Among the several other football skills at which Lionel Messi is probably the best in the world, few would deny his status as an elite dead-ball specialist.
While we already knew of the Argentine’s quality before he stroked two free-kicks past Diego Lopez during Barcelona’s visit to Espanyol last weekend, it certainly enhanced his reputation.
It was no surprise Messi’s exquisite efforts had fans singing his praises for days after the 4-0 thumping at RCDE Stadium.
In fact, some even declared the Argentine maestro has earned his place alongside the likes of David Beckham and Juninho Pernambucano as the best set-piece takers ever.
That might be a bit of a stretch at this stage, but there’s no debating his ability to strike fear into goalkeepers every time there’s only a wall between the ball and the goal.
But what makes Messi’s free-kicks so difficult to keep out of the net?
Well, a handful of goalkeepers with experience attempting to do so have shared their views.
“It's his versatility and the unpredictable nature of them which makes them so dangerous,” said Villarreal’s Sergio Asenjo, per Marca.
“He is so confident and he strikes the ball so naturally which makes things all the more complicated.
“He second guesses goalkeepers.
“That is the key; he mixes it up each time. It makes me laugh when they say that you shouldn't concede at your near post but people fail to realise that he is such a genius with the ball that it can easily happen.”
West Ham custodian Adrian - formerly of Real Betis - understands how Diego Lopez would’ve felt picking the ball out of his net last Saturday.
“For the first goal against Espanyol, Diego Lopez took a few steps but it was virtually impossible to get there.
“The second free-kick was not quite as far in the corner, but if you only see the ball when it has beaten the wall, for us goalkeepers it is too late to react.
“He scored a similar goal against me.”
Rather hilariously, Adrian keeps a framed photo of Messi scoring a free-kick against him in 2013.
Similarly, Alaves’ Pacheco said: “He's already put one past me both over and under the wall; the only thing left for him to do is to beat me at my near post.
“A good solution to prevent him from scoring with a low free-kick is to get a player to lie on the ground,” he joked.
Dudu Aouate needs no longer worry about seeing Messi stand on the other side of a wall offering what seems to be futile protection.
Nevertheless, the 41-year-old - who most recently played for Mallorca in 2014 - perfectly summed up his peers’ experiences.
“Facing any type of free kick against him is dangerous.
“If you look closely, it is obvious that the keeper doesn't know what to do.”
Where does Messi rank among the best free-kick takers of all-time? Share your opinion by leaving a comment below.News Now - Sport News