Recent data suggests that 81% of the world's population are right-footed, leaving only 19% of the world's population as left-footed, and these numbers are reflected in the world of soccer, with roughly the same ratio of right to left footed players. Despite this, some of the greatest players to have ever graced the game were predominantly left footed. An all-time left footed XI against an all-time right-footed XI certainly wouldn't reflect the numbers which should vastly favor a right-footed team.
Left footed players are often accused of being too "one-footed", an accusation that is rarely thrown in the direction of a right-footed player. There is no evidence to suggested that left-footed people have a poorer weak foot than right-footed individuals, meaning this observation is most likely in people's heads due to them being more accustomed to watching right-footed players.
Left footed players often seem to be able to confuse defenders. Even if a defender is aware that a player is left footed, they're just so accustomed to defending the other side that they can constantly be beaten by the same move.
Two-footed players such as Alfredo di Stefano, Johan Cruyff, Bobby Charlton and Paolo Maldini, who have previously been labelled left-footed are not included. All the players included in this list are very clearly left-footed, and most experts consider the four aforementioned players to have been predominantly right footed anyway. Here are the top 25 greatest left-footed soccer players of all-time:
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25 Cesar Cueto
Having played his entire career in South America, and not even in the more well known Brazilian and Argentine leagues, Cesar Cueto will be relatively unknown to many. Cueto played his club football in Peru and Colombia, where he won the Peruvian league title three times and the Colombian Mustang Cup twice. Regarded as Peru's greatest ever player, Cueto won 51 caps for the national team. At international level he won the Copa America in 1975, the last time Peru did so. He was nicknamed 'the left-footed poet' and was renowned for his close control and wide range of passing.
24 Bryan Robson
Manchester United and England legend Bryan Robson is one of the great figures at one of the greatest clubs on the planet, a reflection of his influence and ability. A true leader who captained both his club and country, Robson was the star of a Manchester United team who were far from the dominant side under Sir Alex Ferguson. Rather like the Steven Gerrard of his day, Robson was passionate and determined with the ability to match. The left footed central midfielder is Manchester United's longest ever serving captain, and won two Premier League titles and three FA Cups with the club.
23 Ashley Cole
Some will dispute the inclusion of Ashley Cole on a list featuring some of the greatest players the game has ever seen, especially when he is one of only four active players to make the list, with the likes of Arjen Robben, David Silva and Robin van Persie all missing out. The fact is, Ashley Cole was - for almost a decade - the best left-back on the planet. Love him or hate him - and most hate him - he was defensively as good as they come with regards to the modern day full-back and a threat going forward too. He has won three Premier League titles, 7 FA Cups, the Champions League and the Europa League, as well as being one of very few of England's Golden Generation who replicated their club form at international level.
22 Edgar Davids
Famed for his distinctive dreadlocks hairstyle and protective goggles, Edgar Davids was one of Europe's top midfielders for much of the 1990s and 2000s. Energetic, fiery and technically very good, Davids would have been a useful instrument in any teams midfield. His best football came with Ajax and Juventus, although he also spent time with A.C. Milan, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Tottenham and Crystal Palace, before becoming player-manager at Barnet. Davids won six league titles in Holland and Italy, as well as one Champions League title, winning 74 caps for the Netherlands in the process.
21 Dejan Savicevic
A lazy player who rarely even trained, it is a mark of Dejan Savicevic's natural ability that a disciplinarian such as Fabio Capello still put up with such behavior due to the magic that the playmaker was capable of producing on the pitch. He spent the bulk of his career with Red Star Belgrade and A.C. Milan, and achieved similar heights at both, winning three league titles and one European Cup (Champions League) with each. Particularly adored for his dribbling abilities, Savicevic was a taker and provider of chances, who was the runner-up in the 1991 Ballon d'Or and is regarded as the greatest Montenegrin player of all time.
