Friday, May 15 th, 2015
Mission  |   Team  |   Contact Us    
The 7 most significant backheel goals in the history of Italian football
Many players have tried it, but only true champions have succeeded (with a few exceptions). Del Piero, Crespo, Mancini, all amazed the fans with their magic backheels: our selection
by John Cavenaghi
In the last weekend, Italian football celebrated a wide range of events: Juventus crashing Roma 3-0 and flying 8 points ahead in the table; Kakà scoring his 100th (and 101st) goal with the red-and-black jersey of Milan; Di Natale announcing his retirement at the end of the season. 


However, there was another event, certainly the most pleasant to the eyes, which got no coverage whatsoever: Alessandro Lucarelli’s gem against Torino. Parma’s captain scored a marvelous goal with his backheel, in what was a flashback of Mancini’s goal with Lazio against Parma (same stadium, same side, almost same goal).

 

Apparently history likes to repeat itself. Just before the Christmas break, in fact, Inter and Milan faced each other in what could be described as the “Grudge Match” of Italian football (you know, De Niro and Stallone, former heavyweights, facing each other 30 years after the final bell…).

The last Milanese derby won’t be remembered for the show put in place by the two glorious, yet limping, striped sides. Yet, in the 85th minute, Guarin sprinted down the right flank, put a low ball in the middle of the box and Rodrigo Palacio bit the devil in a deadly manner with his backheel: game, set and match. Suddenly, an ugly, more than forgettable game, found a reason to be remembered. A shining pearl in the middle of an ocean of mediocrity. A scaringly similar goal to the one scored by Bettega, always against Milan, at the San Siro. Again: same stadium, same side, same goal.


A backheel goal is never banal. To see one in a single season is something special. To see two in two consecutive match-days, is almost unbelievable, since it is one of the most difficult technical gestures in football, as it involves perfect timing, positioning, anticipation and a tad of madness, innate in most classy players. 


It is hence a combination of factors that not every player is lucky enough to encounter simultaneously during his career (right, Mario?). And when those factors finally align, like the Sun and the Moon, they have a fraction of a second to execute. No rationality involved, just pure instinct that may or may not put a player’s name in history books.

 

As already mentioned, Lucarelli’s and Palacio’s gems weren’t the first, and definitely won’t be the last backheel goals. In the last forty years the Serie A offered many such masterpieces, some with illustrious signatures, some by the occasional Sunday hero. 


Alex Del Piero- or Pinturicchio- falls under the former category, and scored at least three memorable ones, of which one in a derby and one in a Champions League final vs. Borussia Dortmund in 1997. Giuseppe Biava, instead, definitely falls under the second category, but this doesn’t mean his goal against Reggina was less spectacular, on the contrary.

 

So, would the goals of Palacio and Lucarelli make it to a hypothetical all-time ranking? We have selected the top-seven, in terms of sheer beauty, but also in terms of the stage where they were performed, and of the emotions they provoked. Seven like the seven wonders of the world; seven because, after all, the number “7” has the shape of an upside down boot and heel.

 

Number 7

Palacio
Inter-Milan 1-0
22/12/2013

As much as Inter needed the win to keep some Champions League hopes alive, the Milan derby we have been used to in recent years, sees the two teams fighting for the top positions in Italy, if not Europe. Palacio’s goal still makes the top seven, because a backheel goal in the 85th minute against Milan is something special, though it definitely won’t bring any silverware at the end of the season. The Argentinian forward had no defenders in front of him, but managed to score by placing his body between Zapata and the ball, flipping it to the far post with his right heel.

 

Number 6

Biava
Palermo-Reggina 4-3
10/9/2006

Probably the most spectacular goal, by an improbable scorer who performed a “scorpion” kick in the middle of the box, hitting the ball from a set-piece- hence in a crowded box- and with a defender holding on to him. Giuseppe Biava would be higher in this ranking, had the goal been more important. Still, Palermo reached the fifth position that year, a record for the rosanero.

 

Number 5

Crespo
Juventus-Parma 2-4
7/2/1999

Hernan Crespo puts an end to the Marcello Lippi’s first stint at Juve. After this game, ended with a hat-trick for the Argentinian striker, the coach from Viareggio would resign after a five-year-long winning cycle. Parma would finish in fourth place in Serie A, and would win the UEFA Cup that season. (backheel goal at 1:15)

 

Number 4

Ibrahimovic
Inter-Bologna 2-1
4/10/2008

Deja-vu, anyone? Well, Ibrahimovic scored many in his career. But this one vs. Bologna is simply martial arts applied to football. Needless to say that Inter won the Serie A that year.


Number 3
Mancini
Parma-Lazio 1-3
17/1/1999

In terms of beauty and technical difficulty, it would deserve the top spot. Mancini, as opposed to Lucarelli, hits the ball on a volley, with his back to the goal. The cross is coming at full speed (Mihaijlovic took the corner…), and Parma’s defense was set. He runs away from the goal in order to anticipate the defender, yet he still manages to give the ball incredible power. It’s only third because Lazio couldn’t win the Serie A that year, despite an eight point margin on Milan. Luckily for them, they would win it the following year in dramatic fashion overtaking Juve in the last 90 minutes.

 

Number 2

Del Piero
Borussia Dortmund-Juventus 3-1
28/5/1997

Is there anything better than scoring a backheel goal in a Champions League final? Well, yes…maybe winning a Champions League final! Despite their loss, Del Piero’s masterwork deserves to be up there with the greatest goals ever scored. He couldn’t have done anything else to score in that situation, yet he still managed to keep Juve’s hopes alive for a few minutes. That Del Piero- the pre-injury Del Piero- was absolute genius: speed and skills in a devastating mix, lethal for every defender.

 

Number 1

Bettega
Milan-Juventus 1-4
31/10/1971

Many will have never heard about this goal. However, if at the end of this season Juventus fans will be able to brag about the “terza stella” (third star), it’ll also be thanks to this goal. Although scored at the beginning of the season, it was the second goal in a 4-1 victory against rivals number 1 for the Scudetto that season. At the end of the year, in fact, the table was: Juventus 43, Milan 42. As already mentioned, identical to Palacio’s goal in the Milan derby, also Bettega anticipates his defender to place the ball in the far post. Considering when it was scored, Bettega might as well be considered a precursor of backheel goals. (goal at 0:20)


Special Mention

Gianfranco Zola
Chelsea-Norwich 4-0
16/1/2002

It wasn’t scored in Italy, nor for an Italian team, but the executor was one of the top Italian talents of the 1990’s, voted in 2003 as “Chelsea’s greatest player ever”. With this goal he definitely lived up to his nickname: “magic box”.

 

Friday, January 10 th, 2014
For discussion of this topic and many more about Serie A, join R/ItalianFootball