When you look at some of the best players to have ever played soccer, you may have noticed that many of them were left-footed.
Because of this, I’ve often wondered whether being left-footed made these players naturally better at soccer or gave them an advantage somehow. So, I decided to research this topic and put together what I found in this helpful article.
So, are left-footed soccer players better?
Overall, left-footed soccer players are not better than right-footed players. Currently, the world’s best soccer player (Lionel Messi) is left-footed. But the majority (65%) of the world’s top 20 professional soccer players are right-footed.
You can find out who the top 20 soccer players are below, along with information about which is their strongest foot. But, I’ve also discovered how many left-footed PROFESSIONAL soccer players there are relative to how many people are left-handed and dig into more reasons why.
So, read on to discover the answers to these questions and more interesting information about how left-footed soccer players compare to right-footed players.
If you’re looking to buy a new soccer jersey anytime soon be sure to check out my Soccer Jersey Buying Guide here before you make a purchase. It will be sure to save you from making some easy mistakes.
What percentage of professional soccer players are left-footed?
So, let’s start by looking at the facts:
The first thing I found was a study done at the University of Aberdeen In the UK. This study showed that at a professional level, the percentage of soccer players who were right-footed (~79%) was the same as the broader population.
This study suggests that whether you are right-footed or left-footed makes no difference to your chances of becoming a professional soccer player.
But, as I thought about it, it still felt like left-footed players seem significantly more challenging to defend against and to get around than others.
So, I looked further into and analyzed how many of the highest-paid – most skilled – soccer players are left-footed.
I’ve put the information into the table below:
|Player||Earnings||Left footed or right footed|
|Lionel Messi||$127M||Left footed|
|Cristiano Ronaldo||$109M||Right footed|
|Neymar Jr.||$105M||Right footed|
|Paul Pogba||$33M||Right footed|
|Andrés Iniesta||$32.5M||Right footed|
|Alexis Sánchez||$30.8M||Right footed|
|Kylian Mbappé||$30.6M||Right footed|
|Mesut Özil||$30.2M||Left footed|
|Oscar dos Santos Emboaba Júnior||$29M||Right footed|
|Antoine Griezmann||$27.7M||Left footed|
|Gareth Bale||$27.1M||Left footed|
|Mohamed Salah||$25.1M||Left footed|
|Ángel Di María||$23.7M||Left footed|
|Luis Suárez||$23.6M||Right footed|
|Sergio Agüero||$22.6M||Right footed|
|Thiago Silva||$22.5M||Right footed|
|James Rodríguez||$22.1M||Left footed|
|Sergio Ramos||$21.9M||Right footed|
|Graziano Pelle||$21.7M||Right footed|
|Gerard Piqué||$21.7M||Right footed|
Based on what I found, I counted 13 right footed players and seven left-footed players.
As a percentage, this means that of the top 20 soccer players in the world, 65% are right-footed, and 35% are left-footed.
This is slightly more left-footed players than what you would expect. Remember that the study above showed that around 79% of soccer players are right-footed.
This list of the top players suggests that the top players in the world are more likely to be left-handed than the general population.
Why is there an above-average amount of left-footed people in professional soccer?
It seems to be the case that left-footed soccer players outperform what you would expect them too in soccer.
Why is this? My opinion is that it’s mostly because fewer people are left-footed, meaning that most players have less practice defending against a left-footed player than they do a right-footed player.
Anything that you practice, you will get better at it. And over the years of playing soccer, most players have had more practice defending from right-footed players than left-footed players.
They will also have had more training to get around goalies and defenders who prefer their right foot to their left.
At first glance, this difference may seem too subtle. Surely it can’t make that much difference?! But these small differences can often have more impact than we give them credit for.
For most of their soccer career, defending players will face attacking players who are using their right foot. This experience becomes second nature in a defender’s mind, and a player’s brain gets hardwired to expect this.
Anything different from this, such as defending against a left-footed player, takes a little more thought.
