Leighton Baines & the Top 5 Challengers to Philipp Lahm's Crown
Philipp Lahm, in many people's eyes, is the best left-back in football.
Despite him being naturally right-sided, he's played on the left a multitude of times and almost exclusively features at that position for the German national team.
World football boasts some exciting new talents in his position, though. So who is looking to usurp Die Mannschaft's captain?
While Leighton Baines is no spring chicken at 27 years of age, the Everton left-back is really coming to the fore with some incredible performances.
It would be harsh to describe him as a late-bloomer, too, as he's been knocking out top-notch showings since his days at Wigan Athletic in 2007.
He combines the perfect blend of defensive commitment and attacking potency, and the 13-cap England international currently leads all of Europe in accurate crosses per game (4.1).
Roy Hodgson has taken a liking to Baines, and it wouldn't shock many to see him starting for England in the 2014 World Cup should they qualify.
Domenico Criscito's career has been plagued by strange occurrences.
It's a shame he didn't make the grade with Juventus—if he had, his name would already be in the hat for the top five left-backs in the world.
His move to Zenit Saint Petersburg allowed him to temporarily slip off the map, and his expulsion from Italy's Euro 2012 squad amid a match-fixing scandal only served to extend the hiatus.
At 25 years of age, he needs to make the move back to central Europe, where he can once again come up against the world's best wide men.
Lucas Digne is developing rapidly under Lille boss Rudi Garcia.
He's well capable of attacking or defending the left touchline, and here's hoping the meniscus damage he sustained against Valenciennes doesn't stunt his progress (via Ligue1.com).
What sets the Frenchman apart from the rest is his age and his incredible physical attributes—he threatens to grow into a powerful, uncompromising frame which will allow him to dominate the flank.
Like Lucas Digne, Alex Sandro is set to become a physically imposing presence on the touchline.
FC Porto saw his potential after Sandro spent time with Atletico Paranaense and Santos in Brazil, spending a cool €9.6 million on him (via FCPorto.pt).
What sets him apart from the rest of his colleagues is his innate ability to know when to stay on his feet and when to go to ground.
The Brazilian looks set for a seriously bright future as he fits the mould of the modern footballer.
Tito Vilanova believes Jordi Alba is performing at a high level both offensively and defensively, but many fans may well call that judgement into question.
There's no denying the former Valencia left-back is a ferocious attacker who thrives in a Barcelona system similar to the one he excelled in for Spain during Euro 2012.
However, his defensive abilities are yet to be honed to the required level. Should that happen, Alba has got to be the No. 1 candidate to take Philipp Lahm's mantle.
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