The 10 best full-backs heading to Euro 2020
In this article, we’ll reveal who we think are the 10 best full-backs going to Euro 2020 this summer.
Ex-Liverpool and England defender Jamie Carragher once famously said “no one grows up wanting to be a full-back… if you’re a full-back, you’re either a failed winger or a failed centre-back”.
Whether or not this is the case, there remains a swathe of outstanding full-backs across Europe’s top nations. So many, in fact, that the likes of Theo Hernandez and Aaron Wan-Bissaka have not even been included in their national squads.
But who are the top 10 that have made the cut? 101 takes a look.
10) Nuno Mendes (Portugal)
Perhaps one that perhaps does not spring to mind immediately, Nuno Mendes has been incredibly consistent in the left-back berth for Sporting Lisbon in Portugal.
Just 18-years-old, this is his first season at the top flight, yet he appears to have taken to senior-level like a duck to water.
A brilliant crosser of the ball, Mendes has featured in 29 Portuguese league games for Sporting this season, helping them to their first title win since 2001-2002.
His form has been recognised too, with the teenager making his debut for Portugal in March, starting 2 of the 3 World Cup qualification games that month.
Mendes will have to fight off Raphael Guerreiro to make the starting spot his own this summer, but if he able to keep his place, it could prove to be a springboard for his already burgeoning career.
A good tournament will place the left-back firmly in the shop window, with rumours of a £60 million move already crossing back pages around the UK.
The defender could soon find himself following in the footsteps of former Sporting breakout stars Luis Figo and Cristiano Ronaldo and leaving the club he has been at since a child, but first he has to help his nation defend the Euro title that they won in 2016.
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9) Lucas Hernandez (France)
With the omissions of Theo Hernandez as well as Ferland and Benjamin Mendy from Didier Deschamps’ France squad, there will be increased scrutiny on Lucas Hernandez.
In and out of the Bayern Munich side due to the presence of Alphonso Davies, Hernandez still appears to be the favoured left-back in the French side, although Lucas Digne will be sure to provide him with competition this summer.
However, Bayern Munich’s record signing has still made 23 appearances for the German champions in the Bundesliga this season, across both centre-back and left-back.
Hernandez is a strong tackler and performed well at the 2018 World Cup, providing two assists as he helped Les Blues to winning the tournament. His experience at centre-back means that he is well equipped to defend the left flank effectively.
Now 25-years-old, Hernandez still has plenty of time at the top. Nevertheless, he is a force to be reckoned with on France’s left flank this summer, and will be looking to combine effectively on that side with superstar Kylian Mbappe.
8) Zeki Celik (Turkey)
A player rumoured to be on Arsenal’s watchlist, Zeki Celik is a very capable right-back.
Stationed on the right-hand side for Lille, he provided 3 goals and 3 assists in 29 appearances for the new Ligue 1 champions.
Still only 24-years-old, the defender possesses a quick turn of pace and is able to fire the ball across the box with venom and accuracy.
Celik is no slouch defensively either, ranking in the top 6% of fullbacks for pressures and in the top 15% for tackles, both of which were a large factor in Lille’s keeping of 18 clean sheets this season.
Playing for a potentially explosive Turkey side this summer, Celik will be fielded on the right side of a defence including impressive Leicester defender Calgar Soyuncu and former Liverpool loanee Ozan Kabak.
7) Reece James (England)
The first of a whopping four England full-backs on this list, Reece James is a scarily good prospect.
A balance of attack and defence, James could have a career in several positions, but seems most likely to play at right-back for Gareth Southgate this summer.
He provides a more attacking option than Kyle Walker, while he is more defensively sound than Liverpool youngster Trent Alexander-Arnold.
James is viewed as a whole right-back package. He made 32 appearances for Chelsea in the Premier League last season, as he cemented his position in the team.
Although he only provided one goal and two assists, he scores highly in progressive passes, shots taken and expected assists according to fb.ref.
At 21-years-old, James is only going to improve in the future. As he proved in the Champions League final, the Chelsea right-back remains perfectly capable of excelling this summer if his ability is rewarded with the manager’s trust.
6) Ben Chilwell (England)
It really is a toss-up between Ben Chilwell and Luke Shaw for who starts in the left-back berth for England at the Euro 2020.
Both are coming away from brilliant seasons with Chelsea and Manchester United respectively, and both have found themselves in European finals this season, although they experienced different results.
For that reason, both are on this list. Having played in both a back four and at left wing-back in a back three, Chilwell potentially offers England boss Gareth Southgate greater tactical flexibility this summer. He has performed well in both positions, racking up 27 Premier League appearances across two different managers, helping Chelsea finish fourth in the Premier League.
