The best goals in UEFA Champions League history?
Monday, November 15, 2021
We continue 30 Seasons of That #UCLFeeling by looking back on some of the most memorable finishes in UEFA Champions League history.
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The UEFA Champions League is the greatest competition in club football, so does it follow that the competition's best goals are world-beaters too? As we mark 30 Seasons of That #UCLFeeling, decide which of these six finishes takes the breath away the most.
Over the course of 2021/22, UEFA is asking fans to vote for the most iconic moments since the rebranding of the European Cup in the early 1990s. '30 Seasons of That #UCLFeeling' will give fans an opportunity to vote on everything from goals to memorable celebrations, unforgettable comebacks, sensational skills and impossible saves.
Zinédine Zidane's volley, 2001/02
Bayer Leverkusen 1-2 Real Madrid
"I tried to score the same way again later, even during shooting an advert," said future Real Madrid coach Zinédine Zidane of the goal that stopped time in the 2002 final at Hampden Park. "But it never happened again. Never. I tried in training, but it never happened. It was perfect the day it happened."
The Frenchman had joined Madrid in the summer of 2001 from Juventus, becoming the world's most expensive player in the process, but if his skills were well known, that volley past Hans-Jörg Butt (with Zidane's weaker left foot) was out of this world. His disbelieving celebration was a measure of a truly unrepeatable finish.
Cristiano Ronaldo's bicycle kick, 2017/18
Juventus 0-3 Real Madrid
03/04/2018, quarter-final first leg
"Seen a lot of goals in my time but that is absolutely breathtaking from Ronaldo," tweeted broadcaster and former England striker Gary Lineker after watching 'CR7' stick a stunning overhead kick past his future employers in the course of a devastating first-leg performance from the soon-to-be European champions.
Ronaldo has scored a fair few stunners in his time, but was quietly proud of the way he hung in the air to smack Dani Carvajal's floated pass into the net when he spoke to UEFA.com after the match: "Great goal. What can I say? Fantastic. I didn't expect to score that goal."
Lionel Messi's solo run, 2010/11
Real Madrid 0-2 Barcelona
The occasion was massive, and Lionel Messi rose to it with a solo goal for the ages. Pressing home Barcelona's advantage against ten-man Real Madrid in the final minutes at the Santiago Bernabéu, Messi shook off Sergio Ramos, Raúl Albiol and Marcelo before nonchalantly beating Iker Casillas.
Back in 2019, Messi confirmed in a radio interview that this 2-0 win in Madrid was the match he remembers most fondly from his career. His coach Pep Guardiola also managed to maintain his composure on the night of the strike, saying merely: "We are lucky to have Messi; at the age of 23, he's the third top scorer in our club's history and that's impressive." Understatement of the century.
Gareth Bale's overhead kick, 2017/18
Real Madrid 3-1 Liverpool
"To score a goal like that on the biggest stage in world football is a dream come true," said Bale after his acrobatic effort turned the 2018 final definitively in Real Madrid's favour. "I've never actually scored a bicycle kick – I've had many attempts! – and it's been something I've always wanted to do."
A 61st-minute substitute, the Welshman ended up being named Man of the Match after hitting two goals in the decider in Kyiv, but the first of them (after 63 minutes) is the one caught the imagination. "I remember Marcelo clipping the ball and it was just at the right height," Bale said. "It was great to get the right connection and see it hit the back of the net." True enough.
Dejan Stanković's from halfway, 2010/11
Inter 2-5 Schalke
05/04/2011, quarter-final first leg
Dejan Stanković scored a reasonable number of goals in his nine years at Inter, but none had quite the rewind factor of this extraordinary effort just 25 seconds into the game against Schalke, the midfielder returning Manuel Neuer's improvised headed clearance with a spectacular finish from near the halfway line.
"Tonight's game started in the best possible fashion and it would have been difficult to predict what was to come,” said Inter boss Leonardo, his side's subsequent 5-2 defeat at San Siro taking the gloss off Stanković's splendid effort. Stanković reflected: "Sometimes you don't even think and end up doing something that surprises even yourself."
George Weah's slalom and strike, 1994/95
Bayern 0-1 Paris
23/11/1994, group stage
Fast, skilful and capable of scoring goals from nothing, George Weah's reputation as a striking great was secured when he won the Ballon d'Or at AC Milan in 1995, but this example of the Liberian's art from his time at Paris shows he was already the finished article a year earlier. Watch him shake off three challenges before thundering a shot past Oliver Kahn.
"When I started playing football, I never thought I would ever win the Ballon d'Or and emerge as the best player in the world," Weah said years later. "I just had a passion for the game and I worked hard. Every day. I would rather train than eat or sleep." Check out this finish to see how that sacrifice paid off.