1. Espanyol 0-1 Barcelona
La Liga, October 16, 2004
I came on as a substitute for Deco against our local rivals Espanyol back in 2004. I was definitely a little nervous as I was about to come onto the field for my debut. It was a very important moment for me, something I’d desperately wanted for a long time, and I was maybe a bit impatient!
I already had the confidence from working with the coach, Frank Rijkaard, and all of the players. I’d been training with the staff and the team. That helped me to settle into the first team a little easier. It was a very special day for me – it was the dream I had always been hoping would eventually come true, although it feels like such a long time ago now.
2. Barcelona 7-1 Bayer Leverkusen
Champions League, last 16, March 7, 2012
What an incredible night! I’m not sure I could ever rank my goals over one another – I honestly don’t believe that any strike was prettier than the other.
I was just delighted to get five and, more importantly, that the team won so convincingly. I didn’t realise at the time that I was the first player to score five goals in a Champions League game. I just thought we had played very well as a team and was happy about that. Honestly, I prefer it when the team wins – it’s a team game and without the team I couldn’t do anything.
3. Nigeria 0-1 Argentina
Olympics, final, August 23, 2008
I have had a great friendship with Sergio Aguero for a long time. We used to spend lots of time together when we were young, particularly when we were both with the national team, playing FIFA. To be truthful, the trip to Beijing is one of the most beautiful memories in my career.
The Olympics are very important, not only for the opportunity to win a medal for your country, but also the experience of being able to take part in an amazing global event and live in the Olympic village with athletes from so many different sports.
It was incredible – a complete tournament for us. Yes, we won the semi-final 3-0 against Brazil – a great team who were also playing well – but we also overcame the Netherlands and Nigeria. Both were very hard games and we had to be at our best to win. We were very confident that we could claim the gold medal. Look at the team we had and the unity among the players. We thought from the start that we could win in Beijing and we were able to do it.
4. Barcelona 5-1 Sevilla
La Liga, November 22, 2014
It’s an amazing feeling to be the highest ever scorer in La Liga, a league with so many spectacular players in its history and players who have achieved so much. It’s a great accomplishment for me.
I didn’t have any kind of celebration planned for it – and I never think about what will happen after I’ve scored a goal. It’s best that the celebrations all come naturally, like the play on the field.
5. Argentina 2-1 Bosnia & Herzegovina
World Cup, group stage, June 15, 2014
I’d had to wait eight years for my second World Cup goal. We wanted to have a great tournament and started off with a win against Bosnia, and I scored our second goal.
It all happened very quickly. I picked the ball up near the halfway line and tried to burst towards their penalty area. I played a one-two with Gonzalo Higuain and then shot from the edge of the box. Luckily it all came off.
We’d performed brilliantly in qualifying and sealed our place in Brazil with a couple of games to spare, then demonstrated that we were a great team by reaching the final. We didn’t quite manage to win the tournament, but we’d done everything we could.
The World Cup is very important for all of the people in Argentina and it would be a dream to win it with the national team one day.
6. Barcelona 3-0 Bayern Munich
Champions League, semi-final, May 6, 2015
As I approached [Jerome] Boateng, all I was thinking about was just trying to get past him to get close to the goal – no different to any other time, during any other match, that I’ve had the ball and an opponent has been in front of me.
I was really happy to score in such an important game, one that helped to put us through to another Champions League final. But it was only really when the comments started on social media that I realised how well we’d played. I read a lot of the comments and watched the videos.
We had a spectacular coach in Luis Enrique and he helped us to win a very complicated match. We really got in the mood for that game and played at our best level, yet we were all still tranquil and calm.
7. Barcelona 2-0 Albacete
La Liga, May 1, 2005
My first Barça goal! I was still at the stage where I was just enjoying playing at the Camp Nou and being able to play in the first team with fantastic players. I wasn’t really thinking about scoring goals, but I knew if there was a chance for me to score, I wouldn’t be nervous.
Everything happened so fast. Ronaldinho flicked the ball over the defence and I chipped it over the keeper. It was a really nice moment, especially as the players – my new team-mates – came to celebrate it with me.
8. Barcelona 3-3 Real Madrid
La Liga, March 10, 2007
It’s a beautiful feeling to get three goals against Real Madrid – it’s always a fixture everybody in the world watches, and this was the first time I’d achieved it. To score a hat-trick was incredible and it was even more special because it came in a Clasico.
