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

Rivaldo

The Brazil great netted a stunning treble against Valencia in 2001, including a late bicycle kick, to seal Champions League qualification for the Catalans.

“It was a remarkable night,” he told the Independent (opens in new tab).

“It happened 18 years ago but it still seems as though it was yesterday because every day or week somebody talks about that game or asks me about it.

“It is a day that I will never forget. We needed to beat Valencia to qualify for the Champions League and so it became even more special for that reason.

"I had other great matches and scored some important goals — like in the World Cups — but this was a special game. Not only for my overhead kick, but also because of the repercussions it had around the world.

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“I scored other bicycle kicks in my career, but nothing like this. I scored one against Valladolid and another against Manchester United (opens in new tab), which wasn’t a perfect bicycle kick but did go in.

"But this was perfect. It was perfect because it happened almost at the very end of the game, in such an important match for Barcelona (opens in new tab).

“In football you must take a risk, and sometimes things can go wrong. But this is what makes the difference between players. That is what makes it so special.”

His first goal, after just four minutes, was a stunning 30-yard free-kick which flew past a diving Santiago Canizares, clipping the post on its way in.

The second saw Rivaldo leave the Valencia defence in a tangle with his feints before unleashing a long-range bullet.

Ruben Baraja twice equalised for the visitors, though, leaving Barça in need of something miraculous – and that’s just what they got.

With one minute remaining, the Brazilian exquisitely controlled Frank de Boer’s pass on his chest before leaping and firing an inch-perfect bicycle kick into the corner, beyond the reach of the helpless Canizares.

“In the moment that De Boer passed the ball, I was aware that I was a good distance away from the goal, so I knew that when I struck the ball it would have to be very hard,” Rivaldo explained.

“And, as soon as I touched the ball to control it, I knew that the shot was going to be nice and on target.

“I wasn’t yet sure it was going to go in, but I knew that it was good and that Canizares might struggle to stop it.

“I remember having to really focus on controlling the ball properly to set up the bicycle kick.

“You may well plan something in football but it's not always easy to make it real, so thank god that it happened on that occasion. It wasn’t easy as I was stood outside of the box, far away from the goal, so really it was a perfect strike.

“But I could never imagine that I would connect quite that well with the ball. And I could never imagine that I would score such a fantastic goal.”

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Alasdair Mackenzie is a freelance journalist based in Rome, and a FourFourTwo contributor since 2015. When not pulling on the FFT shirt, he can be found at Reuters, The Times and the i. An Italophile since growing up on a diet of Football Italia on Channel 4, he now counts himself among thousands of fans sharing a passion for Ross County and Lazio.