5 - Geoff Hurst (England, 1966)

Only one of Hurst’s three famous strikes can be considered spectacular and if we’re being totally honest about it, another probably didn’t even cross the line.

Yet so significant were the trio of goals scored on that sunny July afternoon they have become cultural landmarks, infinitely greater and more meaningful than a footballer besting a goalkeeper in a competitive football match. 

In England, the 20th century was the moon landing, JFK being assassinated, and Hurst bagging a hatty. Everything else was wars and life slowly progressing to whatever shape we’re in today. 

4 - Sinisa Mihajlovic (Lazio, 1998) 

If free-kicks are indeed an art-form then the sensational Serb was Picasso and Monet rolled into one.

Blessed with a left foot that could charm any football on sight, Mihajlovic elevated Serie A for a decade and a half, inventive in his passing and so versatile he played centre-mid, left wing, left-back, centre-back and sweeper during his time in Italy.

But it was his stunning set-pieces that stay brightest in the memory, and in December 1998, against his former club Sampdoria, the now celebrated coach pulled off three right out of the top drawer.  

Each of them had a venom of pace yet also seemed to float beautifully through the air. Each bended to his will. The latter two deserved to be framed. 

3 - Wayne Rooney (Manchester United, 2004) 

As dream debuts go, rifling in two from range in the first-half, before completing a Champions League hat-trick with an exquisite free-kick has to be right up there.

In September 2004, just two weeks after joining United for £25.6m, with all the hype and bluster that came with the move, Rooney announced himself to the Old Trafford faithful. Poor old Fenerbache didn’t know what hit them.

Going into that evening, United supporters were excited about what the future held, having signed a wonderkid. This was an announcement that Wayne Mark Roney was already a ready-made superstar. 

The Reds’ top 4 odds are presently lengthening by the week. What they wouldn’t give for him now. 

2 - Gareth Bale (Tottenham, 2010)

In or out of context, Bale’s late one-man show at the San Siro was little short of extraordinary.

Minus any background colour, here was a young left-back who single-handedly destroyed Inter in their own backyard three times over, making some of the world’s best defenders look decidedly Sunday League into the bargain.

In context, Spurs were four down at half-time having had their keeper sent off just eight minutes into the game. The odds on a draw at that point in the sports betting would have been ginormous. 

Yet in the game’s closing stages, the usually assured, usually formidable hosts were petrified of the opposition full-back receiving the ball again. They were shell-shocked. Broken.

It ended 4-3, but Tottenham were the real winners that night, uncovering a world class talent in a player previously rated as being simply very good. 

1 - Rivaldo (Barcelona, 2001)

It’s likely we will never again see a hat-trick so sublime as what the Brazilian magician served up at Camp Nou against Valencia. Two decades on and it’s still hard to believe it actually happened.

First up, the Ballon d’Or winner curled a majestic free-kick, so pinpoint and poetic a jumping defender in the wall seemingly pulled his head out of the way in due deference. 

Next came a scorching 25-yarder, that began its journey heading for the centre of the goal before bending autonomously into the far corner.

Then, with mere minutes remaining and the contest locked at 2-2, a floated delivery to the edge of Valencia’s box landed on Rivaldo’s chest, bouncing high. In a single action, he enacted a bicycle kick so imperious it still drops the jaw after a hundred viewings. 

This was a magician at the very height of his powers. It left us mortals spellbound.

*Credit for all of the photos in this article belongs to Alamy*

Stephen Tudor is a freelance football writer and sports enthusiast who only knows slightly less about the beautiful game than you do.

A contributor to FourFourTwo and Forbes, he is a Manchester City fan who was taken to Maine Road as a child because his grandad predicted they would one day be good.