Lionel Messi's first 'Panenka free-kick' for Barcelona in 2009/10

  • Kobe Tong
Messi takes a free-kick.

Lionel Messi introduced the ‘Panenka free-kick’ to the world at Barcelona.

As one of the most innovative footballers to have ever played the beautiful game, Messi invented many skills, tricks and techniques during his time in the famous red and blue stripes.

Besides, while Messi could well go on to achieve incredible things at Paris Saint-Germain, there’s no denying that his greatest years in the sport came while playing for Barcelona.

The innovation of Messi

There are simply too many moments to count where Messi produced something while playing for the Catalans that either defied description or simply had never been executed in football before.

And to be honest, there’s good reason to think that metric is all the more important than pure goal and assist statistics when it comes to bringing supporters to their feet.

It’s one thing to bag a Ballon d’Or trophy for scoring 73 goals in a season, but it’s just as special to make the day of 99,000 people by whipping out the best piece of skill that they’ve ever seen.

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At what age did Messi join Barcelona?

The history of the ‘Panenka free-kick’

And one of the most breath-taking moments that Messi ever produced at Barcelona that would fit into that category would be the ‘Panenka free-kick’ that he scored against Espanyol in 2019.

Essentially chipping a free-kick straight down the middle like the notorious penalty technique, Messi looked to have invented a whole new way to score a set-piece with his outrageous goal.

However, while that might just be the greatest ‘Panenka free-kick’ in football history, there’s good reason to think that it wasn’t the first because Messi himself had pulled it off once before too.

Messi celebrates for Barcelona.
ALMERIA, SPAIN – MARCH 06: Lionel Messi of Barcelona celebrates after scoring his team’s first goal during the La Liga match between UD Almeria and Barcelona at Estadio del Mediterraneo on March 6, 2010 in Almeria, Spain. (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)

Messi’s first ‘Panenka free-kick’

So, join us in casting our minds back to the 2009/10 season and the away trip to Almeria in La Liga, which ultimately finished in a 2-2 draw where Messi found the back of the net twice.

And it just so happens that his opening strike was a free-kick where the shot was so impudently lofted over the wall with a chip-like trajectory that it surely earns itself ‘Panenka free-kick’ status.

But don’t just take our word for it because you can check out Messi’s original masterpiece down below to see whether you think it makes the grade for yourselves. It really is something to behold.

He makes it look so easy.

Messi making it look so easy

Yes, there’s a little more in-step and curve than the Panenka that would arrive almost a decade later, but there is something about the slow and floated nature of the strike that really makes it.

And the result, like a Panenka penalty, is sheer joy for the supporters because it makes it look as though Messi has humiliated the goalkeeper by finding a way to score past them with minimal effort.

Obviously, that’s not strictly true because there’s a huge deal of quality and accuracy that goes into the execution, but the way that the ball just plops into the net really is spine-tingling.

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It just goes to show that Messi doesn’t even need power or curve to make you look stupid from a free-kick because he can even mug you off with a penalty technique. What an icon.

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