Conversion rates suggest Lionel Messi is Europe's 15th best free-kick taker since 2014

FC Barcelona v Tottenham Hotspur - UEFA Champions League Group B

Football fans were full of praise for Lionel Messi when he scored two free-kicks in one game against Espanyol.

It was an incredible achievement from the Barcelona star and reiterated his ability from set pieces this year, with 2018 seeing him score no less than 10 times from the scenario.

As a result, plenty of supporters are now referring to him as the best free-kick taker in Europe and the statistics certainly give them a strong argument.

In fact, it was highlighted as recently as Friday that nobody has scored more free-kicks than Messi in Europe's top five leagues since 2013.

Despite Miralem Pjanic and Hakan Calhanoglu also reaching the podium, Messi commanded a dominant lead with 19 goals, stretching his lead to an enviable seven strikes.

Messi's sensational 2018

Perhaps one of the most interesting facts regarded Cristiano Ronaldo, too, who was forced to settle for eighth place and only mustering one free-kick goal in 2018.

Nevertheless, the statistic failed to incorporate conversion rates, a very important number that assesses how efficient players are from free-kicks.

Besides, it's all well and good that Messi has scored 19 goals but is he really Europe's best free-kick taker if it came from more attempts than his rivals?

RCD Espanyol v FC Barcelona - La Liga

Best free-kick takers in Europe

Well, that's what football statisticians Whoscored.com have tried to assess this week and they've compiled the most clinical players in Europe since the 2014-15 season.

It makes a major difference to the raw statistics and, despite factoring in Messi's 10 goals this year, shows that he might not be Europe's finest after all.

In fact, if you consider conversion rates to be the ultimate decided factor, the Barcelona man doesn't even make the top 10.

The full list - with players needing a minimum of five free-kick goals - can be seen down below:

1. Enis Bardhi (Levante) - 22.2%
2. Philippe Coutinho (Barcelona) - 20%
3. Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid) - 18.5%
4. Paulo Dybala (Juventus) - 17.6%
5. Miralem Pjanic (Juventus) - 13.5%
6. Marvin Plattenhart (Hertha Berlin) - 13.5%
7. Federico Viviani (SPAL) - 13.2%
8. Gylfi Sigurdsson (Everton) - 10.9%
9. David Alaba (Bayern Munich) - 10.9%
10. Simone Verdi (Napoli) - 10.9%

15. Lionel Messi (Barcelona) - 9.5%

So, why is Messi placed so low in the list? The smaller matter of 179 attempts.

As a result, it seems there are no less than 14 players in Europe who are even more lethal from free-kicks, including his very own Barcelona teammate Coutinho.

It's interesting to note that Ronaldo is nowhere to be seen on the list, with Whoscored.com only listing the top 18 and the Juventus man scoring nine since the relevant season.

FBL-ESP-LIGA-REALMADRID-LEVANTE

At the end of the day, though, Messi has scored more free-kicks than anybody else and with such a superior record, Barcelona fans won't mind so many attempts.

And especially when it comes to 2018, nobody has come close to the Argentine and he could feasibly climb the conversion charts in months to come.

However, for the moment, we can't give Messi the free-kick crown quite yet.

Who do you think is the best free-kick taker in Europe? Have your say in the comments section below.

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