Best Free-Kick Takers in History: Throughout the history of football, there have been extraordinary players who possessed a unique talent for taking free kicks. These players had the ability to bend the ball with precision, power, and finesse, leaving goalkeepers helpless as the ball found its way into the back of the net. Their mastery of the art of free-kick taking set them apart from their peers and etched their names into the annals of the sport. In this ranking, we will explore the top free-kick takers in football history, celebrating their skill, technique, and the countless unforgettable moments they created on the pitch.
There are different ways to score goals, and one of them is through a direct free kick. Scoring from free kicks regularly is not easy and requires both accuracy and strength to overcome the defensive wall and goalkeeper.
Best Players In The World By Position
There are a few footballers who have become experts in taking free kicks and consistently score when they get the chance. They have mastered the skill of free-kick taking and can find the back of the net with their shots.
The 20 Best Free-Kick Takers in History
|Alessandro Del Piero
|Sini sa Mihajlovic
Best Free-Kick Takers
Here is our list of the top ten players who are considered the best free-kick takers in football history.
20. Thierry Henry
- No. of Free Kicks Scored: 10
Thierry Henry is known as one of the best free kick takers in the world. He has scored more than 10 goals from set pieces throughout his career. He is a versatile striker who can score goals and make a difference on the football field.
After starting his professional career at AS Monaco in France, Thierry Henry moved on to play for Juventus and then joined Arsenal. He also played for FC Barcelona and the New York Red Bulls. He achieved many records and accomplishments with his clubs and the French national team. His career achievements are extensive.
19. Neymar Junior
- No. of Free Kicks Scored: 14
Neymar Junior is a talented football player who is currently active and loved by fans all over the world. He is a complete player who excels in all aspects of the game. One of his specialties is taking free kicks, and he has already scored more than 14 goals from set pieces in his career.
One of his most memorable free kicks was during a comeback against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League, where he scored the fourth goal. After a successful stint at FC Barcelona, Neymar Junior joined a club in the French capital, where he has been showcasing his skills for several seasons.
Neymar Junior has an impressive career record and was ranked 11th in the Ballon d’Or rankings in 2011. He has also become a key player for the Brazilian national team and has the ambition of winning the World Cup for his country and its people.
18. Steven Gerrard
- No. of Free Kicks Scored: 17
Steven Gerrard, the legendary captain of Liverpool and the England national team, is a truly exceptional player. He possesses a complete skill set, dominating the field with his physical presence and the ability to create opportunities and score breathtaking free kicks. Gerrard has scored numerous goals from free kicks throughout his career and rightfully holds a prominent position in the ranking of great free-kick takers.
Gerrard has dedicated the majority of his career to Liverpool, where he has established an unshakable reputation. During his time there, he achieved remarkable success, winning three League Cups, a Champions League, two European Super Cups, and a UEFA Cup.
Renowned for his immense talent, Gerrard secured an impressive third place in the Golden Ball voting in 2005. After leaving Liverpool, he concluded his playing career in Major League Soccer (MLS) with the Los Angeles Galaxy. Today, Gerrard has transitioned to coaching and has taken charge of teams like Rangers Football Club and Aston Villa.
17. Miralem Pjanić
- No. of Free Kicks Scored: 20
Pjanić, often regarded as Juninho’s protégé during his time at Lyon, possesses extraordinary skills as a free kick taker. He has a similar ability to bend the ball like the Brazilian maestro and has managed to score over 20 goals from free kicks throughout his career. The Bosnian midfielder could have potentially scored even more, but he faced tough competition from other skilled players.
Pjanić initially gained recognition while playing for FC Metz in France before joining Olympique Lyonnais. It was during his time at Lyon that he fully showcased his talent as both a free kick specialist and a skilled midfielder.
He then continued his career at AS Roma, Juventus, and later joined FC Barcelona. Pjanić’s exceptional vision of the game and powerful strikes allowed him to leave a lasting impact in each of his teams. He consistently brought something extra to the table and made significant contributions.
16. Shunsuke Nakamura
- No. of Free Kicks Scored: 30
The attacking midfielder from Japan is also a master when it comes to taking set pieces. He possesses a striking force that often comes close to hitting the target, delighting spectators with his magnificent goals.