Three goals and five assists in that time demonstrate his qualities in the final third too, and he is sure to only improve, having only moved to west London in 2020.
At 24-years-old, Chilwell has the opportunity to occupy England’s left-back spot for the next 3 major tournaments.
5) Luke Shaw (England)
With Chilwell due to play the Champions League final just 2 weeks before England’s opener against Croatia, Luke Shaw could be in line to start against the side that knocked the Three Lions out of the 2018 World Cup.
Shaw had struggled at Manchester United before this season, but the left-back was one of the Red Devils’ most important players this campaign.
The Englishman contributed five assists in 32 Premier League appearances and has developed into a strong runner with the ball comfortable making either overlapping or underlapping runs.
Also only in his mid-20s, the battle between Shaw and Chilwell for England’s left-back spot in the years to come promises to be a fascinating one.
The most pressing question for the pair and England fans alike is which one is heading to the tournament as first-choice.
4) Trent Alexander-Arnold (England)
England boss Gareth Southgate shocked many when he decided to take four right-backs to the European Championships, and honestly, any four of them could have made this list.
In the end, it felt necessary to cut it down to just two, and Trent Alexander-Arnold had to make the cut,
Until the day the squad was named, it was assumed that Alexander-Arnold wouldn’t be going to the Euros this summer, despite his good form for Liverpool. In a season where the Merseyside club have struggled, Alexander-Arnold had an up-and-down campaign of his own.
TAA provided seven assists and two goals for Liverpool last season.
Having been a mainstay on Liverpool’s right flank for three seasons, it is easy to forget that Alexander-Arnold is still just 22-years-old.
Accusations levelled at his ability defensively are probably a little excessive, but no full-back in the world is able to match the Englishman’s attacking threat and ability to cross the ball, both of which have been invaluable in Liverpool’s recent successes.
It remains to be seen how Southgate intends to use the Liverpool defender, and indeed how he intends to rotate his four right-backs this summer. However, Trent is certainly a dependable option to be able to call on.
3) Jordi Alba (Spain)
A mainstay in Barcelona’s and Spain’s starting XI for a decade, Jordi Alba has developed his game well beyond the sheer speed that first saw him burst through into La Furia Roja’s side.
Now 32, that speed is not as potent, yet he still possesses a swift turn of foot and is not easily beaten in a sprint. He has become increasingly composed in the final third through his career, providing 18 goal contributions across all competitions for Barcelona this season, although he couldn’t help prevent an ultimately disappointing campaign.
Euro 2020 could well be Alba’s final European Championships for Spain, and whilst he is trusted for now by national coach Luis Enrique, a series of bad performances could well see the competent Jose Gaya deputise in his stead.
2) Andy Robertson (Scotland)
Like England, Scotland are blessed with two great left-backs, having both Liverpool’s Andy Robertson and Arsenal’s Kieran Tierney that can fill the role brilliantly. If previous games are anything to go on however, the Arsenal man will be stationed on the left of a back three, with Robertson filling the left wing-back role.
Liverpool’s main creator this season, Robertson played every game of the Premier League season alongside an ever-changing central defensive partnership. The Scot weighed in with a goal and seven assists, and has proved to be a bargain since his £8 million move from Hull City in 2017.
It is hard to see Scotland progressing far this summer despite Premier League stars Tierney, Robertson and John McGinn to name but a few.
If they are to make it out of a tricky group including England, Croatia and the Czech Republic, Robertson’s contributions from left-back will be crucial.
1) Joao Cancelo (Portugal)
It is sometimes hard to class Joao Cancelo as a fullback, with the Portuguese international popping up all over the pitch for Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.
Signed from Juventus for around £60 million in the summer of 2019, he featured in fewer than half of the Citizens Premier League games, failing to impose himself on the side in the process.
That has changed this season, however. Making 28 Premier League appearances this campaign, two goals and three assists does not begin to do justice to the impact that the 26-year-old has had on Manchester City in 2020-21.
Having played next to Ruben Dias for much of the season (a player featured on our 10-best centre-backs going to Euro 2020), the understanding that the pair have on the right-hand side is one that Portuguese fans will be praying carries over to the summer tournament.
Summary: 10 best full-backs going to Euro 2020
- Nuno Mendes (Portugal)
- Lucas Hernandez (France)
- Zeki Celik (Turkey)
- Reece James (England)
- Ben Chilwell (England)
- Luke Shaw (England)
- Trent Alexander-Arnold (England)
- Jordi Alba (Spain)
- Andy Robertson (Scotland)
- Joao Cancelo (Portugal)