While physical endurance and skill are both important, psychology is just as vital in winning football matches. That’s why you’ll often see players using everything at their disposal to get into their opponent’s heads and find that extra edge.
Showboating is just one arrow in the psychological quiver that players can use to frustrate players on the other team, and it’s often highly effective.
Relive 10 of the best showboating moments when players wound up their opponents.
1. Dwight McNeil v Brighton
Everton managed to escape the drop into the Championship on the last game of the 2022/23 season, and their 5-1 victory away at Brighton made a significant contribution to their survival.
English winger Dwight McNeil was excellent in the game, scoring twice and making two more, but it’s Everton’s fourth of the game that involved some showboating excellence.
Having shown terrific composure to turn away from both Jason Steele and the despairing Lewis Dunk, McNeil raised his arms in celebration before he’d even put the ball in the back of the net:
2. Ross Barkley v Bournemouth
Whether he deliberately modelled his celebration on it as a homage or not, McNeil is not the only Everton player to have celebrated scoring before he’d taken the shot.
Indeed, former Toffee Ross Barkley did the same as he scampered clear of the Bournemouth defence and rolled the ball into the gaping net:
This one is certainly a fan favourite moment in Goodison Park history.
3. Roberto Firmino v Arsenal
Like many Brazilians, Roberto Firmino is a player with skills in spades.
Arguably one of his favourite moves is the no-look pass, finding his teammates while facing in an entirely different direction. And on this occasion against Arsenal, he tapped in a no-look goal to pull his side level at Anfield:
Liverpool would go on to win the match 5-1, with “Bobby” completing his hat-trick from the penalty spot in the second half.
4. Cristiano Ronaldo v Arsenal
There are probably plenty of moments in Cristiano Ronaldo’s illustrious career when it’s fair to say he showed a little gamesmanship to give his side an advantage.
But this moment against Arsenal is perhaps the best for showing his raw ability and skill, as well as a little tenacity.
With the game poised at 2-1 and seconds remaining on the clock, the Portuguese legend showcased his flair on the ball. His stepovers in the corner eventually drew a foul from Gunners defender Justin Hoyte, further running down the clock and ensuring that the Red Devils would come away with all three points:
5. Allan Saint-Maximin v Crystal Palace
Newcastle United’s Allan Saint-Maximin is currently one of the most entertaining players to watch in English football. His blend of pace, skill, and close touch and control make him a nightmare to defend against.
This combination causes many defenders to stand off him for fear of his ability to quickly beat his man, which is exactly what Cheikhou Kouyaté did for Crystal Palace when facing the tricky winger.
In turn, Saint-Maximin taunted his opponent with a few quick stepovers for no gain, other than winding up his adversary:
Salsa? Rumba? Samba? 🕺
Newcastle United’s Allan Saint-Maximin has clearly been taking some DANCING lessons 🤩⚽pic.twitter.com/BKef879Wg3
— Sky Sports (@SkySports) April 21, 2022
6. Neymar v Toulouse
Another player with an extensive library of skills and showboats, this moment of brilliance from Neymar is a great example of game management and getting into the opponent’s head.
5-2 up with less than a minute on the clock, there was arguably no need for Brazil’s talisman to do anything other than keep the ball. But instead, Neymar deftly rainbow flicked the ball over Corentin Jean, carefully bringing it down on the other side.
The Toulouse forward dragged Neymar back in frustration, with PSG awarded a free kick in return that would help them see the game out:
7. Eric Cantona v European XI
In 1998, Manchester United organised a testimonial match to raise money for the families of the victims of the 1958 Munich air disaster.
Having shocked everyone by retiring a year earlier, French legend Eric Cantona returned to Old Trafford for the game, warmly received by all in the ground.
However, his opponents may have quickly lost their sense of good will quite quickly because, while this one may have been a friendly, the maestro wasn’t holding back.
Cantona’s fluid movement and unpredictability on the ball allowed him to saunter into the penalty area and round the goalkeeper, before cheekily chipping into the back of an empty net:
8. Antony v Sheriff
Having signed for Manchester United for £82 million last summer, Brazilian winger Antony has shown glimpses of brilliance in his first year in England. One great example of his notable touch and skill came during a Europa League group match against Sheriff.
Alone on the righthand side, the 23-year-old took a pass from Casemiro and produced three incredibly fluid, eye-catching roulettes:
While the silky skills looked impressive in the moment, the winger didn’t cover himself in glory afterwards, whipping a cross beyond all his teammates in the penalty area.
9. Richarlison v Nottingham Forest
One of the true greats for winding up opponents, Tottenham Hotspur’s Richarlison is one of those players that you’ll love if he’s playing for you, and hate if he’s against you.
In Spurs’ trip to the City Ground this season, the striker may well have lost a few friends in Nottingham. 2-0 up with six minutes of normal time to play, he took some time to practise his keepy uppies on the touchline, knocking the ball about much to the frustration of the Forest players and fans.
Richarlison’s antics certainly got into the Forest players’ heads, because the Brazilian forward received a clattering from Brennan Johnson for his troubles:
10. Andrei Kanchelskis v Ayr United
Andrei Kanchelskis was always a joy to watch. A winner of two Premier League titles and two Scottish Premier League titles, the winger was known for his strength and crossing ability, achieving cult-hero status at both Manchester United and Everton during his time in England.
He also had the ability and imagination to showboat to great effect. In Rangers’ Scottish Cup semi-final versus Ayr United in 2000, Kanchelskis inexplicably stood both of his feet on the ball and pretended to take a view of the penalty area while shielding his eyes from the sun.
Unfortunately for United, the Ukrainian-born winger’s cheeky behaviour was very much rewarded – his bursting run down the right side provided the assist for Billy Dodds less than 10 seconds later:
One of the *naughtiest* showboats on a football pitch here from Andrei Kanchelskis back in his @RangersFC days.
The fact it leads to a goal is shows it was totally necessary.pic.twitter.com/Rygm60yaxf
— COPA90 (@Copa90) January 30, 2021
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