Ranked: The top 6 Champions League final goals
From acrobatics to aesthetics, these are the European final goals that will live longest in the memory.
6) Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United) v Chelsea | 2008
You might say this goal wouldn’t have been included if anyone else had done it, and you’re probably right. Then again, could anyone else have done it?
Cristiano Ronaldo hardly seems to exert himself as he jumps so high that his knees are at the same height as Michael Essien’s head. Once there, a nonchalant but firm flick of his forehead sees the ball planted into Petr Cech’s bottom corner.
Making something difficult look easy is a mark of brilliance, and this is one of those times.
5) David Villa (Barcelona) v Manchester United | 2011
“No one has ever given us a hiding like that,” said Sir Alex Ferguson, after Barcelona defeated Manchester United 3-1 at Wembley.
David Villa’s goal did not necessary represent the way his team played, but was the crowning moment as Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona completed football. Having run backwards to collect the ball, Villa took a touch and, with no momentum and minimal backlift, pinged the ball past Edwin van der Sar.
Lionel Messi – whose shadow it was impossible for Villa to escape – dropping to his knees in celebration of the goal is the iconic image of that final.
4) Mario Mandzukic (Juventus) v Real Madrid | 2017
Seven seconds separated the ball leaving Andrea Barzagli’s foot and rippling the back of Keylor Navas’ net.
In that seven seconds, four Juventus players touched the ball without it bouncing once. Barzagli pinged the ball to the left wing, Alex Sandro crossed first time on the volley, Gonzalo Higuain brought it down on his chest and poked it to Mario Mandzukic, who acrobatically picked out the top corner.
The efficiency and cohesion summed up Juve, though Mandzukic has never done anything like it since. Nor, as a 33-year-old target man known best for putting a shift in, is he likely to.
3) Hernan Crespo (Milan) v Liverpool | 2005
There is an extra element of beauty to a pass that a defender believes they are capable of cutting out until the very last second.
That is what Kaka produced here. Having pirouetted past Steven Gerrard (that doesn’t suit the Instanbul narrative, eh?), his through ball for Hernan Crespo has Jamie Carragher stretching and slipping, limbs everywhere, in a doomed effort to cut it out.
By the time Carragher was back on his feet, Crespo was redefining the term ‘deft finish’ by lifting the ball over Jerzy Dudek and into the corner. The most aesthetically-pleasing goal of the lot.
2) Zinedine Zidane (Real Madrid) v Bayer Leverkusen | 2002
Fetch a mate. Get them to chuck balls high in the air, with plenty of loop and not much pace.
From a standstill, 18 yards out from goal, watch the ball arc downwards. As it drops towards you, begin to pivot on your stronger foot, lift your weaker foot to waist height and strike towards goal.
Most likely, you will miss the ball altogether. Perhaps, your weak effort might constitute an attempt on goal. Only if you hit the ball flush and send it curving into the top corner (to win your team the Champions League) can you consider yourself a genius at the level of Zinedine Zidane.
1) Gareth Bale (Real Madrid) v Liverpool | 2018
But after umming and ahhing over the merits of this goal against Zidane’s, the audacity of Bale’s acrobatics won out.
This looks even better a year on. The cross from Marcelo isn’t great, well behind its intended target, but Bale’s not bothered. Pure instinct takes over as he manipulates his body at a ridiculous height, fetches the ball from behind him and arches it over Loris Karius.
Liverpool were gutted. As was Cristiano Ronaldo, whose outrageous overhead kick against Juventus in the quarter-finals was no longer the Goal of the Tournament.
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