An evaluation of a complete season in club football encompasses multiple aspects of the sport. Starting from transfers, it ranges over tactics, team strategies, words exchanged off-field, managers being hired & fired etc. among many others. We at TheHardTackle, attempt to present the highlights of the recently concluded season in European football with our latest initiative THT awards. As the awards reach the culmination point, the final category nominates the best goals scored through the season in major leagues of Europe as well as in the continental competitions.
With so many preternaturally talented players plying their trade into some of the most demanding leagues in Europe, we often see goals of sheer perspicacity being scored that leave millions of viewers across the globe in sheer awe. Choosing the ten best goals of the season therefore is a mammoth ask in itself. While picking the nominations for this category, we therefore focused on number of attributes to judge the candidature of each goal. Skill, artistry, positioning, build-up and finish, while are the technical aspects; we took factors like goal’s impact on the result, opposition strength, situation and conditions too in due consideration before finalising on ten entries. Acknowledging the fact that choosing the goal of the season is too subjective a matter, we hope your favourite goal has found a place in our list of nominees. Do vote for the goal that you feel mesmerised you the most.
1. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Milan) Vs. Lecce
Post the winter break, Milan did not restart the league campaign in an exactly electrifying fashion. On their outing to Lecce, the game began on a passive note in the first half only for Ibrahimovic to unfold his magic in the second with this breath-taking strike from one of the most difficult angles that put Milan into front against the home side. While taking the shot from distance, the Big Swede was surrounded by two Lecce defenders and had no direct sight to the goal whatsoever. Epic stuff to say the least!
2. Wayne Rooney (Manchester United) Vs. Manchester City
A cross-city derby is hardly played to the highest potential of the two teams involved. The aura of the occasion usually gets the better of the players but it was not to be so when the two giants from Manchester locked horns at Old Trafford in the month of February. In a juicy encounter, when the teams were tied at one goal apiece till the 77th minute, it struck Wayne Rooney there was no better time to win back the heart of red half of Manchester. Upon a sublime cross by Nani, Rooney positioned himself in an excellent manner to maintain the maximum view of the ball till the very last moment and to everybody’s surprise, decided to take an overhead kick with immense power, stopping which would have taken a magical effort from Joe Hart.
3. Alex (Chelsea) Vs. Arsenal
When it comes to set-pieces, Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard are the usual takers for Chelsea. However, there is a bald Brazilian whose power is reserved for few special occasions. There was one such occasion against Liverpool in a Champions League Quarter Final and it was time for another such occasion. It was still the early days of the league and probably Chelsea had hit the purple patch a little too early. It was the day for a London derby at Stamford Bridge and Chelsea were in complete command against Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal after Gunners’ long-time nemesis Didier Drogba had put the home team in front. It was only a matter for Chelsea to put the result to rest and Alex with this blistering strike almost drilled a hole in the net. Apart from power, this kick was about the execution and the curl it took to beat both the wall and the keeper in an inch perfect manner.
4. Lionel Messi (Barcelona) Vs. Real Madrid
Arguably the best player of the present generation had quite surprisingly failed to score a single goal against Jose Mourinho’s teams despite facing them 9 times at both European and domestic stage. The jinx was broken when he converted a penalty at Bernabeu stadium in the first of the four-clasico series but a ‘real’ goal was yet to be scored. The Argentine sensation could not have chosen a better time to break the ice than the semi-final clash in a European Cup against the bitter rivals Real Madrid. Playing the first leg in Madrid, Barcelona were already a goal-up courtesy a tap-in by Messi from an Ibrahim Affelay cross. The excitement levels were to immensely rise, as in the 87th minute; Lionel Messi began his run forward in a territory covered by as many as seven white shirts. Messi’s pace, ball control and movement were so artistic that one may be forced to believe Real Madrid player probably did not ‘feel like’ breaking such piece of elegance. After outpacing four Madrid players, Messi caught Casillas out of his position and put the ball past the Spanish captain with a modest touch with his right foot to let the ball aptly kiss the net.
5. Andrea Pirlo (Milan) Vs. Parma
A lot was expected out of the Milanese attack at the beginning of the season last summer owing the heavy investments the club made to bolster the team’s offense. The season, on the contrary, began on a rather unpromising note and the sceptics deemed the over-reliance on the strikers for creativity as the key reason for the less number of potential chances created. Amidst all sorts of combinations being tried by the novice manager Max Allegri, Milan visited Parma who too were struggling to find their feet in the league. Milan did not show any promise in the opening minutes but then, what is Andrea Pirlo known for? The veteran Italian playmaker played a one-touch with Clarence Seedorf and took the control of the ball back in the opposition half. When everybody thought, he was trying to release Ronaldinho to make a dangerous run; Pirlo instead dribbled the ball a little more forward and took a direct aim at the goal with a shot that took the entire stadium by storm. Ronaldinho’s reaction at the goal says it all.
