Roundtable: In light of Alli, Van der Wiel, our favorite goals of all time
This past weekend was one for the highlight reels in Europe's top leagues, with a seemingly endless string of golazos headlined by Dele Alli's wonder-turn and volley for Tottenham against Crystal Palace and Gregory Van der Wiel's volley to cap a video-game-like sequence for Paris Saint-Germain against Angers, which included Zlatan Ibrahimovic juggling in midfield before igniting the sequence.
The tremendous finishes got us thinking about our favorite goals of all time. Everyone who is a soccer fan, or who has been following the game for some time, has that one moment that stands out above all others.
These are ours:
Diego Maradona, Argentina vs. England, 1986
GW: My favorite goal of all time is the greatest goal of all time: Diego Maradona’s miraculous run from his own half to beat six England players and score the game-winner in their World Cup 1986 quarterfinal in Mexico City. So much attention goes to Maradona’s illegal Hand of God goal earlier in the same game, and that’s unfortunate, since this one is a work of art. In fact, on my desk at the SI office I have an old-fashioned flip-book showing the Maradona golazo in all its glory.
John Harkes, Sheffield Wednesday vs. Derby County, 1990
BS: A few months after the USA's first World Cup appearance in four decades and several years before the launch of a fully professional domestic league, it seemed impossible that an American–especially one who grew up a few miles from my parents before going to college in my home state–could score a goal like this on one of soccer's biggest stages. The best goals are the impossible ones, and John Harkes' audacious 40-yard piledriver that beat England legend Peter Shilton during Sheffield Wednesday's run to an unlikely 1990-91 League Cup title still offers, at least for me, an ideal blend of aesthetics and significance.
Eren Derdiyok, Bayer Leverkusen vs. Wolfsburg, 2011
AC: This goal is the hop-skip-jump equivalent, with three moves in quick succession leading to one jaw-dropping moment, and it's a goal that will forever stand out for me. The best part is Derdiyok, the Swiss international, knows exactly what he's doing. First, the first touch to bring down a laser of a 40-yard pass, then, the wherewithal to flick the ball up to himself and then the stones to even consider a bicycle kick with his next move, let alone having the expertise to pull it off–in the face of two defenders, no less. Unbelievable quality.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Sweden vs. England, 2012
LB: What makes goals special for me is a sense of improvisation and the wonder that only come with something you weren't expecting to see. Everybody thinks about scoring the 90th-minute goal in a World Cup final when they're playing in their backyard as a kid, but some things you couldn't imagine in your wildest daydreams. Zlatan Ibrahimovic's goal against England in 2012 fits that definition several times over. The quick thinking to adjust after Joe Hart's header and the audacity to attempt an overhead kick from that distance and angle are trademark Zlatan, and he deservedly won the 2013 Puskas Award as the best goal of the previous year.
Ronaldinho, Barcelona vs. Villarreal, 2006
AA: My favorite goals either appear from absolutely nothing, involve an outrageous and entirely unnecessary display of skill, or include aerial contortions that would impress an acrobat. Ronaldinho’s 2006 bicycle kick for Barcelona against Villarreal has all three of those elements. By Barcelona’s lofty standards, the buildup isn’t that great. One shot gets blocked, then another, and it looks like the attack will peter out. Then Xavi finds Ronaldinho, who could have controlled the ball, or headed it back across goal, or taken it on the volley with his left. Instead, he did this. Ten years later, the gyroscopic ingenuity of this goal still makes me smile.