Top 15 Debut Performances in Soccer History

There was a buzz of anticipation surrounding El Classico recently, but a large part of this had nothing to do with Ronaldo or Messi. Controversial striker Luis Suarez was set to make his debut for Barcelona following his £75 million move from Liverpool. Not only was it the return of one of the most talented and exciting footballers following a four-month ban, but the Uruguayan had also has scored in every single debut for his last three teams. Suarez could only contribute an assist in a 3-1 loss, but there was enough discussion about player debuts to look back in time over a few of the more memorable ones.

The night before a debut will be a restless one for a player. They are likely to spend their night tossing and turning, praying that they don’t cost their new team the game or miss a simple tap in. Most of the time a debut will be largely uneventful as the player adjusts to a new team, but sometimes players cement themselves as club legends after just one game in their new colours.

Some players hit the ground running following their debut and never look back, whilst some have never had a better game for the club than the first. Nevertheless, the debut game provides players with the opportunity to win over fans hearts, surprise their managers and firmly establish themselves among their new teammates.

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15 Danny Rose v Arsenal (2010)

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It must be a strange feeling knowing that you are unlikely to ever top your debut performance, and this must have been what Danny Rose felt after his first Premier League game for the Lilywhites in 2010. The young left back did what every Spurs player dreams of; scoring a rocket of a volley from 30 yards into the top corner against fierce rivals Arsenal. This stunning goal helped Spurs to gain a valuable win on their way to Champions League qualification, and despite Rose’s struggles in the Spurs squad, he remains a club legend thanks to this incredible strike in his Premier League debut.

14 Alexandre Pato v Napoli (2007)

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Talk about keeping cool under pressure, Pato was just 18 when he made his debut for A.C Milan, but the Brazilian was brought in to change the club's fortunes. The fans and the media could not wait to see the youngster play, and an expensive price tag of €22 million only increased expectations. Adding to the pressure, he was unable to make his debut until the January transfer window opened. Pato kept his cool however, putting on a showcase with great speed, tricks, clever runs and an impressive goal in convincing 5-2 win against Napoli. The fans were dazzled by the young prodigy who continued to impress during his time at A.C.

13 Oscar v Juventus (2011)

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Oscar’s full debut for Chelsea saw the young Brazilian amaze the crowd and show why £25 million was well spent on a 21-year-old with no Premier League experience. Oscar carved apart a solid Juventus team with his talent, and scored both Chelsea goals in a 2-2 draw. The second goal demonstrated incredible skill that left both Pirlo and Buffon completely stumped. Oscar managed to put the ball through Pirlo’s legs with his first touch, allowing him to turn and open up a shot from outside the box, which he curled into the top corner past Buffon.

12 Fabrizio Ravenelli v Liverpool (1996)

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Ravenelli, or The White Feather as he is known, shot out of the gate when he arrived at Middlesbrough in 1996, scoring a sensational hat trick against Liverpool in a thrilling 3-3 draw. This, understandably, got Boro fans excited about Ravenelli, but this proved to be the highlight of his time at Middlesbrough who were relegated that season. Ravenelli left after just one season at the club, finding the net often but also making headlines for the wrong reasons. Nowadays, The White Feather is best remembered for his striking white hair and famous goal celebration.

11 Sergio Aguero v Swansea (2011)

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Aguero only needed half an hour to dazzle fans when he arrived at Man City, which is all he got as Roberto Mancini was not convinced the forward was entirely fit. As we have learnt, Aguero does not need to be entirely fit or take long to make a mark. The Argentinean scored, brilliantly set up David Silva and then scored a sensational goal in a 4-0 thumping against Swansea. A spectacular start to the season ended in a similar fashion, when the striker scored the goal that won City the title in the 92nd minute on the last day of the season against QPR.

10 Gianluigi Buffon v A.C Milan (1995)


It is normally the attacking players that get all the glory, but legendary Italian keeper Gianluigi Buffon had a debut for Parma that ranks up there with the best. Buffon is widely considered to be one of the all-time great keepers, which all began with a standout performance when he was just 17 years old. Buffon put in a confident and composed performance despite his age and inexperience, keeping a clean sheet in a 0-0 draw with A.C Milan despite a barrage of attempts on goal. He also brilliantly denied Ballon d’Or winners Roberto Baggio and George Weah, causing goalkeeping legend Dino Zoff to state that he had “never seen a debut like his for the personality and quality he showed.”

