James Ward-Prowse continued to state his case as the Premier League’s finest set-piece taker this weekend, the Southampton midfielder curling home yet another fabulous free-kick in the Saints’ 3-2 defeat to Manchester United.
It was remarkably the 26-year-old’s third free-kick goal from just six efforts during the current campaign, whilst no player can better his record of five scored since the start of last season.
Ward-Prowse is now also just one short of reaching double figures for free-kicks scored since his Premier League debut, a milestone achieved by just eight players in the history of the division.
Following the Saints’ star’s latest superb set-piece, we’ve looked back at the players to have scored the most goals directly from free-kicks in Premier League history:
Laurent Robert – 11 goals
Robert was very much your typical flair player. The former France international was capable of producing world class moments of magic that could win a game in an instant, but on the other hand, he could just as easily roam around the pitch looking completely uninterested at times.
When he was on form, however, the talented left-winger was simply sublime. He had a wand of a left peg and used this to smash home 11 free-kicks for Newcastle between 2001-2006. As the video below will show, Robert had a real penchant for the spectacular.
Cristiano Ronaldo – 11 goals
Not a bad player this fella. Ronaldo arrived in England as a skinny, spotty teenager in 2003 after Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson paid Portuguese side Sporting Lisbon £12 million to secure his services.
The Red Devils’ legendary Scottish manager obviously knew a player when he saw one and immediately handed the youngster United’s famous number 7 shirt after the departure of David Beckham.
Ronaldo struggled for consistency during his first few seasons in England, but soon began a transformation that has seen him become one of the greatest footballers of all-time.
Cristiano was also one of the first players in the Premier League to use the now famous ”knuckleball,” free kick to devastating effect.
Ronaldo left to sign for Real Madrid in a world-record deal in 2009 and enjoyed a glittering career with the Spanish giants, winning four Champions League trophies during his time at the Bernabeu and becoming the club’s all-time record goalscorer with an unbelievable 450 goals in 438 appearances.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner remains one of the game’s greats even in the twilight of his career, currently starring in the colours of Italian champions Juventus.
Sebastian Larsson -11 goals
Larsson began his career in England under the tutelage of Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. The Swedish international would struggle for game time at the Emirates, however, and left the club in 2006 to join Birmingham City, were his superb technical ability soon began to shine.
Larsson is renowned for his superb crossing and dead-ball delivery. He would move on to Sunderland in 2011 were his classy free-kick ability and finishing were vital during the Black Cats’ seasonal battle against relegation.
The 35-year-old spent more than a decade in English football and has won a huge 125 caps for the Sweden national side, the midfielder currently playing in his homeland for AIK.
Gianfranco Zola – 12 goals
We have already waxed lyrical about the brilliance of diminutive Italian playmaker Gianfranco Zola plenty of times on this site already.
Zola rose to prominence with Serie A side Napoli and formed part of their title-winning side in 1990, where he played alongside the legendary Diego Maradona before moving on to form part of a cult Parma side in the nineties.
He signed for Chelsea in 1996 as the Premier League welcomed several exciting imports and his supreme technical ability would soon become the thing of legend.
So good was the former Italy international at taking free-kicks that opposition managers often sent their teams out with instructions not to concede fould around the edge of their own box, as with Zola’s dead-ball ability it was akin to giving away a penalty.
Thierry Henry – 12 goals
Thierry Henry is, in this author’s opinion, the greatest attacking player the Premier League has ever seen.
He was the main man in the great Arsenal teams of the early noughties, the former France international’s pace, skill and lethal finishing ability making him almost impossible to play against in his prime.
In all honesty, he wasn’t even really renowned for his ability to strike a dead ball, but he still managed to score the second most amount of free-kicks ever in Premier League history.
This is Thierry Henry though, there was nothing he couldn’t do.
David Beckham – 15 goals
David Beckham is not just the best free-kick taker the Premier League has ever produced, he is one of the most technically gifted strikers of a football in the history of the beautiful game.
There is no great secret to Beckham’s perfection of striking a dead ball, he just practiced, practiced and then practiced some more.
The former England captain’s trademark curling free-kicks were a crucial part of the massive success Manchester United enjoyed during his 11 seasons with the Old Trafford club between 1992-2003.
Becks went on to represent Real Madrid, LA Galaxy, AC Milan and PSG after leaving his boyhood club and will always be remembered as one of football biggest global icons.