Picking the best of anything is a tough task when it involves a huge sample size. It rings no truer than when attempting to pick out 10 best goals of a whole year. The task is no laughing matter. However, it was a lot of fun.
After going through copious amounts of YouTube clips, we managed to narrow the list down to just 10. As often is the case, we at IBTimes look back at the some of those that didn't make the cut with a sense of guilt, our conscience uneasy, for about five seconds.
For the rest of the day, it was the chosen 10 that had us hooked. The following is the IBTimes' Top 10 Goals of the Year.
10. Giovani Dos Santos - United States 2-4 Mexico (June 2011)
The highly-rated Mexican never quite made the mark after moving to the English side Tottenham Hotspur, but this goal shows exactly why the London side was as excited as a child with a new toy after signing him, back in 2008.
It came in the 76th minute of the CONCACAF Gold Cup Final against the United States. Mexico had the lead at 3-2 but was treading dangerously, preparing themselves for a tense finale. That was until this ex-Barcelona player had his say. Receiving the ball in the box, he found U.S. keeper Tim Howard quickly at his feet, forcing him wide. He held him off and contained the ball but had nowhere to go within a forest of defenders. He looked up, saw Howard scrambling back to the goal and decided to have a pop. He chipped it; delicately striking the ball with all the care you would bestow a Latin beauty. He saw it float towards the target, beyond a defenders' feeble attempt to block it, and drop into goal.
It was, in a word, sublime.
9. Lisandro Lopez - Arsenal de Sarandi 2-0 Olimpo (June 2011)
Not many would have heard of English side Arsenal's Argentine namesake Arsenal de Sarandi. In the same way, not many would know of Argentinian striker Lisandro Lopez's namesake defender plying his trade in the Argentinian Arsenal.
What Lopez did with his strike against Olimpo, in the Primera A league, was to put both himself and his team on the map. Arsenal had won a corner, and as is customary in football, the defenders went up to the opposition box in hope of heading in the decisive goal. However, when Adrian Gonzalo whipped in the corner; it evaded all and fell a bit behind Lopez. Instinctively, the defender stepped away from his marker, turned and lashed it in with a near-perfect overhead kick - a tad difficult even for the most skilful player.
Unsurprisingly, the goal is among the nominees for the Ferenc Puskas Goal of the Year award.
8. Lionel Messi - Real Madrid 0-2 Barcelona (April 2011)
Piling through the many goals scored by a more famous Argentine than Lisandro Lopez (both defender and attacker), it was difficult to pick out just one. After much deliberation, however, we managed to pick out this one.
The goal which eventually took Barcelona through to the final came in the first-leg of the now infamous El Classico semifinals of the Champions League, earlier this year. In what was otherwise a heated, ugly encounter, this goal proved the saving grace. With Madrid a man down, and Barcelona leading just 1-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid still had a chance in the second leg. That was until Lionel Messi launched into one of his trademark runs, right through Madrid's spine. It seemed too easy, we know it wasn't. He collected the ball at the center of the field, held off one defender, skipped passed a second, a third and a fourth, before touching it past a helpless Iker Casillas in an almost teasing manner.
Jose Mourinho's disgusted expression said it all.
7. Cani - Villarreal 4-2 Osasuna (January 2011)
Goals from on or behind the halfway, in any circumstance, are spectacular. Striking the ball on target from 60 yards or more is no mean feat, and yet it's a shot attempted every so often by players who notice the keeper off his line. It has come to such a stage that keepers have to think twice before straying to the edge of their penalty box, even if all the play is at the other end.
All Cani does here, after Osasuna had lost possession at the halfway line, is to look up, notice the keeper off his line and shoot. There was nothing Ricardo could do. The ball traveled at twice the speed he could and since it came three minutes after Osasuna had equalized, it sent Villarreal on their way to a comfortable win.
6. Inigo Martinez - Real Betis 2-3 Real Sociedad (November 2011)
Another goal from the halfway line, another such beauty from the Spanish league. It came in a five-goal cracker between Real Betis and Real Sociedad, and how! With a two goal lead, Sociedad seemed to be heading for a comfortable, much-needed win. Hopes came crashing down though, when Betis staged a comeback to equalize with 10 minutes remaining. Step forward Inigo Martinez.
