My 10 Favourite Goals

January 29 2007

Here – after an unthinkable period of deliberation – are my 10 Favourite Goals of All Time. They span a period of 36 years and feature everything from sublime team moves to an outrageous volley.

I must confess at this stage to being something of a footballing aesthete. What concerns me above all else is how good a goal is, so with these selections I am laying context to one side. In some cases you will see the perfect alliance of a beautiful goal in a massively important game, but that is not always the case. Having said that, all these goals were scored against either top-flight or international standard defences.

I have tried also to include goals in which the goal-scorer is in complete control of the ball. So – with perhaps one exception – there are no fortunate long-range screamers that could have gone anywhere, and nor are there individual goals in which the direction of man and ball could not be said to be in perfect harmony for the entire duration of the movement.

Furthermore, as no ‘greatest goals’ list can ever claim to be definitive, it is an entirely subjective selection which is fully open to debate.

1. Carlos Alberto, for Brazil v Italy (n), World Cup Final, 1970
Perhaps the most fitting goal ever scored. In Mexico in 1970, Brazil played football like gods, and this goal summed it all up. Clodoaldo’s impish footwork inside his own half. Jairzinho cutting purposefully infield from the left. Pelé’s perfectly weighted pass. And Carlos Alberto’s thumping finish. If you watch it in slow-motion, you will notice that the ball sits up from the turf just as the Brazilian captain is about to strike it. As if it was meant to be.

2. George Best, for Manchester United v Chelsea (a), League Cup Semi-final, 1970-1971
the goal is at 3 minutes 45 seconds
I could have picked any of George Best’s finest goals, but I chose this one just because it demonstrates exactly what made him so great. It wasn’t just that he was skilful and inventive and audacious. It was his bravery. As he closes in on the Chelsea goal here, a defender clatters into him at knee-height from behind. But Best rides the challenge with consummate ease, neatly side-steps the keeper, and scores. The perfect riposte to every clogger who’s ever played the game.

3. Ryan Giggs, for Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur (a), Premiership, 1992-1993
the goal is at 2 minutes 13 seconds
Here is Ryan Giggs bursting onto the scene with a superb goal in his first full league season for Manchester United. There is something so sure and purposeful about his movement, and the certainty of the finish is remarkable. Not great footage though, as it misses off his first couple of touches.

4. Matt Le Tissier, for Southampton v Newcastle United (h), Premiership, 1993-1994
A delightful goal. The innovative, slightly awkward control with the right heel, the dash around the first defender, the impudent lob over the second defender, and the aplomb of the half-volleyed finish.

5. Ryan Giggs, for Manchester United v Queen’s Park Rangers (a), Premiership, 1993-1994
the goal is at 3 minutes 45 seconds
Giggs again. This is what schoolboys dream about. A muddy pitch. Legs as thin as matchsticks. Surging towards goal. Defenders back-pedalling furiously. A powerful finish. A heap of opposition players sprawled in the mud. And the most insouciantly nonchalant celebration.

6. Gabriel Batistuta, for Fiorentina v unknown opposition (h), Serie A (?), c. 1996-1997
There are few things as breath-taking in the game of football as a centre forward on top of his game. Look at this finish from Batistuta (it comes at the end of a sweeping Fiorentina counter-attack, but sadly this is the only footage I could find). He chests the ball down on the edge of the penalty area and then just smashes it. He could take it down, dribble it in, slot it home. He could make sure. But he doesn’t. His confidence is so high that he just hits it. A wonderful example of the art of surprise.

7. Ronaldo, for Inter Milan v Lazio (n), UEFA Cup Final, 1997-1998
the goal is at 19 seconds
Another forward in complete control. I watched this game live on TV, and Ronaldo’s performance was absolutely astounding. What I love about this goal is his control over the situation. There appear to be no nerves. He knows he is going to round the keeper and score. And he does it in such deadly, serpentine fashion. He could slot it. But he wants to sit the keeper on his backside. And he does.

8. Zinedine Zidane, for Real Madrid v Deportivo La Coruna (h), La Liga, 2001-2002
Delightfully delicate footwork from the greatest player of the last 10 years. I love the way he sends the entire defence first one way and then the other before firing home.

9. Esteban Cambiasso, for Argentina v Serbia and Montenegro (n), World Cup group stages, 2006
I was watching this game live in a pub in London during my lunch-hour. Argentina were already playing with a wonderful panache, and the measured, patient build-up to this goal suggested a team perfectly in tune. Serbia and Montenegro conceded only one goal in qualifying for the World Cup, but Argentina absolutely tore them to pieces. When this went in all the blokes in the pub burst into a spontaneous round of applause. Pissed from a great height on the anticipated Brazilian ‘Joga Bonita’ bonfire as well.

10. Matthew Taylor, for Portsmouth v Everton (h), Premiership, 2006-2007
A 45-yard volley. I have never seen anyone score a goal like this before. The sudden volley and the unexpected lob are two of the greatest joys of football, and Matthew Taylor combines them both here with a demonstration of vision, confidence, power and impeccable technique.



January 29 2007

I have been a football fan since the age of 5. The first game I can recall is the 1990 FA Cup Final between Manchester United and Crystal Palace, although I am reliably informed by my dad that I first attended a Colwyn Bay game at the age of six months.

I don’t actually remember anything about the 1990 Cup Final, or the replay, although I have since familiarised myself with what happened. What I remember most strongly is the pre-match kickabout with my dad. I played as Palace. I recall that I found something pleasing about the red and blue of their shirts, and the majesty hinted at by the appearance of the word ‘crystal’ in their name.

This desire to pre-empt what was going to happen in the game was a recurring feature of my early encounters with football. Love of watching the game sprang from love of playing it, and that is the kind of football fan I am. I find takeover bids and boardroom wrangles less than stimulating. What excites me is what happens on the pitch: the grass, the mud, the roll of the ball; the perfectly executed volley, the feint that leaves two defenders on the turf.

I may have supported Palace in 1990, but before long I was a United fan. I hope that doesn’t put you off. I will use this blog as a forum to air my views on the beautiful game, mostly in
Great Britain, but also around the world. Whatever your thoughts on my views, please let me know.

I will get the ball rolling (so to speak) with my 10 Favourite Goals of All Time.