Often the most underrated performer in a soccer team, the right back plays on the right-hand side of the defence. The primary function for the traditional right back is to defend and play their part in the defensive unit. Great right backs in the modern game have evolved to also pose an attacking threat as well as being defensively solid.
Over the last thirty years, the role of the right back has changed into a combination of defence and winger. Despite this, there is still a role in the modern game for purely defensive right-sided defenders. These include Cameroon's Rigobert Song, Italy's Christian Panucci and Crystal Palace's Matt Lawrence. However, the right backs I have selected all possess skills of attack and defence.
Gary Neville is often the subject of abuse and ridicule from opposition fans while playing for Manchester United. Although Neville is not the most gifted player to wear the famous red shirt, he has been one of the most consistent for both United and his country, England.
Neville began his United career in 1992 in the first season of the newly-formed Premier League. In his sixteen years of professional football, he had become one of the successful right backs in soccer history. He has collected seven Premier League titles, three FA Cup winners' medals as well as being part of two Champions League winning squads.
Neville's consistency and determination have enabled him to appear in 85 international matches, including performances at Euro 96, 2000 and 2004. He also played in the 1998 and 2006 World Cups, although his appearance at the 2002 World Cup was denied by a foot injury. Competitiveness and reliability are paramount to Neville's success as he remains a one-club man, a rare thing in the modern game.
Neville has never won a major international honour with England, unlike France's Lilian Thuram. The recently-retired Thuram has won both the FIFA World Cup and the European Championship in a glittering 14 year international career. Another solid performer, Thuram rarely made mistakes and also enjoyed a massively successful club career in France, Italy and finally Spain.
Winning 142 international caps, Thuram only ever scored two goals for his country. These came in one of his country's most important matches, as Thuram scored twice to help France overturn a one goal deficit to beat Croatia 2-1 in the FIFA World Cup semi-final. France would go on to win the tournament and cement Thuram's place in history.
Thuram has enjoyed a fantastic career, although he hasn't won as many trophies as his ability deserves. Among his honours are the UEFA Cup, Coppa Italia, two Serie A titles, two Italian Super Cup titles as well as the Spanish Super Cup. However, Lilian Thuram is one of the greatest right backs to ever play the game of soccer, only surpassed by the brilliance of Brazilian World Cup winner Cafu.
Cafu is known for his fantastic fitness and ability to make overlapping runs to help his team attack. These skills enabled the Brazilian to play a record-breaking 156 times for his country, winning two FIFA World Cup finals as well as a runners up medal.
Cafu has enjoyed an extensive career for club and country as he continuously reaches for the highest standards. His dedication and admirable fitness helped him to win various awards and club competitions including UEFA Champions League, UEFA Cup Winners Cup and various league titles.
Three of the greatest defenders ever to play soccer, and certainly the best right backs of the last thirty years. All three show great levels of enthusiasm, commitment, ambition and desire to match their abilities. It would appear that these personal skills helped them achieve so much in the modern world of international and club soccer.