6. Emmanuel Adebayor (Real Madrid) Vs. Racing Santander
Following an injury to ace forward Gonzalo Higuain and owing to the indifferent form of French prodigy Karim Benzema, Manchester City’s Togo striker Emmanuel Adebayor’s services were hired on loan at Bernabeu by coach Jose Mourinho. The African did not have a luxury to take his time to settle into a new league and had to make an immediate statement of intent. Though this goal does not advertise any of his breath-taking skills as a striker, his incredible sense of movement off the ball is much on show. The goal presents a delightful viewing of perfect team work initiated by Xabi Alonso from the deep who found Ozil near the centre area. The German revelation went on, exemplified enthralling one-touch football involving Benzema and Adebayor on two different instances. Adebayor freed Ozil off opposition player and made a proactive run near the opposition goal where he found the perfect ball from Ozil to tap-in. A great demonstration of collective effort.
7. Cani (Villarreal) Vs. Osasuna
Villarreal’s Spanish Midfield orchestrator Cani has failed to hog the limelight that his potential would otherwise be worthy of. His effort from the half-line against Osasuna should make the world take the note of him in the highest regard. Cani happened to be at the receiving end of a misdirected pass from an Osasuna player and the Spaniard did not even control the ball despite acres of space to work with ball. His ambitious effort took the keeper by surprise who was way out of his position and could only be the spectator to see the ball dropping into the net. One of the all-time classic long-rangers, speaking the least.
8. Samir Nasri (Arsenal) Vs. Fulham
It takes a lifetime for a player to score a goal that is remembered and cherished by the generations to come. Samir Nasri had the privilege to score two such goals in a matter of minutes. After fooling almost the entire Fulham defence with his trickeries to score the first, Nasri raised a shortage of adjectives to describe his second effort in the same match. The game was excitingly poised at 1-1 when the French youngster received the ball near the half-line to which he drove forward to find Arshavin who successively passed the ball to Robin van Persie. Nasri meanwhile, made a brilliant run off the ball for van Persie to find him in a dangerous position near the box. Nasri seamlessly went past his markers with the ball. Mark Schwarzer advanced forward to block his angle but Nasri diverted his movements laterally, making sure he went out of the Australian’s reach. At almost zero angle, Nasri took a U-turn and dared to put the ball in the net with a finish that was consummate by all means. The goal is an advertisement of Nasri’s vision, pace, movement, skills and finish.
9. Lionel Messi (Barcelona) Vs. Arsenal
It is difficult to say something about Messi that has not been already said. The Argentine dynamite has redefined the measures of greatness ever since he hit his prime but the two lynchpins of the Barcelona team – Xavi and Iniesta – have played a vital role in Messi’s emergence as the world beater. This goal by the genius against Arsenal in a Champions League knock-out match epitomizes the importance of the Spanish duo in Messi’s success. Andres Iniesta, with his artistic dribbling skills, not only controlled the proceedings in the attacking zone but made sure he drew the Arsenal players close enough to him for Messi to release off them. Iniesta demonstrated his unparalleled vision for goals, finding Messi in a top spot inside the box. Messi carried forward the usual business, this time in an even more special panache. Arsenal keeper Manuel Almunia almost thought he got the hold of the ball when he attempted to block Messi’s movement with a dive forward. Messi however, tossed the ball up, inches away from Almunia, and positioned himself again to take the next shot at which the Spanish keeper could do nothing but sigh.
10. Dejan Stankovic (Inter) Vs. Schalke 04
Playing the first leg of the Champions League Quarter Finals against the German newbies Schalke 04, Inter appeared to be the more confident of the two teams at San Siro. The turn of events in the very first minute could not have been more evident. An abruptly taken shot from Inter’s own half by Argentine midfielder Esteban Cambiasso forced Germany’s new number one Manuel Neuer draw out of the box and clear the ball only to fall at the feet of Dejan Stankovic. The Serbian skipper, decided to take a direct aim back at Neuer’s goal with a half-volley that was so unblemished that many of the viewers actually felt, Inter should have been awarded three goals at least for an effort like that. Easily, Inter’s most memorable moment in a season that otherwise produced too many of rather forgetful ones.
Alex’s rocket of a free-kick against Arsenal has been voted as The Goal of the Season by our audience. With all due respect to the Brazilian’s jaw-dropping effort and our audience’s verdict, we consider this result as the biggest upset in THT Awards!