Tottenham Hotspur winger Gareth Bale is quickly earning a reputation as one of the best dead-ball specialists in world football.
The Welshman added to his growing reputation with an emphatic brace against Lyon on Thursday, with both free kicks deceiving goalkeeper Remy Vercoutre completely in a 2-1 win at White Hart Lane.
Bale has always taken set-pieces, ever since his time as a young professional coming through the ranks at Southampton. However, he’s changed his style to match the growing trend of players who hit the ball ‘front-on’ with their laces.
It’s a tactic that Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo first showcased whilst at Manchester United, and unsurprisingly the £80million man ranks amongst our top five free-kick specialists.
Check out the list below, and let us know who you think should be on the list…
Already one of the all-time greats, the Real Madrid superstar has made a style his own by approaching the ball on tip-toes and striking the ‘valve’ with his laces.
Able to get both dip and swerve on the ball, the 28-year-old has inspired a number of players – including Bale – to copy this affective approach.
Best free-kick: He’s had a few, but the strike against Portsmouth at Old Trafford remains one of the greats. Watch it here: http://youtu.be/smnOWsLmXI8
Perhaps the best free-kick taker of the lot, Juninho was capable of scoring from just about anywhere inside the opposition half from a dead ball situation.
Currently plying his trade with the New York Red Bulls, the Brazilian international was able to strike the ball flat with his laces or whip around a defensive wall. His ability to do both often left keepers fearing the worst before a shot came their way.
Best free-kick: So many good ones it’s hard to choose, but the strike against Bayern Munich in the Champions League was a bit special. Watch it here: http://youtu.be/AXBKmUzOWvs
Over a decade-and-a-half after bursting onto the scene at Manchester United, Beckham is still best remembered for his free-kick ability.
The PSG star wasn’t a bad crosser of the ball either, but if a foul was committed around the box, Beckham’s arm-swinging style and ability to ‘bend it’ would always cause problems.
Best free-kick: When it comes to Beckham, there can only be one moment – the equaliser for England against Greece in a 2002 World Cup qualifier at Old Trafford. Watch it here: http://youtu.be/t0GESlaVNdE
Another Brazilian makes the list, and this time it’s the left-back with a rocket in his foot.
Roberto Carlos certainly gave it a good wallop when he fancied it, and when it came off, it was always something very special.
Best free-kick: France v Brazil pre-World Cup in 1998. You know what I’m talking about, Fabian Barthez Watch it here: http://youtu.be/Pb2qykj6_ZU
Jose Luis Chilavert & Rogerio Ceni
Last on the list, it’s two players for the price of one. And, they aren’t your average players either. They are, in fact, goalkeepers.
Often facing opponents looking to do the damage at the other end of the pitch, both Chilavert and Ceni had the ability to go up the other end and cause serious problems for the opposition.
Ceni has scored over 100 goals for Sao Paulo and is still playing today, whilst Chilavert netted eight goals on the international stage for Paraguay.
Best free-kick: Chilavert’s goal against Boca Juniors is an absolute gem, and the TV graphics afterwards are even better. Watch it here: http://youtu.be/dBfffgKQhoY