Football's Greatest Left Backs of all-time
Whilst Junior started his career as a right-back and finished it as a midfielder, it's as a fantastic attacking left-back for which he will be best remembered by the majority of the football world. Junior was two footed, which is the reason why he started out on the right flank, and he had outstanding technique and vision, his ability to read the game and pick out a decisive pass or find a team-mate from out of nowhere was also one of the reasons why he was later deployed as a midfield playmaker. In addition to these skills, Junior had a terrific engine, motoring up and down the flank and acting like an extra winger at times.
No.2 Andreas Brehme
Brilliant attacking full-back or wing-back, Andy Brehme was of the world's greatest left backs in the second half of the 1980s and early 1990s. He is one of the few players who was completely two-footed, with teammates , coaches and commentators regularly stating that they didn't know which was his stronger foot. This meant that whilst he mainly played on the left flank he could also play on the right as well. Brehme said that he thought his right foot was more accurate but his left foot more powerful. Brehme was renowned for his fantastic delivery from his crosses, and his accuracy and power with the ball at his feet also meant he was a set-piece expert. He scored some great goals from free-kicks but his penalty taking was even more extraordinary, goalkeepers not knowing whether he would line up to take them right footed or left footed.
No.3 Ruud Krol
Krol is best remembered as the great left-back in the Total Football teams of both Ajax and the Netherlands in the early 1970s. His fine technique, attacking prowess, intelligence on the ball and great range of passing (with both feet) meant that he was the perfect full-back to fit into the flexible Dutch system.
Krol was so comfortable on the ball that he was also capable of switching into midfield if required. But it's as a defender for which Krol was best known, his defensive qualities and leadership perfectly complemented his attacking skills to make him one of the world's great all-round defenders, and the latter part of his career would see him move to a sweeper role, where his calmness and composure on the ball was ideal for organising his teams and starting attacks from the back.
No.4 Roberto Carlos
Mention Roberto Carlos and you will inevitably get a number of responses immediately saying something along the lines of.. "that free-kick against France". And whilst that was an iconic moment for the Brazilian, there was so much more to his game that you sometimes feels gets completely overlooked in favour of that momentous bending 40 yard free-kick.
What Roberto Carlos lacked in height he more than made for up for in his physicality. He had thighs like tree trunks and was quick off the mark, full of stamina and aggressive in the tackle. He was a great dribbler too, often carrying the ball from deep with surging runs down the wing. So whilst he may have become renowned for his set pieces with the majority of the mainstream media, it was the rest of his game that his coaches, team-mates and fans really appreciated.
Roberto Carlos had started out in Brazil with local São Paulo club União São João before moving to Palmeiras, it was with the São Paulo giants that he started to make an immediate impact and name for himself, his attacking prowess down the left helping the club win two consecutive Campeonato Brasileiro Série A titles in his two seasons there. His attacking flair alerted a number of European club scouts, and the 22 year-old was soon moving to Italy, joining another Young South American talent, Javier Zanetti, in moving to Inter. Whilst Zanetti would go on to become a club legend, Roberto Carlos struggled, Roy Hodgson playing him on the wing, a role that didn't suit him. Fabio Capello would snap him up for Real Madrid immediately, and from 1996 onwards Roberto Carlos would become a mainstay of their team, going on to become the clubs most capped foreign player, overtaking the record held by another club legend, Alfredo Di Stefano.
No.5 Bixente Lizarazu
Terrific French left-back who became well known for his pacy, attacking play in his ten years at Bordeaux in the late 1980s and then into the 1990s. He was part of a talented Bordeaux team including Zinedine Zidane and Christophe Dugarry. The summer of 1996 would see all three of them snapped up by foreign clubs, Zidane and Dugarry moving to Italy with Juventus and Milan respectively, whilst Lizarazu made an unusual move across the Pyrenees to Spain. Unusual in the fact that the club was Athletic Bilbao, who have a policy of only signing Basque players. Yet, whilst many assume that this just means Spanish players, the Basque region actually covers an area of France as well, and because Lizarazu was born there, it meant he was allowed to play for them. He had one season at the San Mamés before transferring to Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich in 1997. Lizarazu would enjoy a highly successful time with the Bavarian club, winning two Bundesliga titles at the end of the 1990s and going on to claim six titles in total there during two spells with the club.
At international level, Lizarazu made his debut for Les Bleues in 1992. However, with France suffering the qualification debacle against Bulgaria for USA ‘94 (although it was actually Emmanuel Petit who would play left back for France in that fateful match), Lizarazu would have to wait until 1998 to make his debut at a World Cup tournament. But he quickly made up for lost time, playing in six out of Frances's seven matches in the tournament, and being an integral part of the team as France lifted the trophy for the first time. He would quickly follow it up with more international silverware at the end of the decade as France followed up their World Cup triumph with European glory, beating Italy in Rotterdam at the Euro 2000 final, Lizarazu again playing a huge part in their triumph with his fantastic play down the left flank.