In 2000, Shunsuke displayed his prowess with a powerful strike that illuminated the Scottish team. He repeated this feat against France in the Confederations Cup in 2003. Throughout his impressive 20-year career, the renowned Japanese player scored a total of 30 goals from free kicks.
After starting his professional journey in Japan, the attacking midfielder ventured abroad to showcase his skills at clubs like Celtic Glasgow and Reggina Calcio. He also had a brief spell at Espanyol Barcelona before returning to his home country to conclude his career. Shunsuke holds two Asian Nations Cups, three Scottish Championship titles, the Scottish Cup, and the Japanese Football League title among his achievements.
15. Andrea Pirlo
- No. of Free Kicks Scored: 30
Andrea Pirlo, a former Italian playmaker, is renowned for his exceptional ability to create beautiful plays on the field. He possesses the talent to connect the defense and attack seamlessly, while also setting up his teammates in ideal scoring positions. However, it was his prowess in taking free kicks that contributed significantly to his fame.
Throughout his career, the Italian playmaker managed to score an impressive 30 goals from free kicks. Pirlo’s leadership and on-field presence played a crucial role in AC Milan’s success, as the club won the UEFA Champions League twice with him.
After retiring as a player, Andrea Pirlo ventured into coaching. In 2020, he was appointed as the coach of Juventus’ reserve team in Turin before taking charge of the first team. He achieved success as a coach, winning the Italian Cup and the Italian Super Cup. However, following a series of disappointments, he was ultimately dismissed from his position. Since June 2022, Pirlo has taken on the role of the new coach of Faith Karagümrük SK in the Turkish first division.
14. Roberto Carlos
- No. of Free Kicks Scored: 35
Roberto Carlos, known for his physicality and speed, is widely regarded as one of the greatest full-backs in football history. Despite being primarily a defender, he managed to score 35 goals from set pieces throughout his career. However, it was his famous free kick goal against France in 1997 that truly made history and continues to captivate fans to this day.
Roberto Carlos first gained recognition while playing for SE Palmeiras, where he won the Brazilian championship twice. He then moved on to Inter Milan in Italy and eventually joined Real Madrid, where he played for an impressive 11 seasons. During his time at these clubs, he made a significant impact with his unique style of play. He won the La Liga title four times and the UEFA Champions League three times.
Moreover, Roberto Carlos made vital contributions to the success of the Brazilian national team. His powerful strikes played a crucial role in Brazil winning the Copa America and the World Cup in 2002. In total, the Brazilian side earned 125 caps and he scored 11 goals while representing his country.
13. Alessandro Del Piero
- No. of Free Kicks Scored: 40
Alessandro Del Piero, an Italian football player, was an immense talent of his time. He was renowned for his graceful and skillful playing style and movements on the field. Additionally, he was an exceptional free-kick taker, capable of scoring goals from various distances and angles with his right foot.
In his remarkable career with Juventus, Del Piero scored an impressive total of 40 goals from set pieces. He has achieved great success, winning important trophies such as the World Cup, the Italian Championship, and the Champions League.
After his time at Juventus, the Italian striker had brief stints at Sydney FC in Australia and Delhi Dynamos. Following the expiration of his contract with his last club, Del Piero transitioned into a role as a sports consultant for Sky Sport Italy, taking time off from professional football.
12. Cristiano Ronaldo
- No. of Free Kicks Scored: 60
Cristiano Ronaldo is a modern striker known for his incredible combination of strength, speed, and skill, especially when it comes to finishing. One of his greatest weapons on the field is his ability to take free kicks from distances less than 30 meters away from the goal. This skill has contributed to his impressive goal-scoring record, making him one of the top scorers in football history.
Throughout his remarkable club career, Ronaldo has achieved success at every level. He started at Sporting Portugal, then moved on to Manchester United, Real Madrid, and Juventus, and now plays for Al Nassr. Among his numerous trophies, he has won three Premier League titles, two La Liga titles in Spain, and an impressive five Champions League titles. Ronaldo has scored 13 free kicks for Manchester United, one for Juventus, and an astonishing 32 free kicks during his time at Real Madrid.
