Best Free-kick Takers of All Time
Free-kicks are a piece of art. No doubt in that. They are the sartorial equivalent of a Symphony, written by Mozart. When a free-kick is precisely netted you will get the same pleasure as if you’re listening to Beethoven’s 5th.
Here are 15, and only 15 of the best free-kick takers of all time based on the goals they have scored from free-kicks.
Whether it’s Andrea Pirlo’s artistically taken free-kicks or Juninho Pernambucano’s perfect “knuckleballs”.
Best Free-kick Takers of All Time
Join us to know the best free kick takers ever.
Andrea Pirlo is regarded by many as the world's best free-kick taker and one of the greatest of all time. He has scored 46 goals of his career from free-kicks. Pirlo was a free-kick and penalty-kick specialist. Throughout his career, he was regarded as one of the best free-kick takers in soccer history. as a youngster, Zico, Michel Platini, and Diego Maradona were also some of his major influences when taking free-kicks.
Pirlo was also capable of scoring from long-range free kicks with swerving and power, due to his unique technique, which was inspired by Juninho's "knuckleball" free kicks; this technique was later dubbed the maledetta ("accursed") in the Italian media. Pirlo has scored the highest number of free-kicks in Serie A, alongside Siniša Mihajlović. His secret, in his own words: “The ball needs to be struck from underneath using your first three toes. Keep your foot straight and then relax it in one fell swoop".
Time to talk about one of the most famous names on our list of the greatest free-kick takers ever.
Leo Messi is probably one of the best free-kick takers of all time. But he wasn’t always. Up to 2019, he had scored 49 goals of his career from freekicks. Messi’s leg when taking a free-kick has an angle of 50 degrees. He places almost his entire boot on the ground before hitting the ball, giving him stability, balance, and control in the shot.
To improve his accuracy, he arches his shoulder and chest to caress the ball, hunching his body to a more appropriate and compact position. The Department of Physics at the University of Barcelona stated that he uses the Magnus Effect to consistently put the ball at the back of the net from a set-piece.
This effect is the phenomenon by which the rotation of a body creates a force perpendicular to the line of motion, affecting the trajectory. The pressure on the lower surface of the ball is greater than the pressure on the upper surface, resulting in a curved trajectory of the ball. How did Messi improve his free-kicks? Practice. Practice. Practice. He emphasized the importance of practicing and watching and studying everything there is study so that nothing is left to chance.
By staying back late after training, practicing, and watching – is how Lionel Messi improved his free-kicks. Messi also spoke to ESPN about his free-kick style.
“I like to hit the ball over the players’ wall but from time to time I like to mix it up a bit to confuse the goalkeeper.”
Platini is considered to be one of the greatest free-kick takers of all time and is regarded as one of the finest passers in football history, as well as one of the best penalty kick specialists to have played the game. Michel Platini's free kicks were among the best of his era and the best of all time. Like Zico, Platini was adept at scoring close to the 18-yard box and was able to get the ball up over the wall and back down as quickly as possible.
That is not something you see as often today. A quick, versatile, and elegant playmaker with a unique ability to read the game and bend the ball from set-pieces, is the best definition for Michel Platini. When taking free kicks, Platini usually preferred to strike the ball from a distance of around 20 meters from the goal, with a direct kick which had not been touched by a teammate first; his unique free-kick technique, which often involved him hitting the ball over the wall, influenced many other specialists, such as Alessandro Del Piero and Andrea Pirlo.
Platini has scored 50 goals from free-kicks and that's why he is one of the all-time best free-kick takers.
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Being one of the best free kick takers of all time, Until recently, Ronaldo had a reputation – a well-deserved one – of being a relentless sniper when it came to placing his free-kicks. In his career, starting from his professional debut in the 2002-03 season with Sporting CP, Ronaldo has scored 55 free-kicks for both club and country. His most prolific season came in 2009-10 where he scored six times from free-kicks for Real Madrid.
Since that peak in 2010 Ronaldo has never been able to reach the same heights when it comes to free-kicks. He has put in some good performances in some seasons but the drop-off has been extremely severe since 2014. As our colleagues at Eurosport France point out, Ronaldo’s true zenith came almost ten years ago exactly.
On February 21st, 2010 Ronaldo unleashed a howitzer of such proportions that even if Villarreal goalkeeper Diego Lopez had managed to get to it (which was never happening) he would have been carried into the net. The speed of that free-kick? 101.5 km/h.
Speaking to Canal+ Spain after the game Ronaldo called his shot the Tomahawk, after a cruise missile that is capable of reaching speeds of 880 km/h. From that point, things have started going downhill and you have to go back to the 2017-18 season to find his last free-kick goal.
Being known as one of the best free-kick takers in soccer history, so far, Ronaldo has scored 55 goals from free-kicks.
Probably the most unexpected, and the most unheard-of name in the list of best free-kick takers of all time, is this Greek player. Frantzeskos holds the record in Greece for the most goals ever scored from direct free-kicks, always using his left foot. He was frequently cited as one of the most accurate free-kick takers in Europe, especially while playing for PAOK.
