All goals are equal, but some goals are more equal than others, and those goals win Fifa’s Puskás Award, named after the legendary Hungarian forward, Ferenc Puskas.
Puskas was not only a great goalscorer (as a professional record of 512 strikes in 528 games attests) but he was also the scorer of great goals, which is why his name is pinned to the honour rewarding the most ‘beautiful’ goal scored in a calendar year.
According to the criterion set out by Fifa, a Puskas Award winning strike must be a beautiful goal, be scored in a match of importance, not be the result of luck and scored in a manner that supports fair play.
The Puskas award was integrated into the Ballon d’Or ceremony in 2009 (and now takes place at Fifa’s The Best gala) and since then football fans have been able to vote for their favourite goal of the year from a selection of ten, ranging from goals scored at the very pinnacle of the game to those in more obscure leagues or competitions.
Here are all 11 previous winners of the Puskas award and what happened to their careers after they scored their defining goals.
Cristiano Ronaldo (2009)
The game: Manchester United 1-0 FC Porto
Date: April 15th 2009
The Champions League holders Manchester United approached their quarter-final second leg match against Porto in real danger of being eliminated having drawn 2-2 in the first leg at Old Trafford.
A draw would’ve been enough to see Porto through to the last four. However, Cristiano Ronaldo (who was jeered throughout due to his Sporting Lisbon connections) had other ideas, smashing the ball past a helpless Helton from around 40-yards out.
Ronaldo repeated the trick in the semi-final victory over Arsenal, this time from a free-kick, but was powerless to prevent Barcelona beating his team in the final. Shortly after that painful defeat, the Portuguese superstar completed a then world-record £80m move to Real Madrid.
But after nine years and four Champions League wins with Los Blancos, Ronaldo left for a new challenge with Serie A champions Juventus where he has predictably scored an avalanche of goals and won two Serie A titles – still no luck in Europe, however.
Hamit Altintop (2010)
The game: Turkey 3-0 Kazakhstan
Date: September 3rd 2010
On paper, Turkey’s visit to Kazakhstan in the opening round of Euro 2012 qualifying fixtures didn’t look the most enticing but a certain event that occurred at the Astana Arena that evening was replayed across Europe soon after the final whistle was sounded.
Turkey had raced into a 1-0 lead thanks to Arda Turan’s strike after 24 minutes and just two minutes later they doubled their advantage. A corner kick on the left was swung away from goal to the far edge of the box where Hamit Altintop was lurking and ready to hammer the ball into the top corner on the volley.
At the time, Altintop was struggling to earn much game time at Bayern Munich but when his contract expired at the end of the season he earned a move to another European footballing powerhouse, Real Madrid. Jose Mourinho must have taken notice of that wonder-goal.
Altintop is now without a club having left Darmstadt in January 2018, and retired soon after.
The game: Santos 4-5 Flamengo
Date: 27th July 2011
A game that will love long in the memory for those lucky enough to witness it and in many ways the passing of the baton from one great Brazilian forward to another.
Ronaldinho of Flamengo scored a hat-trick but, remarkably, his contribution wasn’t the defining moment of match, with the limelight instead cast over the brilliant Neymar and in particular his incredible solo run and dinked finish.
Still only 19 at the time, Neymar was already a regular in the Brazil side and coveted by Europe’s top clubs with his memorable goal further enhancing his burgeoning reputation. Despite the interest, he opted to stay at Santos for two more years prior to signing for Barcelona where he dominate Europe as part of the Treble-winning M-S-N front three.
The year 2017 saw a shock move as Neymar signed for Paris Saint-Germain in a world-record-breaking transfer. The Brazilian has been electric, if injury-prone, during his time in the French capital – winning countless trophies along the way.
Miroslav Stoch (2012)
The game: Fenerbahce 6-1 Gençlerbirliği
Date: 3rd March 2012
During his teenage years, Miroslav Stoch had been one of the most highly-sought after youngsters in European football but after failing to make the grade at Chelsea, he was snapped up by Fenerbahce.
The Slovakian’s reputation had dipped following his departure from Stamford Bridge but his rasping Altintop-esque volley from a corner during a league match against Gençlerbirliği showed why the Blues had signed him in the first place.
After that goal Stoch only lasted one further season at Fenerbache before being loaned out for three straight years (to PAOK, Al-Ain and Bursaspor). He joined Slavia Prague for a couple of seasons, winning a Czech title and two Czech Cups, before playing his last season with PAOK again. His contract was terminated by mutual consent this summer and he’s not picked up a new club yet.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic (2013)
The game: Sweden 4-2 England
Date: 14th November 2012
As influential an individual performance as you are ever likely to see on a football pitch. Zlatan Ibrahimovic had already secured a hat-trick, courtesy of a predatory toe-poked finish, an emphatic close-range volley and a low skidding free-kick from 35-yards out. Best was still to come, however.
With the game nearing its conclusion Ibrahimovic decided he wanted to add another goal to his tally, performing a frankly ridiculous overhead kick from well outside the area after Joe Hart’s wayward header had looped up invitingly in front of him. Nevertheless, the audacity to even try the shot let alone pull it off offered a clear demonstration of Ibrahimovic’s unique talents.
At the time Ibrahimovic was just a couple of months into his contract at PSG. When it expired in 2016, he had become the club’s all-time record goalscorer. After starring in the Eredivisie, Serie A, La Liga, Ligue 1 and the Premier League where he was thriving before a ligament injury took him out, Ibrahimovic then headed west and spent a couple of years in the MLS.
