Does Jordi Alba's Rise Make Him the Best Left Back in Europe?
Perhaps the clearest indicator of the rapid development of Jordi Alba comes in the form of comments made by the Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger following his deadline day deal for Malaga left back Nacho Monreal:
He's not as spectacular going forward as Barcelona's Alba, but his offensive record is good in creating crosses and final balls.
This time last year it was touch-and-go who would be the Spain left back, Alba or Monreal?
Now the 23-year-old Catalan is being cited as the benchmark following a 12-month period which has seen him return to Barcelona from Valencia and lift the European Championships with Spain last summer—scoring in the final.
His roots on Spain's northeast coast made him an obvious signing for La Blaugrana, but roots aside could the club, who comfortably top La Liga, boast to now have the best left back across Europe's top leagues?
Already this season his pace, ability to get forward and crossing prowess have seen him assist five goals, the latest a perfectly weighted pass to David Villa against Getafe on Sunday.
He has also chipped in with three goals, but the most impressive facet to his game, admittedly due to Barca's style, has been his constant involvement in his side's all-round play.
He averages nearly 80 passes a game in all competitions, completing over 90 percent of those attempted while defensively he averages over two tackles per game and has made six interceptions this season (via whoscored.com).
Of course, his game still possesses frailties. Against Getafe at the weekend his mistake cost Barca a clean sheet, while his remarkable own goal against Deportivo la Coruna lingers in the mind too.
He is still young enough that he has time to work on his concentration, and in time he will certainly be known as one of, if not the, best left backs in Europe, but as for the now who is his competition?
An injury to Real Madrid's Marcelo, an inconsistent Fabio Coentrao and the departure of Monreal leave Filipe Luis of Atletico Madrid as his only real threat in La Liga at the moment.
In England, Jan Vertonghen of Tottenham has been solid when asked to play on the left of their back four but is predominantly a central defender. Patrice Evra's decline in defending was never more evident than against Athletic Bilbao at Old Trafford last season.
Chelsea's Ashley Cole is no doubt still a fine defender, though, so good it seems whatever brilliance Leighton Baines produces for Everton he cannot displace him from the England national team.
In France people may question the quality of the league compared to others in Europe, but PSG's Maxwell is enjoying a productive season although the fact it is much more fruitful than his spells in Spain and Italy were may tell a story.
The Bundelsiga carries some very real threats to Alba, though. Eintracht Frankurt are enjoying a fine season, and their left back Bastian Oczipka has arguably been their best performer with his attacking intent leading to seven assists (via whoscored.com).
One-time midfielder David Alaba continues to excel as Bayern Munich's left back, and Borussia Dortmund's Marcel Schmelzer has been solid if not spectacular this season.
And so to Italy, where the line between a left back and a winger is a little blurred due to some Italian sides' preferring a 3-5-2 formation.
Relegation threatened Genoa can possibly lay claim to the best left back in Serie A. Luca Antonelli is enjoying a brilliant season—though not always as a defender—while it would be pushing it to suggest Juventus' Kwadwo Asamoah is a genuine defender for them and Giorgio Chiellini is now used in a central three.
Lazio's Romanian Stefan Radu has looked impressive while Milan's Mattia De Sciglio is proving a promising, versatile full back for not just the future but the present with Kevin Constant also impressive for the San Siro outfit.
Have your say in the comments section: Is Jordi Alba Europe's best left back?
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