Football was once a simple game. The ball used to get booted out to the skilled wingers who did their thing and crossed a ball or two for a big target man to head home.
The ‘left winger’ has come in all different shapes and sizes down the years, from the silky Brazilian iteration to the direct Englishman. Such variation in winger profile has only been amplified in the modern day, with the roles these players perform being utterly dependent on the system in which they’re involved.
Being a left winger in this day and age isn’t as black and white as it once was. Still, these players seek to entertain the masses and the game’s currently blessed with a plethora of talent at the position.
Here are our top 25 left wingers in the world.
25. Eden Hazard
Eden Hazard’s fall from grace is tough to stomach.
The generationally gifted Belgian was often labelled the very best that the Premier League had to offer during his majestic seven-year spell at Stamford Bridge. Hazard won three league titles with the Blues, was named in the Premier League Team of the Year on four occasions and was a one-time winner of the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award.
Hazard was once the best left winger in the world, but we haven’t seen the skin-fade-donning master reach such dizzying heights since he left Chelsea for Real Madrid in 2019. His body has failed him in recent years, and his decline has been pretty staggering.
However, the little magician still boasts enough talent within those dazzling feet to make our top 25 left wingers in the world.
24. Goncalo Guedes
Signing Goncalo Guedes was a brilliant bit of business from Wolves. He’s a player who could enjoy a fine Premier League career.
Once touted for huge things after he signed for Paris Saint-Germain as a teenager, it took some time for Guedes’ senior career to take off. He was a steady performer in La Liga for several years before he enjoyed a very productive 2021/22 campaign with Valencia as he registered 17 league goal contributions.
Jose Bordalas helped reinvigorated Guedes’ career in Spain, and Wolves should be the beneficiaries of the winger’s improved decision-making and efficiency in front of goal.
23. Filip Kostic
The winger-cum-wing back only got better during his eight-year Bundesliga spell which culminated in a Europa League triumph with Eintracht Frankfurt.
Kostic has always been good for a handful of goals every season, but his elite crossing ability means he’s a perennial assist provider.
He is a throwback winger in that he loves to dart down the left flank, hit the byline and produce crosses at will. Juventini will be treated to the high-octane nature of Kostic’s play moving forward after he made the switch to Turin.
22. Martin Terrier
Martin Terrier has had a pretty efficient career so far, one stalling season at Lyon aside.
He's now starring for an exciting Rennes side alongside Amine Gouiri as they look to keep pace with heavyweights like Paris Saint-Germain at the top of the table.
Premier League sides have been eyeing the forward and he could arrive on English shores in the next few years.
The loveable rogue. It’s been quite hard to gauge just how good Richarlison is since he arrived in the Premier League with Watford in 2017.
The Brazilian was soon snapped up by Everton where he endeared himself to the Goodison Park faithful. Even amid a tumultuous period for the Toffees, Richarlison was overwhelmingly adored on Merseyside, and he enjoyed some scintillating runs of form drifting in from the left-hand side.
His spell with Everton convinced Antonio Conte’s Spurs to splash the big bucks in the summer to bring him to north London. He could take off at Tottenham, but a few more convincing performances are still needed.
20. Lorenzo Insigne
For European football lovers, it’s such a shame that Lorenzo Insigne has decided to take his exploits to MLS. But hey, who are we to question his career choices?
Nevertheless, Insigne departed Italy as a contemporary Neapolitan icon after scoring 122 goals in 434 appearances for the club. He went through it all in Naples, and it’s rotten luck that he ended his calcio career without a Scudetto.
Still, when on song, Insigne was incredibly tough to deny. His game evolved as time wore on, morphing from tricky wide man to crafty creator. The Italian loves to drift infield from the left half-space and for so many years, he was Napoli’s creative hub.
His MLS career has gotten off to a brilliant start, too. Shock.
19. Harvey Barnes
There have been times when Harvey Barnes has been criminally underused by Leicester. He should be one of the first names on the team sheet!
