There is a very good reason behind the fact that football is known as the ‘beautiful game’.
Be it Cristiano Ronaldo terrorising defences, Lionel Messi gliding across the pitch and leaving goalkeepers helpless, or Zinedine Zidane’s nonchalant wizardry, when played well, football is just unbeatable.
While it may be a team game, the result of any game can often hinge on the performance of an individual who, on their day, has chosen to take a match by the scruff of the neck and haul their teammates to victory.
So, with that in mind, we thought we would have a go at ranking some of the greatest individual performances of all time.
From Ronaldinho to Michael Owen, Gareth bale to Petr Cech, these individuals truly went above and beyond in the pursuit of glory both for themselves, and their teams.
15. Michael Owen vs Germany – 2001
England’s Michael Owen-inspired victory over Germany in the early 2000’s was one of the most memorable in the nation’s modern history.
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 incredible strikers that quite often, and criminally so, one of the best is overlooked.
Dimitar Berbatov possessed an angelic touch and, alongside his penchant for the outrageous, was capable of pulling massive rabbits out of tiny hats.
In 2010, The Manchester United man tore a hapless Liverpool apart with a picture-perfect performance.
13. Mark Viduka vs Liverpool | 2001
With Australian Mark Viduka leading the charge, Leeds boasted an incredibly dangerous side at the turn of the millennium – just ask Liverpool.
Viduka rattled in four goals in what is considered one of the greatest Premier League games of all time to help complete a remarkable comeback.
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 showed one of football’s most legendary trios who was boss and, in the process, inspired Arsenal to a 2-1 victory.
11. Ronaldo vs Manchester United | 2003
Would it be far too bold of us to say this was Ronaldo’s greatest ever performance?
The fact that he was given a stunning standing ovation by the Manchester United fans following his hat-trick says everything we need it to say.
10. Cristiano Ronaldo vs Atletico Madrid | 2019
Never poke the beast.
Diego Simeone learned this lesson the hard way as he watched Ronaldo blow his side’s 2-0 first-leg advantage clean out of the water with a superb hat-trick to see Juventus through to the next round.
9. Fabio Cannavaro vs Germany | 2006
Italy and defending is one of football’s most romantic love stories.
In Fabio Cannavaro, the country found one of of its true leading men, especially when he went full colossus mode to help his side book a spot in the 2006 World Cup final at the expense of tournament hosts, Germany.
Great Central Defenders always:— Modern Soccer Coach (@msceducation) October 6, 2018
– Anticipate danger
– React quickly
– Shift/ press as unit
– Good in possession
No better example than Cannavaro v Germany in 2006. pic.twitter.com/4oEzWqhpTp
8. Gareth Bale vs Inter Milan | 2010
The glorious San Siro night that Gareth Bale truly announced himself.
Bale, 21 at the time ran Maicon, absolutely ragged as he bagged an electric second-half hat-trick.
7. Petr Cech vs Bayern Munich | 2012
Chelsea’s 2012 Champions League campaign simply doesn’t get enough respect.
It was Didier Drogba who grabbed all the headlines on the night of the Munich final, but those headlines simply wouldn’t have been his to grab had it not been for Petr Cech in goal.
6. Lionel Messi vs Arsenal | 2011
Lionel Messi wasn’t about to be undone by Niklas Bendtner as he rose to the occasion to cancel out the Arsenal man’s early goal and blow the Londoners clean out of the water.
Poor Manuel Almunia never stood a chance.
5. Steven Gerrard vs West Ham | 2006
You know it has to have been a special performances when you get an entire final named after you.
Gerrard single-handedly hauled Liverpool to FA Cup glory with a staggering showing in Cardiff.
4. Xavi vs Real Madrid | 2009
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 as Barcelona roared to a stunning 6-2 El Clasico mauling.
When you consider the fact that the likes of Cannavaro were lined-up in the Madrid defence, it becomes all the more impressive.
3. Ronaldinho vs Real Madrid | 2005
This list could never stand on its own two feet 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 with a magically fluid performance.
2. 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.
Never have strings been pulled in the way that Zizou pulled them on that remarkable night in Germany, sending Brazilian opponents hither and thither on a crowning night for the French superstar.
He even bagged an assist for Thierry Henry’s crucial goal.
Brazil VS France.— RMZZ (@RMBlancoZz) April 1, 2022
When Zidane turned the World Cup into a street football match. pic.twitter.com/pF5R6JUTQ2
1. Roy Keane vs Juventus | 1999
That night in Barcelona is one of the most glorious tales in the history of Manchester United but, had it not been for Roy Keane, it would never have happened.
United faced Juventus in the semi-final that year and, with the Italians all but in the final, Keane turned up and then some.
He completely dominated the likes of Zidane, Edgar Davids and Didier Deschamps that would prove crucial to United completing an incredible comeback.