The best free-kicks of all time

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Long shots are cool, skills are flashy or whatever. But nothing pops a crowd more than a perfectly executed set-piece, erupting a stadium into noise after moments of silence.

The greatest set-piece specialists have provided a plethora of methods into striking the dead ball for the best results. They make it look endlessly easy too, when it’s actually an art form that takes serious talent to master.

Be it a laces through the ball job, or a precision curler into top bins, you simply cannot better a perfectly crafted free-kick. 90min has collated 30 of the very best.

Marcus RashfordMarcus Rashford
Game face | Michael Regan/Getty Images

Away from home yet lined up nicely in front of the away end, Marcus Rashford stood over a dead ball against Chelsea for Manchester United in the Carabao Cup.

It was either going top bins like a prime Ronaldo or right back up the motorway. No prizes for guessing correctly. Technique for days.

AC Milan's midfieder Andrea Pirlo celebrAC Milan's midfieder Andrea Pirlo celebr
It’ll take some digging, but it’s out there to see | PACO SERINELLI/Getty Images

In a thrilling Champions League clash with Schalke, Andrea Pirlo kept things trademark level cool by leaving his mark on the game for Milan.

His mark? An absolutely obscene free-kick from miles out, placed to within an inch of the upper 90 of the goal to leave the goalkeeper with no chance.

Garrincha's GoalGarrincha's Goal
Brazil celebrate Garrincha’s wonder goal | Central Press/Getty Images

While the 1966 World Cup is remembered for England’s only win at the tournament to date, Garrincha was scoring peaches for Brazil behind the scenes.

Stepping up to a dead ball against Croatia, Garrincha stepped up and rifled the ball into the top corner, over the wall with supreme power generated from the outside of his boot.

David LuizDavid Luiz
David Luiz is truly bonkers | Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

At his home tournament, David Luiz gave fans something to cheer about with a rocket of a free-kick against Colombia at the World Cup.

Side-footed but struck with unrelenting venom, it’s a baffling technique. But it works.

Rogerio CeniRogerio Ceni
Ahead of the curve | Friedemann Vogel/Getty Images

Scoring your 100th goal as an outfielder is some feat, so to do it as a goalkeeper is off the scales.

Rogerio Ceni is everything wacky and wild that makes Brazilian football so great. Talented with his hands and feet, he bagged his 100th goal against rivals Corinthians with a free-kick you’d expect David Beckham to have struck.

ZicoZico
Zico putting his technique to use in Japan | Etsuo Hara/Getty Images

The best free-kick takers don’t always score the most electric of strikes, but their go-to trick will often never fail.

When Zico stood over the ball, weight shifted and kicking knee ready to flick up, the goalkeeper was always in trouble. He brushed one past Scotland at the 1982 World Cup in textbook fashion; simply astonishing.

Lionel MessiLionel Messi
He bags free-kicks for club and country | Omar Vega/Getty Images

On the cusp of becoming Argentina’s record goalscorer, Lionel Messi whipped a sublime free-kick into the back of the net against the USA in 2016.

The magic man surprises nobody with his tricks, but they remain unstoppable.

Lionel MessiLionel Messi
Messi’s free-kicks look effortless | Angel Martinez/Getty Images

Messi’s free-kick technique appears to be nothing special, but the way he hangs over the ball and generates such supreme whip from a small run is frightening.

No matter the angle, he’ll find a gap. He did that against Atletico Madrid in 2012, putting range to the test and slinging one into the far corner while it was curling away from goal.

FBL-GER-BUNDESLIGA-HAMBURG-DORTMUNDFBL-GER-BUNDESLIGA-HAMBURG-DORTMUND
Lightwork mate. | AFP/Getty Images

50 yards out. Fifty.

He meant it, too. Hakan Calhanoglu secured victory for Hamburg with an unimaginable free-kick, swerving one in with power and whip with nobody suspecting a shot.

Lasse SchoneLasse Schone
Schone celebrates an early wonder goal | Chris Brunskill Ltd/Getty Images

With the game barely underway at the Amsterdam ArenA, Feyenoord didn’t bother to put up a wall against a distant Ajax free-kick. Fools.

Lasse Schone steps up and lasers it into the top corner, all power and no hesitation. The goalkeeper has football pie all over himself after that calamitous decision.

