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 on the team.
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. Ben Chilwell (Chelsea)
Chilwell has every tool the modern fullback needs: pace, stamina, composure, pinpoint delivery and defensive intelligence. At 24, he still has plenty of time to improve. Five assists and two goals in his first Premier League campaign at Stamford Bridge are evident of his attacking ability, yet new Blues boss Thomas Tuchel wants to see some improvements in his defensive skill set.
9. Lucas Digne (Everton)
Whether Everton play a back four or a back three, gaffer Carlo Ancelotti has grown to expect top class performances from left-back Digne. The France international has become a leader at Goodison Park, driving the team forward down the left flank. Six assists are evidence of his attacking contribution for the Toffees this season but he is among the best in the world from a purely defensive standpoint. Attackers know they are going to have a tough afternoon with the 27-year-old on their case.
Digne remains in pole position to start on the left of a back four for France this summer. He missed out on World Cup glory through injury three years ago. He’ll have a point to prove this time around.
8. Jordi Alba (Barcelona)
Once the gold standard for European left-backs, Alba’s star has fallen slightly in recent seasons. In truth, though, that has as much to do with Barcelona’s decline as a true European superpower than anything he’s done personally.
The Spaniard remains his usual blend of speed, composure, final product and dazzling footwork, as evidenced by his three goals and seven assists in La Liga this season. He’s played a vital role in Barcelona’s title bid, and will be hoping to carry domestic success into the Euros this summer, where he’s set to start for Spain.
At 32, Alba’s coming to the end of his prime years fast, but his technical ability means he’ll still be capable of playing at the top level for a few seasons yet.
7. Kieran Tierney (Arsenal)
The Scotsman has proved himself one of the few really top class players earning his bread at Arsenal this season. The Gunners have a number of talented youngsters - and plenty of misfiring stars - but perhaps only Tierney among their outfield players has shown the consistency, tenacity and quality of an elite footballer.
The 23-year-old is aggressive on and off the ball, hassling and harrying opposition wingers when out of possession and bombing forward when his side has the ball. Unless Arsenal can offer the former Celtic man a better chance of winning major silverware in the seasons ahead, it might be tough to keep hold of him.
Sadly, for Scotland, Tierney and Andrew Robertson (also on this list) are the nation’s only two world-class stars and both play the same position. How he and the Liverpool man are utilised will be of interest.
6. Raphael Guerreiro (Borussia Dortmund)
The Portugal international was included in the UEFA Team of the Tournament as his nation were crowned European champions five years ago. He was just 22-years-old at the time - now he’ll be aiming for a repeat this coming summer.
Guerreiro also joined Borussia Dortmund that summer in 2016, and has developed into one of the Black & Yellows’ most consistent and feared performers. Few left backs in world football boast the footwork, first touch and finishing of the Bundesliga man, with teammate Jude Bellingham informing FFT that Guerreiro has impressed him more than any other player since joining the club. Nine assists and two goals in the Bundesliga is an exceptional contribution for a full-back, and Dortmund will do all they can to sign him up to a longer deal, with his current terms expiring in 2023.
5. Luke Shaw (Manchester United)
Few would have included Luke Shaw on a list of the best left backs 12 months ago, but now you’d be silly not to.
Shaw has been a phenomenon for Manchester United this season, defending with tenacity and providing a consistently dangerous threat from the left wing. Five assists and one goal have helped United to a strong showing this Premier League campaign, with second place a likely outcome for the Red Devils.
Shaw became a whipping boy under Jose Mourinho but has got his confidence back since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took charge in 2018. Having been expected to lose his place to the incoming Alex Telles this season, he has instead risen to the challenge, and now looks likely to start for England this summer. An incredible comeback for a player who appears to have been around forever and yet, at 25, is still a few years off his peak.
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, he doesn’t have the jaw-dropping samba-magic of Real Madrid’s no.12, but he makes up for that with defensive intelligence and extreme physicality.
Mendy is lightning quick, good on the ball and reads the game well. He has dovetailed with the Brazilian master this season - Marcelo is still among the world’s top full-backs himself - and appears to be thriving under his tutelage. He needs to work on the attacking side of his game - particularly his crossing - but there are few better defenders on this list.
3. Theo Hernandez (AC Milan)
The standout left back in Serie A this season, Hernandez has contributed to nine league goals for AC Milan this campaign (four goals and five assists). Arguably the best dribbler on this list, the Frenchman is a joy to watch when in possession, taking on players and helping to overload opposition defences.
On the ball, his composure and passing are unparalleled among Serie A defenders, though his crossing leaves a lot to be desired. Still just 23, Hernandez is yet to play for the senior French national side - evidence of the strength in depth Dider Deschamps has. He’s got a huge future ahead of him.
2. Andrew Robertson (Liverpool)
It’s been a difficult season for Liverpool defenders but Andy Robertson has been a rare ray of consistency in their otherwise faltering backline. Jose Mourinho famously said he got tired “just by looking at Robertson'' and that workrate has helped drive Liverpool back into the top-four race in recent weeks. Now a leader for club and country, you’ll never get less than 100% from the former Hull City man.
The Scotland captain has arguably the best delivery of any player on this list. His crossing, even at full speed, is rarely anything less than pinpoint, making him a valuable part of Liverpool’s attack. He is quick, tenacious, a good passer and a vocal organiser at the back. His five assist and one goal this season represents a dip in his usually phenomenal output, but is still impressive given the trying circumstances. If Scotland are to have any chance of advancing from their group at Euro 2020, they’ll need some huge performances from their talismanic left back.
1. Alphonso Davies (Bayern Munich)
Nicknamed “Roadrunner” by his teammates, Alphonso Davies broke the Bundesliga sprint speed record last June, clocking an eye-watering 36.51 km/h (22.6 mph). The Canadian is lightning quick, possibly the quickest player in world football right now, but there's 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.
Davies is a solid defender too, with one on ones rarely resulting in his opponent coming out on top. On the rare occasion he is beaten, Davies has the speed to recover and win the ball back.
Bayern’s sensational sextuple winning past 18-months could not have been done without Davies. His end product still needs a lot of work but, at 20-years-old, he’s got time on his side. He’s already the best in his position; imagine how good he’ll be in seven years.
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