5 Criminally Overlooked Puskas-Nominated Losers

Grant McQuillan

The Puskas Award doesn't always mean the best goal, it seems

Named after Real Madrid and Hungry legend and serial goalscorer Ferenc Puskas, the Puskas award is presented to the player judged to have scored the best goal in a calendar year of football in any professional league, tournament or even friendly. So, whilst Mo Salah's world-beating form in 2021/22 won't be enough to get him the 2021 Ballon d'Or, his two sensational goals against Watford and City this season will be available for nomination.

Puskas passed away in late 2006 with the striker being honoured with an award in his name being introduced in 2009. With voting opening for the 2021 edition of the award this week, let's take a look back on some goals that are unlucky to be absent from the esteemed winners' list.

Wayne Rooney vs Manchester City (2011)

Manchester United’s all-time top scorer has bagged some truly special goals in his time, however, many consider this to be the pick of the bunch. In a season where Rooney struggled for form with this being only his fifth of 11 league goals, the ex-Everton man recaptured the hearts of the United faithful with a stellar strike to take all three points against rivals Manchester City.

A deflected cross by Nani only added to the brilliance of the strike as Rooney had to stop and adjust his movement before he met the ball with a tremendous acrobatic effort leaving Joe Hart rooted as Rooney reminded everyone why he had been Sir Alex Ferguson's go-to man for so many seasons.

Ultimately, he finished third behind Messi wonder goal against Arsenal and a breathtaking solo goal by future world-record player Neymar as the Brazilian continued to grow in stature at a young age. Neymar thoroughly deserved first place, Messi's was debatable for second, and you could easily argue Rooney's case for taking the award, especially given the game he was in.

Cristiano Ronaldo vs Juventus (2018)

The second Champions League goal to make this list, this strike is absolutely not heightened by the occasion. In the first leg of the quarter-finals, Real Madrid met Juventus in Turin on their quest to become Champions League winners for a third consecutive season, a feat achieved by no other club.

Madrid took the lead courtesy of an early Ronaldo goal with the forward netting again in the 64th minute, scoring an outstanding overhead bicycle kick to double the away side's advantage. Such a spectacle saw even the home fans on their feet in adoration and quite frankly disbelief at what they had witnessed with Los Blancos going on to be eventual winners of the competition, seeing off Liverpool in Cardiff.

He lost out to a Mohamed Salah goal against Everton, however, and to be honest, it was daylight robbery to think that effort was anywhere near Ronaldo's strike.

Andreas Iniseta vs Chelsea (2009)

Albeit a brilliantly taken goal, this may be one nomination ranked more on the occasion than anything else. After a tense goalless draw at the Camp Nou, Chelsea welcomed Barcelona to Stamford Bridge looking to make the Champions League final for a second season running, after a commiserating defeat to fellow English side Manchester United the previous campaign.

Thanks to an early goal from Michael Essien which in itself could argue ranking higher in the 2009 Puskas nominations, Chelsea looked on course to see off Barcelona, only to be met with last-minute heartbreak. In the 93rd minute, Andreas Iniesta was on the end of a Lionel Messi pass to crush the Blues hopes of back-to-back Champions League finals as Barcelona went on to win the tie and eventually the tournament, beating United 2-0 in the final.

In possibly a record-breaking fixture, this match is likely the only in history to see every goal nominated for the Puskas award, with Essien's thunderbolt nominated but not placing in the award. The Spaniard's strike finished second behind a more than memorable Cristiano Ronaldo goal that year against Porto in the awards debut season, which was completely deserving of the award.

Lionel Messi vs Athletic Bilbao (2015)

For six-time Ballon d’Or winner and arguably the best player to ever play the game, it is almost impossible to believe that for such a regular scorer of truly remarkable goals, Lionel Messi’s name is an omission from the Puskas award winners' list pretty much every year.

Add to that the Argentine has been nominated for the award seven times, more than anyone else, it is inconceivable that the now PSG forward's nearest claim to the award was a second-place finish in 2015. In a goal unlike any other, having picked the ball up just past the halfway line, Messi ghosted by six Athletic Bilbao players as if they weren’t there before expertly finishing into a seemingly non-existent gap at the near post helping Barcelona lift the Copa del Rey.

Dani Alves can claim the easiest assist of his career, however, this was well and truly a one-man effort. As the winner of the Ballon d'Or that season, Messi probably won’t be too bothered missing out on this one, with Brazilian Wendell Lira’s acrobatic effort taking top spot.

Quite literally, nobody to ever exist could score a goal like this. Only Messi.

Robin van Persie vs Spain (2014)

Spain met the Netherlands in a replay of the 2010 World Cup final four years after Spain secured their only World Champions status over the Dutch. Out for revenge, Louis van Gaal's men played Vincent Del Bosque's side off the park ending the game as 5-1 winners, despite going 1-0 down.

Manchester United striker Robin van Persie scored the pick of the bunch, meeting a Daley Blind ball from across the field with a gravity-defying diving header from just inside the penalty box as Iker Casillas could only watch as the ball sailed over his head into the net.

This goal turned the tides in favour of the Dutch inspiring four second half goals in a memorable victory. That year, van Persie finished third with an outrageous James Rodriguez chest and volley for Columbia at that same tournament and despite the legendary Dutchman's great goal, Rodriguez full deserved that year's accolade.


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