World Class players, you just have to admire them. They have the ability to completely turn a game on its head. Over the years, we’ve seen a large amount of World Class players and ultimately, you just can’t hate them no matter who they play for. Every now and again, we see these players individually take a game by the scruff of the neck and literally put in unforgettable performances. Not only this, but the best of the best do it when it really matters.
Only on very few occasions, players score the perfect 10 so we here at Bespoke have put together a timeless list of the Top 10 Individual Performances of recent times. Importance, context of the performance/match, the level of goals scored and final results have been considered to decide this list. Sit back, have a read and enjoy the videos! The calibre is of the highest standard and it’s difficult to separate the 10, but here it goes….
10. Rooney vs. Fenerbahçe
Wayne Rooney put his name on the map when he scored his wonder goal against Arsenal at the age of just 16. That goal and stellar performances earned him his big money move to Man Utd. The 18 year old made his debut in the Champions League against Fenerbahce and boy did he make a huge statement. His first game saw him score a tremendous hat-trick with two admirable finishes, one on each foot. To round off his hat-trick, the Liverpudlian scored a 25 yard free kick that Juninho Pernambucano (if you know you know) would have been proud of. This, was all inside of 60 minutes! What makes this performance so great was the fact that it was his Manchester United debut, at Old Trafford in the Champions League at the age of only 18. Pressure? What pressure. More than enough to warrant a place on this list.
9. Ibrahimović vs. England
Well before this game, there was much debate as to who was the third best player in the world (obviously no debate about who the Top 2 were). After this game, Zlatan more or less solidified his place in the Top 3. The Swede dismantled England by scoring all four of Sweden’s goals despite England putting up a good fight. Not only did he score all four goals, the finishes were of the highest calibre. With this being said, this performance was only ranked 9th due to the fact it was a friendly match where England didn’t necessarily field their strongest side. Nonetheless, Zlatan’s fourth goal was simply outrageous. Up there with one of the best goals of all time. If you’re unaware of this performance, especially the fourth goal; just press play.
8. Kaká vs. Man Utd
Ricardo Kaka in the 06/07 was the best player in the world and there was no debate on that. Many teams fell victim to Kaka’s genius. One of those happened to be the mighty Manchester United. AC Milan visited Old Trafford in the semi-final of the Champions League and it was where Kaka decided to turn up the heat. The first half alone, Kaka terrorised Man Utd’s defence and he was literally unplayable. Every bit of action from AC Milan, Kaka was the lynchpin of it. The Brazilian bagged himself 2 goals in the first half. The first of the two saw him scarily outpace the Utd defenders and then finished immaculately. The second goal was one to remember. Utter silence around Old Trafford. You have to see it to believe it, the video below shows you all you need to see. Kaka didn’t stop there. He continued to terrorise in the second half but unfortunately for him, his team-mate let him down and Milan conceded avoidable goals and eventually lost the match 3-2. Kaka was sure to put that right and he certainly did in the return leg – carrying Milan to a ruthless 3-0 win over the English champions.
7. Henry vs. Inter Milan
The Italian Job. After Arsenal were on the receiving end of a thrashing in their own back yard against Inter Milan, it was essential they went to San Siro and win to keep their Champions League hopes alive. A tall order considering the result of the match at Highbury (oh and no Vieira). You must all remember how this match turned out though right? Well guess who once again stepped up to the plate? Thierry Henry. The Frenchman started off the 5-1 win with a tidy finish. From here there was no stopping him. After his first goal, he then bagged himself two assists and another goal. The calibre of Henry’s second goal is what solidifies the 7th place on the list. The goal was complete individuality and a goal of a true, true World Class player. But don’t take our word for it – when you watch the video below you’ll understand the magnitude of the performance. A performance that contributed to one of Arsenal’s greatest wins in the Champions League.
6. Zidane vs. Brazil
Ahh Zizou. An absolute magician. How can one player play so nonchalantly and make playing football look so easy? Just how many times have you heard legends of the game say the best they’ve played with and against is Zidane? When the Frenchman puts in performances like this one, it’s not hard to see why. You may feel this is a performance that doesn’t deserve a place on the list because he didn’t score multiple goals or didn’t score a scorcher. All that needs to be said is that never has one player inidividually made a Brazil side (with legends) look so desperately average. The video below is longer than the others and that tells a story in itself. Sit back and watch a King Zizou masterpiece.
5. Messi vs. Real Zaragoza
Messi pls. “YOU’RE JUST LOST FOR WORDS!” Those words from the commentator were strikingly accurate. That was the affect this performance from Messi had. There were no more superlatives to use for El Lionel. I feel words do no justice to performances of this nature. This performance was that good that you could watch the full 90 minutes over and over and not get bored. Messi had just come off the back of scoring 5 in the last two matches, so surely he couldn’t keep this standard up? Haha. Everything ran though Messi and there wasn’t anything any of the Zaragoza players could do. He schooled players left, right and centre and made professional footballers look like they belonged in a Sunday League team respectively. As you’ve seen from this list, the standard of goals has been nothing short of ridiculous and Messi’s second goal fits into this perfectly. The fact that the Argentinian beat the same man twice and put him on his bottom in one dribble just indicates the mood Messi was in. I mean, his first goal was a header. How any of the players on the opposing side let him win a header is beyond me. Of course, Messi had to join the hat-trick collective in this list. His 20 yard left foot strike saw him complete his hat-trick and score his eight goal in just three matches. He wasn’t finished here. In the dying minutes, he won a penalty but that seems pretty standard doesn’t it? The video is below, just watch.
