Football

Five of the best: Breakthrough performances

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Players can enjoy careers than span several decades during which time they lay their hands on several accolades. But some are often most fondly remembered for the performances that saw them progress from promising youngsters into stars of the sport.

All players able to rise to prominence enjoy that one breakthrough display that marks them out as slicker than the average, possessing the ability to reach the very summits of football.

With Tottenham's return to the San Siro to face Inter on Thursday conjuring up thoughts of Gareth Bale's own breakout moment in his rapidly rising career, GMF picks five of the best breakthrough performances...

David Beckham

Wimbledon 0-3 Manchester United - August 17, 1996

By the time the 1996-97 season started, David Beckham had already announced himself as one of the most exciting young players in English football, which was highlighted when he was awarded the Manchester United No.10 shirt for the new campaign.

Beckham's reputation was burgeoning when Manchester United face Wimbledon on the opening day of the season, but his star reached the stratosphere with a stunning last minute goal from inside his own half.

Spotting goalkeeper Neil Sullivan off his line, Beckham launched a perfect lob over the Wimbledon custodian, to make his mark - which still remains - on the global stage.

Wayne Rooney

Everton 3-2 Arsenal - October 19, 2002

"Instant control. Fancies his chances. Oh, brilliant goal! Remember the name, Wayne Rooney!"

Wayne Rooney outlined himself as a future star of English football aged only 16, when a dramatic last gasp winner against Arsenal ended the Premier League champion's 30-game unbeaten run.

Rooney had already opened his account for Everton in his maiden campaign as a professional - scoring a brace against Wrexham in the League Cup - but really announced his potential against the Gunners.

Picking the ball up outside the area, Rooney curled a sumptuous right-footed effort over a helpless David Seaman to record what remains one of the most iconic goals of his distinguished career.

Lionel Messi

Real Madrid 3-3 Barcelona - March 12, 2007

2006-07 was Lionel Messi's breakthrough season for Barcelona in terms of the volume of goals scored, and there was one performance in particular that marked him out for future greatness.

There are few larger stages on which to record your first great display than El Clasico but, Lionel Messi being Lionel Messi, the then 19-year-old Barcelona star did that in a dramatic encounter at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Messi scored all three of Barcelona's goals that night against Real Madrid, including a stoppage time equaliser.

Gareth Bale

Inter Milan 4-3 Tottenham - October 20, 2010

There is something about Inter Milan that seems to summon the very best from Gareth Bale and, although his career's quantum leap came in a losing cause, it was a performance that brought him to the attention of Europe's elite.

With Spurs trailing 3-0 and reduced to ten-mean following the sending off of Heurelho Gomes, Bale almost single-handedly salvaged a result from Spurs from the most unlikely of circumstances.

The Welsh winger netted a stunning hat-trick to almost do the job for Spurs, while he put Inter to the sword in the reverse fixture at White Hart Lane.

Jack Wilshere

Arsenal 2-1 Barcelona - February 16, 2011

Jack Wilshere had already very much established himself in Arsene Wenger's first-team by the time Barcelona arrived to play Arsenal in 2011, but the England midfielder saved his best for the Catalans, as he put in a display to leave esteemed company in the shade.

Wilshere was the best player on the pitch by some distance. Better than teammate Cesc Fabregas. Superior to Barcelona maestro Xavi. More effective than the irresistible Lionel Messi.

It was a performance that promised so much from the teenager, and one that made his lengthy layoff through injury even harder to take.

Topics:
Tottenham Hotspur
Arsenal
Football
Manchester United
Wayne Rooney
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