The over-head kick, one of the hardest skills in football, but, when pulled off to perfection, possibly one of the most beautiful sights in all of sport. The incredible ability of top-class footballer to leap six-foot in the air, contort his body so his legs are above his head and connect flush with a travelling ball; it’s some skill.
In an amazing stroke of coincidence, thanks to Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Philippe Mexes, in the last few weeks we have been lucky enough to have seen two of the best overhead kicks the world of football has ever seen; question is, are either of them the best one ever? I’ve chosen the five best overheads I could think of and I’ve rated them in terms if technique, difficulty and importance. My marking may seem harsh, but given the quality of the goals there is no other option.
Technique – Wayne loses marks for ‘shinning it’ slightly, but other than that, the technique technically superb. Rooney watches the ball all the way before managing to redirect the cross straight into the top corner with enough power and precision to leave England’s Number One helpless – 8/10
Difficulty – Whilst all these goals are ridiculously difficult for us mere mortals; Rooney does have two advantages here. The benefit of facing the ball and the speed of Nani’s cross; both allow for more time for Wayne to prepare himself for what he is about to attempt, to set his feet and get in just the right position to execute – 7/10
Importance – Every goal in a derby against City is important, especially when the ‘noisy neighbours’ are battling it out for title. Rooney’s belter decided a top of the table clash and put United firmly in the driving seat en route to their 19th league title – 8/10
Overall Mark: 23/30
Technique – Maybe it’s the dreads, but there’s something brilliantly wild about Trevor Sinclair’s classic from 1997. He just flings himself at it like a computer game ninja! Sinclair goes for full power so the brilliance here is the timing, if he doesn’t get it spot on then he just doesn’t get that beautiful connection that beats the keeper……..and boy is it a sweet connection – 9/10
Difficultly – Sinclair has his back to goal, so to get a shot on target with that much power is phenomenal. It’s not in the top corner so we know its power that beats the keeper, that and the fact that no one, including the keeper, expected it to come!! – 8/10
Importance – A wonder goal against Barnsley that put QPR into the FA Cup 5th round, needless to say though, the R’s didn’t go all the way to Wembley that year – 5/10
Overall Mark: 22/30
Technique – Absolutely textbook. With his immaculate chest control, Rivaldo tees himself up perfectly to produce a beautifully balanced overhead. Unlike Rooney’s goal, which was more of a scissor kick, Rivaldo’s was by contrast the perfect overhead kick – 10/10
Difficulty – Given that it was the last minute, do or die, and that he was pretty much surrounded by Valencia defenders I’d say that it doesn’t get much harder. If I wanted to be really pedantic I could say that it was pretty central so a decent contact was all that was really needed to get it on target but that would be ultra harsh – 8/10
Importance – For a club like Barcelona the Champions League is everything. Needing nothing less than a win to qualify, Rivaldo having already scored twice, dragged his team over the line by producing one of the great hatricks; his third in the final minute completed what was truly one of the greatest individual performances of modern times – 9/10
Overall Mark: 27/30
Technique – Probably the most unorthodox of the five, but given Zlatan’s physical size, along with the anticipation and improvisation, it’s just sheer brilliance. The technique may not look as clean and tidy as others, but it’s the way Imbrahimovic is physically capable of launching and twisting his 6″5 frame to such a degree, and be able to connect so cleanly that impresses – 9/10
Difficulty – Given that a goal like this has never really been seen before speaks volumes of its difficulty. I’ve knocked a mark off for Joe Hart leaving an open net, but the goal happens due to the way Ibrahimovic anticipates Hart’s poor header before it happens; then, somehow punishes him like no one has ever done before. Just incredible – 9/10
Importance – Against England in a friendly, so hardly the World Cup final; that being said, it was the coronation of their new national stadium and will probably now go down as the greatest moment in Swedish football history – 6/10
Overall Mark: 24/30
Technique – Similar to Rivaldo in terms of setting himself up with the chest, before unleashing a stunning bicycle kick. Perhaps more impressive is the fact that Mexes is in the corner of the penalty area and needs to slightly readjust his angle in order to get the shot away. The weight that Mexes gets on the chest is perfect as it provides just enough space and time to make the necessary adjustment – 10/10
Difficulty – Just to get the shot away is impressive enough, but to get it right in the top corner from that range and that angle, leaving the keeper without a prayer is just plain amazing. And……he’s a defender!!! – 9/10
Importance – The second of A.C.’s three goals away to Anderlecht in a Champions League group game. Whilst the Belgians may not be one of the elite, to produce a goal like this in the Europe’s premier club competition is just pure class – 7/10
Overall Mark: 26/30
Of course, all overhead kicks are incredibly difficult, that’s why moments like these are so rare; so critiquing goals of this quality is nothing less that splitting hairs. For me personally, Rivaldo’s was the best, but of course that’s just my own personal opinion, you may (and probably will!) disagree, or maybe even think I have missed one or two off the list. That’s the other beauty of football though; we can spend the rest of our days sat in a pub discussing which goal was better. There is no real right or wrong answer, like all the best things in life, the beauty lay in the eye of the beholder.