4. Ronaldinho vs. Real Madrid
Performances like this, you can’t really put in to words. This performance from Ronaldinho is where he schooled probably every Real Madrid player at some point during the match. The thing about this is that Ronaldinho was already playing fantastically before he scored his 2 nearly identical wonder goals. It is again, something that words do not do justice. How often do you see a player embarrass a Real Madrid team full of legends at the Bernabeu? You could probably count that on one hand. The most defining part of this all, was the reaction of the fans. The Real Madrid fans standing up at the Bernabeu and clapping Ronaldinho after his second goal speaks volumes. Take a minute for that to digest. Now you can see it for yourself with the video. Iconic moment!
3. Rivaldo vs. Valencia
So now we hit the Top 3. This list up until now has been full of braces and hat-tricks and here we have another but probably the most important hat-trick in the list so far. Rivaldo had won the World Player of the Year in 1999 and often found himself carrying a mediocre Barcelona team on his back. This match on the final day of the 2000/01 season saw Barcelona and Valencia effectively being involved in a play-off for the all-important 4th place that warranted European qualification. Barcelona had to win more so than Valencia as a draw would see Valencia finish in 4th. Additionally, with Barcelona in a financial crisis, a 4th place finish could save them from liquidation. The challenge was accepted by Rivaldo. The Brazilian wasted no time in making a statement of intent. However, every time Rivaldo fired them in to the lead, Valencia pegged backed a goal. The two longed ranged goals Rivaldo scored showed that he was not playing any games and his performance from the game showed he was adamant to qualify Barcelona for Europe. It must have only been natural for Rivaldo to feel frustrated that Valencia kept drawing level. At 2-2 with 2 minutes to go, the individual brilliance that Rivaldo showed is a moment of football that should never be forgotten. Watch the video of the performance and then take in what was required for him to score his third. One of the best hat-tricks of all time? You’d be a brave person to say no. The combination of the importance of the performance, the technique needed for the final goal and the fashion in which it was scored is what earns Rivaldo the 3rd spot. The reaction of the president tells you all you need to know.
2. Ronaldo vs. Man Utd
Schooling Manchester United at Old Trafford is one of the unwritten rules of football. Ronaldo certainly didn’t follow this rule when Read Madrid visited the Theatre of Dreams in the quarter finals of the Champions League. I mean, Madrid were already 3-1 up from the first leg, so Ronaldo could have shown just a little bit of compassion. He singlehandedly made sure that United crashed out of the Champions League with the show he put on. It took him only 12 minutes to give Man Utd’s stakeholders just a taste of what they were going to see. The second half came and Ronaldo wasn’t finished. He rounded off a brilliant team goal from Madrid once again leaving the Man Utd fans completely silent. Maybe it had hit home that the Brazilian had turned up to destroy their side. If there was any doubt if this was the case, the goal to complete the hat-trick erased all doubt. An astonishing 25 yard strike left Barthez and Manchester United stunned. The silence around the ground this time was probably due to everyone being in awe. The Red Devils were down and out and Ronaldo was subbed off to a standing ovation from both sets of fans. He walked off knowing that this performance would be high up on his list of achievements in his career.
(There’s a little preview of Ronaldo moments just for good measure)
1. Cristiano Ronaldo vs. Sweden
So here we are…The No.1 Individual Performance…Ronaldo vs Sweden – Nov 2013. Now, this list is very much up for debate but it would hard to knock this off the top spot. Let’s firstly start with the importance of this match. Portugal and Sweden were in a play-off for their place in the 2014 World Cup. That in itself is enough to know how important a win for either side would be. It was already devastating that either Ibrahimović or Ronaldo would not be playing in the World Cup. Any player in either squad that performed well enough to see their team qualify would be regarded as a hero. The first leg saw Ronaldo scored a vital goal to give Portugal the advantage going into the 2nd leg. So we arrive at the 2nd leg in Sweden where none of us were prepared for what was about to happen. Watching the match, it was a fair analogy to say Ronaldo played LF, RF and CF all by himself. If the other players didn’t want to play in Brazil, Cristiano did and that was evident from what we saw. The match finished 0-0 at HT so Portugal were still in the driving seat. However, Ronaldo turned up the heat and scored a brilliant left foot finish. As soon as you saw him making the run to latch on to the through ball you just knew he was about to fire Portugal into the lead (you can see for yourself in a bit). But Zlatan Ibrahimović threw a spanner in the works with a quick fire double – staking his claim to why HE should be playing in Brazil next summer. That was short lived because the 2008 World Player of Year put the play-off to bed where he scored another astonishing effort into the bottom right corner. Even a certain Zlatan Ibrahimović clapped Cristiano’s performance. Ronaldo dared to Zlatan in Zlatan’s own backyard. What more did Ronaldo need to do to make this the best performance of the modern era? Complete his hat-trick. Well yes indeed and he duly delivered with another admirable finish this time on his right foot. Completion. Ronaldo’s celebration and the celebration from his team-mates told you everything you need to know. Cristiano Ronaldo – TAKE A BOW SON!
So there we have it! That is our list of the Top 10 Individual World Class Performances. Let us know what your list would be or if there were any performances that you think should have definitely made the list. There’s nothing quite like football!