While he is predominantly right-footed, Barnes’ cheetah-like speed means he loves to burst past defenders on the outside and he’s more than adept with his weaker left.
He’s an incredibly direct winger and has produced regularly for the Foxes as a result. Between 2019/20 and 2021/22, Barnes scored 21 times in the Premier League and added 22 assists.
18. Cody Gakpo
Cody Gakpo has already blossomed into a fine young leader at PSV Eindhoven. The Dutch international leads by example on the pitch, and a move away from the Eredivisie appears inevitable.
Gakpo can play across the front line, but he’s most effective when deployed off the left. From this position, the imposing Dutchman can drive infield and get shots off at will.
Gakpo’s 6’3 frame means he’s a tough player to slow down and he is certainly an atypical winger profile. Although, he does function more like an inside forward as he loves to operate from the half-space.
Whoever lands Gakpo has a potential superstar on their hands.
17. Jack Grealish
Another victim of his price tag. Jack Grealish was set up to fail when Manchester City paid £100m for his services in 2021.
Was he worth such an astronomical fee? Probably not. Does it make him a bad footballer? Far from it.
Unless your Erling Haaland, it takes time for players to adjust to the Pep Guardiola way and City’s abundance of talent in wide areas meant Grealish only played a bit-part role for the eventual champions.
Those that are critical of Grealish surely can’t be the same people that were once desperate to see the former Aston Villa talisman start for England at Euro 2020, right? Weren’t there even faint cries of ‘the next Gazza’ regarding the Birmingham native?
It’s yet to work out for Grealish in Manchester, but his talent can’t be disputed, and he certainly boasts the confidence to succeed at the highest level.
16. Ansu Fati
Let’s hope that injuries don’t ruin the potential of this starlet. Ansu Fati has been forced to watch from the sidelines too often in recent times after he burst onto the scene during the 2019/20 campaign.
Fati immediately struck a telepathic rapport with the great Lionel Messi in Catalonia as he ended his debut La Liga campaign with seven goals in just 11 starts.
Fati’s instincts in and around the box are deadly; he rarely hesitates when allowed to strike at goal. He’s sound enough technically to receive the ball at feet and drift inside, but he also boasts the athleticism to run in behind.
Overall, Fati’s a multi-faceted left winger with huge potential.
15. Allan Saint-Maximin
The ultimate entertainer.
Neutrals look up from their phones and the St. James’ Park faithful rise in anticipation when the ball arrives at the feet of Allan Saint-Maximin. The Frenchman is dynamite in transition and his unpredictability makes him one of the most watchable players in the world.
Saint-Maximin is far from a mere show pony, by the way. The Newcastle winger can strike the ball as well as anybody, and his technical repertoire is as extensive as any left winger on the planet. He’s so explosive, so powerful, and a loveable figure on Tyneside.
14. Leandro Trossard
Not much was made of Leandro Trossard’s Brighton arrival in 2019 and the unassuming Belgian has continued to go under the radar on the south coast.
Trossard showed his ability in flashes during his first three seasons at the AMEX but started his fourth in incredible fashion, scoring plenty under both Graham Potter and new arrival Roberto De Zerbi.
He's a proven goal threat and could also have a large role to play in Belgium's 2022 World Cup campaign.
13. Marcus Rashford
There was a point in time when Marcus Rashford seemed destined for superstardom. After bursting onto the scene with a brace against Arsenal on his Premier League debut, Rashford’s senior career took off at an exponential rate.
He was soon an England international and in three consecutive seasons he scored at least ten times in the Premier League.
Rashford’s form dipped considerably but the arrival of Erik ten Hag at Old Trafford has seen him galvanised. While he may never evolve into the superstar that many once projected, he’s well on his way to getting his Premier League career back on track.
Rashford is brilliant at getting in behind defences and he’s a distinct threat on the counter-attack.
12. Gabriel Martinelli
Gabriel Martinelli is one of the very few good things to come out of the Unai Emery era at Arsenal.
