World Football: Top 20 Left-Footed Players of All Time

Pauly Kwestel@pkwestelWFAN Correspondent ISeptember 15, 2011

World Football: Top 20 Left-Footed Players of All Time

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    Starting from an early age, left-footed football players are often placed into one of two positions on the field: left wing or left back. After all, most coaches have plenty of right-footed players that can play everywhere else on the field, but only so many kids who can play on the left.

    As a result, many left-footed children grow up idolizing and emulating their favorite left wingers and left backs.

    Over the years, there have been several fantastic left-footed players, and the list of great ones just keeps growing.

    As time has gone on, these left-footed players have become so good that they have crept in and moved away from the left flank, out into other positions on the field.

    These left-footed players are not just becoming some of the greatest left-footed players to ever play the game—they are becoming some of the greatest players ever.

    As I am relatively young, I apologize for not being able to have a complete comprehensive grasp of every left-footed player to play the game. I obviously will side with the more contemporary player whom I have seen play, though I have tried to list as many of the all-time players as I could.

    Here are the 20 best left-footed footballers of all time.

20. Petr Cech

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    A goalkeeper may not be what you originally thought of when you saw the best-footed players of all time. After all, what difference does it make whether a goalkeeper is left- or right-footed?

    Nevertheless, Cech has been one of the greatest goalkeepers out there. He took control of a Czech Republic team and made them one of the favorites and world's best teams before the 2006 World Cup.

    On the club level, Cech's arrival at Chelsea made them a contender for the Premier League title every season. He has won several FA Cups with the club and has taken them to a Champions League final.

    Though he has slowed down a bit with age, Cech is still a world-class keeper, and just a few years ago he was very much in the discussion for the best keeper in the world.

19. Adriano

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    Adriano's career may easily go down as one more of potential then actual production. While he has had his moments of brilliance, he has also had moments where he came crashing back down.

    The Brazilian striker made a name for himself during his three different stints with Internazionale in Serie A. However, inconsistency led to him leaving the club or being loaned out several times, often simply to other Serie A clubs.

    The Brazilian does have a very decorated career, though; he's scored 48 goals in 123 senior appearances for Inter and has helped them win four Serie A titles.

    Internationally, he has scored 27 goals in 48 appearances for Brazil, winning a Copa America and a FIFA Confederations Cup. He has picked up both the Golden Ball and Golden Shoe in both competitions, for best player in the tournament and top goal scorer in the tournament.

18. Karl-Heinz Schnellinger

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    Schnellinger was one of the world's greatest defenders throughout the 1960s.

    He earned himself the nickname the "Volkswagen" due to him being German as well as his ability to consistently perform at the highest level.

    He found his greatest success playing in Italy for AC Milan, becoming one of the first German players to find success outside of Germany. Throughout the decade he was considered the best left back in the world.

    Schnellinger scored 14 times in 387 career appearances over his career, with 222 of those appearances coming for Milan. He helped Milan to a Serie A title in 1968, as well as the European Cup the following season.

17. Ruud Krol

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    The Dutch defender emerged as one of the greatest defenders not just of the 1960s, but to ever play the game. Krol's versatility allowed him to play anywhere along the back four.

    Krol spent most of his career with Ajax, helping them win eight league titles. Along with those titles came three European Cups.

    Krol was also capped 83 times by the Netherlands, the most by any player until the year 2000. He scored four times in his 83 appearances and helped the Dutch to World Cup finals in 1974 and 1978, though they fell both times.

16. Alfredo Di Stefano

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    Di Stefano made a name for himself playing for Real Madrid in the 1950s, where he helped the club achieve its dominance of the European Cup during the decade. He led Madrid to an astonishing five European Cups during his time there.

    Though he played as a forward, Di Stefano could play all over the pitch, and he spent countless amounts of time on the left side.

    Di Stefano left his mark at the Bernabeu. He scored 246 goals in 302 appearances for Real Madrid. He is the second-highest goal scorer ever for Real Madrid and the fourth-highest goal scorer in all of Spain.

    Di Stefano also played for three different national teams. Originally, he suited up for Argentina, where he scored six goals in six matches. He then played in four matches for Colombia before joining the Spanish national team, for which he is the most famous.

    Di Stefano scored 23 goals in 31 international appearances for Spain.

    Several players have called Di Stefano the most complete footballer ever.

15. Johan Cruyff

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    Cruyff is the player most associated with the concept of "Total Football."

    The Dutch forward started his career at Ajax, where he helped them win eight league titles and three European Cups.

    Cruyff scored 190 goals in 240 appearances for Ajax before moving on to Barcelona for five seasons. He helped Barcelona win one La Liga tittle, while scoring 48 goals in 143 appearances.

    Cruyff's ability to play "Total Football" allowed him to move all over the field and take complete control of the game.

    He scored 33 goals in just 48 International appearances for the Dutch national team. In addition, Cruyff won the Ballon d'Or three times in his career, putting him jointly at the top of the list for most times winning the award.

14. Ferenc Puskas

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    Ferenc Puskas was one of the greatest goal scorers to ever live. He scored 84 goals in just 85 international appearances.

