World Football

20 Classic Backheel Goals

Tom SunderlandFeatured ColumnistFebruary 3, 2014

20 Classic Backheel Goals

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    Remy de la Mauviniere/Associated Press

    Among the most cherished pieces of skill that lies in the arsenal of any great finisher is the backheel, those snapshots of astute judgement that walk the line between genius and insanity.

    Down the years, the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Gianfranco Zola and Johan Cruyff, all of whom feature on this list, are just some of the names to have demonstrated the superb technique needed to pull of the remarkable even when one's facing away from goal.

    Here, we've chronicled some of the finest touches of just that variety, turning the odds out of nothing into something of sheer joy and magnificence.

20. Theyab Awana Penalty vs. Lebanon

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    It's one thing to score a backheel from open play; do it from a spot kick and you're just poking fun.

    But that was the nonchalant manner with which United Arab Emirates forward Theyab Awana struck home his penalty effort during a friendly against Lebanon in July 2011.

    Francesco Totti went viral when he playfully mastered a similar move in Italy training some time ago, but pulling off the feat in an actual match takes things up a notch.

19. Zlatan Ibrahimovic vs. Novara

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    Ibrahimovic features several times on this list, having somehow managed to adapt arguably the most prolific and frequent backheel touch of any superstar striker in his career.

    This particular finish came during a 3-0 drubbing of Novara, while the Swede was still enjoying life as part of the Milan setup.

    Evidently noticing that goalkeeper Samir Ujkani had come too far outside his comfort zone, Ibrahimovic decides to take his chances with a quick snap of the right heel. 

    Even his Rossoneri teammates look surprised to see the ball dribble over the line.

18. Cristiano Ronaldo vs. Malaga

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    Given the close intimacy that the sport holds with its prominent use of the legs (go figure), football regularly gets likened to martial arts such as Taekwondo and Karate.

    However, on his way to scoring a hat-trick in an October 2011 demolition of Malaga, Cristiano Ronaldo took the comparisons to new extremes.

    Showing the kind of ninja-like reflexes that Mr. Miyagi could be proud of, the Real Madrid talisman puts his best heel forward, craning to get the necessary angle for prodding it past Ruben with some dazzle.

17. Amantino Mancini vs. Lazio

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    Why overcomplicate things when there's such a simpler route to the back of the net?

    Amantino Mancini is a man of a similar disposition, it seems, managing to chop his right heel and tuck a perfectly-angled goal past Lazio's Marco Ballotta in their first Derby della Capitale of the 2007-08 Serie A campaign.

    Oddly enough, Roma would go on to lose the return fixture 3-2, though the Brazilian technician can at least say he's contributed his share of brilliance for both matches with the exemplary finish.

16. Zlatan Ibrahimovic vs. Bologna

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    He's back at it again, and this time it's with the other crowd from Milan.

    Ibrahimovic's time with Inter was a mixed bag of tricks, and when we say tricks, we mean some stretches of controversy interspersed with displays of utter magic, like this pearl hat Bologna were subjected to in October 2008.

    Jose Mourinho was but one of those looking on in astonishment as one of the best strikers in the world linked up with another, Ibrahimovic skimming a Samuel Eto'o cross on target with rare predatory talent.

    Francesco Antonioli had no chance of stopping such an unexpected manoeuvre, which in its simplest way sums up exactly what advantages there are to be had with a backheel attempt. 

15. Cristiano Ronaldo vs. Rayo Vallecano

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    Ronaldo certainly gave his believers some good reason to be upset when their icon failed to win the 2012 Ballon d'Or.

    In February 2012, the Portuguese maestro flashed this back-to-goal strike past no less than five Rayo Vallecano defenders, and while it wasn't the most hair-raising goal he's ever scored, it's up there in terms of ingenuity.

    Had Ronaldo taken the time to make an attempt of more foreseeable nature, Real's La Liga opponents may have had a chance to prevent the finish.

    The attacker clearly wasn't feeling quite so generous.

14. Roberto Mancini vs. Parma

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    Another Mancini contribution, this time coming from ex-Sampdoria stalwart and current Galatasaray boss Roberto.

    In the midst of seeing his Serie A playing days out with Lazio, the attacker still had enough about him to put a finish of this audacity past Parma, with manager Sven-Goran Eriksson undoubtedly impressed with his veteran.

    The beauty of this entrant is that not only does Mancini fashion something fantastic out of what looked to be a terrible corner, but the calmness with which he takes it in his stride is simply outstanding.

13. Rafael Van Der Vaart vs. Feyenoord

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    His star has taken its periods of dimming throughout the years, but it was as an Ajax youngster that Rafael van der Vaart first announced himself as one of the most promising young technical talents on the continent.

    On Ajax's way to securing the 2003-04 Eredivisie title, the up-and-coming midfielder latched onto a Nicolae Mitea cutback that by all rights appeared to have lost all use.

    The actual result was a last-gasp Van der Vaart scorpion kick that would have left just about any goalkeeping figure dumbfounded.

12. Grafite vs. Bayern Munich

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    Though the Brazilian is now seeing out his twilight years with Al-Ahli, there was a time when Grafite's form seemed like it would have been enough to lead a lot of Europe's finest attacking lines.

    And it was for moments just like this that such a reputation was built up in the first place.

    In April 2009, the striker helped Wolfsburg to a 5-1 hammering of Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich with this delightful solo effort, rescuing what seemed like a lost opportunity, with the most agonisingly slow of backheel strikes.

