Goals— what we watch and play the game for. There is no better feeling than connection on the right ball or beating several players before smashing the ball into the back of the net. Everyday there are dozens of classic goals scored, some get high profile media attention while others fall by the wayside. Either way, a stunning goal is a stunning goal. We take a look back over the past 13 years, or since the turn of the century, at some of the top goals that have been scored and the boots those players were wearing at the time.
This is our list of The Soccer Cleats Worn for the 25 Best Goals of the 21st Century.
No. 25 - Alan Shearer (Newcastle vs. Everton)
Date: December 2002
Cleats Worn: Umbro Speciali
Of all the goals Shearer scored, this last-minute volley was the one he voted as his own all-time favorite. And I can understand just why! Off of a knock down, Shearer decides to strike a full volley into the far corner – an absolute screamer.
No matter what season it was, you could find shearer wearing a pair of Umbro boots. The Speciali were (and still are to an extent) a solid performer that fit the needs of any player in need of a heritage release. Quality and an air of simple comfort topped the characteristics of the range. On this occasion, the soft leather upper proved the perfect connection point for a top class volley.
No. 24 – Grafite (Wolfsburg v Bayern Munich)
Date: April 2009
Cleats Worn: adidas Predator Powerswerve
What marked the importance of this goal was the fact it presented a short lived changing of the guard to Wolfsburg. On the day, they destroyed Bayern Munich and when goals like this one go in, you know it is meant to be. Grafite was the player with the very audacious and crafty backheel on this occasion.
A boot built for power and precision, the Powerswerve was the boot of choice for Grafite. In a sense, they are quite the opposite you would expect to see a player wearing who scores like this, but Grafite also scored a powerful shot in the same game to equalize the boots performance!
No. 23 - Korhan Ozturk (Altay vs Anadolu Selçukluspor)
Date: March 2013
Cleats Worn: Nike Mercurial Vapor IX
This one comes from the third tier of soccer in Turkey, of all places. Ozturk takes a full volley and absolutely drills the ball top corner. The execution is perfection and the ball really couldn’t have been placed anymore perfectly in the net.
We don’t know a great deal about Ozturk and what his playing style is like, but we do know he had a pair of Vapor IX on his feet when he connected with this strike. The Vapor IX is designed for explosive speed, but on this occasion it adds an extra element of control as he connects with the ball first time. The spin he puts on the ball couldn’t be any better.
No. 22 - Matthew Lowton (Aston Villa vs Stoke)
Date: April 2013
Cleats Worn: Nike Tiempo Legend IV
Lowton is not renowned for scoring goals, especially spectacular ones like this. But, he popped up in the right place, took the ball out of the air on his check very professionally and then proceeded to dip a full volley over the keeper and into the back of the net. Not a bad finish for a defender!
There were Mango T90 Laser’s and Red Tiempo Legends on vast display during this game, and it was the latter that Lowton had on his feet. The heritage range got a modern update with the red colorway and they turned into the perfect goal scoring boot for that moment when Lowton connected ever so sweetly!
No. 21 - Paolo Di Canio (West Ham vs. Wimbledon)
Date: March 2000
Cleats Worn: Fila Teamstar
You need to be confident to try pulling off a first time volley like this, hence why Paulo Di Canio attempted it. The ever temperamental Italian’s timing on this one is sensational and his execution in keeping it on frame is a thing of genius. This one really is all about technique, with both of Di Canio’s feet leaving the ground before he connects with the ball.
With the most unusual boot on the list, Di Canio was wearing a pair from Fila. We really don’t know much about what they are or Fila boots in general (their range of boots are pretty low quality) but being that they are an Italian brand and West Ham’s jersey sponsor at the time, there must have been some promotional connection with Di Canio. The actual pair he wore is likely to be the Teamstar, although we can’t confirm it.
No. 20 - Eren Derdiyok (Bayer Leverkusen vs Wolfsburg)
Date: October 2011
Cleats Worn: adidas F50 adiZero Prime
It is the control before the bicycle kick on this one that gives it a place on the list. Derdiyok has to knock it over the defenders head in order to keep possession and he then makes the split second decision to pull off a wonderful finish. The speed of the play is extremely impressive.
Unusually, Derdiyok was wearing a pair of boots not commonly wore by pro players in the F50 adiZero Prime. We are familiar with top players wearing the regular adiZero, but moving to the Prime is a whole different ball game. The Prime was actually a lighter boot and came with a higher price, but Pro’s tended to stay clear of the experimental boot.