The winger was signed from Brazilian minnows Ituano to little fanfare in 2018, but he showed during his debut season in England that the Gunners might have stumbled upon a diamond in the rough.
In an exciting attack alongside Gabriel Jesus and Bukayo Saka, Martinelli is now emerging as one of the Premier League's biggest goal threats with his direct running and stellar ball-striking with both feet helping him score all sorts of goals.
11. Wilfried Zaha
The enigmatic Wilfried Zaha was a tough winger to rank. He’s functioned as Crystal Palace’s talisman for years and years; seemingly always being on the brink of a big-money departure.
Instead, it looks like he may depart for free when his contract expires unless a new deal is reached. In the meantime, he's still delivering virtuoso performances for the Eagles under Patrick Vieira.
Zaha is the ultimate enigma, but his talent is off the charts and we’re frequently seeing the very best of him.
10. Kingsley Coman
The perpetually injured Kingsley Coman has never been able to catch a break. Knocks have struck at the cruellest of times for the Frenchman, but his form for Bayern Munich in recent years means he makes the top ten.
Coman is not a major producer in the final third and poor decision-making has always prevented him from reaching the heights of some of his teammates, including the more ruthless Serge Gnabry.
Nevertheless, Coman is one of the most prolific dribblers in the world and his ability to create separation in one-vs-one situations is second to none. While he does usually perform an inverted function off the left, Coman’s more than capable of occupying the touchline and beating his man on the outside.
9. Raheem Sterling
Raheem Sterling certainly hasn’t been shy of critics throughout his career, but the England international has persistently produced for both club and country. He may well have been named Euro 2020 Player of the Tournament had the Three Lions beaten Italy on penalties in the final.
Sterling’s craft was refined by Pep Guardiola and Mikel Arteta at Manchester City, with the coaching tandem helping Sterling mature and evolve into one of the best wingers in the world. He’s adept off both flanks, but he was at his very best for City while functioning as an inverted winger off the left.
The four-time Premier League winner has been somewhat inefficient in front of goal for Chelsea so far, but he has years of credit in the bank and should turn his form around at Stamford Bridge.
8. Leroy Sane
When Leroy Sane joined Bayern Munich from Manchester City in 2020, it seemed like a classic case of the rich getting richer. Bayern were the European champions, and Sane, who excelled under Pep Guardiola at the Etihad, appeared tailor-made to reach stratospheric heights in Bavaria.
However, Sane’s first two seasons at Bayern were somewhat disappointing. While the German’s numbers were OK (29 goal contributions in 64 league appearances), he didn’t quite shine in the manner that many expected, and he endured prolonged runs of poor form.
Nevertheless, the afro-donning winger is still a destructive talent and he’s started the 2022/23 campaign in fine fettle. The departure of Robert Lewandowski has given Sane and Bayern’s other attackers more freedom in the final third, with Julian Nagelsmann facilitating an incredibly fluid possession structure.
7. Rafael Leao
There’s certainly no doubting Rafael Leao's status as one of the best left wingers in the world after he played a starring role in AC Milan’s Scudetto triumph last season.
He is the reigning Serie A MVP after scoring ten times and adding 11 assists in 34 league appearances.
The Portuguese international boasts a lightning-quick, gazelle-like stride that overwhelms defences every week. He’s a destructive ball-carrier and he has reached superstar status at San Siro.
The sky is very much the limit for Leao, who will undoubtedly make Milan a lot of money when the right time to sell arrives (if it ever does).
6. Khvicha Kvaratskhelia
The Georgian superstar has already garnered the ‘Kvaradona’ tag after joining Napoli in the summer.
Kvaratskhelia has started the 2022/23 campaign in scintillating form and supporters are hopeful he could swiftly evolve into his own interpretation of the recently departed Lorenzo Insigne.
Kvaradona completely contrasts his Italian predecessor in style, but his direct running, instinctive nature and penchant to entertain have seen him immediately emerge as a fan favourite. He’s an incredibly exciting winger to watch, with his unpredictability and variation in possession being distinct factors in his meteoric rise.
