Monday 24 January 2022, 11:00

Iconic individual shows at the Club World Cup

  • Seventeen FIFA Club World Cups have taken place

  • We highlight exceptional individual performances from outfield players

  • Kaka, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo feature


Manchester United 1-3 Vasco da Gama Group stage, Brazil 2000 The English titans, fresh from arguably the greatest season in their history, controversially dropped out of the prestigious FA Cup, the oldest existing football competition in the world, to focus on becoming the maiden FIFA Club World Cup champions. In their second outing, United’s dream was ended mercilessly killed by ‘The Animal’ and ‘Shortie’. Edmundo and Romario had gone from being friends to foes – their conflicts were over penalty-taking duties, top-scorer awards, foot-volley wars, women and a ridiculing caricature on the toilet door of a bar the latter owned – to team-mates again, though the jury was well and truly out on whether they’d be competing against one another or coexisting effectively. They were soon answered. Edmundo, always ready to pounce, intercepted a limp Gary Neville back-pass and selflessly nicked the ball sideways to present Romario with a tap-in. After another Neville mistake enabled Romario to make it 2-0, Edmundo scored what remains, surely, the most breathtaking goal in Club World Cup history in front of 75,000 at the Maracana.

“I love that goal. It was a piece of genius that only a few players from each generation would have had the skill to pull off, and only a few players in history would have had the imagination to think of.” Diego Maradona

Mohamed Aboutrika

Al Ahly 2-1 America Third-place play-off, Japan 2006 The Mexican powerhouses were the big favourites for bronze, but they found the pride of Giza unplayable. Aboutrika broke the deadlock with a stunning free-kick, only for Cuauhtemoc Blanco to set up Salvador Cabanas for an equaliser. Aboutrika then cleverly created two chances but when they were wasted, he elected to settle the contest himself, playing a one-two with Flavio and burying a fine, low shot past Guilermo Ochoa.

“We finished last a year ago. Now we’ve finished third. We really wanted to give our tremendous supporters something to be proud of, and I think this is a big achievement because Mexican teams are very strong.” Mohamed Aboutrika

Emad Moteab, Manuel Jose and Mohamed Aboutrika after Al Ahly finished third at Japan 2006


Boca Juniors 2-4 AC Milan Final, Japan 2007 From the moment the action kicked off, the Brazilian began terrorising the Argentinians with his slalom charges from midfield. Despite being heavily patrolled, Kaka cleverly set up two goals and netted another following a trademark dash. Milan became the first Europeans to win the tournament after Manchester United, Real Madrid, Liverpool and Barcelona failed, and their golden boy became a world champion with both national team and club in the same venue: the International Stadium in Yokohama. The following day Kaka finished above Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to win the FIFA World Player of the Year award.

“He always wants the ball. If a match lasted five hours, he’d still be running at the end of it. And when he runs, nobody can get the ball off him. Kaka is a dream to coach.” Carlo Ancelotti

AC Milan celebrate winning Japan 2007

Lionel Messi

Santos 0-4 Barcelona Final, Japan 2011 It was billed as clash between the sport’s best player and the pretender to this throne. Helpless Neymar could only watch on in awe as Lionel Messi delivered a show for the ages. Following a jaw-dropping touch from Xavi, the Argentinian executed a sumptuous dink over goalkeeper Rafael to break the deadlock. Messi did fantastically to stay on his feet and retain possession, before producing a brilliant back-heel in the lead-up to Barça’s third goal, before masterfully competing what remains the biggest victory in a Club World Cup final.

“The best player was Xavi. I thought he was sensational. Him (Messi)? He doesn’t count. Awards should be for human beings.” Dani Alves

Lionel Messi, Neymar and Xavi with their awards at Japan 2011

Cristiano Ronaldo

Real Madrid 4-2 Kashima Antlers (AET) Final, Japan 2016 Los Blancos were behind and struggling to subdue their all-action adversaries until a firm, low Ronaldo penalty sent the thriller to extra-time. There, his employed elusive movement and a fine finish to put Madrid ahead, before an impeccably-taken goal sealed the trophy. The Portuguese remains the only player to score a hat-trick in a Club World Cup final.

“I had won the Champions League, the UEFA Super Cup and the EURO, but they always expect more from Cristiano. This is the perfect end to a spectacular year. I couldn’t have imagined it going so well: scoring three goals in the final, helping Real Madrid win another trophy, and winning these awards. I’d like to thank my team-mates – none of this would be possible without them.” Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo with the adidas Golden Ball at Japan 2016

Gareth Bale

Kashima Antlers 1-3 Real Madrid Semi-finals, UAE 2018 The record 13-time European champions needed someone to fill the astronomical void left by Cristiano Ronaldo’s move to Juventus, and up stepped the Welshman. The Antlers had been on top when Bale played and one-two with Marcelo and finished with unerring accuracy. The Madrid No11 then combined awareness and speed to capitalise upon a defensive mix-up and double the lead, before a magnificent finish saw him complete an 11-minute treble.

“I don’t like to single out individuals, but how can I not? Bale was sensational. He did everything, he tore them apart. The goals, the movement, the performance all over. He did everything.” Santiago Solari

Gareth Bale with the match ball after Real Madrid’s UAE 2018 semi-final