There’s something aesthetically pleasing about watching lefties – left-footed and left-handed players – ply their trade. They just make sport look effortless, whether it’s Phil Mickelson swinging a 5-iron at Augusta or Roberto Carlos doing this:
Could it be that lefties are more naturally-gifted than their right-footed and right-handed counterparts? Are left-footers simply better than those who were burdened with a stronger right? After all, while lefties comprise just 10% of the global population, seven of FIFA’s 20 Players of the Century kick with their left and seven of the last 20 Ballon d’Or winners also happen to be lefties - that’s 35%; way above the norm.
So The18 decided to pull together a Left-Footed XI to see how good a team could be made up of players from the 10% global population of lefties. We’ve stuck exclusively to currently active players, turning our noses up at the likes of Diego Maradona, George Best, Paolo Maldini, Johan Cruyff and Alfredo di Stefano. And despite raising two fingers to such undisputed legends of the game, we’ve still managed to come up with a side that could batter the living hell out of any rag-tag of right-footers. It’s an attacking line-up, we admit, but there are few sides that would fancy their chances against this 4-3-3. From back-to-front:
Goalkeeper: Thibaut Courtois
We were spoilt for choices between the posts, and we turned down Iker Casillas and Petr Cech to plump for Thibaut Courtois. La Liga winner and Champions League finalist with Atletico Madrid, and soon-to-be Premier League winner with Chelsea, the 22-year-old Belgian is already one of the very best goalkeepers in the world.
Left-Back: David Alaba
Bayern Munich’s David Alaba already has three Bundesliga titles, a Champions League and a FIFA World Club Championship to his name at the tender age of 22. He’s been named to the UEFA Team of the Year for the last two years, and crowned Austrian Footballer of the Year in each of the last four years. And his left foot can do this:
Brazilian centre back Dante has been a key fixture in Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering Bayern Munich side, and has won the Bundesliga twice, the Champions League, the UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA World Club Cup. He’s also won the Confederations Cup with Brazil.
With Dante and Alaba at the helm, Bayern have conceded just 13 goals in 27 Bundesliga fixtures this season.
Centre-Back: Giorgio Chiellini
Serie A Defender of the Year for three seasons running, Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini is a monster of a central defender, and has three Serie A titles to prove it. He’s also taken on Luis Suarez’s teeth and lived to tell the tale.
Right-Back: Jordi Alba
Somebody had to draw the short straw, and that man was Jordi Alba. The 26-year-old defender has a La Liga title with Barca and the 2012 European Championship with Spain already under his belt, as well as being named in the Team of the Tournament.
Central Midfield: Nemanja Matic
Providing some grit in the center of the park, Nemanja Matic is the man who makes the job of Chelsea’s defense just that little bit easier. And, as well as snuffing out attacks, he can unleash exocets like this:
Central Midfield: Mesut Ozil
La Liga, Copa del Rey, FA Cup and World Cup winner Mesut Ozil is back in a rich vein of form for Arsenal, vindicating the $65m+ Arsene Wenger paid for the German in the summer of 2013. Five goals and six assists this season doesn’t do justice to the level of play he’s demonstrated since the turn of the year.
Central Midfleid: Juan Mata
Mata was twice named player of the season while at Chelsea. He’s won the Champions League, Europa League and Premier League He’s managed to score 10 goals for Spain in 30 games, despite facing competition from the likes of Xavi, Iniesta, Fabregas and David Silva (another leftie).
Forward: Arjen Robben
Arjen Robben has scored 73 goals in 127 Bundesliga games since his move to Bayern Munich, including 17 goals and seven assists in 21 league appearances this season. His speed (he’s been clocked at 37 kph), skill and composure affords him the time and space to score counter-attacking masterpieces such as this:
Forward: Gareth Bale
While by no means in the midst of his greatest season ever, Gareth Bale remains one of the most terrifying prospects in world football, with the pace, power and direct running to trouble any defensive line. It’s often forgotten that, despite the heckles and abuse of Real Madrid fans, Bale has notched up 17 goals and eight assists this season.
Forward: Lionel Messi
398 goals in 468 appearances for Barcelona. Most goals ever in a calendar year (96!). 24 La Liga hat tricks. Six La Liga titles. Three Champions League titles. Two Copa del Reys. Two FIFA World Club Cups. Four-time Ballon d’Or winner.
Lionel Messi’s right foot is colossal, but his left is touched by genius.
Bench: Robin van Persie, Angel di Maria, David Silva, Petr Cech, Ashley Cole, Daniel Sturridge, Patrice Evra
Think you can come up with a bunch of right-footers capable of taking on this lot? Best of luck to you.