Connect in the back of the net

There has always been something special about a free-kick. One of the hardest techniques in football and a speciality which only a few players can pride themselves on having. But what makes a free-kick so perfect? And which techniques have been the most effective over time?

In regards to style, there has been a variation of techniques over time with some having greater success than others. Footballers are always copying each other and trying to come up with new ways of being deadly from a set-piece.

So who has been the best?

 

Juninho Pernambucano

The Brazilian was magical from a dead ball. The former Lyon star notched up an astonishing 44 goals from free-kicks during his time in France. Juninho had a special technique of hitting the ball with three of his toes, but unlike some free-kick specialists who are deadliest from a certain range, it didn’t matter to him.

He was able to incorporate a curling dipping shot as he used his instep, or a dipping smash from 30 yards.

 

Ronald Koeman

The Dutchman’s goal gave Barcelona their first ever European triumph. How did he score it? You guessed, a free-kick. Koeman was well known for his ability to howitzer the ball in from a set-piece and he did just that against Sampdoria to win Barcelona a European cup.

Although his trademark, Koeman also had a knack for floating the ball in, he was often able to deceive the keeper and get it ‘up and over’ the wall very quickly.

 

David Beckham

England’s hero and probably the most famous player on the list. There is no doubting his ability from a dead ball, but the former Three Lions captain would get access to almost every free-kick. He was able to put astonishing whip on the ball, pivoting his body to a 90-degree angle in order to get the most curl.

Beckham is the only English player to have ever scored in three consecutive World Cups with two of those being free-kicks. But it was ‘that’ goal against Greece which arguably made him England’s hero.

 

Zico

Another Brazilian who makes the list, how typical. But Zico never seemed to miss. In an age where a football pundit is sat on his comfy sofa, complaining about everything, how often do we hear, ‘they have to hit the target?’ They wouldn’t be saying that with Zico, although he didn’t score every free-kick, we would constantly see him make the keeper work.

He was able to get incredible dip on the ball and would often end up placing the ball in one of the bottom corners. Perhaps best from around 20 yards out, it was like a penalty for the midfielder.

 

Cristiano Ronaldo

A controversial choice maybe. But Ronaldo gets on the list for effectively inventing a new technique of free-kick taking. The Knuckleball as it’s now known has been Ronaldo’s trademark since his Manchester United days.

The technique incorporates striking the ball with the laces of your foot and hitting the valve of the ball, this is what causes the ball to zig zag and dip at such tremendous pace. Although Ronaldo has hardly mastered it, missing far more than he scores, he has made Real Madrid one of the favourites for this year’s Champions League because of his free-kick against Wolfsburg.

There are some honourable mentions which have to go on the list, Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldinho and Sinisa Mihajlovic. But in terms of scoring free-kicks at the biggest moments and incorporating their own technique, these are surely the pick of the bunch.

 

Written by Edward Ware

Follow Edward on Twitter @wade_edward

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