We’re now approaching the final straight of our HITC Sevens current positional series, building up to our own HITC Sevens World XI, much like our former all time positional series and XI.
Following today, there is just our central/attacking midfield and centre-forward sevens left to come, but now it’s the turn of the right wingers... No, not that type. That’s more like it.
As I’ve said many times in the introduction to these videos, I’ve tended to include the players in the positions they have featured most frequently this season. If a player isn’t here that you expected, they may well fall into a different position in the series, and the rankings are based on current ability, not recent form, but not on past glories by the same token.
Here are our 7 best right wingers in world football:
7. Riyad Mahrez
Kicking us off in this seven is a man who can’t even get into his own clubs starting XI. Having been a very big fish in a medium-sized pond at Leicester City, Mahrez is now a biggish fish in an enormous pond at Manchester City. I wouldn’t say the Algerian was one of City’s two best wide players, but he’s certainly among the 10 best right wingers in world football.
The two-time Premier League winner has 11 goals and 7 assists so far this season, and when one looks at his attacking contributions per minute, it is up there with the best in the league. Most dangerous when given a yard of space to cut inside onto his favoured left foot, Mahrez possess a wicked shot and delivery into the box, but perhaps lacks some of the deftness, selflessness and intelligence in tight areas of his teammates.
Nevertheless, he’s a top class player who would be a star man in virtually any other team to Pep Guardiola’s, and he takes seventh place for us.
6. Ousmane Dembele
Ousmane Dembele of Barcelona celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the Group B match of the UEFA Champions League between FC Barcelona and PSV at Camp Nou on September 18,...
Having been absolutely sensational during his single season at Borussia Dortmund, Ousmane Dembele joined Barcelona for an initial €105 million, plus a further €40 million subject to add-ons. His first season at the Camp Nou was blighted by injuries, and although the 21-year-old hasn’t been able to stay fit for the entirety of this season either, he has been far more impressive when out on the pitch.
In truth, Dembele has played more football on the left than the right this season, and it was a bit of a blunder on my part not including him in the left wing video last week, so that’s why he's here instead. To be fair, the young Frenchman is just as capable on either flank and did tend to play predominantly on the right earlier in his career.
Dembele has searing pace and excellent feet, and he’s bagged 14 goals in 36 games this season, making it the best goal scoring campaign of his career. If he can get a full pre-season under his belt and stay fit next season, he’ll be one of the most dangerous wide men in the world.
5. Jadon Sancho
When Ousmane Dembele made his big money move to Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund looked a little left field in terms of his replacement. The English have historically been notoriously poor travellers, and Jadon Sancho took a big risk and was quite brave in many respects to leave a comfortable setting at Manchester City for Germany at the age of 17.
It’s a risk that he is now reaping the rewards of though, having taken a season just to bed in last year, he’s been superb this season. Born in the year 2000, Sancho only just turned 19, but he has been one of the stars of the Bundesliga in 2018-19. He has the most league assists of any player in Europe’s top five divisions with 13, he has the most dribbles per game and he’s chipped in with 10 goals to boot.
Sancho is inventive, skillful and supremely confident on the ball. His close control and burst of acceleration is enough to give any full-back nightmares, and already a full England international, I suspect he’ll be the youngest player to feature in this series.
4. Raheem Sterling
Raheem Sterling of England celebrates after scoring his team's fifth goal during the 2020 UEFA European Championships Group A qualifying match between Montenegro and England at Podgorica...
A lot of people commented asking where Raheem Sterling was in our left wingers seven, but that one wasn’t a blunder on my part, since Raheem Sterling has played more games on the right than he has on the left this season. As with a number of wide players, Sterling is pretty much equally adept on either flank, but the right wing video is the right seven for him right now.
A real force of nature these days, Sterling has gone from strength to strength under Pep Guardiola, and this is the sixth season of his career that he has hit double figures, not bad for a 24-year-old winger. This season and last have been a class apart from the rest though, as Sterling’s knack of sniffing out chances and his composure in front of goal has been among the best in the world game. Since the start of last season, he has scored 42 goals in 88 games.
The Englishman has chipped in with 11 assists in addition to his 19 goals this season, making him a candidate for the Premier League Player of the Season award. With all that in mind, fourth place seems rather harsh for the former Liverpool man, but the calibre of player in front of him is pretty special.
3. Mohamed Salah
Speaking of the Premier League Player of the Season award, we begin our countdown of the top three with last seasons recipient of the award. It seems unlikely that Mohamed Salah will retain his crown this season, but any fears that Salah’s sensational form was a mere flash in the pan ought to have been well and truly banished. Although he only has half as many goals this season as he managed last term, that still puts him on 22 goals from 44 games, and in the running for the Premier League’s Golden Boot as we approach the last few games of the season.