20 Gheorghe Hagi
A Romania and Galatasaray hero who also played for the likes of Steau Bucharest, Real Madrid, Brescia and Barcelona, Gheorghe Hagi had a wonderful left foot and exceptional natural ability. Likened to Diego Maradona throughout his career, Hagi was pacey with great vision and ability with the ball at his feet. He won 19 trophies over the course of his career, as well as being named Romania's best player of the last 50 years. Although Hagi achieved a great deal, many feel he still fell below the level he could have reached, due to his poor discipline, laziness, inconsistency and occasional rashness.
19 Silvio Marzolini
Silvio Marzolini isn't a household name like Paolo Maldini or Roberto Carlos, but he was comfortably one of the finest left-backs that the game has ever seen. The reason Marzolini is sometimes overlooked is because he spent his entire career playing in Argentina, mostly for Boca Juniors, where he spent 12 years as a player, playing over 400 games and winning five league titles and a Copa Argentina, before adding another league title as manager.
His positioning and understanding of the game were second to none, and after being elected to the 1966 World Cup Team of the Tournament, A.C. Milan and Real Madrid expressed their interest but Marzolini had no desires to leave Boca Juniors.
18 Gareth Bale
Officially recognized as the most expensive footballer in history, Gareth Bale transferred from Tottenham to Real Madrid for a fee of $130 million. Although it took some time for the Real Madrid supporters to take the Welshman to their hearts, however winners in the Copa del Rey and Champions League finals against rivals Barcelona and Atletico Madrid respectively should have endeared him a little more.
Bale is still only 26 but has been one of the top players in the world for five years now. He was the Premier League Player of the Year in 2013 and has scored 41 goals in 96 games from the wing for Real Madrid. Bale has a superb left foot, often exhibited by his wild free kicks.
17 Daniel Passarella
Another Argentinean, another legend and another player who might require a little introduction to younger football fans. Unlike Marzolini, Passarella did play in Europe, spending six years in Serie A with Fiorentina and Inter Milan. Passarella is the only Argentine in history to have won two World Cup's, and only the great Pele has more than him on a global scale. A fantastic central defender, he was also capable of scoring goals, hitting 140 goals in 447 games at club level and 22 goals in 70 caps for Argentina. He was the world's top scoring defender until Ronald Koeman exceeded his record.
One of the finest players of his generation, Brazilian forward Rivaldo brought joy to millions, especially when part of the "Three R's" in the Brazilian national team. The Three R's was the name given to Brazil's front three, made up of Rivaldo, Ronaldo and Ronaldinho, who formed one of the most dynamic, skilful and effective attacks in football history. Rivaldo's best years came at Barcelona, before becoming something of a journeyman and only retiring in 2015, aged 43. He won league titles in five different countries and won the World Cup in 2002, as well as winning the Ballon d'Or in 1999.
15 Giacinto Facchetti
The third of five left-backs to make this list of the 25 greatest left-footed soccer players in history, Giacinto Facchetti is one of the great figures of Italian football and the game in general. He spent his entire career at Inter Milan, spanning 18 years and playing 629 times. He was at the heart of the team nicknamed 'Grande Inter' for the way they played and the success they had throughout the 1960s, Facchetti won four Serie A titles, one Coppa Italia and reached four European Cup finals, winning two.
He had fantastic physical attributes which made him one of the best attacking full-backs in the world, but also superb understanding of the game, and later played as a sweeper once his pace had escaped him. Facchetti won 94 caps for Italy and reached the World Cup final in 1970.
Raul is a Real Madrid legend who is widely regarded as one of Spain's greatest ever players. He joined the Real Madrid C team in 1994, but 16 goals in seven games saw him promoted to the first team. Raul went on to spend 16 years at Real Madrid, playing 741 games and scoring 323 goals, helping the team to six La Liga titles and three Champions League trophies. He is both Real Madrid's record appearance holder and record goals holder, although Cristiano Ronaldo has his eyes set on that second record. After leaving Real, Raul played for Schalke, Al Sadd and currently New York Cosmos in the NASL.
13 Dragon Dzajic
One of the greatest forgotten stars in the history of the game, it is a real shame that outside of Serbia and the countries which formerly made up Yugoslavia his name and legacy is rather unknown. Dzajic was a wonderful footballer, particularly noted for his dribbling, crossing, pace and free kicks. Had he played in Spain, England, Italy or the likes of those countries, he would most likely be hailed as one of the game's all-time greats.