No. 19 - Philippe Mexes (AC Milan vs Anderlecht)
Date: November 2012
Cleats Worn: adidas F50 adiZero
This one deserves a spot on the list simply because it is a defender pulling off an audacious piece of skill. Mexes stepped forward as AC Milan had attacking freekick. What happened next probably surprised everyone watching as much as it did the player.
I’m also surprised by his boot of choice, which was the adidas F50 adiZero at the time. This is a boot intended to provide lightning, lightweight speed to attacking style players. Yet Mexes, who is a centerback, was wearing them in this Champions League game. Considering how he scored while wearing them, he might want to get forward for more attacking set-pieces like this!
No. 18 - Ronaldinho (Barcelona v Villarreal)
Date: November 2006
Cleats Worn: Nike Tiempo Ronaldinho 10R
At the peak of his career, Ronaldinho was pretty much unplayable and this is an example of where there is nothing a defender can do to stop him. Ronaldo has no choice but to chest the ball as it comes toward him, but to backward bike to the opposite side is a thing of genius. This is one those extremely attractive goals to watch!
One of the first players to wear his own custom, personalized pair of boots, Ronaldinho took advantage of his marketing power. The Nike Tiempo Ronaldinho 10R was a thing of beauty and there is still a cult following behind the 2006 boot release. They were built to be a heritage release, but thanks to Ronaldinho’s tricky style they earned a reputation for being a playmakers boot.
No. 17 - Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United v Portsmouth)
Date: January 2008
Cleats Worn: Nike Mercurial Vapor IV
There are plenty of other free-kicks that could have been added on here (including any by Leighton Baines) but it is the execution by Ronaldo that earns it a spot on the list. To be able to strike a boot with your forefoot, add no swerve, dip it over the wall and all at extreme speed is not an easy thing to do. Ronaldo was aiming for the exact spot where the boot ended up and there was nothing the keeper could do about that.
Adding to the visual effect of the goal was the pair of Vapor IV in Orange Peel that Ronaldo was wearing. This version of the Vapor featured a covered lacing system and was the lightest boots on the market when Nike released them. They were designed for speed and Nike looked to advertise them to any attacking styled players.
No. 16 - Steven Gerrard (Liverpool vs West Ham)
Date: May 2006
Cleats Worn: adidas Predator Absolute
It is the FA Cup final and the stadium announcer has just stated there is 4 minutes of added time left in a game that you are losing. And what does Gerrard do? Slam a spectacular 30 yard shot home, into the bottom corner to keep the game alive. The timing was perfect and again illustrated his importance to Liverpool.
Gerrard has long been a Predator wearer and they have always suited his powerful style of play. When you can strike shots like this, you are probably wearing the right boots! Catching the ball perfectly on the power zone, Gerrard is able to place the ball exactly where he wants it without the keeper having a chance to keep it out.
No. 15 - Maxi Rodriguez (Argentina vs Mexico)
Date: June 2006
Cleats Worn: adidas Predator Absolute
With a quarter-final place on the line and the 2006 World Cup clash between Argentina and Mexico headed for penalties, Maxi Rodriguez took center stage and scored this goal. His control on the chest provides some additional room for him to maneuver past the defender, and his dipping volley is top class. There is not a goalkeeper in the world that could have saved this one. Top class!
Not quite the boot of choice for wingers, the Predator Absolute proved to be the ideal weapon on this occasion for Rodriguez. He gets tremendous power behind the shot and the power zones prove very effective.
No. 14 – Cristiano Ronaldo (Man United vs FC Porto)
Date: April 2011
Cleats Worn: Nike Mercurial Superfly
This goal is all about power and the ability Ronaldo has to strike a ball without fully retracting his foot into a shot. His connection right on the sweet-spot of the ball helps it fly pretty much as straight as an arrow over 40 yards with a little dip to really confuse the keeper.
In this instance, the goal has a lot more to do with Ronaldo and his own personal power than the boots, something I am sure Nike would disagree with. On his feet, CR was wearing the newly released Nike Mercurial Superfly, the most expensive retail boot on the market. The range lived a short life, but instances and goals like this helped elevate its desirability with players.
