The Best Soccer Finisher in the World

baggioOkay, I know the World Cup is over, but I continue to love soccer, so I’m going to keep writing about it.

After watching a review of the best goals of the World Cup, I went on YouTube and watched some highlight reels of the world’s best scorers. I wanted to decide who was truly the best, who I would want at the helm of my team.

I have my answer.

Here are the players who made the list:

  • Wayne Rooney
  • Ruud van Nistelrooy
  • David Beckham
  • Neymar
  • Lionel Messi
  • Cristiano Ronaldo
  • Zlatan Ibrahimavic
  • Roberto Baggio
  • Ronaldo
  • Pele
  • Diego Maradona

There is no good way to rank these players, because they’re all absolutely incredible soccer players, and all of them have at least one goal that should make any top-20 goal list of all time. There were also a few surprises as I watched the videos.

One of the biggest surprises were Ruud van Nistelrooy. He hasn’t been retired for all that long, but I got into watching EPL and Champions League after he was done, so I missed watching him play. There are few players on this list with such a natural touch for scoring as Nistelrooy.

Another surprise was David Beckham. It was no surprise the Beckham knows how to bend a set-piece goal–we all know that. Really, the thing that caught me off guard was that Beckham played with so many of these other players, and it makes me wonder if he was really good at making the players around him better (or if his teams just had deep pockets).

The last surprise was Roberto Baggio. After watching his highlight reel, I wish I didn’t know him as “the guy who missed the PK in the World Cup final.” Because seriously, he was one hell of a soccer player. I think he might be the fastest player on this list, and he was a threat anywhere within 35 yards of goal. If you remember him as I do, take a few minutes to watch this video. He’s incredible. And he had oddly awesome hair.

Before I get to the top finisher, I do have a runner up. This player is very close to being as versatile as the top player. He scores confidently with both feet, he’s a physical presence, he can score on set pieces or in the flow of play, he heads the ball extremely well, and he can contort his body to score in odd, unpredictable ways. He also has what might be the best goal of all time, a bicycle kick from about 35 yards away (it’s at the end of this video). Indeed, I’m talking about Zlatan Ibrahimavic.

That brings us to the man on top, none other than Cristiano Ronaldo. To name him at the top of this list means pointing out why Messi isn’t here. Messi is a great, great player, and he’s able to weave through tight spaces better than any other player on this list. But Messi heavily prefers his left foot, and I consider that a pretty big weakness. Defenders still can’t defend his shot because he has such a quick release, but you almost always know where he’s going. Most of Messi’s goal on the highlight reel are inside the 18-yard box as he dances around defenders and scores with his left foot. Great, but not the greatest.

Cristiano Ronaldo, on the other hand, has no weak spots. He’s fast. He’s strong. He can score with either foot or his head with equal confidence. He can take on defenders and score from short or long range. He does flop too much, which is a shame, but he also gets legitimately fouled all the time. Because there’s really no other way to stop him.

Of course, that’s just my opinion. If you had to put together a team of 11 players, which one of these guys would you put on the team to be your go-to scorer?