There are few better sights in football than a free-kick finding the net.
Whether its Cristiano Ronaldo scoring with a whirling knuckleball or Lionel Messi curling it delightfully over the wall, some of the finest goals in football emerge from set pieces.
Memories of Roberto Carlos defying physics with his screamer against France and David Beckham whipping a trademark strike past Greece are just two of the most famous examples.
And Messi thrust free-kicks into the spotlight once again at the weekend, scoring two in one game during the win over Espanyol and extending his tally to 10 just in 2018.
It’s an incredible record to say the very least and many football fans would now consider him the best free-kick taker in the world.
BEST FREE-KICK TAKERS
Nevertheless, form aside, there are still experts aplenty in Europe’s top five leagues and fans love to debate who they’d nominate to take a 90th minute free-kick for them.
It doesn’t get much better than 2018 Messi but would players like Miralem Pjanic, Neymar or even Juan Mata be in the conversation?
It’s certainly an interesting debate and there’s no better way to settle it than looking at the statistics themselves, seeing who has produced the most in recent times.
Take a look at the final 15 down below:
1. Lionel Messi (Barcelona) – 19
2. Miralem Pjanic (Juventus) – 12
3. Hakan Calhanoglu (AC Milan) – 12
4. Paulo Dybala (Juventus) – 9
5. Daniel Wass (Valencia) – 8
6. Daniel Parejo (Valencia) – 8
7. Aleksandr Kolarov (AS Roma) – 7
8. Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus) – 7
9. Juan Mata (Manchester United) – 6
10. Enis Bardhi (Levante) – 6
11. James Rodriguez (Bayern Munich) – 6
12. Marvin Plattenhart (Hertha Berlin) – 6
13. Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain) – 6
14. Andrea Pirlo (Retired) – 6
15. Alexis Sanchez (Manchester United) – 6
Wow. A round of applause for Messi.
The Barcelona star doesn’t only top the list, but he runs away with the lead and his free-kick spree in 2018 would still top everybody’s achievements since 2013 barring two.
It’s interesting to note Ronaldo’s location and it goes to show his efficiency has declined from those lucrative goalscoring days at Manchester United.
And his hopes of taking free-kicks for Juventus could certainly be under threat when you consider both Dybala and Pjanic have trumped him over the last five years.
Fans might also be surprised to see Neymar so low on the list, with the Brazilian only punishing six fouls since moving to European football.
Meanwhile, the only two Premier League players both come from Old Trafford with Sanchez and Mata providing set piece expertise.
When the winner is seven goals clear, though, there’s nothing more to reflect upon than Messi’s brilliance from free-kicks. Superb.
Who do you think is the best free-kick taker in the world? Have your say in the comments section below.