5. Felipe Luis
Felipe Luis arrived at Atletico Madrid as a well-traveled left back. After spending four seasons with Deportivo La Coruna, Luis arrived in Madrid on a five year contract that cost the club €12 million. He has since proven to be one of the most valuable transfers in the club’s history, by leading them to the La Liga title last week. The Brazilian left back is often described as tireless, which undersells the attacking threat Luis has going forward.
Defensively, Felipe Luis is as solid as they come. In La Liga he averaged over 4 tackles per match in his 32 appearances for Atletico this season. He also earned six yellow cards during the season, demonstrating to opponents that he was accustomed in the dark arts.
4. David Alaba
In David Alaba’s first match for Austria, he went down in the history books as Austria’s youngest capped player at the age of 17. Since then he has set the Bayern Munich record youngest capped player in a competitive match, the record for fastest goal scored in a Champion’s League match, and lifted the Champion’s League trophy with Bayern Munich last season. That is quite a list of accomplishments for any player, let alone a player who at 21 years of age still has over a decade remaining in his career.
In this past season, Alaba featured in 48 matches from Bayern Munich, contributing four goals and seven assists. Although he struggles in aerial challenges, Alaba offers a dangerous attacking threat thanks to his expert crossing and ball movement. Alaba will not be participating in the upcoming World Cup, giving him a chance to rest after a successful domestic campaign that saw Bayern lift the Bundesliga crown and win the DFB Pokal.
When the legendary Brazilian left back Roberto Carlos retired, many wondered how Brazil would replace him. Marcelo has masterfully risen to the occasion and earned the respect of Roberto Carlos himself, who claims Marcelo has surpassed him technically. Marcelo is one of the most lethal attacking left backs in the world, possessing a deadly shot, world class crossing ability, and possesses a bag of tricks that gives defenders nightmares.
This past season he contributed six assists to Real Madrid and could capture his first Champion’s League winner’s medal on Saturday. Following Brazil’s success in the Confederation’s Cup, the 26 year old left back will hope to lift the World Cup trophy on home soil in July. Marcelo will be an important figure to watch in Brazil.
2. Jordi Alba
In 2012, Vicente del Bosque included Jordi Alba in Spain’s squad for the Euros. Jordi Alba thanked him by performing spectacularly. In the quarterfinal against France, he sent in the cross that Xabi Alonso scored off of to open the scoring in a 2-0 victory. In the final against Italy, Alba pounced on a through ball from Xavi and could not be caught before slotting home the finish which blew the game open at 2-0. He followed up that performance by helping Barcelona capture the La Liga title the next season.
Alba has taken over as the regular Spain left back for Joan Capdevila and performed well for Barcelona last season despite suffering a hamstring injury that kept him out of the closing stages of the season. Alba looks set to regain fitness for Brazil and will join Spain as they attempt to win an unprecedented fourth consecutive major tournament.
1. Leighton Baines
No player has been more important to Everton over the past few seasons as Leighton Baines. Following the departure of Marouane Fellaini and manager David Moyes to Manchester United, many wondered if Baines would follow shortly. Baines ultimately stayed with Everton and lifted them to a fifth place finish in the Premier League, securing their qualification in the Europa League. Baines has earned PFA Team of the Season honors in two of the last three seasons.
Baines possesses great dribbling ability, strong crossing, and a knack for playing the crucial pass in buildup play. However, Baines possesses a left foot that can hit free kicks with the power and accuracy of, which no other player on this list can compare to. In the last four Premier League seasons, Baines has contributed 19 goals, an impressive figure for a defender. His performances have been good enough that England manager Roy Hodgson has chosen to leave out Ashley Cole from the World Cup squad.