After spending an entire afternoon browsing the videos on this this wonderful edition of the Joy of Six, I felt compelled to offer my own six favourite football clips on YouTube in the comments. Here I give the reasons for my choices and list the videos that just missed out.
1) Ten minutes of pure Laudrup.
There isn't much to be said about Michael Laudrup that hasn't been said already. All you need to do is read what the greats of the game think. At his best, he represented the zenith of aesthetic football, a player who took pleasure in doing things with an almost mechanical elegance. He made wriggling free of opposing defenders seem like the most methodical pursuit in the world, while still retaining an air of beauty. No gap was too narrow for him to escape through, just as no space was too small for him to deliver a perfect pass.
This video is the ultimate tribute to Laudrup's genius, featuring the very best moments from his time at Juventus, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Ajax and with Denmark. These ten minutes of Laudrup heaven include impossibly-close control, precise through balls and some of his trademark scoop passes. Andrés Iniesta is probably the player who comes closest to emulating Laudrup's style today so it's particularly telling that he calls Laudrup the best player in history.
2) Holland eviscerate Uruguay.
Everyone knows that the failure of the Holland team of 1974 to win the World Cup is one of football's great tragedies. The great exponents of the totaalvoetbal system pioneered by their manager Rinus Michels and their playmaker Johan Cruyff would eventually lose the final against West Germany despite opening the scoring without their opponents touching the ball.
It was their first match against Uruguay, however, that catapulted their style onto the world stage. The video shows the best examples of their fabled free movement and offside trap. Swarms of Dutch players tear Uruguay apart, in attack and in defence, and the 2-0 scoreline ultimately flatters the losers. Cruyff, of course, is at the centre of it all, and scores one of the great disallowed goals at 03:37. The video is set to a delicate piano soundtrack that complements the almost understated beauty of the Dutch team perfectly.
3) Thierry Henry's 226 goals for Arsenal.
I've written about Thierry Henry at length before. Even muted admiration of Henry is frowned upon by an Irish nation who feels it was cruelly robbed of a World Cup place by that "cheating Frenchman". But such are Henry's talents that I can't help but love him. He was the greatest striker in Europe while at Arsenal, with a phenomenal goalscoring record matched only by his penchant for stunning pieces of skill.
This video includes every single one of Henry's 226 competitive goals with Arsenal. Given Henry's famous squad number, it is fitting that the video is 14 minutes in duration, though it hardly feels that long. The uploader wastes no time with irritating replays and instead chooses to show each goal once only. Combined with a gorgeously-refined piano accompaniment, this technique gives the video a simplistic feel that sets it apart from the myriad compilation videos on YouTube.
4) Brazil's best goals at the 1982 World Cup.
From Holland 1974 to Brazil 1982; perhaps the two greatest sides never to win the World Cup. Some claim that this Brazilian team were even better than their 1970 counterparts. With players like, Zico, Socrates and Éder, it's not difficult to see why. In just five games, Brazil managed to score an incredible fifteen goals. Despite their early exploits, they were knocked out before the semi-finals by eventual champions Italy in what is regarded as one of the greatest matches of all time.
Impressive as those highlights are, it is not the video that makes this list. The fourth video I've chosen is perhaps my favourite of the lot; eleven of Brazil's fifteen goals from that tournament, all of which are indisputable masterpieces. It seems unthinkable that such a vast array of astonishing goals could be scored over such a concentrated period of time, but this Brazilian team was special. There is no video that better demonstrates their genius than this.
5) Paul McGrath 1-0 Italy.
No list of favourites is complete without a purely sentimental choice. Ireland's 1-0 victory over Italy at the 1994 World Cup is possibly the great moment in Irish sporting history. After Ray Houghton's looping effort gave Ireland a shock lead in the opening minutes, an Italian side featuring Roberto Baggio came pressing for an equaliser. Wave after wave of Italian attack was repelled by the heroic Paul McGrath in one of the greatest defensive performances in World Cup history.
This tribute to Paul McGrath shows exactly why he remains one of Ireland's true sporting heroes. Beginning with his acceptance of the PFA Players' Player of the Year award in 1993, it soon shows some of the many plaudits piled upon him by celebrated names of football (Sir Alex Ferguson, Roy Keane and John Giles, to name a few). Sandwiched between the praise are the highlights of that performance against Italy: a colossus display of courage, strength and skill in inhospitabale conditions that no Irish fan will ever forget.
6) Xavi, Iniesta and Messi v Real Madrid.
Barcelona's 5-0 victory over Real Madrid was as close to footballing perfection that mortals like us can ever hope to experience. These were the two best teams in the world playing each other in a match so ludicrously hyped that nothing less than an exhilarating thriller would satisfy expectations. What followed was not so much a thriller as complete and utter domination. For ninety minutes, Barcelona were in total control against a team many Spanish football experts, such as Sid Lowe, had tipped to win. This is more of a reflection on the unprecedented scale of Barcelona's dominance than those who expected a Real Madrid victory (I include myself among them).
Ultimately, the 5"7 triumverate showed why they are the heartbeat of the club side many regard as the best of all time. The understanding between Xavi, Iniesta and Messi appears to be telepathic in this video. The three are the instigators of all Barça's forays forward, the conductor through whom the ball moves. If any video captures the spirit of Pep Guardiola's Barcelona's side, this is it.
The videos that just missed out:
Dejan Savićević tears Manchester United a new one.
José Luis Chilavert saves Maradona's feekick. Diego applauds.
"Urruti, I love you!" A dramtic penalty save delivers Barcelona's first La Liga title in eleven years.
If you'd like to compile your own list of your six favourite football videos on YouTube, let me know on Twitter @BallBetweenTwo. I would be delighted to publish it.