Ranked: 10 best left-backs of all time

There are a whole lot of expectations on defenders to help their team and secure the backline while also being expected to help provide an attacking threat. We’ve seen some of the best left-backs grace the world of football over the last century, with some of them leaving a last impression.

With stats taken from Transfermrkt, here are the top 10 left-backs of all time.

10. Ashley Cole – Arsenal, Chelsea, AS Roma, LA Galaxy, Derby County

During his seven years with Arsenal, Cole won two Premier League titles and three FA Cups, and was a key part of the ‘Invincibles’ side. He made the controversial switch to Chelsea, and went on to win one more Premier League, four FA Cups, a League Cup, and a Champions League trophy.

9. Bixente Lizarazu – Girondins Bordeaux, Athletic Bilbao, Bayern Munich, Marseille

Lizarazu made a name for himself as one of the best attacking full-backs of all-time. At club level, he won Ligue 1 titles, six Bundesliga titles, five German Cups, four German League Cups, and a Champions League, while at international level he helped France to success in the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000, and earned 97 caps.

8. Marcelo – Fluminense, Real Madrid

Marcelo is arguably the most decorated player on this list, with 22 trophies, including four Champions Leagues. The Brazilian has also won Olympic bronze (2008) and silver (2012). Marcelo’s performances over the last decade have earned him a place in the FIFPro World XI six times, alongside other legends of football, including Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos, Andres Iniesta.

7. Antonio Cabrini – Cremonese, Atalanta, Juventus, Bologna

Cabrini spent his entire career in Italy, winning six Serie A titles and one European Championship. The Italian also played a huge role for his national side alongside legendary keeper Dino Zoff, Claudio Gentile and Gaetano Scirea and powered the Azzuri to World Cup victory in 1982.

6. Nilton Santos – Botafogo

Santos won six trophies at a domestic level, but his biggest honours were winning two World Cups with Brazil, in 1958 and 1962. He is a member of the World Team of the 20th Century, and was named by Pele as one of the top 125 greatest living footballers at a FIFA Awards ceremony in 2004.

5. Giacinto Facchetti – Inter

Facchetti spent his entire career at Inter, who then retired his number three shirt following his death. During his time with the Serie A giants, he won four league titles, an Italian Cup and two European Cups. Facchetti also made a record 94 appearances for Italy, and won the European Championship in 1968.

4. Roberto Carlos – Uniao Sao Joao, Palmeiras, Inter, Real Madrid, Fenerbahce, Corinthians, Anzhi Makhachkala

Roberto Carlos made a name for himself when Fabio Capello brought him to Real Madrid, and the rest is history. He made 524 appearances for Los Blancos during a nine-year spell, scoring 69 times as he won four league titles and three Champions Leagues.

3. Ruud Krol – Ajax, Vancouver Whitecaps, Napoli, AS Cannes

Ruud Krol was an absolute legend with his feet and was a great reader of the game. He won six Eredivisie titles and three European Cups with Ajax and finished third in Ballon d’Or voting in 1979.

2. Paul Breitner – Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Eintracht Branschweig

Breitner is one of only four players to have scored in two different World Cups for Germany. Over the course of his 13-year career, the German has scored 103 goals in 369 league appearances. In his nine seasons at Bayern, Breitner won five Bundesliga titles, two DFB Pokals, and a European Cup.

1. Paolo Maldini – Milan

Paolo Maldini is arguable the best left-back to grace the world of football till date. Not overly attack-minded, Maldini was solid at the back, and played a crucial role for Milan during the 1987-88 season when they conceded just 14 goals in 30 league games. During his 25-year spell at San Siro, Maldini won five European Cups – a number bettered only by Real Madrid’s Paco Gento.


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