Paul Gascoigne of Tottenham HotspurPaul Gascoigne of Tottenham Hotspur
Gazza unleashed his best in the derby | Simon Bruty/Getty Images

The magic of the FA Cup beared fruitful in 1991 when a north London derby set the stage in the semi-final.

Paul Gascoigne ramped up the magic with a thunderous free-kick that smashed the underside of the crossbar and went in. Typical Gazza. Fearless and fearsome.

RonaldinhoRonaldinho
The under the wall approach is a tricky skill to pull off | Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Over the wall, around the wall, Ronaldinho had it all in his locker.

People were still surprised and in frenzy though when he effortlessly rolled one under the Werder Bremen wall in 2005 to make a mockery of a detailed set-up. He’s a genius.

Celtic's Japanese midfielder Shunsuke NaCeltic's Japanese midfielder Shunsuke Na
Shunsuke Nakamura floats a free-kick over the wall | ANDREW YATES/Getty Images

No, not the one that kicks off people’s heads in WWE. Close, though.

Shunsuke Nakamura had a habit of striking absolute belters, none more so than a free-kick. He reminded Manchester United of this not once but twice in 2006, scoring an inch perfect free-kick at Old Trafford and replicating it at Celtic Park. Edwin Van der Sar was helpless.

Kieran RichardsonKieran Richardson
Kieran Richardson’s strike is a fond one among Sunderland fans | Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

How do you become a bit of a cult hero? Easy mate, stick one top bins in a derby.

Kieran Richardson did just that for Sunderland in 2008 when his free-kick was enough to give the Black Cats their first home derby win in 28 years. Almost broke his own side’s net, but they wouldn’t have minded.

Teofilo CubillasTeofilo Cubillas
Cubillas is Peru’s finest footballer | Getty Images/Getty Images

Sorry Scotland, it’s you again.

The ‘Pele of Peru’ scored a ridiculously cheeky yet equally incredible goal against the Scots in ’78, brushing the ball around the outside of the wall and inside the keeper’s post with the outside of his boot. A seriously difficult technique made to look like we could all pull it off at the park.

Udinese v Inter Milan XUdinese v Inter Milan X
Adriano is perhaps football’s biggest ‘what if?’ | Grazia Neri/Getty Images

Why did Adriano possess 99 shot power in PES? This is exactly why.

With Inter up against Real Madrid, the Brazilian stood over the dead ball and put enough venom behind it to likely send it into orbit had it not gone in. Find it, watch it, adore it and don’t even suggest that you’d get in front of it.

Roberto Baggio of Juventus and Franco Baresi of AC MilanRoberto Baggio of Juventus and Franco Baresi of AC Milan
The ‘divine ponytail’ in action against Milan | Getty Images/Getty Images

The range of style Roberto Baggio had in his free-kicks was freakish. No run up, massive run up, lay off – he could score from any angle.

Borussia Dortmund learned that the hard way in 1995 when – from silly distance – his long run up whipped the ball viciously into the top corner in sublime fashion. He doesn’t have a flash game for nothing.

Lyon's Brazilian midfielder Juninho shooLyon's Brazilian midfielder Juninho shoo
Juninho loved a set piece more than anyone | JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK/Getty Images

No, not Brazilian Middlesbrough legend Juninho – the other Brazilian Juninho.

Juninho Pernambucano is the definition of a dead ball merchant. All technique and he makes it count. His 45-yard free-kick against Ajaccio in 2006 was all technique, flying into the net from improbable range. Best part is he absolutely meant it, too.

Roberto CarlosRoberto Carlos
Roberto Carlos was scoring free-kicks long before Real Madrid | Guang Niu/Getty Images

Just before heading to Inter in 1995, Roberto Carlos was in his native Brazil trying to take people’s heads off with his free-kicks.

He scored from merely yards ahead of the centre circle with a free-kick that looked charged with rocket fuel. Keeper shouldn’t have even bothered to dive. Have it.

Arsenal's Dutch player Robin van PersieArsenal's Dutch player Robin van Persie
Van Persie stunned Sunderland | ADRIAN DENNIS/Getty Images

Those pesky dead centre free-kicks. Nightmare, right? Not for Robin van Persie.

Usually lethal in active play, he tuned up the band and absolutely smashed the ball into the roof of the net from just outside the box, with enough power to keep the lights on in the Emirates for a week. Ridiculous.

FA PREMIERFA PREMIER
Le Tissier was ahead of his time | Anton Want/Getty Images

In true Matt Le Tissier style, this free-kick is all kinds of ballsy and borderline disrespectful. The Englishman smashed one home against Wimbledon.

