Friday afternoon question: Who’s the best free kick taker?

November 7, 2008

The above question came up in Mark’s blog about Del Piero (see below) and it stuck in my mind after my colleague Andre Assier interviewed Juninho this week.

Here’s an extract from Andre’s piece, which you can read in full here:

Olympique Lyon’s dead ball specialist Juninho scored his 40th free kick goal for the club against Steaua Bucharest in a Champions League game on Wednesday to make his mark on the French side’s scoring records.

The strike in a 2-0 home win meant the Brazilian midfielder joined compatriot Sonny Anderson as the club’s all-time top scorer in European competition with 16 by netting his 94th goal in all competitions for the French champions.

 ”I knew the goalkeeper would try and anticipate on one side so I just shot and wrongfooted him,” the 33-year-old told Reuters in an interview.

So, to get back to the question in hand, is Juninho the best free kick taker out there, or is Mark right in plumping for Del Piero?

It’s interesting that from January, AC Milan will have three of the best dead ball specialists, at least by repute. David Beckham, Ronaldinho and Andrea Pirlo will all be lining up for Milan in the New Year, meaning a lot of pushing and shoving when free kicks are awarded, I’d expect.

If the field is limited to the players already mentioned, I’d go for Juninho, but then again, I bet there are loads of other gifted free kick takers out there who just don’t get the credit that goes to that Famous Five.

So who deserves to be on the list? And is there anyone better than Juninho? Let us know in the comments.

PHOTO: Olympique Lyon’s Juninho (L) celebrates after scoring against Steaua Bucharest during their Champions League soccer match at the Gerland stadium in Lyon, Nov. 5, 2008. REUTERS/Robert Pratta

28 comments

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to go into details, I think Del Piero is the best because he has variation in his free kicks. Beckham just curls, Juninho usually blasts, Ronaldinho and Pirlo generally ‘clip’.
Ale clips, curls, blasts and swerves and has scored four great free kicks in the last three months.

Posted by Mark Meadows | Report as abusive

Right now, the specialists I see who have pushed the direct free kick onwards are Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United, and Robinho of Manchester City. Steven Gerrard hits the ball harder and more accurately but is most effective in open play hitting a loose ball on the edge of the area. Ronaldo has developed a unique ability to strike the ball around its dead centre, causing almost a double movement in flight. Not only did he score several direct free kicks in his record 42 goal season 07-08, there are already 2 goals this term from assists as keepers cannot hold the swerving shot. Robinho is simply a master of positioning and bend, and probably in the same school as Juninho (Lyon), Deco (Chelsea), Nakamura (Celtic), Ronaldinho and Becks (AC Milan / LA Galaxy).

Posted by Howard Johnston | Report as abusive

Another thing to remember is that good free kick taking is not just about scoring goals. If you can whip in a good free kick from out wide that’s a very valuable skill as well. Juninho certainly did that against Bayern the other week. That was always a great skill of Beckham, as well.

Posted by Kevin Fylan | Report as abusive

Mark Meadows: “…Juninho usually blasts…”

Please. The man has scored 40 free kick goals in the last seven years, and he has had over 120 assists from fks as well. Watch them. Then tell me if he just “blasts.”

He has an incredibly amount of variation, which is why so many goalkeepers in so many different leagues are always taken by surprise, no matter how much they try to prepare for his shots.

Posted by Tanya | Report as abusive

The best free kicker taker right now has to be Cristiano Ronaldo. The way he kicks the ball and the way he makes it swerve in mid-air is like nothing i have ever seen; same goes for those goalies that can stop the goals. He has the ability to score goals as well as curve it enough to assist on a free kick as well. Cristiano Ronaldo is by far the best soccer player in the world right now.

Although David Beckham is usually my top guy, Juninho is by far the best in dead ball situations.

Posted by Darren | Report as abusive

Diego from Werder Bremen should be on the list. I wouldn’t say he’s better than Juninho but he’s also an awesome free kick taker.

Even India’s Jose Barretto and Sunil Chettri are good with free kicks. They just dont get any milage.

Juan Roman Riquelme is always ignored by the English journalists.Have you ever boarder your sight to the worldwide instead of just from the Premier League?

Posted by Gabriel | Report as abusive

Hi Harish K. I don’t know anything about Jose Barretto and Sunil Chettri. I’m off to look them up…

Posted by Kevin Fylan | Report as abusive

Riquelme and Diego are good additions to the list, definitely. And Ronaldo is certainly unpredictable. He must be one of the msot difficult free kick takers to face because he has so much variation.

Posted by Kevin Fylan | Report as abusive

JUNINHO IS OVIOUSLY THE BEST FREEKICK TAKER OF ALL TIME!

