By 90Min
October 24, 2019

There's a growing problem in the online football discourse – it's obvious on Twitter, even more obvious on YouTube (you can look up the compilations, they're all over the place) and it's leaking into 'real life' day to day discourse. 

That's right. 

Nobody knows what a half-volley is. 

This is an issue that's been building for a while ('remember Steven Gerrard's volley against---' nope) but Wednesday night's Champions League action wrenched it front and centre. Because Marcel Sabitzer scored a Puskas Award contender against Zenit, and everyone ruined it by calling it a half-volley. 

It's an absolute scorcher. Pavard-esque. It's not a half-volley. He's just...hit a bouncing ball. Hit it really well, and the fact that it isn't a half-volley doesn't make it any less good of a goal. But y'know. It's not a half-volley. 

Let's sort this out once and for all. With examples. 

We'll start simple. A volley is simple – it's about hitting the ball before it's bounced. You'd think it would be easy, but Steven Gerrard has been called one of England's best ever volleyers of a ball and the man never hit the bloody thing on the full. Not when he scored, anyway. 

This, by Andros Townsend, is a volley. Hits it on the full, pings it into the back of the net, bish bash bosh. Textbook. Let's move along. 

Robin van Persie was possibly the finest volleyer of a football the Premier League has seen, so let's kill two birds with one stone by using him as an example of a peach perfect volley while just...watching him do silly things with a football. 

His preferred type of volley (see: vs. Everton, vs. Aston Villa below) was the one coming over his right shoulder onto his left foot, redirected to the far post with equal parts venom and precision. It's brilliant. It's also the kind of ability to judge the flight of a lofted ball from behind that allowed him to score that outrageous headed volley at the 2014 World Cup. 

This? The platonic ideal of a volley. It could not be more volley. 

So that's a volley established. Now come the pretenders, the fakes, the wannabes. The players who just hit a bouncing ball really hard. 

Hitting a bouncing ball really hard is good! Some of the best goals come from that – think Nacho and Benjamin Pavard at the last World Cup! Lots of exclamation marks here so people don't think this is a denigration of those types of goals! 

But...Steven Gerrard's goal against Olympiacos, which shows up on most of the 'greatest half-volleys' YouTube compilations, is not a half-volley. 


Gerrard was one of the absolute masters of steaming onto a bouncing ball between 25 and 35 yards out to just absolutely hump it into the back of the net. He was so good at that. 

He didn't hit them on the half-volley though. 

So that's what a half-volley isn't. What about what it is? 

Because it isn't a ball that's only bounced once, it's a ball that's struck the instant it bounces. It's a key distinction. If, in cricket, a batsman hits the ball on the half-volley, he's hitting it just as it's bounced because the bowler's overpitched. If it was just 'a ball that's bounced once', that would be almost all cricket deliveries. It's a different thing

This goal, by Eredivisie journeyman Jeff Stans, is a textbook half-volley. Casual control, and the ball only touches the ground the instant before he swings his leg through. A beaut. A true half-volley. 

Fortunately for me, you and the world of football, there has been a great half-volley recently. One of the greatest half-volleys. One of the great goals

Step forward Radja Nainggolan. Step forward and absolutely bollock the ball into the middle of the next century, you astonishing man. 

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