Best Left-Footed Players of All Time

Published February 8th, 2021 - 01:59 GMT
Photo: AFP
Photo: AFP

While many professional footballers can use both feet, most players are naturally right-footed, meaning left-footers are a notable minority

Just as southpaws can be seen as tricky opponents to orthodox fighters in boxing, the fact that the majority of footballers are right-footed means that left-footed players can sometimes enjoy an advantage.

Interestingly, some of the greatest footballers of all time have been left-footed, or at least predominantly so, in addition, of course, to being supremely talented.

Goal takes a look at some of the best left-footed footballers in history.

Gareth Bale

While his star has dimmed somewhat, Gareth Bale was undoubtedly one of the best left-footed players in the game. The Welshman exploded onto the scene as a marauding full-back-cum-left-winger at Tottenham before maturing into a star forward at Real Madrid, where he helped the club win four Champions Leagues.

Roberto Carlos

Widely regarded as one of the best Brazilian defenders of all time, Roberto Carlos was a flying full-back with an extremely powerful left foot, which he used to his advantage for his national team and Real Madrid. Carlos had a ferocious free kick in his locker, which usually involved a long run-up and a strike with the outside of his fearsome left boot.

Johan Cruyff

An iconic figure at Barcelona and Ajax, Dutch legend Johan Cruyff is considered one of the greatest footballers of all time. A three-time Ballon d'Or winner, he was instrumental to the Ajax side which won the European Cup on three occasions in the 1970s, as well as being a key figure for the Netherlands. Strictly speaking, Cruyff was ambipedal, but usually favoured his left foot.

Ryan Giggs

Ryan Giggs burst onto the scene for Manchester United as a fleet-footed left winger, whose dribbling ability routinely turned defenders inside out. The 'Welsh Wizard', as he was sometimes known, was a mainstay on the left flank for Sir Alex Ferguson's all-conquering Red Devils teams before adapting to a more central role as he got older.

Gheorghe Hagi

Gheorghe Hagi, the greatest Romanian player of all time, was a left-footer and his prowess was such that he routinely drew comparisons to Diego Maradona. A squat playmaker, Hagi lined out for both Real Madrid and Barcelona during his career, having burst through as a stylish number 10 at Steaua Bucharest.

Paolo Maldini

When the conversation about best defenders of all time is had, AC Milan icon Paolo Maldini inevitably comes up and with good reason. An inspirational presence who dictated games from full-back before transitioning to centre-back, Maldini had an abundance of composure, strength and technical ability. He was also a leftie.

Diego Maradona

It is often said that the best players should be able to play equally as well with both feet, but Diego Maradona is proof that one world-class foot is enough to propel you right to the top of the game. A permanent fixture in the debate about the greatest footballer of all time, Maradona could dribble - as England learned so cruelly at the 1986 World Cup - shoot and pass so well with his left that he could use his right purely for standing on.

Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi has been compared with Diego Maradona ever since he was a teenager - and with good reason. The similarities are indeed striking, with both hailing from Argentina, being of small stature and possessing incredible dribbling ability. Not only that, but Messi, like Maradona, is left-footed. Such is the admiration for the six-time Ballon d'Or winner's left foot that it has even been recreated as a gold sculpture. Indeed, Messi's perennial rival Cristiano Ronaldo joked in 2016 that he wouldn't mind having the Argentine's left peg.

Daniel Passarella

Captain of Argentina's 1978 World Cup-winning side, Daniel Passarella was a left-footed centre-back who was extremely comfortable striding forward into the opposition half. A fearsome competitor, Passarella impressed for River Plate, Fiorentina and Inter, bringing an assurance to the back lines of each team with his no-nonsense style of play.

Ferenc Puskas

An iconic figure for Real Madrid and Hungary, Ferenc Puskas is regarded as one of the best strikers of all time, with over 700 goals to his name. Like many of the others on this list, Puskas was equally adept with both feet, but was predominantly left-footed.

Rivaldo

A World Cup winner with Brazil in 2002, Rivaldo was one of the finest playmakers of his generation and carved his reputation out at Barcelona in particular. The lanky attacker could play anywhere across the forward line and his left foot contributed plenty of goals during his career.

Arjen Robben

Arjen Robben loved to cut in off the right wing onto his left foot so much that it became a joke, though it was no joke to left-backs who simply couldn't contain the Dutchman as he launched shot after shot into the back of the net. The Netherlands star was heavily left-footed as the lowlight reel of right-foot attempts shows, but it was no hindrance as he starred for Chelsea, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.

Mohamed Salah

Liverpool's 'Egyptian King' Mohamed Salah strikes fear into defences when he shifts the ball onto his left foot anywhere near the 18-yard box. Usually deployed on the right flank so he can cut onto his stronger foot, Salah has a similar style of play to players such as Arjen Robben and Lionel Messi. His pace and finishing ability make him a serious attacking threat for club and country.

David Silva

Former Manchester City star David Silva was a key part of Spain's dominance in the late 2000s into the 2010s and his left foot was a prized asset. Pep Guardiola once argued that Silva's raw ability was on the same level as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, though he is probably more like Messi in size and when it comes to preferred foot.

Hristo Stoichkov

One of Bulgaria's greatest ever players, Hristo Stoichkov made his name at Barcelona where he struck up an incredibly effective partnership with Brazilian striker Romario. Capable of playing across the forward line, Stoichkov helped Barca to five Liga titles and a European Cup, winning the Ballon d'Or for his efforts in 1994.

By Ryan Kelly


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