He’s scored hundreds of them. Headers, volleys, penalties. Some from close range, others from long range.
But it’s a goal he scored on a rainy night in Turin that people just can’t stop talking about.
Like a gift from the gods, Cristiano Ronaldo’s soaring overhead kick from those dark gray clouds elicited a standing ovation from Juventus fans and left even Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane awestruck.
It was, Ronaldo himself said, “probably the best” of his entire career.
Bicycle kicks are not uncommon. It was the sheer elevation at which the 33-year-old connected with the ball – reportedly as high as a goalkeeper’s crossbar.
So where does the Portuguese phenomenon’s goal against Juventus rank among the greatest ever scored?
Zinedine Zidane (Real Madrid vs Bayer Leverkusen) 2002
Before becoming the first manager to win consecutive European Cups since AC Milan’s Arrigo Sacchi, Zidane was one of the most gifted players of his generation.
The Frenchman’s left-footed volley in the Champions League final 16 years ago was both balletic and brutal, epitomizing his elegance and deadly accuracy.
It was also decisive, giving Los Blancos a record ninth title in Europe’s premier club competition.
Asked whose famous goal tops the lot as fans poured out of the Allianz Arena on Tuesday night, the Real Madrid boss had no doubt.
“Oh mine!” laughed Zidane. “Definitely mine.”
Marco van Basten (Netherlands vs USSR) 1988
As a boy, Van Basten dreamed of becoming a gymnast.
Thankfully for Dutch football fans, he became one of the greatest European forwards ever, with all that agility and skill coming to the fore in the 1988 European Championship.
It is the audacity of Van Basten’s volley, taken early from the tightest of angles against the USSR, that places it among the pantheon of greats.
“I did not really understand what I had done,” he reflected. “You can also see that in my reaction. I am asking: ‘What is happening?’”
His teammates were at a similar loss to explain what they had just seen.
“You cannot shoot from that angle,” said Ronald Koeman.
“It really was too high,” added Frank Rijkaard.
Ruud Gullit agreed, saying: “He will do that another million times and still not score that goal.” Few, if any, have since.
Dennis Bergkamp (Arsenal vs Newcastle) 2002
Bergkamp’s goal against Newcastle in the English Premier League is another that fans and pundits alike return to when the “greatest ever” debate resurfaces.
With his back to goal, the Arsenal striker, fondly nicknamed the “Iceman,” had the poise and presence of mind to flick the ball around Newcastle defender Nikos Dabizas, pirouette and nonchalantly finish past goalkeeper Shay Given.
“Usually when you do something amazing you get carried away,” teammate Thierry Henry said.
“How many times did you see a guy do a great control and then rush the finish? Dennis did something amazing but then stayed composed. That’s the difference between great players and normal players.”
Bergkamp, emblematic of shifting values at the top of English football, was as cool as ever.
“It looked a bit special or strange or nice but for me it was the quickest way to the goal,” said the Dutchman. “The finish: it was just trying to get it past the goalkeeper in such a way he cannot reach it.”
Diego Maradona (Argentina vs England) 1986
The so-called “Goal of the Century” was only the second-most famous strike of a World Cup quarterfinal.
Maradona’s slaloming run and finish against England at Estadio Azteca is noteworthy for its notoriety as well as its skill.
Only four minutes earlier, the diminutive Argentinian had blatantly cheated with the eyes of the world watching. It seemed the only man who had missed his deliberate handball past goalkeeper Peter Shilton, infamously dubbed the “Hand of God,” had been Tunisian referee Ali Bin Nasser.
That act of barefaced deception drew Argentina level. What happened next could only be called genius.
Receiving the ball deep in his own half, Maradona glides forward with the ball seemingly glued to his feet, leaving a trail of embarrassed England defenders in his wake.
Before you can even process what’s happened, Shilton has been left on his backside and the ball is already is in the net.
Carlos Alberto (Brazil vs Italy) 1970
But it’s not all about individual brilliance.
Carlos Alberto’s first-time finish against Italy in the final of the 1970 Mexico City World Cup comes after team move involving nine players that, for many, embodies the very spirit of Jogo Bonito (The Beautiful Game).
By the time the Brazilian captain charges forward from right back like a steam train, the game was all but up, with Italy 3-1 down.
But it’s Alberto’s goal with only a few minutes remaining that everyone remembers, many decades on.