Ronaldo’s success extends to the international stage as well, representing Portugal. Although he lost in the final of Euro 2004, he went on to win Euro 2016 and the inaugural Nations League. In his 189 appearances for Portugal, Ronaldo has scored 117 goals, with 10 of them coming from free kicks. Overall, he has scored a total of 60 direct free-kick goals in his career. In fact, he holds the record for the most free-kick goals in the Champions League, with 12 goals to his name. It is no surprise that Cristiano Ronaldo is recognized as one of the top ten best free-kick takers in football history.
11. Ronald Koeman
- No. of Free Kicks Scored: 60
Ronald Koeman is widely recognized as one of the greatest free-kick takers in the history of football. Throughout his career, he scored an impressive 60 goals from free kicks, showcasing his exceptional ability to curve the ball around the defensive wall and into the net.
Koeman had a unique technique when it came to taking free kicks. He would position himself over the ball and take a long run-up before striking it with both power and curve. As a result, the ball often found its way into the top corner of the goal.
His free-kick prowess was a valuable asset to his teams. He played a key role in helping Barcelona secure the European Cup in 1992. In addition to his set-piece expertise, Koeman was a solid defender on the field. His powerful strikes from free kicks accounted for 60 out of his total 238 goals. Having played for renowned clubs like Ajax Amsterdam and FC Barcelona, he accumulated numerous trophies throughout his career, including the prestigious Champions League title with Barcelona in 1992 and the Euro 1988 championship with the Netherlands.
10. Michael Platini
- No. of Free Kicks Scored: 60
Michel Platini, a French playmaker, is widely regarded as the greatest European footballer of the 1980s. He was a legendary player known for his incredible skill and ability to score magnificent goals. One of the most notable strengths of Platini’s game was his exceptional set-piece skills, particularly around the penalty area. He had a delicate touch and a perfect curve when taking free kicks, effortlessly sending the ball over the defensive wall and into the back of the net. It was a simple yet highly effective technique.
Platini began his career at AS Nancy, where he achieved success by winning the D2 championship and the Coupe de France in 1987. After playing for Saint-Etienne and winning a French championship, he moved to Juventus Turin in Italy. During his time with Juventus, he won the Serie A title twice and notably lifted the Champions League trophy in 1985. He also became the top scorer in the competition, scoring 7 goals.
Platini’s legendary status extends to the French national team as well. He is considered one of the greatest French players of all time and was a key figure in the team’s success. He reached the semi-finals of the World Cup twice and notably won the Euro 1984 championship with the French team. Platini is the second-highest scorer in the history of the French national team, with 41 goals in 72 games. There is no doubt that he is regarded as one of the best free-kick takers in football history.
9. Lionel Messi
- No. of Free Kicks Scored: 62
Lionel Messi, a famous football player, has won the Ballon d’Or award seven times, which is a remarkable achievement. He has been a crucial player for FC Barcelona since 2008 and has consistently delivered outstanding performances for both his club and the Argentine national team. His exceptional talent has also made him one of the richest sportsmen in the world. Messi has spent most of his career at FC Barcelona and, like his rival Cristiano Ronaldo, has won all the major trophies with his club. He has been a 10-time champion in La Liga and has won the Champions League four times. Throughout his career, Messi has scored 672 goals in 778 games for Barcelona, including several from free kicks. Since 2021, he has been playing for Paris Saint-Germain.
Although Messi has been excellent in his club performances, he also shines as much when playing for the national team. He had a stellar performance at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. He led Argentina to their third World Cup title, scoring seven goals and providing five assists in seven matches. Messi was named the player of the tournament, and he also won the Golden Ball award for the best player in the world.
However, he has reached the finals of Copa America three times and finally won his first major trophy with Copa America in 2021. Messi is skilled in various aspects of the game and is particularly good at taking free kicks. He has scored fifty goals from free kicks throughout his career, demonstrating his ability to be a threat during set-piece situations. This is why he is considered one of the best free-kick takers in the history of the sport.
- No. of Free Kicks Scored: 62
Zico, a highly skilled attacking midfielder from Brazil, was known as the standard-bearer for set pieces during his time. Along with his exceptional game vision, precise passing, and goal-scoring ability, he is regarded as one of the greatest free-kick takers ever. He played a crucial role in advancing the game of football during the 1970s and 1980s.
