Messi, Ronaldinho, Pele, Beckham: The ultimate XI of free-kick takers in football history

  • Kobe Tong
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James Ward-Prowse is now the second-most prolific free-kick taker in the history of the Premier League.

When the Southampton wizard thrashed home his 12th free-kick in the competition at Molineux last week, he moved level with Gianfranco Zola and Thierry Henry on the second step of the podium.

Ward-Prowse still has some way to go to topple David Beckham’s record and place himself amongst the greatest free-kick specialists of all time, but it still got us thinking here at GIVEMESPORT.

The greatest free-kick takers ever

In fact, not only have we compiled a Tiermaker of the greatest free-kick takers of the modern era, but now we’re spreading our wings to all of football history through an entirely different lens.

That’s because we’ve built the ultimate XI of free-kick takers in the history of the men’s game to showcase the finest players to ever strike a dead ball from every major position on the pitch.

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So, while that inevitability means that classic free-kick GOATs will be populating the line-up, brace yourself also for the presence of defenders and even a goalkeeper that the mastered the art.

Ultimately, the selections are down to the opinion of your humble writer, but The Sun’s statistics on the most prolific free-kick takers ever will also be taken into consideration.

Oh, and don’t take the positions too seriously once we progress into the midfield and front line because we had to do some tactical gymnastics to make sure that the best players made the cut.

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The ultimate free-kick taking XI

However, all that being said, you’ve come here for set-piece gods and not disclaimers, so let’s get stuck into the greatest male XI of free-kick takers in football history down below:

GK: Rogerio Ceni

A special shoutout to Rene Higuita and José Luis Chilavert, but let’s take a second to appreciate that Ceni scored a barely-comprehensible 59 direct free-kick goals despite being a shot-stopper.

The Sao Paulo legend actually notched a staggering tally of 131 career goals as the club’s regular set-piece taker and there’s no ‘keeper that we’d rather have standing over a free-kick than him.

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RB: Darijo Srna

Truth be told, the right-back position was by far the most difficult to fill, so we’re plumping for the wizardry of Srna who racked up 19 free-kick goals in club football largely for Shakhtar Donetsk.

CB: Ronald Koeman

Touted to have scored as many as 60 free-kicks in his career, the most prolific defender in the men’s game was also a dab hand from a dead ball and proved as much in the 1992 European Cup final. 

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CB: Siniša Mihajlović 

As the man who genuinely scored a hat-trick of free-kicks during a Serie A clash with Sampdoria in the late 1990s, Mihajlović’s legendary set-piece ability made him a shoo-in for our ultimate XI.

LB: Roberto Carlos

Is he slightly overrated as a free-kick taker? Potentially if you’re being harsh, but Carlos had an uncanny knack for scoring set-pieces here, there and everywhere with his cannon of a left foot.

Whether it was his iconic long-range strike against France or firing home sledgehammers on a regular basis at Real Madrid, Carlos is one of the most feared free-kick takers to have ever lived.

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CM: Juninho Pernambucano

Duh. The purported world-record holder at an insane 77 conversions, Juninho is the free-kick GOAT of the men’s game and could use both curling and knuckle-ball techniques to devastating effect. 

CM: Ronaldinho

However, Ronaldinho is reportedly just two steps further down the all-time list with his scintillating tally of 66 free-kicks – one of which David Seaman will never forget – making him one of the first names on the team sheet. 

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CM: David Beckham

Another ‘Barry Basic’ selection, but it wouldn’t be a feature article on the greatest free-kick takers in history without mentioning one of the most efficient players to ever whip a set-piece over a wall.

Beckham is the all-time record goalscorer of free-kicks in the Premier League with six more strikes than anyone else, and the streets will never forget his legendary goal against Greece for England.

FW: Lionel Messi

Sorry Cristiano Ronaldo. However, not only has Messi now overtaken your career tally of free-kick goals, but his total of 58 conversions is now starting to knock on the door of the all-time rankings.

Plus, while Ronaldo has notched just a single free-kick goal in club football since December 2017, Messi has helped himself to no less than 22 in the same period and deserves a spot because of it.

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FW: Zico

Another icon of the game whose purported tally says it all, Zico is said to have notched 62 strikes with his legendary technique where he seemed to simply walk up to the ball and deliver startling accuracy.

ST: Pele

Centre forwards aren’t necessarily renowned for free-kick expertise, so when Pele is reportedly the second-most prolific goalscorer of them in history then you just knew that he had to lead our XI.

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So… who would take the free-kicks?

With hundreds of free-kick goals and pure technique perfection between them all, it would be impossible to choose who would actually take the set-pieces if this team played together.

Besides, you know it’s an outrageously strong group of free-kick takers when Ronaldo, Andrea Pirlo, Zola, Alessandro Del Piero and Diego Maradona are all watching on from the bench.

However, with that said, choosing your all-time favourite free-kick taker is an entirely personal process, so be sure to let us know your own set-piece GOATs across our various social channels.

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