Beckham, Ronaldo, Messi: Fans vote on the top 25 greatest free-kick takers in history

England's Beckham at Wembley.

David Beckham celebrates his 47th birthday today.

It’s crazy to think that it’s almost been a decade since the former Manchester United and Real Madrid midfielder hung up his boots and called time on his professional career.

However, just because so many years have passed since that heartfelt departure at Paris Saint-Germain, it doesn’t mean that the brilliant moments that Beckham produced are remembered any less fondly.

Happy birthday, Beckham

In fact, Beckham is a rare breed of footballer where his iconic status is such that he’s known across the world by millions of people who probably couldn’t care less about the beautiful game.

That being said, we could probably wager that even those who largely know Beckham for his celebrity standing would still know that he was famous for being world-class at one particular part of football.

Yes, that’s right, the whole ‘Golden Balls’ and ‘Bend it like Beckham’ narrative helps the wider world to know that Beckham is one of the greatest free-kick takers that the men’s game has ever seen.

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Let’s start easy: What was Tottenham’s old ground called?

Beckham’s iconic free-kicks

There are few things more recognisable in football than videos and images of Beckham standing in his signature pose a few paces behind a ball with the wall, posts and goalkeeper in his cross hair.

From scoring more Premier League free-kicks than anybody else to that strike against Greece, there are many supporters who would argue that Beckham is the greatest ever when it comes to set pieces outside of the penalty area.

However, ‘many’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘most’ and Beckham blowing out 47 candles on his birthday cake made us wonder about his standing in the skill that he’s most famous for perfecting.

Beckham playing for Man Utd legends.
Soccer Football – 1999 Treble Reunion Match – Manchester United ’99 Legends v Bayern Munich Legends – Old Trafford, Manchester, Britain – May 26, 2019 Manchester United’s David Beckham shoots at goal from a free kick Action Images via Reuters/Ed Sykes

The top 25 free-kick takers ever

And to satiate our curiosity, we turned to the interactive list titled: “Best Free Kick Takers in Football (Soccer),” over at thetoptens.com where fans can cast their opinion on who they think the GOAT really is.

Plus, the list goes well beyond the titular ‘top ten’ with all manner of candidates – from the inspired to ludicrous – making the list where their status is decided upon by the clicks and thoughts of the fans.

So, without further ado, let’s see where Beckham ranks amongst the greatest ever free-kick takers in men’s football, according to the fans, by checking out the top 25 at the time of writing down below:

25. Robin van Persie

Man Utd's Van Persie shoots.
Football – Wigan Athletic v Manchester United – Barclays Premier League – DW Stadium – 1/1/13 Manchester United’s Robin van Persie (R) has a shot from a free kick Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Jason Cairnduff Livepic EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or live services. Online in-match use limited to 45 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

24. Franck Ribery

23. Leighton Baines

22. Gheorghe Hagi

21. Juan Román Riquelme

20. Alex

Alex takes a free-kick for Chelsea.
Football – Liverpool v Chelsea – UEFA Champions League Quarter Final First Leg – Anfield, Liverpool, England – 08/09 – 8/4/09 Alex – Chelsea takes a free kick Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Michael Regan

19. Zico

18. Diego Forlan

17. Rivaldo

16. Ryan Giggs

15. Wesley Sneijder

Sneijder playing for Real Madrid.
Real Madrid’s Wesley Sneijder (R) takes a free-kick during their Champions League Group C soccer match against Werder Bremen at Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid September 18, 2007. REUTERS/Felix Ordonez (SPAIN)

14. Shunsuke Nakamura

13. Juan Arango

12. Alessandro del Piero

11. Pierre van Hooijdonk

10. Andrea Pirlo

Pirlo playing for Italy.
RECIFE, BRAZIL – JUNE 19: Andrea Pirlo of Italy waits at a free kick during the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013 Group A match between Italy and Japan at Arena Pernambuco on June 19, 2013 in Recife, Brazil. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

9. Lionel Messi

8. Steven Gerrard

7. Ronaldinho

6. Siniša Mihajlović

5. Roberto Carlos

Carlos shoots for Real Madrid.
MADRID, SPAIN – OCTOBER 14: Roberto Carlos of Real Madrid shoots a free kick during the Primera Liga match between Getafe and Real Madrid at the Alfonso Perez stadium on October 14, 2006 in Madrid, Spain. Getafe won 1-0. (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)

4. Diego Maradona

3. Cristiano Ronaldo

2. David Beckham

  1. Juninho Pernambucano
Juninho is the free-kick GOAT.
Olympique Lyon’s Juninho celebrates after scoring against Barcelona during their Champions League soccer match at the Gerland stadium in Lyon February 24, 2009. REUTERS/Robert Pratta (FRANCE)

Juninho claims GOAT status

Pipped to the post!

Sorry Becks, but you sadly won’t have the added birthday present of being voted as the greatest free-kick taker of all time with Juninho claiming GOAT status in the eyes of the fans.

And with the Brazilian purportedly holding the world record for the most free-kick goals scored in football history, we’re inclined to think that even Beckham himself would be relaxed about losing out to him.

Nevertheless, there are still plenty of talking points to unpack from the top 25 and none more so than the baffling absence of Pele despite the fact he’s reportedly scored as many as 70 free-kicks.

We’re not sure that we subscribe to the idea of Ronaldo finishing so many places above Messi either with the Manchester United star having only scored two free-kicks in club football since 2017.

Ronaldo at the 2018 World Cup.
Soccer Football – World Cup – Group B – Portugal vs Spain – Fisht Stadium, Sochi, Russia – June 15, 2018 Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo scores their third goal from a free kick to complete his hat-trick REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

Marry that to Gerrard and Sneijder placing much higher than we think they should and Zico being unfairly shunned behind Arango and Giggs to see that there are plenty of placements to discuss and debate.

However, when it comes to choosing one free-kick taker over another, it always comes down to imagining who you’d pick to take one in stoppage time if your life depended on it finding the back of the net.

And you can bet your bottom dollar that millions upon millions of fans would nominate the birthday boy himself.

Man Utd 1-1 Chelsea Match Reaction (Football Terrace)

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