No. 13 – Peter Crouch (Stoke vs Man City)
Date: March 2012
Cleats Worn: Puma PowerCat 1.10
For a 6’6” forward, Crouch sometimes possesses foot work and ball control that you would only expect to see in a small, nifty playmaker. It is what sets his game apart, and this goal is a fine example of the varied technical abilities that are part of the tall Englishman’s game. I’m not sure anyone watching expected him to even shoot considering he was facing away from goal, but he controlled wonderfully before unleashing an amazing shot to the far corner.
We never really hear much about Peter Crouch and his boot choice, probably because he is more commonly associated with heading the ball. But, for this goal he had a pair of Puma PowerCat on his feet and he certainly demonstrated the qualities provided by the boots. His first touch stays close to his body, then his shot is full of power – the two traits Puma associate with the boot.
No. 12 - Lionel Messi (Barcelona vs Real Madrid)
Date: April 2011
Cleats Worn: adidas adiZero F50
Another fine example of the skill Messi possesses, and his ability to beat the best defenses in the world. Playing against Real Madrid in the Semi Final of the Champions League, he found the ball just inside the opposition half and almost floated by several defenders before finishing the move with poise and execution.
Having won a Ballon d’Or prior to this season, Messi was the primary adidas adiZero marketing figure. During this game, he was wearing the original adiZero release in the very vibrant Warning colorway. His lightning fast footwork makes the adiZero look like it does exactly what adidas advertise – add an extra element of lightweight speed in your game.
No. 11 - David Beckham (England vs Greece)
Date: October 2001
Cleats Worn: adidas Predator Precision
England were on the verge of missing out on automatic qualification for World Cup 2002 before that man, David Beckham, stepped up and scored one of the greatest free-kicks of all time. Right on the stroke of full-time, he found a way to curl the ball over the wall and into the top corner – pure quality from 25 yards.
This was just another fine example of the performance benefits provided by the Predator range. In this instance, the power of the Predator Precision was being demonstrated by Beckham. Using the power zone, he added some extra curl and precision on the ball to strike it past the unmoved keeper.
No. 10 - Thierry Henry (Arsenal vs. Manchester United)
Date: October 2000
Cleats Worn: Nike Tiempo
This was one of those goals where defenders could only stand and watch as the ball went into the back of the net. Henry creates space with this movement then creates a moment of magic by flicking the ball up to himself and volleying home. It was a crucial goal that cemented Arsenal’s dominance in EPL play at that time.
During the beginning of his career at Arsenal, Henry wore the Nike brand and in this instance the Nike Tiempo series was his boot of choice. It was during this time that Nike were really defining the heritage range and attracting more and more top players to wear them. Henry went on to wear Reebok and is currently a Puma endorsee.
No. 9 - Morten Nordstrand (FC Nordsjælland v FC Copenhagen)
Date: August 2013
Cleats Worn: Nike Hypervenom Phantom
Simply thinking about trying to bicycle this long pass seems pretty nuts, but Nordstrand went for it and connect about as perfectly as you could in that situation. It is his run before the ball is played that really puts him in any sort of position to score. But the quality of his jumped and timing on the connection is memorizing.
This goal was scored pretty soon after the Hypervenom was released, so I am pretty sure Nike would have been the first to applaud the finish. Anytime a player gets into bike mode like this, his boots are going to get plenty of attention in images. Built for agility, the Hypervenom certainly allowed Nordstrand to get positioned and released off the ground with no drag.
No. 8 - Dennis Bergkamp (Arsenal v Newcastle)
Date: March 2002
Cleats Worn: Reebok Integrity
Even though social media wasn’t what it is today back when this goal was scored, it still created mass media frenzy, and people couldn’t get enough of seeing the goal over and over again. Bergkamp’s touch is perfection and I’m not sure there is a defender in the world that could have stopped his move.
Bergkamp was wearing the Reebok Integrity during this stage of his career, and at the time they were a top option for pro players. A traditional, black leather upper was complemented with a regular, SG conical stud configuration and that was all that required by players during this period.
No. 7 - Zlatan Ibrahimovich (Sweden vs England)
Date: November 2012
Cleats Worn: Nike Mercurial Vapor IX
This is the second Zlatan goal you will find on this list, and this one is all about creativity and taking advantage of an opportunity. I’m not sure he actually thought that he would score on this play, but knowing Hart was out of his goal, Zlatan gambled with an audacious overhead volley – the rest is history. There was definitely an element of luck involved in this one, but that can be the difference between the ball going wide and scoring 4 against England, I guess!
