HA! You thought our season review was over, didn’t you?
But there’s one more thing to take a look at this season, and fortunately it’s the one that pretty much universally positive.
That’s right, folks. It’s time for our yearly countdown of the top 15 goals of the season! Juventus were credited with 108 goals over all competitions this year. Two of those were own goals, leaving 106 strikes to sift through. I watched them all, cut them down to short list of almost 40, then whittled that down to the list you’re about to read. This is, admittedly, an incredibly subjective ranking, and I used a variety of factors, including simple aesthetics, the importance of the moment — both to the team and the player — and, frankly, which ones spoke to me more.
So, without further ado, here are the 15 best goals of the 2020-21 season.
15) Cristiano Ronaldo, Serie A Round 21, vs Roma
The first goal on our list came early in Juve’s return leg against Roma, courtesy of Cristiano Ronaldo, and is the first thing you’ll see in the highlight video above.
What impressed me about this goal was the fact that Ronaldo took the shot from a dead stop. There was no forward momentum to help him generate power, he just pulled back — with his weaker foot, no less, although when it comes to Ronaldo weaker vs. stronger foot is still a matter of degrees of excellence — and whack a 20-yard shot across goal and beat the keeper easily.
14) Federico Chiesa, Serie A Round 20, at Sampdoria
The first half of Juve’s away match against Sampdoria might have been the purest example of the kind of football Andrea Pirlo wanted Juventus to play. They absolutely dominated proceedings, and should’ve been up far more than 1-0 by halftime.
The goal they did score, in the 20th minute, looked right out of Pirlo’s thesis. Pressure by Juan Cuadrado forced a turnover in the Sampdoria half near midfield, followed by four one-touch passes that culminated in Alvaro Morata putting a perfectly-placed square pass (that nutmegged the defender, by the way) into the path of Federico Chiesa for a simple finish.
If only more such goals had come as the season progressed, as opposed to the grinding, idealess football that reared its head in games against the likes of Benevento and Torino later on in the season. But unfortunately Juventus rarely produced moves like this again, a huge factor in the team dropping points against opponents they should have been sweeping aside.
13) Federico Chiesa, UCL Round of 16 First Leg, at Porto
This is one of the only games on this list that Juventus didn’t win, but it was an incredibly important goal that gave Juventus a whisper of a chance in the second leg of the tie.
Chiesa had had his coming out party a few weeks earlier — you’ll see that later on in the list — but the two games against Porto only cemented his status as the club’s future and justified the expense that will ultimately go toward his transfer when the complex arrangements are completed.
Juve had created absolutely nothing in the first 80 minutes of the first leg, and had shot themselves in the foot in the opening minutes of each half to concede goals. Juventus were eight minutes and change away from heading home down 2-0 on aggregate when Adrien Rabiot made a rare run behind the Porto defense and pulled the ball across the box. The Frenchman had done well to get the ball all the way across the box, but the finish presented to Chiesa wasn’t easy. The ball was bouncing, and Chiesa had to open up his body in order to strike it with his stronger right foot. But he got himself in the right position and clipped the ball back across the grain, wrong-footing Agustin Marchesin in goal and nestling it into the back of the net to claim a precious away goal.
To watch the goal, skip to the 6:15 mark in the highlight.
12) Alex Sandro, Serie A Round 32, vs Parma
Alex Sandro’s offensive production hasn’t been what it was in his first couple of years at Juve, but he came up huge in a late-season win over rock-bottom Parma, who had gone ahead in this game on a free kick by Gaston Brugman. Sandro responded by picking up his first career brace, and the first one was pretty dang impressive.
The goal came off a corner, with Matthijs de Ligt heading the far-post delivery back across the box just behind the penalty spot. Sandro ran onto it, took a touch to tee himself up, then cracked a powerful half-volley past the keeper to tie the score. He’d tack on the winner just after the break as Juve won the game 3-1.
11) Cristiano Ronaldo, Serie A Round 2, at Roma
I’m not exactly the biggest Ronaldo fan in the world (shocking revelation, I know). But I’m not one who will look a fact in the face and try to deny its existence, and it is an established fact that Ronaldo is one of, if not the greatest header of the ball that has ever played this game.
That quality is only amplified by his ridiculous jumping ability. Not only can he get ridiculously high, his ability to hang in the air at the apex of his jump is truly mind-boggling. This goal wasn’t quite as incredible as his famous leap against Sampdoria a season ago, but it was still very impressive, burying a cross from Danilo to put a 10-man Juve side back on level terms against Roma in the second game of the year.
To see the goal, skip to the 3:14 mark in the highlight.
