Football Features

12 top-class players and the trademark moves they do over and over again

By Squawka News

Published: 17:00, 17 June 2022

The unpredictable nature of football is often pinpointed as one of the primary reasons behind its worldwide appeal and popularity.

One reason for its unpredictability is that the skill-set required for playing the game at a high level is so varied, meaning players must showcase a variety of different talents whenever they step out onto the pitch.

There are those, though, who just love performing a particular skill time and time again, to such an extent that it’s become widely known as their signature move.

Somehow these one-trick ponies (or to put it more accurately, the masters of their art) manage to pull off their skill of choice with alarming ease to humiliate and bamboozle opponents. Even if the defending players know what’s coming, they simply can’t stop it.

Summer transfer odds 22/23: To sign for before 3rd September Sky Bet
Antony to Man Utd 1/8
Romelu Lukaku to Inter 1/7
Robert Lewandowski to Barcelona 1/4
Frenkie de Jong to Man Utd 1/4
Kalvin Phillips to Man City 1/4
Gabriel Jesus to Arsenal 4/11
Lucas Paqueta to Newcastle 4/6
Jesse Lingard to West Ham 11/8
Raphinha to Barcelona 2/1
Ousmane Dembele to PSG 5/2
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Just think of the late, great Johan Cruyff’s game-changing and career-defining special move ‘The Cruyff Turn’, or more recently Zinedine Zidane’s perfectly executed pirouette that saw him balletically spin away from oncoming challenges.

Those two stars, along with countless others, defined the era in which they played due to their repertoire of tricks and flicks, but which current players are doing likewise?

Here’s Squawka’s list of 12 top-class players and their trademark moves.

1. Arjen Robben

Trademark move: Cut inside. Shoot. Score. Repeat

You know the drill.

Robben picks the ball up on the right wing, jinks away from his opposing full-back infield before releasing a powerful shot on goal with his favoured left foot, often to devastating effect.

It’s a simple trick, but Robben, who netted 246 career goals for club and country, managed to score using it for years, regardless of which team he played for and which country he played in.

2. Neymar

Trademark move: The backheel control

Arguably the most entertaining player currently in world football, Neymar’s playbook is extensive, so narrowing down his repertoire of skills to just one is a tricky task.

However, one trick that’s been seen with increasing regularity has been his backheel control – a move that perfectly sums up the £200m Paris Saint-Germain signing’s flair and exuberance.

Whenever a central midfielder switches the ball out to Neymar’s left flank, everyone waits with bated breath to see him pull the ball out of the sky with the heel of his wrong foot. Somehow he always manages to trap it perfectly.

3. Cristiano Ronaldo

Trademark move: The Ronaldo chop

Ronaldo has adapted his game in recent years as he approaches the twilight years of his career, meaning it’s becoming increasingly uncommon to witness the Portuguese running down the wing at full-tilt.

Back in the days before he was primarily just a goal-machine, Ronaldo was one of the flashiest players around, winding up opponents at will with his stepovers and extravagant body feints.

Ronaldo’s most effective move, though, was the ‘chop’, which saw him leap over the ball with his dribbling foot before chopping it back towards the other side to change direction. Players across the world have tried (and largely failed) to replicate it ever since he started doing it in the early noughties.

Man Utd summer transfer odds 22/23: To sign for before 3rd September
Sky Bet
Antony 1/4
Frenkie de Jong 1/4
Ruben Neves 5/2
Christian Eriksen 4/6
Pau Torres 5/2
Declan Rice 5/1
Denzel Dumfries 6/1
Dominic Calvert-Lewin 8/1
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4. Lionel Messi

Trademark move: The one-on-one dink

Similarly to his old adversary Ronaldo, Messi has scored a frankly obscene number of goals during his career so far, ranging from breathtaking free-kicks, curled efforts from the edge of the box and the odd tap-in.

One particular finish that football fans have seen on numerous occasions down the years though has been the lob, which he’s executed in different ways and with either foot.

There’s virtually nothing he can’t do with the ball when rushing through on goal. He can scoop it, dink it and lob it when the ball is off the ground, causing untold pain to opposing ‘keepers. You’ve got to feel for them.

5. Philippe Coutinho

Trademark move: the shimmy and shoot… from outside the area

What used to be a source of irritation among Liverpool fans bemoaning potshots from range, morphed into a veritable red flag for opposing Premier League goalies: Coutinho, 20-ish yards out, carries the ball across the face of goal, nudges it on with (usually) the outside of his right boot to give himself the angle, then unleashes a curling effort.