He even scored a few of them in the UEFA Cup, most notably the two against Atlético Madrid, much to keeper José Francisco Molina's anguish, both home and away. He continued scoring from spot-kicks on to his last days, scoring a few for Proodeftiki. Some of Frantzeskos’ free-kicks for club and country are legendary.
The Athens-born midfielder once scored three free-kicks in a Greek league encounter against Kastoria. Particularly memorable strikes from his lethal left foot were goals against the likes of Atletico Madrid for PAOK and versus Bosnia for the national team. Frantzeskos surprisingly struggled from the penalty spot leading him to once suggest that "Next time we win a penalty, and they want me to take it, I’ll ask for a wall".
Marcelinho Carioca was a creative midfielder who spent the entirety of his playing career in his homeland. Although he only won three caps for his country, Carioca went on to become one of the greatest-ever players in the Brazilian league.
The 49-year-old remains the most decorated player to have ever represented Corinthians, having amassed more trophies than anyone else in the club's history. Carioca scored a stunning 206 goals for the club in 420 appearances. He was also an incredibly gifted free-kick taker, so much so that he earned the nickname 'Pe-de-Anjo' which roughly translates to 'Angel Foot'.
Carioca scored a total of 59 goals from direct free-kicks in his illustrious domestic career. Arsenal ace David Luiz is just one among the generation of aspiring free-kick specialists inspired by Carioca.
Marcelinho is for sure, one of the best free-kick takers of all time.
One of the most fabled goalkeepers in football history, Rogerio Ceni holds the unique distinction of being the highest-scoring goalkeeper in the sport. The Brazilian legend scored a whopping 131 goals overall in his career, modernizing the role of a keeper in the process. He played 1257 matches for Sao Paulo, a club record for appearances.
Many goalkeepers have tried to emulate the Brazilian and failed to reach even a tenth of Ceni's tally — such was the prowess of the Sao Paolo legend. Manchester City keeper Ederson opened up on how he looks up to his compatriot, saying;
"Rogerio Ceni has always been my inspiration. I began to attend [training when he was young] and started playing and after that, I moved to the goal and from the moment that I started playing as a goalkeeper, I started following Rogerio Ceni. From that moment onwards, he became my inspiration and idol."
Out of Ceni's 131 goals, a staggering 59 of them came from direct free-kicks, and 71 came from penalties, and one comes from open play.
This record makes him the highest-scoring goalkeeper in history, as well as the Brazilian with the most appearances for a single club, ahead of Pelé. During this incredible career, Ceni won almost everything there was to win with o Tricolor, including three consecutive Brazilian titles, four São Paulo state championships, the Copa Libertadores, and a Club World Cup in which he was awarded player of the tournament and man of the match in the final.
Muricy Ramalho, noticing Ceni’s ability to shoot at goal in training, encouraged his number one to improve his free-kicks to a level where the risk of having the keeper 90 yards from goal was one worth taking. After six months and an estimated 15,000 practice kicks on the training ground, Ramalho decided to designate the goalkeeper as his dead-ball specialist.
In that year’s Campeonato Paulista, in a game against União São João, São Paulo was awarded a foul on the edge of the opposition box, and to everyone outside the club’s surprise Ceni stepped up. He noticed that the União keeper was positioned behind the wall, a fair distance from the side of the goal that he should have been covering, so resolved to hit it low and hard around the six-man barrier.
The ball flew into the bottom corner on the goalkeeper’s side and the 24-year-old reacted with the sort of disbelieving delight that you would expect from a goalkeeper scoring a set-piece for the first time.
Rogério only went on to score another two that season but there was no doubt about his ability to convert from dangerous dead-ball situations. This turned Ceni into one of the greatest free-kick takers in football history.
Even though younger fans might be more accustomed to seeing Ronald Koeman on the bench as a manager, older fans of the game remember 'the blonde arrow' as one of the greatest defenders to grace a football field.
Regarded as one of the best and most prolific attacking central defenders of all time, due to his eye for goal, Koeman was renowned for his specialty on free-kicks; is the top-scoring defender in world football.
During his heyday, Ronald Koeman was a superb defender, capable with the ball at his feet and to date remains the highest scoring defender of all time with 253 official goals (more than some strikers manage in their career) of which 60 came from direct free-kicks.
Koeman was nicknamed the King of free-kicks and was capable of striking the ball with power from long-range free kicks, or curling shots on goal from close range.
One of the best free-kick takers ever, He represented some of the best clubs in the world during his prime including Ajax, PSV, and Barcelona, captaining the latter to their first-ever European Cup in 1992 (scoring the winning goal off what else but a free kick)
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In the eyes of many, the most naturally talented Brazilian player of all time, Zico exhibited poise, finesse, and wonderful technique during his playing days.
Having started his career in his native Brazil, Zico courted worldwide attention with his displays for the Samba Boys at the 1982 World Cup and prompted a transfer to Italian side Udinese.
