We let Daniel Storey carry out a proper labour of love and come up with his ten best hat-tricks of all time. If he left one out that you love, it’s because he hates you (or has ten others he likes more)…
10) Paul Gascoigne (Rangers vs Aberdeen, 1996)
I am sadly too young to remember Gascoigne during his Newcastle and Tottenham days, so it was only through the wonderful medium of Football Italia that I began to worship at the church of Gazza. When he returned to these shores with Rangers, we only saw glimpses of his brilliance via the occasional highlights package or newspaper report. The children of Glasgow had it good.
Gazza’s finest moment in a Rangers shirt came on April 28, 1996, with Walter Smith’s side needing to beat Aberdeen in order to seal the title ahead of Celtic. Trailing 1-0 to a Brian Irvine goal, Gascoigne picked up the game and put it in a bag over his shoulder, such was his control over proceedings.
His first goal involved him dribbling past two defenders before putting the ball over the Dons goalkeeper, while the second saw him curl it with his left foot to end a fifty-yard run. When Gordon Durie was fouled with five minutes to go, it was Gascoigne who was allowed to seal the match and the title.
The public decline is extraordinarily sad, but this was Gazza at his best. He stood astride the line of footballing genius, one foot planted in exceptional talent and the other stuck in a quagmire of mental instability.
9) Stan Mortensen (Blackpool vs Bolton, 1953)
Watching the highlights of the 1953 FA Cup final, it’s easy to see why it is known as the Matthews final. That said, Stan Mortensen might merit at least a postscript mention as he became the first (and still only) person to score a hat-trick in the showpiece. With Blackpool 3-1 down to Bolton, Mortensen scored his second and third goals (including a brilliant free-kick) to force extra-time. Bill Perry hit the winner to seal one of the most memorable cup victories in history.
What better way to celebrate the majesty of Mortensen’s performance than through the medium of Youtube comments on the video:
‘Kick the ball, grandpa’ – Andreas Glumm. Have some respect, Andreas.
‘Keepers must have been really useless in those days. Mind you the ball was leather and when it was wet, it would have been like handling concrete’ – gsf67. Alrite Football Cliches.
‘tiki taki? my arse’ – reltonpelton. No thank you, relton.
‘Real football, real English football, no cheats and they are allowed to tackle, the ball was 10 times heavier, not like the feathers they kick today. all these overseas players are stunting the development of English players, due to the stupid money involved in the game today, as the clubs buy players from abroad for the quick fix rather than developing local talent. English clubs dominated europe in the 70’s and 80’s without overseas players. the prem is bought these days, its all about money’ – LFBulldog. Oh dear, that’s a shame. Your dad has had four cans of medium-strength lager and gone on your Mum’s iPad again.
8) Wayne Rooney (Manchester United vs Fenerbache, 2004)
A few times in your football existence, you are able to attend ‘I was there’ moments. They come around maybe once or twice a year across the country, but as you watch the action you know that folklore is being written. I had that at Old Trafford in September 2004.
To watch that 2004 Rooney now is to view a player lost in the ether. The interminable debates about his current ability or past reputation will not cease, but we can all agree that the Rooney of the last decade was a more exciting and instinctive footballer. Instinct and nous is typically something that improves with age, but with Rooney the opposite appears true. This was a player whose magic lay in his inexperience and innate ability to score goals.
Rooney’s first goal was hammered past Rustu Recber, taken left-footed and first time (when was the last time you saw him do that?) just 17 minutes into his European career. The second involved quick feet and a drop of the shoulder on the edge of the box followed by a low drive which went in via the far post. At first glance you think Rustu should save it, but the replay reveals the fierce power in the shot.
The third, famously, was a glorious free-kick. With Ruud van Nistelrooy and Ryan Giggs asking to take the ball off him, Rooney steadfastly refuses to let go of it. He knew he would score. Sat behind that goal, I knew he would score. Not only did he do so, he can never have taken a better free-kick.
Watching some of these hat-tricks back has made me deeply happy. This just made me sad. Where art thou 2004 Wayne Rooney? Where did that wonder boy go?
7) Michael Owen (England vs Germany, 2001)
It is unfortunate for Owen that the two goals most remembered from England’s humping of Germany in 2001 are Gerrard’s drilled shot and subsequent manic team celebration and Emile Heskey’s “It’s Fiiiiiii-ve”.
It is also unfortunate that we undeniably associate Owen with the mundanity of his post-playing career. His is a voice, as the lovely David Hartrick once said, like somebody else’s holiday photos. To compare Owen the commentator with Owen the 21-year-old England hat-trick scorer is to look at two completely different people, an exciting man-child made tedious by mild pints of banter.
Best bits: The joy after the first goal when he realised he hadn’t been flagged offside. The unbridled emotion at giving England a 3-1 lead. The faux-serious expression on his face which contrasts totally with that silly-arse forward roll after his third goal. This is the Owen I will prefer to remember. Heck, it’s the Owen he’ll prefer to remember too.
6) Ronaldo (Real Madrid vs Manchester United, 2003)
It takes a special player to receive a standing ovation at an opposition ground when he’s just knocked that team out of the Champions League, but Manchester United supporters had little choice but to bow down before the king. Ronaldo had run riot.
