Since 2016 is just four days old, it is the perfect time to summarize the previous year in goals.
We factored in various criteria – the situations in which the goals were scored, their technical complexity, the importance of the match, the strength of the opponents…
The selection process wasn’t easy – among the best we have bicycle-kicks, rabonas, amazing solo goals and many, many more.
11. Lionel Mesi – Barcelona vs Bayern Munich (May 6)
“Messi bamboozles Bayern” – that was the headline on UEFA’s official site when it was announced that Lionel Messi’s goal was voted as the best of the season.
The Barcelona star scored a brace in the first semifinal win against Bayern (3:0), but it was the second goal that was the truly phenomenal one.
Ivan Rakitic threads a pass to Messi down the right flank at the edge of the Bayern 25-yard box. The Argentinian traps the ball with his left foot and, tap-tap-taps it forward and starts to drible while poor Jerome Boateng falls to the ground.
And then, with Boateng staring at his nemesis disappearing into the distance, Messi transfers the ball to his right foot and gently lobs the ball diagonally just above Neuer’s desperately close and outstretched right hand.
10. Charlie Adam – Stoke City vs Chelsea (April 4)
Last year, a Chelsea victory against Stoke City was not news, but Charlie Adam’s equalizer surely was.
Stoke were looking to get back into the game but really hadn’t produced much until this incredible strike from Adam.
Picking the ball up a full 50 meters from the Chelsea goal and well inside his own half, he spotted Thibaut Courtois off his line and with a sharp strike lobbed the keeper.
“The disappointing thing is we lost the game. On a personal note it is a great goal to score. I saw the keeper off his line, had an effort and it has gone in. I always have a look at the goalkeeper because these balls move so much. When you have got that much space and time it is good to do something like that,” Adam later told the BBC. “I never knew I had that much power, to beat a quality goalkeeper like that is something special. Once in a lifetime this can happen to you.”
9. Ezequiel Lavezzi – PSG vs Stade Rennais (January 30)
Ezequiel Lavezzi’s goal against Stade Rennais was one of the best team goals in 2015. PSG secured three points with 1:0 win at Parc des Princes after a marvelous attack in which five players had contact with the ball – Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Lucas Digne, Javier Pastore, Adrien Rabiot and Lavezzi.
Ibrahimovic carried the ball forward and combined with Pastore, who, after nudging it on to Rabiot, collected a chipped return pass inside the area and squared to Lavezzi for an easy finish at the end of a free-flowing move.
8. Alessandro Florenzi – AS Roma vs Barcelona (September 16)
Alessandro Florenzi saved his side from defeat at home against the mighty Barcelona in their Champions League group stage match.
The young Italian midfielder dribbled the ball down the right flank before trying his luck from over 40 yards out. He lobbed the ball over a helpless Marc-Andre Ter Stegen, with his effort clipping the bar before hitting the net.
“When I saw it went in, I honestly didn’t know how to celebrate. I put my hands on my face because I knew that I had scored a goal that I will never forget. The ball seemed to be in the air for an eternity. It was difficult but it was instinct, craziness and a bit of heart that allowed me to score this beautiful goal. It was practically a last resort because Edin [Dzeko] was being marked by two defenders. I said: ‘I’ll try it,’ and I managed to get it to land under the bar and score a great goal,” said one of the three candidates for the FIFA best goal of the year.
The match finished 1:1 and the masterpiece from the 24-year-old Alessandro is one to watch over and over.
7. Christian Benteke – Liverpool vs Manchester United (September 12)
Two months after his arrival at Anfield Christian Benteke introduced himself to fans with a brilliant bicycle-kick finish against their greatest rivals Manchester United.
Liverpool had little reason to celebrate on their way to a 3:1 loss against Manchester United. But in the 84th minute, the Belgian star delivered a bicycle-kick that beat United goalkeeper David de Gea.
“I had some luck and I am happy with it, but we didn’t get the three points. For my own confidence it was good, it is for a striker to score, but at the end of the day I would have rather taken the three points, and so I’m disappointed,” the striker said after the defeat.
6. Carli Lloyd – USA vs Japan (July 5)
Carly Lloyd is the only woman in our list thanks to her stunner from the halfway line in the final of the FIFA Women’s World Cup. Lloyd had the game of her life as the United States beat Japan 5:2 to win the world title.
The Houston Dash midfielder showed the greatest individual performance in a World Cup final ever with a hat trick in just 16 minutes.
“There ‘s not many times I’ve tried to hit a ball from midfield at goal and I don’t think I could have struck it any (more perfect). It just unleashed off my foot,” Lloyd said. “I saw the keeper off her line and just instincts kicked in and I just went for it and it was just one of those moments where it just happened to go in.”