    At the club level, he was just as deadly. He first played for the Hungarian club Kispest. In 177 appearances for Kispest, Puskas scored an astonishing 187 goals. When his club career finally came to an end, Puskas had scored 509 goals in 523 appearances.

    Puskas would win four Hungarian League titles, as well as five La Liga titles and three European Cups with Real Madrid. He was also an Olympic champion with Hungary in 1952.

13. Mesut Ozil

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    Ozil is quickly solidifying himself as one of the best midfielders in the world, and he continues to star in a Real Madrid team full of stars.

    While he is not an out-and-out goal scorer, Ozil brings much more to the table as a complete midfielder who beautifully fits the Real Madrid style of play.

    Ozil was thrust into international attention during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, where he starred for Germany. He scored a beautiful volley from the top of the box in Germany's final group game against Ghana, ensuring that Germany would advance to the knockout rounds.

    At the end of the tournament, he was one of 10 nominees for the Golden Ball, given to the best player of the tournament.

    The scary thing about Ozil is that at just 22 years old, there is still a lot of room for him to improve.

12. David Silva

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    David Silva is quickly emerging as one of, if not the best, left winger in the world. He has been a member of the senior Spanish national team since he was 20 years old and has been influential in the team's success in recent tournaments.

    Silva was tremendous in Euro 2008, helping Spain capture their first major tournament. Following the tournament, rumors swirled of Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson offering in the neighborhood of £20 million for the Spanish star, but Silva remained at Valencia.

    Just a few years later, Silva was involved in a big money move to Manchester; however, he joined the Blue of Manchester City. After helping Spain lift the 2010 World Cup, Silva helped City lift their first trophy in 35 years, the FA Cup.

    This season Silva has picked up his play even more. In his playmaking role behind Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko, Silva is one of the major reasons for City's unbeaten and dominating start.

    By the end of his career, Silva will surely have moved up in the list of greatest left-footed players of all time.

11. Robin Van Persie

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    After starting his career on the left wing, van Persie has moved to the middle to become Arsenal's primary striker. Since the end of the summer transfer window, he also seems to be Arsenal's only remaining bright spot.

    After missing the first half of last season due to an injury, van Persie returned and scored 18 league goals during the second half of the season. His play announced him as one of the best strikers in the Premier League and a player that opposing teams would have to be afraid of.

    Van Persie's dangerous left foot makes him one of the more feared strikers in Europe, even if the rest of his team does not instill the feat that it once used to.

10. Iker Casillas

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    Casillas is one of the hardest players to place on this list. Though he is the best at what he does, and he is still left footed, he is still a goal keeper. I settled with putting him at no. 10. This doesn't make him the best, but it keeps him in the top 10 and seems fair to me.

    Over the last few seasons, Casillas has taken the question of "who is the best goalkeeper in the world" and made sure that the discussion starts and ends with him.

    Though he has not had as much success at the club level as you may think he should, that could mostly be attributed to the fact that he now has to face Barcelona in just about every competition.

    But when it comes to who should be the starting goalkeeper for Spain, the choice is always Casillas, with Barcelona keeper Victor Valdes reduced to a spot on the bench.

    Casillas has been tremendous, helping Spain to the 2008 European Championship and the 2010 World Cup. When all is said and done, Casillas could go down as the greatest goalkeeper of all time.

9. Esteban Cambiasso

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    Esteban Cambiasso is one of those rare left-footed players that has been allowed to move to the middle of the field. Too good to be used just out wide, Cambiasso has become one of a rare breed of left-footed central midfielders.

    Since leaving Real Madrid for Inter Milan, Cambiasso has become one of the best defensive midfielders around. While he fits in well with Inter Milan, he was even more extraordinary when he played under Jose Mourinho, helping lead Milan to a UEFA Champions League title.

    At Milan, Cambiasso has won five Serie A titles, four Copa Italias, a Champions League title, and a FIFA Club World Cup title.

    In total over his entire career, Cambiasso has won 22 titles, putting even with Alfredo Di Stefano for the most titles by an Argentinian player (though Leo Messi will probably have something to say about that by the time his career ends).

    If only Cambiasso could bring some of that success to the Argentinian national team.

8. Patrice Evra

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    The French defender started his career out as a striker, but found his success at left back. Since moving to Manchester United in the winter of 2005, Evra's career has taken off under the guidance of Sir Alex Ferguson.

    At United, Evra quickly emerged as the first choice left back, pushing everyone in front of him out of his way. He has now become a permanent fixture in United's ever-changing back four, and has become one of the best left backs in the world.

    Evra's pace and control on the ball allow him to push up and join the Manchester United attack, helping to make a dangerous attack even more dangerous. While he doesn't score often, Evra remains a threat to opposing players due to his great ability to launch attacks and provide crosses.

    Evra is not without honors at United either, as he has been on the winning end of four Premier League titles, a UEFA Champions League title, a FIFA Club World Cup, and three Carling Cups.

7. Ashley Cole

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    If you think Patrice Evra is the best left back in the world, you could probably easily find someone who will argue that that title actually belongs to Ashley Cole.

