UEFA Euro 2016, B/R 200: Top 20 Left-Backs

Daniel Tiluk@@danieltilukFeatured ColumnistMay 28, 2016

UEFA Euro 2016, B/R 200: Top 20 Left-Backs

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    Full-backs have evolved into one of football's key positions.

    A frequent outlet—not held to defending—their offensive-and-defensive, up-and-down roles are perfect in the modern game.

    Left-backs who can pocket wingers, are wise when runs are being made and notice counter-attacks (but also provide attacking edge) are gilded pieces. Not easily hidden, great full-backs are vital members of their squad; destitute left-backs are targets for rampaging wingers and even an opposing right-back.

    Before the world's second-most prestigious football competition—behind only FIFA's World Cup—Bleacher Report is asking which of UEFA Euro 2016's left-backs are best.

    Austria's David Alaba plays central midfield. Portugal's Fabio Coentrao is injured. Leighton Baines, Luke Shaw, Nacho Monreal and others were left from their respective homeland's 23-man squads. That said, Europe's left-back stable remains healthy.

    Criteria is weighted for a best possible score of 100.

    The first 50 points are measured by defence: This includes tackling, marking and positional sense.

    The last 50 are measured by attacking: This includes crossing, overlapping, underlapping and overall technical ability.

    When added together, our overall score is made. In the event of a tie, we simply ask, using what we hope is common sense: "Who would I rather have at this competition?"

20. Ivan Strinic, Croatia

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    Defensive Rating: 34/50

    Other than Juventus, Napoli had Serie A's best defence—in terms of goals conceded—last campaign.

    The Partenopei qualified for the 2016/17 UEFA Champions League and were a few indifferent results away from challenging Juventus for Italian supremacy.

    Sitting behind Faouzi Ghoulam, as manager Maurizio Sarri's second-choice left-back, was Ivan Strinic. Though not an attacking opportunist like his Algerian counterpart, the Croatian is a competent back-up.

    Attacking Rating: 33/50

    Ghoulam is an offensive threat. His combination of pace and crossing is maybe his position's best in Italy; that keeps Strinic as a substitute.

    In the 28-year-old's limited time for Napoli, he has displayed accurate passing and ball retention, but he lacks the progressive industry Ghoulam has.

    Overall Rating: 67/100

    The Croatia international was also deputy to Danijel Pranjic for a time in Ante Cacic's side, but Strinic seems to have his place back, as Pranjic was not chosen for the summer's competition. Interesting, considering Strinic only played 13 times last season.

    Liverpool centre-back Dejan Lovren will not be attending Euro 2016, so defending options are further limited. Under the circumstances, the second-choice left-back in Naples might be his country's starter.

19. Neil Taylor, Wales

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    Defensive Rating: 36/50

    For extended portions of the 2015/16 season, Swansea City looked relegation-threatened. They employed three managers and went two months without a Premier League win. The only club they beat twice all season was Aston Villa.

    One of the few constants in the Swans' side was left-back Neil Taylor.

    The Welshman played 2,947 league minutes—only goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski and captain Ashley Williams played more. In that time, Taylor blocked the most crosses of any Swansea City defender.

    Attacking Rating: 32/50

    Averaging one assist every 17 EPL matches, the 27-year-old is not known for his attacking exploits. In 222 professional (not including non-league) and international games, Taylor hasn't scored.

    Luckily for him, his job is not dependent on creating or scoring, rather stopping and preventing, but the modern full-back is more than defender alone. Maybe fighting off relegation dries any attacking impetus?

    Overall Rating: 68/100

    If necessary, Taylor could be used in two ways at Euro 2016.

    Tottenham Hotspur's Ben Davies is ahead of the Swansea City man at left-back, but sometimes deployed as the furthest left centre-back in a back three, Davies might leave the left wing-back role open for Taylor.

    Would manager Chris Coleman risk using a player with little end product in such a two-way role? If he wants to be defensive, there's little downside.