This 20-year-old lad has a reputation for scoring spectacular goals. He's a center back with an eye for goal and when he is not doing this, can be quite a handful. Against Betis, with minutes to go before full-time, he decided to try his luck from the halfway line. Had he missed it, he could have cost his manager his job, given Sociedad's woeful run. However, with this strike he gave his manager something to cheer about, not to mention a lifeline.
It was truly spectacular.
5. Raul Meireles - Liverpool 3-0 Wolves (January 2011)
The year started off with a bagful of goals for this inked Portuguese. After a less than promising start to his Liverpool career, his fortunes changed with the arrival of Kenny Dalglish at Anfield's helm in January. In fact, the 28-year-old can take a fair amount of credit for setting Liverpool's revival on the way.
Some see an attempted volley as a measure of a player's confidence, for such is the difficulty in executing it. In this case, Meireles not only finds the top corner with a near-perfect strike, he does it from all of 30 yards. It is no wonder Chelsea seized the opportunity to sign him, on transfer deadline day in August, despite his age.
The word quality comes to mind.
4. Jan Schlaudraff - Hannover 96 1-1 Hamburg SV (November 2011)
Often in modern football, you see a rather radical practice during corners wherein it is whipped outside the box for a player waiting to unleash a shot. In most cases, the player tries to trap it first, before going for goal, or even passing it elsewhere. Sensible, I must say. Sometimes, every now and then, players attempt a volley on goal.
When Hannover striker Jan Schlaudraff tried it against Hamburg with his team trailing, it worked out beautifully. Sergio Pinto sliced it toward him, a long look at the flight of the ball, a quick swish of the right foot and a neat connection later, Shlaudraff celebrated a contender for Bundesliga goal of the season. It was an absolute ripper.
3. Wayne Rooney - Manchester United 2-1 Manchester City (February 2011)
And then there are these. This could well be one of the most remembered goals in Premier League era, which owes a bit to the high profile of the player and the match.
It was a Manchester derby. Wayne Rooney was in the middle of a horrible slump in form which coincided with the lowest point of his relation with the Old Trafford faithful. Earlier in the season, he had made an attempt to switch to Man City, United's sworn enemies, in a bid to earn a better deal. Unable to dispense with his most instrumental player, Sir Alex Ferguson was forced to thrash out a record £250,000-per-week deal. Following the drama, his patchy form didn't help matters.
All that changed when Man City visited Old Trafford. Having ambled around for most of the game without making a telling contribution, Rooney went on to make what could be the most telling contribution in his career.
On the 78th minute, Nani sent in a fairly average cross, which flew a bit behind Rooney. Instinctively, he turned, leapt and with his right-foot over him, crashed a shot into the top corner, leaving City keeper Joe Hart stranded and his team on the way to a famous win.
It was something every Man United fan, and every neutral even, would have watched over and over again, for a good reason.
2. Dejan Stankovic - Inter Milan 2-5 Schalke 04 (April 2011)
What makes this goal fascinating is that it just pops from completely out of the blue. It is also one of the great Champions League goals which will be remembered for a long time to come. One more thing. The match was just 25 seconds old when Dejan Stankovic struck this.
He scored what may well be the longest volley in Champions League history, from the center circle. When a long ball was lofted in towards the Schalke penalty box, keeper Manuel Neuer came a long way out of the box to punch it clear. Unfortunately for him, it landed straight towards Stankovic who made a sweet connection with his volley. By the time Neuer got himself off the floor, the ball was in the net.
If a goal could be sumptuous, this would be it.
1. Neymar - Santos 4-5 Flamengo (July 2011)
Before proceeding to the goal, look at the scoreline. It was, to state the obvious, a cracker. Neymar scored two for Santos, while Ronaldinho (remember him?) bagged a hat-trick for Flamengo.
The younger Brazilian's goal signifies what this game was all about. No description can do justice to it. Watch it, over and over again.