Instead he spent almost his entire career playing for Red Star Begrade, where he won five league titles and the Mitropa Cup in 1968. That success, twinned with winning Player of the Tournament at the 1968 European Cup saw Dzajic finish third in the Ballon d'Or.
12 Roberto Carlos
A loveable and hugely entertaining player, Brazilian left-back Roberto Carlos has been described as the most attacking full-back in history. With him on the left and Cafu on the right, Brazil had possibly the most attacking defense in the history of the game. Carlos himself was famed for his incredible power, nicknamed the 'Bullet Man', and 113 goals over his entire career.
Carlos' best days came at Real Madrid, where he spent 11 years, playing 584 matches, winning four La Liga titles and 3 Champions Leagues. He won 125 caps for Brazil, winning the World Cup in 2002 and came second in both the FIFA World Player of the Year and Ballon d'Or awards in 1997 and 2002 respectively.
11 Piet Keizer
Considered by many as the truly unsung hero of the Ajax and Holland teams of the 1960s and 70s, Piet Keizer is adored in his native Holland. The Dutchman spent his entire 13 year career at Ajax, playing 364 games, winning six league titles, four KNVB Cups, three European Cups, two UEFA Super Cups, an Intertoto Cup and an Intercontinental Cup.
Some Dutch writers have even suggested that Keizer was more talented than the great Johan Cruyff. Keizer, a left winger, won 34 caps for Holland, finishing as a runner-up at the 1974 World Cup, but retired at the age of just 31 after falling out with Ajax manager Hans Kraay.
10 Mario Kempes
Mario Kempes' left foot is one of the most clinical the game has ever seen. At club level he scored 300 goals in 552 games and for Argentina he hit 20 goals in 43 caps, including many hugely important strikes. In terms of club football he is best remembered for his time at Valencia, where he was twice La Liga top scorer and helped his team to a Copa del Rey, Super Cup and Cup Winners Cup title, but his greatest achievement was undoubtedly with his national team. He provided the focal point for Argentina as they won the 1978 World Cup, as Kempes scored twice in the final, winning the Golden Boot and the Golden Ball at the competition.
One of the stars of Brazil's legendary 1970 World Cup winning team, Rivellino epitomized the grace and skill of that particular side. A hugely entertaining footballer who pulled off pieces of skill most players of his era wouldn't even attempt, he popularized the 'flip flap' technique, more recently adopted by the likes of Romario, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Cristiano Ronaldo. Rivellino played in three World Cups, reaching at least the semi-final stage on each occasion and of course winning the competition in 1970 when he was at the peak of his powers. Diego Maradona labelled the Brazilian as one of his greatest inspirations.
8 Ryan Giggs
Ryan Giggs is the most decorated player in soccer history. He has won 13 Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, two Champions Leagues, one Club World Cup and an Intercontinental Cup. Giggs played predominantly as a left winger but occasionally played more centrally towards the end of his career. He spent 27 years at Manchester United, playing 963 games, as well as winning 64 caps for Wales. Giggs had an excellent left foot, often delivering wicked left-footed crosses for Manchester United, exemplified by his 271 Premier League assists, a division record.
7 Hristo Stoichkov
Bulgaria's greatest talent, Hristo Stoichkov was a special player. Few players in history have played the role of supporting striker better than he, and when combined with the more pacy and attack-minded Romario, the pair were devastating for Barcelona. Stoichkov spent seven years at Barcelona, winning five league titles and one European Cup. He inspired a largely average Bulgaria squad the World Cup semi-finals in 1994, a year in which he won the Ballon d'Or and cemented his reputation as an all-time great.
The second member of that great 1970 Brazil team, Gerson was often talked about as the brains behind Brazil's extraordinary performances. A central midfielder capable of dropping deep or playing further forward, it was his passing abilities which turned defense into attack with ruthless efficiency and speed often catching opposing teams unaware. He had an incredible understanding of the game and left footed pass and shot. He played for four of Brazil's biggest clubs in Flamengo, Botafogo, Sao Paulo and Fluminense, as well as winning 70 caps for Brazil.
