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Ranked! The 15 best hat-tricks of all-time: starring Bale, Berba, Bergkamp and more

Rivaldo hat-trick Valencia

While Geoff Hurst’s perfect hat-trick (header, right foot, left foot) in the 1966 showpiece at Wembley was undoubtedly a stunning achievement – nobody else has scored three in a World Cup final – we’re going to be rating the goals themselves. And even if the third was a belting strike that Hurst nonetheless admits was aimed towards the Wembley car park, his first goal was the result of some abysmal German marking, and the second… well, it wasn’t a goal, was it?

No, we’ve selected football’s technically best hat-tricks. How? By rating the quality of each individual strike and, because importance is still important, measuring the significance of the treble as a whole, from the quality of the opposition to the impact made on that game, season and even career.

NEWS Rivaldo remembers “perfect” Barcelona bicycle kick in all-time great hat-trick

There will be tears. We’ve no room for Cristiano Ronaldo, nor Lionel Messi (Arsenal’s defence was a shambles that day), nor Justin Kluivert. However, we can offer the original Ronaldo, alongside Zlatan, Gazza and Steve Watson. Enjoy...

15. Dimitar Berbatov, Man United 3-2 Liverpool (September 2010)

Goal 1: All right, so we’re not off to a great start. This isn’t a bad header considering Berbatov has to stoop backwards while wrapped in a bear hug, but Fernando Torres lets go when it matters most and Paul Konchesky on the line can’t even handball properly. 1/5

Goal 2: Cynics will say this goal is the only reason Berbatov’s hat-trick makes the cut. Wrong: it’s one of two reasons. The way he traps Nani’s cross, gets his feet in order and unleashes a beautiful bicycle kick is nothing short of perfect. It’s unstoppable – and +1 style point for in-off-the-bar. 5/5

Goal 3: The deciding goal is a deft header following a neat move; it’s not fancy, but he couldn’t place it much better. 2/5

Significance: A late derby winner in a season where United won the title and Berbatov the Golden Boot? It was fairly important, yes. 4/5

Score: 12/20

14. Steve Watson, Everton 4-0 Leeds (September 2003)

Goal 1: You don’t expect right-backs to score hat-tricks in open play, but Watson – on the wing in this match – had once been a striker and it shows in his powerful finish for the opener. 3/5

Goal 2: Hit first time, with three Leeds players between him and the goal: this is harder than it looks. As with Goal 3, there’s also some fine play from James McFadden in the build-up. 4/5

Goal 3: We think the word here is ‘cute’. 3/5

Significance: David Moyes’s Everton didn’t score in the league for six weeks after this and they’d ultimately finish 17th, so every goal mattered. 3/5

Score: 13/20

13. Tam Hanlon, Pollok Juniors 5-1 Neilston (August 2016)

Goal 1: What? We’re an inclusive bunch and Scottish non-league football has a right to representation. Anyway, this is a proper free-kick, sidefooted with tremendous power in the finest tradition of Matt Le Tissier. 4/5

Goal 2: This shot should, should drag low and wide. It doesn’t. 4/5

Goal 3: Following the right-back’s second set-piece beaut of the day, Pollok would later tweet, dryly: “Hanlon fails to score from free-kick, 74’.” 4/5

Significance: With all due respect to the Exsel Sectional League Cup… 1/5

Score: 13/20

12. Ronaldo, Barcelona 3-2 Valencia (October 1996)

Goal 1: Take note of where he receives the ball. Ronaldo had a knack in his youth of making football look stupidly easy in execution and approach. Why complicate things, when you could just run very quickly towards the bit where the round thing goes? 4/5

Goal 2: Just look at him go! 2/5

Goal 3: Barcelona’s pressing is crucial, but again: mark where Ronaldo takes over. He’s almost in the centre circle. Five seconds and five touches later, four defenders are behind him and the ball is in the net. He dribbles with startling pace and precision. 4/5

Significance: While this isn’t the most important hat-trick in our list to be scored by a Brazilian in a 3-2 league win for Barcelona over Valencia (just you wait), it’s a timeless reminder of Ronaldo’s incredible single season in Catalonia. 3/5

Score: 13/20

11. Michael Chopra, Cardiff 3-2 Leicester (January 2007)

Goal 1: This is probably the only non-alphabetical ranking to place Chopra ahead of Ronaldo, and we’re off to a strong start with a stonking free-kick stolen from Cardiff’s set-piece king, Peter Whittingham. 4/5

Goal 2: Running on to Joe Ledley’s pass, Chopra casually lifts a first-time half-volleyed lob over a questionably positioned keeper, just as no striker ever trains to do. 4/5

Goal 3: This inch-perfect strike past three defenders and a goalkeeper who’s recovered his ground would later be described in the BBC’s match report as Chopra “rolling home an easy third”. What game were they watching? 4/5

Significance: Chopra’s triple took Cardiff into the play-offs places briefly, before they wound up 13th. 2/5

