Messi, Ronaldo, Gerrard: The 15 greatest individual performances of all time


There’s a reason football is called ‘The Beautiful Game’.

For centuries it has been the sport of choice for the global public who, like a moth to a flame, have been drawn to its flare and raw emotion.

Over the decades we have been blessed to behold some of the most talented athletes, nay, artists, the world has ever produced ply their craft on a football pitch.

While at the heart of it, football is a team game, it only takes one inspired individual performance to flip a match completely on its head. 

With that in mind, here at GiveMeSport we thought we would have a go at ranking 15 of the greatest individual performances of all time.

15. Michael Owen vs Germany – 2001

Until this summer, the Michael Owen-inspired victory over the Germans was England’s finest moment against their age-old rivals.

Having fallen behind in a crucial World Cup qualifier, Owen rallied to smash an unforgettable hat trick as England secured a rollicking 5-1 win.

14. Dimitar Berbatov vs Liverpool | 2010

Old Trafford has been home to so many supreme strikers that quite often one of the best is overlooked.

Dimitar Berbatov was an obscenely talented footballer capable of pulling massive rabbits out of tiny hats.

In 2010, The Manchester United man put Liverpool to the sword in a picture perfect striking performance.

13. Mark Viduka vs Liverpool | 2001

The streets will never forget the Leeds side that took Europe by storm following the turn of the millennium.

With Mark Viduka leading the line, Leeds boasted an incredibly dangerous side – just ask Liverpool.

Viduka rattled in four goals in what is considered one of the greatest Premier League games of all time to complete a remarkable comeback for his side.

12. Jack Wilshere vs Barcelona | 2011

Sergio Busquets, Xavi and Andres Iniesta? We’ll take Jack Wilshere, thanks.

On a remarkable night in London, Wilshere bossed one of the most legendary trios we have ever seen to inspire the Arsenal to a 2-1 victory.

For years in the aftermath, Xavi believed that Wilshere was one of the truly special players.

11. Gareth Bale vs Inter Milan | 2010

The night that Gareth Bale truly announced himself to the world.

The 21-year-old ran one of the best right backs at the time, Maicon, absolutely ragged as he helped himself to a second half hat-trick.

His blistering speed was simply unplayable at times as he scored some truly remarkable goals.

10. Ronaldo vs Manchester United | 2003

Could this possibly be Ronaldo’s greatest ever performance? We think so.

The Brazilian hitman sent the United defence on a merry dance all night long as he smashed a superb hat-trick to send the Red Devils crashing out of Europe.

The fact that he was given a stunning standing ovation by the United fans upon his substitution says everything we need it to say.

9. Cristiano Ronaldo vs Atletico Madrid | 2019

He was always going to show up on his list at some point, wasn’t he?

Ronaldo has, countless times, been responsible for taking a game by the scruff of the neck and single handedly turning it around but it was Atletico who bore the brunt of his sheer bloody-mindedness in 2019.

2-0 down going into the second leg, the Portuguese superstar smashed a hat-trick to send Juventus flying through into the next round of the Champions League.

8. Fabio Cannavaro vs Germany | 2006

Italy loves a defender – there can be no doubting that.

With global immortality within their grasp, the Italians claimed their spot in a world cup final thanks in no small part to their skipper, Fabio Cannavaro.

The centre-back put his body on the line to ensure that there was absolutely no way through for a talented German side.

7. Petr Cech vs Bayern Munich | 2012

Chelsea upset all the odds as they beat Bayern Munich in their own back yard to claim continental glory in 2012.

While it was Didier Drogba who grabbed all of the headlines, Petr Cech’s monstrous performance in goals was just as, if not more important.

Cech saved a late penalty from Arjen Robben before denying Ivica Olic’s spot kick in the shootout.

6. Steven Gerrard vs West Ham | 2006

In truth, you could populate a large proportion of this list with Steven Gerrard performances.

However, you can look past the fact that the 2006 Cup Final was ultimately named after the Liverpool legend.

His thunderbolt in the final minutes knocked the wind clean out of West Ham before he cooly slotted his penalty in the shootout.

5. Zinedine Zidane vs Brazil | 2006

Zinedine Zidane was always a special player but during the 2006 World Cup quarter final, he was playing on a completely different planet.

Zizou ran the show from the midfield, pulling off some remarkable bits of skill, landing some sumptuous passes and just generally running the opposition ragged.

He even bagged an assist for Thierry Henry’s crucial goal.

4. Lionel Messi vs Arsenal | 2011

Barcelona were up against after Niklas Bendtner put the Gunner ahead early on in the second leg of their Champions League clash.

However, that only seemed to rouse the beast that is Lionel Messi, who went on to claim a stunning hat-trick and blow the Londoners away.

Poor Manuel Almunia never stood a chance.

3. Xavi vs Real Madrid | 2009

You know you have to have done something special to stand out in a stunning 6-2 El Classico victory.

The ball seemed glued to Xavi’s feet all night long as he tormented Barca’s fierce rivals on the way to registering four assists.

When you consider the fact that the like of Fabio Cannavaro were lined-up in the Madrid defence, it becomes all the more impressive.

2. Ronaldinho vs Real Madrid | 2005

This list could never stand if it didn’t include an entry from the Brazilian maestro that was Ronaldinho.

Ronaldinho made one of the biggest matches in club football look like an exhibition game.

It ended with the Madrid fans recognising they were in the presence of greatness and applauding the Brazilian.

“It was a perfect game,” Ronaldinho later reflected. “I will never forget this because it is very rare for any footballer to be applauded in this way by the opposition fans.”

1. Roy Keane vs Juventus | 1999

The 1999 season is often remembered for that night in barcelona, but what is often overlooked is the fact that the Bayern Munich comeback would never have happened were it not for Roy Keane.

United faced Juventus in the semi-final that year and, with the Italian’s all but in the final, Keane stepped up.

He completely dominated the likes of Zinedine Zidane, Edgar Davids and Didier Deschamps that would prove crucial to United completing an incredible comeback. 

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