10) Juan Cuadrado, Serie A Round 37, vs Inter
The biggest players come up in the biggest games, and Cuadrado was one of, if not the biggest player for Juventus this year. He was the impetus in attack all season long, and when Juve came to the most critical game of the season as they sought to claw their way back into the top four, F%$#in’ Juan came up huge.
After the teams traded early goals from the penalty spot (or, in Juve’s case, a rebound from the spot), it looked like the year’s final Derby d’Italia was going to head into the locker room deadlocked at 1-1.
That was when the Colombian popped up for his first goal of the year in a huge spot, running in after Dejan Kulusevski had a cross blocked and hitting a first-time piledriver that took a slight deflection and then flew over the shoulder of Samir Handanovic to give Juve a 2-1 lead. Inter eventually equalized late before Cuadrado won and converted a penalty in an ill-tempered and controversial match that Juve absolutely had to have.
To see the goal, skip to the 1:40 mark in the highlight
9) Cristiano Ronaldo, Coppa Italia Semifinal Leg 1, at Inter
Coming only a few weeks after Inter demolished them 2-0 in league play, Juve came back to the San Siro for the first leg of the Coppa Italia semifinal with a point to prove. Inter got the breakthrough again early before Ronaldo tied the game from the penalty spot.
Less than 10 minutes later, the Portuguese punished an uncharacteristic mistake by Handanovic, who had come out to receive a back pass from Stefan de Vrij only to discover Marco Bastoni also going for the ball. Ronaldo robbed the young center back and had an open goal at his mercy. Despite that, it was actually a deceptively tough shot, as Ronaldo was at an angle outside the box on the left side and moving away from the goal. But Ronaldo got his spin just right — on the reverse angle you can almost see how the spin he put on it kept it in line to nestle just inside the post.
It turned out to be the deciding strike in the entire tie, and Juve booked their ticket to the final after playing out a goalless draw in the second leg.
To see the goal, skip to the 1:53 mark in the highlight.
8) Danilo, Serie A Round 17, vs Sassuolo
Danilo enjoys letting loose from deep on occasion, and since he’s joined Juve he’s managed to crack a couple of long-range screamers into the net.
One such hit was this bottle rocket of a shot that opened the scoring in a 3-1 win over Sassuolo in January. Latching on to a loose ball after Gian Marco Ferrari tried to clear a pass out of the box, he put his laces through it so hard that Giorgos Kyriakopoulos actively got out of the way rather than stay in to block it. It was a wonder the net didn’t break on the back end.
7) Paulo Dybala, Serie A Round 35, at Sassuolo
The 2020-21 season was a rough one for Paulo Dybala. Fresh off being named Serie A MVP, Dybala got a late start to the campaign as he recovered the leg injury he suffered at the end of last season’s restart, then hurt himself again just as he was rounding into form in January and missed two months of action — all while rumors about his contract status and more potential exits cropped up.
He ended up only scoring five times all season, but he finished the season with a couple of strong performances, including this milestone goal against Sassuolo. With the game delicately poised at 2-1, Rabiot sent Kulusevski on a counterattack, and the ginger Swede split the defense with an excellent through ball to set up Dybala in the channel, who put Andrea Consigli on the ground and executed a fantastic chip over the keeper with his (much) weaker right foot to finally claim his 100th goal as a Juventus player — a much-needed highlight in an otherwise lost season.
To see the goal, skip to the 3:01 mark in the highlight.
6) Dejan Kulusevski, Coppa Italia Final, vs Atalanta
Kulusevski had a couple of goals that looked exactly like this one this year, including his very first in a Juventus shirt 13 minutes into the season, but this one makes the list given the occasion.
Atalanta had dominated the first half of the Coppa Italia final before a crunching challenge by Cuadrado and a little head tennis led to Kulu driving forward on the counterattack. Cristian Romero intervened as he attempted to pass to Ronaldo, and the ball was batted around a bit until Weston McKennie was able to tap it out to the right, where Kulusevski had evaded the attention of Marten De Roon. He hit a wicked first-time curler to the far post that nestled into the net to open the scoring. While Atalanta equalized before halftime thanks to Ruslan Malinovskyi, Juve dominated the second half and win their 14th Coppa Italia.
5) Cristiano Ronaldo, Serie A Round 3 (rescheduled), vs Napoli
Sometimes it’s the setup that makes the goal more than the finish. Ronaldo’s opener in Juve’s rescheduled home match against Napoli was a simple stroke home, but the move that Chiesa made to set it up was superlative.