Score: 14/20

10. Sinisa Mihajlovic, Lazio 5-2 Sampdoria (December 1998)

Goal 1: The deflection should help Samp’s goalkeeper if anything, but you don’t save those. 3/5

Goal 2: Or those. 4/5

Goal 3: Or those. 4/5

Significance: The rarity of scoring three free-kicks in one game adds meaning, even if Lazio did miss out on the title by a single point (Sampdoria went down by two). 3/5

Score: 14/20

9. Wayne Rooney, Man United 6-2 Fenerbahce (September 2004)

Goal 1: Rooney couldn’t have dreamt a better United debut. The 18-year-old gets off the mark with an emphatic strike, after his clever run is found by a perfect pass from that famous midfield creator… *checks notes*... Ruud van Nistelrooy? That can’t be right. 3/5

Goal 2: FFT can’t decide if we prefer the exquisite dummy or the clinical finish. 4/5

Goal 3: There are five players standing over this free-kick – six if you include Eric Djemba-Djemba. They all get closer than the wandering Rustu Recber does. 3/5

Significance: It doesn’t get much bigger than scoring a Champions League hat-trick on debut and Rooney demanded immediate respect, even waving away Ryan Giggs in order to take his treble-sealing free-kick. And he set up David Bellion for the sixth. 4/5

Score: 14/20

8. Matt Le Tissier, Southampton 4-1 Norwich (February 1990)

Goal 1: Hard though it is to believe he was ever eligible, Le Tissier won PFA Young Player of the Year in 1989/90 when he was a mere 21-year-old in the body of a 41-year-old. At least it was a strong 41-year-old, judging by this effort. 2/5

Goal 2: Nobody else has made great goals look quite so scruffy. Here, Le Tissier glues the ball to his feet, beats poor Ian Culverhouse three times and then, tiring of such japery, lazily dispatches his millimetre-perfect shot while stifling a yawn. Ridiculous. 5/5

Goal 3: There might be something in the fact that Le Tissier’s home of Guernsey is nearer to France than England, because the way he shrugs off a marker is almost Gallic in its insouciance – and then there’s the Cantona-esque chip that kisses the post on its way in, just as his second goal did. Mon Dieu!4/5

Significance: Even if they came in ‘just’ a mid-table First Division clash, these goals made people start to take notice of this unique talent en route to his first 20-goal league season. 3/5

Score: 14/20

7. Paul Gascoigne, Rangers 3-1 Aberdeen (April 1996)

Goal 1: It’s Rangers’ penultimate fixture. Celtic, unbeaten since September, won the previous day to close the gap to one point. And Rangers have just given Aberdeen the lead. Seconds later, Gascoigne grabs the game by the scruff of the neck. Ducking and weaving, he restores parity by treating Dons defenders as if they’re minor inconveniences. 4/5

Goal 2: With 10 minutes remaining, the score’s still 1-1. Then this happens. 5/5

Goal 3: While no penalty can match the quality of those goals, it can seal your first career league title. 1/5

Significance: See above. Also, his timely display of genius stoked the fires ahead of England vs Scotland at Euro ‘96 and raised huge excitement that Gazzamania might return. Two months later, it did – all too briefly. 5/5

Score: 15/20

6. Marco Fabian, Chivas 4-1 Atlas (May 2015)

Goal 1: While we should emphasise that power is nothing without technique, we mainly want to shout “POW!” whenever we see this goal. 4/5

Goal 2: “Dare to equalise, will you? Let’s see what else I’ve got in my locker…” 4/5

Goal 3: “Tell you what: from now on, I’ll shoot only with my left foot.” 4/5

Significance: Fabian’s sublime and varied first-half hat-trick took Chivas into the Mexican league’s semi-finals, although the magic would end there. 3/5

Score: 15/20

5. Gareth Bale, Inter 4-3 Tottenham (October 2010)

Goal 1: One good thing – OK, the only good thing – about being four goals and a man down is that you’ve nothing to lose. A 21-year-old Bale takes that idea, and the ball, and runs with it. Does this count as an assist for Peter Crouch? 5/5

Goal 2: Bale’s interception starts this 90th-minute move, and although he’s a little fortunate to get the ball back after losing it, his near-identical run and finish are devastating. Julio Cesar should do better, mind. 3/5

Goal 3: As with Crouch’s winner to beat Inter’s city rivals in the last 16, this is all about Aaron Lennon’s run. This time, Bale does the honours. 3/5

Significance: Bale’s is the only hat-trick in this countdown to be scored for the losing side, and the comeback was never really on. However, it inspired Spurs to win the home game with another Bale masterclass, and announced a special talent to the world. 4/5

Score: 15/20

4. Dennis Bergkamp, Leicester 3-3 Arsenal (August 1997)

Goal 1: This looks so simple that you wonder why more corners aren’t taken this way. Of course, it isn’t simple: Bergkamp sets himself quickly and puts deceptive pace on his curling strike to whip the ball in off the post. Perfection. 5/5

