There’s something rather special about watching a talented left-footer on the ball and Liverpool are blessed with a few exceptionally gifted ones in the current squad.
For whatever reason, fans seem to appreciate that tiny bit extra a player pinging one left-footed into the top corner, dribbling past an opponent on that side or finding a pinpoint, curling pass into a dangerous area with the proverbial tin-of-beans-opener.
Some of the game’s most majestic, mesmeric players have been left-footed—think Ginola, Maradona, Messi—and, thankfully, Liverpool have had their fair share.
Here, we’ve picked out the best four from each decade over the last 50 years of Liverpool’s history, from the ’70s through to the modern day.
A caveat, before we begin: due to yesteryear’s football being far less squad-oriented than now, and Liverpool’s great sides remaining in place for years at a time, there were a lot fewer true left-footed players to choose from in the ’70s and ’80s.
As such, a couple of our selections are ‘natural’ right-footers, but who were as two-footed a player as has blessed the hallowed turf of Anfield. But we start with a couple of lefties.
He was a critical part of Shanks’ last side, though fell out of favour after the great man departed and Bob Paisley took over team selection duties.
The two managers shared many links, but the final one was Ray Kennedy; signed on Shanks’ final day as manager, he was a centre-forward at Arsenal—but within a year or two, Paisley had converted him into a midfielder instead.
Kennedy played nearly 400 games for the Reds, winning five titles, three European Cups and a UEFA Cup—a true great of the club.
Steve Heighway served Liverpool both on and off the field, a winger in his playing days and a trusted member of the academy staff later on, helping develop the likes of Steven Gerrard.
Imagine his story happening now: a 22-year-old amateur player, spotted and signed by the Reds and going on to play 475 times.
Heighway won the lot, was a fan favourite with his tricky runs down the wing—and his name is still chanted around the ground to this day in the Fields of Anfield Road club anthem.
He was one of the true two-footed players, not necessarily naturally a left-sided man, but certainly one who didn’t need to differentiate between either foot whether crossing, dribbling or shooting.
Our fourth from the ’70s is Emlyn Hughes, not always the most popular member of the side with his team-mates but an undoubtedly vital component of the successful team under Shankly and a massive fan favourite.
Crazy Horse played left-back, midfield and centre-back for the Reds, was captain under Paisley and lifted the ’77 European Cup.
There’s no doubting the finest left-footer of the 80s; one of the Reds’ finest ever by any regard, in fact.
John Barnes was a majestic player, an utterly unstoppable forward at his prime whether playing from the left wing or running through the centre.
The No. 10 was one of the most skilful individuals in the game, scored for fun and later reinvented himself as a gifted, controlling central midfielder after injuries took away his lightning pace.
Alan Kennedy played over 350 times, mostly in the first half of the decade, playing an attack-minded left-back role.
His most famous moment came when scoring the decisive penalty in the European Cup final in 1984, but he also scored the winner in the ’81 final.
As for being a left-footer, he has been known to remark that he only uses his right for standing on!
Steve Staunton played for the Reds across two separate spells, but it was his first one in the late ’80s when he made the biggest impact.
Playing left-back and left midfield for the most part, Stan played pretty much everywhere for the Reds down the years—including in goal against Everton in 1999.
He had a tremendous delivery from wide and was a strong tackler, but the Irishman was sold (the first time) as he counted against the limit of non-English players allowed in teams in the early ’90s.
Steve Nicol was a better all-round player and a much more long-serving Red than Staunton, but he’s another of the two-footed crew rather than a true left-sided player.
One of Liverpool’s best players in the late ’80s, he played everywhere from right-mid to left-back and even up front. A complete talent and an FWA Player of the Year in ’89—some achievement given how good that team was.
Robbie Fowler kicks off our ’90s selections, with the club legend being a brilliant talent after coming through the academy and scoring all sorts of ridiculous goals.
It’s 23 years since Liverpool drew in Brann, and Robbie Fowler produced one of the most x-rated first touches in the history of European football.