Taking a pass from Danilo on the right side, Chiesa was faced up by two opponents, Lorenzo Insigne and Elseid Hysaj. Evading the tackle of a forward like Insigne wasn’t particularly hard, but then he humiliated the Albanian fullback, turning him one way and then the other, tapping the ball right past his face and blasting past him.
It was a simple task to square the ball to Ronaldo for the finish, but the incredible setup put this goal way up the list.
4) Federico Chiesa, Serie A Round 16, at AC Milan
And then there are the times when the finish and the assist are are on the same level.
Chiesa had been improving as the season progressed, but this January tilt with AC Milan, who at that point hadn’t lost a game since before lockdown, was his coming out party. Both of his goals made the short list for this article, but it was the opener that separated itself because of the excellent assist by Dybala.
The setup was a one-two between the two men, with Chiesa starting by dribbling his way past Theo Hernandez (who he abused all game long) and continuing his run into the box. Dybala’s first touch was very nearly too heavy, but he kept it close enough, reached out to recover it, then back-heeled it into Chiesa’s path in the channel.
Chiesa’s task after that wasn’t exactly simple. The way the pass ran he had to hit it first time or else Gianluigi Donnarumma likely would’ve been able to jump him, and his shooting lane to the far post was narrow. But he hit a powerful drive past Donnarumma’s hand that nestled into the net just behind the post. It was a gorgeous hit from Chiesa, and the assist was indicative of a confident Dybala getting into a serious groove — a groove that unfortunately ended a few weeks later with the knee injury that kept him out for two months.
3) Adrien Rabiot, Serie A Round 26, vs Lazio
This was one of the more out-of-nowhere finishes of the year. Juve had started the game off quite poorly — an unfortunate theme this year — with Lazio bossing the game and taking advantage of a bad mistake to by Kulusevski to take a lead.
But just before the break came Rabiot, whose penchant for the occasional rocket finish came in very handy. It came very much against the run of play, but when Morata put Rabiot into the left side of the box he made no mistakes, ripping a first-time shot from an acute angle over the shoulder of Pepe Reina and into the roof of the net at the near top corner. It was a cracking finish that would only have been a goal if it had been exactly where it had been. It also totally shifted the momentum of the game. In the second half, Juve took complete control, and two goals from Morata saw Juve cruise to an important win.
2) Alvaro Morata, Serie A Round 33, at Fiorentina
Juve’s late-season wobble at the Stadio Artemio Franchi was one of the key catalysts for their late-season struggle to make it into the top four. Fiorentina had come into the game in terrible form, but absolutely dominated the first half and went into the break up 1-0 thanks to a Dusan Vlahovic penalty — and really should have been up by a lot more.
Pirlo got things badly wrong with his starting XI in this game, and he immediately changed things up with a pair of substitutions, one of which was Morata. The change paid immediate dividends. Within seconds of the restart, Morata had received a pass from Cuadrado on the right wing, chopped the ball inside of Lucas Martinez Quarta, turning the Argentine around, and, from just inside the right-hand border of the penalty area, unleashed an acutely angled shot that curved beautiful into the upper far corner. It was an insane shot, with a curve that was going in regardless of the tip it received from the keeper on the way. While losing points in this game was indeed a problem, the point that that goal did preserve proved crucial to Juve’s Champions League qualification.
1) Weston McKennie, UCL Group Stage Round 6, at Barcelona
The season’s top goal came from perhaps one of the more unlikely sources.
The acquisition of Weston McKennie was a low-risk, high-reward move in the vein of the old Beppe Marotta days, and it has to be said that it paid off. While an injury to his hip sapped his effectiveness in the latter half of the season, at his peak around the turn of the calendar year he was easily Juve’s best midfielder, with a skill set no one else on the team possessed that allowed the rest of the unit to do their own jobs better and, ever so briefly, looked to be putting the team on the path to go on a real run.
Thanks to that injury, we’ll never know what could have been, but we’ll always have McKennie’s goal against Barcelona to remember. Juve had gone into the Camp Nou on the last day of the group stage needing a 3-0 win or better to win their group and came up aces, dominating the Catalan giants the way they had been dominated in Turin in October. McKennie’s goal, sandwiched between two Ronaldo penalties, was the game’s exclamation point.
The move started on the left, and McKennie moved a pass from Aaron Ramsey across to Cuadrado, then continued his run to as the Colombian lifted the ball into the box. He jumped into the air and met the cross with a scissor kick so perfect I half expected a prime-era Booker T to time-travel into the pitch and do a Spin-a-Roonie. He was practically parallel to the ground when he hit it. It was an acrobatic punctuation to a high point in a season that never got to the heights we were hoping for.
To see the goal, skip to the 1:59 mark in the highlight.