Left-footed centre backs in soccer are somewhat of a rarity. Through the course of soccer history there have only been a handful of elite defenders to have played in central areas and who primarily used their left foot. These are the best left footed centre backs.
Yet having them in a team can open up a world of new possibilities. Played in the correct position they have a distinct advantage over their right-footed defensive teammates as they can make passes or clearances with their left foot and distribute the ball more effectively in certain areas. The best left footed centre backs also provide different angles of attack and create more options for their teammates.
So who are the best left-footed soccer centre backs of all-time?
10. Thomas Vermaelen
Retired Belgian central defender Thomas Vermaelen began his soccer career in the youth academy of local club Germinal Ekeren. As one of the best left footed centre backs he went on to play for many of Europe’s top teams including Ajax, Arsenal and Barcelona. Vermaelen was renowned for his leadership, aerial presence and tenacity which made him formidable at the heart of defensive units.
He was also a regular for the Belgian national team, making 85 international appearances and even captaining his country on several occasions. He played a key role in helping Belgium reach the semi-finals of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. Unfortunately, injuries plagued Vermaelen’s career and in 2021 at the age of 35 was forced to call time on his playing career due to recurring knee issues.
9. Jan Vertonghen
Jan Vertonghen proved to be a flexible defender, usually playing at centre-back or sometimes taking up the role of left-back. The Belgian started his professional career at Ajax in 2006 and went on to become a cult favourite, the Dutch side winning two Eredivisie titles and two KNVB cups during this time in Amsterdam. He was also named Dutch Footballer of the Year in 2012.
The following season he moved to EPL side Tottenham Hotspur and was a crucial player for the club over the eight campaigns that followed. He was a part of the Spurs team that reached the Champions League final in 2019 and he helped drive them on to multiple top-four finishes. Undoubtedly one of the best left footed centre backs, the Belgian played in three World Cups and was part of the national side that reached the semi-finals in 2018.
8. Kalidou Koulibaly
Senegal and Chelsea centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly began life at Metz in France before switching to Genk in 2012 then joining Napoli in 2014 where he became one of the best left footed centre backs and best defenders in the world.
Koulibaly has fantastic physicality and strength with amazing aerial ability. He is also comfortable with the ball at his feet, able to carry out from the back whilst capable of making incisive passes into midfield. Koulibaly finally made his big move to the Premier League in 2022 signing for Chelsea.
7. Gabriel Heinze
Gabriel Heinze started life at Argentine side Newell’s Old Boys before moving to Europe to play for Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United and Real Madrid. He later featured for Marseille and Roma.
Heinze was one of the best left footed centre backs and had an aggressive style along with tenacity. He was a regular member of Argentina’s National team, playing in two World Cups and part of the side that reached the quarter-finals in 2006. Heinze retired from professional soccer in 2014 to pursue his coaching career with Atlanta United in the MLS.
6. Walter Samuel
Retired Argentine professional soccer player Walter Samuel featured as a centre-back most famously for Roma, Real Madrid and Inter Milan. As one of the best left footed centre backs he was extremely physical and had great aerial ability. Samuel was ever present for the Argentine national team, playing in two World Cups and part of the team that won gold at the 2004 Olympics.
He went on to pursue a career in coaching, becoming an assistant at various clubs including Inter Milan, Basel and Argentine club Estudiantes. Samuel is one of the best left-footed defenders of his generation with an illustrious career spanning over two decades playing in the world’s top soccer leagues.
5. David Alaba
David Alaba’s career began at Bundesliga side Bayern Munich where he quickly established himself as a key player. During his 12-year spell with the German giants the Austrian developed into one of the best left footed centre backs – going on to win ten league titles, two Champions League honours and multiple other domestic trophies.
He is versatile, technically gifted and comfortable playing in various positions. Alaba has incredible passing and dribbling abilities whilst also being capable of scoring goals. He has also been a regular member of the Austrian national team and was named Austrian Footballer of the Year a total of seven times. In 2021, Alaba signed for Real Madrid on a free transfer which only further cemented his reputation as one of the best defenders in the world.
4. Daniel Passarella
Daniel Passarella started his career at River Plate in Argentina before moving to Fiorentina and the later to Inter Milan. One of the best left footed centre backs, he was known for fantastic leadership skills, aerial ability and even scoring goals from set-pieces.
The Argentinian was also a regular member of the national team, playing in two World Cups and even helping his country win the tournament in 1978. After his retirement he managed several clubs including River Plate, Uruguay’s national team and Corinthians in Brazil. Passarella has also worked as a soccer administrator, serving as the President of River Plate between 2009 and 2013.
3. Frank De Boer
Frank de Boer won a range of domestic and international trophies at Ajax including five Eredivisie titles and the UEFA Champions League. He had a fantastic reading of the game, his ability to play accurate long-range passes made him one of the best left footed centre backs and a key player in the Amsterdam side’s success during the 1990s.
He was a crucial member of the Dutch national team, featuring in three World Cups and reaching the semi-finals in 1998. After retiring from soccer, de Boer developed a career in coaching, managing several clubs including Ajax, Inter Milan and Atlanta United.
2. Alessandro Costacurta
Retired Italian Alessandro Costacurta spent the majority of his professional soccer career at AC Milan, where he won a host of domestic and international trophies, including seven Serie A titles and an incredible five UEFA Champions League titles.
Costacurta was intelligent, an expert at positioning and possessed great aerial ability making him a formidable opponent. He was very comfortable with the ball at his feet, eager to make precise passes and able to start attacks from the back. Costacurta was one of the best left footed centre backs who played in three World Cups and helped his country reach the final in 1994.
1. Giorgio Chiellini
Giorgio Chiellini currently plays for MLS side Los Angeles FC but began his career at Livorno’s youth academy. He went on to play for several Italian clubs including Fiorentina and Juventus where he established himself as one of the best left footed centre backs and best defenders in the world.
Chiellini amassed an impressive collection of domestic and international titles with Juventus including ten Serie A titles. He made 117 appearances for Italy and represented his country in several major international tournaments including the FIFA World Cup and the UEFA European Championship – which they won in 2021. Chiellini will be remembered as possibly one of the best left footed centre backs all-time if not the greatest.
Typically it’s my passion for Sports and Music that get the typing juices flowing. But ultimately I enjoy writing or blogging about any topic I can get my keyboard thrashing hands on!