What are the greatest penalties in football history? We all have our own favourites, usually involving the teams we support, so even whittling down the best ever spot-kicks to a final shortlist of 20 was an incredibly difficult task.

But after Harry Wilson’s superb penalty for Fulham against Tottenham in the Carabao Cup, we thought it was about time we ranked our favourite efforts from over the years. We’ve dedicated individual articles to most of these weird and wonderful penalties in the past; now it’s time to rank them in order.

20 Harry Wilson (Fulham vs Tottenham - Carabao Cup, 2023)

Harry Wilson scores early contender for best penalty of 2023-24 for Fulham vs Tottenham

Recency bias perhaps, but hey… this is nevertheless a genuinely outstanding penalty which deserves to kick off the list. Some football fans even described it as the best penalty they’ve ever seen, it was that good.

However, we’ve trawled through the archives and found 19 other penalties we believe are even better. Yep, the standard really is that high.

19 Xabi Alonso (Spain vs Argentina - 2009)

An absolute beauty of a top-corner penalty, Spain’s friendly against Argentina at the Vicente Calderon in 2009 produced this magnificent spot-kick from the cool-as-a-cucumber Xabi Alonso. No goalkeeper in the world was getting close to saving it.

Alonso, who now manages Bayer Leverkusen, is best remembered for his spells with Liverpool, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. However, this penalty for Spain was surely the best of his illustrious career.

18 Charles Aranguiz (Chile vs Brazil - 2014 World Cup)

While this may have ultimately been a pretty meaningless penalty due to the fact Brazil won the shootout, take nothing away from the sheer quality of the strike from Chile’s Charles Aranguiz. Faced up against Julio Cesar and a mountain of Brazil fans behind him, Aranguiz held his nerve and blasted the ball towards goal.

The sound of the ball hitting the net against the backdrop of whistling Brazil supporters is pure theatre. It’s just a huge shame for Aranguiz that he found himself on the losing team that day because he'll never be able to fully enjoy looking back at it.

17 Ashad Ali (Maldives vs Afghanistan - 2014)

Did he mean it? That’s the question we’re all still wondering almost a decade later. Ashad Ali fell on his face during his run-up, before getting back up and scoring his penalty.

The fall appears almost too theatrical to be real. He then looks at the referee before slotting the ball past Afghanistan’s baffled goalkeeper. You have to admit: if he meant it, it’s genius.

16 Oscar Cardozo (Libertad vs Cerro Porteño - 2023)

One of the most powerful penalties ever scored, 39-year-old Oscar Cardozo almost put the Cerro Porteño goalkeeper through the net with a blistering left-footed strike. The ‘keeper had no time to react as the ball flew past him down the middle of the goal.

Not only was this one of the most emphatic penalties of all time, it was also Cardozo’s fourth goal of the night. It’s true what they say: class is permanent. (Skip to 4:18 in the above video to watch Cardozo's rocket).

15 Paul Scholes (Man Utd vs Arsenal - 2003 Community Shield)

Very few players have been capable of hitting a football as cleanly as Paul Scholes, the Manchester United legend who spent his entire career at Old Trafford. The Englishman is responsible for some of the greatest goals of the Premier League era, including his wonder strikes against Bradford City and Aston Villa.

Back in 2003, when Scholes was arguably at the peak of his powers, Man Utd’s legendary No. 18 made Arsenal goalkeeper Jens Lehmann look silly during the Community Shield penalty shootout. The German tried to put Scholes off by dancing around on his goal line, but the Ginger Prince responded by lashing the ball into the very top corner of the net.

14 Lyle Taylor (vs multiple clubs)

When it comes to the most ‘disrespectful’ penalty technique in football, nobody is beating Lyle Taylor, who begins his ‘walk-up’ from outside the box and locks focus on the goalkeeper’s eyes as he calmly approaches the ball.

The Montserrat international, who has played for the likes of AFC Wimbledon and Charlton during his career, then picks his spot and usually converts. Take this winning penalty in the seventh minute of stoppage-time while playing for Nottingham Forest against Coventry City in November 2020, for example. Not only did Taylor score, but he also rubbed salt in the goalkeeper’s wounds afterwards.

