Hitting the back of the net three times in one game and taking home the match ball – scoring a hat-trick is a special moment for any player. Recently Cristiano Ronaldo drew level with Lionel Messi with his seventh Champion’s league hat-trick. A remarkable achievement, both players thrive on walking off the pitch with the match ball and their records are historic, but are they the best hat-tricks ever seen? There have been some pretty extraordinary three-goal feats in football history, both record breaking and stunning, others relevant to the occasion of the match. The five below have to be considered the best ever scored.
5 – Eric Cantona – Hat-trick hero – Leeds v Tottenham 1992
This hat-trick by Eric Cantona, then playing for Leeds United, has to be in the top five due to its significance to all fans of the English game. The Frenchman was the first player to score a Premier League hat-trick. With the new league starting on the 15th August 1992, it was only a few weeks old when Cantona grabbed this top-flight football record. Taking the first goal superbly from a headed knock down, the other two goals came from excellent crosses which Cantona turned into the back of the net with his head then his right foot. This hat-trick was completed in a 5-0 win for Leeds setting one of the first pieces of Premier League history.
4 – Rivaldo – Hat-trick hero – Barcelona v Valencia 2001
The match ball certainly belonged to Rivaldo in this match, not only for the hat-trick, but for one of the best solo efforts of all time. To save their faltering season, Barcelona desperately needed a win to secure Champion’s league football the following term, in stepped their unstoppable front man with two spectacular shots and in the dying moments of the game he scored with an overhead kick. While others flagged, Rivaldo was sensational and put in a one-player performance that not only earnt him a place in the all-time greatest hat-tricks list, but won the game and rescued Barcelona’s season.
3 – Wayne Rooney – Hat-trick hero – Manchester United v Fenerbahce 2004
Eyebrows were raised when £25.6 million was paid to Everton for a 19-year-old player by Manchester United in the summer of 2004. However, his debut in the Champion’s league against Fenerbahce couldn’t have gone better and showed the world Rooney was a wonder-kid who was worth every penny of his massive price tag. Netting two sublime strikes, the teenager then scored from a free-kick from just outside the penalty box to complete an incredible debut hat-trick. He also added an assist to his special night, Rooney’s first match for United went down in footballing history.
2 – Jose Luis Chilavert – Hat-trick hero – Velez Sarsfield v Ferro Carril 1999
Jose Luis Chilavert was an incredibly unique goalkeeper. Not only was he a great shot-stopper but he was also a fantastic free-kick specialist and penalty taker, the latter setting a one-off amazing record. Believe it or not, this man who spends most of the match between the sticks, bagged himself the match ball when he netted three goals from the penalty spot for his Argentine club – the only goalkeeper to do so in football history. A phenomenal record for a goalkeeper but this Paraguayan is no ordinary shot stopper. Not only does he hold this three-goal stat, he has also scored eight goals for his national side – a record for a goalie, he scored the winning penalty in the 2001 Coupe de France final and has even netted from the half-way line with a free-kick! Not only a hat-trick hero, but an astounding footballer all round.
This hat-trick must go down as the greatest of all time for two outstanding and record-setting reasons. Not only is it the only hat-trick to be scored in a World Cup final to date, but it symbolises the national team’s greatest day ever – England winning the World Cup. This hat-trick is over 50 years old but is still talked about to this day, ‘they think it’s all over,’ well it was when Geoff Hurst netted three goals in a 4-2 win over one of England’s most bitter rivals and were crowed champions of the world. Hurst’s first goal of his hat-trick was a well taken header from a great cross, however, it was the second that was debated as to whether it crossed the line. A turn and shot towards the goal was given as it hit the line and rebounded out, should it have stood? Quite frankly any England fan would say who cares! It was given and the rest is history. Goal or not, Hurst’s last strike was a beauty and made up for the controversial second. Dribbling into the penalty box, he fired an unstoppable shot into the top corner of the net to become a hat-trick hero record holder and a World Cup winner.
There could only be one winner but you would have to agree all five hat-tricks are special in their own right and they all have created football history. A teenage sensation, an exceptional goal scoring ‘keeper and England’s World Cup wonder, this list of three-goal greats has got it all. These match ball winners are all very special and can all consider themselves hat-trick heroes.