18. Jordan Lukaku, Belgium

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    Defensive Rating: 33/50

    Leaving his former youth club Anderlecht in 2014, Jordan Lukaku (seeking playing time) found KV Oostende as a club willing to give him matches—and the Belgian has excelled.

    Recently promoted to the Jupiler Pro League, the left-back's side qualified for the Championship play-offs (effectively the top six).

    Using his strength, pace and athleticism to ward off attackers, the young defender collects possession and moves forward.

    Attacking Rating: 36/50

    The Belgian league's best attacking full-back, Lukaku was directly responsible for nine league goals for Oostende this season.

    Providing seven assists and scoring twice, his technical ability and crossing are great characteristics on the left-hand side. The 21-year-old still requires the wisdom experience provides, but his game shows—at the moment and at this level—he knows what he's doing.

    Overall Rating: 69/100

    Vincent Kompany's muscle injures have caused havoc to Belgium's already thin defence. Jan Vertonghen or Thomas Vermaelen could switch to full-back, with one or the other pairing alongside Toby Alderweireld.

    What happens at left-back depends on manager Marc Wilmots. Both Vertonghen and Vermaelen are left-footed, but Lukaku could force one of those natural centre-backs to the bench. It would take some doing, but it's not impossible.

17. Martin Olsson, Sweden

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    Defensive Rating: 33/50

    Last season was not the best professionally for Martin Olsson. Relegated from the Premier League for the second time in three seasons, his Norwich City squad failed in their bid to retain top-flight status.

    Splitting time with Ireland's Robbie Brady (who played every position but goalkeeper and striker), the Sweden international started 20 matches at left-back and was a serviceable option.

    Not confused for a defensive full-back, Olsson's game is predicated on using his speed and getting into dangerous positions. It just so happens, playing for a side like Norwich, attacking is fourth on the list—behind balance, shape and positioning.

    Attacking Rating: 36/50

    When able to get forward (which was not often), Olsson scored once and assisted twice, adding to his total in the "responsible for" category. Since 2010, the 28-year-old has scored or assisted 36 goals for his club and country.

    Not too bad for a Swedish full-back tasked with fighting off relegation and then battling for promotion over the last six years.

    Overall Rating: 69/100

    Curiously preferred to Borussia Monchengladbach's Oscar Wendt (who did not make Sweden's 23-man roster), Olsson has something to prove at Euro 2016.

    First, maybe finding a club in a better position than Norwich to give him a chance. Second, and most importantly, repaying his manager's faith.

16. Razvan Rat, Romania

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    Defensive Rating: 34/50

    Joining Rayo Vallecano (for a second time) last summer, Razvan Rat was scheduled to be the Red Sashes' every-week starter. A shoulder injury, though, kept Romania's captain out for five months—he played just 10 La Liga matches.

    Without their 35-year-old left-back for the season's majority, Rayo were relegated from La Liga by one point; had Rat featured in the 23 league fixtures his recovery took, maybe they would have been safe.

    Rat is an all-round full-back who has enough pace to get forward, enough strength to hold off attackers and enough technical skill to deliver crosses. His omission was always going to be punitive.

    Attacking Rating: 38/50

    Rat's best quality is his crossing and passing. He has averaged one assist in every seven games he's played in his professional career. In European qualifiers, the captain had three assists in nine starts.

    To shut down a portion of Romania's attacking thrust, you have to close down their left-back. It's an intriguing predicament for his opposition.

    Overall Rating: 72/100

    A seven-time winner of the Ukrainian Premier League, Rat has 336 senior appearances and is a centurion for his country with 109 caps. Not expected to do much at Euro 2016, Romania are dependent on their captain for morale. Grouped with France, Switzerland and Albania, the latter seems their rival for third-place qualification.

    Back to fitness, Rat's leadership is paramount for any such battle.

