Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)
The nine-goal leading scorer in the 2008/09 UEFA Champions League undoubtedly saved the best to last with the high leap and header that not only brought his first goal against English opposition but, more significantly, sealed a 2-0 final triumph over Manchester United and, with it, an unprecedented treble. If an unusual effort from a player best known for his quick feet and balance, it showcased the full breadth of the 22-year-old's ability, capping a season which also brought him 23 Liga goals as he terrorised defences in Spain with his slalom runs and shooting skills.
Samuel Eto'o (FC Barcelona, now FC Internazionale Milano)
The 2008/09 season saw the Cameroon striker at the peak of his predatory powers. The 28-year-old hit 30 goals in the Spanish Liga to help lift FC Barcelona's final total to an incredible 105 from their 38 matches. In the UEFA Champions League he struck another six, qualifiers included, and none more valuable than the opening strike in the final against Manchester United FC as he hoodwinked Nemanja Vidić before beating Edwin van der Sar at his near post. It was his second goal in as many UEFA Champions League finals – and helped bring his second winners' medal. Joined Inter in the summer.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United FC, now Real Madrid CF)
When it became clear Ronaldo was not repeating his 42-goal haul of 2007/08, one opponent was moved to utter that the Portuguese forward was only human after all. The next day Ronaldo replied with a stunning 40-metre goal at FC Porto to move Manchester United into the UEFA Champions League semi-finals. Another drive from an improbable distance followed against Arsenal FC in the last four – one of 25 goals last season – and though Rome marked a disappointing end to his United career, the 24-year-old had still earned a third Premier League winners' medal to take with him to Madrid.
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