Lionel Messi Voted The Greatest Free-Kick Taker Ever

Lionel Messi scored the 47th free-kick of his career last night and it's prompted readers to vote in favour of the five-time Ballon d'Or being the greatest free-kick taker ever.

SPORTbible put out the poll on Twitter for fans to have their say and out of the 48,000 people that voted, 42% went for Messi, who beat David Beckham, Juninho Pernambucano and Ronaldinho to take the crown.

Beckham, famous for curling in beauties for Manchester United and England in his pomp, accrued 26%, somehow edging out the free-kick king Juninho on 23%. Ronaldinho, who scored goals from dead-ball situations in one La Liga season for Barca, finished fourth with 9%.

Messi has got so good at free-kicks that these days it's almost like a penalty. His 'Panenka free-kick' against Espanyol may have had a bit of fortune about it and MARCA were generous to give him the goal but he followed it up with an absolute belter against Villarreal last night.

Barca, having been 2-0 up in the first half, found themselves trailing 4-2 to the relegation-threatened outfit.

But when Messi was fouled outside the box as injury time approached, you could sense danger was coming.

As if it was the easiest thing in the world, he promptly smashed the ball in off the post on the side of 'keeper Sergio Asenjo's side to reduce the deficit.

The Blaugrana would then snatch a point with the last kick of the game when Luis Suarez smashed in a left-footed half volley from a Messi corner.

Messi's prowess and precision from set-pieces is just scary and he's experienced so much success of late, with three consecutive free-kicks in a row in La Liga games.

Even more impressive is the fact he has 12 direct free-kick goals to his name since the start of 2018 - more than any other player by a substantial distance.

In terms of his technique, Messi pampers the ball, raises his head, arches his body and hoists the ball into the net, according to MARCA, but the science behind the set-piece is more detailed than you think.

The report details that Messi changed his way of hitting a ball in training early on, using plastic dolls as a barrier between him and the goal.

Image: 433
Image: 433

Messi's leg when taking a free-kick has an angle of 50 degrees. He plants almost his entire boot on the ground before hitting the ball, giving him stability and control in the shot.

Then, to improve his accuracy, Messi arches his shoulders and chest to caress the ball, hunching his body to a more compact position.

The 31-year old is able to score free-kicks from a variety of angles and distances and he revealed the trick to being consistent is to keep the goalkeeper guessing.

"Yes. To be honest, I like to hit the ball over the players' wall but from time to time I like to mix it up a little bit so that the goalkeeper doesn't know where I'm going and I want to keep him confused until I kick." he told ESPN.

"I think for that reason I like to keep the goalkeeper in doubt."

Josh Lawless

Josh is a writer who specialises in football and wrestling. He has been published by Curzon Ashton FC, Late Tackle, Manchester City FC, The Mirror, Read Man City and Manchester Evening News. He provides coverage of professional wrestling and has interviewed some of the biggest names in the field - including the first UK interview with The Hardy Boyz after their return to WWE. He has never sported a pair of Lonsdale Slip-ons, contrary to reports.

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