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Ranking the 10 greatest individual performances in football history

Players who step up to produce iconic performances earn a special place in football history.
Players who step up to produce iconic performances earn a special place in football history.
ANALYST

Football is an intense team sport that pits two groups of 11 players against each other and leaves them to fight for pride, prestige and honor. With both sides sharing a common goal of earning the bragging rights, they deploy their very best footballers on every area of the pitch. These players work together as a team, giving their all to ensure that victory is achieved.

There's a popular saying that there's no 'I' in teamwork. This is very true in a sport such as football, which places emphasis on the group's collective output rather than individual brilliance. To win a match, every member of the team must be at their best, as the slightest weakness from any angle could end up spoiling the party.

That said, there are situations where football teams need an almost magical intervention from an individual player in order to triumph. Over the years, this has presented massive opportunities for a number of legendary footballers. They've stepped up to create immortal memories with their iconic performances.

With that in mind, here's a look at 10 of the greatest individual performances in football history:

#10 Xavi Hernandez vs. Real Madrid (2009)

Xavi bagged a quartet of assists on that night
Xavi bagged a quartet of assists on that night

Xavi Hernandez staged one of the most beautiful performances in El Clasico history when Barcelona traveled to Real Madrid for a La Liga clash on May 2, 2009. Despite the level of intensity that always accompanies this fixture, the Spaniard made it look very easy for his side.

He was in beast mode at the Santiago Bernabeu, tormenting Los Blancos with his astute passing, ball retention, vision and creativity. The thrilling encounter ended with Barcelona recording one of their biggest victories. The scoreline read 6-2, with Xavi setting up four of those goals.

#9 Gareth Bale vs. Inter Milan (2010)

The match that made Gareth Bale.
The match that made Gareth Bale.

Gareth Bale was still at Tottenham Hotspur when they went up against Inter Milan in a vital Champions League clash during the 2009-2010 campaign.

Spurs found themselves in a pathetic situation at the San Siro, going 4-0 down and having one of their players sent off after just 35 minutes. When everyone thought all hope was lost, Bale had other ideas. The Welshman stepped up and bagged a hat-trick in the second half. Though it wasn't enough to secure victory, the match will be remembered as the one which announced Bale to the world.

#7 Lionel Messi vs. Arsenal (2010)

Messi is no stranger when it comes to destroying Arsenal.
Messi is no stranger when it comes to destroying Arsenal.

After drawing the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal clash with Arsenal in 2010, Barcelona approached the return leg under a lot of pressure. Initially, the situation looked bleak for Blaugrana as the Gunners drew first blood through a Nicklas Bendtner strike. But a man named Lionel Messi would later intervene and single-handedly turn the tie on its head.

The Argentine proved too much for the visitors to handle, with his unbelievable talent on display every time he kicked the ball. Messi finished the game with a whopping four goals to his name. His efforts helped Barca edge past the Gunners to seal their passage into the semifinals for a second consecutive year.

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Edited by Sandeep Banerjee
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