His first goal beat Fabien Barthez at his near post through that most Ronaldo of tendencies to shoot a split second earlier than you anticipated, whilst the second was a flicked tap-in after a sumptuous team move. His third demonstrated all of his power, laying the ball to the side before a dipping drive gave Barthez no chance.
It was not simply his goals that drew such a reaction from the Old Trafford faithful. Ronaldo was the master of energy conservation, an ability to shield the ball, lay the ball off and find space without breaking from a jog. The sprint was saved as the surprise weapon, used in order to break clear from a defence (and usually score). Il Fenomeno at his greatest.
5) Paolo Rossi (Italy vs Brazil, 1982)
It’s difficult to describe just how much pressure was on Rossi going into a match that was effectively a World Cup quarter-final skewed in Brazil’s favour. The team of Zico, Socrates, Falcao et al needed only a draw to progress from the second round and into the semi-finals. Italy and Rossi, a controversial selection and still to score in the tournament, needed to win.
What then followed was what Zico referred to as the day football died, but we shall remember it more for the redemption of an Italian striker. Rossi scored an early header, punished a defensive mistake before half-time and then turned in Marco Tardelli’s shot with 15 minutes remaining to take the Italians through.
Back from a match-fixing ban, this was Rossi’s reincarnation. He scored both goals in the semi-final against Poland before the opener in the final against West Germany gave him the golden boot. The World Cup’s second best hat-trick in its greatest ever match.
4) Lionel Messi (Barcelona vs Real Madrid, 2007)
Lionel Messi has scored 32 hat-tricks for Barcelona, but the player himself has no doubt which is his best.
“The one I scored against Real Madrid when we drew 3-3 at Camp Nou was very special for me, for what it meant in the game and because for me it was my first hat trick and it kept us ahead in the league. Even though at the end we didn’t win the league, at that moment it was important and also because it was against Real Madrid.”
A star had been born, with Barcelona playing purely as a conduit for Messi’s brilliance when he was just 19. Three times Real led in the Camp Nou, but three times that same player hauled Barca back. His extravagant goal celebrations have calmed over time, but that seems a shame. This was the unbridled joy of a young man carving out his place in Barcelona folklore.
3) Dennis Bergkamp (Arsenal vs Leicester, 1997)
Some hat-tricks are remembered for the occasion, others for the quality of the goals combined. Bergkamp’s merits inclusion purely for his third goal alone.
If certain goals can epitomise players, then this is the one that defines Bergkamp. The effortless manner in which he takes down David Platt’s cross. The insouciance with which he nudges it past Matty Elliott. The calmness with which he takes the extra touch to put the ball exactly where he knows it must go. The clinical accuracy in which he side-foots the ball yet still generates huge power (see his first goal for another great example of this). I love the way it goes nowhere near the corner of the net, and yet still makes Kasey Keller look helpless.
“In football you have certain things in your mind which you want to achieve,” Bergkamp said of the goal. “In my mind I knew I wanted to do it like that and it worked exactly as I had planned it just two seconds before.” Like the way he played the game, it all sounds so easy.
2) Geoff Hurst ( England vs Germany, 1966)
There is a weird antipathy to Geoff Hurst for the manner in which he consistently brings everything back to the 1966 World Cup final in every interview he does, which I find completely bizarre.
Firstly, you are interviewing Hurst for one reason; because he scored three goals to win England the World Cup. Secondly, if I was the only man in the history of the game to score a hat-trick in the World Cup final, you try and sodding stop me talking about it. Hell, I’d even pay for a group of friends each with the forename Rick to hang around with me just so I could ask them to pass me their hats at regular intervals.
In any other country he’d be a saint, a shining beacon and a national treasure. But this is England, so we’re restricted to “Bloody hell, is that Geoff Hurst on the television again? Wonder if he mentions 1966, eh?”
1) Rivaldo (Barcelona vs Valencia, 2001)
There are two levels to watching sporting greatness unfold in front of your own eyes. The first level is the ‘neck hair’ test, in which watching back such footage even years later makes them stand on end, and a tingle surge down your spine. I’m a soppy, sentimental sod, so this happens to me an awful lot.
The next level is even more special, because (on top of the neck hairs), it provokes an involuntary rush of feeling that is overwhelmingly happy but with the added sense that you might burst into tears at any moment. Basically, sport has taken over your entire emotional balance.
The most obvious personal example of this is David Beckham vs Greece, but Rivaldo vs Valencia in 2001 comes close. With Barcelona needing to beat their opponents to pip them to a Champions league place on the final day, the Brazilian scored a wonderful free-kick and 25-yard strike to give Barcelona hope.
Cue the 88th minute, the ball played into Rivaldo’s chest with Barca desperate for a winner. Cue the touch to tee himself up. Cue the ridiculous overhead kick from the edge of the area. Cue the shirt-off celebrations. Cue the scream of the commentator. Cue president Joan Gaspart losing it in the stands. Cue my neck hairs. Cue my inexplicable sob-laugh to indicate the achievement of sporting nirvana.