Welcome to World Class

The stats that prove Joao Cancelo is world class

Matt O'Connor-Simpson
Joao Cancelo is one of the best defenders in the world
Joao Cancelo is one of the best defenders in the world / 90min
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Left-backs used to be boring, on that we can all agree.

However, in 2021, the position continued its remarkable rise to relevance in the modern game.

These days, not only is anyone who plays the position tasked with keeping the left-hand side on lockdown, they also need to dazzle in the final third.

Well, that isn't strictly true. There is, of course, still your fair share of functional left-backs around. But in order to earn the label 'world class' you need to be just as comfortable bombing forward as your are keeping the ball away from goal.

A man who 100% fits this description is Joao Cancelo - and what a 2021 he's had.

Signed by Pep Guardiola from Juventus for an eye-watering fee - for a full-back anyway - Cancelo has ascended to an undeniably world-class level over the past 12 months.

Helping City cruise to the Premier League title in a nominally left-back position, he also played on the opposite side. For a player like Cancelo though, a position is more of a vibe than a strict instruction as he often popped up in a central midfield area to pull the strings from deep.

We all know about his influence in possession, but less emphasis is placed on just how good of a defender he is.

In the period between 1 January and 30 November, Opta stats show no left-back considered for 90min's Welcome to World Class series came close to equalling his 103 recorded tackles. His closest challenger was Bayern Munich wunderkind Alphonso Davies, he racked up 77.

Cancelo also led the way for interceptions, managing a whopping 75 in total. 18 clean sheets for club and country tells the same story, with clearances the only defensive metric that he was bested on by the other nominees in Welcome to World Class.

Andrew Robertson led the way there, managing an impressive 73.

In the passing stakes though, Cancelo returned to the front of the pack. His 3299 completions and 87% accuracy rate was bettered only by the possession-obsessed Jordi Alba, who has arguably seen his stock drop in a disappointing Barcelona side.

The Man City man may have been edged out of top spot by Robertson as the best all-round left-back on the planet, but as a defensive force it is pretty clear to see who should be considered number one.


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