Greatest Ever: Football: Top Ten Left-Backs Of All Time

Barney Corkhill@@BarneyCorkhillSenior Writer IFebruary 28, 2009

The 22nd installment of Barney Corkhill's Greatest Ever series is here!

In this series I will look at the greatest talents to grace various sports. I continue to look at football, this time counting down the top ten left-backs of all time.


10. Emlyn Hughes (ENG)

The former England and Liverpool captain, nicknamed "Crazy Horse" for a now infamous rugby tackle on Newcastle's Albert Bennett, was one of the key members of Shankly's, and later Paisley's, great Liverpool team of the '70s.

Predictably, then, his trophy haul is rather impressive. He won four Division One titles, an FA Cup, two UEFA Cups and two European Cups in his twelve years at Anfield. He later added a League Cup to that list with Wolves.

He was named the FWA Footballer of the Year in 1977, and played for England 62 times, leading them out on 23 occasions.

9. Denis Irwin (IRE)

A lynch-pin of the great Manchester United team of the '90s, Denis Irwin experienced a long and successful career. He was a deadly set-piece taker who often challenged even David Beckham when it came to free-kick duties.

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In his 12 years stint at United, he won a lot of silverware, including seven Premier League titles, three FA Cups, a League Cup, a Cup Winners' Cup, and a Champions League. He was a key part of the 1999 treble winning side.

For the Republic of Ireland, Irwin made 56 appearances before he retired after he was told to "go out and prove himself."

8. Bixente Lizarazu (FRA)

Despite his lack of height, Lizarazu made a name for himself as one of the best attacking full-backs of recent times. His time at Bayern Munich and in the "Golden era" of French football helped him become the most decorated player in French football history.

At club level he has won two French league titles, six German league 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.

In all, he made 97 appearances for France. Another trophy he won was the Intercontinental trophy in 2001, which made him the first player to be a European champion and World champion on both international and club level at the same time.

7. Jose Antonio Camacho (SPA)

Camacho made his debut for Real Madrid aged just 18, and then made his final appearance for the same club 16 years later. In all he played over 400 league matches for them, cementing his place as one of the best defenders in their history.

In his time there, he won nine La Liga titles, and four Spanish Cups, as well as appearing in two World Cups and two European Championships for Spain. Overall, he made 81 appearances for the national team.

6. Andreas Brehme (GER)

Brehme could hit a free-kick or spray a long pass as well as anyone in world football and, whats more, he could do it with both feet. He was a great attacking full-back who scored for every team he ever played for.

In his 17-year career, Brehme won two Bundesliga titles, a German Cup, a UEFA Cup, and a Serie A title at club level, while at international level he won the 1990 World Cup and was part of the team that came runners-up four years earlier, and then again two years later in the European Championships.

He scored the winning goal in that 1990 World Cup final, just one of his eight international goals in 86 matches for Germany.

5. Paul Breitner (GER)

Narrowly beating his fellow countryman into the top five is Paul Breitner. As a free-roaming left-back, Breitner was often seen in unfamiliar places for a traditional left-back.

Although controversial off-the-field, he knew how to get the job done on it. He won five Bundesliga titles, two German Cups, a European Cup, a La Liga title and a Spanish Cup during his club career. He was even more successful on the international stage, however, winning the European Championships of 1972, and then the 1974 World Cup in which he scored Germany's opening goal.

His goal in the 1982 World Cup final, which Germany lost, made him one of just four players to have scored in two World Cup finals. He was named the German Footballer of the Year in 1981 and made 48 appearances for West Germany.

4. Giacinto Facchetti (ITA)

Facchetti was one of the first great attacking full-backs, helping the role of the left-back progress to what it is today. He spent his whole career at Inter Milan, a club who retired his number three shirt following his death.

During his time there, he won four league titles, an Italian Cup and two European Cups. He also finished as a runner-up in two more European Cup finals. In 1970 he was once again a runner-up, this time in the World Cup with Italy, a country with whom he had won the European Championships two years earlier.

An all-round great player, Facchetti made a then record 94 appearances for Italy.

3. Nilton Santos (BRA)

Another great attacking full-back, Nilton Santos has been part of four Brazilian World Cup squads. In the 1958 and 1962 tournaments, he collected winners medals and worldwide accolades for his play.

He is especially noted for a goal against Austria in the 1958 tournament when he dribbled past almost the whole team before sticking the ball in the net. He went on to make 75 appearances for Brazil in a 23-year international career.

His club career, however, lasted 36 years, all for one club. His loyalty and longevity means he is one of very few outfield players to have played over 1000 games, and perhaps the only one to do so for one club.

2. Roberto Carlos (BRA)

Roberto Carlos took attacking full-back play to a new level. His marauding runs down the left-flank often followed by a thunderous shot have thrilled football fans for two decades, and continue to do so.

In his club career he has won the Brazilian league twice, La Liga four times, and the Champions League three times. He helped Brazil to the ultimately unsuccessful final of the 1998 World Cup, and the more successful final in 2002. In all, he played 125 times for Brazil.

Perhaps his most famous moment came against France when he hit a free-kick which was seemingly going a long way wide before it unfathomably swerved and ended up in the French net. It remains the most remarkable free-kick I've ever seen.

1. Paolo Maldini (ITA)

Who else? I think most people around the world have run out of superlatives to throw at this man. Legend just doesn't seem enough. He has played for AC Milan his entire 25-year career and is subsequently the highest appearance maker for the club, for Serie A, and for Italy.

His list of achievements seem never ending. In his remarkable career he has won seven Serie A titles, an Italian Cup, and an unbelievable five European Cups. He has appeared in eight finals of Europe's premier competition.

For Italy he was part of the side that came runners-up in the 1994 World Cup and Euro 2000. Unfortunately, he missed out on the 2006 World Cup win after retiring with a record 126 caps.

Paolo Maldini - the greatest left-back ever!

Other articles from this series include:

Top 10 Goalkeepers of All Time

Top 10 Right-Backs of All Time

Top 10 Centre-Backs of All Time

Top 10 Right Midfielders of All Time

Top 10 Centre Midfielders of All Time

Top Ten Left Midfielders of All Time

Top Ten Strikers of All Time

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