Footballers are perhaps best served avoiding news headlines following performances, the fickle nature of the media meaning more harm than good can often come from reading reviews of their showings.
When it comes to doling out player ratings after games no publication is harsher with their judgement of a footballer’s performance than notorious French publication L’Equipe. Despite this though there remains a mystique around L’Equipe and their notoriously hard to please writers, with only an elite group of players having ever managed to record the fabled 10/10 rating from the media outlet.
Just 10 senior players – with a further two coming in U21 fixtures – have ever received perfect marks from L’Equipe when it comes to player ratings, and we’ve decided to look back at the stand-out performances that won over the harshest of critics.
Here are the 10 players to score a perfect 10/10 from L’Equipe:
Oleg Salenko v Cameroon (1994)
L’Equipe’s first perfect ratings were bestowed upon Bruno Martini and Franck Sauzee for their role in helping France U21s to European Championships success against Greece in 1988, and it would be another six years before the first senior player scored the hallowed 10/10 rating.
Russia forward Oleg Salenko became the first – and so far only – player to receive full marks from L’Equipe on the biggest of stages, after scoring five times against Cameroon during the 1994 World Cup in the United States.
It was a remarkable achievement for a player who had only scored his first goal for Russia in the previous group game against Sweden, whilst his return of six goals in three games means that Salenko remains the only World Cup Golden Boot winner not to progress beyond the group stages and the only player in history to have finished leading scorer in both an U20 and senior World Cup.
His five-goal destruction of Cameroon helped Russia to a 6-1 victory and he remains the only player to have scored five times in a single World Cup fixture, his 10/10 performance remarkably his last in a Russia shirt as his career petered out amid a succession of injuries, spending short stints at both Valencia and Rangers.
Lars Windfield v Nantes (1997)
The only goalkeeper on this list, Lars Windfield was rewarded with a 10/10 rating following a heroic performance for Danish side Aarhaus in a UEFA Cup clash against France’s Nantes in 1997.
Windfield was never capped for Denmark given the presence of Peter Schmeichel for the national side, but claimed his own piece of history courtesy of a stunning individual showing in the second leg to seal Aarhaus progress to the next round.
The tie was evenly poised at 2-2 heading into the return in France, where Windfield produced the performance of his career – making a string of superb saves – to help his side to a 1-0 victory and become just the second senior player and first goalkeeper to earn a 10/10 from L’Equipe.
Lionel Messi v Arsenal (2010)
It took more than a decade for another player to please the notoriously difficult L’Equipe writers, and it was a special talent who forced his way onto this list with a captivating Champions League display.
None of the modern greats had claimed a perfect 10/10 from the publication’s uber-critical journalists, but Messi’s mesmerising performance against Arsenal in the 2010 quarter-finals saw him bestowed with the honour.
The Argentine was simply sensational as Barcelona ran riot at the Camp Nou, scoring all four goals as the Spanish giants thumped their Premier League opposition to progress into the last four.
His first came with a thumping effort from just outside the penalty area, before twice lifting the ball over the helpless Manuel Almunia in trademark Messi fashion. An impudent fourth was placed through the goalkeeper’s legs as the unplayable Messi became Barcelona’s all-time record goalscorer in the Champions League, an incredible achievement for a player aged just 22-years-old and destined for future superstardom.
Lionel Messi v Bayer Leverkusen (2012)
Two years later and Messi became the first player in history to receive a 10/10 from L’Equipe on two occasions, another devastating and dominant Champions League display earning the Argentine full marks.
Messi became the first player in history to score five times in a single Champions League fixture as Barcelona thrashed Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen in the last-16, a flawless performance that saw the world’s finest footballer at his brilliant best.
Leverkusen simply had no answer for Messi’s magic as they were thrashed 7-1 in Catalonia, the forward irrepressible with his mixture of jinking runs, daring dribbles and a punishing repertoire of finishes.
It remains the only time a player has scored five times in a Champions League knockout stage fixture, his five-star showing part of a record 91 goals scored throughout the calendar year, a figure which eclipsed the long-standing record of Bayern Munich legend Gerd Muller.
Robert Lewandowski v Real Madrid (2013)
The biggest players define the biggest of occasions and L’Equipe recognised a perfect performance from Robert Lewandowski in the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2013.
Lewandowski had starred for a Borussia Dortmund side which had won back-to-back titles under the guidance of Jurgen Klopp, but truly announced himself to the world stage with a sensational showing to fire the German side to the brink of the Champions League final.
Dortmund took control of their last four meeting with the Spanish giants courtesy of Lewandowski’s iconic individual display, the forward scoring four times as Dortmund thrashed the visitors 4-1 to take a commanding lead to the Bernabeu.