9. Barcelona 5-2 Getafe
Copa del Rey, semi-final, April 18, 2007
When I walk out onto the pitch, I’m not really thinking about the consequences of the match or what might or might not happen – in football, everything should just happen naturally.
For this goal against Getafe, I picked the ball up near the halfway line and found a lot of space between the defenders. When I received possession, I didn’t think of scoring. I just wanted the open spaces to continue appearing as I moved towards the penalty area. I kept finding them as I kept advancing, and I didn’t start thinking I might score until I actually took the shot.
I’ve always measured my goals by the importance of them, not for the beauty. This was a very good goal but I have scored many others that have been more important to my teams.
10. Argentina 6-0 Serbia & Montenegro
World Cup, group stage, June 16, 2006
Although this was my first appearance at a World Cup, I had played in many friendly games with the national team before – so in that sense there was no problem for me. I wasn’t nervous, I was excited to get out on the field and enjoy playing in the World Cup.
It was a beautiful day due to the significance of the occasion – it was the World Cup and it was Argentina’s second match of the tournament. I was on the bench for the first game against Ivory Coast, but came on for the last 15 minutes against Serbia & Montenegro and scored our sixth goal of the game. Beautiful.
11. Juventus 1-3 Barcelona
Champions League, Final, June 6, 2015
Lifting up the Champions League trophy is an incredible feeling – becoming a champion is always a moment of happiness and joy. Yet in those moments, you don’t appreciate the magnitude of what you have just achieved. Even in Berlin, we didn’t realise the significance of what we’d done in winning the Treble.
It’s particularly special because it’s such a difficult task to win against the very best teams. It’s such a tough competition – you can be playing well, but then in one game you are suddenly out of the Champions League.
12. Real Madrid 2-6 Barcelona
La Liga, May 2, 2009
This was a particularly special night, given the way we won in the Bernabeu. I’d played in a new position – the ‘false nine’. It was a plan that Pep Guardiola had come up with especially for this match in order for us to be our most effective.
We’d spoken about it a lot before, so both of us were very satisfied with how it worked. Those big matches can go either way, and I’ve been in games where we’ve conceded four goals to Real and others where we have scored six. It was a fantastic performance from the whole team. I’m not sure whether it was the best, but it’s certainly a match that we will always remember and cherish.
13. Barcelona 2-0 Manchester United
Champions League, final, May 27, 2009
It was hard to imagine that I was going to score with my head with [Rio] Ferdinand standing near me, but I didn’t really have a marker – the ball came into the centre and I was there to meet it.
In the moments that the ball was in the air from Xavi’s cross, I pictured scoring this goal and I thank God it happened. It was such an important goal in every sense: for the team, for the way the final was turning in our favour and for me, too. It’s still one of my favourite goals.
After missing the 2006 final through injury, it was very special for me just to play in this game, let alone score in it. It completed a great season when we won everything.
14. Real Madrid 2-3 Barcelona
La Liga, April 23, 2017
It was a perfect night, one where everything went right, where I got everything that I wanted. I scored two great goals against Real Madrid inside the Bernabeu, with the second coming in the last minute to win us the game. And then you have the fact it was my 500th goal for Barcelona, too!
I couldn’t have asked for anything more. If I had not scored in that moment, we would have said goodbye to the league title there and then. It was a goal that gave us the drive to carry on fighting to try to win the league. We deserved to win this match and it was an emotional moment for all Barcelonistas.
When I saw Jordi Alba get the ball out wide, I knew where I needed to go as it was a movement that we practise. We know each other’s games so well and it wasn’t the first time we had done this. When Jordi gets in the final third of the field, I’ll always look to drop back near the edge of the penalty area, to collect the ball and finish – and that’s exactly what we did here.
Luis Enrique was really complimentary after the game, saying that I was ‘the best player in history’, but I should say it was his arrival that motivated us all to compete again. We were down as a group but when he arrived at the Camp Nou he immediately lifted us to train and play at our best – he gave us all the will to be a great team again.
Interview: Andy Mitten • Photograph: Shamil Tanna
This feature originally appeared in the July 2017 issue of FourFourTwo.
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