Lionel Messi's stunning free-kick vs Atletico might be his greatest ever for Barcelona

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Lionel Messi is without a shadow of a doubt the best free-kick taker in the world.

The Barcelona star has always been handy from a set-piece throughout his career, but it's the last five years in particular that have seen him surpass the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo.

Although Messi doesn't have the blockbuster knuckle-ball technique up his sleeves, there's an unerring consistency with which he can beat the goalkeeper by using his left in-step.

The 33-year-old has astonishingly scored 19 free-kicks in the last two and a half seasons alone, more than any other club in Europe's top leagues, never mind another player.

Perhaps the only disappointment is that this rise in free-kick proficiency seems to have come too late in Messi's career for him to hunt down Juninho Pernambucano's world record of 77 goals.

Messi's free-kick genius

At the very least, though, we can expect him to surpass Ronaldo over the next 12 months and start hunting down fellow top 10 placers in David Beckham, Ronaldinho and Pele.

However, for all his free-kick improvements since the turn of the 2017/18 campaign, there was evidence of Messi's untapped potential from a dead ball during his early days at Barca.

In fact, it could be argued that Messi's greatest ever free-kick in a Barcelona jersey came almost 10 years ago and with an approach we've seldom seen from him since.

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Messi's worldie vs Atletico Madrid

If you're reading this article then the chances are you know it's his remarkable goal at Atletico Madrid during the 2011/12 campaign in which he scored a mind-blowing 73 goals in just 60 games.

The Blaugrana would ultimately lose out on the La Liga trophy to Jose Mourinho's omnipotent Real Madrid side, but Messi still played a crucial role in the title race at the Vicente Calderón Stadium.

With the scores locked at 1-1 going into the 81st minute, Messi made a complete fool of Thibaut Courtois by scoring into the 'wrong' top corner for a left-footer from what seemed an improbable angle.

How Messi managed to weight and angle the shot to perfection is still beyond us all these years later, so check it out down below to see if you have any better answers:

Sometimes, it would seem, science just doesn't apply to Messi.

Striking the ball from that location with that technique on that foot is a recipe for the ball bending constantly away from the goal, only Messi was able to time it perfectly that the side-netting welcomed it with open arms.

It was also a sign of Messi's incredible ingenuity and footballing brain for having seen Courtois close to his right post at such a late stage, allowing him to wrong foot the lanky Belgian shot-stopper. 

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So, yes, Messi has only become the free-kick master that we've come to love in the last few seasons, but his masterpiece came all the way back in 2012 and it might never be beaten.

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