    The English left back got his start with Arsene Wenger at Arsenal and was a member of the 'Invincibles,' Arsenal's undefeated title-winning squad from 2004.

    Cole then made a controversial move from Highbury to Stamford Bridge, joining Chelsea and helping them reclaim the Premier League title from Manchester United in 2010.

    While he has often been in the news for off-field reasons or because of his personal life, there is no doubt to what Cole can do on the field. He is always on the field for Chelsea and has been England's first choice left back for several years.

    While playing for Arsenal, Cole was named in the PFA Team of the Year three times. While he may have dipped a bit in form for Chelsea, many people still consider him to be the best left back in the world.

6. Paolo Maldini

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    Paolo Maldini is a symbol of longevity. Maldini played 25 seasons with AC Milan, making 902 total appearances. Over the years, he became a symbol of the club.

    During his time with the Italian giants, Maldini won seven Serie A titles as well as the UEFA Champions League an incredible five times.

    Maldini did not slow down with age, winning the UEFA Defender of the Year when he was 39 years old.

    In addition, Maldini played 14 years with the Italian national team, earning 126 caps and playing in four World Cups.

    While Maldini was exceptional with his left foot, his right foot was equally strong, making many people believe that he was in fact right footed.

5. Raul Gonzalez

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    While he is now in the twilight of his career, Raul Gonzalez was one of the greatest strikers to ever wear a Real Madrid shirt. With 323 goals in 741 appearances, he is the club's all-time leading goal scorer.

    Furthermore, Raul helped Real Madrid win three UEFA Champions League titles. Including his time with FC Schalke, Raul has scored 71 goals in 145 UEFA Champions League appearances, making him the competition's all-time leading scorer.

    When all is said and done, this left-footed superstar will go down as one of the greatest forwards ever.

4. Roberto Carlos

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    The Brazilian left back is perhaps the man who revolutionized the left back position. Roberto Carlos was one of the first defenders to absolutely tear down the left wing and join the attack.

    Carlos struck what is one of the greatest left-footed free kicks in a match against France in 1997, making him Brazil's left-footed free-kick specialist.

    Carlos earned 125 caps for Brazil during his career, scoring 11 times. He played in three World Cups and helped Brazil win the 2002 World Cup in France.

    Carlos' success extended down to the club level as well, where he scored 47 goals in 370 appearances for Real Madrid. Over his entire career, he has scored 94 goals in 740 senior appearances.

    Carlos helped Real Madrid to four La Liga titles and three Champions League titles. In 1997, the left-footed star finished as a runner up for the FIFA World Player of the Year award.

3. Ryan Giggs

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    There may be better players then Ryan Giggs, but there are very few who have had or ever will have a more distinguished career then the Welshman.

    Giggs broke into the Manchester United team in 1992 and quickly became a permanent fixture on the left wing. He has since gone on to break Sir Bobby Charlton's record for all-time appearances for Manchester United, as well as become the only player to have scored a goal in every Premier League season so far.

    While Sir Alex Ferguson has done an incredible job of constantly rebuilding his teams at Manchester United, the one constant there has been Giggs.

    Giggs' has one of the most decorated trophy cabinets in British football, winning an astonishing 12 Premier League titles, four FA Cups, four Carling Cups, two Champions League titles, an Intercontinental Cup, and a FIFA Club World Cup. In addition, he has a bevy of individual awards, including two PFA Young Player of the Year awards and a PFA Player of the Year award, and has been included in the PFA Team of the Year six times.

    One of the most astonishing things about Giggs has been how he keeps playing on despite his age. As he's grown older, he has reinvented himself as a creative central midfielder rather then a left winger.

    While his first team opportunities are dwindling, Giggs continues to make an impact on any game that he plays in.

2. Diego Maradona

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    The man who is arguably the greatest player to ever play also happens to be left footed.

    Maradona's fancy footwork allowed him to dribble through opposing teams with relative ease and flair. He scored 258 goals in 492 club appearances, but he is most famous for what he did with the Argentinian national team.

    Maradona led Argentina to victory in the 1986 World Cup. He scored both goals in Argentina's 2-1 semifinal win over England. The first goal was his famous "hand of god" goal, while his second goal came after running 60 yards with the ball and was later voted "Goal of the Century."

    While many people consider Maradona to be the best that ever lived, he does not get the top spot on this list because Maradona himself believes that there is one more player who just might be a bit better...

1. Lionel Messi

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    The best left-footed player of all time is also currently the best football player in the world. Leo Messi has already won a whole career's worth of awards, and yet he is only 24.

    Messi has already scored 186 goals and picked up 78 assists in his career with Barcelona. He's done all that in just 275 appearances with the club.

    He has led Barcelona to five La Liga titles and three Champions League titles, and there are plenty more of those to come.

    What Messi lacks in size he makes up for in ability. With the ball at his feet, it is nearly impossible to get the ball off of the Argentine. He splits defenders with ease, and with a strong right foot, he is a double threat to score from anywhere.

    At the young age of 24, Messi has already captured the Ballon d'Or twice, as well as a FIFA World Player of the Year award.

    By the end of his career, who knows how many awards and titles Messi will have won. We just know it will be a lot of fun watching him get there.