Moving with the times, Zlatan was wearing the latest Vapor release for this goal. Again, his choice if wearing the Vapor range is something that is quite unique considering his tall, strong physique.
No. 6 – Neymar (Santos vs Flamengo)
Date: July 2011
Cleats Worn: Nike Mercurial Vapor VIII
It was around this time that we started to hear more about a new potential superstar in Brazil, and then this goal hit the internet! There is pretty much everything in this goal including speed, dribbling, agility some passing and a great finish.
If there is a player on this list that has changed boots a lot, it is Neymar. He has been a key figure for Nike during his young career, and he is currently front and center of everything Hypervenom. During this stage of his career, he was wearing the Nike Mercurial Vapor series, a boot designed for explosive speed.
No. 5 - Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Ajax v NAC Breda)
Date: Aug 2004
Cleats Worn: Nike Mercurial Vapor
Not only does Zlatan fake out a half dozen defenders, he also has the cameraman in a spin trying to keep up with his movements. This is a young Zlatan who was fun of energy and an extreme flair of arrogance. On this occasion, it paid dividends as he took on player after player before producing a final cutback and sliding the ball past the keeper. This is one of my favorite goals on the list and demonstrates the quality help by the big Swede.
Zlatan has long been a Vapor wearer, something that is quite unique considering his tall, strong physique. Normally players of his stature would be wearing something like the T90 Laser range, but Ibra proves our expectations of a boot are not always accurate. His speed of play in the explosive boot is very evident in this goal.
No. 4 - Wayne Rooney (Man Utd vs Man City)
Date: February 2011
Cleats Worn: Nike T90 Laser III
Rooney found the perfect way to shut-up the noisy neighbors on this occasion by placing a quality bicycle kick into the upper corner. The ability to time a finish like comes naturally to players like Rooney, whereas the rest of us would end up flat on our backs!
During this part of Rooney’s career, he seemed to constantly run into injuries and contract issues, where his boots don’t get as much notice. This was one of those times where he repaid Nike by scoring a sublime goal while placing the boot front and center of all images associated with the finish. Being that he was in the air, all images from behind the goal directly show his boots. Although not the most popular T90 boot released, the added control element along the strike zone proved useful for finishes like this!
No. 3 - Lionel Messi (Barcelona vs Getafe)
Date: February 2007
Cleats Worn: adidas F50i TUNiT
When a goal is compared to that of the famous Maradona at the 1986 World Cup, you know it has to be special. Messi’s run is mesmerizing and in hindsight was a precursor to defenders that he was designed to terrorize. His control on the ball is top class and there isn’t a moment where he looks like he might lose it.
At this stage, Messi was becoming a key player for the adidas brand and they placed him in his own personalized pair during the 2007 campaign. This was a boot designed for interchanging, with different studs and even uppers available for players to take advantage of.
No. 2 - Robin van Persie (Man Utd vs Aston Villa)
Date: April 2013
Cleats Worn: adidas adiPower Predator
This goal combined the intelligence and accuracy of Wayne Rooney with the goal scoring prowess of RVP. In a sense, the play just epitomizes the quality both players’ possess. For RVP to even consider a volley from that far out is uncanny. To actually pull it off is just plain ridiculous!
During the 2012/13 season, van Persie chose to stick it out with the adidas adiPower Predator, a boot that had been retired over a season ago. At this point, players were already wearing the Predator Lethal Zone. Because of his fondness for the traction and performance provided by the adiPower range, he chose to stick with the older release.
No. 1 - Zinedine Zidane (Real Madrid vs Bayer Leverkusen)
Date: May 2002
Cleats Worn: adidas Predator Mania
It really doesn’t get much better than this goal. Champions League final, a Roberto Carlos lobbed cross from the left and with the ball accelerating downward, Zidane decides to slam home an incredible side volley. It was the goal that won the Champions League final on that day and it stands as one of the greatest pieces of technique ever seen on the biggest stage.
Through his career, Zidane was a key figure for adidas and the Predator range. On this occasion, he had the adidas Predator Mania on his feet and they proved the right boot to help him connect on that lobbed ball. There was tremendous pop off the Predator Zone while Zidane was able to keep the movement of the ball controlled.