Make no mistake about it, full-backs are becoming arguably the most important players on the pitch in the modern game. Indeed, it’s usually strikers and attacking midfielders who are in the hottest demand, but the coming transfer window could well see the Premier League’s biggest clubs battle it out for the new breed of defensive flankers, capable of contributing as much going forward as they do at the back.
Manchester United and Manchester City in particular are in need of new options on the left side of defence. Luke Shaw can’t shake his injury curse and he’s one of five players to have filled the No.3 berth at Old Trafford this season – showing what a problem position it’s been for Jose Mourinho. City, meanwhile, simply need new blood, with Gael Clichy and Aleksandar Kolarov now beyond their best years.
Full-backs have become crucial in providing width and dynamism and few left-backs in Europe right now combine those two aspects better than Juventus star Alex Sandro, who excelled once again as Juventus claimed a 2-0 away win over Monaco in the Champions League.
The six-cap Brazil international’s attacking instincts are no great secret – he can operate as a full-back, wing-back or a midfielder and has nabbed two goals and four assists in Serie A already this term – and they were on show once again against the French outfit, creating one chance, completing two dribbles and having the second-most touches of the ball of any Juventus player.
But what stood out equally was Sandro’s contributions defensively, playing a huge role in a clean sheet with the most tackles of any Juventus player. The Old Lady always defend well but a clean sheet away from home in the Champions League should never be underestimated, particularly when it comes against a side that have scored 95 goals in their top flight this term.
It was a performance that showed what a well-rounded player Sandro actually is and how valuable an asset he could be for two sides despite their differing philosophies. Whilst his attacking flair would have excited Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho would have been delighted with his efforts defensively.