When it comes to goals, 2018 has been the gift that keeps on giving. There have been spectacular goals, strange goals and important goals, World Cup winning goals and embarrassing goals.
And with just hours left of the year, we thought we’d look back on our 10 favourite goals of the year from around the world of football.
Disclaimer: this is, of course, intensely subjective so our list will almost certainly differ from your own personal top ten, but these are the ten that stayed with us the most.
Without question one of the greatest goals ever scored in the Champions League.
Although a lot of Liverpool fans will associate European club football’s showpiece in Kiev with the pain of losing Mohamed Salah to injury and the pain of watching Loris Karius’ darkest night, there was nothing the German keeper could do about Bale‘s magnificent, trophy-clinching intervention three minutes after replacing Isco.
The Welshman turned a sloppy Marcelo cross into one of the year’s enduring images: Bale twisting his body and executing the perfect overhead kick.
One of the main motivators for Juventus in signing Ronaldo from Real Madrid in the summer was the fact that he can produce moments like this.
His first of the night in Turin – a close-range effort to nod Real ahead after three minutes – saw him become the first player to score in ten consecutive Champions League matches.
His second – a simply stunning bicycle kick to put clear daylight between the holders and his future employers – further etched him into European football folklore. Darting back to meet Dani Carvajal’s cross, the forward produced a sublime piece of acrobatics to leave Gigi Buffon flat-footed.
Ronaldo has scored nearly 600 goals in his career but few have been as spectacular and momentous as this.
Benjamin Pavard vs Argentina
Unsurprisingly named Goal of the Tournament at the World Cup, there are two great things about Pavard’s moment of genius: the technique and the sheer unlikelihood.
The 22-year-old right-back met Lucas Hernández’s cross from the opposite flank with a masterfully sliced volley that sailed into Franco Armani’s top corner during France and Argentina’s white-knuckle ride of a last-16 clash.
France won 4-3, of course, but had been trailing 2-1 before Pavard picked the perfect time to score the first goal of his career that wasn’t a header.
Toni Kroos vs Sweden
Another gem from a World Cup jam-packed with memorably thrilling moments.
Germany’s tournament in Russia was a disaster, a nadir of their annus horribilis that plunged the country into mourning, but it was not without its moment of sheer, unabashed joy.
Having been stunned by Mexico in their opener, Germany were staring down an ignominious exit after just two games against Sweden. Ola Toivonen had given the Swedes the lead before Marco Reus equalised, but when Jérôme Boateng was given a red card for a wild hack on Marcus Berg, Die Mannschaft’s dreams of retaining their world title seemed in tatters.
Then up stepped Kroos, curling a dead-eyed free-kick into the far corner to win it in the 95th-minute. Of course, Germany were dumped out by South Korea in the next game but that humiliation didn’t detract from Kroos’ nerveless winner to stun Sweden.
Obviously freshest in the memory, having happened a week ago, there can nevertheless be no doubting the inclusion of Townsend’s masterpiece.
With the score locked at 1-1, the 27-year-old pulled a flawless 30-yard volley out of the top drawer to leave City speechless and send Crystal Palace on their way to a famous win at the Etihad.
This is one of those beautiful goals that gets better with each viewing. It’s hard to imagine another Premier League goal edging it for the goal of the season award come May.
Zlatan Ibrahimović vs Los Angeles FC
Ibrahimović’s arrival at LA Galaxy after leaving Manchester United was characteristically bombastic. His move was accompanied by a full-page advertisement in the LA Times which simply read: “Dear Los Angeles, you’re welcome.”
But there are few players who can back up such an unanswerable demonstration of self-aggrandisement with the cinematic display to match. But Zlatan did.
The evergreen Swede was the hero in Galaxy’s first-ever meeting with LAFC, scoring twice off the bench to secure a 4-3 win. He also struck a trademark kung-fu kick finish against Toronto FC but we’ve plumped for this one, announcing himself with a ridiculous 40-yard free-kick.
Nacer Chadli vs Japan
We had to include a counter-attacking goal on the list simply as there are few things more satisfying to watch in football than a perfectly choreographed charge up the pitch, especially when it seals a place in the World Cup quarter-final.
Having been 2-0 down Belgium fought back to 2-2 and, in the game’s last act, the Red Devils stunned Japan with a counter of such ruthless precision and fluency.
From Thibaut Courtois’ swift rollout to Kevin de Bruyne to Romelu Lukaku’s dummy to tee up Chadli, it was enthralling stuff.
Sometimes, the brilliance of a goal is elevated by who scored it. Like Pavard, not a lot of people would have envisaged that Wanyama would have been the one to leave Karius clutching thin air.
In a frantic and breathless game at Anfield, Wanyama struck his 80th-minute equaliser with punishing power, his shot clocking upwards of 64mph.
It was one of those inadvertently glorious moments of camerawork; when the camera hasn’t quite caught up with the ball, allowing the Kenyan to explode into view and launch an unstoppable thunderbolt into the roof of the net a minute after replacing Mousa Dembélé. What an introduction.
Quagliarella, who will turn 36 in January, is enjoying an outstanding season with Sampdoria.
Of course, anyone who has followed him through the years knows his penchant for the spectacular. His chip against Slovakia remains one of our favourite World Cup goals of all time but he bettered that strike in September during Samp’s thumping 3-0 win over Napoli.
Quagliarella later called it the finest goal of his career. We can see why he would think that.
Lionel Messi vs Nigeria
Messi usually has a goal worthy of inclusion in end-of-year lists and 2018 proved no exception.
His experience at the World Cup as part of a thoroughly disappointing Argentina team will likely haunt him for years to come but Messi still left the mark of his genius on the tournament.
Marcos Rojo, the unlikely match-winner, also produced a moment worth remembering with his 86th-minute volley to secure a 2-1 win, but Messi’s goal was art in fast motion.
Éver Banega’s pass was a beautiful one but what Messi produced after was on a different level altogether. Taking two touches before the ball hit the ground, the Barcelona forward surged away from Kenneth Omeruo before finding the far corner with his weaker right foot. Another one for his vast collection.