Scoring from a free-kick is both an art and a science. Players usually need to find the net after beating both the defensive wall and the goalkeeper, and with very little space at which to aim. It is a skill honed by hours of practice on the training ground. These are the players who are regarded as among the best free kick takers of all time.
Best free-kick takers of all time
Juhinho Pernambucano (77 goals)
No player has scored more goals in the history of top flight football than the Brazilian Juhinho Pernambucano, who is credited with having scored 77 free kicks in a career that included spells with Vasco de Gama, and in France with Lyon, whom he helped win seven league titles. He later played in both the USA and the Middle East.
He was a proponent of the “knuckle ball” free kick striking the ball in such a way that it span in flight, often confusing the opposing goalkeeper.
Pelé (70 goals)
Widely considered the finest player of all-time, no player scored more goals in his career than the Brazilian Pelé, with a fair proportion of those coming from free-kicks. He would often bend the ball round the opposing wall, but rarely took penalties (direct free kicks in the area), because he believed it was a cowardly way to score. He would often look to take free kicks early before the defence had a chance to set themselves.
Victor Legrotaglie (66 goals)
Legrotaglie is now largely forgotten because he spent his entire playing career in Argentina and shunned high profile moves to Europe with the likes of Real Madrid and Inter Milan both interested in signing him at one point.
Instead, he retired as the most prolific Argentine from dead ball situations, out-stripping more illustrious compatriots like Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi.
Ronaldinho (66 goals)
The third Brazilian on the list, twice Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldinho helped his country win the World Cup in 2002, and was regarded as one of the most talented players of his generation, with an array of skills and tricks. Among his repertoire was the ability to score from free-kicks which he managed to do on 66 occasions.
David Beckham (65 goals)
The first European to feature, Beckham’s ability from free-kicks was legendary, with perhaps his most famous free-kick the last minute equaliser against Greece that enabled England to qualify for the 2002 World Cup (they lost in the quarter-final to a free-kick goal scored by Ronaldinho for Brazil).
So famous did his free-kick technique become that it gave birth to a book “Bend it like Beckham, and a film of the same name.
Diego Maradona (62 goals)
The challenger to Pelé as GOAT (Greatest of All Time) the diminutive Argentine Diego Maradona had unparalleled close control, dribbling ability and vision, but he was also a masterful free-kick taker. His technique was to stand over the ball and then curl it round the wall into the top corner. The opposing defence knew what he was going to do, but stopping him often proved beyond them.