9 Robbie Fowler v Fulham (1993)

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It did not take long for Robbie Fowler to cement himself as a Liverpool legend, thanks to an incredible League Cup tie with Fulham in 1993. The 18-year-old Fowler scored a stunning left-footed volley from a deep cross, silencing the travelling fans. The second leg of the tie saw Fowler demolish Fulham, as he found the back of the net an incredible five times, including a perfect hat trick (scoring with his right foot, left foot and head). Liverpool won 8-1 on aggregate, with Fowler contributing 6 of these goals. Not a bad start for the striker that would go on to be nicknamed “God” by the Liverpool fans.

8 Zinedine Zidane v Czech Republic (1994)

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Zidane may have ended his international career in a controversial fashion, but the midfielder’s first international appearance showcased what a fantastic talent the Frenchman was. Trailing 2-0 against the Czech Republic, a 22-year-old Zidane enters the game as a substitute, a smart move as it turned out. With just minutes remaining, Zidane picked the ball up near half way, went on a fantastic solo run and scored a sensational goal into the top corner from 25 yards out. Two minutes later, Zidane leveled the score with a towering header which gave France a draw and memorable comeback.

7 Tony Cottee v Newcastle (1988)

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When a player breaks the transfer record for an entire league then there is a lot of pressure and expectation placed on their shoulders. The best way to lift this pressure is to score a goal, and it took Cottee just 34 seconds to do this in his debut for Everton. Cottee then went on to justify his price tag in the same match, by scoring two more for his hat trick in a 4-0 thrashing of Newcastle. The striker did not sit back and relax after this, going on to score an impressive 99 goals in 241 games for the Toffees.

6 Romario v Real Sociedad (1993)

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All players must feel the pressure when making their debut for Spanish giants Barcelona, as it is a team with such a proud history and tradition. Pulling on the Barcelona shirt would surely be an incredible experience, but a nerve wracking one too. Romario managed to embrace this on his debut in 1993, bagging a hat trick in a fantastic performance for the Catalans. Romario did not slow down after this, going on to score a remarkable four more hat tricks that season, before playing a key role to help Brazil lift the World Cup trophy in 1994.

5 Alan Smith v Liverpool (1998)

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A very young Alan Smith could not have dreamed it better himself the night before his debut for his local team Leeds in 1998. Smith equalized with his very first touch after coming on as a substitute, silencing the Anfield crowd. This was the spark that helped Leeds to go on and win the game with a convincing 3-1 score. This immediately made 19-year-old Smith a fan favourite, and he continued to impress over the next few seasons which saw him break into the England squad. Despite this, Leeds began slipping down the table and Smith eventually left his boyhood club for Manchester United in 2004.

4 Wayne Rooney v Fenerbahce (2004)

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The Champions League provided the perfect platform for Wayne Rooney to demonstrate why United splashed £27 million on the striker from Everton, and Rooney announced his arrival in style. With people watching around the world, the 18-year-old Rooney was not phased by the glitz and glamour of the Champions League and scored a brilliant hat trick against the Turkish side in a 6-2 win. This made him the youngest player to get a hat trick in the Champions League, and got his Manchester United career off to a flying start.

3 Alan Shearer v Arsenal (1988)

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A fresh faced Alan Shearer made Premier League history when he made his full debut against Arsenal, being the youngest player to ever score a hat trick in the League. At just 17 years old, the striker found the net three times in an impressive 4-2 win over the North London club. This would be a sign of things to come, as the English forward would go on to become the highest scoring player in Premier League history, finding the back of the net an incredible 260 times in his career.

2 Jimmy Greaves v Various (1957 – 1970)

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You can’t talk about debut performances without mentioning legendary striker Jimmy Greaves, who is the ultimate debut performer. Luis Suarez had a good run of debut performances which have now come to an end, but each time Greaves put on a new shirt, he immediately won fans over. At 17, Greaves scored in his Chelsea debut in a fine performance against Spurs, but this was just the beginning. Greaves then scored on his debut for the England U23 squad, the senior squad, for Italian giants A.C Milan followed by a hat trick in his first game for Spurs, and then a brace on his West Ham debut. Prolific.

1 Alvaro Recoba v Brescia (1997)

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Recoba made his debut for Inter in the same game that Brazilian superstar Ronaldo did, which cast a shadow over the Uruguayan who started on the bench. By the end though, it would be Recoba’s name they were cheering after the most incredible debut performance from “El Chino”. A goal down with time running out, Recoba entered the game and scored with an unstoppable rocket from 30 yards into the top right corner, and would then take all the glory by curling in a sublime free kick into the top left corner from similar distance. Two sensational goals in the last 10 minutes to turn the game on its head, whilst stealing the show from Ronaldo, makes this the top debut performance of all time.

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