11. Matty Burrows vs. Portadown

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    Never heard of him? Neither had most of the football community until Glentoran midfielder Matty Burrows went viral for this supreme backheel goal, scored against Portadown in October 2010.

    Incredibly, the Northern Irishman would go on to be shortlisted for that year's Puskas Award, but his journey to greatness was unfortunately cut short thanks to a Hamit Altintop volley winner.

10. Wesley Sneijder vs. China

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    Along with the aforementioned Van der Vaart, Wesley Sneijder is another whose reputation has gone through various stages of worth over the last decade.

    However, a certain touch of class has remained true with the attacking midfielder wherever his career has taken him, and it's with the Dutch national team that this technical prowess is consistently on show.

    In the summer of 2013, the Oranje embarked on a tour of Asia, this pit stop in China given a much more memorable spin thanks to some excellently-applied reaction time from the Galatasaray man.

9. Zlatan Ibrahimovic vs. Italy

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    Ibrahimovic's immortal attributes are by no means limited to the club stage, as we're all too aware.

    Italy found out exactly how true this was at Euro 2004, when the Swede may have only been in his early 20s, but was nevertheless breaking out the same assortment of blockbuster finishing.

    Lost opportunity? Ibrahimovic doesn't appear to know the meaning of the term, even with Gianluigi Buffon bearing down and a well-positioned Christian Vieri on the line.

8. Charles Edouard Coridon vs. Porto

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    Not a bad way to score your only goal for a club by any standards.

    For though Charles Edouard Coridon only spent a single season with Paris Saint-Germain, the French playmaker will always have some fond memories for this scorpion kick golazo against Porto in the 2004-05 Champions League campaign.

    Aptly, Coridon finishes with his face flat on the floor.

7. Rabah Madjer vs. Bayern Munich

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    If this list's order were dictated in terms of the circumstances in which the goals were scored, Rabah Madjer could well have found himself on top of the billing.

    That was after the Algerian equalised against Bayern Munich in the 77th minute of their 1987 European Cup final, just minutes before Juary netted a winner for the Portuguese titans.

    Madjer couldn't look any cooler if he tried on his way to making history in the competition, the term "eyes in the back of his head" coming to mind.

6. Zlatan Ibrahimovic vs. Bastia

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    And here we have it: The best backheel goal that Ibrahimovic has ever been kind enough to bestow upon his adoring masses.

    Unfortunately for Bastia, it was them who fell victim to the veteran's physics-defying limbs, which on this occasion managed to curl themselves around a seemingly impossible cross.

    Between the strength needed to fend off his marker, the agility utilised in shifting his shape swiftly and the brains necessary to dreaming up the shot in the first place, Ibrahimovic shows that he may be on the "wrong side" of 30, but class is permanent.

5. Thierry Henry vs. Charlton

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    Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

    Arguably the most memorable backheel goal ever scored in the Premier League, Thierry Henry's classic finish against Charlton in October 2004 will raise a bout of grand emotions for any Arsenal fan.

    The Frenchman aided the Gunners in what was the 48th game of their 49-match unbeaten run of that era, holding Jonathan Fortune back before unleashing a strike that close to none will have been expecting.

    Listed as the 31st best Arsenal goal ever, Arsene Wenger is quoted by the club's official website as saying of the score: "It's a special goal not for the technique of the back-heel, but because he is so quick to analyse what is the best response in that situation."

    We couldn't agree more.

4. Juan Agudelo vs. Chicago Fire

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    Who says that Major League Soccer is lacking in star talent?

    Juan Agudelo is one of those players who have opted for a move to the Premier League in recent times, with Stoke City evidently seeing flashes of skill like this as being of the necessary grade.

    Their high expectations don't look misled, either, with the young forward showing a great deal of invention to take on board this chance against the Chicago Fire in August 2013.

3. Gianfranco Zola vs. Norwich City

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    Having drawn 0-0 in the first enactment of their FA Cup Third Round meeting with Norwich City in the 2001-02 season, Chelsea looked to be lacking in flair, short on ideas in front of goal.

    No such concerns were on show in the 4-0 replay encounter, with Gianfranco Zola spearheading the creative movement for a transformed Blues team.

    The Italian made a great showing of his success from those subtle movements toward the near post, except here matters were forced into trickster overdrive due to the incredible cheek and reflex combined to fire home an unstoppably-powerful flick.

2. Leopoldo Luque vs. Huracan

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    In truth, it's nigh impossible to pick apart the top two of this rundown, but Leopold Luque ranks as a close second merely based off the advantage in esteem that his No. 1 counterpart holds.

    That being said, the River Plate star sent El Monumental into rapture when he not only rounded off this fine scoring movement with a no-look attempt, but engineered the opportunity all of his own accord, too.

    Huracan were helpless but to watch on as Luque skipped his way into an open-mouth view in their 1979 clash, swiping the ball in, with the quality of the buildup sitting as nothing short of unique.

1. Johan Cruyff vs. Atletico Madrid

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    Regarded as "The Impossible Goal" for a reason, Cruyff defied the odds by not only managing to get a touch on this hopeless-looking cross from Carles Rexach, but converting the chance, sending an anxious Camp Nou into rapturous applause.

    One of the best players of his generation, Cruyff puts a whole new interpretation on the term "classic" with this score, stretching every fibre of his body in order to turn the ball in.

    This effort comes in at the top largely because there were no other options in sight for Cruyff, especially when compared with some of the others featured lower down, making it all the more special that such class was shown while nothing else lay on the table.

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