Posted by francesco | Report as abusive

To me van persie is my best freekick taker cause it has the accuracy and power even theirry henry should be included in the list

Posted by Nsikan | Report as abusive

Well Gabriel, only one of our Famous Five above has ever played in the Premier League. Apart from Ronaldo now, there are not so many good free kick takers in England. The ball hits the wall most often and defences never put men on the posts for direct free kicks, which occasionally happens to good effect in Italy.

Posted by Mark Meadows | Report as abusive

Francesco on the Del Piero blog thinks Im an idiot for plumping for Juve’s captain. Francesco could well be right in his view. Juninho is indeed superb but should the standard of goalkeeping in the relative leagues come into the equation?
Is scoring a free kick against the St Etienne keeper easier than Inter’s Julio Cesar or Fiorentina’s Sebastien Frey?

Posted by Mark Meadows | Report as abusive

Right now I would say Del Piero takes the award for CURRENT best freekicker. He has tons of variation and is in good deadball form. But over the past 8 years I would say that juninho has consistently been top. They called him the 50% man in the French League because he would generally net half his strikes. I think shots/goals ratio is important he has the ability to dip a ball without having to curl it with the side of the boot. Beckham used to make a strong case over the years as did sinisa mihailovic.

Posted by theo | Report as abusive

and Roberto carlos was always overrated! many shots/few goals (although spectacular if he didn’t mess it up)

Posted by theo | Report as abusive

I can’t really come up with an answer to the question, but this is a great discussion. One thing I’ve noticed about the great free kick takers is that the opposition is so scared of their ability they won’t commit fouls wihin 25-30 yards of their goal. Here in the US I’ve noticed teams not fouling LA Galaxy players near the goal because of the Beckham fear factor.

For the record, Del Piero, Pirlo and Juninho are the best I can think of.

messed by goals, Juninho is the best free-kick-taker – he scores against every team in champions league or Ligue 1. but in variations, i think same like many others here, del piero is better – maybe he isn’t so successfull in goals because often Nedved shoots free-kicks for Juvents.
Thinking at the last 8-9 years – there also was Pierre van Hooijdonk, Feyenoord Rotterdam, who scores fantastic goals against every team, maybe uefa-cup final against Borussia Dortmund.
Roberto Carlos and Becks free-kicks are highlights, but they aren’t so successfull like others.

Posted by Zambrotta | Report as abusive

yeah that’s right
van Hooijdonk was a great freekick taker!(uefa cup final fk goal was awwwwwsome!!) I forgot to mention him. Pirlo is good too but can’t do the variations of power of DP or juninho. I think Zidane was very underrated (he always was second in line behind DelP or Beckham or ROberto Carlos. Real Betis player Marcos Assuncao is so darn accurate too, almost always forces a save or hits the post or baack of the net,
Favourite Del Piero fk: vs. Monaco in the champions league 98
Favourite Juninho fk: vs. Bayern in the champions league,

really cool discussion topic this is…

Posted by theo | Report as abusive

Ronaldinho…is THE BEST…
del piero: second best
juninho: third best
i agree that Carlos was overrated.. so was Figo… and even to an extend Ch Ronaldo is overrated when it comes to freekicks

i nearly forgot something

Best league by decline in quality (Sadly): Italian and French

But i think overall, spanish premeira liga is still the best, beating the English Premier League by a small margin (however much hardcore English commentators might disagree!)

Love Del Piero and his current form, and have written about him in the past, see – http://www.serieatalk.com/who-is-the-ita lian-ironman/106

however, the master of deadball skills is still Brasilian and Lyon midfielder Juninho Pernambucano even Andrea Pirlo understands this reality, “I started watching how Juninho kicked and tried to learn” said Pirlo.

http://www.serieatalk.com/juninho-puts-o n-free-kick-scoring-clinic-lyon-3-2-nice  /352

Nakamura from Celtic has to be on the list.

I agree that Nakamura should definitely be considered. Soccer brings so much joy into the lives of so many people around the world. The Favela Project is working (based in the USA) to bring soccer into the lives of kids in the Favelas of Brazil. A Favela is another word for a slum, basically shantytowns, that exist in urban areas of Brazil. The Favela Project tries to enhance the lives of the children who live there by using soccer as a positive vehicle for positive change in their lives. For more information on this charity, please visit: http://www.favelaproject.org. Thank You.

Posted by Ian | Report as abusive

Dear All,

seriously, it’s a nice topic but the answer is so obvious. Just watched videos, check statistics and the answers as clear as crystal. Juninho outranks everyone in the list by far. Just look at youtube, dailymotion, whatever video stream u have but just watch how incredibly accurate, powerfull and regular Juninho is. I jsut watched Fiorentina Lyon…2 master piece again.

Just watched the highlights of OL’s game against Fiorentina … if that first half free kick from Juninho had dipped another inch it would have been the definitive answer, no?

Posted by Kevin F | Report as abusive