13 Eric Bautheac (Brisbane Roar vs Adelaide United - 2019)

Quite possibly the slowest penalty ever, Eric Bautheac’s curious effort was a mix of Panenka and, well, a scuff. The way in which he seemed to panic slightly as the ball rolled towards goal suggests he may have intended to hit the ball with more power, hence why he’s not further up the list.

But in any case, it’s still an absurd penalty and certainly one of the most unusual we’ve ever seen. Could the goalkeeper have saved it, though? For some inexplicable reason, he appeared to almost give up as the ball crawled past him at a snail's pace.

12 Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal vs England - 2006 World Cup)

Cristiano Ronaldo, aged just 21 at the time and wearing the number 17 shirt, scored this decisive penalty for Portugal against England in the 2006 World Cup quarter-finals. The penalty itself was sensational: a slightly stuttered run-up before leathering the ball past goalkeeper Paul Robinson. However, it’s also important to note what had happened earlier in the match.

Ronaldo was involved in an altercation with his Manchester United teammate Wayne Rooney, who was sent off for stamping on Ricardo Carvalho. While certain players would have immediately been distracted, thinking about the repercussions of that incident ahead of his return to England, Ronaldo remained fully focused on the task in hand and celebrated wildly after firing Portugal through to their first World Cup semi-final in 40 years at the Three Lions’ expense.

11 Aritz Aduriz (Athletic Bilbao vs Real Valladolid - 2018)

One of the most casual spot-kicks we’ve ever seen, Athletic Bilbao legend Aritz Aduriz scored a highly unusual one-step penalty while playing against Real Valladolid in 2018. The striker positioned the ball on the spot, waited for the referee’s whistle, stepped his right foot back without moving his left foot, then passed the ball into the bottom corner of the net.

Full marks for bravery, Aritz. We haven’t seen any elite-level players attempt to emulate Aduriz’s bold one-off penalty technique since 2018 probably because it would require nerves of absolute steel to pull off.

10 Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool vs Chelsea - 2022 Carabao Cup final)

Up against Kepa Arrizabalaga, Chelsea’s then-goalkeeper tried his best to psych out Liverpool’s talismanic defender Virgil van Dijk, who made a complete mockery of the Spaniard. Rather than standing in the middle of his goal, Kepa positioned himself closer to his right-hand post, almost willing Van Dijk to shoot into the opposite corner of the net.

However, Van Dijk saw this as a challenge and proceeded to slam the ball into the same corner of the net where Kepa had positioned himself. As he walked back to the halfway line, Van Dijk made a point of staring directly at Kepa, making it crystal clear that the keeper’s mind games had failed to have the desired effect.

9 Joe Hart (Man City vs AS Roma - 2015)

The first of two goalkeepers to make our top 10, Joe Hart took this particular penalty like a goal kick. It may have only been a pre-season friendly, but Hart still leathered the ball into the roof of the net, prompting a “bang!” from the commentator.

“Maybe first on the list from now on as he looks towards his manager,” the commentator said, only half-jokingly. Little did Hart know then that he’d only spend one more season at his beloved Man City before being unceremoniously dumped by Pep Guardiola.

8 Andrea Pirlo (Italy vs England - Euro 2012)

Speaking of Joe Hart, this list wouldn’t be complete without a deserved mention for Andrea Pirlo’s effortless Panenka for Italy against the England goalkeeper in the Euro 2012 quarter-finals. The midfield maestro took zero notice of Hart’s goal-line shenanigans and instead left the Englishman red-faced with an ice-cold finish.

“I saw Hart was practically down on the ground already, so I tried it,” Pirlo said after the match. “I didn’t think about what would happen if I’d got it wrong, it was just a spontaneous thing. Hart looked very confident in himself, so I thought we had to bring him down a peg or two. The nicest thing about all this was when my football colleagues complimented me for the penalty. That is always pleasing.”

