Top five: Greatest left-backs of all-time


The left-back role has often proved to be a real quandary for many clubs due to the lack of individuals who are predominantly left-footed. 

However, over the years, we have seen some sublime talents in this position and this list compiles the best of them. Selecting the ultimate winner has been of surprising difficulty, thus highlighting the sheer quality that these footballers brought to the beautiful game, even in a position which does not always gain much limelight. 

Some players have been missed off by the narrowest of margins, but these five players have represented the very best of what it means to be a left-sided full-back: marauding forward runs, while maintaining supreme proficiency at keeping their defensive duties in check. 

So, here we go:

1. Roberto Carlos - União São João, Palmeiras, Internazionale, Real Madrid, Fenerbache, Corinthians, Anzhi Makhachkala & Brazil

This man epitomised all that is good about Brazilian football. He was fast, skilful, determined and had one of the most superb free-kick taking abilities the world has ever seen. 

Carlos also invented the banana kick, which remains one of the flashiest methods in the game of scoring a goal. He did all this as and yet still remained one of the most fierce defenders in the  game, with superb tackling technique.

The diminutive full-back's free-kick against France in 1997 is, personally, one of my favourite goals ever. He is a deserved champion who was one of the more quality players in the star-studded, World Cup winning Brazil squad of 2002 that included Cafu, Juninho, Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Kaka and Rivaldo.

The number of trophies he won was also highly extensive and impressive with four La Liga titles, three Champions League trophies, two Brazilian titles and one World Cup. Pretty decent, wouldn't you agree.

2. Paolo Maldini - AC Milan & Italy

While many would automatically assume that this hero of football should be placed at number one, there are several reasons why he is not there. While Roberto Carlos was predominantly employed at left-back, Maldini alternated between centre-back and full-back roles. 

Also, we never saw what the big Italian was capable of in other leagues, thus his full range of defensive abilities was not fully tested, although the loyalty he showed to Milan is to be greatly admired. However, in spite of all this, Maldini is still one of the greatest tactical defenders to have ever lived.

The fact that he only needed to make one tackle every two games, highlights his mesmerising positional play. he knew exactly what attackers were about to do, and how to deal with them, instantaneously.

Had it not been for the way in which Carlos combines both the attacking and defensive nature of the position, there is no doubt that Maldini would have been my number one selection. It is quite apparent that the Italian decimates most other opponents when it comes to the number of honours obtained. Seven Serie A titles, five Champions League trophies, five European Super Cups, not to mention all of his individual awards and records.

3. Ashley Cole - Arsenal, Chelsea & England

At 32, the current Chelsea full-back shows no signs of any waning of his consistently high and impressive standards.

Possibly the best attacking left-back at the moment in the world, although coming under considerable pressure from a variety of younger sources such as Jordi Alba, Leighton Baines and Marcel Schmelzer. 

Cole, however, remains the king on the left, for now. His lung-bursting runs from deep on the left shall be sorely missed when he eventually chooses to retire. 

4. Denis Irwin - Leeds United, Oldham Athletic, Manchester United, Wolverhampton Wanderers & Republic of Ireland

His record speaks for itself: Seven Premier League titles, three FA Cups, one Champions League, one Champions Cup Winners Cup and  a League Cup.

Pretty impressive for a man who even challenged David Beckham himself for the role of top free-kick taker at Manchester United. He was a lynchpin at the back for all of his clubs, as well as being a fine attacking unit.

5. Jose Antonio Camacho - Real Madrid & Spain

This defensive specialist fully deserves his place on this list due to his no nonsense tackling and sheer class. Being one of the pivotal players in a team that won nine La Liga titles, five Spanish Cups and two UEFA Cups. He is now currently the manager of the Chinese national Team.

There are a host of other richly talented left-backs who just missed out such as Paul Breitner, Patrice Evra, Giacinto Facchetti and Nilton Santos, but obviously not all could make this list.

However, if you agree or disagree with my selections, feel free to offer your own opinions in the comments below.


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