Top 11 Best Tackles
This tackle by experienced and cultured centre-back Alessandro Nesta – the new Mr Milan now that Paolo Maldini has retired – became something of a cult hit beloved by defenders worldwide, and a sign to any player anywhere that the impossible is possible.
The reason for its god-like status is simple. While Nesta remains a class act at the back, the difference in talent between the Italian and Leo Messi is measurable only in light years (no offence meant). Getting the ball off The Flea has been compared to brain surgery in terms of difficulty.
No wonder the Argentine wonder beats the ground in frustration. He has just been dispossessed in the box by a man 11 years his senior, and to absolute perfection.
It is very rare that Barcelona’s diminutive maestro is tackled, so in a way it's unsurprising that Nesta pulls it off with such aplomb. He has to.
The old hand tracks the tricky forward carefully, and like a hunter, pounces at the right moment, knocking the ball away with a well-orchestrated slide, exquisitely timed to ensure the chance of contact with Messi is at a minimum.
Take a bow, dad.
2. PHILIPP LAHM on Ivan Rakitic, 2010
If there's one thing the perfect tackle should exude, it's calm – and here, classy full-back Philipp Lahm shows it in spades.
It's a textbook sliding tackle. Chasing Schalke 04’s Ivan Rakitic after a wayward pass, Lahm showcases his speed, agility and technique, sweeping the ball away one-footed from beneath the Croatian midfielder.
This type of challenge explains why the German has been included by FIFA twice in World Cup teams of the tournament, and by UEFA in the 2008 European Championship.
Best of all, the impassive nature of his reaction to the tackle serves almost as an extra humiliation to Rakitic. No chest-thumping or back-slapping here – Lahm just gets on with the game. It's as if he's saying, "Yeah, I just won the ball fairly from behind with an inch-perfect tackle – what of it?"
3. LEDLEY KING on Arjen Robben, 2006
It's not often you can label a tackle 'extraordinary', but this arguably merits the epithet.
Ledley King’s tackle on Chelsea winger Arjen Robben is remarkable for two reasons. One, he starts off a good 15 yards away from the flying Dutchman, who is clean through on goal – and known for his pace.
The other reason is that even after making up that distance, Robben still looks odds on to score. Yet Tottenham’s centre-back amazingly manages to hook the ball away at a bizarre angle – and cleanly enough for Robben to stay on his feet, a rarity indeed.
Maybe the Chelsea attacker is a bit hesitant, but if he is, it's only because King looks so unlikely to get there. A masterful challenge.
4. BOBBY MOORE on Jairzinho, 1970
Let's slip further back in time. Has a slide tackle ever been more precisely executed than this famous "tackle by Moore"? Well, yes, as this is only no4 in our list – but that doesn't make it any less perfect a challenge. Perhaps the phrase 'slide tackle' does this effort a disservice, too; it's more a block tackle in which England's talisman Bobby Moore merely happens to be sliding.
Disposessing tricky Brazilian Jairzinho is one thing; doing so while retaining the ball is an entirely different proposition. The Three Lions' finest ever centre-back does it with ease.
This brilliant 1970 World Cup challenge is one of England's crowning individual moments on the international stage. What's more, it led to a glorious chance that could have changed the outcome of the game – but it was missed, and England lost 1-0.
Sometimes you just can't rely on your team-mates.
5. STEPHEN McMANUS on Davide Somma, 2010
Begbie in Trainspotting, Russ Abbott’s C. U. Jimmy and Stephen McManus of Middlesbrough – all Scottish lads not afraid to make a bold statement with their heads.
Brought to Teeside by his former Celtic manager Gordon Strachan, McManus seemed keen to put himself in harm’s way, however literally, on behalf of his under-pressure manager during a crunch match at home to Leeds.
As striker Davide Somma threatened to break through Boro’s defence, a stumbling McManus did what any honest Scot would do – he headed the ball off Somma’s foot. Just a shame, then, that Leeds won and Strachan quit two days later.
Another show of commitment (see No.6) or another comedy tackle (see No.8)? Either way, it's superb.