Lay off, flick up, volley into the top bins. Soccer AM stuff. Dead easy, yet you’ll spend hours on the astro trying to land one remotely close to it. Give up now, honestly.

Inter Milan's Alvaro Recoba of Uruguay sInter Milan's Alvaro Recoba of Uruguay s
Recoba loved a long range effort | PAOLO COCCO/Getty Images

Who says Italian football isn’t fun? Alvaro Recoba lighting up nets with laser-guided dead balls is pretty fun stuff.

Bologna learned the hard way in 2003 when the Uruguayan hard-hitter blasted one home, wrapping it around the net. All the curve and power you could possibly want in a free-kick.

JuninhoJuninho
Juninho scored a worldie against Bayern Munich | Etsuo Hara/Getty Images

This free-kick thing was a bit of a routine thing for Juninho.

All technique, with the flailing arms and inch perfectly placed feet. It paid dividends on the big stage against Bayern Munich in 2003, blitzing one into the back of the net from – again – silly range.

Cristiano RonaldoCristiano Ronaldo
The Emirates watches on as Ronaldo strikes | Etsuo Hara/Getty Images

Cristiano Ronaldo was turning up the heat more and more in the final years of his Manchester United career.

He put that trademark knuckleball technique on show in the Champions League in 2009, catching Arsenal out from an unthinkable angle. Should Manuel Almunia have done better? Perhaps, but the sheer dip and power in the shot was ferocious.

FBL-ENG-PR-WEST HAM-CRYSTAL PALACEFBL-ENG-PR-WEST HAM-CRYSTAL PALACE
By this point, the giant wall had split off | OLLY GREENWOOD/Getty Images

Arrived from France, ran rings around the Premier League for two years and left again. Dimitri Payet’s impact was short-lived but endlessly fun.

He made headlines with an inch perfect free-kick against Crystal Palace, viciously whipping the ball around a wall that would rival the Great Wall of China and slotting it top bins against the odds. Ridiculous sauce.

Manchester United's Portugese midfielderManchester United's Portugese midfielder
‘Wayne, do one mate’ | PAUL ELLIS/Getty Images

Two for Messi, two for Ronaldo.

The Portugal international’s free-kick against Portsmouth surely defies science. Surely. You can try and perfect this technique for days and you still won’t be able to replicate it. David James doesn’t move and rightly so.

David Beckham, Martin Keown, Gary NevilleDavid Beckham, Martin Keown, Gary Neville
Beckham celebrates a sensational strike | GERALD PENNY/Getty Images

Before trying to be a knuckleball expert was the cool thing to do, it was David Beckham heading the challenges down at the football cages.

Curved run up, standing foot at an ankle-breaking angle and the shooting foot swiping through with unrelenting sting. It was that trademark Beckham technique that saved England’s bacon against Greece in 2001. Incredible.

BRAZIL V SWEDENBRAZIL V SWEDEN
Nilsson (left) playing for Sweden | Chris Cole/Getty Images

The knuckleball before it was cool.

Mikael Nilsson scored a free-kick for IFK Goteborg in 1993 that was equally mind boggling and terrific. At first it looked like a goalkeeper error from the distance effort, but it was actually just the sheer amount of power and curve on the ball that left him clueless. Toe pokes always.

FBL-FIFA-AWARDSFBL-FIFA-AWARDS
Subri’s jaw-dropping effort was enough for a Puskas Award | FABRICE COFFRINI/Getty Images

A free-kick worthy of the 2016 Puskas Award, this one gets more confusing with every watch.

Mohd Faiz Subri scored one of the wildest free-kicks you will ever witness. Striking the ball at goal, freakish mid-flight movement renders the goalkeeper completely helpless and makes Ronaldo’s knuckleball look amateur. Swaz at its very peak.

Roberto CarlosRoberto Carlos
This man could hit them | Ben Radford/Getty Images

Topping the list is the free-kick of all free-kicks. A dead ball struck down straight from the heavens. By Roberto Carlos of course, because who else?

Close to 40 yards away from goal, Carlos used his vintage long run up and thrashed his left foot through the ball with equal measures of power, technique and magic. France goalkeeper Fabien Barthez was mind blown; a free-kick heading into touch was suddenly swerving beyond him and rifling into the net. A genuine moment of wizardry.

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