15. Raphael Guerreiro, Portugal

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    Defensive Rating: 33/50

    Born in northeastern Paris, Raphael Guerreiro's playing for Portugal is somewhat interesting but no different to what a host of French, born-elsewhere internationals have done.

    Starting at left-back for FC Lorient, the up-and-coming defender is still learning his craft. The 22-year-old is in the Portugal squad because of Fabio Coentrao's thigh injury, and Guerreiro's role will only increase after Euro 2016.

    His marking, tackling and overall knowledge of the full-back position demand maturity, but experiences like this summer can only help that process.

    Attacking Rating: 39/50

    Guerreiro is a winger trapped in a left-back's body; in 2016, that's probably a good thing.

    Skilful, dynamic and quick, the young defender scored three goals in Ligue 1 last season and assisted twice. Able to play left midfielder and left-sided attacking winger, Guerreiro's biggest plus point is moving play forward.

    That quality and his potential are sure to catch the eye of the world's bigger clubs sooner rather than later.

    Overall Rating: 72/100

    On paper, the young defender should not usurp veteran Eliseu, but his mere presence suggests Portugal manager Fernando Santos likes his game and sees something he can use.

    Neither of those left-back options are defensively inclined, but the Benfica man is 10 years older than Guerreiro, which gives him an advantage.

    If Santos needs something more in attack, then the burgeoning prospect could get some minutes.

14. Caner Erkin, Turkey

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    Defensive Rating: 35/50

    Saying "Caner Erkin's 2015/16 with Fenerbahce could have gone better" is an understatement. Controversy with manager Vitor Pereira led to suspension and his missing the year's last one-and-a-half months, which placed his international eligibility in doubt.

    Erkin started 21 of his club's 60 matches in all competitions last season, and they were worse for it.

    As a more attack-minded full-back, the Turkey international's failure to apply pressure to Fenerbahce's opposition simply invited more pressure on to them. Still a massive task for most Turkish sides, the Yellow Canaries kicked on but not to the level they could or should have.

    Attacking Rating: 38/50

    Starting his career as a left winger, the 27-year-old has the requisite ball skills and technical ability to play in the final third but uses his anticipation and crossing prowess to better effect at left-back.

    Erkin registered eight assists last year. A complete season and the Turk would have been favoured to reach double digits, but injury and suspension scuttled that mission.

    Overall Rating: 73/100

    Last playing 90 minutes on March 17, Erkin's suspension was a concern heading into the summer tournament, but the Fenerbahce defender is the best left-back his nation has and was selected for Turkey's Euro 2016 squad.

    How quickly he can get back to match fitness, however, is the real question.

13. Eliseu, Portugal

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    Defensive Rating: 35/50

    Eliseu has bounced around. From Portugal to Spain to Italy and then back to his homeland again, the 32-year-old has seen most things professional football has to offer.

    That said, Fabio Coentrao has held Portugal's left-back spot for nearly eight years, amassing 51 caps. Out of Euro 2016 with a thigh injury, the Real Madrid man's back-up is now thrust into the unknown of competitive international football.

    His more than 350 matches of club experience should come in handy. An aggressive tackler, with a decent turn of pace, Eliseu's defence will be just as important as his offensive punch.

    Attacking Rating: 38/50

    Benfica's first-choice left-back has a ferocious left foot. Capable of playing winger, Eliseu has scored 37 goals in his professional career—more than a few of them bullets.

    His useful needs to Portugal's national side will be keeping defensive shape but also looking for key passes to his team-mates and windows to unleash his powerful shot.

    Overall Rating: 73/100

    Featuring in seven European qualifiers, that's the furthest Eliseu has been. Playing probably his first and only major international competition, the 32-year-old left-back has the most important month of his career ahead.

    No time like the present.

12. Ben Davies, Wales

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    Defensive Rating: 39/50

    Moving from Swansea City to Tottenham Hotspur in 2014, Ben Davies was meant to be Spurs' first-choice left-back after a less than spectacular season from Danny Rose. The Welshman's arrival, though, pushed on Rose, and they have split starts.

