All traditions have to start somewhere, and while something like 'Goal of the Year' might seem like an idea that's been around for some time, FIFA's Puskás Award only dates back to 2009. Before then, in those dark days before Buzzfeed invented the list, nobody knew what the best goal of the season for the whole world looked like. All was without form, and void.
But no longer. The truly great thing about this award is its sheer openness. The Ballon d'Or requires a player to be brilliant for an entire season, which is why it tends to go to irritatingly consistent people like Lionel Messi or Ronaldo Cristiano. But to be eligible for the Puskás Award, a footballer need only be brilliant for a few fleeting seconds, which is why past editions have seen such luminaries such as Miroslav Stoch and Hamit Altintop take the prize. This year's crop includes the obvious goals from the obvious places — James Rodriguez at the World Cup, Zlatan Ibrahimovic in Ligue 1 — but also takes in MLS, the Irish Women's National League, and something called "the Premier League". No, us neither.
(It's also the only major international footballing award in which men and women participate equally, which automatically makes it one of the best under the basic principles of human decency.)
According to some words on Wikipedia — citation needed, naturally — a goal can only be considered if it satisfies four criteria: it must be beautiful (though there is much flexibility on what that might mean); it must be important (ie. not scored in training); it must not be the result of luck (no deflections, no opposition mistakes); and the goal should support fair play (which basically means that Luis Suárez is not getting anywhere this thing for some time, however many he puts past Norwich). Obviously, this excludes some of football's most satisfying goals, including the OG off the face and the six-yard box scramble. But such is life.
That's the criteria for the shortlist. The actual award, however, is subject to a series of more bespoke criteria; after all, when comparing greatness with other greatness, when ranking scissor kicks against diving headers, things have to get a little more subjective. So here is how we see this year's edition shaking out. And a quick reminder that while this is, of course, just our opinion, it is also incontrovertibly correct.
10. Zlatan Ibrahimović
By the standards of anybody else on the planet, this is glorious. By the standards of Zlatan Ibrahimovic? Pretty mundane. This is a man who won the 2013 edition with a 40-odd yard overhead flying kick that, just for extra credit, made Joe Hart look silly. What we're saying, basically, is that Zlatan is coasting.
9. Diego Costa
We've no idea how he does it. By any standard you care to mention, this is a brilliant goal: a great feat of physical contortion, an equally impressive leap of imagination, and bonus points for the baffled expression on the keeper's face. Yet because it's Diego Costa, it just doesn't feel that spectacular. Back of neck hair status: pretty chill. Maybe making overhead kicks look like tap-ins is a talent in itself, but it doesn't win you the Puskás Award.
8. Pajtim Kasami
This is more like it. There are few greater pleasures than a spectacular goal scored by a player who few if any of the crowd or wider audience have heard. Pajtim Kasami! Pajtim Kasami! Er, Pajtim Kasami? Bonus points here for the effect this flying volley had on the BBC radio commentary team, who abandoned any pretense of trying to cover the match and spent the next few minutes arguing about whether this strike was better than Marco van Basten. We forget which side Steve Claridge was on, but he got very exercised.
7. Hisato Satō
The second best thing about this goal is that the keeper thinks it's going over. Watch him. You can almost see him thinking Well, what's he done that for? I'll just jog over and NOIT'SDIPPINGQUICKtoolate. Oh dear ... Except, presumably in Japanese. The best thing about this goal is that Hisato Sato's Wikipedia page includes the line "His play style is similar to that of Filippo Inzaghi." That, kids, is why you can't trust the internet.
6. Camilo Sanvezzo
Real talk for a second here: scissor kicks may not be as impressive as overhead kicks, but they are significantly cooler. There's something about the insouciance of them, the way that when perfectly executed they seem almost effortless, as though Camilo Sanvezzo, here, has just jogged up a small curved wall rather than wrenched himself bodily into the air. Still, we have to take points off for the witlessness of the right-back here. Buying a stepover that telegraphed? Dear oh dear.
5. Tim Cahill
Some goals are complicated. Some goals are subtle. Some goals are Tim Cahill blamming the ball as hard as he can. What really makes this goal — apart from the hitting of the underside of the bar, which as we all know is a sign of quality — is that the high, floated ball gives Cahill time enough to announce his intentions to the world, and the world time enough to get nearly all the way through the thought 'don't be silly, Tim, take a tou— oh'.
4. James Rodríguez
This goal, for example, is subtle. At first blush it merely looks beautiful, On the replay you can see that between the touch with his chest and the shot there's a twist to his body, so he goes from being perpendicular to the goal, to front on, in the process of making the shot. Maybe the chest control was slightly too soft and began to die on him; maybe this was always the plan, the better to control the eventual shot. Whatever: the little twist means that he comes down and through the ball rather than across it, which means the arc of the ball goes up and down rather than in and out. Which is, however you slice it, an irritatingly precocious thing to do, and just another piece of evidence that he's a replicant.
3. Stephanie Roche
Even if this wasn't utterly brilliant, we'd still have it nice and high because it looks like it was filmed on a phone, and because Roche's manager nearly falls over from joy, before saving himself with a little jig. But look at the speed, fluidity and confidence of the first two touches: there, then — oops! fooled you! ta-ra! — back over here. She touches the ball three times, and that precise, powerful finish is arguably the least impressive. Two defenders couldn't have stopped it. Well, legally.
2. Robin van Persie
Some goals make you purr, some goals make you shout. This one, at the time, made the entire planet laugh hysterically. It's a diving header and a lob, both at the same time, deliberately. The only reason this isn't the top is because Van Persie and Louis van Gaal made a complete Spain of the high-five.
1. Marco Fabián
Well, that, and the fact that this might be the most perfect goal ever scored. A first touch that would make Dimitar Berbatov raise a delicate eyebrow, a finish that would have Eric Cantona nodding and sipping on his Kronenbourg ... and then a celebration that sits somewhere between the Tardelli and the Ketsbaia. And it hits the underside of the bar and fails to actually reach the back of the net, two incidental aesthetic details that raise the majestic to the sublime, then the sublime to the ridiculous. If there's one certainty in this cruel and unknowable universe, it's that we, all of us, need a little more Liga MX in our lives.