6. STEVEN GERRARD on Phil Jagielka, 2008
This Steven Gerrard double-tackle on Phil Jagielka makes the list for sheer bloodymindedness. You can just imagine him screaming, "I'LL GET YOOOUUUUU!" as he closes in on the Everton man.
It always brings a wince to hear an English footballer – especially a young talent – speak of how the Three Lions' 'passion' will lead them to victory over those wily, technically superior Spaniards/Dutchmen/Germans/etc. But sometimes, heart really does win the battle.
The epitome of the ‘never say die’ English mentality, Gerrard is clearly pumped up for his side’s Merseyside derby clash with Everton. The Liverpool midfielder bests Jagielka with a sliding tackle, then hounds him back into his own half and smashes him with a doubly brutal challenge.
(You might have to ignore the fact he's about twelve feet off the floor as he comes crashing in the second time.)
7. FABIO CANNAVARO on Andriy Shevchenko, 2004
We've had a few sliding tackles in a row, so let's salute its remain-standing cousin.
A marvellous piece of skill from Fabio Cannavaro is the only way to dispossess AC Milan’s Andrei Shevchenko in full flow here.
The Ukrainian forward is left sitting on the floor, wondering where the ball went after Juventus’ defensive rock, newly acquired from Inter, manages to keep pace and deftly back-heel the ball away to safety.
Even after watching the tackle a few times, it’s difficult to work out how he does it, or why he even thinks of it. But it works.
8. SOL CAMPBELL on Ivica Olic, 2007
Humour us as we allow ourselves to be amused by what is an internet comedy classic, but nonetheless a superb tackle: Sol Campbell on Ivica Olic in the Euro 2008 qualifiers.
Perhaps this is not a particularly difficult challenge to make in the grand scheme of tackles, but it is both brave and clean as a whistle. Most famously, of course, it simply does not stop. Reports are circulating that Campbell is still sliding now.
It's a shame, for England fans at least, that the centre-back couldn't have tackled Olic in similarly emphatic fashion to prevent Croatia scoring their second goal. England capitulated 3-2 and failed to qualify for the European Championship.
9. ASHLEY COLE on Cristiano Ronaldo, 2006
Cristiano Ronaldo has bewitched many an opponent, but he regularly came a cropper against one Ashley Cole.
With this challenge, the Chelsea full-back resists the temptation to slide in with Ronaldo pegged back on the touchline, instead waiting until the perfect moment to swipe the ball from the Portuguese winger. He's also brave enough to do it in the penalty box, in full knowledge he will win the ball cleanly.
He doesn't even concede a corner; in fact, he starts a counter-attack. Useful.
Apologies for Pixel-Vision.
10. RICARDO CARVALHO on Andy Johnson, 2008
Into the more traditional tackles now, and we go back to April 2008. Avram Grant is in charge of Chelsea following the controversial departure of Jose Mourinho in November, and the Israeli is coming under pressure as Chelsea falter in the title race.
The Monday just gone had seen the Blues draw at home to Wigan, and many onlookers didn’t see a tough trip to Everton as the cure.
But a strong performance, led defensively by Ricardo Carvalho and epitomised by his challenge on a rampaging Andy Johnson – who had comfortably outpaced John Terry – saw Grant and Chelsea leave with a 1-0 win and three precious points.
Nice work, Percy.
11. PAOLO MALDINI on Bosko Balaban, 2000
The interception tackle has a certain beauty to it, and given our proclamation of the death of the tackle is due to defenders staying on their feet and reading attacks, it's only right we kick off this list with a master of tackling without going to ground.
No one is better placed to display the interception than Paulo Maldini. The legendary left-back is said to averaged only one challenge every two games throughout his 25-year career, because a great defender – tactically astute and blessed with great timing – simply shouldn't need to tackle.
In this Champions League third qualifying round game against Dinamo Zagreb, the Italian ghosts in to pinch the ball from an unsuspecting Bosko Balaban just before he is about to strike.
Keeping the ball in a tackle is, of course, incredibly useful, as it gives your side a platform to launch a counter-attack. But most entertainingly, when perfectly committed like this it leaves your opponents bewildered.