In soccer, a free kick is awarded after a foul has been committed outside of the penalty area. A free kick arguably requires the highest level of skill to turn into a goal because of the power and touch it takes to finesse the ball around defenders. Watching the ball swerve, dive, and zip past defenders’ heads is one of the most beautiful things in all of sports.
The following ten players consistently made defenders shake in their cleats with ferocious kicks that could change the tone of a match with the blink of an eye.
10. Lionel Messi
Messi is arguably the best all around player in the world. This list, however, is dedicated solely to free kick ability. Had Messi burst onto the scene with a knack for free kicks, he might rank a little higher. His recent development of a nasty free kick is definitely nothing to take lightly (see below), and is why he is now one of the top ten of all time.
9. Alessandro del Piero
Part of Del Piero’s dominance of the free kick skill is the myriad of ways in which he could score. When he lined up for a free kick, defenders had to be ready to defend any type of shot conceivable. He could blast it into the back corner of the net, or send the ball trickling past heart, and ankle, broken goalies.
8. Steven Gerrard
Gerrard is a fundamental free kick taker. His kicks are simple and straightforward. His power and accuracy allowed him to identify a flightpath from the ball to the goal, and execute the shot. He never tried to do too much with his kicks… because he didn’t have to.
7. Andrea Pirlo
Precision, that is really all that needs to be said of Pirlo. His ball skills are extraterrestrial. His pinpoint accuracy shows in his passing game and in his free kicks. When the ball leaves his foot, defenders can rest assured the ball is going exactly where he wants it to go.
6. Sinisa Mihajlovic
Mihajlovic is the only player in history to score a hat trick off of free kicks. His ability to blast the ball past defenders made free kicks look more like penalty shots. Some say that defenders in lopsided matches would purposely misaligned walls in order to avoid the risk of being seriously injured by one of his cannons.
5. Cristiano Ronaldo
His kicks are a thing of beauty. Like the rest of his game, his free kicks are unbelievable. He can maneuver the ball around walls of defenders, blast it past goalies, and throw off opposing teams with his mesmerizing knuckle ball kicks.
4. Roberto Carlos
The most powerful free kick taker in history had the ability to score a free kick from 50 meters. This kick sums up his skill set as a free kick taker pretty much perfectly. There are two words one could use to effectively describe his kicks: laser and rocket.
3. David Beckham
The only player in history with a movie named after his free kicks. Watching his kicks bend past defenders, it is easy to see why they inspired a Hollywood production. His talents were not all about finesse though. Beckham could also score from distance.
With legendary skill, Ronaldinho is second on the list of best free kick takers ever. When the ball left his foot, most people assumed there was someone on the sidelines with a remote controlling the ball around defenders and into the goal. The only reason he doesn’t have a movie named after his is because “Bend it Like Ronaldinho” is about as catchy as pots and pans falling down the stairs.
1. Juninho Pernambucano
His kicks were beautiful and elegant. His technique from an early age was impeccable. From that natural ability, he built his free kicks into an unstoppable force. No matter where he lined up on the pitch, he had the full attention of the defense. No amount of preparation could ready opposing goalies for the clinic Juninho put on match after match, amassing over 75 free kick goals over the course of his career.