    The 23-year-old started seven of Tottenham's first eight Premier League matches, but then Rose got his chance and did not look back. From the season's ninth game to the season's end, Davies started 10 EPL games.

    Maybe Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino noticed Davies' offensive game lacks in places where Rose's doesn't, and the Englishman has more physical attributes to make up for mistakes on the defensive end.

    Attacking Rating: 37/50

    This is not to call Davies a slouch. His offensive timing is decent. The Wales international is a frequent passer and crosser of the ball.

    Despite starting 33 percent fewer league matches than Rose, Davies only had one fewer assist—showing, at least when compared to his team-mate, the Welshman can provide offence.

    Overall Rating: 76/100

    Interestingly, for Wales, manager Chris Coleman employs a back three or back five (depending). Taking advantage of Davies' pace, passing and defensive acumen, Coleman uses him as either a left wing-back or left-sided centre-back.

    Wales are far from favourites but do have match winners. For them to collect points at Euro 2016, the Welsh defence must be rock solid—that includes their Tottenham left-back.

11. Lucas Digne, France

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    Defensive Rating: 39/50

    Even at 35, there isn't much debate about France's first-choice left-back; Patrice Evra has held that title since Lilian Thuram retired in 2008. Evra's deputy, however, is not always clear. Didier Deschamps opted for Paris-Saint Germain's Lucas Digne as his second-choice left-back.

    On loan with AS Roma, the Italians have an option to buy the Frenchman this summer—and probably will.

    A more defensively inclined full-back, Digne is more physically natured than his other French competition—it probably gives him an edge in Deschamps' mind.

    Attacking Rating: 39/50

    That is not to suggest the young left-back prefers parked buses.

    In Serie A, Digne registered three goals and three assists last season.

    Roma aren't a defensive Italian side; they scored the most goals (83) in Serie A. Wanting to take advantage of their pace and technical attacking options, Luciano Spalletti's full-backs have no choice but to get forward—helping his team attack.

    Overall Rating: 78/100

    Ideally for France, Euro 2016 won't be Digne's coming-out party. Evra would be Les Blues' first option the entire way.

    Should Digne be needed, though, he has 148 senior appearances and 12 France caps—so, while maybe not the best second option, the 22-year-old defender has been prepared (as much as he can be).

10. Yuri Zhirkov, Russia

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    Defensive Rating: 37/50

    Yuri Zhirkov is an all-round footballer. Assigning him an outright role would be unfair.

    He frequently plays left-back for Russia but can be found anywhere: left-back, defensive, central or attacking midfield, left midfield or left wing—wherever you need him on the left-hand side, basically.

    That does spread him thin in terms of specialising and mastering a position. Playing left-back requires the attacking component, but defending is an art form all its own—some of that gets lost when charged with playing all over.

    Attacking Rating: 43/50

    That versatility, though, makes him a fantastic offensive full-back when asked.

    Technical, skilful and a willing runner, the Russian has the offensive portion of full-back down. It could be said he does not have enough end product (in terms of goals for the positions he takes), but Zhirkov's 82 career assists (domestic and international) are the envy of most defenders.

    Overall Rating: 80/100

    Sixty-eight Russia caps show his consistent performances over the last decade-plus; not quite a world-class player, Zhirkov is a magnificent squad player. The 32-year-old has won two Russian titles and even the Premier League with Chelsea in 2009/10 (appearing 17 times for Carlo Ancelotti).

    Zhirkov was chosen for the UEFA Euro 2008 Team of the Tournament, and Russia need at least one more great competition from their jack of all trades.

9. Mattia De Sciglio, Italy

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    Defensive Rating: 40/50

    Mattia De Sciglio is a right-footed full-back who can play on either side, like the Italian version of Spain's Cesar Azpilicueta.