Zico is a legendary figure at the Brazilian club Flamengo, where he spent a total of 18 seasons. In 731 games, he scored over 500 goals for the club, including numerous goals from free kicks. He achieved notable success by winning the Brazilian championship four times and the Copa Libertadores in 1981. In the same year, Flamengo defeated Liverpool 3-0 to claim the Intercontinental Cup.
With the Brazilian national team, Zico also enjoyed great accomplishments. He is recognized as one of the top ten best Brazilian players in history. Despite not winning any major titles, Zico scored 52 goals in 72 games for the national team, including several from set pieces. Just a couple of steps away from the penalty area, Zico could generate impressive power with his shots, finding the back of the net with accuracy.
7. Diego Maradona
- No. of Free Kicks Scored: 62
Diego Maradona is widely regarded as one of the greatest footballers ever, and he was also exceptional at taking free kicks. He scored a remarkable 62 goals from free kicks throughout his career, and his ability to curve and swerve the ball made it incredibly challenging for goalkeepers to stop.
One of Maradona’s most famous free-kick goals happened during the 1986 World Cup quarter-final against England. With the score tied at 2-2, Maradona stepped up to take a free kick from a distance of 30 yards. He struck the ball with tremendous power and precision, sending it past the England goalkeeper and into the top corner of the net. This goal was later voted as the “Goal of the Century” by FIFA. This particular goal is often referred to as the “Hand of God” goal, as Maradona used his hand to punch the ball into the net. Despite the handball being missed by the referee, the goal was allowed to stand. While it remains a controversial moment, it is undeniably one of the most iconic instances in World Cup history.
Maradona was also a master of the knuckleball free-kick technique. This involves striking the ball in a way that it doesn’t spin, making it incredibly difficult for goalkeepers to anticipate its trajectory. Maradona scored several goals using this technique, including one against Napoli in 1989.
6. David Beckham
- No. of Free Kicks Scored: 65
David Beckham, known for his exceptional long-range passes, was also a highly skilled set-piece specialist. Despite not being the fastest player, he made up for it with his technical abilities. Beckham is widely regarded as one of the greatest free-kick takers in history.
Beckham is most famous for his time at Manchester United and Real Madrid, two of the most prestigious clubs in Europe. He was valued for his precise long-passing ability. During his career, he won the English League title six times and lifted the Champions League trophy with Manchester United. He also achieved success in La Liga with Real Madrid. Towards the end of his career, Beckham played for the Los Angeles Galaxy, with short spells at AC Milan and PSG.
For the England national team, Beckham earned 115 caps and scored 17 goals. He was known for his consistent performances and often scored crucial goals when his club or country needed him the most. One of his most memorable moments came when he scored a crucial free-kick goal to equalize England against Greece in the dying moments of the match, securing their qualification for the 2002 World Cup.
- No. of Free Kicks Scored: 66
Ronaldinho is considered one of the greatest football players from the late 90s and 2000s. Apart from his incredible dribbling skills, he was also known for his ability to score goals directly from free kicks. He is also recognized as one of the top ten best dribblers of all time.
After playing for three years at Grêmio in Brazil, Ronaldinho joined PSG, where he gained worldwide recognition. He became one of the best players in the history of PSG. Soon after, he moved to FC Barcelona, where he experienced the best moments of his career. He won the Spanish league title twice and notably achieved success by winning the Champions League in 2006. After spending three years at AC Milan, Ronaldinho finished his career playing for various Brazilian clubs. Throughout his club career, he scored many goals from free kicks, including a memorable hat trick against Udinese.
In his international career, Ronaldinho won the Copa America in 1999 and was a part of the Brazilian team that became world champions in 2002. One of his most unforgettable free-kick goals was against England in the 2002 World Cup, where he scored from 40 yards to eliminate them from the tournament.
4. Sini Sa Mihajlovic
- No. of Free Kicks Scored: 66
Mihajlovic is known as a controversial figure in football, having been involved in various incidents and controversies, including receiving numerous red cards. However, when it came to taking free kicks, he was a force to be reckoned with. Despite being an aggressive defender, Mihajlovic had a reputation for his powerful shots and his ability to score from free kicks. He is rightfully considered one of the best free-kick takers in history.
