Lionel Messi’s record from free-kicks is phenomenal.
Indeed, there’s a case to be made that he’s the best free-kick taker in the world right now.
The Barcelona star has scored 20 goals from direct free-kicks in the past four years. That’s more than Juventus (18) and Real Madrid (14) have managed collectively.
He scored two in Barca’s 4-0 win against Espanyol earlier in December, both of which were simply out of this world.
It’s reached the point where teams can’t afford to concede a free-kick in a dangerous position when Messi is about.
It’s almost as costly as conceding a penalty.
But Messi hasn’t always been so effective from dead ball situations. It took him five years to score his first direct free-kick for Barcelona.
Messi explains his improvement
In the 2010-11 season, in which he scored 53 goals in all competitions, only one came from a set piece.
But he hasn’t looked back since, scoring 12 direct free-kicks between the 2011-12 and 2014-15 campaigns.
The previous four seasons have yielded 20 free-kicks - 22 counting his two against Sevilla in the 2015 UEFA Super Cup - and Messi has now revealed how he got so good at scoring from them.
In an interview with Marca, who pointed out that Messi ‘seems to be more likely to score from outside the box than he will a penalty’, the Argentinian explained how seeing various results from lots of practice helped him to improve from dead ball scenarios.
“It is true that many times we have stayed after training to practice,” Messi told the Spanish publication. “Not only free-kicks, but also shots from outside the area.
“You get used to shooting in a specific way and increasingly discover your best form. In the end, everything is training and practice.”
They say that practice makes perfect, and that’s an idea that Messi fully believes in.
“Practicing and watching. Today we study everything: nothing is left to chance,” he continued.
“You must practice and always seek to give it one more attempt.”
Messi then opened up on the difference between free-kicks and penalties, insisting that there’s more pressure from 12 yards.
“It's different. With a free-kick you have a barrier, the distance and it's another type of strike; you do not have the pressure to score because a free-kick can go in or not,” Messi added.
“With a penalty you have much more to lose than win. Here the goalkeeper feels more comfortable; if the player scores, it's normal as it's a penalty.
“The one who shoots is more obliged to score than the goalkeeper is to stop it. The pressure is very different.”