At any amateur level of football, you can often hear children, teenagers and even middle-aged men attempting to mimic some of the best goals they’ve seen. From Ronaldo, to Roberto Carlos, or Messi to Maradona, only the biggest and the best will suffice.
The European Cup or The Champions League (rebranded in 1993) is the pinnacle of European Club competition and has naturally seen its fair share of great players, games and of course goals.
When goals are critiqued, there are the usual factors that are up for review; technique, audacity, ferocity – yet the intangible of ‘the occasion’ is often what separates the great goals from the stuff of legend. The following goals are the from the grandest
5 - David Villa Vs Manchester United - 2011
David Villa was in irrepressible form for Pep Guardiola’s treble-winning Barcelona side in the 2010/11 season. Bought from Valencia for €40 Million, ‘El Guaje’ formed a formidable front three with a young Pedro and Lionel Messi.
The 2011 Champions League final saw Barcelona pitted up against Manchester United for the second time in three years. With Pedro and Messi wounding United either side of Wayne Rooney’s strike, the Spanish international made no mistake when given his opportunity to seal the 3-1 victory for La Blaugrana. Recently retired, the former Barca no.7 ranked this goal as the most beautiful of his career.
4 - Dejan Savicevic Vs Barcelona - 1994
It’s often said that being 2-0 up is a precarious scoreline, as teams are stuck between defending their lead or attacking. For AC Milan’s Dejan Savicevic, the adage certainly didn’t apply. In 1994, on a balmy Athens night up against Johan Cruyff’s Barcelona side, the Montenegrin chased down a timid Nadal clearance, and on the edge of the box performed an audacious half-volleyed lob over Blaugrana legend, Andoni Zubizarreta. The goal helped Milan lift their 5th out of their seven Champions Leagues.
3 - Didier Drogba Vs Bayern Munich - 2012
Chelsea’s 2012 Champions League victory was remarkable, but the context in how they did it is key.
They pipped Valencia on the final matchday to progress to the knockout rounds. In the last 16, they overturned a 3-1 first-leg deficit against a free-scoring Napoli. In the semi-final second leg against European Champions, Barcelona - Chelsea were 2-2 on aggregate and down to ten men when Petr Cech saved a crucial Lionel Messi penalty which would go on to inspire one of the most incredible Champions League victories in history.
Ahead of the final, to complicate things further, the Blues would have to play Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena – the German’s home stadium. With Chelsea 1-0 down, Didier Drogba produced a thunderous header in the 88th minute to take the game to extra time. In the shootout, he then scored the winning spot-kick. To hand the Blues their first Champions League title.
2 - Gareth Bale Vs Liverpool - 2018
Gareth Bale’s time at Real Madrid is difficult to assess. Along with Phil Neal, he is the only British player to have won the Champions League 4 times, having scored in two of those finals. At the time of writing, he has scored over 100 goals in nearly 250 appearances for Los Blancos, yet for many, including Zinedine Zidane – the Welshman is seen as surplus to requirements.
Whatever the future holds for Bale, he’ll always have the memory of Kyiv in 2018, sealing a 3-1 victory against Liverpool with one of the most ludicrous bicycles kicks you’re likely to see.
1 - Zinedine Zidane Vs Bayer Leverkusen - 2002
Before he was deciding what to do with Gareth Bale, Zinedine Zidane was arguably one of the most technically gifted midfielders of a generation. The Frenchman was capable of dictating games like few others, he complemented his grace and technique with aggression, power and match-winning displays. In the 2002 final, Real Madrid and Bayer Leverkusen were drawing 1-1 until Zidane intervened. In the 47th minute, he produced a volley on his ‘weaker foot’, of such supreme accuracy, majesty and importance, children playing football in parks over the world would bellow his name for years to come.