Stepping up to score a stunning set-piece has been part of the make-up of some truly top talents, each possessing the quality and nerve to score fantastic free-kicks.
Free-kicks are a major part of football and having a dead-ball expert in the side can transform the threat of an atacking team. Throughout football history we’ve seen some terrific takers of set-piece situations and we’ve decided to celebrate some of the very best the game has seen.
Here are six of the best free-kick takers of all time.
Zico was one of the finest footballers of his era and is widely acknowledged as the greatest Brazilian to have never won a World Cup.
The midfielder became a club legend at Flamengo, for who he scored 393 goals across two spells and won four league titles, one Copa Libertadores and a Club World Cup in the 1980s.
He memorably produced a stunning performance against Liverpool’s all-conquering side in the latter tournament, as the South American’s skill and flair inspired Flamengo to a 3-0 win against a Reds side containing the likes of Kenny Dalglish and Graeme Souness.
Free kick by Zico (1982)
🇧🇷 ⚽ 🏴 pic.twitter.com/3ju8oGZXfJ
— MotherSoccer (@MotherSoccerNL) April 6, 2022
Zico was a brilliant playmaker and among the finest weapons in his arsenal was an ability from set-pieces. He is credited with scoring more than a century of free-kicks across his career, nonchalantly bending the ball into the top corner with laser-like accuracy. One of the most iconic number tens of all time, he scored 48 goals in 71 appearances for Brazil.
Has any player ever been associated with free-kicks quite like David Beckham?
Beckham’s expertise saw him some spectacularly during a career at the top level and the former England captain holds the record for the most free-kick goals in Premier League history (18).
Beckham’s incredible technique came from hours and hours of mastering his trade on the training ground, developing an ability to whip the ball up and down to great effect.
— Premier League (@premierleague) December 25, 2018
Perhaps his greatest effort came in the colours of the national team, as his stunning stoppage-time set-piece against Greece earned England a place at the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea.
Italian football has been home to some brilliant free-kick takers.
Roberto Baggio, Alessandro del Piero, Francesco Totti and Andrea Pirlo all spent the bulk of their careers taking free-kicks in Serie A, but none of that group could match Sinisa Mihajlovic’s record from set-piece situations.
The Serbian scored more free-kicks than any other player in the league’s history (28), having been a key part of the Lazio side that won the Scudetto, Cup Winners’ Cup and Uefa Super Cup under Sven-Göran Eriksson.
Mihajlovic had earlier formed part of the Red Star Belgrade team that won the European Cup in 1991 and also represented Roma, Sampdoria and Inter Milan.
Lo specialista dei calci di punizione! 🎯
🌟 Siniša Mihajlović 🌟 pic.twitter.com/yRcVOfV85B
— La UEFA (@UEFAcom_it) September 6, 2021
The full-back’s repertoire included thunderbastards from distance and wonderful efforts of arc and dip. He memorably scored a hat-trick of free-kicks in the same game against former side Sampdoria.
No conversation discussing world football’s finest free-kick takers would be complete without Juninho Pernambucano, a man who will forever be remembered for his ability to score truly spectacular set-pieces.
The brilliant Brazilian is often hailed as the best free-kick taker of all time, having compiled a catalogue of glorious goals.
Juninho was a master when it came to free-kicks and is often credited with perfecting the knuckleball technique often used today. One swoosh of his right boot and the ball would dip, swerve and deceive even the most alert of goalkeepers.
Just take a look at his collection below.
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) July 17, 2020
No distance or angle was off limits to the midfielder, who scored stunner after stunner during a career at Lyon that delivered seven consecutive Ligue 1 titles. He scored a century of goals for the French side – 36 of which came from direct free-kicks.
Lionel Messi might just be the greatest footballer the world has ever seen.
There are strong arguments that the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner is the best goalscorer, creator and dribbler of all time, while he wouldn’t be far from the conversation when it comes to free-kick expertise.
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) October 1, 2022
Among the abundance of records that Messi has collected during an astonishing career includes the La Liga landmark for free-kick goals, having scored 39 during his decorated career at Barcelona. For context, that’s more than double the number David Beckham scored at Manchester United.
Add in a roll of honours that includes ten La Liga crowns, four Champions League titles, and Copa America and World Cup success with Argentina and Messi’s case as the game’s GOAT is pretty bulletproof.