The third in our series of articles showcasing the most attacking full-backs across Europe’s top five leagues sees La Liga under the spotlight. The displays of Daniel Alves for Barcelona last season illustrate just what a world-class presence he is for the Champions League winners, while Marcelo’s role on Real Madrid’s left flank comes under analysis. The stats of Jose Angel, Roma’s new signing from Gijon, show just why the young left-back is such a highly-regarded talent at both ends of the pitch:


La Liga’s Top 5 Attacking Full-Backs for 2010/11


Dani Alves - Combined Total 3.4 Key Passes and Successful Dribbles per game

Only Lionel Messi managed more assists for Barcelona than Daniel Alves last season. With 17 assists, Messi just pipped the right-back, who picked up an incredible 15 for Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering La Liga and European champions.

Alves averaged 1.9 key passes for Barca, third only to Xavi (2.4) and Messi (2.0), a clear indication of how Guardiola utilises his talents from the back. Indeed, it’s not far off double the second best of our La Liga attacking full-backs -Andoni Iraola of Bilbao and Gijon’s Jose Angel managed 1.1 apiece, a real indication of the creative gulf between Alves and any other full-back in Spain’s top division.

A look at Barcelona’s distribution stats shows their top three players for passes per game are the midfield three of Xavi, Sergio Busquets and Iniesta- Alves, with an incredible 72.4 passes per game, is next in line. Despite the number of passes made, Alves’ pass accuracy (87%) is incredible, and easily the most impressive of all our full-backs, as is his number of passes per game, to little surprise.

When it comes to successful dribbles per game, Alves again ranks third for Barcelona- this time Messi (5.6) is joined by Andres Iniesta (2.5) as the only two bettering his total of 1.5 and he makes 1 successful cross from the flank, joint-top with Xavi. Alves also had 0.8 shots per game and grabbed 2 goals from his 35 appearances- if anything, he could improve on this scoring ratio.

His outstanding attacking contribution is not all he offers to Barcelona, however; Alves is top for tackles, with 3 per game. This is second bottom of our five full-backs here- a sure indication of how little defending his side have to do in comparison to others. With 2.1 interceptions and 1.7 clearances, Alves tops the likes of Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano for Barca and fares well against his fellow full-backs, with his combined total for the two categories third of our five. Alves managed a fantastic 7.57 rating for last season, the best for a full-back in Europe.

Marcelo - Combined Total 3.2 Key Passes and Successful Dribbles per game

With 2.3 successful dribbles per game, the left-back leads the way for our featured defenders. Not only that, he made more than any Real Madrid player, just pipping Cristiano Ronaldo on 2.2.

A more than respectable 0.9 key passes was lowest of our full-backs but an understanding of Real’s set-up explains why- he plays on the same flank as Ronaldo, who tends to take over in the attacking third. As a result, Marcelo made the lowest number of crosses (0.4) here, too; rather than fire the ball in from out wide, his game is more about linking with Ronaldo down the flank. With 46.9 passes, only Alves saw more of the ball here, and Marcelo was third highest for passes for Madrid, behind Xabi Alonso and Sergio Ramos.

His shots per game (0.6) figure also suffers, ranking lower than Ramos on the opposite flank, but is still third highest of our five. Marcelo found the net on 3 occasions from his 32 appearances; however, his 4 assists could be improved upon, given his attacking capabilities.

Defensively, Marcelo was exceptional- with 3.4 tackles, he was second to Lassana Diarra for Madrid and his 3.7 interceptions was far and away the best for his club; his combined total of 7.1 tackles and interceptions is the best of our five defenders here. With 3 Man of the Match awards, he averaged 7.42 in’s ratings, second only to Alves for our La Liga attacking full-backs.

Jose Angel - Combined Total 2.4 Key Passes and Successful Dribbles per game

Gijon’s 4-2-3-1 system offered Jose Angel plenty of chances to showcase his talents. With a narrow midfield ahead of him, the left-back offered width from deep, making 1.3 successful dribbles per game, second only to left-winger Diego Castro (1.7) for his side.

