The image of Pele swapping shirts with Bobby Moore is ingrained in all of us. As too is the iconic symbolism of Maradona taking on an entire Belgium team single-handedly or out-punching Shilton. Then there’s Gazza’s tears, John Barnes back-heeling a banana back to the stone-age, and Dave Mackay squaring up to Billy Bremner in a fight we would all pay good money to see.

These snapshots and many more transcend mere photography and have come to define an era, a legend, or a moment in time.

Collectively they are a gallery to the inaugural hundred years of football.

But what of this millennium? Which still images will go down in the annals of history and help define the modern game?

Here are 21 contenders for the 21st century….


Echoing the Stuart Pearce primal scream from his Spanish exorcism of his 1990 penalty miss this is Beckham releasing all the pain and subsequent public hounding that followed his sending off against Argentina in 1998. Four years later, against the same opposition, he slams home a spot-kick and howls out patriotic contrition.


An all-Milanese Champion’s League quarter final in 2005 was disrupted by flares and missiles. When one struck Milan keeper Dida the game was postponed. Marco Materazzi and Rui Costa forget club allegiances and watch the madness ensue.


Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them. For a brief and wonderful moment Hannover’s Jiri Stajner is the chosen one during a Bundesliga match against Hamburg in 2008.


The 2010 World Cup final was laden with symbolism as the innovators of Total Football took on a country that had nicked it wholesale and taken the concept to new unchartered heights. Knowing they were second best Holland ignored their stylish DNA and regressed to becoming the very thing they despised. This moment also prompted a fantastic line from an ex – “Oh my God, he’s just hurt the hot man!”


A legend instantly besmirched forever.


It is hard to determine exactly what Lionel is thinking from this amazing shot but we like to think it’s “I don’t know how I do these things. I just do them”.

“Home in my own car, I’m going home in my own car…”


Kanu defies gravity after missing a sitter.


A moment earlier Jerzy Dudek has dived to his right to push out Shevchenko’s pen and complete one of the most unlikely comebacks in any major final. While the Ukrainian wallops the rebounding ball into space a multitude of ecstatic red men race towards then past him to mob their Polish hero.


There was a time when Kaka’s extraordinary talent made him untouchable and he answered to no mere mortal. Now he probably nods along to everything Mourinho says just for a whiff of a game.


Gay Meadow 2002. The rainbow is a beatific eulogy for one of the most unique and picturesque grounds in Britain. The flooded pitch meanwhile is a harsh reminder of why Shrewsbury Town were forced to move five years later.


If you were wondering whatever happened to Alan Smith…this guy ate him.


When Roy Keane tore his anterior cruciate ligament at Elland Road in September 1997 Haaland allegedly stood over him and claimed he was exaggerating to run down the clock on a 1-0 lead.

Nearly four years later in a Manchester derby Keane enacted a savage and skewed revenge. A knee-high stomp resulted in a red card and subsequent £50,000 fine that was later quadrupled following these shocking words in the Irishman’s autobiography‘I’d waited long enough. I f-ing hit him hard. The ball was there (I think). Take that you c***. And don’t ever stand over me sneering about fake injuries’.

It was an admittance of common assault from a man who epitomised the ugly side of United’s last great side.

A staged image certainly but perfect in its execution.

Fancy heading through those laces on a cold winter’s day at the Cottage with a hard-as-nails centre-back attempting GBH on you? Thought not. Sir Bobby wasn’t just a gent, he was mined from tough stock.


Terry’s expression mirrors the millions back home. It was just a heavy challenge wasn’t it? Rooney’s face says it all though. His act of petulance – like Beckham’s before him – has potentially cost England dear.


Fated to forever be the Eusebio to Messi’s Pele this image perfectly captures Ronaldo’s speed, poise and lethal intent. The greatest? Not even close. But an astonishing player nonetheless.


The basic requirements of any parent is to bestow upon their children respect and tolerance. This father fails at a FA Cup semi final in 2006.


Zidane unravels a bandage on a hand that could – and should – have been lifting up that trophy half an hour hence.


Adebayor basks in hatred, 2009.


They said he’d be the greatest ever if only he could use his head. Messi puts the world to rights in the 2009 Champion’s League final.

If you disagree with our choices or have suggestions of your own please feel free to add them in the comments beneath.