As with any sport, everybody will have their own views on what are the best moments in football (Soccer), and, when it comes to assessing the best goals of all time, few will find themselves in complete agreement. Some prefer a team goal, whilst others will opt for a moment of individual brilliance in an otherwise memorable match. Others argue that the context of the match
Judgment is skewed by what can be seen on television or in clips on YouTube. There have been thousands of great goals that were scored before the television era, or have been achieved away from the cameras.
However, allowing for the high degree of subjectivity involved, here are ten that regularly featured in polls for the top ten of all time.
1. – Diego Maradona 1986 World Cup Quarter Final
Diego Maradona’s second goal for Argentina against England in their 1986 World Cup Quarter Final was named by FIFA as their goal of the century, and prompted Uruguayan commentator Victor Hugo Morales to utter the immortal line “I want to cry, oh holy God, long live football! What a goal!”
The match itself is remembered mainly in England because of Maradona’s earlier goal – the so-called “Hand of God” – where the diminutive Argentine rises with England goalkeeper Peter Shilton and punches the ball into the net, without it being picked up by the officials.
However, it is his second effort that should be celebrated. Picking the ball up in his own half, he spins away from Peter Beardsley and Peter Reid and then advances into the England half, trailing defenders in his wake. Terry Butcher puts out a leg but Maradona just rounds him, and ghosts past Terry Fenwick as if he wasn’t there, leaving just Shilton to beat. The goalkeeper comes out, but Maradona shimmies to his right and simply strokes the ball home.
And, to prove it was no fluke, he went to score a remarkably similar goal against Belgium in the semi-finals a few days later, as Argentina clinched their second World Cup triumph in three tournaments.
2. – Marco van Basten 1988 European Championship Final
Marco van Basten’s goal for the Netherlands in the final of the 1988 European Championship can stake a claim as one of the best volleys of all time, helping his country secure their first, and, to date, only major international tournament.
Having lost in the finals of the 1978 and 1982 World Cups, the Netherlands arrived for the 1988 Finals held in what was then West Germany, as pre-tournament favourites, with a squad that featured not only their three superstars – Ruud Gullitt, Frank Rijkaard and van Basten himself – but a strong supporting cast with the likes of Ronald Koeman, Arnold Mühren, and Aaron Winter.
The team lost their opening Group game to the Soviet Union, but then beat England and the Republic of Ireland to progress to the semi-final where they edged out West Germany in the semi-final.
That brought them to the final where they faced the Soviet Union in Munich. Gullitt had already given his side the lead with a header in the first half when van Basten’s moment arrived in the 54th minute.
Van Mühren’s deep cross from the left found van Basten in space beyond the far post. In a flash he swivelled his hips and fired in an unstoppable volley from an acute angle that flashed past Soviet keeper Rinat Dasayev and into the far corner.
The Dutchman scored nearly three hundred goals in his career, but none was better than that.
3. – Carlos Alberto 1970 World Cup Final
For many, the Brazilian side of 1970 were the best international side of all time and, for those of a certain age, the World Cup Finals held in Mexico that year still linger in the memory, not least because they were the first major finals to be shown in colour.
The Brazil team was packed with household names – Pelé, Rivelino, Jairzinho and Tostao – and thy had already provided many memorable moments before reaching the final against Italy, played in front of more than 100,000 spectators at the Azteca.
Brazil had taken the lead through a header from Pelé, only to concede an equaliser to Robert Boningsena after a defensive mistake. However, Gerson and Jairzinho had restored Brazil’s lead and the game was heading into its final minutes when they produced the goal that would define their brand of football.
With the game played barely above walking pace in the sweltering heat, Tostao found his midfield partner Clodaldo who embarked on a swerving dribble that took four Italian players out of the game. The ball came back to Tostao who passed it forward to Jairzinho in the left-wing position who cut inside and found Pelé standing in the centre of the pitch just outside the 18-yard box. The forward controlled the ball and then calmly rolled it into space on the right edge of the penalty box for right-back and captain Carlos Alberto to smash it unerringly into the far corner.
A few minutes later, it was Alberto who had the honour of lifting the Jules Rimet trophy, as Brazil claimed their third World Cup in four appearances.
4. – Roberto Carlos Tournoi de France 1997
The Tournoi de France was a warm-up event for the 1998 World Cup, and featured four teams – England, Italy, France the hosts and Brazil. Despite the fact that, outside the 1966 World Cup, it is the only senior football tournament England have ever won at international level, it would be barely remembered but for one special goal by Brazilian left-back Roberto Carlos.
The Brazilian had a distinguished career, winning the World Cup in 2002, and, during an 11 year spell with Real Madrid, winning three Champions League and four La Liga titles.
Despite this achievement, it was this free-kick against France in the opening match of the tournament that defines the memory of him.
It came in the 21st minute of the match when Brazil were awarded a free-kick in a central area some 40 yards from goal. Carlos elected to take it and marked out a long run before striking the ball with his left foot. Initially it seemed to be heading well wide of the left post of Fabian Barthez in the French goal before, suddenly, at the last minute, swerving back inside the goal, brushing the post before hitting the back of the net.
Sadly, although Carlos went on to score a lot of goals for club and country, he could never replicate that strike.
