On This Day: Rivaldo Scored Football’s Greatest Ever Hat-Trick
Lionel Messi has grabbed every Barcelona record going - but when it comes to Camp Nou hat-tricks, even Leo hasn't scored one as incredible as Rivaldo's
That's because no footballer ever has. The Brazilian's brilliant, match-winning hat-trick on the last day of the season is so unbelievable, if you put it in a Goal! film, we'd tear the script up.
With Barca and Valencia going head-to-head for a Champions League spot and the game at 2-2 with just a minute left, Rivaldo produced the greatest goal of his career. A flying bicycle kick - from outside the box - to give his side the win.
"It wasn't easy... as I was far away from the goal, so really it was a perfect strike," Rivaldo told The Independent, years later. "But I could never imagine that I would connect quite that well with the ball. And I could never imagine that I would score such a fantastic goal."
But that miracle strike was only the final act in an amazing game. The football gods had decided that Barcelona and Valencia - the last two sides able to grab fourth and qualify for the Champions League - should meet on the final day of the 2000/01 Liga season.
Only a win would do for Barcelona and Rivaldo set them on their way. His stunning, 30-yard free-kick was struck with so much whip and superhuman power that we're surprised the inside of the post didn't crack as the ball hit it and went in.
Valencia equalised and Rivaldo did what we'd do (in our football dreams) and conjured another magical goal. This time, he jinked and feinted past poor Kily Gonzalez, then unleashed an awkward shot from distance, which skimmed past goalkeeper Santiago Canizares.
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Again Valencia equalised - and this time the game looked over. But Rivaldo was saving his best miracle for last.
Frank de Boer lofted a hopeful ball forward. With absolutely nothing on, Barca's No 10 delivered two perfect touches. He chested the ball into the air on the edge of the box, then seamlessly swung his left boot and fired the ball right into an unsaveable spot in the corner.
"In the moment that De Boer passed the ball, I was aware that I was a good distance away from the goal, so I knew that when I struck the ball it would have to be very hard," Rivaldo told The Independent. "And, as soon as I touched the ball to control it, I knew that the shot was going to be nice and on target.
'Nice' may be the understatement of the millennium. The Camp Nou erupted as Rivaldo peeled off his Barcelona shirt, probably expecting a Superman 'S' to be underneath.
Somehow, in a must-win game, Barca's best player had scored three different - but spectacular goals - to deliver a 3-2 win. Oh and the last one came in the final minutes of the match.
For all the miracles Messi - as well as Rivaldo's Brazil teammates Ronaldo and Ronaldinho - have performed at this club, surely no player has ever scored a hat-trick this special.
Imagery: PA Images