Hoddle, Pele, Zidane, Maldini: The greatest two-footed XI in football history

  • Kobe Tong
Hoddle speaks to HPP.

Glenn Hoddle is one of the most two-footed footballers in the history of the men’s game.

While it might seem like a given that professional players pocketing huge wages week in, week out would be able to strut their stuff with both feet, showing true ambidexterity on a football pitch is far rarer than you might expect.

It turns out that nabbing £200,000-per-week isn’t a one-way ticket to causing mayhem with both your right and left boot unless you’re a true footballing magician like Hoddle and a select few others.

Hoddle on the importance of ambidexterity

However, said exclusive club of two-footed wizards just happen to ascertain something of a superpower once they master the art of ambidexterity because it opens up so many doors in the way that they play the beautiful game.

And that instant release of fresh opportunities, avenues and possibilities on the pitch is something that Hoddle himself discussed during a fascinating appearance on the High Performance Podcast.

The Tottenham Hotspur and England legend described a footballer’s feet as ‘golf clubs’, brilliantly explaining how players who can use the inside and outside of each of them have more in the locker as a result.

“Listen, give me a ball and a wall,” Hoddle mused. “You don’t need a coach. You don’t need your dad. You just need time. And the love of doing it and you’ll become a better player.

Read more: The High Performance Podcast hub

“Two-footed, inside your foot, outside your foot. Your feet are like golf clubs. As a footballer, you’ve gotta be learn to use both of them. And you’ve gotta learn to use the inside and the outside of your foot.

“If you can do that and you will improve, you won’t get worse. If you can do that, you’ve got angles to play passes that others haven’t got. And that’s a massive advantage.”

Hoddle is a Tottenham legend.
Glenn Hoddle Tottenham Hotspur Stock Season 86/87 Pic : Action Images

While it might seem like an obvious point at first, the realisation that so few great players are as ambidextrous as Hoddle was just goes to show how ground-breaking it can be at the highest level of the sport.

Other two-footed icons

As such, we couldn’t help going down the rabbit hole of two-footed players who, like Hoddle, raised their game to the next level by way of being able to effortlessly interchange between their right and left boots.

Here at GIVEMESPORT, we’ve already ranked the 20 most two-footed male players in history, but now we’re narrowing our search to what we consider to be the most ambidextrous XI that the sport has ever seen.

We’ve tried to concoct our line-up based upon a mixture of the player’s two-footed ability as well as their overall footballing quality with legends getting preferential treatment over less successful stars.

Zidane celebrates at Real Madrid.
REAL MADRID’S ZIDANE CELEBRATES AFTER SCORING A GOAL DURING THEIR CHAMPIONS LEAGUE SEMIFINAL MATCH IN BARCELONA. Real Madrid’s Frenchman Zinedine Zidane celebrates after scoring a goal against FC Barcelona during their Champions League semifinal first leg soccer match at Camp Nou stadium April 23, 2002. REUTERS/Sergio Perez

And naturally, the tactics board has largely stepped aside in order to ensure that the 11 players who traversed their right and left feet with the greatest deftness are best represented across their broad playing positions.

But at the end of the day, two-footedness takes priority with some ‘lesser’ players rubbing shoulders with icons based on their extraordinary lack of an obvious preferred side.

The most two-footed XI of all time

We might not be omniscient overseers of each and every two-footed player to have ever crossed the white line, but we’re pretty darn confident that our XI would make playing with each trotter look like a doddle.

GK: Manuel Neuer

By far the most difficult position to choose, goalkeepers have only recently been judged by their ball-playing ability with the likes of Ederson and Alisson Becker rising to the top courtesy of their fleet-footedness.

But Neuer was there before them both as the ultimate sweeper-keeper who could either hoof the ball into Row Z, play a gorgeous pass or even supply an assist with either his stronger right or weaker left foot.

Neuer lifts the Bundesliga trophy.
Soccer Football – Bayern Munich celebrate winning the Bundesliga – Marienplatz, Munich, Germany – May 15, 2022 Bayern Munich’s Manuel Neuer celebrate winning the Bundesliga with the trophy REUTERS/Andreas Gebert

DF: Philipp Lahm

Whether he’s playing at left-back, right-back or in central midfield, Lahm was the master technician in almost every respect with his attention to detail seeing him end his career without a single red card.

And that pursuit of perfection also saw him switch between his right foot and left foot without batting an eyelid, duly making him one of the most versatile defenders of the modern era.

DF: Paolo Maldini

Ask most people which foot was Maldini’s strongest and they’ll probably say ‘left’ because that’s the flank that he occupied for great swathes of his AC Milan career, hardly ever looking an inch out of place.