    Italy manager Antonio Conte will not disrupt the back three of Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini, so the AC Milan man could be used as a left wing-back, keeping Matteo Darmian on his preferred right flank.

    Moreover, in the event tactical changes are necessary, De Sciglio's versatility makes him an imperative selection.

    Attacking Rating: 40/50

    Italy do not make tournaments easy; they eventually need a 0-0 or 1-0 scoreline to get them through. While their back three is Europe's best, having De Sciglio makes defending easier.

    By the same token, his pace can help break up the monotony of low blocks and clearances. Always looking for out balls and ways to use his passing ability, the 23-year-old poses legitimate danger at wing-back.

    Overall Rating: 80/100

    Depending on Conte's tactical inclinations, De Sciglio's role could either be massive or peripheral.

    On the left wing, getting up and down, sending crosses to the likes of Graziano Pelle appears advantageous. Likewise, helping protect the channels, keeping his back three in position and not getting too drawn out is crucial to Italy's success.

    In Conte's last international tournament before taking over at Chelsea, he will need to get the man from Milan's role exactly right.

8. Jonas Hector, Germany

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    Defensive Rating: 41/50

    Jonas Hector was probably the Bundesliga's best left-back last season.

    FC Cologne were mid-table dwellers in the German first division, and their middling level afforded Hector opportunities to improve himself. Playing 32 of 34 league matches, the defender was top-10 in tackles, interceptions and clearances at his position.

    Adding to his repertoire, Hector featured nine times in defensive midfield, displaying his passing and open-field tackling.

    Attacking Rating: 41/50

    A decent crosser and dribbler, the 26-year-old created four goals via assists in 2015/16 and was the Bundesliga's third-best left-back in successful dribbles.

    It seems unclear whether Cologne can hold on to Hector; wearing their shirt 132 times, it might be time for him to broaden his horizons.

    Overall Rating: 82/100

    Germany manager Joachim Low can deploy natural centre-back Benedikt Howedes at left-back. It seems unlikely the Schalke 04 captain—who played every minute of the 2014 FIFA World Cup—will be on Die Mannschaft's bench, but if injuries or suspension arise, Hector is a solid option.

    Chosen over Borussia Dortmund's Marcel Schmelzer, Hector has the faith of his manager, which should fill him with confidence moving past the summer's tournament.

7. Ryan Bertrand, England

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    Defensive Rating: 42/50

    Believed by Chelsea supporters to be the heir apparent to Ashley Cole's left-back mantle at Stamford Bridge, Ryan Bertrand was sold to Southampton (after nine loan spells) in the 2014 winter transfer window for £10 million. That might have been a mistake.

    The 26-year-old has since blossomed into one of England's best full-backs. On 2014/15's PFA Team of the Year, Bertrand has found a home at St Mary's Stadium.

    Not the position's best tackler (but a strong one), the burgeoning defender uses speed and anticipation to play passing lanes, steal possession and get forward.

    Attacking Rating: 44/50

    In the defensive aspect, Blues fans were wrong in their projections, but not attacking-wise.

    Making runs into the opponent's box, linking with his midfielders and centre-forwards, Bertrand has made himself into an offensive full-back. Capable of playing left midfield as well, as he did in the 2011/12 UEFA Champions League final, those skills have made his attack-leaning temperament ideal.

    Overall Rating: 86/100

    Selected over fellow left-backs Aaron Cresswell, Kieran Gibbs, Luke Shaw and Leighton Baines for Roy Hodgson's England squad, Bertrand has propelled himself at Southampton.

    Danny Rose should start above him, but his Saints counterpart has more than enough in his tank to take over if required.

6. Christian Fuchs, Austria

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    Defensive Rating: 43/50

    Bouncing around Austria and Germany for the last decade-plus, Christian Fuchs somehow found his way to Leicester City last summer and had little clue what he was signing up for.

