As Real Madrid (chasing la undécima) and Atlético Madrid (chasing la primera) prepare for a rematch of the 2014 UEFA Champions League final, it’s a good time to look back on some of the best moments from past Champions League (fka European Cup) matches. There have been some dramatic and jaw-dropping goals, the best of which came from current Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane (which you should still watch anyway). But for the purposes of this list, we’re focusing on 10 of the best goals by Latin American, Spanish, and Portuguese players.
Héctor Rial, 1958
Throughout Real Madrid’s early dominance of the European Cup, it relied heavily on contributions from Argentine players. Alfredo Di Stéfano started in the first five finals of the tournament, all of which Madrid won. Countryman Héctor Rial joined him in those lineups. The standout goal from those years comes from the lesser-known Rial. Trailing 2-1 to AC Milan, Madrid equalized through two brilliant touches from Rial. Fed a cross from the wing, he used one touch to softly control the ball, and a second to lob it past the goalkeeper. Madrid went on to win 3-2 in overtime.
After Real Madrid, Benfica became the most consistent force in the European Cup – winning the tournament in 1961 (becoming the first team other than Real Madrid to do so) and 1962. They finished second in 1963, 1965, and 1968.
Perhaps surprisingly, Benfica’s best goal in this period didn’t come from one of the best players of all time, Eusebio, but from Domiciano Cavém, who started the game as a defensive midfielder and spent most of his career as a right back. Cavém smashed a left-footed strike from outside the penalty area past a shocked goalkeeper, who actually stood in the perfect position to save the shot but could do nothing due to the sheer power of the kick.
Fernando Serena, 1966
Fernando Serena may not be a Real Madrid legend, but he’s the man who delivered La Sexta with the game-winning goal against Partizan. Serena chested down a pass from midfield and let it bounce twice before unleashing a thunderous volley past the keeper. It’d be an impressive enough goal if it had been shot from close range, but it looks like he hit it from about 25 yards out. (The lines of the penalty area are hard to make out in footage from 1966.)
Carlos Alberto, 2004
These days, the top Portuguese teams remain competitive, but can’t compete with Europe’s super teams on a financial level. Porto’s 2004 team represents the last Portuguese winner. In that final, Porto took control of the game just before halftime when Brazilian Carlos Alberto’s attempted pass was deflected back toward him, and he was able to blast it past Flavio Roma. It should have been the start of a career path that many South Americans have followed: Excel in Portugal before making big money and eventually moving to a bigger team. Unfortunately, this goal represented half of his total production for Porto. He’s spent most of his career bouncing around the Brazilian league, but he’ll always have Gelsenkirchen.
Hernán Crespo, 2005
Many of these goals have come as the result of great plays by goalscorers, but we also have to show some love to the playmakers. In the 2005 final, young Kaká turned away from a defender and then, from midfield, curled a perfect through ball past another. Hernán Crespo – then on loan from Chelsea – scored his second of the game by lobbing it over Jerzy Dudek to make it 3-0. In an alternate, better (for Milan fans) universe, the game ended there. In real life, Liverpool scored three times in the second half and eventually prevailed on penalty kicks.
Cristiano Ronaldo, 2008
Cristiano Ronaldo may be more well-known for his dribbling, shooting, and narcissism, but his tremendous leaping ability also helps him score on plenty of headers. In the 2008 final, Ronaldo rose to meet a Wes Brown cross and placed beyond Petr Cech before the goalkeeper even had time to react. Of course, his best Champions League goal will always be this outrageous effort against Porto.
Lionel Messi, 2009
Before many realized that Barcelona had made the leap from very good team (the Frank Rijkaard years) to one of the best teams of all time (the Pep Guardiola years), plenty doubted whether they’d be able to top a Manchester United team who had won the title the year before. Part of that title run included holding Barcelona scoreless over two legs in the semifinals.
After an early goal from Samuel Eto’o, Lionel Messi put the game away in the second half in a most unexpected manner. With a pairing of 6-foot-2-inch Rio Ferdinand and 6-foot-5-inch Nemanja Vidic in central defense, Manchester United likely didn’t think Messi would pose much of an aerial threat. However, Messi found a huge pocket of space behind Ferdinand. Xavi picked him out, and though the pass extended slightly behind Messi’s leap, he headed it past Edwin van der Sar.
Diego Milito, 2010
Jose Mourinho won his second Champions League trophy with Internazionale in 2010, with Diego Milito as his key man. Milito scored both goals in a 2-0 victory against Bayern Munich. With a one-goal lead, Mourinho could perfectly implement his game plan of defending and counterattacking. In the 70th minute, an Inter defender blocked a Bayern shot, and within 15 seconds Milito was one-on-one at the other end against Daniel Van Buyten. El Principe turned Van Buyten around with a feint and then passed the ball into the bottom right corner, sealing the fate of the game.
David Villa, 2011
By 2011, Barcelona had mastered Guardiola’s system and became a clear favorite to win another Champions League trophy over Manchester United. Sergio Busquets took advantage of a poor touch from Nani and fed a pass to David Villa, who curled a beautiful shot around Ferdinand and beyond the diving van der Sar. Poor Chicharito had an awesome, but crushing view of the goal.
Marta was considered the best female soccer player for a long time, and in the 2014 Women’s Champions League Final, she showed another example of her quality as she dribbled around two defenders before slotting past the keeper. She added another in the second half, but it wasn’t enough as her Tyresö team fell 4-3 to Wolfsburg.