“What’s the longest time a player has had sole possession of the ball before scoring?” asks James Dart. “Roberto Baggio v Napoli is just under 11 seconds, Maradona v England 11 and a bit, with Scott Sinclair v Barnet around the same. Assume that can be bettered?”
Let’s start with Aston Villa and the wondrous dribble and chip from the late, great Dalian Atkinson. Finch emailed in measuring it at 12 seconds from the moment he picks up possession to the time at which the ball crosses the line. Our stopwatch shows the same.
Son Heung-min’s Puskás Award winner against Burnley in 2019 comes up just short at 11 seconds, although Spurs fans might argue he takes possession before his first touch. Lionel Messi did a fine impression of Maradona’s classic in a match against Getafe in 2007. But we timed it at just over 11 seconds, the same as Diego’s. Messi scored another contender against Athletic Bilbao in 2015 – this one clocking in at 12 seconds, on the nose.
A brief diversion: Yaw Yeboah scored a solo goal for Wisła Krakow just a few weeks ago. At a little over 10 seconds, it’s not going to win this but it’s one of the best solo goals in which the player doesn’t actually travel that far but instead engages in a playground tease-style dribble in the box before smashing home.
“How about Jermaine Beckford’s goal for Everton v Chelsea in the last match of the 2010-11 season?” writes Mark Lumby. “He picks up the ball and dinks the ball over Petr Cech 12 seconds later (the ball crosses the line a second or so after that). Hopefully the lame attempt at a challenge by the Chelsea defender doesn’t detract from the ‘sole possession’ criterion.” The Knowledge’s Dubious Solo Goals Panel rules against you unfortunately, Mark.
A few of you emailed in to suggest George Weah for Milan v Verona in 1996, at 14 seconds, but a look back at the goal shows he is tackled and briefly loses possession, spins in search of the ball, before retrieving it and galloping off again. Still decent, mind you.
Finally, step forward Ron Meekings. “Time to put my Palace anorak on again,” he begins. “Andros Townsend scored the same type of goal as Scott Sinclair’s, only more slowly. I don’t have the same patience as many of your readers to do this properly, but it’s around 14 seconds. I don’t think Townsend got the credit he deserved for this goal scored on 4 March 2017 … especially as he won the ball too!” We measure it at just over 15 seconds, Ron – though it feels even longer.
Record scorers at more than one club
“I’ve listened to a few of my more optimistic (or deluded) fellow Manchester United supporters talk about how Cristiano Ronaldo is definitely going to beat Wayne Rooney’s club scoring record. With him already being Real Madrid’s record scorer, it made me wonder are there any players who are the record goalscorer for two or more clubs?” asks Tom Leonard.
There certainly are, Tom. Tom Wendt points out that: “In Major League Soccer, my all-time favourite American player Ante Razov is my Chicago Fire’s record goalscorer with 76 league goals (94 goals in all competitions). He is also the record scorer for the short-lived Chivas USA with 30 goals.”
Meanwhile, Dave Mellinger has a cracking example: “Through 2020 Sam Kerr was the record scorer not just of two clubs but of two top-tier leagues – the W-League in Australia and the NWSL in the US. Michelle Heyman eclipsed her in 2021 in the W-League, though Kerr still holds the NWSL record. She remains top scorer for three clubs in those leagues, Perth Glory in the W-League and Sky Blue FC (now called Gotham FC) and the Chicago Red Stars in the NWSL. The Red Stars’ record is shared with Christen Press.
“Incredibly, she twice won the (single-season) Golden Boot in two leagues in the same year, taking the W-League Golden Boot in 2017-18 and 2018-19 and winning the NWSL Golden Boot in 2017, 2018, and 2019. The leagues play in complementary seasons, typically April-September in the NWSL and November-March in the W-League.”
Even longer gaps between players facing each other
Last week we found a gap between two footballers facing each other for the first and last time of 18 years: Peter Shilton and Pat Jennings. You’ve emailed in with examples that beat that one …
Christopher Sato takes us to a stalwart of Japanese football:
Kazuyoshi Miura (still playing at 54) and centre-back Yuji Nakasawa started their careers at Verdi Kawasaki, but Kazu moved to Kyoto Purple Sanga in 1999. That year he played against his old club Verdi and was marked by his old teammate Nakasawa on 15 May and scored in a 3-0 win. Scroll forward to 2018 and they were opposing captains in the third-round Cup derby match between FC Yokohama and Yokohama Marinos. The match was played on 11 July 2018 and Nakasawa got his revenge over Kazu with a 2-1 victory. I make that 19 years and 57 days between first and last appearance against each other.”
But P Lapper can beat that. “Alec Chamberlain v Dave Beasant! The first clash between these goalkeeping titans took place on 21 February 1984. And the final one, 19 years and 65 days later, on 26 April 2003.”
All roads lead back to Gigi Buffon, though. “Buffon and Francesco Totti faced each other when Parma played Roma in April 1997 and again when Roma took on Juventus in May 2017,” offers Filippo Varanini. “So 20 years, quite a lot more than Walcott and Ellison.”
“I remember in 1986-87, that Tranmere keeper Eric Nixon became the first player to play in all four divisions in the same season,” remembered Nick Davies in August 2004. “Has anyone matched this since?”
It has indeed been done since – by Tony Cottee, who played for Leicester (Premiership), Norwich (First Division), Millwall (Second Division) and Barnet as player-manager (Third Division) in 2000-01, before giving it all up to become a fast-talking pundit.
Can you help?
“Aston Villa have just finished the match with Chelsea with an impressive seven left-footers on the pitch. Is that a record? If not, what is, and has anyone done the full 11?” asks Tom.
“In the last seven years, Norwegian striker Alexander Sørloth has played for eight clubs, all of which are in different countries: Bodø/Glimt in Norway, Groningen (Netherlands), Midtjylland (Denmark), Crystal Palace (England), Gent (Belgium), Trabzonspor (Turkey), RB Leipzig (Germany), and now Real Sociedad in Spain. Can any other player boast a longer streak of new teams and countries in a row?” wonders Kirean Whooley.
“Has a player ever refused to celebrate an international goal?” muses Eddie Eyers.
“What is the most distant derby match played anywhere?” ponders Richard Morris.