It was a ruthless display of finishing from the Poland international whose superb season saw him emerge as one of world football’s finest finishers, Lewandowski the difference-maker as Dortmund advanced to an all-German final against Bayern Munich.
Carlos Eduardo v Guingamp (2014)
Another five-goal showing earned a perfect 10 from L’Equipe, Carlos Eduardo enjoying a day out as Nice thrashed Guingamp 7-2 six years ago.
The on-loan Portuguese midfielder ran riot to become the first player in three decades to score five times in a Ligue 1 fixture, opening the scoring with a fine free-kick before hitting a first-half hat-trick, capitalising on some calamitous defending from a hapless Guingamp defence.
Eduardo scored twice more after the break to receive full marks from the French publication and his five-goal salvo stands as the highlight of an otherwise unremarkable career, one which has taken in spells at the likes of Fluminense, Porto and Al-Hilal.
Neymar v Dijon (2018)
French football probably expected performances like this one following Neymar’s world-record move to Paris, the Brazil international demonstrating his sublime talents during a one-man destruction of Dijon in 2018.
The Paris Saint-Germain star scored four times and provided a further two assists as the perennial French champions thrashed the visitors 8-0 at the Parc des Princes, the world’s most expensive footballer living up to his reputation with a scintillating showing.
Angel di Maria and Edinson Cavani gave PSG a comfortable three-goal advantage before Neymar took centre stage, firing home a free-kick before punishing a defensive error to seal his second.
His hat-trick goal was Neymar at his glorious best, however, a superb solo run past a succession of challenges before a calm finish. The Brazilian claimed his fourth from the penalty spot late on, his four-goal haul enough to earn a 10/10 from L’Equipe’s critics.
Dusan Tadic v Real Madrid (2019)
One look at this list will tell you that L’Equipe tend to favour great goalscoring performances, so to produce a 10/10 showing after netting just once shows the majesty of Dusan Tadic’s display at Real Madrid.
The Serbian was always regarded as a talented player during four seasons in the Premier League with Southampton, but perhaps few predicted the midfielder would reach the heights he has since returning to the Netherlands with Ajax.
Tadic was the evasive focal point of a fresh-faced Ajax side which made their presence known in the 2018/19 Champions League, reaching the semi-finals of the competition after dispatching of both Real Madrid and Juventus in the knockout stages.
The zenith of their success was a scintillating showing against the holders in the Spanish capital, where – despite trailing 2-1 from the first leg in Amsterdam – Ajax progressed in truly stunning style with a 4-1 win.
Tadic was the architect of the victory and provided assists for his sides first two goals – the second a perfect pirouette past Casemiro before playing in David Neres – before thrashing in a third himself during a dominant display.
The Serb’s showing earned him rave reviews and a perfect score in L’Equipe, as Ajax progressed from a Champions League knockout tie for the first time in over two decades.
Lucas Moura v Ajax (2019)
The memorable run of that aforementioned Ajax side was ended in the last four and it took an equally sensational individual display to halt the Dutch side, Lucas Moura earning himself a 10/10 rating during one of the Champions League’s greatest ever comebacks.
Tottenham trailed 3-0 on aggregate with just 45 minutes of their semi-final clash with Ajax remaining, only for Moura to turn the tie on its head following an enthralling second half of action at the Johan Cruyff Arena.
The Brazilian reduced the deficit with a fine burst of pace and finish, before some brilliantly nimble footwork inside the penalty area provided the space to lash home a second just four minutes later.
After seemingly being dead and buried Spurs now had a lifeline and needed just one more goal, one which came in the most dramatic of fashion as Moura fired home in the sixth minute of stoppage-time, the goal reducing the player and manager Mauricio Pochettino to tears as the north London outfit marched on to a first ever Champions League final.
Serge Gnabry v Tottenham (2019)
The notoriously difficult to please L’Equipe writers seem to have shown some leniency over the past year, with Serge Gnabry’s breathtaking display of finishing against Tottenham the publication’s third 10/10 rating of the 2019 calendar year.
Gnabry had failed to make an impact after moving to Arsenal as a teenager but has since flourished in Germany, returning to north London to provide a devastating demonstration of his development in the backyard of the Gunners’ local rivals.
The winger was simply unstoppable as Bayern battered their Premier League opposition, scoring four goals as the Bundesliga side hit Spurs for seven at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
It was the first time in Tottenham’s 137-year history that the club had conceded seven goals in a home fixture, Gnabry brutally exposing their shortcomings in a clinical display.