And it works. After arriving in England, Coutinho pulled off a number of speculative curling strikes from outside the box, and he took that form with him to Barcelona (occasionally), Bayern Munich and now Aston Villa.

6. Ricardo Quaresma

Trademark move: The trivela

An outrageously gifted attacker who didn’t quite hit the heights expected of him during his career, Quaresma nevertheless provided plenty of magical moments in his time.

The Euro 2016 winner made the ‘Trivela’ his go-to move, effectively using the outside of his favoured right foot to shoot and cross with unnerving pace, accuracy and power.

If you haven’t seen his Trivela assist to Cristiano Ronaldo against Estonia, Google it immediately. And if you haven’t seen his Trivela goal against Iran at the 2018 World Cup, also Google it immediately.

7. Angel Di Maria

Trademark move: The rabona cross

A bit like Quaresma, Di Maria’s trademark move – the rabona cross – has presumably been developed, in part, due to his reluctance to use his weaker foot, but when he pulls it off successfully it looks absolutely majestic.

If the Argentine finds himself marauding down the right wing, his natural inclination is to dip inside onto his left foot, but to avoid becoming easy to defend against, he’s also perfected the art of crossing the ball with his left-foot tucked behind his right.

His most memorable execution of the rabona cross was when he assisted Cristiano Ronaldo while playing for Real Madrid in the Champions League against FC Copenhagen.

8. Yannick Bolasie

Trademark move: El Tornado / The Bolasie Flick

The former Crystal Palace man broke through at Selhurst Park back in 2012 as the Eagles hit the big time. In his first season in south London, it was clear that DR Congo international had plenty of skills in his locker but there is one in particular which sticks in the memory.

With Palace away to Spurs, Bolasie was closely marked on the wing but managed to flick, trick and lift the ball past the defender with little to no space, much to the bemusement to both the supporters and science!

The Fifa series adopted the skill for its own, naming it the ‘El Tornado’, much to the annoyance of Bolasie, who claims it should be named after its original creator.

9. Aiden McGeady

Trademark move: The McGeady spin

The Irish winger who was predicted to play at a higher level on a consistent basis never disappointed in one department; skills.

From an early age, McGeady introduced the ‘McGeady spin’, a move that bamboozled defenders and allowed the wily winger to stride into the space that he had envisaged beforehand.

Flicking the ball with one foot, he would use the other to direct the ball into the space he intended to run into. His feet work at lightning speed and it is still a technique the League One man uses today.

10. Sergio Busquets

Trademark move: The “made you look” drag-back

Everyone’s favourite wind-up merchant is a criminally underrated member of the Barcelona and Spain team due to the unfussy manner in which he goes about his business.

Watch Busquets carefully, however, and you’ll notice he has much more to his game than immediately meets the eye. In fact, he’s basically trademarked his own skill move that’s perfect for his deep-lying central midfield position.

When closed down by opponents, Busquets frequently finds that extra yard of space by dragging the ball away from them, before pushing it into space from which he can initiate another attack. All it needs now is an actual name…

11. Andres Iniesta

Trademark move: La Croqueta

Another one of La Masia’s world-class graduates makes this list in the form of Andres Iniesta.

Iniesta is perhaps the kind of player who will only truly be appreciated once he’s retired, as he doesn’t tend to score or assist many goals despite operating high-up the pitch – already the love has poured in since his move to Japan.

Instead, he’s a wonderfully skilled craftsman who glides his way effortlessly around the pitch, often using ‘La Croqueta’ to deceive opponents – moving the ball sharply from one foot to the other to create space for himself.

12. Roberto Firmino

Liverpool summer transfer odds 22/23: To sign for before 3rd September Sky Bet
Jude Bellingham 15/8
Harry Kane 5/1
Serge Gnabry 4/1
Jarrod Bowen 6/1
Bukayo Saka 9/1
Ismaila Sarr 10/1
Ousmane Dembele 12/1
Raphinha 14/1
You have to be 18+ to gamble. UK only. All odds within this article are accurate at the time of writing (10:00, 16/06/2022). Be Gamble Aware.

Trademark move: No look finish

One-third of Liverpool’s famed front three — that will likely be broken up this summer — the Brazilian, living on Merseyside, often likes to showboat at the most crucial moment in football.

Sticking the ball in the back of the net is hard for any player but Firmino likes to do it in style; taking aim and firing the ball home while looking in the opposite direction.

“I remember the first no-look goal I scored for Hoffenheim,” he once said.

“Against Werder Bremen, I think. Something like that. I rounded the goalkeeper and turned away from it. It came from nowhere; the idea just came to me. It’s dangerous, isn’t it? You can miss out on a goal. But whenever the chance comes, I do it.”

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