Angel also showed plenty of creativity, averaging 1.1 key passes, though a paltry return of 1 assist from his 26 games doesn’t indicate just how essential his contribution was going forward. Certainly, his pass accuracy could be improved greatly- with just 68% he’s considerably lower than any of our top five. Angel managed 0.9 shots per game and 1.3 successful crosses- he leads the way for both categories for our featured full-backs.

Gijon’s formation asks a lot of their full-backs from a defensive perspective, and Angel excels in the role. Both he and right-back Lora have real stand-out stats here- 3.6 and 3.1 respectively for tackles, 3.4 and 3.8 for interceptions. Second only to Marcelo here with a combined total of 7.0 across both categories, he’s way ahead of third-best Alves, who managed a combined 5.1. He was best of our five for clearances, with 3.3 per game, and won an impressive 62% of aerial duels.

Angel picked up 4 Man of the Match awards, join-top for Gijon with keeper Juan Pablo, and averaged 6.93 per game in’s ratings. Snapped up by Roma this summer, the 21-year-old will be a sorely missed talent in La Liga next season.


La Liga’s Top 5 Attacking Full-Backs for 2010/11


Andoni Iraola - Combined Total 1.7 Key Passes and Successful Dribbles per game

The right-back picked up more assists than any Athletico Bilbao player, with a total of 7 over his 37 games. Bilbao played 4-1-2-1-2 on 14 occasions and 4-2-3-1 in 13 games and a relatively narrow midfield allowed Iraola the license to forage forward time and time again. As a result he also scored 4 goals from an average of 0.5 shots per game, meaning he had a hand in 11 of his side’s 59 goals.

Iraola made 1.1 key passes per game, the same as forward Fernando Llorente for Bilbao, and his 0.6 successful dribbles, while impressive for a full-back, is countered by 0.9 crosses per game- Iraola doesn’t feel the need to take a man on too often, instead choosing to cross from deeper areas. His 39.3 passes per game was only second to central midfielder Pablo Orbaiz at Bilbao- an indication of how much he participates in his team’s play.

Defensively, his contribution was the lowest of our five full-backs; Iraola made 2.1 tackles, 2.1 interceptions and a mere 1.1 clearances for a combined total of 5.3: Alves, with a combined 6.8 across the three key categories, was second lowest, with Angel the best on 10.3. Even when compared to Bilbao’s other full-back, Koikilli, his stats suggest an improvement is needed at the back; Koikilli made 2.5 tackles, 2.1 interceptions and 2,4 clearances, a combined total of 7 to Iraola’s 5.3. Nevertheless, his brilliant attacking performances saw him average 6.80 in’s ratings.

Jesús Gámez - Combined Total 1.7 Key Passes and Successful Dribbles per game

The right-back was consistent across many categories for Malaga. He was second only to midfielder Apoño when it came to passes per game (55 to 42.1) and second for successful crosses to left winger Duda (3 to 1.2), with Angel just edging his total for our full-backs, with 1.3 per game.

With 1 key pass and 0.7 successful dribbles -more than any defender or midfielder in his side- per game, Gámez offered plenty to his side going forward; Malaga mainly played 4-2-3-1, affording him license to bomb down the right and join in attacks. As a result, he picked up 3 assists from his 30 appearances, though with just 0.3 shots on average, failed to find the net.

Gámez put in a strong defensive shift for Malaga- with 2.8 tackles and 3.4 interceptions, he was far superior to the club’s regular left-back Eliseu, who made 2.3 tackles and 2.3 interceptions in comparison. Only Marcelo made more interceptions of our top five full-backs. Gámez was the most impressive in the air of the five, winning 74% of aerial duels, and picked up 1 Man of the Match award on his way to a rating of 6.82.