    The left-back was one of manager Claudio Ranieri's stalwarts during their highly improbable, somewhat miraculous 2015/16 Premier League title-winning campaign.

    Fuchs' presence had a profound effect on left midfielder Marc Albrighton, which spread across the pitch. Like a stabilising influence, using his tactical awareness to protect his forward options and shield his centre-backs, the Austria international was imperative to Leicester's success.

    Attacking Rating: 43/50

    Overlooked due to the heroics of Riyad Mahrez, Jamie Vardy and others, Fuchs was a necessary offensive contributor. He assisted four times last season. A would-be dead-ball specialist, the 30-year-old was Ranieri's primary corner-taker.

    His crossing was a constant source of danger for opposing defences, but knowing his role, staying home and protecting the left flank was a more pressing issue.

    Overall Rating: 86/100

    David Alaba has not played left-back for Austria since 2009. The 23-year-old is more useful farther forward, using his considerable talent to score.

    Fuchs has kept the Bayern Munich dynamo in central midfield for almost eight years, and that will not change at Euro 2016. As Austria captain, the 30-year-old has done everything (and more) to warrant the continuation of head coach Marcel Koller's setup.

5. Danny Rose, England

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    Defensive Rating: 43/50

    Danny Rose was not Tottenham Hotspur's first-choice left-back to start the season but earned his spot in Spurs' starting XI and won 2015/16 PFA Team of the Year honours.

    Starting 24 Premier League games for Pochettino's side, the 25-year-old was an instrumental piece in the north Londoners' failed title challenge. Fending off Ben Davies, Rose's speed and tackling set him apart from his Welsh counterpart.

    Twenty percent of the EPL's best back five (goalkeeper Hugo Lloris included), the Englishman and his defence had the EPL's best goal difference, conceding the fewest goals of any top-flight club.

    Attacking Rating: 45/50

    Rose's attacking threat is not to be overlooked.

    His three assists and one goal, despite missing 14 league matches, are splendid for a player with a rather particular manager.

    Using his pace and dribbling, the young defender gets into great positions and has the potential for spectacular finishes and assists.

    Overall Rating: 88/100

    Earning national manager Roy Hodgson's trust with his performances last season, Rose should start for England at Euro 2016.

    He will not have the Belgium centre-back partnership of Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld to protect him, but four other Englishmen from his Spurs side are going to France.

    That continuity should aid Rose's play.

4. Patrice Evra, France

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    Defensive Rating: 45/50

    Patrice Evra found Juventus' proverbial green grass after leaving Manchester United in 2014.

    Not quite the retirement league many thought he would go to, Serie A has been great for the left-back. His experience in the fast-paced Premier League was ideal for the slower-paced, tactical, methodical Italian league.

    The France international's marking and tackling are adept and fashioned to left-back; he's spent the majority of his career there.

    Attacking Rating: 45/50

    Juve manager Massimiliano Allegri prefers a back three of Giorgio Chiellini, Andrea Barzagli and Leonardo Bonucci, so Evra's passing, energy and knowledge make him an equally useful left wing-back.

    Playing 640 senior matches at club level, and given 71 France caps, his reading of the game is brilliant. The Senegal-born Frenchman knows when he is needed in defence and when his attack requires assistance.

    Overall Rating: 90/100

    After 35 appearances in 2015/16, the 35-year-old defender signed a contract extension to play another two years with Juventus.

    In all likelihood, Euro 2016 is Evra's last international competition. If France win the trophy at the Stade de France, might that be enough for their left-back to hang up his boots for good?

    He would love that choice, no doubt.

3. Jordi Alba, Spain

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    Defensive Rating: 42/50

    A near automatic starter for Barcelona, Jordi Alba is La Liga's foremost European left-back. Bought from Valencia in 2012, the defender has played 159 matches for the two-time defending Spanish champions.

