Nowadays it's a different story. Towards the turn of the millennium, world stars such as Roberto Carlos, Cafu and Lilian Thuram turned the position into one of the most fashionable in the game. It was a time when the Bundesliga too was graced by tireless wing-backs, with former France duo Willy Sagnol and Bixente Lizarazu the outstanding examples for FC Bayern Munich.
Indeed, the fact that current Bayern captain Philipp Lahm (665) has had more touches of the ball than any other player in the league this season suggests the importance of the modern full-back has only increased, and SV Werder Bremen defender Gebre Selassie agrees.
"I think as a right-back you have plenty of scope to change a game," said the Czech Republic international in an exclusive interview with bundesliga.com. "If things are going well, you get plenty of opportunities to get forward and that's why I like playing in the position."
The namesake of famous distance runner Haile, albeit with an extra 'e', Gebre Selassie is no stranger to marauding runs himself, as he showed as one of the breakthrough performers at UEFA EURO 2012. The lightweight defender hit the ground running after arriving in the Bundesliga too, netting on his Bremen debut in a 2-1 defeat to reigning champions Borussia Dortmund on the opening day of the season.
He went on to start five of Bremen's first six matches and, though he has found himself on the bench for the past couple of games, an injury sustained by Werder captain Clemens Fritz has reopened the door for Gebre Selassie to nail down a permanent place in the side.
Fritz's pain, Selassie's gain
"Hopefully I'll be playing on Saturday," said the 25-year-old in view of this weekend's floodlit spectacle against Borussia Mönchengladbach. "I was away with the national team for twelve days so we'll have to see what the situation is at the club and, of course, what the coach decides to do."
Consecutive defeats against FC Bayern Munich and FC Augsburg have left Bremen floundering in lower mid-table, but Gebre Selassie reckons the competitive nature of Germany's top flight means three points are never too far away: "The Bundesliga is interesting - you can lose three games and then win three. I think we have the quality to beat Gladbach."
Europe the aim
A three-game winning run would certainly boost Bremen's ambitions of European football next season, something Gebre Selassie remains hopeful of whilst conceding "we haven't got off to the best of starts, so it's going to be pretty hard this year".
Still, the easy-going Czech, who admits he maintains little contact with his father's homeland of Ethiopia "aside from a few letters from my uncle", is determined to establish himself in the Bundesliga and, as he put it, "make the Gebre Selassie name famous for different, football reasons".