The nominees for the 2019 Puskas Award have been announced, and a few familiar faces have made the cut.
Lionel Messi and Zlatan Ibrahimović are both on the shortlist, along with Ajara Nchout’s strike for Cameroon at the Women’s World Cup and Andros Townsend’s sensational volley for Crystal Palace against Manchester City, among others.
All of the nominees will battle to succeed Mohamed Salah and Olivier Giroud to win the award, but there were plenty of stunning goals which didn’t even make it this far.
John McGinn (Aston Villa v Sheffield Wednesday)
Villa scored plenty of crackers on their journey back to the Premier League, but this was the pick of the bunch.
When you watch McGinn’s volley, you go through many emotions.
There’s the ‘oh no he isn’t…’ as the Scot sets himself for the volley, there’s the excitement as it smashes down off the crossbar and crosses the line, and then there’s the bare-faced astonishment as you’re treated to the other angle, the one from behind him, and realise just how incredible it is.
We have no idea how team-mate Mile Jedinak can just stand there calmly and raise his arms instead of, oh, I don’t know, absolutely losing his s**t.
Eric Bicfalvi (Ural v Dynamo Moscow)
We’ve watched this goal back enough times that you’d think we’d have figured out how Bicfalvi pulled this off, but we’re somehow even more confused than we were before seeing the goal.
As he lifts the ball over the head of Dynamo Moscow’s Aleksei Kozlov, it feels as though he’s telekinetically dragging the defender out of his way to free up space for the shot. Anyone who has played five-a-side even once will know that when the ball sits up so invitingly you’re simply required to hit it on the volley, so he gets bonus points for that part too.
The highlight, though, is the way he turns away calmly to celebrate, as if to say “yeah, I score these all the time”. Sure you do, Eric.
Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal v Fulham)
A goal that takes a team from one corner of the pitch to the other, entirely uninterrupted, will often be good. This, however, was much more than good.
If one element of this move wasn’t perfect, Arsenal would have likely lost possession and we’d have never spoken of this game again. Instead, we have one of the best goals of the last 12 months.
It’s so smooth you’d struggle to find a set of players capable of pulling it off on an empty pitch – to do it against an actual opponent is magnificent, whatever you think of Fulham’s 2018-19 campaign.
Nicolò Zaniolo (Roma v Sassuolo)
If there’s one thing better than showing the best of yourself with a goal, it’s shaming your opponents to the point that they’re embarrassed to show their faces in public. Enter Nicolò Zaniolo.
After putting Sassuolo’s defenders to the sword with a run down the right, he still has a bit of work to do… so he decides to let two opponents do the work for him.
We often talk about players sitting down their opponents with moments of skill, but it’s rare to see the advice taken quite so literally. The finish that follows almost feels like active mockery, which only makes it better.
Luciano Acosta (DC United v Orlando City)
If the award was for ‘most dramatic goal of the year’, this would win hands down.
Chasing a victory to stay in the playoff mix, DC sent up their goalkeeper for a corner. That part of the plan didn’t work, but it always helps to have a plan B.
Wayne Rooney should never have been able to get near the Orlando attacker as he prepared to find the empty net. He should never have been able to then fire over an inch-perfect cross to the far post from way, way out. And Luciano Acosta, the 5’3” Argentinean, should not have been able to win a header and find the far corner.
Did we mention that this was in the sixth and final minute of stoppage time? Oh, and did we mention that it allowed Acosta to complete his hat-trick?
Sometimes, where beautiful goals are concerned, the journey is just as important as the destination.