The rapid evolution of football in the 21st century has transformed the left-back position into a prominent one. More is now expected of left-backs in the ever-demanding modern-day tactical obsessions.
Left-backs play a crucial role nowadays as they not only offer solid defensive cover but also provide an attacking threat down the flank.
Moreover, some even become playmakers when opposition teams sit too deeply.
This has regularly brought about a new breed of young left-backs, continuing the production of lots of stars in that No.3 position.
Here, TOP SOCCER BLOG looks at the top 10 best young left-backs in the world in 2023.
1. Alphonso Davies (Bayern Munich — 22 years old)
Considered one of the best left-backs in the world, Alphonso Davies is nicknamed “The Roadrunner” due to his exceptional pace, dribbling ability, and creativity.
He was the first player born in the 2000s to play in a Major League Soccer match.
He left for Bayern Munich in January 2019 from MLS side Vancouver Whitecaps FC on a then-record MLS transfer fee.
Davies was named the Bundesliga Rookie of the Season in 2019/20.
That same season, he was part of the team that won the continental treble after Bayern Munich won the Bundesliga, the UEFA Champions League, and the DFB-Pokal.
Furthermore, Davies scored Canada’s first-ever World Cup goal at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
This season, the 22-year-old has so far made 32 appearances in all competitions, scoring 3 goals and made 8 assists, cementing his status as one of the best young defenders in football.
The Canadian is incredibly fast, both in terms of his running speed and his ability to get up and down the flank.
He is able to outpace most attackers, which made him a significant threat going forward, but also allowed him to recover and defend effectively.
2. Alejandro Balde (Barcelona — 19 years old)
Alejandro Balde is one of the best young left-backs in world football due to his pace, dribbling, passing, and style of play.
He came through Barcelona’s La Masia academy and made his senior debut in 2021. That summer, he signed a contract renewal with Barcelona until 2024 with a €500 million release clause.
This season, Balde was given a more prominent role by coach Xavi, starting in more league matches than Jordi Alba and receiving more minutes in important matches.
Alejandro Balde was a surprise inclusion in Spain’s squad to the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
What makes Balde one of the best young left-backs in the world is his pace, skill, and directness.
He is extremely quick, both with and without the ball. His pace allowed him to cover a lot of ground quickly and make recovery tackles that few other defenders could.
His speed also made him a threat going forward, as he was able to outrun most defenders on the overlap.
3. Nuno Mendes (PSG — 20 years old)
Nuno Mendes came through Sporting Lisbon’s youth academy and made his first-team debut in 2020.
In 2021, he won a double of the Primeira Liga and Taça da Liga while being named in the Primeira Liga Team of the Year.
In August 2021, he joined Paris Saint-Germain on a one-year loan deal, lifted the Ligue 1 title, and signed for the club permanently for €38 million.
The 20-year-old plays as a left-sided attacking full-back or wing-back, allowing him to create danger from a standing start or whilst on the counter-attack.
Apart from his dribbling, he boasts an excellent crossing ability, whether tightly marked or open in space, and his physical prowess allows him to beat opponents to the ball with his speed or strength.
Moreso, the Portuguese can also anticipate attacks, cut in front of a pass, and win the ball back.
Mendes made his full international debut in 2021 and was chosen in the squads for Euro 2020 and the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Nuno has played 28 games for PSG in all competitions this campaign, scoring 2 goals as well as supplying 5 assists.
4. Ryan Sessegnon (Tottenham — 22 years old)
Ryan Sessegnon made his breakthrough with Fulham in 2016, aged just 16.
He made an immediate impact, becoming the first footballer born in the 2000s to score a goal in a first-team game in the professional English leagues and the youngest-ever player to score in a Championship match.
In 2017/18 (his second season), Sessegnon was crucial as Fulham achieved promotion to the Premier League via the play-offs, scoring 15 goals and winning numerous personal awards.
He played 120 games and 25 goals for Fulham before joining Tottenham for a £25 million fee in 2019.