For more info on what it takes to be a great soccer defender have a look at my article – 21 Qualities of a Soccer Defender.
Ambidextrous Soccer Players
Ideally, every player would be ambidextrous. Being an ambidextrous soccer player is very helpful.
But the reality is that most players naturally prefer one foot over the other.
As part of the same study mentioned above, the research team discovered that almost every soccer player used one foot more than the other.
And this had nothing to do with how skilled they were with either foot. In fact, the study showed that most players were equally adept with both feet, but still used one foot far more than the other.
The truth is that almost everyone is biologically predisposed to having a dominant foot.
This is shown most clearly at set-pieces.
Think about who you would prefer to take a corner kick on the left side of the field.
It is generally easier to kick the ball towards the goal with the left foot if the corner is on the left side of the soccer field and the right foot if the corner is on the right side.
I’ve included a picture below to help illustrate this:
Given the rules of soccer state that a team can’t just decide for themselves which side of the goal, they take the corner kick from, that leads to the question:
If you were to choose who you wanted to take a corner kick on the left side of the field, would you prefer a natural left-footer or a natural right-footer?
Personally, I would choose the natural over an ambidextrous soccer player any day.
This is because a player who is naturally stronger on one side or the other is better with that foot. So, the chances are they will do a better kick.
Although this gives a good starting point, there are also other factors to consider, such as a player’s form.
Suppose one player has been playing well and has been doing some fantastic corners recently. In this situation, they will be playing with more confidence, affecting how they play.
In that case, it might be a better idea to let the confident player take the kick rather than the player who is naturally stronger on that side.
On balance, I would say that for the majority of the time, you want a set-piece taken by a player using their strongest and dominant foot.
Who is the best left-footed soccer player?
Lionel Messi is considered by many to be the best left-footed soccer player. He plays for FC Barcelona, a Spanish soccer club, and also plays for the Argentina national team.
Lionel Messi is considered by many to be the greatest left-footed player of all time (The GOAT).
Have a look at this video showing how great Lionel Messi is on the soccer field.
Other soccer players who could be regarded as some of the greatest left-footed soccer players are Diego Maradona, Ryan Giggs, and Roberto Carlos.
Do left-footed players get put in different positions to right-footed soccer players?
You’ll find that left-footed soccer players are generally placed on the left-wing or the left-back.
This is because their strong foot is farthest away from an attacker, meaning they have more time and space to kick and pass the ball.
For the ball to remain in your team’s possession, you have to keep it inbound.
So, most of the kicking you will do will be towards the center of the field. The only real exception to this is when you are doing a clearing kick out of bounds on purpose.
When you are running forwards, it’s easier to kick the ball towards the center of the field with your outside leg, which will be their left leg on left-footed players.
This saves a player from turning their body to kick with their weak side and losing momentum and speed.
As you will have hopefully seen, left-footed soccer players aren’t necessarily more talented than right-footed players. The evidence shows that players who are gifted at soccer are both right-footed and left-footed.
Being left-footed makes up only 10% of the soccer players worldwide, so players don’t have as much experience defending them and attacking against them.
Whether you are left-footed or right-footed makes little difference to whether you will become a top soccer player.
Most players will have had more practice defending against and attacking right-footed players simply because they make up most of the population.
If you want to see your own abilities on the soccer field dramatically increase in a short space of time, I suggest you check out my Soccer Fitness Guide. This guide includes a daily soccer-based fitness program that will help you reach your potential on the soccer field by following the same training as professional soccer players.
Check it out here and don’t miss out on being the best player you can be.
And feel free to check out one of my related articles:
- A striker in soccer: Everything you need to know
- Can you score from a throw-in in soccer?
- What is a “Brace” in soccer?
Sources used in this article
- Footedness in world soccer: an analysis of France ’98, Carey, D. P. et al. Neuropsychology Research Group, Department of Psychology, University of Aberdeen
- Sportskeeda.com: Top 20 highest-paid football players in the world
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