Time after time, Zico casually struck the ball and drove it perfectly into the upper 90, leaving the goalkeeper no chance to make a save. Zico occasionally added power to his free kicks but his primary attribute was accuracy, which to this day is nearly unparalleled. His training regimen of putting shirts in the corners of the goal resulted in a lethal ability to score from a free-kick anywhere on the pitch by simply picking out his spot.
He took his free-kick specialty with him to the Serie A and they were so deadly that television stations constantly debated on the best way to stop them (to limited effect).
In total, 'the white Pele' scored a total of 62 direct free-kicks and is undoubtedly one of the all-time best free-kick takers ever.
While Diego Maradona might be more famous as the scorer of the 'goal of the century' and the 'hand of God' incident, his controversies take nothing away from the fact that he remains one of the very best to have graced a football field.
Close control, wonderful technique, and great vision, Maradona was the precursor to Lionel Messi and they bear similarities in more ways than one, from their body build and stature to playing pattern.
In total, Maradona scored 344 goals throughout his illustrious career, of which 62 were scored from direct free kicks.
The modern-day poster boy of British football, David Beckham courted world attention and press coverage due to his boyish good looks, charismatic charm, and marriage to former spice girl 'Posh'.
However, all these should take nothing away from the fact that he was an extremely wonderful footballer in his own right and was voted runner up in the 1999 Ballon d'Or as well as the 2001 FIFA World Best Player awards.
Beckham made a name for himself with his trademark crossing and set-piece accuracy and nowhere was this more evident than in the fact that it gave birth to a movie 'Bend it like Beckham' based on his dipping 'banana curve' free kicks.
He established himself as a bonafide global superstar at Manchester United and went on to represent Real Madrid, AC Milan, PSG, and Los Angeles before retiring. Upon retirement, he started his football club in addition to numerous other businesses in which he operates.
David Beckham has scored a total of 65 goals from free-kicks, only one goal less than Ronaldinho.
Undoubtedly the best player in the world in the middle of the last decade, Ronaldinho laid the groundwork for all of the successes enjoyed by Barcelona today.
The Brazilian is often referred to as the best football player to ever grace the football pitch and any person who has witnessed him play would find it hard to disagree. The retired Brazilian could do everything, dribble, pass, shoot, and above all possessed a flair that was second to none.
Ronaldinho was unquestionably pretty decent when it came to free-kicks. One of his most famous free-kick goals came against England in the 2002 FIFA World Cup. The play-maker plied his trade for football clubs like Paris Saint-Germain, FC Barcelona, and AC Milan among others.
There, he scored from all kinds of positions, particularly from direct free-kick situations. Ever smiling but deadly on the field, Ronaldinho wowed fans around the world with his array of tricks and flicks and was voted as the best player in the world in 2004 and 2005 while he was also the first person in history to have 1 million views on his video on the-then newly-formed YouTube.
Ronaldinho was also loved by all and sundry and was only the second Barcelona player in history to receive a standing ovation at the Santiago Bernabeu, while he was also deadly accurate from setpieces, scoring 66 goals across different continents.
Ronaldinho has scored a total of 66 free-kicks.
The one name on this list you most likely would not have heard of - Victor Legrotaglie was an Argentine forward who made a name for himself in the 1960s and 1970s with his displays in the Argentine national league.
He represented numerous clubs in Argentina with distinction and reportedly turned down chances to move to Europe, with Real Madrid and Inter seeking his services.
In total, Legrotaglie scored 66 direct free-kicks and they are enough to place him fourth on the list of highest scoring free-kick takers, and making him one of the greatest free-kick takers ever.
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Pele is widely considered by a lot of fans, pundits, and FIFA themselves to be the greatest player in history and the Brazilian legend does have the stats to back this up.
He came to worldwide prominence with his displays at the 1958 World Cup, where at just 18, Pele wowed global audiences by helping the South American nation to her first-ever World Cup triumph and he did not look back since then. He was a lethal striker who had an unmatched instinct to be in scoring positions. One of the many qualities he possessed as a footballer was his prowess in dead-ball situations.
In total, Pele scored over 1,000 goals (although only 757 are considered official) and 70 of these came off direct free-kicks. Pele is one of the best free kick takers of all time.
Juninho is the greatest free-kick taker in history, having scored a whopping 77 goals directly from free-kicks throughout his career,
The retired midfielder sent shivers down the spines of the opposing goalkeepers whenever he stepped up to take one. He made a name for himself at Olympique Lyon where he spent eight seasons, winning seven Ligue 1 titles consecutively and also represented some other clubs including Vasco da Gama and New York Red Bulls.
The Brazilian play-maker played a vital part in Olympique Lyon’s domination of the French Ligue 1 before PSG came in with a lot of cash and took over the domestic football scene. Juninho helped the side win seven league titles and frequently contributed with sensational goals from set-pieces. Juninho is for sure, one of the greatest free-kick takers in football history.
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