However, those ‘most people’ would seemingly be wrong with reports suggesting that Maldini was actually right-footed, making the circumstances under which he became one of the greatest defenders in history all the more remarkable.

Maldini playing for AC Milan.
AC Milan’s captain Paolo Maldini shows his disappointment during a Serie A match against Livorno at the Armando Picchi stadium in Livorno, January 23, 2005. Livorno won the match 1-0. REUTERS/Giampiero Sposito GS/SM

DF: Andreas Brehme

When Brehme scored a vital penalty for West Germany in the 1986 World Cup quarter-finals against Mexico, he did so with his left foot.

When Brehme scored a vital penalty for West Germany in the 1990 World Cup final – yes, the final – against Argentina, he did so with his right foot. Now that’s what you call being ambidextrous under pressure.

MF: Glenn Hoddle

The reason we’re here. Hoddle is one of the most underrated England players of all time, so often criminally forgotten for his technical excellence at the heart of which was his ability to thrive with both his left and right boots.

Hoddle representing England.
Glenn Hoddle England Stock Season 87/88 Pic : Action Images Tottenham Hotspur

MF: Santi Cazorla

Obviously. While Cazorla might not have reached the dizzying heights of some of the players around him, he’s arguably the most two-footed player that the men’s game has ever seen.

Arsenal fans have fond memories of the Spanish genius taking free-kicks with both feet and the streets will never forget the time that he switched sides for a corner upon request from Laurent Koscielny.

MF: Zinedine Zidane

You know you’ve got tekkers with both boots when you’re scoring the greatest Champions League final goal of all time with one foot and then chipping a World Cup final penalty down the middle with the other.

Zidane slots effortlessly into that rare breed of footballer that makes anything and everything look absurdly easily, interchanging as naturally between feet as your average joe does between pairs of socks each morning.

Zidane scores for Real Madrid.
Real Madrid’s Zidane celebrates a goal against Racing Santander during their Spanish League soccer match in Santander. Real Madrid’s French player Zinedine Zidane celebrates after scoring a goal against Racing Santander during their Spanish League soccer match at Sardinero stadium in Santander in northern Spain, December 18, 2004. real Madrid won the match 3-2. REUTERS/Victor Fraile

MF: Sir Bobby Charlton

Arguably the greatest British player of all time, Charlton spent hours upon hours thumping a ball against his wall – Hoddle would be proud – from increasing distances as a boy to hone his accuracy with both feet.

It’s a testament to his ambidexterity that his iconic World Cup banger against Mexico was scored with his right foot despite the general consensus being that his left boot was actually the superior option.

FW: Ousmane Dembele

Dembele has scored 21 left-footed goals and 24 right-footed goals in professional club football. Madness.

You know a player is ridiculously two-footed when they’ve legitimately been asked in interviews which leg is actually the stronger one with the Barcelona star once saying that he’s more left-footed despite taking penalties with his right!

FW: Pele

A Swiss Army knife of footballing skill, Pele might well be the most complete player in history, laying claim to more than 1,000 goals scored in every context imaginable from free-kicks, headers, penalties, solo stunners and more.

The three-time World Cup winner might have been right-footed by trade, but you know that you’re ambidextrous when there’s a five-minute YouTube compilation showing you doing everything to perfection with both feet.

FW: George Best

Rightfully heralded in the pantheon of football’s greatest ever dribblers alongside Garrincha and Diego Maradona, Best made slaloming past defenders look like child’s play by constantly switching between his feet.

It’s not for no reason that slow-motion footage of the Manchester United icon riding tackles and leaving players for dead makes for one of the most stunning sights in football history.

Best poses at Man Utd.
George Best – Manchester United Pic : Action Images

Two left feet

Never has having two left feet – or two right feet, of course – been such a good thing.

While we might not have selected the greatest XI of all time, period; it’s no coincidence that names from the GOAT debate such as Zidane, Pele and Maldini also happen to have been furiously ambidextrous.

And then there are the outliers like Dembele and Cazorla who might not have defined their eras, but nevertheless bring fans to their feet by fooling defenders with their stunning lack of a weaker foot.

Cazorla warms up for Arsenal.
Football – FC Cologne v Arsenal Pre Season Friendly – Rhein Energie Stadium, Cologne, Germany – 12/8/12 Arsenal’s Santi Cazorla Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Peter Cziborra

So, if ever you’re looking to hone your footballing skills without a multi-million-pound training facility and team of coaches, perhaps heeding Hoddle’s advise of upgrading the foot that you neglect is the way to go.

Get a wall, get a ball and you might just become your own little version of Hoddle.

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