Pre-season football might not mean much in the broadest sense, but it’s nice to be reminded of all those footballers you’ll inevitably be sick of the sight of in May if not sooner.
For some it’s a reminder of those players who you hadn’t realised were still under contract at your club – Tiemoué Bakayoko at Chelsea! Timothy Fosu-Mensah at Man Utd! Adam Lallana at Liverpool! – while for others, it’s a chance to see if your favourite youth prospect has the goods to perform at Premier League level… before seeing him loaned out in August.
The best thing about pre-season, though, is the ridiculous goals. With less pressure, we’ll see players attempt the ridiculous more often, leading to things like these.
Everyone’s favourite cuboid, Shaqiri scored against José Mourinho’s Man United before we realised that wasn’t the impressive feat it appeared, though the manner in which he did so was absolutely impressive.
Shaqiri has scored acrobatic volleys before, most notably for Switzerland at the 2014 World Cup, but this one felt particularly special. It looked as though wheels were turning inside the winger as he wound up to strike the ball, and goalkeeper Joel Castro Pereira knew an attempt at a dive would only make him look more hopeless.
Sure, it was only against Wycombe, but would you just look at that.
Benayoun took the classic youth coach message of ‘play the way you’re facing’ too its extreme, dancing through and flicking the ball over the line without really even looking at the thing.
Could he have brought the ball down and sidefooted it in? Sure, but then we wouldn’t be talking about it here.
An absolute beauty from the then-Arsenal man against Lens, whose goalkeeper would have been forgiven for giving up almost before the ball left his boot. Time seems to pass at different speeds in pre-season.
At least that’s our explanation for the ball hanging in the air for approximately three full minutes before dropping over the line.
Goalkeepers don’t score a ton of goals, full stop. Goalkeepers don’t score a ton of goals from their own box. Goalkeepers don’t score a ton of goals from their own box three minutes into their professional debut.
Did Bingham’s career peak with this strike? Even if it does, there’s no reason to complain – few will even hit these heights.
On one hand, you can shoot from wherever you want in pre-season because you have the ready-made excuse of “it was only a friendly”. On the other hand, no one should be shooting from th… okay, Marcel Ndjeng and only Marcel Ndjeng should be shooting from there.
This goal came in a meeting between Paderborn and Bolton, a fixture which would surely never happen without the existence of pre-season tours, which makes it a permanent justification for the format.
It’s not always the finish that takes centre-stage, sometimes the best work comes in the build-up.
Here’s the temporarily bleach-blond Leo Messi smacking Luis Suárez in the face with a bicycle. Sort of.
What’s that? You knew Messi was good already? Prove it.
In the summer of 2016, everyone had just assumed Riyad Mahrez would immediately leave Premier League champions Leicester City (yeah it still feels weird to write).
Instead, he joined up with his team-mates for pre-season and did this against Celtic, showing levels of cutting inside and finishing that score a full six Robbens on the Robben scale.
Sure, it might have been better if he’d scored at the first attempt, but we’re not going to pretend all that beautiful build-up play didn’t happen just because a Napoli defender briefly intervened.
Oh, and goals that go in off the woodwork are unquestionably better than those that don’t, everyone knows that.