Now more than ever, having a reliable left-back is extremely important in the modern soccer game. They need to not only play fantastic defense against the best of the best, but finding the net at times on the attack is essential as well.
These ten listed are all great players in their own right, but they are in order from 10 to 1. Did we get the list right? Will there be any newcomers to the list in the next few years? This is how things currently stand.
10. Alphonso Davies
Is Alphonso Davies already good enough to make this list? While that might be debatable, there is no doubt that his talent is truly apparent. He is one of the best left-backs in the game already, and he is just starting to really come into his own with Bayern Munich and the Canadian national team.
For his efforts in this past year, Davies was named rookie of the year in the Bundesliga, and many label him as the future of the position. If he lives up to lofty expectations, he will quickly move up this list as he brings home more accolades.
9. Bixente Lizarazu
Many players on the French national team in 1998 became icons when they helped the country when their first-ever World Cup. Bixente Lizarazu was one of the more talented players on the team, as the left-back helped them win a European championship two years later as well.
Success followed him to the club side as well, specifically with Bayern Munich. They had a very dominant run during his prime and were able to hoist six Bundesliga trophies by the end of his career.
8. Jordi Alba
Even though he is still just 31 years old, it seems like Jordi Alba has been a mainstay for not only the Spanish national team, but Barcelona on the club side. He is a very consistent player that is as technically gifted as any player ever to play the position.
Thought of as too small early in his career, Alba makes up for it by not only being quick and athletic, but always being in the right position. He is very fast on the attack when needed, but can play good enough defense to challenge anyone. If his defense were just a little bit better, he would be higher on this list.
7. Andreas Brehme
Another left-back known for great attacking ability, Andreas Brehme put together a very successful career with Germany, as well as several different clubs. He did not spend a ton of time with any club in particular, but had the most success individually with FC Kaiserslautern.
Depending on the team he was on, they also moved him around a bit from left-back. Having the versatility to play anywhere and pull off successful free kicks, he made any team he was on a lot better in so many different ways.
Maybe he is a bit forgotten these days compared to the other top 10 guys on this list, but his numbers are hard to argue with.
6. David Alaba
The Austrian national team has a very dependable left-back in David Alaba. As a stand-out for Baron Munich at the club level, he has game worldwide recognition. Even though Austrian does not compete at the highest of levels compared to other European countries internationally, his club success puts him on this list.
Although he is technically listed as a left-back, his versatility has allowed him to move all around the field. At some point in his career, he has played anything from a central midfielder to a left-wing. He is a very cerebral player who positions himself very well, and that allows him to win plenty of individual battles.
Even though it seems like he is a seasoned veteran at this point in his career, a lot of people are surprised that he is only 28 years old. He likely has at least five more solid years, which could put him near the top of the list when it is all said and done.
5. Ashley Cole
In his prime, it was hard to find a better overall left-back than Ashley Cole. He was a mainstay on the England national team, and his best years came with Chelsea on the club side. He also had a pretty successful run with Arsenal before that, finishing his career with plenty of hardware.
What made him such a great player came down to his attacking capabilities. As soon as he helped the defense gain the ball back, he was ready to attack and create overall opportunities.
Cole might not be that well-loved by Arsenal fans still to this day, but it is hard to argue with his talent. He made every team he joined that much better on both sides of the ball.
4. Philipp Lahm
Despite being one of the best left-back options in the game, Philipp Lahm has mostly been overlooked over his entire career. He was just so dependable for Germany and Bayern Munich that some people forgot just how important he was until he left.
The first thing that made him so valuable came down to his ability to play as a left or right back. Not everyone has the versatility to do that, but he was able to switch around when needed. After all, as a player who relied a lot on speed, tackling, and intelligence, it did not take that much extra effort to make the switch.
Think of Lahm as more of a leader by example them by firing up his teammates. Nonetheless, he played a massive role in the 2014 World Cup run by the Germans in Brazil. He was unable to be a physically imposing player on the pitch, but he was creative and willing to do the little things for his team to win.
Is Marcelo the best left-back in the modern game? Most people believe so, and finishing third on this list right now is pretty remarkable. He still has time left in his career, but what he has accomplished so far put him in the discussion as the best ever.
Brazil has not been able to have that much recent success as a country, but he anchors the defense for his country. He is also a truly remarkable player for Real Madrid, and has been with the club for virtually all of his professional career.
He can be a physical player at times, and keep up with any player as well. He also has one of the best first touches in the game.
Marcelo is about as perfect of a modern left-back player out there. He might be getting towards the back end of his career, but there is a reason why Real Madrid has held onto him for a long time.
2. Roberto Carlos
Another player who spent a lot of time in Italy, at least at the club level, was Roberto Carlos. He falls just below Maldini for second place on this list, but he certainly had a remarkable career in his own right.
His biggest win came in 2002 when he helped Brazil win the World Cup. During his time with the national team, they also won a confederations cup and a Copa América.
He was a very versatile defender who not only could stop the most talented players in the game, but he could create opportunities on offense as well. He had one of the best free-kicks in the game and just proved to be a very consistent player at the club and international level.
1. Paolo Maldini
Forget about just being the best left-back of all time, Paolo Maldini might be the best defender of all time. He was a very dominant player during his prime, which stretched for about a decade when playing for Italy and AC Milan. Every step of the way, he was a star on his side of the field, creating plays on offense and defense.
At the club level, AC Milan captured five Champions League trophies during his time. He was a true leader and an all-time great for the franchise, helping them prove themselves as one of the best teams in the world. There have been a lot of great left-back players in history, but he is the most well-rounded.
What Makes A Great Left Back?
As many people will notice with the list above, a lot of the players are modern left-backs. That means that they need to not only play defense, but know how to attack when necessary. They sometimes work in wingless formations, which puts even more of a demand on the left-back to not only cover ground, but perform on both sides of the ball.
The first key to success is still being able to provide some resistance to opposing players on the attack. It is not so much stopping them, but pushing them to an area where they might not be able to have quite as much success. Most left-backs are not going to be physically intimidating compared to defenders, but they are smart with positioning and can control games in different ways.
Left-backs also need to know how to move without the ball very well, creating space down the channels and being in the right place at the right time. This is something that takes a long time for players to develop, which is why the skill is so underrated. Learning different formations takes time, and left-backs tend to put in extra time to get it all down correctly.
All in all, most of the best players are going to be one of the most well-rounded players on the pitch. They not only can cover long distances, but they can get physical when needed. They can pass, dribble, and even shoot well on occasion. Most of them are pretty good with free kicks, and they can help with team responsibilities as well. If the team needs them to move to a different position in order to fit in better, that is also totally possible.
Here is the full list of the best left-backs of all time
- Paolo Maldini
- Roberto Carlos
- Philipp Lahm
- Ashley Cole
- David Alaba
- Andreas Brehme
- Jordi Alaba
- Bixente Lizarazu
- Alphonso Davies