There is nothing more spectacular than seeing a ball fly into the net from distance with almost an entire team in front of you. It’s a unique skill that only some can excel in but very few have mastered to perfection. When it is mastered though, these free kicks create memories that live on forever beyond a player’s time on the pitch. James Ward-Prowse is currently making a name for himself as the finest free kick take in the Premier League. However, who are the best free kick takers of all time?
7 best free kick takers ever
There have been few players who have exhibited technical ball skills this century quite like Andrea Pirlo. Whilst the Italian craftsman was one of the best passing midfielders of his generation, it was his free kicks that would often earn him the most plaudits.
Whilst they weren’t known for excessive power or bend, they were deadly accurate 99.9% of the time. Whether he was taking a free-kick from the touchline or aiming for the touchline, you could be sure that there was always a threat at goal with him on the ball. No-one has really terrorized defences and caused mass panic from a dead ball situation in a box since his retirement in 2017. Pirlo netted 45 free kicks in his career, making him one of the best takers ever.
Juan Roman Riquelme
One of the more underrated players in the 2000s, Juan Roman Riquelme certainly made a statement whenever he stood over a dead ball situation. With the ability to generate a lot of power from distance as well as having almost flawless technique, you always knew that he stood a good chance of finding the corner.
Having replicated his form consistently throughout both Europe and South America, Riquelme’s strikes were often one of beauty and beat many of the best players to ever step foot on the pitch. He still retained free kick duties for Argentina as Lionel Messi rose to prominence telling you everything you need to know about Riquelme’s touch and power. 31 goals from direct free kicks in his career shows how talented he was.
Jose Luis Chilavert
Goalkeepers are meant to stop goals however Paraguay’s legendary goalkeeper Jose Luis Chilavert made a name for himself thanks to his goalscoring abilities. Only ever attacking from a direct set-piece, Chilavert would generate a lot of force on his free kicks making them a nightmare for his opposite number 1.
In a career where he became the first goalkeeper to score a hat-trick in 1999 for Velez Sarsfield and a famous free kick from his own half in a derby against River Plate in 2001, there are plenty of outrageous highlights for Chilavert to look back on during his illustrious career. He wasn’t a bad goalkeeper either having won the IFFHS World’s Best Goalkeeper award 3 times between 1995 and 1998. One of the best goalkeepers ever and one of the greatest free kick takers as well with 17 career strikes.
Whilst his slight stature may not look imposing, Juninho was arguably the deadliest free-kick taker to have ever graced the game. His technique was textbook and he generated a surprising amount of power to strike it from almost any distance. He could adjust his technique though to also whip balls in from extremely acute angles scoring some memorable goals from near the touchline or reversing it in the opposite direction from a central position.
Having scored 75 direct free kicks in his career, the miniature Brazilian holds the record for most free kicks scored by a player during their career. That covers over 50% of his 148 goals scored throughout his career – now that’s a specialist!
A part of the legendary Brazil squad that existed through the 1990’s and early 2000s, Roberto Carlos had many impressive skills and abilities. However, the attacking full-back pioneer has perhaps been best remembered for his gravity-defying free kicks that are some of the greatest strikes today. He would always strike the ball with scary power and precision that would leave players and fans in awe as they whistled into the back of the net.
His free kicks were once measured to reach 107mph on the pitch and had such swerve that they could literally swerve in the other direction almost instantaneously. His 10 step run up was also a unique approach to striking a ball and also became one of the first signature moves to be captured in a video game having being replicated in the original incarnations of the Pro Evolution Soccer franchise. His ‘impossible’ strike for Brazil against France in Le Tournoi in 1997 remains one of the most iconic goals ever scored.
There is very little that Cristiano Ronaldo can’t do on the football pitch but free kicks have become very much one of his signature trademarks. Anyone seeing that square stance just beyond the ball knows what’s coming but is still hard to deal with as Ronaldo generates such power and whip on the ball from such a short run-up. No matter if its 20 or 40 yards out, you know that Ronaldo will find the top corner without much effort and has scored hat-tricks just from set pieces alone making him one of the deadliest free-kick specialists around today. One of the best players of all time, it will come as no surprise that he ranks as one of the greatets free kick takers too.
The poster boy of English football for the 21st century, David Beckham’s name is known worldwide thanks to his free kick abilities. Having risen to fame with Manchester United, it was Beckham’s iconic free kick against Greece in 2001 that has forever been etched in the memory for England fans who witnessed the match. His ability to bend the ball from any angle earned him a fearsome reputation and saw him take set-pieces for Real Madrid at a time when they had both Roberto Carlos and Luis Figo on the books as well. He also literally had a sports film named after his free kick style too so I guess you can’t get much more recognised than that – so can you bend it like Beckham?
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