Everyone assumed that he’d stay in that state of semi-retirement, bagging easy goals and such. However after two years, with his ligaments now fully healed, Zlatan returned to Europe with AC Milan and has been typically superhuman scoring 22 times in just 30 games and leading the Rossoneri back to the top of the table..
James Rodriguez (2014)
The game: Colombia 2-0 Uruguay
Date: 28th June 2014
With Radamel Falcao sidelined through injury, Colombia’s hopes for World Cup 2014 were pinned on the young shoulders of James Rodriguez but nobody could’ve truly predicted how big an impact he would go on to make.
Rodriguez landed the Golden Boot in Brazil after netting five goals in as many games for the Colombians and undoubtedly the pick of the bunch was the volley he crashed in on off Uruguay’s crossbar in the last 16.
While he missed out to Lionel Messi for the best player of the tournament award, Rodriguez was rewarded for his outstanding performances with a lucrative move to Real Madrid for a fee in the region of £63m. James thrived at first under Carlo Ancelotti, but struggled with Rafa Benitez and was ostracized by Zinedine Zidane. A loan to Bayern Munich (initially under Ancelotti) gave him hope but even that fizzled once the Italian coach was sacked. He’s currently playing for Everton in the Premier League (with Ancelotti as his coach) and he’s doing very well.
Wendell Lira (2015)
The game: Goianésia 2-1 Atlético Goianiense
Date: 12th March 2015
From 2009-2014, high-profile players hogged the Puskas award but that all changed in 2015 when a little known Brazilian forward by the name Wendell Lira pipped the great Messi to the trophy.
Playing for Goianésia in the Goiás State Championship, Lira was on hand to acrobatically put the finishing touches to an intricate free-flowing move.
But while Lira is just 29, his award-winning strike proved to be one of his last in professional football as he announced his retirement from the game in July due to a combination of persistent injury problems and to become a YouTuber.
To date, Lira’s YouTube channel, which sees him compete against other gamers on FIFA, has 570,000 subscribers. Not bad at all.
Mohd Faiz Subri (2016)
The game: Penang 4-1 Pahang
Date: 16th February 2016
Malaysian international Mohd Faiz Subri hit the headlines in February 2016 after his free-kick improbably swerved from one side of the goal to the other, leaving the opposition goalkeeper completely bamboozled.
That goal brought Subri to the wider attention of the footballing fraternity but he remained loyal to his club Penang FA, playing his final season with the club just last term.
He was then out of the game for a while, trying to get back into the game but having no luck at the top tier of Malaysian football. However he moved down the ladder and found a club, turning out for Northern Lions FC in the Malaysia M3 League.
Olivier Giroud (2017)
The game: Arsenal 2-0 Crystal Palace
Date: 1st January 2017
FIFA Puskas Award winner 2017: @_OlivierGiroud_ 👏👏👏
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) October 23, 2017
The latest recipient of the award Olivier Giroud kicked off 2017 in style with his infamous scorpion kick for Arsenal against Crystal Palace, which earned him the Puskas award last October.
The Frenchman’s winning goal, a flicked volley with his left heel that looped in off the crossbar, beat strikes from Venezuela Under-17 women’s striker Deyna Castellanos and South African goalkeeper Oscarine Masuluke.
Giroud left Arsenal for Chelsea in January 2018 and although he has constantly been dropped and doubted he’s managed a reasonable 30 goals in 96 games including an incredible 11 in 14 as Chelsea romped all the way to win the 2019 Europa League. Internationally he’s won the World Cup and is close to catching Thierry Henry as the all-time record goalscorer for the French national side.
Mohamed Salah (2018)
The game: Liverpool 1-1 Everton
Date: 10th December 2017
It was something of a surprise, for more than one reason, when Salah picked up the 2018 award for a brilliant solo goal against Everton.
There was nothing at all wrong with the goal, a clever jinking run and a pinpoint finish from a player who was simply unstoppable at the time. But even Liverpool fans will tell you it probably wasn’t even Salah’s best goal in the calendar year.
What’s more, the winning strike somehow beat out competition in the form of incredible overhead kick volleys from Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale in the Champions League.
Salah won the Premier League Golden Boot in his debut season for Liverpool, the Champions League in his second season for Liverpool and the Premier League in his third season for Liverpool. Goodness knows what he’s going to do for his fourth. Maybe all three? Watch this space!
Daniel Zsori (2019)
The game: Debrecen 2-1 Ferencvaros
Date: 16th February 2019
It was always going to take something special to stop Messi winning his first-ever Puskas award for his glorious chip against Real Betis, and, well, Daniel Zsori provided exactly what. With the showdown between Debrecen and Ferencvaros heading for a 1-1 draw, a cross came into the box from the left two minutes into four minutes of stoppage time.
Zsori then leaped off the ground, pinwheeled his legs and almost in slow-motion thumped in the most beautiful bicycle kick. The ball flew off his leg and looped over the outstretched hand of the Ferencvaros goalkeeper, giving Debrecen a massive win.
The goal also gave Zsori his big win and the Puskas Award. Since then things haven’t gone as well, a move to Fehervar didn’t work out so he’s spent the past two seasons out on loan. First with Budaors, and currently with Budafok.