Puskas Award: Mohamed Salah wins vote for goal of the year, amid anger at Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Riley McGree missing out
Mohamed Salah’s brilliant goal against Everton earned the Liverpool star the Puskas Award for best goal of 2017/18. (Reuters / Action Images: Lee Smith)
When it comes to judging the best football goals of the season, it’s never hard to find people willing to argue with the decision — but this year’s winner has caused more controversy than most.
Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah — who had an incredible season, took out the Puskas Award at FIFA’s The Best awards in London, but his win in the public vote was met with a storm of protest online.
The star, known by Reds fans as “the Egyptian King”, missed out on the big gong of the night, coming third behind Luka Modric for the Best FIFA Men’s Player of 2018.
His goal, scored at Anfield against Merseyside rivals Everton last December, saw Salah receive the ball on the right, before holding off one Everton defender, beating another and then curling a wicked shot around a third player into the far top corner past the despairing dive of keeper Jordan Pickford.
The popular vote favoured Salah over nine other contenders, including Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, and Australian midfielder Riley McGree.
The 19-year-old McGree scored a spectacular volley for the Newcastle Jets against A-League rivals Melbourne City but missed out on the coveted prize.
McGree — who was on loan from Club Brugge — scored a stupendous effort to equalise for his team in the A-League semi-finals, as the league’s fairy-tale team turned things around to progress with a 2-1 victory.
The scorpion-kick goal — recently made famous by the likes of Olivier Giroud and Henrikh Mkhitaryan in the English Premier League — involves a player clipping the ball with an outstretched leg from behind their body, with the leg making the shape of a scorpion’s tail.
Giroud won the Puskas Award last year for his finish for Arsenal against Crystal Palace in January, 2017.
But McGree didn’t get as much love from voters.
The Real Madrid duo of Ronaldo and Bale were strongly tipped for success ahead of the awards, but neither had the numbers to beat Salah.
Ronaldo’s overhead kick against Juventus in the Champions League quarter-final was so perfectly executed, he received a standing ovation from opposition fans in Turin.
The passage of play started with an attack from Real, as a fierce shot was parried by Juventus keeper Gianluigi Buffon.
The ball came back in with a cross from the right, and Ronaldo — with his back to goal — launched himself skywards to steer the ball perfectly past an unmoving Buffon.
In terms of importance, none could match Bale’s effort, which came in Real’s Champions League final against Liverpool.
Bale came off the bench as a substitute, and with the score level at 1-1, the Welshman was on the end of a perfect cross, which he met with a stunning overhead kick that flew past Loris Karius into the top corner of the Liverpool net.
The goal put Real Madrid on the way to their 13th Champions League title.
Arguments swiftly broke out online over the merits of the winning goal, with most agreed that Salah was not the worthiest recipient.
Some favoured Bale because of the context of his strike, others felt Ronaldo’s goal was deserving because of its pure timing.
There was also plenty of support for McGree’s scorpion strike.
Joshua Windass tweet: And the #PuskasAward can’t be taken seriously again. Balen and Ronaldo? The only contenders surely…
The United Girl tweet: Could someone please explain to me how Bale’s OVERHEAD KICK IN A CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINAL did not win goal of the year? #puskasaward
Josh Daniels tweet: Trying to work out how Mo Salah won #puskasaward over Bale and Ronaldo’s goals in the champs league
Amos_Rsk tweet: One of the weirdest awards I have ever seen @Cristiano deserved to win the #puskasaward #TheBest
Radio Cascadia tweet: So we all know @McGreeRiley is the real #PuskasAward winner no matter what FIFA decided, right?