Which football players do you consider to be the best left backs of all time?
The role of the fullback in modern football is crucial.
Players no longer merely defend their own half and cover for their teammates; the position has evolved.
Now more than ever, fullbacks are expected to help out in the offense as much as they do on defense.
Left backs like Andrew Robertson, Alphonso Davies, Theo Hernandez, and Joao Cancelo are in high demand.
These contemporary greats were following in the footsteps of a previous generation of outstanding left backs.
In the soccer world, good left backs are hard to come by. They are responsible for performing all of the duties of a right back with their left foot.
Here are the five best left backs in football history.
Many current football fans probably haven’t heard of Emlyn Hughes, but the former Liverpool player is widely regarded as one of the club’s all-time greats.
When discussing the all-time great left backs in soccer, Hughes is often overlooked.
South American and European players are particularly popular among fans. Yet, Hughes’ heyday was the late 1960s and early 1970s.
As manager of Liverpool, Bill Shankly paid £65,000 to acquire Hughes from Blackpool that same year.
While playing for Liverpool, Hughes racked up 665 appearances and 49 goals.
Extremely few club games were played when that left back made such an incredible number of appearances for Liverpool.
More so than Kevin Keegan, Graeme Souness, or Kenny Dalglish, the left back was an integral part of Liverpool’s great teams of the 1970s.
Even though these others got all the attention, Hughes was the one who kept everything together. Hughes finished his time at Liverpool with a 353-179-133 win-loss record in regular-season games played.
He was crowned champion of the English First Division four times, as well as the European Cup and UEFA Cup twice.
In 1977, Hughes received the FWA Football of the Year award. The left back played 62 times for England.
Paul Breitner is in elite company, as he is one of only a handful of players to score in more than one FIFA World Cup.
The German left back, who played professionally from 1970 to 1983 for teams like Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, and Eintracht Braunschweig, was years ahead of his time.
The German had a relatively brief career compared to the other players on this list. A collision with Hamburg’s Wolfgang Rolff in 1982–83 ended Breitner’s career due to injury.
There were many memorable moments in Breitner’s 13-year career.
He was more than just a defensive fullback, as evidenced by his 103 goals scored.
Breitner spent a total of nine seasons with Bayern Munich (during two separate stints) and won five Bundesliga titles, two DFB Pokal titles, and a UEFA European Cup.
In 1974, Breitner became a member of Real Madrid. Over the course of his three years in Spain’s capital, he won two league titles and a Copa del Rey.
Breitner was also very successful on the international stage, as he played an integral role in Germany’s victories at the 1974 World Cup and the 1972 European Championship.
A team photo of the AS Roma squad from 2014 went viral, bringing Ashley Cole back into the minds of some modern football fans who may not have seen him play.
Football fans quickly began creating memes featuring a “lurking” Ashley Cole by cropping Cole out of the photo.
But before he started “lurking,” Ashley Cole was a top-tier left back for England and the rest of the soccer world.
Cole made his professional debut for Arsenal when he was just 18 years old after graduating from the club’s football academy.
He stayed in the north London area for seven years, during which time the club won two Premier League titles and three FA Cups.
Some fans believe that the left back’s career took off once he made the move across London to Stamford Bridge in 2006.
Cole may have only won one Premier League title, but he was instrumental in Chelsea’s four FA Cup, two UEFA Champions League, and two UEFA Europa League triumphs.
The English fullback position was popularized by Cole in the 2000s.
He was quick on his feet, had a good head for strategy, and could carry the ball into dangerous areas before passing wisely.
Cole is still one of the best left backs of all time, despite his career spiraling downward during his time at Roma, LA Galaxy, and Derby County.
After a stellar career with AC Milan, Paolo Maldini announced his retirement in 2009.
Maldini was devoted to the Rossoneri, playing in 901 games for them while scoring 33 goals and setting up 44 more.
He wasn’t the type of left back whose job it was to bully the winger of the opposing team. He had a strong sense of defense strategy.
Maldini was a formidable opponent in the box, but he rarely had to resort to diving for a ball. Instead of making rash tackles, his positioning and quick thinking helped him win the ball.
Maldini was versatile enough to play both left-back and center-back. In his final season at the San Siro, he played every game in the center of the defense instead of at left back.
He played for Milan during their illustrious ’80s and ’90s eras. Since his debut in 1987–88, Maldini has won seven Serie A championships.
Maldini won a total of ten major honors during his career: seven league championships and five European Cups/Champions League trophies.
Maldini was a champion on the club level, but he was unable to repeat that feat with the Azzurri in the World Cup.
As Italy lost to Brazil in the 1994 World Cup Finals on penalty kicks, he was awarded a silver medal for his team’s runner-up finish. If you’re interested in learning more about football, check out our Football Betting Guide for tips and strategies.
Many football supporters consider Paolo Maldini to be the best left back in the history of the game. Nonetheless, Maldini has the versatility to fill in at other positions in the defense.
He did, in fact, spend considerable time in the middle of defense. Maldini played left back 481 times and center 377 times, stats courtesy of Transfermarkt.
Regardless of this, Roberto Carlos, a Brazilian, was a left back at heart.
Carlos did make a few appearances in the middle of the field, but left back was where he belonged.
According to Transfermarkt, he logged 583 defensive appearances during his career.
Carlos spent the majority of his professional career with Real Madrid. After only one season with Inter Milan, he signed with Los Blancos for €6 million in 1996.
Over the course of 527 games for Madrid, Carlos scored 70 goals and set up another 102.
Four La Liga championships, three UEFA Champions League trophies, one UEFA Super Cup, and two Intercontinental trophies were among the many that Carlos won during his career.
Those are only the trophies he collected while playing for Real Madrid. His other stops before and after Madrid yielded even more hardware.
With Brazil, Carlos won the 2002 FIFA World Cup.
Carlos’s speed was a major asset for the team as a left back. He had the stamina to blaze up and down the left sideline at breakneck speed.
Roberto Carlos is credited with elevating the bar for modern left backs.
When comparing Carlos and Maldini, it’s hard to pick between them as the best left backs in history. Their key difference is the impact the Brazilian has had on today’s best players at the position.