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Ranked! The 5 best Champions League volleys of all time

Zinedine Zidane Bayer Leverkusen 2002

5. Jean-Pierre Papin, Porto vs MILAN, 1992/93

Porto had shown no mercy en route to the inaugural Champions League group phase, having marched through qualifying with a 9-1 aggregate battering of Union Luxembourg and 6-2 stuffing of Swiss side Sion.

But the might of Milan proved a different proposition entirely. A pair of single-goal defeats was no disgrace, with £10 million world record signing Jean-Pierre Papin hitting a howitzer in Portugal. The Rossoneri won all six group games on their path to the final, where they were beaten by Marseille, Basile Boli & Co.

4. Arjen Robben, Man United vs BAYERN, 2009/10

Trailing 2-1 from the quarter-final first leg in Munich, the Red Devils seemed set for a semi-final spot as Darron Gibson and Nani (2) fired United into a 3-0 lead. But Ivica Olic’s effort shortly before the break got nerves jangling, and right-back Rafael's second yellow card five minutes after it had home fans panicking.

Sixteen minutes remained when Robben waited for a Franck Ribery corner to drop perfectly onto his left peg, larruping home to send the “typical Germans” - as Sir Alex Ferguson labelled them - through to the final four. Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan would eventually get the better of them in the Madrid showpiece.

3. Michael Essien, CHELSEA vs Barcelona, 2008/09

Unfortunately for Chelsea's Ghanaian midfielder, this game is synonymous only with two people: referee Tom Ovrebo, and Didier Drogba – and neither of them came out of it well. Drogba's infamous "f***ing disgrace" fuming came at the end of a semi-final second leg in which the Blues had been dumped out on away goals thanks to Andres Iniesta's 93rd-minute winner, having seen a string of legitimate penalty calls turned down. 

Nine minutes in, though,  things looked much rosier when Essien walloped in this missile from 25 yards after Frank Lampard's attempted curler had cannoned back off Yaya Toure's backside. 

But it wasn't to be for the Blues. Drogba was slapped with a three-game ban, Jose Bosignwa got two, and really there could have been more dished out. Ovrebo got death threats for his troubles and stopped refereeing in 2010 after being snubbed for the World Cup. 

2. Claudio Lopez, PSV vs VALENCIA, 1999/00

“Kily Gonzalez was the first team-mate to come over to me, and he bowed down to show it had not been an ordinary goal,” Lopez told FFT in 2012 (opens in new tab).

Indeed it hadn't. The Argentine watched Amadeo Carboni’s long free-kick drop over his shoulder before looping the ball first time beyond PSV Eindhoven custodian Ronald Waterreus.

Lopez’s fourth-minute sensation was later cancelled out by a Ruud van Nistelrooy penalty, but Los Che went on to reach the final, beaten 3-0 by Real Madrid in Paris.

1. Zinedine Zidane, Bayer Leverkusen vs REAL MADRID, 2000/01

They say scoring just before half-time is the best time – but what about when it's this goal in a Champions League final to put your side into the lead? More than that, ultimately win them the game? Well, now. 

Frankly, Robert Carlos did Zizou no favours with a looping cross that eventually dropped from hyperspace – but it didn't matter to the Frenchman, who adjusted his body to swivel home a glorious left-footed volley beyond Hans-Jorg Butt. 

"It never happened again," Zidane later recalled. "Never. I tried in training, but it never happened. It was perfect, the day it happened."

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Gregg Davies is the Chief Sub Editor of FourFourTwo magazine, joining the team in January 2008 and spending seven years working on the website. He supports non-league behemoths Hereford and commentates on Bulls matches for Radio Hereford FC. His passions include chocolate hobnobs and attempting to shoehorn Ronnie Radford into any office conversation.