5 Juan Alberto Schiaffino
Juan Alberto Schiaffino beat off some stiff competition to be named Uruguay's greatest ever player, but there was little surprise when his name came out on top. One of the finest playmakers in the history of the game, Schiaffino is regarded as an assist king in both Uruguay and Italy, the two countries where he played his club and international football. Schiaffino represented both nations, winning 21 caps for Uruguay and 4 for Italy. He played for Penarol, AC Milan and Roma, winning multiple titles in both countries, but his greatest achievement came in the 1950 World Cup when he starred and scored as Uruguay defied the odds to be Brazil and the Maracana in one of football's greatest upsets.
4 Nilton Santos
A spot in the World Team of the Twentieth Century reflected Nilton Santos' reputation as the greatest left-back of all time. Santos wasn't just a great player, he also changed the course of the game forever. Before him, a full-back was a defender, pure and simple. The fact that we now see full-backs who are more gifted going forwards than backwards is down to Santos. His marauding runs down the left showed the width, danger and pace a full-back could add to attacking moves.
Santos spent his entire career with Botafogo, where he played 723 games, and won 75 caps for Brazil, winning the 1958 and 1962 World Cups.
3 Ferenc Puskas
Into the top three and we are now talking about three of the greatest players that the game has ever seen. Ferenc Puskas was not only one of the most talented men on this list, but also one of the most solely left-footed. He rarely struck the ball with his right foot or head, yet he still managed well over 650 goals over the course of his career. Puskas played for two of the most famous teams in history, namely the Real Madrid team of the 1950s and 60s and the Hungary team of the 1950s.
He was the focal point of both teams. He scored 242 goals in 262 games for Real Madrid and 84 goals in 85 games for Hungary. One of the most technically gifted players of all-time, Puskas amazed the world with his ability at international level, before he had transferred to La Liga. He was pivotal in Hungary's 6-3 and 7-1 defeats of England. He won five Hungarian league titles, five La Liga titles, three European Cup titles, one Olympic gold and reached a World Cup final in 1954.
2 Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi is already regarded by some as the greatest player of all time, and it's a reasonable view to take, but he will have to settle for second place on this list. The Barcelona forward had a quite incredible career to date, smashing all kind of records before even hitting his 30s. He has won the Ballon d'Or four times, more than any other player in history. Aged 28, he already holds the record as La Liga top scorer, most assists in La Liga history, Barcelona top scorer, most goals in a single season, most goals in a calendar year, most El Classico goals, most Catalan Derby goals and many, many more.
Messi, unlike Puskas, is strong on his right side, but is certainly stronger with his left. He has one of the most skilful, creative and clinical left feet in football history. As of the time of writing this list, Messi has 418 goals in 493 games for Barcelona and 49 goals in 105 caps for Argentina. He has won seven La Liga titles, three Copa del Reys, four Champions Leagues and one Olympic Gold. Had Messi added the World Cup in 2014, he probably would be universally considered as the greatest of all time.
1 Diego Maradona
It is another Argentine who pips Messi to first place as the greatest left footed soccer player in history, and quite possibly the greatest overall. Messi may well exceed Maradona one day, but as things stand, Maradona's accomplishments at the 1986 World Cup place him just ahead. Never has a nation been so reliant on a single player to win them a major tournament as Argentina were on El Diego. The fiery attacking midfielder/forward had everything required to be a footballing god. The whole world knew what he was capable of in '86, but they were still powerless to stop the little magician.
Maradona is one of the most skillful players in history. He had an explosive turn of pace, exceptional close control, tremendous vision and a thunderous strike. All these ingredients created a maestro who was simply unplayable on his day. Maradona's left foot scored some of the greatest goals and created some of the most famous moments in football history. Maradona won trophies in Argentina, Spain, Italy and of course internationally when he won the World Cup in 1986. Maradona was voted the FIFA Player of the Twentieth Century by supporters, although FIFA shared the award between him and Pele.
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