Football: Ranking the Top 20 Premier League Goals of All-Time
Nothing generates debate in football like a compilation of outstanding goals. From the armchair fan to the die-hard season ticket holder, everyone has an opinion on what makes a great goal, and the Premier League has seen some outrageous strikes since its inception.
19 years have passed since the Premier League's formation in 1992, and barely a week goes by without somebody smashing home a “Goal of the Season” candidate. That's a lot of great goals to sift through, and the volume is such that some of 2010-11's finest (Wayne Rooney's overhead kick, anyone?) are barely an afterthought. The competition might not always guarantee Europe's most entertaining football, but it does guarantee great goals.
From Dalian Atkinson and Tony Yeboah to Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo, the Premier League has been blessed with talent capable of stunning “wow” moments since day one. Tactical trends and technical innovations come and go, but these goals will live forever.
Here are, in this writer's humble opinion, the 20 greatest Premier League goals of all-time.
20. Johan Elmander (Bolton vs. Wolves, 2010-11)
Last season's sole representative in this list, Johan Elmander's goal may like the "wow" factor of some of the season's other strikes, but there's no denying that this is an exquisite bit of skill.
Surrounded by Wolves defenders and seemingly going nowhere, the big Swede receives the ball 10 yards from goal. A few deft touches and pivots later and Elmander has engineered enough space to take the ball away from the defenders and squeeze out a shot. Soon the ball is nestled in the goal, beyond Marcus Hahnemann, and the Bolton fans are in raptures.
Elmander may be set to leave the Reebok Stadium this summer but few Wanderers fans will forget this outstanding piece of close control in a hurry.
19. Maynor Figueroa (Wigan vs. Stoke, 2009-10)
One of the cheekiest free-kicks you're ever likely to see, Maynor Figueroa deserves a spot on this list for sheer audacity alone. How many other players would have the nerve to shoot from such a distance? Wigan are known for their short passing and possession-based philosophies, not this. Had he missed Figueroa, he would effectively have squandered possession and ruined an opportunity to build an attack.
But he didn't.
Stoke concede a free-kick in a seemingly harmless position within their own half. Figueroa, advancing from left-back, notices that the Potters haven't prepared for the set piece and that their 'keeper is off his line. Suddenly he rushes forward, strikes the ball with incredible power, and leaves the Britannia Stadium completely dumbfounded. What a hit.
18. John Arne Riise (Liverpool vs. Manchester United, 2001-02)
Liverpool have never really replaced John Arne Riise: not just as an attacking full-back, but also as a deadly set piece taker. This free-kick is just one of a host of perfect dead-balls that he smashed into opposing nets during his Anfield tenure, and will serve as a depressing reminder of the calibre of player Liverpool let go.
Always a threat from 25 yards, Riise lashes the ball into the net after a quick lay-off. The commentator says it best: "it's amazing that the goal is still standing". A strike of such unfathomable power that even if the goalkeeper had gotten in the way, you'd still give him little chance of saving it. Would you want to put your body in the way of a strike like that?
17. David Beckham (Manchester United vs. Wimbledon, 1996-97)
Speaking of audacity, how about David Beckham from the halfway line?
The goal that left Neil Sullivan blushing has been a staple in Premier League highlight reels since the day it happened, and will continue to be for many years to come. Figueroa may have hit one from 60 yards and Xabi Alonso has equalled Beckham's feat twice, but nothing beats the original.
This goal marks the start of Beckham's ascent to global superstardom and his eventual growth into one of the best midfielders England has ever produced. You know from the moment the ball leaves Beckham's foot that it's going in, and there's a sense of inevitability as it glides gracefully underneath the Wimbledon crossbar. Beckham has scored a lot of great goals in his career, but few have felt as sweet as this.
16. Frederic Kanoute (Tottenham vs. Everton, 2003-04)
Still highly thought-of after spells with Tottenham and West Ham, Frederic Kanoute scored some outstanding goals during his Premier League tenure. This goal against Everton is undoubtedly his finest moment on English soil.
30 yards out and the ball is bobbling after a Spurs flick-on. Kanoute, running onto the ball, gives the ball enough time to settle before swinging his right boot at it. The ball flies through the air, curling and dipping its way into the top corner. Fredi may have only spent two seasons at White Hart Lane but this goal, among others, gave the Spurs fans a reason to remember him.
15. Erik Edman (Tottenham vs. Liverpool, 2004-05)
Erik Edman only played 41 games during three seasons in the Premier League with Tottenham and Wigan. This was his solitary goal, and what a belter it was.
