RANKED: The 10 best left wingers of all time

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We’ve been spoiled over the years with some rather splendid wide forwards. For those who hark for yesteryear when football was a simper game, with harder challenges and pints allowed in stands, the one thing you can’t argue with is that the modern era has had its own share of fine left wingers.

Don’t agree? Tough, because 90min have compiled the ten best ever to grace the game in this ‘ere list for you, and there is nothing that can be altered. It’s final.

However, that shouldn’t be of any concern to anyone, as this set of players offer differing styles and skillsets to satisfy any footballing palate, from the silky to the stern and everything in between.

10. Rob Resenbrink

One for the football purists and hipsters, but one that really shouldn’t be. Under appreciated and not well known enough outside of his homeland, Dutchman Rob Resenbrink would have been a household name were it not for two single football matches. A World Cup finalist in both 1974 and 1978, the Netherlands’ failure to secure either trophy meant Resenbrink’s legacy failed to extend beyond the locality of his club sides.

Unjust is an adequate summation. Why? Because on his day the forward slotted gently into the ‘unplayable’ category, just as effortlessly as he’d jink his way past opposition players unnoticed. Not just good, he was Dutch good. That’s saying something.

9. Ryan Giggs

Giggs’ career can be summed up as an epic tale of one man and one club, joined at the hip for decades and intertwined in such a way that any utterance of his name that doesn’t have heaps of praise attached it to is considered as blasphemous’. But in all seriousness, it was like a fairytale for the Welshman at Manchester United. But unlike a goalkeeper who spends his whole career at a club and barely gets a sniff, Giggs – barring his final season – never played less than 22 Premier League matches in a season.

It wasn’t a case of just playing, as Giggs was instrumental in United dominating for such a long period of time, claiming 25 titles in his 963-game career.

8. Franck Ribery

It’s quite easy to think about Franck Ribery and base your opinion on the last five seasons of his career. That’s normal, since it’s fresher in the memory. And if you were to give your verdict from that time period, you’d still say Ribery was a damn fine footballer. Factor in the period before he was hit with injuries and playing into his 30s, and you’ve got a world class winger. There was a point where if you wanted to tune into a game for some entertainment, any match featuring Ribery would suffice. He was a serial winner along with being a serial performer, dazzling with his superb array of skills or smashing a screamer in from 30 yards.

7. Pavel Nedved

It’s a sign when you’re getting old that you’ll always reflect emotionally on the past, poking holes in the modern era and insisting it was always better ‘back then’. If you ever needed evidence that this was a true statement, then Pavel Nedved is your guy. It’s a genuine pity for younger football fans these days that they never got to witness the Czech in his prime. Few players played with such desire, but were able to back up their willingness with generational talent. If anyone deserved to win the Champions League but never did, then it was the 2003 Ballon d’Or winner.

6. Francisco Gento

Before the more recent Real Madrid, there was the old Real Madrid, and in order for the old Real Madrid to have been as good as they were, they needed Francisco Gento. It would be great to see him play in the current era, as he had all the attributes that have become commonplace with the modern wide forwards: exceptional pace, a wand of a left foot and near-perfect technical ability.

One of the greatest Spaniards ever to play the game, his trophy cabinet reflects his majesty. No less than six Champions Leagues and 12 La Liga were won by Gento, who was an integral part of one of the most formidable football sides ever to have existed

5. Hristo Stoichkov

His name may be delightful to pronounce, but Hristo Stoichkov was far from a lovely opponent on the pitch. Tenacious, aggressive and combative, he was someone opposition teams feared coming up against. That wasn’t it, obviously, since he’d have needed to do much more than that to be listed as the fifth best left-winger of all time. But don’t worry, his place is certainly warranted.

Part of Johan Cruyff’s magnificent Barcelona era in the early 90s, the Bulgarian was one part of a devastating attack alongside Romario, netting 107 goals in 214 outings during his first stint in Catalonia. His exploits in the 1994 World Cup earned him a Ballon d’Or to add to his stocked trophy cabinet, while he still holds legendary status with La Blaugrana to this day.

4. Luis Suarez

The current Luis Suarez? Meh, not a sniff on the Spanish one born in 1935. He may have 400 league goals, but the real Suarez was different gravy. Making a name for himself at Barcelona, his influence on the side was astonishing, securing back-to-back La Liga titles after a six-year wait, before moving on to Inter and achieving even greater success. Lifting three Serie A crowns and two European Cups – in the 1964/65 season they secured the double – he had already cemented his place as the finest of his ilk around, with the powers that be awarding him the 1960 Ballon d’Or.

3. Rivelino

If you’ve enjoyed watching the likes of Neymar in recent years and wondered who he modeled his playing style on, the answer is above: Rivelino. The man is credited with inventing his own skill for crying out loud. Rivelino wasn’t just a technical marvel, however, he was also a glorious footballer with a cannon of a left foot, as demonstrated perfectly en route to Brazil lifting the 1970 World Cup with what many claim to be the greatest side of all time. Go on the internet and watch how quick he is in possession. Or re-watch all of the Seleção’s matches in which he played. However you do it, catch a glimpse of Rivelino in action. You must.

2. Ronaldinho

‘How’s your touch? Oh, you’re Ronaldinho? Ah, you’re touch is obviously perfect then’.

Football is supposed to be fun. It’s a source of entertainment, while as a player from whatever level, you play simply for the love of the game. With the ball at your feet you are at your most content, and the unparalleled highs and lows we experience from the sport are incomparable to anything else. Ronaldinho was no different to the rest of us (barring the obvious skill difference), he was happiest when on the pitch, and knew his role as a sportsman was to put smiles on peoples’ faces. He did that nigh on every minute he ever played the sport.

1. Cristiano Ronaldo


Enough waffling on, just look at Cristiano Ronaldo’s stats.

Club Appearances: 846
Club Goals: 633

Club Trophies: Premier League (x3), FA Cup, League Cup (x2), Champions League (x5), Club World Cup (x4), Super Cup (x2), La Liga (x2), Copa del Rey (x2), Supercopa de Espana (x2), Serie A, Supercoppa Italiana

International Appearances: 164
International Goals: 99

International Trophies: Euro 2016, Nations League 2019

Individual Accolades: Far too many to list.

He’s one of the greatest players ever to have lived, so of course he’s the greatest left winger to have ever to have played. No debate.

RELATED STORY: Ronaldinho: One of the greatest entertainers of all time

By 90min

Edited by Tiyani wa ka Mabasa

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