The best skills in UEFA Champions League history?
Monday, December 27, 2021
We continue 30 Seasons of That #UCLFeeling by looking back on some of the most memorable pieces of skill in UEFA Champions League history.
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The UEFA Champions League brings together the best players in the world. Superb skills are a given in every match, but sometimes players pull off something that seems impossible.
As we mark 30 Seasons of That #UCLFeeling, we ask you which of these six pieces of skill deserves to be named the best in UEFA Champions League history?
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. Hence, 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.
Karim Benzema three-touch move
Atlético 2-1 Real Madrid (agg 2-4)
10/05/2017, semi-final second leg
Karim Benzema's timing, awareness and finishing have been his calling cards in the course of a successful career at Real Madrid, but this phenomenal example of quick-footedness showed a different side to the Frenchman in this game. Marvel at how he manages to make a series of lightning-fast touches on the by-line, cutting out three defenders before setting up Toni Kroos for the goal that killed off Atlético's chance of a comeback.
"It was brilliant from Benzema," conceded home boss Diego Simeone, while Real Madrid coach Zinédine Zidane was no less astounded: "I asked Benzema how he did that and not even he knows!"
Lionel Messi's flick
Barcelona 3-1 Arsenal (agg: 4-3)
08/03/2011, round of 16 second leg
Andrés Iniesta's ball to send Messi through on goal for Arsenal's opener was a thing of beauty, but the touch with which the Argentinian clipped the ball past Manuel Almunia belonged in a gallery.
AC Milan great Paolo Maldini summed up Messi's mercurial touch when he said: "He does incredible things, at a speed that is insane." Real Madrid's Raúl González agreed, saying: "The other day I saw one of his games. He was running with the ball at full speed, I don't know how many touches he took, maybe five or six, but the ball was glued to his foot. It's practically impossible."
Several times, with Barcelona and AC Milan
The most remarkable thing about Ronaldinho's trademark "elastico" – flicking the ball one way only to hook it back in the opposite direction – is that he managed to do it so often.
"Effortless, relaxed, always with a smile on his face, he’s a genius with the ball," said David Beckham, and Neymar agrees, adding: "No one can compare to Ronaldinho. I remember his plays, his dribbles. I remember him winning every trophy at the Camp Nou."
Mesut Özil's scoop
Ludogorets 2-3 Arsenal
01/11/2016, group stage
"Mesut, I mean, we know you are good bro, but WOW!," tweeted Hector Bellerín after his Arsenal team-mate completed a turnaround in Bulgaria, Özil nonchalantly flicking the ball over the goalkeeper and then wrong-footing two defenders before finishing.
As an art lover, Gunners boss Wenger must have been impressed, though he said he would rather his No10 had played it a little simpler, harrumphing: "To me it didn’t look for a while like the optimal solution, but when the ball was in the net I thought it was."
Rodrigo Taddei's hocus pocus
Olympiacos 0-1 Roma
18/10/2006, group stage
Rodrigo Taddei was nicknamed 'The Smile' at Roma for the evident joy he took in playing, saying: "Football has always given me everything I wanted." His signature move 'The Aurelio' was dedicated to Roma's assistant coach Aurelio Andrazzoli, who had seen the midfielder trying out this trick on the training pitch and encouraged him to deploy it in a match.
That opportunity came in this group stage game in Piraeus, Taddei scooping the ball behind one leg before flicking it in the opposite direction to completely throw his marker.
Jay-Jay Okocha's dink
Fenerbahçe 0-0 Manchester United
16/10/1996, group stage
When Okocha was playing for Bolton Wanderers in England, Sir Alex Ferguson expressed his admiration for the Nigerian playmaker's superb skills, saying: "Okocha is a fantastic player. I really enjoy watching him."
He may not have enjoyed this moment so much, the crowd in Istanbul roaring the 23-year-old Okocha on as he bamboozled United's Gary Neville. Such skills (and some stunning goals) made Okocha a fan favourite at Fenerbahçe.