Dan Leydon: My Favourite Goal
How many goals have I seen? Thousands? Tens of thousands? Probably, and picking just one seemed daunting, but I let my mind wander and like a lightning strike the first one that came to the surface was Ronaldinho at Stamford Bridge.
It has an odd vibe, like most of my favourite goals it seems to expand on the expected skillset of a footballer. There’s no run up, no sinewy explosion of brute force lashing the ball to it’s destination. It’s a fillet of technique, shorn from the mundanity of sweat and toil. Pure imagination.
To set the scene the ball is tipped to Ronaldinho who is just outside the area in a near dead central position. He has Ricardo Carvalho marking him so closely that any back lift before a shot would allow him to easily get a toe to the ball, breaking up the attack. There’s a few more defenders standing in what would be the periphery of Ronaldinho’s vision. The speed and movement of this situation is important and informs everything. No one is moving, all seem to be on their heels. It’s essentially a close up on a gunslingers eyes from a Spaghetti western. Twitchy hands are hovering over gun handles waiting to jump into action. They’re all terrified of what the Brazilian can do.
At this general time, Ronaldinho is experiencing career defining form, a height to which he would not return. I would view this goal as the absolute zenith of everything he’s done.
So back to the goal. Like any canny old pro, Ricardo Carvalho has his hands safely stuck to his sides, minimising the chances of handball. His knees are easing together to cut off the chances of a nutmeg. Ronaldinho, the magician, the supreme samba sorcerer throws a shimmy of his hips one way, Carvalho tightens a bit, Ronaldinho throws a shimmy another way, Carvalho, tightens up some more. In all this his left leg is planted playing support to the rest of his body. With each shimmy he poked his toe into the grass setting off every defender alarm in Carvalho’s body. Fake out, fake out, he's basically dancing. Then, after pausing for a brief moment, when Carvalho is caught on the exhalation, on the touch of heel to grass, on that moment when movement cannot be coerced, Ronaldinho pokes the ball with a straight leg arc. There’s barely any power, there’s barely any back lift there’s barely anything. The ball flies lazily nestling into the side netting. Petr Cech, the rest of the Chelsea team and the population of the stadium all stare in amazement. How did he do that? Ronaldinho jogs off in a mazy run of sheer bliss.
It’s the oddest, and I use that word specifically, approach to this tense edge of box situation. I’ve never seen anything like it, those defenders have never seen anything like it, the keeper had never seen anything like it. People throw the word genius around a lot but I would definitely apply it here. It’s outside the parameters of what is usually possible. I view my life as before and after seeing that goal. In every sense it amazed me, and it still does every time I watch it in pixelated glory on youtube.
Dan is an illustrator who deals mostly with football. Clients include: Nike, LFC, Gatorade, New Balance, BT Sport, Bundesliga, Man City & Juventus. View his work here: danleydon.com