Copa America: Lionel Messi's first free-kick goal for Barcelona was so clever

Lionel Messi is one of the greatest free-kick takers in football history.

The Barcelona superstar moved to 57 goals from free-kicks when he converted a glorious strike against Chile during Argentina's opening Copa America clash on Monday night.

There was a feeling in the air that Chile were dicing with death as soon as they conceded the free-kick because the ball appeared to be placed the perfect distance away from goal for Messi.

Messi surpasses Ronaldo

And their fears were confirmed when Messi lifted a delicious strike over the wall and so far into the corner that even Claudio Bravo's best efforts couldn't stop it from finding the side netting.

It was a special free-kick not only in the way that Messi scored, but also in its broader statistical significance when compared to the 34-year-old's eternal rival: Cristiano Ronaldo.

That's because michelacosta.com, the self-proclaimed largest statistical study of Ronaldo vs Messi on the internet, now claims that Messi has surpassed Ronaldo's total of career free-kick goals.

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Messi's free-kick genius

It's an almost unthinkable scenario for someone who vividly remembers the late 2000s in which Ronaldo was scoring set-pieces for fun and Messi barely got a look in for Barcelona's free-kicks.

But alas, Messi has made converting free-kicks one of the finest skills in his arsenal and surpassing Ronaldo has only led key figures to look back on some of his greatest ever dead-ball finishes.

Well, by 'key figures' we happen to mean FC Barcelona themselves because they decided to remind the world of the first ever free-kick that Messi scored in order to celebrate his 57th.

Messi's first ever free-kick goal

And while that might seem pretty rudimentary on paper, make no mistake that Messi's opening free-kick set the tone for his set-piece brilliance by way of being completely unique to his record.

That's because Messi fooled everyone at Camp Nou to such an extent that the Atletico Madrid goalkeeper was still leaning on his post and the television broadcast barely caught him scoring.

Yes, that's right, Messi went full Thierry Henry by way of scoring a free-kick before the opposition were ready, but clearly the referee was - and it makes for fantastic viewing, so check it out below:

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You cheeky so and so, Mr. Messi.

Quick thinking from Messi

To be fair, you've got to respect the opportunism because there's something so nonchalant about casually passing a free-kick into the net while the goalkeeper is unwittingly sorting out the wall.

It's hard to say whether you'd get away with antics of that kind in the era of VAR, though this is the very same player who brought the 'Panenka free-kick' into existence, so you wouldn't rule out some future cheekiness from Messi.

Either way, though, it seems fitting that the first free-kick that Messi ever scored was such a unique and canny effort because so many of his conversions since then have been equally as standout.

Then again, Ronaldo might think otherwise because if the referee had been just a little bit stricter then he might not have been playing catch-up to Messi in the free-kick standings right now. Sorry, Cristiano.

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Kobe Tong

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The world's ninth-fastest journalist. Interviewed Sir Mo Farah, Dina Asher-Smith, Eliud Kipchoge and Katarina Johnson-Thompson. Author of such literary classics as 'Ranking every Premier League manager by how good they'd be on a night out'.