One Footed Wonders
Fortunately, they are here to stay.
Few things irk the general public more than the wages professional footballers earn. But then what can be said for those stars that perennially ignore the presence of that other limb which protrudes from their body, as chances go awry due to an inability to make use of their ‘swinger’?
However the cry of, “He earns £150,000 a week, of course he should be able to kick it with both feet!” often rings hollow when the likes of Arjen Robben- king of the one footed wonders- take to the pitch.
Indeed, the majority of such players seem to be left footed. Traditionally an anomalous minority given that the vast proportion of footballers favour their right peg, the group gives nearly as many world class talents to the modern game as their more common counterparts- from Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale to ex-Bernabéu star Ángel Di María.
A new arrival at Old Trafford this season, Di María will not be the only left footer though. Of course, Louis van Gaal’s assistant Ryan Giggs committed many a raid down the port side of the pitch during his playing days and the same will surely ring true with the current Reds squad.
Against Queens Park Rangers last Sunday, the starting XI contained no fewer than six left footed players from front to back. Undoubtedly an unusual phenomenon but one that will probably be repeated based on the selection’s successful deployment in a comfortable 4–0 victory.
Named Man of the Match on the day, summer signing Di María netted once before setting up fellow lefty Juan Mata to complete the rout. Having enjoyed a stellar twelve months that included an even more impressive performance in the Champions League Final and starring for Argentina as they finished second at the World Cup in Brazil, the 26-year old is arguably at the top of his game though that will not prevent his detractors from pointing out one crucial thing.
Di María is, to all intents and purposes, the archetypal one footed wonder. For some, particularly those fans of United’s rivals, this is an inherent deficiency. So despite calls for the ex-Madrid winger to be the man to break the Lionel Messi-Cristiano Ronaldo stranglehold on the prestigious Ballon d’Or award, Di María still has his doubters.
The new United recruit is not alone in his one footed prowess though and there are players of the more common righty brigade that share this characteristic.
Vaunted as central to the Azzurri’s future for years, Mario Balotelli arrived at Liverpool in August with a point to prove having been bounced around a host of Europe’s top clubs. Without doubt, the former Manchester City starlet has the ability to succeed at the highest level though, aside from his apparent attitude problems, his over reliance on his stronger right foot could prove problematic.
Balotelli scored as the Merseyside club kicked off their return to the Champions League against lowly Ludogorets with a narrow win. However, other opportunities went begging when the 24-year old sought to shift the ball on to his favoured side rather than chance his weaker left foot.
Although the tendency does not diminish the special talent Balotelli is, such a propensity could become problematic against better sides when chances are few and far between.
That said, Balotelli might well look to the example of David Beckham and see that a career can be built on one foot- all be it, a very skilled one.
The former England captain’s game bears no resemblance to the Italian’s but few could argue that the pair do not share an unrivalled preference for their right side, and for good reason.
Most famous for his free-kicks- of which he scored 65- Beckham honed his dead ball skills through hours of extra training in a career spanning 21 years and 6 clubs. Such dedication enabled him to become one of the finest passers of the ball that the modern game has seen too, all of it without relying on that far less famous left foot of his.
With an estimated net worth of $350 million, none could argue that the Leytonstone-born boy did not make the most of his talents, and maybe it would be equally fair to praise those stars who similarly look to forge a career on one limb.
However, it would be false to say that those who are equally adept with both feet do not warrant recognition. Galatasaray’s Wesley Sneijder possesses a wonderful ability to hit the ball sweetly from either side, whilst current Ballon d’Or holder Ronaldo has developed his game in a similar fashion.
Such ability is not new though, with one of English football’s former greats a pioneer of the movement. Like Beckham, the late Sir Tom Finney was a zealous trainer but went one step further in honing his weaker right foot to be as strong as his left, something which worked to great effect at the 1954 World Cup.
With English football reaching a new nadir at the end of the World Cup finals, a revolution was called for in the way youngsters are trained and developed across the state. Whilst it would be fine to see a generation of Finney-esque players come through, in fairness the FA would probably settle for a few one footed wonders to found the national team on. After all, Di María and Beckham have both made decent enough careers out of being that sort of talent.
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