Cristiano Ronaldo’s free-kick against Portsmouth in 2008 is one of the Premier League’s most memorable moments.
The sweetest of strikes, the violent dip and David James’ perfectly bewildered reaction makes for a classic goal. It will endure as one of the Portuguese’s finest ever finishes.
And while his Portsmouth blockbuster is arguably the pinnacle of his free-kick taking, it’s far from the only set piece special to decorate his career.
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Certain supporters will be keen to highlight Ronaldo’s poor conversion rate in recent years but his prowess at Manchester United was simply undoubted.
He took the ‘knuckle ball’ technique patented by Juninho and made it his own across six years at Old Trafford.
One man who was there for Ronaldo’s rise at United was Rene Meulensteen with the Dutchman eventually becoming first team coach in 2007. Even when he marshaled the reserves, though, he was no stranger to CR7 at Carrington.
Along with Sir Alex Ferguson, Mick Phelan and Carlos Queiroz, the 53-year-old lifted Ronaldo to his current Ballon d’Or-adorned heights.
That, of course, also includes Ronaldo’s aforementioned free-kick prowess. The Real Madrid star would stay behind after training sessions to master his dead ball technique as well as his general finishing.
While speaking to Training Ground Guru, Meulensteen lifted the lid on Ronaldo’s perfectionism.
He explained: "With Mick [Phelan] and Carlos we set about the process of making him aware about his position and making him understand what to do in different positions. We did a lot of work on finishing from different angles.
"I had a format where I divided the penalty area into zones and you think about what to do in each of the different zones - lace kick, chip, inside foot, one touch or two, do you move into a different zone and so on.
"Then you break down the key elements of what makes a good finish. So he's aware of position, the type of ball coming in, how he's going to receive it and the type of finish. The free kick was another one he started to work on.
"That was his idea. The only thing I said was take a step to the side, so your approach is more natural with your leg. We filmed it so he could see the difference and he developed and evolved it. He wanted to get better and put the practice in."
Trust the talent of Ronaldo to practically invent his own free-kick technique and one with such success that it has been so frequently copied. And to think Meulensteen is the secret to the run-up…
Do you think Cristiano Ronaldo is the best free-kick taker in football? Let us know by leaving a comment below.
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