7 Djibril Cisse (Panathinaikos vs Panionios - 2010)

You know a penalty is virtually perfect when it literally gets stuck in the top corner of the net. Djibril Cisse’s stunning effort while playing for Panathinaikos against Panionios isn’t the most famous penalty on this list, but it certainly deserves more recognition.

Cisse, the former Liverpool striker who scored nine goals in 41 games for the French national team, hammered the ball into the top corner, where it remained for a couple of seconds before dropping to the ground. What an absolute beauty - unsaveable!

6 Johan Cruyff (Ajax vs Helmond Sport - 1982)

Johan Cruyff possessed one of the greatest football brains of all time and bamboozled everyone back in 1982 when he combined with teammate Jesper Olsen for a now-legendary ‘pass penalty’. The Dutchman placed the ball on the spot before passing it sideways. He then received the ball and converted into an unguarded net from close range.

The penalty has since been replicated on numerous occasions, with mixed success. Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez pulled it off to perfection while playing for Barcelona in 2016, but the less said about Thierry Henry and Robert Pires’s woeful attempt for Arsenal in 2005 the better.

5 Lionel Messi (Argentina vs France - 2022 World Cup final)

The biggest penalty of Lionel Messi’s career, in the most important game of his life, and the legendary Argentine forward converted it in typically exquisite fashion. Who knows what would have happened - and how Messi’s international career would now be viewed - had he missed.

Messi waited until Hugo Lloris took a small step to his left and then rolled the ball into the back of the net. Given the extraordinary amount of pressure on his shoulders at that precise moment, it was a ridiculously cool penalty for the man widely regarded as the greatest footballer of all time. (Skip to 6:50 on the video to watch Messi's ice-cold penalty).

4 Harry Maguire (England vs Italy - Euro 2020 final)

Harry Maguire scores penalty for England vs Italy

The much-maligned Harry Maguire has never let England down. In fact, the Manchester United defender has been excellent in every major tournament he’s featured in up until now.

During the Euro 2020 final against Italy - England’s first appearance in a men's international tournament final since 1966 - Maguire famously smashed the camera in the top corner of the net with one of the most emphatic penalties you’ll ever see. Up against the imposing Gianluigi Donnarumma, Maguire showed exactly why Gareth Southgate had selected him as England’s second penalty taker behind Harry Kane.

3 Kevin Pressman (Sheffield Wednesday vs Wolves - FA Cup, 1995)

The ultimate no-nonsense penalty, Kevin Pressman almost broke the net with this insanely powerful spot-kick while playing for Sheffield Wednesday in a FA Cup fourth-round replay away at Wolves. The former Premier League goalkeeper rifled the very top corner of the net at frightening speed.

On co-commentary duty for Sky Sports at the time, an amazed Andy Gray said: “You won't see a better penalty than that in a penalty shootout. You could have had two goalkeepers in there and they would have had trouble saving that." You certainly weren’t wrong there, Andy - it was the dictionary definition of an unstoppable penalty.

2 Antonin Panenka (Czechoslovakia vs West Germany - Euro 1976 final)

The inventor of the Panenka, which has become an increasingly common penalty technique in recent years, Antonin introduced his unorthodox spot-kick not in some meaningless friendly but during the Euro 1976 final against West Germany.

With the scores locked at 2-2, Czechoslovakia eventually lifted the trophy after converting all five of their spot-kicks in the final. When Uli Hoeness missed Germany’s fourth penalty, Panenka then stepped up and won the trophy for his country in truly innovative style.

1 Zinedine Zidane (France vs Italy - 2006 World Cup final)

But the best of the bunch, in our humble opinion, is Zinedine Zidane’s audacious Panenka penalty for France against Italy in 2006. Why? Well, for three main reasons. Firstly, this was the World Cup final. For emphasis, let us repeat that: the World Cup final! Secondly, the French icon was up against one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time in the form of Gianluigi Buffon. And thirdly, this was Zidane’s last game in professional football.

Taking all of the above into consideration, Zidane’s penalty has to be considered the greatest in football history. The fact the ball bounced off the underside of the crossbar and just over the line somehow makes it all the more cooler. For possessing absolute balls of steel, the legendary Zizou thoroughly deserves the number one spot.