There's not much I can say that'll do this goal justice, so just watch it. Edman is probably the most forgettable name on this list, but he's the proud owner of one of its most memorable goals.
14. Dennis Bergkamp (Arsenal vs. Leicester, 1997-98)
Few players have brought as much technical excellence to the Premier League as the sublime Dutchman. Bergkamp's technique, control and link-up play made him an Arsenal legend and one of the league's greatest foreign imports, but he always put away some fantastic goals during his spell with Highbury.
This is one of his finest. His first touch is perfect as he collects a long ball from overhead before taking it beyond Leicester's Matt Elliott with another touch before the ball even hits the ground. Bergkamp makes the most of the space he's made for himself and slots the ball home to complete the perfect hat-trick.
This goal, like Elmander's, is a perfect example of the technique Bergkamp used to bring to the Premier League on a weekly basis. He was never one for long-range net-busters, but his close control was (and still is) unrivalled.
13. Alan Shearer (Newcastle vs. Everton, 2002-03)
A list of the Premier League's greatest goals wouldn't be complete without an offering from the competition's all-time greatest goalscorer. A much more limited player in his later years than he was in his mid-twenties, the talismanic Shearer still managed his fair share of belting strikes despite his declining physical attributes.
Typical of the unrivalled striking technique he possessed throughout his career, a misplaced defensive header finds its way onto Shearer's boot and the result is inevitable. Big Al lashes home a perfect first-time strike that dips into the top corner and gives the 'keeper no chance. Cue iconic goal celebration.
12. Matt Le Tissier (Southampton vs. Blackburn, 1994-95)
Paul Gascoigne aside, English football hasn't produced a player with as much technical quality as Matt Le Tissier in the past 20 years. Though far from a perfect player, Le Tiss was criminally underused by his country and would probably be remembered as one of the best players of his generation if it wasn't for his admirable loyalty to Southampton.
This goal against Blackburn sums Le Tissier up in a nutshell. Receiving the ball just inside the opposition half, Le Tissier twists and shimmies the ball away from two Blackburn defenders before unleashing an unstoppable 30-yard drive straight into the top corner. Looking back at this footage only makes you wonder why England didn't make better use of his unique talents, because it'll be a long time before an English player of such outstanding technicality appears again.
11. Wayne Rooney (Manchester United vs. Newcastle, 2004-05)
His in-off-the-bar strike against Arsenal for Everton was a contender, but this is probably Wayne Rooney's best Premier League strike.
The Scouser has always had tremendous luck playing against Newcastle, and it all started with this volley. Similar to Shearer's goal in distance and striking technique, Rooney's strike fizzes into the back of the net and leaves Shay Given, one of the Premier League's greatest shot stoppers, completely stranded.
His overhead kick in the Manchester derby may have caught all the headlines last season and hyperbole has led to it being called the greatest Premier League goal of all-time. In truth, it's not even the best goal Rooney has ever scored.
10. Robin Van Persie (Arsenal vs. Charlton, 2005-06)
If only Arsenal could keep Robin Van Persie fit. The injury-prone striker is similar to Dennis Bergkamp in technical attributes. He may lack some of Bergkamp's footballing intelligence, but he more than makes up for it with drive, pace and mobility that Bergkamp could only ever dream of.
This is undoubtedly one of his greatest moments in an Arsenal shirt. A cross is floated into the Charlton box and it looks harmless; overhit, even. That is, until Van Persie, out of nowhere, surges into the box and hits one of the sweetest shinned shots you're every likely to see.
9. Paul Scholes (Manchester United vs. Aston Villa, 2006-07)
One of the Premier League's all-time greats, it would be entirely feasible to compile a list of Paul Scholes' top 20 EPL goals and still have some to spare. Scholes was the most complete central midfielder of his generation (despite his curious tackling "technique"), and every time his name appeared on the scoresheet you could be certain he'd scored an absolute belter.
Here is one of his finest moments, a superbly-taken volley from outside the area. Enjoy.
8. Tony Yeboah (Leeds vs. Wimbledon, 1995-96)
Did Tony Yeboah ever score a boring goal? The mercurial Ghanian became a cult hero at Leeds because of goals like this, a top corner screamer preceded by a series of quick touches that left the opposing defender completely flat-footed.
