Your essential guide to YouTube football compilations: Kinkladze, Carlos... Jerome?!

The world of online video montages is vast and varied, but fear not – Adam Hurrey, the man behind @FootballCliches, is here to guide you through it...

Do you know how many Neymar compilations there are on YouTube? Somewhere north of half a million. Type in a search for “top 10 goals” – about as generic as it gets, unless you’re bravely researching the “best football ever” – and it’s nearer two million.

The first result, the one deemed by YouTube to be the most relevant to those strict search parameters, deems the best goal of all time to be Zinedine Zidane’s volley in the 2002 Champions League Final. If you have the energy for it – and 1,685 commenters below the video certainly did – that’s a matter of some contention.

The YouTube football video has long been established as the natural successor to the goals compilation VHS tape – indeed, the BBC’s genre-defining 101 Great Goals is now available online in all its glory.

What once was an occasional treat has become the footballing equivalent of a £3.99 all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet – and it’s time to grab yourself a 12-inch plate and settle down for several helpings...

1. The editor's dilemma

YouTube compilation titles trade heavily on football’s modern holy trinity of GOALS, SKILLS and (surely sexiest of all) ASSISTS

Amid the YouTube jungle and its search algorithms, football’s amateur videographers have to get the very basics right if they want you to choose their compilation over any other. Titles must make bold promises of HD or HQ material to sell their hard editing work to the casual browser, even if copyright holders contrive to make this an increasingly impossible dream.

Compared with wobbly, Saturday afternoon Vines of Jamie Vardy’s latest attempt to release a goalnet from captivity, the expected quality of YouTube videos is rather higher. Viewers also, crucially, want their action boiled down to a thick gravy of the essentials.

Obligingly, YouTube compilation titles trade heavily on football’s modern holy trinity of GOALS, SKILLS and (surely sexiest of all) ASSISTS. Even when there’s no goals and no assists, and the “skill” appears to consist of a gigantic hoof upfield around the three-minute mark, Chelsea star Papy Djilobodji will not be denied.

Still unable to stand out from the search results crowd? The [Player X] ● Welcome To [New Club] title format is a gamble, especially if the uploader’s bravely pre-empting a transfer mooted in the gossip columns, but it’ll pay off if the move goes through. If he stays put, though, all your hard work turns into the unsightly YouTube landfill of “Edinson Cavani ● Welcome to Arsenal ● 2014/2015”.

Most damningly for him, perhaps, is that a search for “Cameron Jerome goals” leads to a polite suggestion from YouTube that you may instead wish to look for “goal”, singular

Depending on the goalscoring prowess of the video’s main protagonist, the compilation may need some editorial padding but one shouldn’t overestimate the patience of the average internet user. One replay of a goal – rising to two, including from another angle, if the goal is spectacular enough – should suffice. 

Beyond that, the viewer may suspect some scraping of the barrel and that Cameron Jerome isn’t quite the goal machine they’d been led to believe. Most damningly for him, perhaps, is that a search for “Cameron Jerome goals” leads to a polite suggestion from YouTube that you may instead wish to look for “goal”, singular. It’s a cruel world.

With more illustrious players, there’s a different problem: does a Diego Maradona lob or Marco van Basten volley exist that everyone hasn’t yet seen? The solution here is to find the most tantalising what-could-have-been moments, although – as Roberto Baggio beats a seventh hapless opponent on his way into the area – you soon realise that this attack has to fizzle out at some point or you’d have seen this clip a thousand times already.

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2. Soundtrack selection

Soon there may be a whole generation of fans who won’t be able to watch archived footage of a Premier League goal without a cataclysmic electro house drop

The footballing footage itself is not the only thing to worry about. There are fears that soon there will be a whole generation of fans who won’t be able to watch archived footage of a Premier League goal without a cataclysmic electro house drop thundering in roughly at the same time as a distinctly SD Alexis Sanchez boot meets pixellated ball from 25 distorted yards.

