F365's Top Ten Football Showboats

We do tend to get a little bit bogged down in winning matches and scoring goals don't we? Take time out to appreciate some sexy skills and tantalising trickery, why don't you...

Last Updated: 25/02/14 at 09:08 Post Comment

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10) Jim Baxter
Judging a showboat is largely based on the coefficient of 'Sexiness x Match Importance = Ranking'. Baxter's skill against England for Scotland in 1967 may not rate highly on the first part of that bulls**t formula, but it ranks well enough on the second to merit inclusion.

Baxter's ball juggling on the touchline against the world champions has gone down in Scottish folklore, described by Glyn Edwards in the Herald: "I shall cherish for a long time the memory of Baxter slowing down the game to almost walking pace, insouciantly juggling the ball with instep, forehead and knees while Stiles, no more than a couple of yards away, bobbed up and down, unsure whether to make his challenge at knee or head level."

Naughty, very naughty.


9) Kerlon
A Brazilian that seemingly got a move to Inter on the back of inventing a skill called the 'seal dribble', which effectively involved him getting the ball into feet, knocking it into the air and then jogging at opponents whilst heading the ball.

It was a new move that only had one significant drawback, namely that it made opponents want to do this. A five-game ban for Atletico Mineiro's Dyego Rocha Coelho, but a round of applause from every one of Kerlon's previous opponents.

Kerlon is currently a free agent after leaving Japanese club Fujieda FC, proof that no-one likes a smart arse.


8) Mohamed Ghaddar
Ghaddar is a Lebanese Footballer who plays for Kelantan FA in the Malaysian Super League. Last year he became a viral sensation for his 'skills' which were lauded as the worst piece of football trickery in history.

Like all things magical, it starts with a dance. Like fewer things magical, it ends with a goal kick and embarrassment.


7) Jay Jay Okocha
Okocha was from the same mould as Dwight Yorke, a footballer whose apparent love for the game was so genuine it became infectious.

Without any research, there are three things I remember vividly about the Nigerian's time at Bolton. The first was the outside of the boot free kick against Aston Villa in the League Cup semi-final first leg, followed by an abhorrent dancing celebration, whilst the second was his description of his Bolton career as a "complete waste of time" following the club's relegation.

The third, and like Vanessa Williams I'm saving the best until last, was his outrageous skill on Ray Parlour in 2003. Receving a short corner, he produced a rainbow flick that sent the ball over Parlour and back to his feet. Impudence at its very finest.

It seemingly doesn't take an awful lot for Parlour to offer a confused look, but in this case his bemusement was fully justified.


6) Rene Higuita
To be a showboating goalkeeper requires a certain amount of craziness, and if it's craziness you're after, Higuita is your chap. This is a man who was imprisoned for kidnapping, tested positive for cocaine in 2004 and had plastic surgery operations live on television in a bid to become "handsome Rene."

His inclusion on this list was guaranteed in September 1995, when he blocked a long range shot from Jamie Redknapp by jumping forward and kicking the ball with his heels. The Scorpian Kick was born.

"If anything, you've hit that too well," Redknapp presumably muttered under his breath.


5) Rivelino
Matthew Stanger did a little exclamation of surprise and then went a bit sulky when I threatened to leave out Rivelino and his flip flap, or elastico. He's not a man you want to get on the wrong side of, so in comes the moustachioed Brazilian beauty.

In fact, Rivelino may well not have even been the first exponent, as this excellent article reports, but let us not worry ourselves with facts right now. This is art, not science.

What is certain is that Rivelino was a wonderful exhibitor of skill, and would torment a defender with a trick that involves flicking the ball slightly one way, before then pushing it back the other way with an increased impetus to beat a defender already wrong-footed.

Any trick that Ronaldinho attempts to, and pretty much achieves at mastering, deserves respect. That's a couple of pretty sumptuous Brazilians.


4) Juan Roman Riquelme
Even if you consider Riquelme to be more flawed genius and wasted talent than South American icon, there is little doubting the Argentinean's brilliance.

In fact, there is an argument that Riquelme was the first 'hipster footballer', the evidence for which is the following paragraph from Jonathan Wilson:

"Riquelme is not just a player; he is the cipher for an ideology: graceful of movement and deft of touch, he is the embodiment of the old-style enganche - literally the "hook" who links the midfield with the attack. Not for him the modern arts of closing down defenders; he created, and created only, and that made him a glorious anachronism." That's soaked in hipster effluvia.

And then you watch skills like this at full speed, and you forget about words and worries and other players, you just want to watch more and more. And suddenly it's Monday morning and you've done nothing but think about Riquelme for a whole weekend. Again.


3) Johan Cruyff
A skill so globally consumed and renowned that it is the first trick taught to children when starting to play the game.

Cruyff may have become increasingly associated with the theoretical or tactical side of football, but during a 1974 World Cup group game against Sweden he wowed the world with a skill that became phenomena. The reaction of the defender is perfection, as he genuinely loses concept of where Cruyff, the ball and his dignity have gone.

Those were simpler days, with blacker boots, shorter shorts and a worldwide audience that was more easily impressed by a trick that was pure simplicity.


2) Gerrie Muhren
Juggling the ball whilst in ten yards of space might not seem worthy for this list, but when it's in a European Cup semi-final against Real Madrid in the Bernabeu and you've already scored the winning goal, it certainly does count.

Just watch the video, please. The touch, the effortless kick-ups, the balancing of the ball and the laziness of the pass all combine to make perhaps the coolest ten seconds of football ever. Not the normal actions of a man whose middle names are Dominicus and Hyacinthus


1) Len Shackleton
The original and the greatest. The showboater against which all others shall be measured (and ultimately fall short). England international Len Shackleton - we salute you.

Shackleton's nickname was the Clown Prince of Football, and that effectively sums up his attitude to the game. He scored almost 300 league goals throughout a career interrupted by the Second World War, but the goals almost became secondary to his outrageous arsing about. In a match against Arsenal he dribbled the ball into penalty area before putting his foot on it, pretending to comb his hair and looking at his watch. He was also known to play one-twos with the corner flags and would often round a goalkeeper only to refuse to put the ball into the net until his opponent attempted to tackle him.

However, the best story regarding Shackleton regards his retirement. After announcing it to a group of waiting journalists, he took out a shiny new penny out of his pocket, threw it into the air, caught it on his shoe and then flicked it into the air before catching it in his top pocket and casually walking away. Wonderful stuff.

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Gazza taking a bow at all four corners of the ground when playing for Rangers during a match (against Aberdeen, I think) when it was certain he would win his first league title at the now defunct club.
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