MIDWAY: Acrobatic soccer

Footballers have always been partial to showing off. Even so, it’s fair to say that Manchester United player Nani’s jaw-dropping display of gymnastics after scoring against Tottenham last weekend may have set the benchmark in photogenic look-at-me goal celebrations.

Typically, these fall into one of three categories. First, there’s Something from the Dancefloor, epitomised by Peter Crouch’s gangly robot dance, a routine perfected while larging it with the lads and given its definitive expression with a private performance for Prince William at an England training session. Ronaldinho has his patented “hang loose” gesture, a surfing/hip-hop hand thing that he devotes a bewilderingly large portion of his autobiography to talking about. Cameroon striker Roger Milla’s corner-flag lambada at the 1990 World Cup kicked the dance celebrations off.

Related, but altogether angrier, is the Furious Defiant Gesture. Craig Bellamy celebrated scoring against Barcelona by pretending to thrash someone with a golf club, having been accused of doing just that to a team-mate before the game. Robbie Fowler feigned snorting cocaine off the chalk line of the penalty area in response to crowd taunts about rumours of drug taking.

Most common is the Bewildering Display of Athletic Prowess. Julius Agahowa, now of Wigan, has been known to perform up to 12 high-speed cartwheels. Lomana LuaLua, once of Portsmouth and Newcastle, celebrates with an apparently endless string of backward handsprings. At the stodgier end, Robbie Keane continues to showcase a forward roll followed by cheeky bow-and-arrow pose.

The new exhibitionism has a lot to do with television. Modern players rehearse their celebrations with the intention of getting on the telly: highlights, the news, even the Match of the Day. It’s the footballer’s party piece, his karaoke moment, his Big Brother tape.

Nani, at least, has something worth showing off. His move is a display of capoeira, the dance-fight martial art, which he mastered in Lisbon. Enjoy it while you can: perhaps because his routine is known, technically, as the “death leap”, Nani has been politely asked by his manager never to do it again.