If there is a debate to be had over which music is best appropriated as the backdrop to continuous goalscoring (it’s “Life of Riley” by the Lightning Seeds – that has been decided for you) then you are perhaps reading the wrong online feature. It’s worth keeping an open mind here, though; the seminal Caked Up Remix of Miley Cyrus’s Wrecking Ball that regurgitates itself all over a first-time Robin van Persie volley is, on the face of it, just as worthwhile as pairing Matt Le Tissier’s languid output with Mozart’s Divertimento in D major (not least when he's struck in the face with the ball while embarrassing six opposition players).

As pleasant as that sounds – or, indeed, the sprightly neoclassical strings that accompany “Johan Cruijff is art” – we still find ourselves no closer to pinning down the right combination of footballer highlight reel and soundtrack. Which, clearly, is where Jorge Campos steps in, starting his own thrilling Best Of by catching a corner in his own six-yard box and running 80 yards upfield with the ball. To the sound of the Backstreet Boys.

3. Confirmation bias

Some YouTube football compilations exist purely to condense and confirm what you already knew, but nevertheless fancied double-checking anyway. Take, for example, the gloriously uncomplicated 409 seconds that is “Roberto Carlos ● Best Goals Ever”, whose no-nonsense title is only slightly pushing it.

Other players’ definitive video biographies demonstrate that you don’t need 15 years’ worth of material to justify wasting several minutes of our precious attention spans. Georgi Kinkladze’s three slaloming seasons at Manchester City fit snugly within 10 minutes, but there’s no slow-motion dawdling or overindulgent reverse-angle replays – just clip after clip of barely-detectable hip-swerves and second-tier 1990s midfielders questioning their entire existence.

In the case of Ade Akinbiyi (whose retrospective plight is only made worse by the booming Russian TV voiceover) we witness a man going from zero to hero and back again in the space of two-and-a-half minutes.

4. Seeing the light

Among the reassuring “he wasn’t bad was he?!” filler, there’s still plenty of room for enlightenment. Some capable players who dipped under the mainstream radar enjoy a retrospective lease of life thanks to their YouTube video packages.

Belgian striker Luc Nilis’s lasting impression on English football was having his right leg unwittingly shattered by Richard Wright in 2000, but his emphatic, hypnotic conveyor belt of finishes reveals two things you may or may not already know: 1) that he was outrageously two-footed and 2) that a spell in the Eredivisie does wonders for a man’s YouTube compilation.

Closer to home, the cryptically titled “Glen Little” – despite managing to leave out his greatest goal of all – reveals that having a 1950s face and 1970s athleticism is apparently no barrier to Glen Little being utterly brilliant in the 2000s.

Being a Burnley legend, however, translates to little more than 35,000 YouTube views. And maybe that’s a good thing.

5. Niche appeal

Goals are a bit boring after a while though, eh? Why watch “Gabriel Batistuta's 20 best goals ever (HQ)” when you can kick back, relax and enjoy over five-and-a-half minutes of overlapping runs (allegedly in high-definition) by former Real Madrid and Coventry City left-back Robert Jarni?

Do you like throw-ins? Do you wish it was still 2008? If the answer to at least one of those questions is “hmm, maybe”, then Rory Delap (feat. MGMT) is the YouTube compilation for you.

6. The dark arts

Clearly, there are some aspects of the game which football's headmaster emeritus Barry Davies would regard as Things You Don't Want To See. But we do want to see them, repeatedly if possible.

If you can’t stomach “Top 10 Horrific Football Injuries (18+)” – which oddly includes the PG-rated sight of Neymar getting a Colombian knee in the back – there is plenty else to enjoy. It takes a while to get going, but the complete collection of Claudio Gentile’s 23 fouls on Diego Maradona in a single 1982 World Cup game becomes rather compelling viewing.

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But that feels leisurely in comparison to this compilation, which put Portugal and Holland’s 2006 Battle of Nuremberg through a cynical sieve to leave just the delicious fouling – and still has over six minutes of material to play with.

For the thinking man’s defensive sensibilities, meanwhile, there’s the thrilling recap of Arrigo Sacchi’s offside trap being unleashed by AC Milan to maximum pan-Continental frustration.

At this point, it seems safe to conclude that there is something for everyone when it comes to the YouTube football compilation. Should you be searching for Neymar nutmegs, Roberto Carlos rockets, or simply that single Cameron Jerome goal, you will find it. In HD. A final tip, though: press mute first.

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