Greatest two-footed XI of all time
While there are innumerable stories of footballers who have made it through grit and hard-work to the very top of the mountain, those who are born talented are simply something else. These players manage to make everything look effortless, easily outclass everyone else on the pitch and drag their teams by the scruff of the neck to get past the finish line even when they aren’t necessarily at their best.
A special breed in the footballing world are those who are masterful with both feet, equally adept at passing, shooting and running with either. They can take effective corners from either side, attempt free-kicks from angles which might be uncomfortable for others and shoot without necessarily having to shift the ball from one foot to the other, making them a lot deadlier in-front of goal.
This also makes it more difficult to pinpoint a particular weakness, with tactics of forcing them to play on a particular side insufficient in stopping their influence.
While these days players are trained to be equally comfortable on either foot, there are only few who can lay claim to be truly ambidextrous on the football pitch. Let’s take a look at the greatest two-footed XI of all time, in a 4-3-3 formation.
Goalkeeper: Manuel Neuer
When he eventually calls it quits, Neuer will probably go down as one of the greatest goalkeepers to have ever played the game. Considering that he had Oliver Kahn’s massive shoes to fill, Neuer has done exceptionally well, and has turned out to be incredibly successful at both club and country level.
While Neuer makes match-winning saves, he’s better known for prowling on the edge of the box and playing the role of a ‘sweeper.’ Neuer’s incredible distribution allows both Bayern and Germany to push higher up the pitch, relying on the shot-stopper’s speed to cover a large area of ground.
He also shows incredible calm when pressed, turning his opponents inside out before spraying the ball out with either foot. His incredible confidence and talent mean that he’s found at the half-way line a lot more often that you’ll probably find him in his own box.
Right-back: Philipp Lahm
Equally comfortable at both right-back, left-back and midfield, Lahm is a manager’s dream; bringing a measure of calm wherever he plays and the epitome of versatility. The iconic captain slots into any role his team requires, with his defensive brilliance and short stature earning him the nickname ‘the magic dwarf.’
Named by Pep Guardiola as the smartest player he’s ever worked with, Lahm’s ambidexterity ensures that he’s equally adept at both attack and defence. After a glittering career which included 8 domestic titles and a World Cup, Lahm announced that he’ll retire from the game upon the expiry of his contract with Bayern in 2018.
Right center-back: Andreas Brehme
Since it is a XI of 2 footed players, filling in at right center-back is German left fullback and World Cup winner, Andreas Brehme. Winner of the Bundesliga with Kaiserslautern and Bayern Munich, and the Serie A with Inter Milan, Brehme took free-kicks and corners with his left-foot and penalties with his right, believing the former to be stronger and the latter to be more accurate.
In the penalty-shootout against Mexico in the quarter-finals of the 1986 World Cup, Brehme scored his penalty with his left-foot, so he faced a dilemma 4 years on when he was called to take a penalty in the 85th minute during Germany’s World Cup final against Argentina. He would famously score the penalty with his right-foot as Germany won the tie 1-0.
Left center-back: Paolo Maldini
One of the most famous left-sided players in the history of the game, the Milan legend and 5 times Champions League winner is actually right-footed. Maldini featured on the right until he was 16 when he broke into the Rossoneri team, but was shifted out into the opposite flank due to a dearth of left-footers in the squad.
Twice nominated for the Ballon D’Or – the second nomination coming when he was 35 – he won the league 7 times, including in 1991/1992, when Milan went a whole campaign unbeaten.
Like his father before him, Maldini too became the club captain and he holds the record for most appearances in all competitions for Milan (902) as well as the most appearances in Serie A history (647).
Left-back: Gael Clichy
While Clichy might look a bit out of place in this backline of legends, the Manchester City player is still a supremely talented player. He was a part of the Invincibles squad at Arsenal that went the entire season unbeaten in 2003/04 and he would then go on to win a further 2 league titles with City in 2011/12 and 2013/14.
The Toulouse native was born right-footed, but when he was 5 years old broke his favoured leg and with it his chance at becoming a footballer. However, Clichy’s father responded by insisting that he play with his other foot, telling Clichy that his goals counted only if they came with his left boot; with the training eventually paying off and Clichy becoming equally good with both feet.