Salah is a very direct wide man - meaning he has fewer assists than the likes of Sterling, Sancho and even Mahrez - but he is Liverpool’s primary goal scorer along with Sadio Mane. Following a recent barren spell in front of goal by his own standards at least, Salah scored a goal of the season contender in Liverpool’s home match against Chelsea.
Salah has excellent movement and will always carve out chances for himself, but like the vast majority of players, he does look so much more dangerous when he has confidence coursing through his veins. Comparisons to Messi and Ronaldo were always premature and indeed downright silly, but Salah is a brilliant footballer, and he deserves bronze in this seven.
2. Kylian Mbappe
Kylian Mbappe of PSG celebrates after scoring his sides second goal during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 First Leg match between Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain at Old...
Kylian Mbappe’s goal scoring record this season, in all competitions, is actually identical to Mohamed Salah’s last season. In the league, albeit the merits of Ligue 1 can be debated until the cows come home, he has scored better than a goal a game this season. Whatever you think of PSG’s dominance and the rest of French football’s top flight, that is extraordinary.
At the age of 20, Mbappe has scored 85 goals in 155 games at club level, he’s won league titles with two different clubs, twice made the top 10 of Ballon d’Or voting and been named as French Footballer of the Year in a year in which the nation won the World Cup. It’s all very impressive, and Mbappe’s talents are more than worthy of the accolades.
Having played primarily through the middle at Monaco, Mbappe has spent a lot of time out wide on the right this season. There is still only ever one thing on his mind though, and that is finding the back of the net. It’s Mbappe’s pace, directness and sheer willingness to run at players that frightens the life out of defenders. At the age of 20, we think he’s already the second best right winger in the world, and if he keeps playing there, one day he’ll be the best.
0. Honourable Mentions
We’re not going to go rolling off an enormous list of honourable mentions here, since when I do that, people inevitably say well if you’re going to mention X then what about Z. One man who certainly deserves an honourable mention though is Arjen Robben. At one time the best right winger in the world, the Dutchman is 35 now in fairness, but he’s still a master of attacking wing play. For more than 15 years Robben has been cutting inside onto his left foot and making a fool of full-backs, and still no-one has truly managed to neutralise that skill.
His Bayern Munich teammate Kingsley Coman also deserves a mention, as a really talented 22-year-old who has had very little luck with injuries. Coman is incredibly quick and has a remarkable trophy cabinet for a player of his age, but his continued injuries make it difficult for him to feature in our top seven. Staying in the Bundesliga, Bayer Leverkusen star Leon Bailey hasn’t been as impressive this season as last, but the highly-rated and uncapped 21-year-old still warrants a mention.
The man who came closest to making our seven proper though, and really drove Riyad Mahrez close for that spot in seventh place, was prolific Marseille winger Florian Thauvin. Since his disappointing move to Newcastle United, Thauvin has been an absolute sensation in Ligue 1.
Elsewhere, I feel as though we should take a second to acknowledge Carlos Vela and the incredible things he is doing over in the MLS right now. The former Real Sociedad favourite may not be on quite the same level as our seven featured here, but he’s producing form to rival even the best, albeit at a very different level. As I said, we could go on further and mention people like Willian and Juan Cuadrado, but it’d probably cause more problems than solutions.
So with that out the way, here is your top spot…
1. Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi of Barcelona celebrates scoring his sides first goal during the UEFA Champions League Group D match between FC Barcelona and Juventus at Camp Nou on September 12, 2017 in...
Well, once he was put down as a right winger rather than as a centre-forward or attacking midfielder, which I think is fair based solely on this season, Lionel Messi was always going to top this seven. It speaks volumes that whilst the likes of Salah, Sterling and Mbappe are truly extraordinary footballers playing some of the best football of their lives, they’re still - if truth be told - a million miles behind this man.
That is absolutely no shame on their part, but simply an enormous nod to the most gifted footballer we have had the privilege of seeing in action in my lifetime at least. Now, Messi is the most prolific footballer of his generation in terms of his goals per game record, and indeed the most prolific footballer in the world this season, but the little Argentine gives you so much more than just goals.
In addition to the unadulterated joy he gives those watching from the stands, Messi is also one of the most intelligent and efficient footballers on the planet, one of the best passers of a ball and one of the best dribblers. In fact, if we’re being honest, he probably is the best dribbler and passer of a ball on the planet, and for a man who has scored a total of 606 goals in 710 games, he could get away with just being a poacher. The obvious choice and the right choice, if Messi didn’t make our world XI, I think YouTube would have sufficient grounds to take the channel down.
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