Cristiano Ronaldo’s famous ‘knuckleball’ approach to striking a ball has been replicated all across European football.
Gareth Bale adopts a similar style. Harry Kane tries - but fails - to copy Ronaldo. Even Liverpool youngster Sheyi Ojo was filmed practising it.
Although Ronaldo’s free-kick record isn’t as impressive as he wants you to think, the manner in which he hits a ball remains revolutionary. The swerve on the ball means a goalkeeper has to pretty much guess which direction it will move and many have been caught out.
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Ronaldo scored 51 goals for Real Madrid last season and, though the physical aspect of his game may start to decline, his technique will ensure he remains a goal-scoring machine for years to come.
Michael Owen, himself a fine finisher, analysed Ronaldo’s technique for the Telegraph. The former Liverpool striker’s conclusion? That the three-time Ballon d’Or winner has mastered the art of kicking a football.
“Cristiano Ronaldo has that potent combination of not only being a great finisher, but having the instinct for goals that all great strikers have,” Owen said. “He strikes the ball in a unique way. For most great finishers it is about placing the ball in the right spot, aiming for the corners with the stroke of the boot.
“You work on your technique to strike with the outside or inside of your foot to put the correct spin on a shot.
“Ronaldo’s shooting is so pure, the ball has more of a wobble than a swerve. He can get elevation and dip. The keepers have no idea which way it’s going to bend.
“He has mastered the art of striking with such power that when he hits the target the keeper is in trouble.”
Ronaldo's best free-kicks
But it’s not all about the shot power. Ronaldo leaped 2.61 metres to head home Portugal’s opening goal in their 2-0 win over Wales on Wednesday, and Owen believes it’s his physical attributes that make the 31-year-old such a well-rounded player.
“So often you see a goal and think the keeper is at fault. Then you see the replay and realise why a shot was unstoppable,” Owen, who left Anfield for the Bernabeu, added. “Add to this is incredible athleticism and heading ability and he can score every type of goal.
“But ultimately it is his instinct that enables him to break so many records.
“It doesn’t matter how good a finisher you are if you’re not capable of working your way into positions to get chances. It’s almost taken for granted how good Ronaldo is at this.
“Some people think it’s just as simple as finding space in the box, but that’s not it.
“This is why he is breaking so many goalscoring records and is such a phenomenon.”