A wingback is a football player who plays a combination of a full-back and a winger role. It is a blend of a defender and winger.
Wingbacks are mostly defenders who cover the wide areas of the field. They join the attacker by overlapping when their team is in possession of the ball.
The role first gained popularity in the 1970s when Ajax made it famous with their “Total Football” strategy.
In modern times, wingbacks are mostly accommodated in a three-at-the-back formation like 3-4-3 or 3-5-2.
In this post, TOP SOCCER BLOG presents you with the top 10 wingbacks in football history.
1. Giacinto Facchetti
Giacinto Facchetti was an Italian full-back who played for Inter Milan throughout his club career (1960-78).
He is considered one of the greatest wingbacks of all time. His pace, stamina, power, and excellent physical and technical traits allowed him to excel as a wingback.
Facchetti was a former attacker and midfielder, so he made attacking runs down the left flank and got into good offensive positions in the opposition area, which allowed him to either score or assisted goals due to his powerful shot and impressive crossing ability.
He was also known for his tendency to cut into the centre in order to strike on goal, which was very unusual for full-backs at his time.
Giacinto Facchetti won 4 Serie A titles, a Coppa Italia, 2 European Cups, and 2 Intercontinental Cups with Inter and was captain when Italy won its first-ever UEFA European Championship on home soil in 1968 — where he was named in the team of the tournament.
He placed second in the Ballon d’Or in 1965.
2. Djalma Santos
Djalma Santos was part of the Brazilian team that won two consecutive FIFA World Cups in 1958 and 1962.
He is considered to be one of the greatest wingbacks of all time as he was a quick and physically strong defender who was known for his stamina, marking, and tackling ability, as well as his excellent technique and offensive capabilities.
Santos was gifted with excellent ball control, good dribbling skills, creativity, and accurate distribution. He often took on opponents with the ball when under pressure in one on one situations, even in risky situations inside his own penalty area, and he was also one of the first full-backs to venture forward and make overlapping attacking runs down the flank in order to contribute to his teams’ offensive plays.
3. Phillip Lahm
Phillip Lahm was the captain of Bayern Munich and led the Bavarians to numerous honours, including the 2013 UEFA Champions League, as part of a Treble. He also captained Germany to FIFA World Cup glory in 2014.
Lahm was one of the best wingbacks in modern times. He was well known for his tenacious attacking, where he would cut inside to deliver penetrating passes or shots. Despite his small stature, he was an excellent tackler with great athletic abilities.
4. Roberto Carlos
Roberto Carlos was a Brazilian legend who started his career as an attacker but later switched to left-back and was once described as the “most offensive-minded left-back in the history of the game.”
He was famous for his surging runs, dribbling skills, speed, precise passing, and crossing ability. He also possessed significant strength and excellent physical qualities — which along with his pace, work rate, and energy — allowed him to cover the left flank effectively and assist at both ends of the pitch.
Roberto Carlos was also a free-kick specialist throughout his career due to his very powerful bending shots.
In 1997, he was runner-up in the FIFA World Player of the Year and won the FIFA World Cup with Brazil in 2002.
5. Dani Alves
Another Brazilian, Dani Alves, is the most decorated player in the history of football, with 46 titles. He was renowned for his pace, stamina, overlapping attacking runs, and technical skills — which also enabled him to play as an attacker or as a midfielder.
Alves was gifted with good crossing accuracy and distribution, which allows him to link up with midfielders, and makes him an effective assist provider along the right flank.
Dani Alves built a great partnership with Lionel Messi during his very successful spell at Barcelona. He is the most decorated footballer ever.
6. Carlos Alberto
Carlos Alberto was a Brazilian wingback who captained Brazil to victory at the 1970 FIFA World Cup — his goal in the final is considered one of the greatest goals in history.
Carlos Alberto was a very reliable defender who is also technically good on the ball and loved bombing forward to score goals and put in quality crosses into the opposition box.
7. Javier Zanetti
Javier Zanetti was an Argentine full-back who was famous for his time at Inter Milan, where he spent 19 years (1995-2014). He captained Inter to win the treble under Jose Mourinho in 2010.
Zanetti earned the nickname _El Tractor_ (The Tractor) due to his stamina and tireless, energetic runs up and down the wings to aid in both attack and defence.
He was quick, strong, and physically fit, with outstanding physical attributes. He had excellent ball control, dribbling, technical ability, and acceleration.
Defensively, he excelled at reading the game and was a good ball-winner and man-marker. He was also effective at distributing the ball to teammates due to his passing range and vision.
Zanetti is also capable of advancing into more offensive positions to cross balls for teammates while capable of taking accurate shots from a distance.
8. Lilian Thuram
Lilian Thuram is the most capped player in the history of the France national team, with 142 appearances between 1994 and 2008. He won the 1998 FIFA World Cup and Euro 2000 with France.
Thuram was known for his strength, pace, and stamina, as well as his outstanding physical, tactical, and technical attributes. He also reads the game, marks heavily, and tackles aggressively — which made him a nightmare for attackers as he was extremely difficult to beat in one on one situations.
The Frenchman was also known for his ability to make attacking runs up the flank and contribute to his team’s offensive play as he was very competent in the attack.
Lilian Thuram could play on either flank or in the centre due to the fact that he is good with both feet.
9. Paolo Maldini
Paolo Maldini is widely regarded as one of the greatest defenders and players of all time and was the captain of AC Milan and the Italian national team for several years.
He spent all his club career at AC Milan — playing for 31 years (1978-2009), winning 26 trophies.
Maldini was good with both feet and could play on either flank and was renowned for his technical ability, athleticism, sliding tackles, stamina, composure, and fast, energetic forward runs as a left-back or at wingback.
He was also an excellent crosser of the ball and an effective attacking threat — scoring and assisting several goals throughout his career.
Paulo Maldini came second to George Weah for the FIFA World Player of the Year award in 1995. He also came third for the Ballon d’Or in 1994 and 2003.
Cafu is undoubtedly one of the greatest wingbacks in football history. He won the 1994 and 2002 FIFA World Cups with Brazil, and was also named the South American Footballer of the Year in 1994.
Regarded as one of the best full-backs of his generation, Cafu was an attacking full-back or wingback who was known for his passing, technique, pace, stamina, and his ability to get up the flank to provide accurate crosses from the touch-line.
The Brazilian was an intelligent, hard-working, offensive-minded, and dynamic right-sided wing-back who possessed great pace, stamina, technical skills, pin-point crossing, and excellent defensive attributes.
He played for the likes of Palmeiras, São Paulo, AS Roma and AC Milan in his career.
- Ashley Cole
- Patrice Evra
- Jordi Alba
- Bixente Lizarazu