us. Eric Abidal is an incredible footballer, with great skill on the ball and various other brilliant aspects to his game. In 2011 he recovered from a tumour on his liver to return and play for Barcelona, which is quite frankly astonishing. 

Excellent to see him back, and let's hope he can play for years to come. A real hero.


5. John-Arne Riise

Now at Fulham after a stint in Italy with Roma, Riise is still a good player, but in his Liverpool days he was world-class. Brilliant link-up play with team-mates and a habit of scoring fantastic goals, most notably from his electrifying free-kicks. Hopefully we'll see a return to his better side, but he's not going to reach the heights that made him so popular on Merseyside.

4. Patrice Evra

A consistent man at the back, he can be relied on to keep wingers out of the game. With the pace to match his opponents, along with his tireless running, the Frenchman was signed for £5.5m - a sum that has been rewarded with outstanding performances in his seven years at the club.

3. Ashley Cole

Controversial to some as he is only third on the list, and believe me I'd have him first if it wasn't for the other two ahead of him. Staying on the topic of controversy, Cole himself has been caught up in many a public faux pas, and is not the most popular figure amongst some football fans. Some Arsenal supporters, too, regard him as a 'traitor' for joining rivals Chelsea. 

Despite the scandals, wherever he has been the 32-year-old has performed terrifically and has over a century of caps for England, where he's held down a starting place for over a decade.

2. Paolo Maldini

Not your typical modern day left-back that bombs up and down the line all match, Paolo Maldini used his brain to effect matches.

With brilliant positioning applied to his great reading of the game, the Italian rarely needed to make tackles as he utilised his positioning rather than aggression to keep out opponents. Finishing his career at the age of 39, he spent the majority of his career as captain of both Italy and AC Milan, the club he was at throughout his entire playing days. 

A true football legend, and he was such a marvellous player and servant that Milan retired his number three shirt, only to be worn by one of his sons providing they make the grade.

1. Roberto Carlos

The ideal image of a modern-day full-back - he epitomised industry, rocketing up and down the left flank all match long for fun. Great crossing combined with blistering pace and an eye for goal, as well as strength and intelligence, not much more needs to be said about the tiny Brazilian who won everything there was to win with both club and country. 

Such was his ability his understudies rarely got a look-in.


5. Sergio Ramos

Now a centre-back, Sergio Ramos was - and still is sometimes - an excellent right-back. Renowned for his poor discipline, there are many more plus sides to his game than negatives. Whilst playing as a full-back, the Spaniard showed great crossing ability and also the knack to pop up with a goal for his side. Sheer class, and he has made it into the double-Euro and World Cup-winning Spanish team operating either on the right side or in the centre of defence.

4. Gianluca Zambrotta

Yet another Italian making the list, Zambrotta is a versatile defender, being just as effective on the left side as on the right. Now 36, he has played for a host of top clubs such as Juventus, Barcelona and AC Milan, each of which he was a consistent name on the team-sheet. Being able to hold a place in these prestigious teams shows just how good a player he was, being part of another generation of incredible Azzurri quality.

3. Dani Alves

Barcelona don't pay big sums of money for players if they aren't good enough, which is precisely why they had to fork out over £30m for Alves. Not just a player with defensive awareness, he also helps out the attack whenever possible and he has played a big part in Barcelona's massive success ever since he joined. Also a big feature in the Brazil set-up, the 29-year-old is vital to both his teams.

2. Philipp Lahm

A top quality defender, able to play on both the left and right sides with ease, Philipp Lahm has been at the top of his game for the last few years. Captain of both Bayern Munich and Germany, his teams would undoubtedly be worse off without him. With great pace and dribbling ability, we have seen the German excel ever since the World Cup was held in his home country, and he's arguably the best full-back in the world at the moment.

1. Cafu

As brilliant as the other candidates are, I don't think anyone can beat Cafu to the number one position. His nickname gained at Roma, 'Il Pendolino' (The Express Train/Commuter) reflects his style perfectly.

Industrious running all game long and consistently overlapping wingers to provide service for his team-mates. The most-capped player ever for Brazil with 142 appearances to his name, he's also the only player to play at three FIFA World Cup finals, winning two and placing second in another.

Retiring from international football after the 2006 World Cup, the stats speak for themselves - you do not hold down a starting place at the age of 36 ahead of upcoming stars like Dani Alves unless you are special, which he definitely was. With him on the right side and Roberto Carlos on the left, Brazil's full-backs terrorised defences for years, and football probably won't ever see such a combination again.


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