The backheel. A skill which all of us can do, but not very well. Much like a ‘rabona’, we’ve all practised it in our backyard, away from the prying eyes as we tie ourselves in knots and collapse to the ground.
Well, Luis Suárez showed the world how to do the perfect backheeled finish on Saturday evening, amid all the Lionel Messi magic in Barcelona’s 5-2 victory over Real Mallorca.
After some exquisite Barca buildup play, Frenkie de Jong laid the ball into the path of Suárez, who – back to goal – somehow dinked an unfathomable backheel over the outstretched arm of goalkeeper Manolo Reina. It was truly mind-boggling.
A moment of sheer brilliance from El Pistolero, but he is not the first to perfect this skill.
In honour of Suárez’s moment of artistry, 90min takes a look at eight of the greatest backheel goals of all time.
8) Gianfranco Zola vs Norwich
The Italian wizard kicks off this glorious list. Chelsea are facing Norwich in the FA Cup, and the hosts win a corner. Danger for the Canaries. What they probably didn’t expect though, was a fierce backheel strike from Gianfranco Zola, whilst running away from goal.
But that’s exactly what he did. Zola ran beyond the near post, yet somehow managed to direct the ball towards goal, lifting it enough to beat the surprised goalkeeper. The diminutive magician made so many people fall in love with Premier League football, and this was one of the many reasons why.
7) Zlatan Ibrahimovic vs Bastia
Of course, the king of acrobatics makes the list. Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s elasticity is impressive for a man of advancing years, and he demonstrated this nicely in a 4-0 victory over Bastia in 2013. Dani Alves’ cross is flicked on with a backheel (appropriate) and the ball hangs in the air for what seems an eternity.
As it’s dropping behind the big Swede, Ibrahimovic manages to elevate his leg to head height, and connect perfectly with the ball, firing it into the top-right corner.
Dare to Zlatan.
6) Jeremy Menez vs Parma
If a game that ended 5-4 between Milan and Parma wasn’t mad enough, how about we add the cheekiest of backheel finishes in the mix? With the game balanced at 4-3 to the Italian giants, and with both sides down to ten men, Menez latched onto a weak backpass and poked the ball around the onrushing goalkeeper.
With the angle narrowing for the pacy winger as the ball trickled across the six-yard box, Menez confidently clipped a chip-shot over the despairing goalkeeper to seal the game for I Rossoneri.
A lovely one. Also, check out the own goal at the end of the game – an absolute clanger.
5) Sadio Mané vs Watford
When you take a bad touch in front of goal, it often means that the chance has probably gone. Well, not with Sadio Mané in attack. The Liverpool star tried to bring down a whipped cross from the right-hand side, but his mis-control allowed the ball to squirm away from goal.
As the goalkeeper rushed out to close down the angle, and the Watford defenders swarmed around him, Mané produced an intuitive backheel finish which had just enough air to avoid Ben Foster’s dive.
This man really can do anything.
4) Cristiano Ronaldo vs Valencia
Cristiano Ronaldo scores every type of goal, so it’s no surprise that he is included in this prestigious collection of players. Back in 2014, Ronaldo was wowing the Real Madrid crowd week-in, week-out, and he produced a stunning finish against Valencia to add to his repertoire of extraordinary goals.
The ball fell to winger Angel Di Maria on the left flank, and his lobbed cross arrived at around waist-height for the Portuguese star. With a violent karate-esque swing of his right leg, Ronaldo chopped the ball beyond the goalkeeper with unbelievable power. The Valencia shot-stopper laughs as he gets to his feet, knowing that his opponent is not human. Talk about unfair advantages.
3) Zlatan Ibrahimovic vs Italy
Yep, he’s made the list twice. During a Euro 2004 game between Sweden and Italy, Ibrahimovic produced a mesmerising finish for his country. A deep corner is met at the far post, and a nod-down across the box causes chaos in the Italian defence.
Amid all of the panic and flailing limbs, Ibra remains calm and lucid enough to run away from goal, put himself between the ball and the lunging goalkeeper and acrobatically flick a shot back towards the net. It loops, it floats, and it nestles in the onion bag, despite the best efforts of the man on the line.
A great goal on a huge occasion. That’s Zlatan.
2) Thierry Henry vs Charlton
Well, this legend was bound to make the list, wasn’t he?
Possibly the Premier League’s greatest ever player scored an outrageous backheel against Charlton back in the 2004/05 season for Arsenal, and it was a beauty. Back to goal (obviously), Henry was being hustled and grappled by Jonathan Fortune, who was determined to prevent the genius forward from turning.
In response, Henry backheeled the ball through the defender’s legs, baffling the goalkeeper, who could do nothing to prevent one of the greatest Premier League goals of all time.
1) Fabio Quagliarella vs Napoli
And there we have it, number one in the list – and a goal befitting of its ranking.
The Italian striker leapt in the air, and with one of the most graceful flicks of a right boot that the world has ever seen, the Sampdoria star swept the ball into the far corner with unthinkable timing and precision.