Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, James Ward-Prowse: Who is the best free-kick taker in history?

Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, James Ward-Prowse: Who is the best free-kick taker in history?

Is James Ward-Prowse the greatest free-kick taker in Premier League history?

The Southampton captain scored an incredible free-kick against Wolves on Saturday – his 12th in England’s top-flight.

Now, only David Beckham has scored more than him in the Premier League (18).



Ward-Prowse has every right to be considered one of the best free-kick takers in the world right now. In fact, you could even extend that to the modern era.

Football has seen some brilliant set-piece takers down the years but who is the greatest?

Well, we’ve turned to Tiermaker to rank the greatest free-kick specialists from the ‘GOAT’ to ‘Never again’ in the modern era.

Never again

  • Robert Huth

Why on earth is Huth in this list? Well, we’ll just leave this clip here and you can see for yourselves…


  • Cristiano Ronaldo
  • Roberto Carlos
  • Kevin de Bruyne
  • Memphis Depay
  • David Alaba
  • Gareth Bale
  • Steven Gerrard
  • Josip Iličić
  • Mario Balotelli

Look, these are all fantastic free-kick takers which is why they’re on this list in the first place. But they simply can’t compare to some of the bigger names in this list.

Ronaldo was pretty handy from a set-piece earlier in his career but his record has taken a turn for the worse in recent years.

Carlos scored one of the greatest free-kicks in football history – and a few more on top of that – but we feel his reputation is swayed by that.

Elsewhere, the others are more than capable of scoring from 20/25 yards but would you put your money on them? Probably not…

Cristiano Ronaldo


  • Wayne Rooney
  • Didier Drogba
  • James Maddison
  • Gylfi Sigurdsson
  • Morten Gamst Pedersen

We feel that these five players deserve to be in a tier above those we’ve placed in the ‘Overrated’ category.

According to Transfermarkt, Rooney managed 14 direct free-kicks in his career – the first of which came on his Man United debut as he scored a hat-trick against Fenerbache.

Drogba was even more successful with 22 strikes from free-kicks, while Maddison has already shown what he can do from a set-piece at Leicester.

Sigurdsson and Pedersen are free-kick takers that Premier League fans won’t forget in a hurry.

Didier Drogba


  • Ronaldinho
  • Juan Mata
  • Thierry Henry
  • Christian Eriksen
  • Alessandro del Piero
  • Gianfranco Zola
  • Sebastian Larsson
  • Miralem Pjanic

Some of the very best free-kick takers in the last decade or so.

Ronaldinho is probably the pick of the bunch with as many as 40 successful set-pieces during his career.

Del Piero was pretty handy, too. The legendary Italian notched 37 goals directly from a free-kick.

All sensational free-kick takers but they’re rarely considered the greatest in football history.


World class

  • David Beckham
  • James Ward-Prowse
  • Lionel Messi
  • Andrea Pirlo
  • Siniša Mihajlović

These five can be considered in the argument as the greatest free-kick taker of all time.

Beckham scored 36 in his career and has often been regarded as the best ever. Ward-Prowse still has a little way to go to catch him but he only seems to be getting better and better.

Messi has scored a quite incredible 50 free-kicks and is probably the best in the world right now.

Pirlo and Mihajlović are both up there in terms of the most prolific.

James Ward-Prowse


  • Juninho Pernambucano

There can only be one GOAT in our eyes and we’re giving the honour to Juninho.

He scored an astonishing 77 strikes from free-kicks and, if there’s anyone you’d want standing over a free-kick for your side, it’s the Brazilian.

Juninho Pernambucano

Final rankings

So, there we have it.

The greatest free-kick takers in modern football ranked into tiers.

Juninho comes out on top and we don’t think there can be too many arguments.

Ward-Prowse’s reputation from a dead ball is improving all the time and he fully deserves his place alongside the likes of Beckham and Messi in the ‘World class’ category.

Just don’t let Huth near one ever again…

FK takers

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