To describe someone as one of the best left-backs used to be damning them with faint praise. Left-back used to be where you'd stick the worst player on the team. No left foot? No problem; left-back was the spot for anyone who didn't have a specific job.
Well, times have changed: full-backs are no longer the forgotten men. Indeed, some of the players on this list are integral to the way their club and country set up – not just defenders, but also invaluable attackers, creators, scorers, set-piece takers and jacks of all trades.
So, without any further ado, here are the 10 best left-backs on the planet.
10. Pervis Estupinan (Brighton)
Pervis Estupinan's career has advanced on a markedly upward trajectory since his move from Villarreal to Brighton in the summer of 2022.
The Ecuador international needed no time to adjust to the rigours of the Premier League, making his mark as one of the competition's standout performers of the 2022/23 campaign.
A significant attacking threat for Roberto De Zerbi's Seagulls, Estupinan proved his creative credentials with five assists last term – and he's picked up where he left off in 2023/24, keeping himself in the shop window for a big transfer in the not-too-distant future.
9. Federico Dimarco (AC Milan)
After a patchy start, Italy international Dimarco has cemented his place in the AC Milan lineup over the past two-and-a-half seasons.
Now 26, his strength and powerful shot much him an asset going forward as well as defending the left flank; he bagged six goals and five assists from 50 appearances in 2022/23.
He highlighted this with a 60-yard screamer against Frosinone in November 2023, and should his defensive work keep pace with his attacking ability, Dimarco will be in contention as one of the world's very best left-backs before long.
8. Nuno Mendes (PSG)
Portuguese left-back Nuno Mendes is still only 21 years old, but he is playing at an exceptional level – and it only looks like he's going to get better and better.
Highly-regarded for his offensive capabilities, Mendes creates plenty of chances for PSG's plethora of attacking talent, with his intense bursts of speed down the wing providing plenty of chances for the likes of countryman Goncalo Ramos and Kylian Mbappe.
Mendes has plenty of desire to improve, too, saying: "I still have a long way to go. I still have a lot of time to evolve. I’d like to win all the competitions I’m in. I intend to leave my mark in football. That’s my goal.”
Give it a few years and this lad could well be topping this list.
7. Alex Grimaldo (Bayer Leverkusen)
A key part of Bayer Leverkusen's remarkable start to 2023/24, Alex Grimaldo is central in the German side's defensive solidity.
Often played at left-wing-back in a 3-4-1-2, Grimaldo has lived up to expectations after a highly-anticipated transfer from Benfica in summer 2023. He was finally called-up to the Spain national team months later and has thrived in the Bundesliga, scoring nine goals in his first 26 games.
At 28 Grimaldo is in his peak years, but his blend of experience and strength on the ball make him comfortably among the best in the world.
6. Destiny Udogie (Tottenham)
Signed by Tottenham in summer 2022 and loaned straight back to Udinese, Destiny Udogie returned to Spurs ahead of the 2023/24 season – and he's quickly gone from a relatively unknown quantity to one of the best full-backs on the planet.
Vital to Spurs' intense high-pressing game under Ange Postecoglou – who had them setting the early pace in the Premier League – Udogie has been a nightmare to play against whether in or out of possession, particularly excelling in winning the ball back high up the pitch and transforming those turnovers into goalscoring opportunities for his teammates.
Capped by Italy at senior level for the first time in October, Udogie started the Azzurri's Euro 2024 qualifier against England at Wembley.
5. Alejandro Balde (Barcelona)
One of the most prodigious talents in Spain's current young crop, Alejandro Balde had made the Barcelona left-back position his own while he was still only 19 – taking over from club legend Jordi Alba.
Not dissimilar to a certain Alphonso Davies in terms of his explosive pace and penchant for bombing up the flank, the Barcelona-born starlet has all the attributes to carve out a fine career as either a full-back or a wing-back.
Already a regular for the Spanish national team, Balde played an integral part in Barca's 2022/23 La Liga triumph – their first under Xavi – earning himself a spot in the division's Team of the Season.
In 2023/24 he kept his place ahead of the far more senior Marcos Alonso and Joao Cancelo. And that's saying something.
4. Ferland Mendy (Real Madrid)
Having to fill Marcelo’s boots is not a fate you’d wish on your worst enemy – yet Ferland Mendy has shown he has all the ingredients to help take Real Madrid into a new era.
No, the Frenchman doesn’t have the jaw-dropping samba magic of his legendary Brazilian predecessor, but he makes up for that with defensive intelligence and extreme physicality.
Mendy is lightning-quick and reads the game brilliantly. He needs to work on the attacking side of his game – particularly his crossing – but there are few better defenders on this list.
3. Andy Robertson (Liverpool)
Jose Mourinho famously said he got tired “just by looking at Robertson'', and the Scotland captain is a non-stop bundle of energy down Liverpool's left wing.
Robertson has arguably the best delivery of any player on this list: his crossing, even at full sprint speed, is rarely anything less than devastatingly accurate, making him a valuable part of Liverpool’s attack.
Contributing eight Premier League assists during the 2022/23 campaign – more than Jack Grealish and Martin Odegaard, for example – he is quick, tenacious, a good passer and a vocal organiser at the back.
2. Theo Hernandez (AC Milan)
The standout left-back in Serie A over the past year or so – he contributed to 11 league goals in 2022/23 (five goals and six assists) – Theo Hernandez is one of AC Milan's most important attacking players.
Arguably the best dribbler on this list, the France international is a true joy to watch when in possession, taking on players and helping to overload opposition defences.
At the 2022 World Cup, he excelled after replacing his injured brother Lucas – going on to score the crucial opening goal against Morocco in the semi-final, a well-taken finish which highlighted his prowess at the sharp end of the pitch.
1. Alphonso Davies (Bayern Munich)
Alphonso Davies has put his injury woes behind him this term to perform consistently for Bayern Munich, ascending to the very top in our ranking of the world's finest left-backs.
Nicknamed Roadrunner by his teammates, the Canadian icon broke the Bundesliga sprint speed record in June 2020, clocking an eye-watering 36.51 km/h (22.6 mph). He might just be the quickest player in world football – although there is much more to his game than speed.
A natural winger – Davies still plays in a more attacking role for his country – he's a serious threat going forward: his movement and dribbling are world-class, meaning defenders often find themselves overwhelmed when he advances to join Leroy Sane down Bayern’s left flank. This, in turn, allows the German to move inside and cause havoc in the box.
But Davies is a perfectly solid defender, with one on ones rarely resulting in his opponent coming out on top – and, on the rare occasion he is beaten, he has the pace to recover ground and win the ball back.
We have lists of the best players in every position in the world right now.
There are all kinds of midfielders – these are the best defensive midfielders in the world, these are the best central midfielders in the world and these are the best attacking midfielders in the world.
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