Long gone are the days when full-backs could make do with little to no attacking output. The modern ones are now a gateway to attacking avenues, each bringing their own flavour. Here’s my list for top 10 left backs/wing-backs in the world right now.
Before you get into the list do remember that there is a myriad of reasons – many unquantifiable – that go into determining lists like these. Most of these entries might even reflect upon my subjectivity, meaning you might agree with some of my mentions, or none at all. Either way, we’d love to hear from you!
Well then, here we go.
10 – Jordi Alba
The current Jordi Alba is a far cry from the ruthless left-back that ran the left flank for Barça in his prime, so the fact that he still makes into this list is a testament to how prolific and reliable he has been over the last decade.
The former Valencia man has been famous for his late runs into the opposition box and an incredible burst of pace which is finally waning away after all these years. Yet, his positional awareness and attacking support ensure that while Alba will not be the player he once was, he’s still reliable enough at the top level for a couple more years.
9 – Alex Telles
Age – 28 (15 December 1992)
Country – Brazil
Current club – Manchester United (Premier League)
The Brazilian joined Man United after weeks of speculation last summer for a relatively cheap price of £15.4 million. The 28-year-old is known for his aggressive game that provides a lot of attacking avenues via pin-point crosses and deep runs into the opposition half. A decent dead-ball specialist, Telles arrived at United as the top scorer in Liga NOS for the first few weeks of the season.
Telles’ arrival has not only given United a reliable left-back, it has also boosted Luke Shaw’s form, who’s flourishing from the prospect of competing week in, week out with Telles, and performing at an unprecedented level.
8 – Ferland Mendy
Signed from Lyon in the summer of 2019 for €48 million, Mendy’s arrival coincided with the drastic dip in Marcelo’s form. As the Brazilian struggled through injuries and fitness it became clear that he was no longer the same player, making Zidane look to Mendy for taking up the number one spot at the left-back. Fortunately for him, Mendy has not disappointed.
The Frenchman has proved to be the perfect replacement for Marcelo. Positionally astute, Mendy is also a quick dribbler with an eye for a pass. He is also quite two-footed, which has allowed Zidane to also start him from the right-back position at times.
7 – Kieran Tierney
The Scotsman has struggled for fitness since his £25m move to Arsenal from Celtic, but his performances continue to be on the rise. Known for his no-nonsense demeanour both on and off the pitch, Tierney is an industrious operator who can function both as a full-back and as a left-sided centre back. His ability to single-handedly take care of the left flank allows the wingers ahead of him to drift inward and provide more direct support to the attack.
6 – Luke Shaw
Age – 25 (12 July 1995)
Country – England
Current club – Manchester United (Premier League)
Luke Shaw is easily the most improved player on this list over the last few months. The England international’s potential was never in doubt when he joined United as a teenager in 2014, but things seemingly stagnated for young Luke after he suffered a double leg fracture in September 2015. He has struggled a lot since then with his injury record and overall fitness, meaning even when he showed promising signs his form couldn’t sustain over a long time period.
A lot of credit for Shaw’s revival needs to go to his manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær, who managed to aptly provide him support and time to find himself once again – something Shaw needed after a tumultuous time under José Mourinho. He was also helped by the arrival of Alex Telles, who provided a formidable competition for the left-back position for the first time in many years.
Shaw’s resurgence has seen him become a lot more mobile, showing signs of his lung-bursting pace he was once used to be known for. He has also significantly increased his attacking output through his quick passing and underlapping runs across the left flank. He’s also astute enough to play as a left-sided centre-back in a three-men defence line.
5 – Angeliño
Things might not have worked out for the young Spaniard under Pep Guardiola at City, but he has been absolutely explosive for RB Leipzig ever since moving there on loan in January 2020.
Angeliño does tend to be caught off-position quite often but has a strong burst of pace to make up for it most of the times. Also, under Julian Nagelsmann’s preferred three-men defence system the 24-year-old gets a lot of liberty to surge up front, which he exploits with his quick dribbling and shooting.
4 – Alex Sandro
It might be hard to believe that Alex Sandro is already 30, but the Brazilian has been an absolute rock for Juve during his time in Italy. A strong tackler and a quick dribbler, Sandro offers the best of both worlds and is quick enough to make it hard for the opposition to outrun him.
3 – Andy Robertson
Age – 26 (11 March 1994)
Country – Scotland
Current club – Liverpool (Premier League)
From being unemployed to lifting the Champions League trophy within seven years, Robertson’s journey is nothing short of remarkable. Still only 26, the Scotsman may be reaching his peak years but is already one of the best left-backs in the world.
Robertson is a direct player. A dogged runner and a superb crosser, Robertson likes to make overlapping runs deep into the opposition half, unlike his right-sided counterpart Trent Alexander-Arnold, who prefers to stay nearer to the halfway line.
2 – Alphonso Davies
Age – 20 (November 2, 2000)
Country – Canada
Current club – Bayern Munich (1. Bundesliga)
Hardly anyone could have predicted Alphonso Davies’ astronomical rise at Bayern over the past year, let alone the fact that he would achieve that while playing left-back. The Canadian international played up front for Vancouver Whitecaps, often coming in from the right side. At Bayern, the left-back spot opened up for him after a string of injuries and some tactical reform from Hansi Flick’s side meant David Alaba shifted to the left-sided centre back role, allowing Davies to slot in at the full-back position beside him.
Alphonso might be a charming personality in general, but on the pitch he’s a nightmare to play against. There’s very little the youngster can already not do. He can pass, he can dribble, he can tackle, and his frightening pace already makes him one of the fastest athletes on the planet. Positionally, he has learnt a lot playing alongside Alaba, and on his day can take care of the entire left flank on his own.
Davies has struggled so far this season with injuries, and Flick is making sure not to burn him out and has allowed him to return to matches at his own pace. But given his skillsets, and the fact that he’s just 20, it’s anyone’s guess how high Fonzie can go from here.
1 – Theo Hernandez
Age – 23 (6 October 1997)
Country – France
Current club – AC Milan (Serie A TIM)
Theo Hernandez is yet another one of those prolific full-backs that Real Madrid let go too soon. The Frenchman was already good at making marauding runs forward during his time at Real Sociedad, but has since added an imposing physicality and lethal shooting to his repertoire. His high-speed runs remind you of a certain Gareth Bale when he was breaking through at Spurs some ten years ago.
Only 23, Theo is in a way personification of Milan’s resurgence with the right blend of youth and experience. He’s already impervious at the moment, and promises to reach much higher skies down the line.
Ben Chilwell (Chelsea), Benjamin Mendy (Manchester City), Sergio Reguilón (Spurs), Lucas Digne (Everton), José Gayà (Valencia), Yuri Berchiche (Athletic Bilbao), Aleksandar Kolarov (Inter Milan), Mário Rui (Napoli), Robin Gosens (Atalanta), Raphaël Guerreiro (Borussia Dortmund), Jérôme Roussillon (Wolfsburg), Layvin Kurzawa (PSG), Juan Bernat (PSG), Jordan Amavi (Olympique de Marseille), Nicolás Tagliafico (AFC Ajax).
Do you agree with this list? Who would you rather have in your top 10?