Goal 2: Variety makes this hat-trick especially pleasing when compared with the nonetheless-astounding efforts by Messrs Bale and Mihajlovic. You can excuse the Dutchman one bit of good fortune. 2/5

Goal 3: The jewel in the crown (yes, it’s better than his goal against Newcastle), this is quintessential Bergkamp: a goal wholly reliant upon the touch of a genius. ‘Perfection’ is again the word – and it should’ve been the winner… 5/5

Significance: Bergkamp’s only Arsenal hat-trick is, apart from Bale’s above, the only treble here not to result in a win. Having regained the lead virtually from kick-off in the 94th minute, following Leicester’s late equaliser, Arsenal conceded again in the 96th. Poor Dennis. 3/5

Score: 15/20

3. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Sweden 4-2 England (November 2012)

(Goals at 0:10, 2:22, 2:51 & 3:26)

Goal 1: Quick thinking, tidy finish, 1-0. 2/5

Goal 2: This chest-and-volley is so well taken that Ibrahimovic apologises to Gary Cahill afterwards. That, or he’s consoling Cahill for having to partner Ryan Shawcross, who comes on after 74 minutes with England leading 2-1, loses Ibrahimovic for this goal three minutes later, then concedes twice more. 4/5

Goals 3 & 4: The Swede’s well-struck shot exposes Joe Hart’s weaknesses at free-kicks years before it was cool, completing a fine hat-trick… and then comes the fourth goal, an overhead kick so flawlessly executed that you almost have to laugh at its preposterousness. 3 + 5 = 8/5

Significance: It was a friendly and England give debuts to six players, three of whom (Shawcross, Carl Jenkinson and goalscorer Steven Caulker) never played again, with another two receiving just one more cap (Leon Osman and Wilfried Zaha… still, Raheem Sterling turned out all right). However, it’s important to remember just how dismissive the English media was of Ibrahimovic even as late as 2012. This shut up rather a lot of people. 2/5

Score: 16/20 (PS the following season, Ibrahimovic scored another foursome against Anderlecht, which wasn’t bad either.)

2. Luis Suarez, Liverpool 5-1 Norwich (December 2013)

Goal 1: The most replayed, no doubt, but Suarez’s opener arguably isn’t the best goal in this batch. It’s a fine strike, all right, but a leaden-footed John Ruddy does his bit. 4/5

Goal 2: The least replayed, no doubt, but Suarez’s second is actually a tidy finish on his weaker foot, given the height of the ball and the speed at which it’s travelling. He does well to keep it down. 2/5

Goals 3 & 4: Untidy as it looks, the Uruguayan keeps the ball under control superbly before and after his neat flick, and – aided by a hesitant Norwich defence – he’s able to find a sweet connection for an unstoppable strike. As for the fourth goal… you don’t save those. 4+4 = 8/5

Significance: This wasn’t the only hat-trick Suarez scored against Norwich, which diminishes its impact, but the goals speak for themselves. Plus, Liverpool had lost to lowly Hull three days earlier and needed to bounce back. Suarez helped them do that, though they’d still fall agonisingly short in May. 3/5

Score: 17/20

1. Rivaldo, Barcelona 3-2 Valencia (June 2001)

(Goals at 0:05, 0:58 and 2:12)

Goal 1: A predictable winner? Perhaps. But everything about Rivaldo’s hat-trick against Valencia on June 17, 2001 beggared belief, right down to a league match being played on June 17 (and Barcelona still had a two-legged Copa del Rey semi-final to come). He opened his account with this stellar set piece. Watch from the angle behind the goal and you’ll see that it’s probably better than every other free-kick we’ve shown so far. 4/5

Goal 2: This one’s deceptive, as the ball ends up almost in the middle of the net. It’s only on second viewing that you notice how Rivaldo turns a defender all the way around with an elaborate dummy, and how his shot is hit with such power and swerve that it wrongfoots himself as well as Santiago Canizares in goal. 4/5

Goal 3: From the sublime to the ridiculous. With three minutes left on the clock and the score 2-2, Rivaldo finds one more magic moment within himself. Taking responsibility yet again, he chests the ball high to give himself time to manoeuvre, then launches into the air and connects sweetly with a bicycle kick that gives Canizares no chance. 5/5

Significance: Context elevates an already great hat-trick into something stupendous. Barcelona’s place in the following season’s Champions League depended on them beating Valencia. Twice Rivaldo gave them the lead; twice Ruben Baraja equalised; yet in the 87th minute, Rivaldo had the final say. Barça reached the Champions League semi-finals the next season, and they wouldn’t even have qualified except for the most dramatic example of one player single-handedly steering his team to victory. 5/5

Score: 18/20

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Huw was on the FourFourTwo staff from 2009 to 2015, ultimately as the magazine's Managing Editor, before becoming a freelancer and moving to Wales. As a writer, editor and tragic statto, he still contributes regularly to FFT in print and online, though as a match-going #WalesAway fan, he left a small chunk of his brain on one of many bus journeys across France in 2016.