5. Luis Diaz
Luis Diaz always seemed tailor-made for Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool after the Reds swooped under Tottenham’s nose for the Colombia international in January 2022.
With Sadio Mane’s contract running down at Anfield, Diaz was signed as the Senegalese superstar’s replacement. Those are big shoes to fill and while Liverpool have started 2022/23 poorly, Diaz has performed well and has filled some of the void left by Mane. It’s up to those around him to fill the rest.
The former Porto winger settled immediately at Liverpool and quickly became a regular for the Reds as they pushed Man City all the way in the Premier League and reached the Champions League final
The Colombian is an incredibly exciting winger to watch, and he’ll continue to thrive at Anfield.
4. Son Heung-min
The reigning Premier League Golden Boot winner has started the 2022/23 season like he’s never kicked a football before, but that shouldn’t detract from Son Heung-min’s undisputed brilliance.
The South Korean idol is known for enduring lapses in form and while such troughs can be incredibly frustrating, Son’s scintillating purple patches more than make amends.
He’s been a world-class performer at Spurs for almost half a decade. While he doesn’t excel in some of the traditional aspects of wing play, Son has blossomed into arguably the deadliest inside forward in the world.
There isn’t a goal he can’t score with either foot, and his partnership with Harry Kane has helped the South Korean reach stratospheric heights. Son’s carried Spurs in times of strife and his current lean run of form shouldn’t detract from his overall majesty.
3. Sadio Mane
There were plenty of factors in Liverpool’s poor start to the 2022/23 season, but one of them is undoubtedly Sadio Mane’s exit - even if Luis Diaz has performed well in his place. Mane brought much more to the Reds dressing room than mere goals and assists. He was a cornerstone of Jurgen Klopp’s juggernaut.
Mane has since joined Bayern Munich where Julian Nagelsmann is utilising him as an ever-interchanging centre forward. His start in Germany hasn’t been great, but it’s what Mane achieved at Anfield that sees him rank so highly.
The super athletic Senegal international can score a variety of goals and his killer instinct made him prolific in the box. He’s always in the right place at the right time, but there’s a genius to his craft. Mane’s movement is superb, while the expert timing of his runs always optimises the possibility of successfully getting in behind a defence.
There isn’t much Sadio Mane can’t do on a football pitch.
2. Vinicius Junior
It wasn’t too long ago when Karim Benzema couldn’t stand the thought of Vinicius Junior receiving possession. “Don’t play with him, on my mother’s life he [Vinicius] is playing against us,” the French forward told Ferland Mendy during a Champions League group stage clash in 2020.
Oh, how the tables have turned!
Vinicius’ evolution from a spritely but indecisive winger into final third machine played a key role in Real Madrid’s Champions League victory last season. The Brazilian’s output exploded in 2021/22 as he notched 27 La Liga goal contributions and struck up a deadly partnership with the once critical Benzema.
Vinicius has always been an electric winger who’s capable of producing moments of brilliance, but his maturation last season has thrust the Brazilian into another realm. He’s arguably the best out-and-out winger in the world.
Neymar is no longer the kid who broke the internet all those years ago during his time at Santos, but he’s a footballer who continues to put a smile on the faces of adoring supporters.
His record-breaking move to Paris Saint-Germain from Barcelona in 2017 somewhat thrust Neymar out of the limelight from a domestic perspective, with the vast majority of fans judging the Brazilian’s legacy from his performances in the Champions League.
Many will point to PSG’s absence of a European crown in their Galacticos era, but we shouldn’t overlook Neymar’s scintillating run amid Les Parisiens’ progression to the 2020 final. Had PSG beaten Bayern in Lisbon, Neymar’s campaign would’ve gone down as one of the best individual campaigns in the competition’s history.
The Brazilian’s struggles with injury mean he’s missed plenty of action in recent years, but his form in 2022 has been nothing short of mesmeric. Christophe Galtier has gifted him free rein to wreak havoc off the left this season and he functions more as a creative inside forward rather than a winger.
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