A lot of us may be confused by the term ambidexterity but if you were privileged to closely watch the game of peak Santi Carzola in his prime then you should already have an idea of ambidexterity. Ambidexterity is the ability to perform various actions with both hands or legs proportionally. This includes the ability to fluently do something with either side of your body comfortably.
This is a skill that every footballer would wish they had, except, of course, you are Diego Maradona or Lionel Messi. The world of football generally had seen a lot of footballers who were comfortable on their weaker foot. The likes of Robin Van Persie who at times confused defenders as to which foots they preferred within the box. Cristiano Ronaldo also took the art further by training himself to release rocket launchers in the form of shots with his weaker left foot.
While some players trained their selves to shoot and finish of both foot, there was Delima Ronaldo who effortlessly dribbled past his markers with his weaker foot on numerous occasions. These players were technically effective on both sides but none of them arguably surpassed that thin line between being good at something to becoming and thriving great at it on a more consistent basis.
Let’s take a look at some great masters of ambidexterity to grace the game. This complies names of some players who did not just shoot or perform minor skills with their weaker foot but also managed to consistently recreate more technically demanding skills such as devastating long range passes, sublime ball control techniques, technical dribbling and setting up teammates.
A lot of fans would wonder if it’s the same Paul Pogba that gets bashed every now and then for his failure to consistently produce performances deserving of his abilities since his then record breaking transfer from Juventus to Man-United in the summer of 2016. Some may even go as far as saying he does not deserve to be here in this list but behind every underwhelming performance, criticism and attitude shortcoming is a hugely blessed and talented specimen of technical football as a specie also not undermining his physical superiority to many.
Amongst his exceptional skill set is his ability to perform outrageous long range passes, crosses, accurate long range shooting and exquisite ball control as well as technical dribbling with his weaker foot. The French man is also comfortable with his weaker foot when tackling. All in all, Paul Pogba is well beyond average with his weaker foot and just about beats that thin line between being good with it and great with it considering the amount of football skills he has consistently performed with his weaker foot.
When a right footed player who spent most of his career years playing at left back for club and country is considered as the greatest defender by many then you need not be told that he was everything special. He was arguably the most intelligent and greatest defender of all time and definitely the best defender of his generation.
Maldini was not only an intelligent and skilled tackler of the ball, he was also a technically gifted player capable of maintaining possession under pressure and distributing possession to either midfielders or attackers accurately with either foots providing accurate long balls and crosses down the flank. The Italian legend was a rare breed of a ball playing defender in a generation that was deficient of ball playing defenders. He was unarguably ambidextrous to great effects.
If Paul Pogba’s inclusion did not come off as a shock surely this would spark a surprise nerve. Yes he was not the most technical player out there, yes he wasn’t a Steven Gerard or Paul Scholes, yes he was a utility player at best but make no mistake nothing can take away the ambidextrousness from O’shea’s game.
As a normal human being and even those blessed with the skill would often display stance signs of physical dependence on their favoured side when they tried to shoot or pass with their weaker foot but my world John O’shea showed no visible dependence physically. He neither adjusted or carefully set up his body to perform any action with the left side of his body, perhaps why he effortlessly fitted into several roles across United’s defence and midfield from the mid to early 2000s. His left footed long-range dipping shot to further sink arsenal in 2005 should be a perfect example of his ability as a doubled footed player.
A lot of eyebrows were raised when Barcelona splashed hundreds of millions to secure his services in the summer of 2017. Prior to the move he had succeeded in making a name for himself in Germany but was still largely not introduced to majority of the neutral football fans till he was caught on camera signing his contracts with different hands comfortably. It’s was very surprising and what a way to introduce his ambidextrous prowess before even kicking a ball in Barca’s colours. This prompted a lot of fans to do their research of the French youngster and to the surprise of many, he was skilled with both foot equally.
He even went as far as admitting he had no idea of the foot he predominantly favoured. Ever since then, he has rarely been permitted by his reoccurring injuries to play enough but from his few performances he has proved beyond reasonable doubt to be more than comfortable when embarking on those marauding lightning quick attacking dribbling adventures and close ball control around either flank of the attacking third. For the French man, it comes naturally.
Michael Ballack may be remembered as a player who had perhaps the most unlucky football calendar year after missing out on a domestic league title on the final day of the season, the cup, the UCL title and a world cup title in the summer of 2002. Unlucky right? However, for those who witnessed the class, technique and sheer brilliance epitomized by the player, his ability to produce net breaking strikes from any range, with any foot and in any situation would forever be immortal in our hearts.
Michael might well just be the best and most accurate striker of thunderbolts with either foot. Read that again, that should tell you a lot of his ability on either foot. There was technically more to his game, he could tackle, pass, shoot and perform all manner of ball controlling techniques with either foot in his prime.
It takes a lot of repeated use of your weaker foot for observers to term you ambidextrous but when it drifts to a point where you confuse them on your dominant foot then your name must be Pedro. He’s definitely not the most technically gifted player out there but he is well blessed with the technique of ambidexterity and personally, I am still confused as to which foot he favours.
After his sickening goal against Everton before the season was suspended, Thiery Henry admitted to being confused about which foot the Spaniard preferred predominantly. ” We are talking about a guy who was playing in the best team in the world for a long time, he told sky sports after the goal. ” I still don’t know if he’s right footed or left footed, but man, that is a goal”. Well if a player who played with him for years is unsure on which food he favours who am I to know?
He also controls, dribbles and passes with either foot, though his passes may be less technical than Paul Pogba’s or Michael Ballacks’s. I can boldly claim that till this day I have not seen a player who touches the ball with both foot more often than this man.
If there was any Spanish player besides Andres Iniesta involved in any form of technique related soccer sorcery it had to be Santi Carzola. He could do with his weaker foot what some players could only dream of doing with their predominant foot, and he did them applying minimal efforts too.
He playfully swapped and interchanged between both foot for penalties, corners and free kicks, and my god was he accurate at burying them seamlessly. I had to specify them individually cause terming together as ‘set pieces’ would have diminished the level of confidence he ensued performing them effectively.
Never had the world of football witnessed a player with the manner of close ball control on either foots he displayed since French legend Zinedine Zidane. He also had no issue producing silk passes and beautiful curlers, indeed peak Carzola was something special in his prime.
In an interview, he claimed to have actually trained to use his wrong foot ( weaker foot) way back after suffering an ankle injury to his right foot whilst avoiding putting or apply more pressure to aggravate the injury. It sure doesn’t look unnatural on Santi Carzola and it’s very vital to note that humans have various reactive physiological and psychological adaptation to training and conditioning.
There was Gareth Bale who was prohibited from using his favoured foot during training drills simply because he deliberately failed to use his weaker foot even when he was occasionally imbalanced on his favoured left foot. Of course, the drill was a failed exercise proving everybody is unique and respond to these sort of training differently.
There were some football greats who were renowned for their ambidextrous abilities but I deliberately left them out owing to their already famous reputation of the art. Artist like Zinedine Zidane, Johan Cruyff, Marc Overmars, Pavel Nedved took the art to another level. Roberto Baggio was another magnificent exponent of the brand and often wasted no time to punish defenders who ignorantly forced him to use his weaker foot within the box tactically.
Tell us what you think? Who is your favourite ambidextrous player?