He struggled to get regular playing time at Spurs and joined Bundesliga side Hoffenheim on loan in 2020.
He has now gradually made his way to the Tottenham first eleven (mostly as a wing-back), registering 23 matches, 2 goals, and 1 assist in 2022/23.
On the 27th of May 2019, Ryan Sessegnon set a Guinness World record for the “Fastest time to hit both football goal posts and crossbar” in just 7.75 seconds!!!
5. Rayan Aït-Nouri (Wolves — 21 years old)
Rayan Aït-Nouri graduated from Angers youth academy and signed his professional contract aged 16 in February 2018. He made his first team debut 6 months later.
The Algerian is also one of the best young African football talents right now.
He joined Wolverhampton Wanderers on an initial loan deal in 2020. His impressive performances convinced Wolves to buy him permanently at the end of that season.
Aït-Nouri continues to be an important player for the club. He has 2 goals and 1 assist in 26 appearances this season.
6. Tyrell Malacia (Man Utd — 23 years old)
Tyrell Malacia joined Feyenoord’s youth system at the age of 9. He made his professional debut for the club in December 2017 and won the KNVB Cup in 2018.
He was named in the UEFA Europa Conference League Team of the Season in 2022 after helping his club win a runners-up medal in the competition.
Later summer, the Dutch left-back joined Manchester United to team up with long-time admirer Erik ten Hag.
Despite Luke Shaw’s rejuvenation this season, Malacia has still managed to make 30 appearances for the Red Devils so far.
The Dutchman is an intelligent defender who knows how to read the game. He is able to anticipate the movements of opposing attackers and position himself well to make interceptions and tackles.
7. Aaron Hickey (Brentford — 20 years old)
Aaron Hickey is a versatile left-back who can also play as a right-back, central midfielder, and centre-back.
His playing style and determination has earned him comparisons with fellow Scottish left-back Andy Robertson (Liverpool).
Hickey has established himself as an important player for Premier League high flyers Brentford in 2022/23. He has made 15 Premier League appearances already.
8. Milos Kerkez (AZ Alkmaar — 19 years old)
Due to limited opportunities at AC Milan, Milos Kerkez joined Dutch Eredivisie side AZ Alkmaar in January 2022.
The 19-year-old has quickly settled in Holland and has become a prominent figure in at his club.
He has had 41 appearances, 4 goals, and 7 assists so far this season.
The Hungarian is an excellent crosser of the ball, and possesses a powerful left foot that he used to whip in dangerous crosses from the left flank.
9. Destiny Udogie (Udinese/on loan from Tottenham — 20 years old)
Destiny Udogie joined Udinese in 2021. During his debut season, he made 37 appearances for the club and scored 5 goals.
His form convinced Tottenham to sign him. He was immediately loaned back to Udinese for the 2022/23 season to earn more playing time.
Udogie has even improved his performances this term, making 24 appearances, scoring 3 goals, and providing 3 assists.
The Italian of Nigerian descent is often described as an attack-minded full-back, who is also technically gifted.
He has an excellent ball control and is able to dribble past opponents with ease. His close control and quick feet makes him a difficult player to dispossess.
10. Luca Netz (Borussia Monchengladbach — 19 years old)
Regarded as one of the Bundesliga’s top young talents, Luca Netz is the perfect definition of a modern full-back.
He is fast, quick with his feet, and loves to get into the attacking third regularly.
The German attacking full-back can also easily play as a left wing-back and as a left midfielder.
Moreso, his speed allows him to track back to help out in the defense when his team is out of possession.
Netz has scored 1 goal and provided 2 assists in 15 games this term.
Other notable top young left-backs in football who deserve a honourable mention include:
- Miguel Gutierrez (Girona)
- Tyrick Mitchell (Crystal Palace)
- Pascal Struijk (Leeds United)
- Sergio Gómez (Manchester City)
- Marc Cucurella (Chelsea)
- Quentin Merlin (Nantes)
- Adrien Truffert (Rennes
- Vitaliy Mykolenko (Everton).