After winning the Yugoslav championship with Vojvodina Novi Sad, Mihajlovic joined Red Star Belgrade. There, he won the Yugoslav championship twice and achieved his greatest success by winning the Champions League in 1991, defeating Olympique de Marseille in the final. He later played for AS Roma, Sampdoria, and Lazio. During his time at Lazio, he won the Serie A title in 2000 and lifted the Italian Cup twice. In a remarkable feat, Mihajlovic scored a hat-trick of free kicks in a single game against his former club Sampdoria. With 45 goals, he still holds the record for the most free-kick goals in the history of Serie A.
Mihajlovic represented the Yugoslavian national team in 62 matches and scored 10 goals. He took part in the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000, but his team was eliminated in the round of 16 and quarter-finals respectively. However, his powerful striking ability was evident during the World Cup when one of his shots hit Jürgen Klinsmann in the stomach, forcing the German player to leave the field on a stretcher.
3. Victor Legrotaglie
- No. of Free Kicks Scored: 66
Victor Legrotaglie is highly regarded as one of the greatest free-kick takers in history. He achieved an impressive feat by scoring 66 goals from free kicks throughout his career, which is more than any other Argentine player. Legrotaglie dedicated his entire career to playing in Argentina, specifically for Gimnasia y Esgrima de La Plata. Despite receiving an offer from Real Madrid in the early 1960s, he chose to remain in Argentina instead.
Legrotaglie was known for his powerful left-footed shots and remarkable accuracy when taking free kicks. He had the ability to curve the ball around the defensive wall and into the net. His free-kick prowess greatly benefited Gimnasia y Esgrima, and his contributions played a part in their victory in the Argentine Primera División in 1962.
Furthermore, Legrotaglie made significant contributions to the Argentina national team. He represented his country in 20 matches and scored 12 goals. Notably, he was a member of the Argentina squad that emerged victorious in the Copa América tournaments of 1957 and 1959. Legrotaglie’s legacy in Argentine football is legendary, particularly for his exceptional free-kick skills. He serves as a role model for aspiring players, and his ability to score from free kicks continues to be admired by fans to this day.
- No. of Free Kicks Scored: 70
Pele, widely regarded as one of the greatest footballers ever, was also an accomplished free-kick taker. Throughout his career, he scored over 70 goals from free kicks, placing him second on the all-time list.
Pele possessed a natural talent for taking free kicks. He had a powerful shot and was adept at curving the ball around the defensive wall and into the net. His accuracy was exceptional, and he rarely missed the target. Pele’s ability to score from free kicks greatly contributed to the success of his teams. He played a crucial role in Santos winning the Copa Libertadores in 1962 and 1963, and he was a key figure in Brazil’s triumphs in the World Cup of 1958, 1962, and 1970.
Not only was Pele an exceptional forward, but he was also recognized as one of the finest players of the 20th century. His achievements with Santos and the Brazilian national team brought him global fame. Winning three World Cups in 1958, 1962, and 1970 stands as his greatest accomplishment.
1. Juninho Pernambucano
- No. of Free Kicks Scored: 77
Juninho is widely regarded as the greatest free-kick taker of all time. His ability to curve the ball and score from various distances was truly remarkable. Whether he was 20, 30, or 40 yards away from the goal, his strikes were incredibly pure, powerful, and difficult for goalkeepers to save.
Juninho began his career at Sport do Recife in Brazil before joining Vasco De Gama. He achieved great success with Vasco, winning the Brazilian championship twice and the prestigious Copa Libertadores in 1998. However, it was during his time at Lyon that he became famous for his exceptional free-kick skills. From 2002 to 2008, he won the French championship seven times in a row with Lyon. He later played for Vasco da Gama again, as well as in Qatar and the United States.
In international competitions, Juninho represented Brazil in 40 matches and scored six goals. Although he was not selected for the 2002 World Cup, which Brazil won, he did win the Confederations Cup with the national team in 2005. Juninho scored an impressive 44 of his 100 goals for Lyon from free kicks. Throughout his career, he scored a total of 77 goals. He holds the record for the most goals scored from free kicks in football history, making him the top-ranked free-kick taker of all time.