Careers in football are short and there are only so many ways to etch your name into the annals of history.
Scoring goals and lifting trophies might get fans to cheer your name, but invent an iconic piece of skill and you’ll never be forgotten.
After Liverpool defender Nat Phillips performed an audacious ‘Cruyff turn’ on the edge of his box against AC Milan in the Champions League on Tuesday, we thought we’d take a look back at some of the game’s greatest tricks and who invented them.
As you might expect, their architects are often some of the sports finest ever players, but not always.
So with that in mind, here are eight footballers who invented iconic skills.
Johan Cruyff – ‘the Cruyff turn’
We’ll start with the aforementioned Cruyff turn, first introduced to the world by Dutch legend Johan Cruyff during Holland’s tie with Sweden during the 1974 World Cup.
Being closely marked by defender Jan Olsson, Cruyff feigned a pass before unexpectedly executing an abrupt 180-degree turn by playing the ball behind his standing leg to completely bamboozle the defender.
It’s a trick that, to this day, seems so simple, but remains one of the most effective and famed pieces of skill in the game.
Which of the skills on this do you think is the best and why? Let us know in the comments section below…
Diego Maradona – ‘the roulette spin’
The roulette spin is often credited to Zinedine Zidane given the Frenchman’s fondness for the move, but it was first performed by the late, great Diego Maradona.
The trick involves running at an opponent before performing a near 360 degree spin. One foot stands on the ball, then half-way through the turn, the other pushes it forward away from the opponent before the player completes the rotation.
When done right, it’s almost impossible to defend against as the player’s spin completely shields the ball from the defender.
Antonin Panenka – ‘the Panenka’
Antonin Panenka’s career wasn’t quite as remarkable as some of the other names on this list, but his name will forever be associated with football thanks to his antics in the final of Euro 1976.
The Czech international scored perhaps the most iconic penalty of all time. At sudden death during the shootout against West Germany, Panenka feigned a routine shot before gently chipping the ball into the centre of the goal to win the tournament.
The trick brilliantly added a brand new dimension to penalty kicks and to this day is considered as audacious a move as it was back then!
Rivelino – ‘the flip-flap’
The flip-flap – otherwise known as the elastico – is most commonly associated with Ronaldinho, but just like Zidane and the roulette spin, the buck-toothed Barca legend merely perfected a trick invented years before.
Credit must go to former Brazil international Rivelino, who first performed the flip-flap during the 1970 World Cup, a tournament the Seleção would go on to win in emphatic style.
The trick is performed by using the outside of the foot to drag the ball one way before immediately wrapping the same foot around and changing direction with the instep.
Cristiano Ronaldo – ‘the Ronaldo chop’
Critics will argue that the Ronaldo chop is nothing more than a watered down version of the Cruyff turn, but the trick is used in slightly different circumstances.
The skill is an effective way of changing direction on the run without telegraphing the move to the defender.
The outside leg ‘chops’ the ball 90 degrees behind the inside leg, allowing the player to dart to one side without breaking stride.
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Lionel Messi – ‘the Messi feint’
To some, the Messi feint will be the least visually impressive trick on this list, though it’s arguably the most devastating.
Messi is an absolute master of subtle movements that completely fool opponents and while the Argentine didn’t ‘invent’ body feints, the weapon they’ve become in his terrifying arsenal makes it impossible to leave out.
Why bother with a step-over or a roulette spin when you can plant a defender on the floor with a drop of the shoulder or the swing of a leg?
Pedro Calomino – ‘the step-over’ and ‘the bicycle kick’
Speaking of the step-over. The trick is one of the most well-known and prolific pieces of skill in the game and its origins date back to the early 1900s.
Argentinian striker Pedro Calomino is said to have performed the trick first, before it was showcased in Europe by Dutch footballer Law Adam.
It involves feigning to move in a particular direction by stepping over the ball to one side. Simple, but effective.
Ronaldo Nazario was arguably the very best in the business at the trick, often throwing three or four step-overs before pushing the ball to the other side past a hoodwinked defender or goalkeeper.
Some also credit Calomino with inventing the bicycle kick, but the claim is widely disputed.
Ricardo Infante – ‘the Rabona’
While it’s difficult to determine precisely who invented the trick, the Rabona was immortalised by Argentine footballer Ricardo Infante in 1948 – who first netted one from 35 yards out for Estudiantes.
It involves striking the ball by wrapping your foot around your standing leg, and when performed well, is one of the most picturesque pieces of skill in the game.
The name derives from “hacerse le rabona”, which in Argentina means to skip school without parent’s permission.
Argentine football magazine El Grafico came up with the name due to the way Infante appeared to ‘skip’ over his trailing leg as he struck the ball.