5 Greatest Goals of All Time
How do you go about selecting the five greatest goals of all time? How can you possibly be sure you haven't missed at least 1,000 that deserve consideration?
Why would you even attempt to take on such a task, knowing full well your name will be muddier than an early-January 1970s English first-division pitch in the comments box below?
Because it's Friday, is my answer. So here goes.
Let me preface my choices by saying I've put a big value on not just the quality of the goal, but the stage on which it was scored. You might disagree with that stance, and it's your prerogative to do so, but that's where I'm coming from.
I've also been conscious of including a variety of different types of goals. I could easily have picked five iconic solo efforts, for example, or five beautiful team goals.
You might not agree with my choices, but I challenge anybody not to enjoy watching every single one of them—be it for the 1,000th time or the first.
5. Roberto Baggio, Italy vs. Czechoslovakia, 1990
Roberto Baggio was a superstar in waiting. When Italy held the World Cup in 1990, Baggio had to wait for the host nation's final game of the group stages against Czechoslovakia for a chance to stake his claim.
Rome was the venue, and Baggio seized his moment with a devastating goal that announced his arrival to the world.
Collecting the ball out on Italy's left, Baggio exchanged passes with Giuseppe Giannini and cut inside towards goal. As the noise level rose, and with his shaggy hair bouncing off his neck from side to side, Baggio advanced into the penalty area, feinting one way and then the other.
With his opposite man mesmerised, Baggio next fooled the Czech goalkeeper with a disguised finish into the near corner. Stadio Olimpico erupted as Baggio threw himself to the ground in passionate celebration.
It was the goal that summed up the emotion of Italia 90 and filled the host nation with real hope they could go all the way. It wasn't to be, though, with Argentina ending the Italian dream with a penalty shootout triumph in the semifinals.
4. Lionel Messi, Barcelona vs. Getafe, 2007
In 2007, Messi produced his very own take on Maradona's iconic 1986 World Cup goal against England (more on that later) with a sublime solo effort for Barcelona against Getafe.
It was a goal that showcased Messi's remarkable balance, his miraculous control and a football brain that appeared to be several moves ahead of everybody else on the pitch.
And like Maradona's in 1986, it was the type of goal that we always knew Messi was destined to score one day. Had it come at a World Cup or in a game of real magnitude, it would be higher on this list.
The fact it was in a Copa del Rey game against Getafe shouldn't take away from the marvel of it, though.
3. Zinedine Zidane, Real Madrid vs. Bayer Leverkusen, 2002
If there was a singular moment to sum up the extravagant, otherworldly gifts of Zinedine Zidane, this was it.
With the 2002 Champions League Final level poised at 1-1, Roberto Carlos surged down the left flank and hooked a high ball back towards Zidane, who stood unmarked just inside the penalty area.
The ball hung high in the Scottish air for what seemed like an eternity. Glasgow's Hampden Park could almost be heard drawing breath as Zidane stood beneath and patiently awaited his chance.
When it finally arrived, the Frenchman swiveled elegantly and coolly dispatched a volley into the top corner. Zidane's genius had made light of the most technically demanding skill in football.
Even more remarkably, he'd scored one of football's great goals with his unfavored foot. And it was only right that his 45th-minute masterpiece would go on to win Madrid the Champions League.
2. Carlos Alberto, Brazil vs. Italy, 1970
Brazil's 1970 World Cup team has taken on an almost mythical status in the years since. Pele, Rivelino, Jairzinho, Carlos Alberto—some of the greatest players the game has seen came together for a singular cause that summer in Mexico.
Alberto scored the goal that defines them in Brazil's 4-1 World Cup Final victory against Italy. It was Brazil's closing statement at a tournament they cast a spell over, and it's probably the most replayed goal of all time.
Clodoaldo starts it off, swaying one way and then the other as a tired Italy team struggles to maintain their dignity.
The ball moves upfield as Jairzinho slides a pass to Pele, who opens up his body and rolls the ball with a swagger into space ahead of the onrushing Alberto—his very presence that far forward the definition of Brazil's adventurous, attack-minded play.
Pele's pass is simple, but brilliant. Alberto doesn't even have to break stride and he shoots, first-time, into the corner with an explosion of a shot that brings the 107,000 inside Mexico's Azteca Stadium to their feet.
Oh to have been there and seen that goal.
1. Diego Maradona, Argentina vs. England, 1986
Diego Maradona had just minutes earlier scored the most infamous goal in World Cup history—using his hand to lift the ball over England's Peter Shilton and thus cheating to put Argentina ahead in their tight quarterfinal match.
That was the worst of him. The best would follow soon after, as Maradona took possession inside his own half, spun away from a challenge and set about slaloming his way towards England's goal.
White shirts lunged at him. He passed by them as if he was floating on air, with the ball glued to his instep and only one thing on his mind. Each forward movement appeared to add momentum to the next, with Maradona gathering pace and England's defence growing evermore desperate.
By the time he reached the penalty area, Maradona had already plotted his way to goal. He rounded Shilton and stabbed home as the world watched on in amazement.
Argentina would go on to win the game, 2-1, and Maradona would take them all the way to World Cup glory.