Always a regular feature in Premier League Goal of the Month contests, Yeboah could've become a true Leeds legend if he hadn't fallen out with manager George Graham in 1998. His time in English football may've been short, but Tony Yeboah did more than enough to make a permanent impression on Premier League fans.
7. Paolo Di Canio (West Ham vs. Wimbledon, 1999-00)
Well-taken volleys are a staple of all lists of top goals. This list is no different, but what separates Paolo Di Canio's wonder-strike from the others is the angle it's scored from. Scholes, Shearer, Yeboah: all slammed it home with a huge target to aim at, but not Di Canio. The acute angle coupled with his sublime striking technique only makes this goal sweeter.
6. Georgi Kinkladze (Manchester City vs. Southampton, 1995-96)
Kinkladze, like Le Tissier, is one of the greatest dribblers that the Premier League has ever seen. Renowned for his close control and his ability to beat a man, the skillful Georgian made his name at Manchester City in the 90's and would later rack up over 100 appearances for Derby County. He scored 27 goals in the English Premier League, and this is his finest.
Taking the ball out wide, Kinkladze beats the first man with a quick drop of the shoulder before shimmying the opposite way and darting towards the goal. Southampton defenders dive and slide at his feet, but nobody can get near Kinkladze as he jinks through and chips it home. Such flair might not be a luxury for Man City these days, but the Citizens have had few players as exciting as Kinkladze over the years.
5. Eric Cantona (Manchester United vs. Sunderland, 1996-97)
One of Cantona's finest moments, this goal is almost as iconic as the Frenchman's celebration. Everything about it is exquisite. Starting the move himself by winning the ball in midfield and driving forward, Cantona slips the ball to Brian McClair, who waits for his team-mate's run and slips it through to him on the edge of the area. A dainty chip sends the ball drifting over Sunderland's goalkeeper, and Cantona's cocksure reaction only confirms what we already know: that he was one of the best players of his generation.
It could be argued that this lovely finish deserves a higher place on the list. In truth, you could put forward a credible argument for this being the greatest Premier League goal of all-time, but wait until you see what's up next...
4. Dalian Atkinson (Aston Villa vs. Wimbledon, 1992-93)
Dalian Atkinson may not go down in history as one of the Premier League's all-time greats but he was a tremendously effective player for Aston Villa in the early 90's. A love for the game's external excesses meant he never fulfilled his true potential, but this goal is a perfect example of what the former Villain was capable of.
Atkinson drives forward from his own half, using pure pace to burn past a sliding opponent and close control to jink past another. He moves into the opposition half, runs through a tackle as if it wasn't there, and, after quickly looking up, leaves the opposing 'keeper red-faced with a perfect lob.
Not as iconic a goal as Cantona's, but definitely one that deserves to be mentioned in the same breath for the build-up alone. An astonishing solo effort.
3. Thierry Henry (Arsenal vs. Manchester United, 2000-01)
Arguably the greatest foreign player to ever grace these shores, Henry left English football fans with a long list of great moments and memories to cherish. Few of them, however, come close to this peach against Manchester United.
Henry takes the ball on the edge of the area and chips it into the air before hitting an unstoppable volley on the turn. The ball soars over Fabien Barthez's head and into the back of the net, and it all happens so fast that no 'keeper on Earth could even think about trying to stop it. You want to talk about ball-striking technique? Here it is.
2. Matt Le Tissier (Southampton vs. Newcastle, 1993-94)
Le Tiss scored some absolute belters in his time, but surely this goal must go down as his most impressive.
Reminiscent of Paul Gascoigne's goal against Scotland at Euro '96, Le Tissier's flick takes the ball over the Newcastle defender and the ensuing half-volley bundles into the bottom corner via Le Tissier's wand of a right foot. Often called a languid player by critics, there's nothing sluggish about Le Tissier here. The desire he shows to win the ball in the first place belies the accusations, and his composure, as usual, is ice cold.
1. Dennis Bergkamp (Arsenal vs. Newcastle, 2001-02)
It had to be Dennis Bergkamp, didn't it?
Everyone loves this goal, even Newcastle fans. It's hard not to, such is the quality of the move (and the finish).
A quick counter attack starts in Newcastle's half and the ball is soon moved out wide. Marc Overmars plays a ball through to Bergkamp on the edge of the area, and one of the most impressive first touches you're ever likely to see beats the Newcastle defender. Bergkamp turns, steadies himself, and slots it home.
This goal is so good that showering it with superlatives is almost redundant. Seriously, just watch the video...