Up next in my positional top fives is left-back.
First up is probably my favourite left-back of all-time, Roberto Carlos. The recently retired left-back is my favourite left-back of all-time simply because of his ability in both attacking and defending and he managed to epitomise the modern day full-back. Roberto Carlos greatest assets were his speed, long throw-ins and his unbelievable shot.
He managed 606 career league appearances, scoring 75 league goals but he was best known for his spell at Spanish giants Real Madrid, who he was at for 11 years. At Real Madrid, he amassed 584 appearances in all competitions, scoring 71 goals (370 league appearances, 46 league goals). He played 30 or more league matches for 10 consecutive seasons and was one of the best and most consistent defenders in the world during this time.
In 2006, he set an all-time record for Real Madrid for the most league appearances from a non-Spanish born player by making his 330th appearances, breaking Alfredo Di Stefano’s previous record of 228. Roberto Carlos won 20 club trophies over his career: with Palmeiras, two Brazil Serie A’s, two Campeonato Paulista, one Torneio Rio-Sao Paulo; Real Madrid, four La Liga’s, three Spanish Super Copa’s, three UEFA Champions League’s, two Intercontinental cup’s, one UEFA Super Cup and he won two Turkish Super Cups with Fenerbahce. Carlos is one of 19 players to have played 100 or more Champions League games.
He also made 125 appearances for the Brazilian national team, scoring 11 goals, he also won two Copa America’s, one Confederations Cup and World Cup 2002.
Carlos’ most famous individual moment was probably his ‘banana shot’ free-kick against France in 1997 in which he managed to score from 35 metres from just to the right of centre, hitting it with his left foot, which looked to be going well wide but managed to swing back into the net, leaving Fabian Barthez rooted to his spot. He also managed to score a goal from a seemingly impossible angle (pretty much next to the corner flag) against Tenerife in a Copa Del Rey match.
|Roberto Carlos turning out for Brazil|
Coming second is probably the most loyal footballer ever to grace the beautiful game. Paolo Maldini was the ultimate one-club man, spending 25 seasons at AC Milan, amassing a total of 903 appearances and scoring 29 goals.
Maldini’s ability to perform phenomally for 25 seasons make him recognized as one of the best defenders of all-time. During the 1990’s he was able to form a formidable defence alongside Franco Baresi, Alessandro Costacurta & Mauro Tassotti which is known as one of the best in Italian football history. Following Baresi’s retirement, Maldini was able to form a successful partnership with Alessandro Nesta until his retirement.
With Milan, Maldini was the receiver of seven Serie A titles, one Coppa Italia, five Super Coppa Italiana’s, five UEFA Champions League titles, five UEFA Super Cups, two Intercontinental Cups and one FIFA Club World Cups. Maldini made 126 appearances for the Italian national team, scoring 7 goals but he retired trophyless in 2002 as Italy’s most capped player of all-time.
In February 2008, he reached 1,000 career matches for Italy and AC Milan combined when he entered a match as a substitute against Parma. AC Milan retired the number 3 shirt in memory of Maldini’s unbreakable loyalty to the club, but it can be brought out of retirement should one of his sons (who are signed to AC) make it into the first-team and pick their fathers famous shirt.
Maldini’s key strengths on the pitch were his ability to read the game expertly and make interceptions with his great speed which obviously dwindled the more he reached the twilight of his career. His strong leadership and influence both on and off the pitch made him the ideal candidate for Milan and Italy captain during his career.
|Paolo Maldini captaining AC Milan|
Third up is not one of my favourite footballers, because of obvious reasons. Ashley Cole is a left-back who is, for me, not just one of the greatest left-backs ever but England’s greatest left-back ever. Despite multiple off-the-pitch controversies, Cole has continued to go from strength to strength in his career.
Cole has so far made 504 career league appearances for Crystal Palace, Arsenal & Chelsea combined, scoring 17 goals. He broke into the Arsenal squad in 2000 and made 228 appearances for Arsenal in six years until he left for Chelsea after the “tapping-up” scandal in 2006. He was also involved in the Arsenal team that went 49 games unbeaten.
During his time at Arsenal, Cole won two Premiership titles, three FA cups and two Community Shield’s. Cole went on to join Chelsea in 2006 and has continued to cement himself as the best and most consistent left-back the Premiership has ever seen, so far making 276 appearances for the Blues and winning a further one Premiership title, four FA cups, one League Cup, one Community Shield and his most cherished of trophies, the Champions League which Chelsea managed to secure in May 2012. Cole has the most FA cup winners medals of all-time, having won it seven times.
Cole is also a permanent fixture in the England national team set-up, having made 99 appearances so far. Cole’s style of play is seen as the way of the modern full-back, using his terrific pace and energy to get involved in both attack and defence, but Cole has never been a player to shun his defensive duties for forward forays.
|Ashley Cole lining up for England|
Fourth up, is Giacinto Facchetti, who is the oldest left-back on this list. He is another one-club man, but unlike Paolo Maldini, he played for the blue and black half of Milan, playing 634 official games for Inter and scoring 75 goals.
He is remembered as one of the first truly great attacking full-backs and one of the greatest in the position. Facchetti began his career as a forward but his first manager at Inter Milan launched him as a full-back, which ultimately turned into an excellent decision after the change of roles saw Facchetti turn into one of the most effective defenders in Italian football.
With Internazionale, Facchetti won four Scudetti, one Italian cup, two European Cups (Champions League, for those who aren’t sure) and two Intercontinental cups and he was part of the Inter team that was known as ‘Grande Inter’. Facchetti was capped 94 times for Italy, (a record at the time which has since been overtaken) scoring three times and wearing the captain’s armband 70 times. He was part of the Italian team that won the 1968 European Cup.
Despite his position, Facchetti was only sent off once during his entire career, one he received for sarcastically applausing the referee. After his death in 2006 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer, Inter posthumously retired Facchetti’s number 3 shirt.
Last up is Andreas Brehme, who is best known for scoring the winner for Germany in the 1990 World Cup final. He is known to be one of the best set-piece takers and delivery specialists of all-time, also being equally adept at playing with both feet, making him a valuable outfield asset.
He was one of the only players who would take penalties with his right-foot and free-kicks and corners with his left, which is now being utilized by both footed players to this day. Brehme racked up 509 career league appearances and despite being a defender he had a knack for scoring goals, finding the net 65 times and scoring for every club he played for; he played for Saarbrucken, Kaiserslautern, Bayern Munich, Inter Milan and Real Zaragoza.
With Kaiserslautern, Brehme won the Bundesliga and the German Cup, he won an additional Bundesliga title with Bayern Munich and another German Supercup. Upon his move to Inter Milan he won one Serie A, one Italian Supercup and the UEFA cup. Brehme made 86 appearances for the German national team, scoring eight goals and winning the 1990 World Cup, in which he the only goal of the game in the 85th minute with a penalty kick.
In 1996, after returning to Kaiserslautern three years prior, he scored an own goal which subsequently got the team relegated, but after sticking with them and helping them win promotion he was a key asset as they won the Bundesliga in 1998.
|Andreas Brehme lining up for the German national team|