The referee blows a whistle for a foul when a player charges the opponent’s penalty area a few yards away from the shooting opportunity. The ball is carefully placed 20+ yards outside the box, the defenders organize the wall of their players and move to all positions when the attacking team arranges which kick to take and how they will try to score. This scene has found itself countless times in various football leagues around the world. Of course, as fans, we know that the player is more likely than not to break the ball against the wall, or the ball will fly over the net. Statistically, the chances of a free kick score are slim, but it can be an absolute matter of beauty when it works.
Of course, teams don’t let anyone take a free-kick when they get a chance. Most sides have a few players who have demonstrated the ability to consistently combine strength with precision to get the ball over the wall (or around it) and into the target. Over the years, certain players have made a name for themselves as great free-kick customers. Roberto Carlos, David Beckham, Marcelinho Carioca, Michelle Platini, Zico, and Juninho are legendary shooters who gave the opposing defender a few free kicks. What makes such players special is that they can do the ball so that others could not. It seemed like a magic trick for them to bend the ball, shuffle or dive with such accuracy. Of course, before the keeper has any idea what is going on, they can give more force than enough to fly into the net.
The following list does not include Carlos, Beckham, or Juninho. Instead, at the top of this list are the free-kick recipients who are active today. You will find a mix of young and experienced seniors, all capable and proven free-kick takers. Of course, the subject matter is subjective, and some players will not be missed by limiting it to the top ten. That said, if your team needs someone to take an important free-kick, it is unlikely that you will remove the service of any of the following players.
One of the most popular and marketed players in world football this year, Neymar has clearly named himself in Spanish La Liga and during the 2014 World Cup. During his time with Santos, Barcelona, and the Brazilian national team, the 22-year-old has shown his lethality in and around this box. There are many memorable highlights to pick from, but in terms of free kicks, perhaps the strike against Belarus at the 2012 Olympics and the goal against Panama during this June’s World Cup friendly match show the appropriateness and strategy. Undoubtedly, La Liga and the international defenders’ most worrying thing is that this highly skilled player is still starting his career and has many more years to work on his magic. Still, he has fully recovered from the traumatic backlash he endured in the last World Cup.
9. Ya tore
At the top of the list is Manchester City’s Midfield Power House Yaya Tour. While he doesn’t bother on missed birthdays, the Ivorians usually dominate the midfield and help coordinate City’s attacks. In the case of free kicks, the tour has gained an unparalleled reputation for looking behind the net. He scored four great goals from a free-kick situation this past season in the Premier League. Toure showed the ability to get a ball over the wall and drop it quickly. Since he demonstrated so effectively against Norwich City, this skill makes a shot that has almost no chance of stopping the defender.
8. Steven Gerrard
Unlike Neymar, Steven Gerrard is the twilight of his career. The Liverpool captain has led his side to the Champions League title and several domestic cups win. The midfielder has scored more than 170 goals throughout his club and international career, including some great free kicks. Gerard may not have been scoring recently from a free-kick, but no one can deny his strength and accuracy when standing above a set game in his career. Some of the best include goals against Arsenal and Aston Villa in the 07-08 season and as a 30-yard strimmer against Newcastle United at St James’ Park.
7. Gareth Bell
6. Luis Suarez
Unfortunately for Luis Suarez, he seems to be in the media spotlight lately for all the wrong reasons. Before Uruguayan developed a taste for Serbian and Italian defenders, opponents fled because of the speed and skill of the cunning. Suarez also boasted an impressive free-kick strategy that has caught multiple defenders over the years. This past season, he showed off his scoring skills from a distance with a great goal against Hall on New Year’s Day. His ability to bend a low shot around the wall and in the bottom corner appearing against EPL rivals Everton and Manchester City is perhaps even more impressive.
He could be nearing the end of his career and no longer be in the spotlight, and he could even play his own line of condoms, but Ronaldinho still deserves a place on this list. Most people probably know ‘Gaucho’ from his time in Barcelona. From 2003 to 2006, he proved that he could score in any situation. On the condition of a free-kick, he could have gone around the defensive wall or even to the top, trying to block the kick virtually in vain. He scored from two free-kicks in the same match against Flumini in September 2013, and in December, he made a spectacular curling shot against King Casablanca at the FIFA Club World Cup.
4. Tied -3. Lionel Messi
Perhaps the most famous clips of Lionel Messi on the pitch involved jig-jigging his way through the puzzles of defenders before firing a shot to the back of the net. It always seems to football fans that Messi’s highlights are ‘simply’ showing the opposition’s stupidity (or panic) before they inevitably score Argentina’s divisive coverage. Still, Messi can score free kicks and is pretty good at it too. During the group stage of the 2014 World Cup, Barcelona was left helpless by a 25-yard curling attack against attacking Nigeria. We can’t forget his show with Barcelona either, which has a lot to list here.
3. Tied-3. Cristiano Ronaldo
Okay, so you can see Messi and Ronaldo are tied because we don’t seem to be going into the whole debate about who’s better at The Richest here. Now that it’s settled let’s move on to Ronaldo. This Portuguese forward continued to rise to fame at Manchester United during his time. With United, Ronaldo developed his trademark strategy for free kicks in which the ball was forced to hit directly with the tip of his boot, and the ball almost inadvertently moved towards the goal. The 2013 World Soccer player has scored some impressive goals from free-kicks over the years. The 2009 Champions League semi-final strike against Arsenal, the Champions League clash with Real Madrid in 2002 against Marseille and the spectacular EPL campaign against Portsmouth in the 200PL were probably his best.
2. Francesco Lodi
In his 14+ year career, Italian Francesco Lodi has earned a reputation as one of the best free-kick takers. With Catania, Lodi has spent his entire career in the Italian Serie A; this playmaking midfielder like Ronaldo, Bell, and Messi is much more effective than talking about free-kicks free kicks years; Lodi has used curling his side legs to keep the root on the ground as the ball flies behind the net. In the 2012/13 season, he scored from 5 free kicks and posted one of the highest conversion rates for free-kick recipients – more than anyone else on this list.
1. Andrea Pirlo
We have won all the club and individual awards in Andrea Pirlo’s career, but we felt it would take up too much space in this article. We can talk about the Italian midfielder’s beard and the fact that he has his own Facebook and Twitter account, but we think it’s wise not to be angry with the great Pirlo beard. Instead, let’s stick to free kicks. Pirlo is perhaps best known for his decade-long career at AC Milan in Serie A since 2011, relying on his business at the 35-year-old Juventus. He has taken more than 40 free kicks in his career with more than two dozen Serie A players. His last attempt against England in the World Cup failed to score, but defender Joe Hart captivated the English international’s point. Pirlo’s praise spot for his shot after the final whistle.