Following on from our article Credit Where It’s Due: Are all assists created equal? in which we discuss the uncertainty surrounding crediting assists, we demonstrate 5 perfect examples of goals scored by playmakers who should also really be credited with the assist.
Either through an improvised magical touch or ingenious piece of play which demonstrates the creative element, the goalscorers below have also provided their own ‘assist’. Pure genius.
Some goals simply defy belief.
1. Roberto Baggio (Juventus v Brescia 2001)
The Divine Ponytail produced the divinest of touches to conjure a goal which seemed heaven sent as the ball fell from the sky.
Baggio was nearing the end of a surprising first season for Brescia; the unfashionable club, so used to fighting against relegation, transformed into a team fighting for European qualification with their inspirational number 10 as captain. Baggio produced 10 assists as well as 10 goals – the pick of which was surely this magical effort.
With Juventus chasing lo Scudetto late into the season, Baggio ultimately punctured their title challenge with this late equaliser in Turin, gaining some small measure of revenge after being unceremoniously dumped by the Old Lady back in 1995.
A young Andrea Pirlo, on loan from Inter at the time, technically gave the assist with what would go on to become a trademark long-lobbed pass, however what came next was sublime.
With one single touch, Baggio managed to both pluck the ball out of the sky AND round the onrushing lanky goalkeeper, Edwin van der Saar, who was at full stretch – all whilst on the move – leaving himself with the simple task of tapping the ball into an empty net.
This magical touch was weighted to such perfection that it was akin to two team-mates being through on goal with just a helpless ‘keeper to beat, ending with one squaring it to the other as their victim rushes out to try and foil an inevitable goal.
2. Rivaldo (Barcelona v Valencia 2001).
Brazilian strike was better than fiction.
If this goal, and the circumstances it was scored in, had been written for an ending to a movie, it would have probably been deemed too outrageous and unbelievable – but Rivaldo had a habit of making the impossible, well, possible.
Despite already scoring two wondrous goals, Barcelona still trailed 3-2 in what was essentially a play-off versus their opponent to qualify for a place in the Champions League on the final day of the ’00-’01 season. As the disappointing campaign ticked down into the dying minutes, a draw was good enough for Barca; defeat was not.
Throwing all caution to the wind, five attackers lingered on the edge of the Valencia 18-yard box in anticipation of Frank de Boer’s deep, chipped ball – a Hail Mary of sorts. Prayers were answered as the brilliant Brazilian conjured a miracle.
With his back to goal the number 10 took the ball on his chest. But instead of trapping it and taking it down, he propelled it upward, manipulating the obvious intent into something completely different; assisting himself to attempt the implausible – an 18-yard overhead kick, duly dispatched into the net.
3. Diego Maradona (Argentina v England 1986).
Could anybody really claim to assist the ‘Goal of the Century’?
Surely nobody would be championing for Hector Enrique, the player who passed the ball to Maradona directly before his slaloming run and finish, to be credited with an assist for what is widely regarded as the greatest individual goal ever scored?
El Diego received the ball from his team-mate just inside his own half, before leaving England’s Peter Beardsley, Peter Reid, Steve Hodge,Terry Butcher and Terry Fenwick trailing in his wake, finishing off by rounding Peter Shilton (just for good measure) and sliding the ball home.
If Maradona had chosen to pass to Jorge Valdano, who was available for a simple tap in after he rounded Shilton, there would’ve been no arguments as to who truly deserved the credited assist.
To his credit, Enrique jokingly suggested after the match that his pass was so good, it would have been difficult for Maradona not to score!
Yes, Messi scored this, almost identical, goal many years later, but we feel a World Cup quarter-final trumps the Copa del Rey semi-final. And besides, Xavi deserves that assist just as much as Hector Enrique.
4. Matt Le Tissier (Southampton v Newcastle 1993).
English fantasista had a habit of scoring something out of nothing.
A player with so much flair, Le Tissier was that rarest of breeds: an English fantasista. Southampton’s magical number 7 scored some spectacular goals over the years, with this in particular summing up his unique touch and grace with a football in the fast and frantic early Premier League years.
Hooking in a headed pass from a long ball which was slightly behind him, the Saints star juggled the ball from left to right foot and past an opponent. As the ball bounced once, ‘Le Tiss’ lobbed it over the head of another onrushing defender and as it dropped, simply caressed the ball into the corner on the net.
5. Dennis Bergkamp (Arsenal v Newcastle 2002).
Deliberate? You bet it was.
A fitting way to end this ‘Five…’ feature is with yet another magical touch. A touch so ludicrous, it caused many to debate if it was deliberate. ‘Did he really mean it?’ ‘Surely not!’ Only, he did. Once that particular debate was finished the next began:
‘How on Earth did he do that?!?’
Robert Pires provided many assists in his own illustrious career but surely even the French winger wasn’t expecting this pass to become one in such a manner; the weight and angle didn’t match the course Bergkamp had plotted. Expecting a pass to be presented before him to take into stride, or a lofted through-ball to control and hit, Arsenal’s number 10 now had to improvise.
Adjusting his body to control the pass, his back was now to goal, with a defender – Nikos Dabizas – also blocking the way. What to do?
In a split-second the Dutchman had an answer so simple, it was mind-boggling: Play a one-two. With himself.
The frightening speed of thought AND execution defied belief. Bergkamp had somehow managed to flick the ball around one side of Dabizas with just the requisite amount of spin, that by the time he had pirouetted (!?!) around the other side of the hapless defender, he’d seamlessly merged back with the ball – a one-two of sorts – perfectly in his path allowing him to stroke home.
The actual image of poor Dabizas being left on the seat of his pants, wondering what had just happened, was the perfect metaphor for how all of us felt mentally, after witnessing the act in real-time…then probably for several replays later.
Somewhat ironically in using the ‘one-two with himself’ analogy, what’s often overlooked about this goal is that the assist pass from Pires was also a one-two of sorts, with Bergkamp initially starting the move inside his own half by spraying the ball out wide to the Frenchman, before continuing his run and receiving the return pass.