Goals take all the glory in football but assists are just as important as well. Everyone loves to talk about the best goals they’ve seen, and writers always come up with a Top 10 Goals of the Season list at the end of every year. I’m choosing to move differently, however, and show love to the best assists I’ve ever seen in my lifetime. These silky passes, nifty moves, and clever plays deserve some recognition. Here are the best ten assists that I’ve had the pleasure to witness.
10. Pirlo to Grosso
The 2006 World Cup Semifinal match between eventual champions Italy and hosts Germany was a game for the ages. Nothing could separate the two European heavyweights until Italy won a corner in the dying minutes. A poorly headed clearance by Germany fell right into the path of Andrea Pirlo. The then-AC Milan man played a delicate ball in-between two German midfielders for Fabio Grosso to smash the ball first-time into the back of the net. The goal deflated the Germans, who fought so hard for over 115 minutes. Alessandro Del Piero sealed a famous victory minutes later in stoppage time of extra-time, but it was Pirlo’s brilliance that provided the breakthrough.
9. Frank de Boer to Bergkamp
We know just how good Dennis Bergkamp’s goal vs Argentina was, just ask Dutch commentator Jack van Gelder. What gets forgotten however is Frank De Boer’s accurate long ball from deep inside his half. Make no mistake, Bergkamp did the dirty work and rightly deserves the credit but De Boer’s pass deserves its glory. It certainly didn’t meet Bergkamp’s expectations, but it landed perfectly for him to produce one of the most iconic plays in World Cup history.
8. Ozil to Ronaldo
Mesut Ozil is synonymous with assists. Ozil and Cristiano Ronaldo shared great chemistry at Real Madrid, including this spectacular pass by the German in Madrid’s title-winning 2011-2012 season. During a pivotal, season-deciding game against fierce rivals FC Barcelona, Madrid needed to win at the Camp Nou to tilt the title hopes in their favor. Ozil’s pass to Ronaldo decided the match, as Madrid left Barcelona with more than three points in the bag. The play won Real Madrid the game and the La Liga title.
7. Rooney to RvP
Robin van Persie won the Premier League title for Manchester United in 2013, scoring some remarkable on the way, including THAT goal against Aston Villa. A superb, lofted ball by Wayne Rooney found the Dutchman from just inside the center circle. RvP’s strike came off his shin and boot, with Brad Guzan looking helplessly at his goal. What made Rooney’s pass special was how it matched Van Persie’s run with pin-point accuracy. A pass and a goal fit to win any match.
6. Di Maria to Ronaldo
Angel Di Maria is a special player capable of deciding any match on his own. The Argentine has made Carlos Puyol do the splits, embarrass Kasper Schmeichel with a lofted chip, and decided the 2014 Champions League Final. Known for his nifty footwork, Di Maria’s rabona assist to Cristiano Ronaldo against Copenhagen in 2014 was the stuff of dreams. Just when you think he’s run out of space, the Argentine pulls a trick from his magic hat to deliver a delightful ball for Ronaldo to head home. Exquisite.
5. Giroud to Wilshere
Even though Jack Wilshere’s career has been ruined by injury, he will point to this play as his magnum opus. The play started with Santi Cazorla playing the ball to Wilshere. Wilshere then played the ball back to Cazorla, before the Spaniard passed it to Olivier Giroud. The Frenchman then played a one-two with the ongoing Wilshere, including a delightful flick past the Norwich defense, for Wilshere to tap home with his right foot. The play happened synchronously, as the three passed the ball all in one motion. Tiki Taka a la Arsenal.
4. Beckham to Ronaldo
David Beckham’s passing ability is undeniable. His range, mixed with his curve is unlike any other. A magician on the ball, Becks has embarrassed goalkeepers from inside his half and took England to the 2002 World Cup finals with one kick of the ball. My favorite play of his, however, is his outrageous pass to the great Ronaldo during their Real Madrid days. Beckham bent the ball like a banana before the Brazilian booted it into the back of the net. A magnificent masterpiece.
3. Jorginho to Abraham
Much was said about Jorginho’s lack of assists for Chelsea before this season but don’t get it twisted, the Italian is a wonderful passer of the ball. This no-look through ball unlocked Watford’s defense with ease, giving Tammy Abraham an easy finish over Ben Foster. In soccer, you’re taught to know your next pass before receiving the ball, and this play is a great example of Jorginho’s ability. With a proven finisher like Abraham in Chelsea’s ranks, expect Jorginho’s assist tally to increase in the coming seasons. Simply put, Jorginho is a passing genius.
2. Kaka to Crespo
It’s easy to forget that before Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi’s dominance, Kaka was the last player to win the Ballon d’Or in 2007. Two years earlier, he was the mastermind behind one of the best passes in the history of the sport of soccer. His through ball against Liverpool in the 2005 UEFA Champions League Final was equally complimented by Hernan Crespo’s dink over Jerzy Dudek, although many believe the pass was better than the finish. This was light work for a man that’s won the World Cup, UEFA Champions League, Copa Libertadores, Copa America, and a Serie A on top of his Ballon d’Or. A man of many talents.
1. Guti to Benzema
This was the most unselfish, unexpected, unbelievable play ever. Guti had eyes on the back of his head when he assisted Karim Benzema away to Deportivo La Coruna during the 2009/2010 season. I still can’t believe how he pulled that off to this day. The way he managed to disguise that pass, let alone not go for a shot was filth of the highest order. Guti was heavily underrated in his Real Madrid days. Although he shared a locker room with the likes of Raul, Zidane, Ronaldo, and Roberto Carlos, Guti was Madrid’s hidden gem.
So that was my Top 10 Best Assists list. Let me know what your favorites were, and which ones you thought I might’ve missed.