5. – Dennis Bergkamp World Cup Quarter-Final 1998
Dennis Bergkamp scored some great goals in his time at Arsenal, and twice won the BBC’s goal of the season competition, first for his third goal in a 3 – 3 draw at Leicester, and then for his wonderfully improvised effort away at Newcastle. However, the player himself believed that his best goal came not in the red and white of Arsenal, but when wearing the orange of the Dutch national side.
The goal in question came in the 1998 Quarter-Final against Argentina, played in Marseille. With the scores level and the match heading to extra-time, Frank de Boer launched a long cross-field pass out from defence towards Bergkamp who was loitering on the right edge of the Argentine penalty area. Bergkamp controlled the ball with a cushion touch, poked the ball through the legs of defender Roberto Ayala, and then calmly lifted the ball past the goalkeeper. It sent the Dutch fans into rapture, but their joy was short-lived. On the same ground four days later they lost to Brazil in the semi-final on penalties.
6. – Jack Wilshere Arsenal versus Norwich
Amidst all the acrimony and rancour that surrounded the last years of Arséne Wenger’s reign at Arsenal, it can sometimes be forgotten that his teams were still capable sometimes of playing wonderful football. There is no better illustration of this than the goal that Jack Wilshere scored at home against Norwich City in October 2013 which was later voted goal of the season by BBC viewers.
Wilshere began the move himself deep in his own half striding forward before passing the ball to full-back Kieran Gibbs who in turn passed it to Santi Cazorla who ran towards the Norwich penalty box. What followed was a display of sublime one-touch football, involving Wilshere, Cazorla and forward Olivier Giroud that by-passed the Norwich defence and left Wilshere with the simple job of passing the ball into the net. The move took less than 20 seconds to construct from start to finish, and no Norwich player came close to getting a touch on the ball.
7. – Cristiano Ronaldo – Champions League Quarter-Final
Cristiano Ronaldo has scored some stunning goals in his time but, arguably, none better than the one he produced against Juventus at the Allianz Stadium when playing for Real Madrid in the Champions League quarter-final in 2018. In fact, it was so good that UEFA named it their Goal of the Season.
Ronaldo had given Real a first half lead, but there seemed little danger when early in the second-half Martin Vasquez picked up a loose ball on the right and sent in a cross to Ronaldo. The ball was not only behind the striker but above his head but that did not matter. Launching himself acrobatically through the air, he executed a perfect bicycle kick that flew past Gigi Buffon into the Juventus net before anybody else could react.
The strike was so good that the home fans get to their feet to applaud the Portuguese marksman. Perhaps it is no surprise that Juventus paid Real €100 million (£90 million) to acquire his services at the end of the season.
8. – Zinedine Zidane – 2002 European Cup Final
Zinedine Zidane had a glittering career as a player and has gone on to enjoy significant success as a manager, guiding Real Madrid to three successive Champions League titles during his time in charge at the Spanish club.
However, his association with Champions League success and Real goes back to his time as a player, and his goal that won the 2002 European Cup Final played at Hampden Park against German side Bayer Leverkusen.
Zidane had joined Real Madrid from Juventus at the start of the 2001 – 2002 season for a world record fee, but had struggled in his first season at the club, and some were beginning to question whether he was worth the big money paid for him.
Those doubts would be vanquished in a single moment. With the scores level and half-time approaching, Roberto Carlos broke down the left and sent in a high looping cross towards the Leverkusen box. Standing just inside the penalty box, Zidane watched the ball all the way, steadied his balance, and then swung his hips to execute a perfect volley that was past the German side’s goalkeeper before he could even more.
It was the goal that won the game and secured Real their ninth Champions League title.
9. – Esteban Cambiaso 2006 World Cup
Sometimes an opponent can just be too good for you, as Serbia found out to their cost when they met Argentina during the Group phase in the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Already leading one-nil, on the half-hour mark the Argentine side produced one of the most mesmerising goals ever seen in a World Cup, which their player Hernán Crespo described as “the most beautiful goal”. Picking the ball up deep in their own half, they begin to pass and move in triangles all over the pitch, playing in a style more reminiscent of a training session than an actual match.
Content initially just to play at a controlled tempo, the move accelerated as it got closer to the Serbian penalty area, before Javier Saviola played it into Crespo who, in turn, back heeled it into the path of midfielder Esteban Cambiasso, who had already been involved in the move three times, to lash home. The entire move consisted of 25 passes and had taken a minute to construct.
10. – Lionel Messi Copa del Rey semi-final 2007
Lionel Messi could have his own collection of the greatest goals ever scored, so many wonderful strikes has he produced over the years for Barcelona and Argentina. However, perhaps his greatest goal scored to date can be traced back to 2007, when he was a precocious teenager, still making a name for himself in Catalonia.
It was later described by his former team-mate Deco as “the most beautiful goal I’ve ever seen”.
Playing in the Copa del Rey semi-final against Getafe, Messi picked the ball up just inside his own half, close to the right touchline. He wriggled past one defender and then beat another with a drop of his shoulder before accelerating into the opposition half. Reaching the edge of the penalty box, he slalomed his way past Getafe defenders, before drawing the keeper and rounding him to finish with his right foot.
The goal has been named “Messidona” because it is similar to the one that his compatriot Maradona scored in the World Cup against England in 1986, and because both goals involved a player beating six men and touching the ball 13 times.
Sadly for Messi and his team mates, the goal counted for nought because Getafe went on to win the tie.