Filth. Wash your hands immediately after watching.pic.twitter.com/prbT9EMl1q
— Proper Football (@sid_lambert) March 6, 2020
A crowd favourite, he was “one of us” in every sense and supported the people as much as they gave in return. The iconic nickname of God wasn’t given lightly, or without reason.
Patrik Berger made a hell of an early impact after joining, but the spark in his game was inconsistent to begin with an injury-interrupted later run.
He served the Reds well, but perhaps Gerard Houllier never quite got to make the best use of him—though when he was on form, his long-range shots were spectacular!
Stig Inge Bjornebye probably doesn’t feature in too many select XIs by Reds fans, but he was a decent, serviceable left-back who provided many a goal for the likes of Fowler and Stan Collymore—another who was comfortable on both feet, though not quite as much as the others named above—with his crossing ability.
Stig played wing-back under Roy Evans too, and won the League Cup in ’95.
As the ’90s saw the emergence of more ‘squad players’ we don’t need to delve into non-naturally left-footers, but there wasn’t quite the level of talent all the time in this Liverpool era as trophies were hard to come by.
Our last pick is representative of that perhaps: Dominic Matteo was a decent player, had a great year at left-back and was a hugely versatile performer, but never reached the level the Reds needed to challenge at the top.
Still, he was a more consistent pick than the likes of Phil Babb, Neil Ruddock or Julian Dicks!
Into the modern era and there’s far more choice, as transfers happen quicker and squads are deeper.
Top of the pile is the brilliant centre-back Daniel Agger, who was prevented from becoming a real great of the club only due to injuries.
His defensive brilliance aside, he was a great player for passing out from the back and driving forward into midfield—and as a couple of his goals attest to, he could strike it sweetly from range too.
Fabio Aurelio was another who was tremendous but beset by injuries. Two spells at the club—he was released, then immediately re-signed—should have seen him make double the amount of appearances he managed, but at left-back and left midfield he was a class act.
Luis Garcia takes third spot, a truly two-footed player again but this time one who was a natural leftie.
At times inconsistent, he was generally a tremendous attacking talent who had an eye for the spectacular and was a key part of our European success under Rafa Benitez. Goals against Chelsea and Juventus have become a thing of legend.
Finally, we’ll opt for Harry Kewell, who could have been much more but was still an excellent individual player.
His first six months on Merseyside were his best, as injuries and inconsistency took a heavy toll, but he was such a talent on the ball that he beats the likes of John Arne Riise’s rocket of a left boot, Steven Warnock’s total commitment, Bolo Zenden’s dependability and, erm, Bruno Cheyrou.
And Insua, Leto, Dossena, Riera, Plessis…
No prizes for guessing that across the past decade Mohamed Salah takes top spot!
Clinical, skilful, rapid; scorer of great goals and a great scorer of goals; a European Cup, records aplenty and a key member of one of the best British club sides in history. Not much more to add, really.
By the same token, Andy Robertson takes the next spot, though it’s more to do with tackling, crosses and personality than his goalscoring record!
He could go on to play for the Reds for years and years—he’s already surpassed 100 games too.
For pure talent and left-footed brilliance, Daniel Sturridge absolutely has to earn a nomination.
Some of his goals—Everton, West Brom, Arsenal, Sevilla—will live long in the memory, as much for their individual brilliance as for representing one of the most exciting periods in the club over the past few decades.
And finally, Xherdan Shaqiri might not quite have contributed as much as we’d like, but his left boot has produced moments of genius in his two years in and out of the team.
Those are enough to edge him ahead of Mamadou Sakho as our final pick of the last 50 years.
No place for the likes of Carroll, Sahin, Downing, Suso, Moreno or Enrique!
Who will be next for the 2020s? It could be someone already on the club’s books—Harvey Elliott?—someone we’re watching in the transfer market—Kai Havertz?—or a nine-year-old nobody knows about yet.
Whoever it is, they’ll be worth watching every second in a red shirt if they match the very best from the list above!