    Full-backs for manager Luis Enrique's club are essentially secondary wingers. Presented with low defensive blocks, Barca are tasked with finding ways to break down defences. Alba and right-back Dani Alves use their pace to apply pressure and join their attacking team-mates.

    As a result, Alba is not always tested defensively. He can tackle, and he can man mark, but those elements of his game are not the sharpest, mainly because they don't need to be.

    Attacking Rating: 49/50

    The left-back makes up for his less than enviable defensive prowess with speed, overlapping, underlapping and connective play. Alba had six assists in Spain's first division.

    Team-mates with Lionel Messi, Neymar, Luis Suarez, Andres Iniesta and other attacking options, the 27-year-old's forward-thinking mentality creates space and, by consequence, chances.

    Overall Rating: 91/100

    Probably determined by the opponent's strengths and weaknesses, Alba will share starts with Chelsea's Cesar Azpilicueta for Spain's national side. Against sides with more defensive proclivities, Alba is the perfect full-back to pick locks.

    When faced with more offensively capable squads, Azpilicueta's more steely approach to left-back appears sensible over Alba's silk.

2. Cesar Azpilicueta, Spain

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    Defensive Rating: 49/50

    Chelsea bordered on abject last season.

    Their full-back trio of Branislav Ivanovic, Abdul Rahman Baba and Cesar Azpilicueta did not have the greatest time collectively. The Serbian looked slow, the Ghanaian looked young and the Spaniard was spread thin putting out fires along his back four.

    Perhaps the Premier League's best one-on-one defender at full-back, Azpilicueta can play on either side. His preferred position is right-back, but former manager Jose Mourinho switched his position to accommodate Ivanovic.

    At left-back, the 26-year-old is just as proficient defensively (if not more so), and Spain capitalise on that.

    Attacking Rating: 43/50

    On the left-hand side, Azpilicueta is handicapped moving forward. Spending three seasons at left-back, his left foot has improved but not to the point of attacking opulence.

    More likely to find his midfielders with short passes than send crosses into the 18-yard box, the Spain international is a willing runner but not one with much end product.

    Overall Rating: 92/100

    Playing the European qualifiers for Vicente del Bosque at left-back, Azpilicueta has assimilated into life at the position.

    His competition, Jordi Alba, provides attacking impetus, but the Chelsea man offers more defensive stability on the left—something lacking for Spain at 2014's FIFA World Cup.

1. Ricardo Rodriguez, Switzerland

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    Defensive Rating: 46/50 

    It is uncertain whether the left-back field is world-class or simply competitive, but Europe's top defender on the southpaw flank is VfL Wolfsburg's Ricardo Rodriguez.

    The Switzerland international is an all-round full-back. His defensive work is excellent. A competent tacker, he made 37 in 24 Bundesliga appearances last season; the 23-year-old also logged 43 interceptions.

    Rodriguez's defensive contributions, though, can be better assessed by the pressure he places on the wingers, midfielders and full-backs of his opponent.

    Attacking Rating: 48/50 

    Despite missing 10 league matches, Wolfsburg's left-back was the leader or joint leader in passes completed, shots attempted and goals at his position.

    In 205 professional matches at FC Zurich and Wolfsburg, Rodriguez is responsible for creating or scoring 57 goals. His ability to get forward stifles the attacking power of the opposition's right-hand side—offence being the best form of defence, as it were.

    Overall Rating: 94/100

    In a group with France, Rodriguez's defending abilities will be tested by, arguably, Euro 2016's best attacking side.

    Kingsley Coman, Anthony Martial and Antoine Griezmann are dangerous on their day (that being every day), but their desire, or lack thereof, to track Rodriguez's runs could give Switzerland a foothold.

    Using space and timing to his advantage, the young, world-class full-back should enjoy a great summer.

    ICYMI: UEFA Euro 2016, B/R 200, Top 20 Goalkeepers

    *Stats and transfer fees via WhoScored.com, Transfermarkt and Soccerbase where not noted.