Lloyd was named winner of the Golden Ball as the tournament’s best player. She became the first player to score the gold-medal-winning goal in back-to-back Olympics, and only the second player to score in two World Cup finals.
5. Jonathan Calleri – Boca Juniors vs Quilmes (July 18)
Carlos Tevez made his first appearance for Boca Juniors in his second spell at the club, after leaving Juventus, but Jonathan Calleri stole the show with a glorious rabona lob against Quilmes.
Calleri was trying to set up the second goal for Sebastian Palacios who scored the first one at La Bombonera.
However, his pass hit a defender instead and when the ball came back to him, the striker combined innovation, inspiration and improvisation to lob goalkeeper Walter Benitez with a remarkable rabona. It turned out to be the winner in a 2:1 victory and the images went viral all around the world.
“When the move started, I thought about shooting or passing to Tevez,” he said afterwards. “I opted for the pass, but it was a bad one and so, as I don’t have a left foot, I tried to chip it in with a rabona. I didn’t think about it at the time, it was a question of seconds. When it went in, I couldn’t believe it.”
The legendary Diego Armando Maradona came to see new-old Boca hero Teves for the first time in action, but it was Calleri that presented himself in the best possible way.
4. Marcel Ndjeng – SC Paderborn vs Bolton Wanderers (July 13)
Pre-season friendlies are often tiresome exercises for football-starved fans desperate for the real action to get going again. But now and then, we get moments of genius like this…
Marcel Ndjeng may not be a famous name, but Bolton Wanderers fans won’t be forgetting him in a hurry after the Paderborn midfielder netted this outrageous 40-yard volley against them.
With just over an hour played, the Paderborn man decided to warm-up the match with a simply stunning strike to put his side 3:1 up against the Trotters.
Connecting with the ball flush inside the center circle, Ndjeng’s effort sailed over Bolton’s powerless keeper Ben Amos.
3. David Ball – Fleetwood Town vs Preston North End (March 29)
David Ball joined the youth system at Manchester City in 2007 after a foot injury at the end of his teenager years. It was not the best of beginnings so he was sent to Swindon Town on loan, before signing for Peterborough United. After another loan to Rochdale he came to Fleetwood Town in 2012.
Three years later the Whitefield-born player made it to the front pages of media worldwide due to his fantastic goal against Preston North End.
The 25-year-old’s goal saw him produce some wonderful close control 20 yards out before lofting an exquisite chip over Manchester United goalkeeper Sam Johnstone into the top corner of the net.
2. Wendell Lira – Goianesia vs Atletico Goianiense (March 11)
The third contender for the Puskas Award comes from the Brazilian lower league, where the acrobatic Wendell Lira, who now plays for Vila Nova, scored a superb bicycle-kick for Goianesia against Atletico Goianiense. The 26-year-old plays a little one-two before continuing his run and then volleys behind the goalkeeper.
“I was at my mother’s house and it was impossible for the telephone to stop ringing, and the Whatsapp messages kept coming. Then I went to see what was happening and there were lots of messages congratulating me. I though it was a prank but they sent me the links and then I believed that I’m really a contender for the Puskas Award. I was shocked.”
On making the three-man shortlist, he added: “Oh, it was another shock. I was leaving my house at around 12pm and a guy blocked my way. I thought I was done, that he would assault me. But then he took out his phone and asked for a photo. After that he told me I was among the finalists. It was very emotional, a gift from God. It’s an honour to be recognised outside Brazil, and I ‘m very happy to participate in the FIFA Puskas Award. It ‘s like a dream, I didn’t expect it.”
1. Lionel Messi – Barcelona vs Athletic Bilbao (May 30)
We didn’t have any doubt – Lionel Messi scored the best goal in 2015. Messi, who is also favorite to win the Ballon d’Or after being nominated in the three-man shortlist, comes the top of our list with amazing solo goal in the Copa del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao.
In the 20th minute, Messi scored one of the best goals of his entire career. He picked up the ball from Dani Alves near the halfway line with three Athletic players surrounding him – defender Mikel Balenziaga and midfielders Mikel Rico and Benat. The Blaugrana No. 10 ducked and dived past all three in one indescribable movement. He then drove into the box, tricked Aymeric Laporte with his shoulder, shaped to shoot toward the far post, but instead thumped the ball into a tiny gap at the closer post, beating keeper Iago Herrerin.
The Argentinian once again found the net in the second half, and with Neymar who scored the third goal, led Barca to 3:1 win at Camp Nou.
“We’re used to Messi, we enjoy him every day in training. His first goal was from another galaxy,” said coach Luis Enrique after the match.
This victory was the second part of Barcelona’s treble, with the team going on to win the 2015 UEFA Champions League Final a week later.