There is no other way to say it, free-kicks are an art form.
From distance, to be able to manipulate the ball over, around or even under a defensive wall and still evade a goalkeeper takes incredible skill and repetition to mould into a weapon the pitch.
Here’s a look at the 20 best free-kick takers in Premier League history – ranked…
20. Jamie Redknapp
Former Liverpool and Tottenham midfielder Jamie Redknapp is something of an overlooked free-kick master. Although often injured during his career now better known as a pundit and television personality, he netted nine times from dead balls in the Premier League.
Willian has earned a fine reputation as a free-kick specialist over the last few years and often scores from set-pieces. Back in 2015/16, five of the Brazilian’s first six goals of the season across Premier League and Champions League games were all from direct free-kicks.
Learn how to take free-kicks with Willian – watch here.
18. Steven Gerrard
That Steven Gerrard isn’t overly remembered for his free-kicks tells you just how good the Liverpool legend was in every aspect of his game. Gerrard’s dead ball efforts were usually rasping strikes that relied on spectacular power, often threatening to break the net.
17. Didier Drogba
Rather than wrap his foot around the ball to add curl and bend, Didier Drogba often kicked straight through it with a side-foot at set-pieces, almost like it was as simple as just passing into the net as he pleased. The Ivorian once scored a sublime effort in a comfortable Chelsea win at the Emirates Stadium, while a free-kick also settled the 2010 FA Cup final.
16. Leighton Baines
Long serving Everton left-back Leighton Baines is one of only a handful of Premier League players to have scored two direct free-kicks in the same game, doing so against West Ham in 2013. His set-pieces have made him a valuable asset for the Toffees for well over a decade.
15. Gylfi Sigurdsson
Gylfi Sigurdsson perfected the art of free-kicks early in his career and had already scored plenty for Reading and Hoffenheim by the time he arrived in the Premier League with Swansea, simply carrying on. His very last goal for the Swans was a free-kick against Manchester United in 2017.
14. Juan Mata
Spanish maestro Juan Mata has scored a number of free-kicks for Chelsea and Manchester United over the last nine years. When Mata successfully converted his eighth Premier League free-kick in October 2018, no other player had scored more since his debut in 2011.
13. Luis Suarez
Luis Suarez scored several free-kicks during his time at Liverpool, all of which came in his final two years at Anfield. He bent an unstoppable effort into the net against Norwich in the 2013/14 campaign, his fourth goal of that game alone. Probably due to competition from Lionel Messi, Suarez has surprisingly only scored one free-kick in six years at Barcelona.
12. Frank Lampard
Frank Lampard could strike a ball as well as anyone in Premier League history, so it is only natural that the Chelsea legend was free-kick expert. Like Gerrard, other parts of his game are generally more celebrated when looking back on his career, but he was lethal if presented with an opportunity to take one, often from some distance.
Would Frank Lampard still be on duty for free-kicks and penalties if he was still playing for Chelsea? Watch here.
11. Ian Harte
Although perhaps his most famous free-kick was the rocket he scored against Deportivo La Coruna in the Champions League, ex-Leeds left-back Ian Harte was a set-piece master in the Premier League. Harte was also an accomplished penalty taker. That combined with his free-kick ability helped the Irishman score 28 Premier League goals in his career.
10. Nolberto Solano
‘Nobby’ Solano arrived at Newcastle in 1998 a virtual unknown outside South America, yet it wasn’t long before he became a Premier League cult hero. His ability from free-kicks was a large part of that. One of his earliest goals in England was an in-perfect bending set-piece against Manchester United that clipped the inside of the post as it beat Peter Schmeichel.
9. Morten Gamst Pedersen
Upon moving to England from his native Norway, Morten Gamst Pedersen quickly earned a reputation as a goalscoring winger and free-kick expert. The former Blackburn star is among a select group of just eight players to have scored 10 or more Premier League free-kicks. They didn’t need to central either, with strikes against Wigan and Manchester United both from wide areas.
8. Sebastian Larsson
When Sebastian Larsson scored a free-kick for Sunderland against former club Arsenal in 2011 it prompted Arsene Wenger to declare the Swede ‘maybe the best in the league as a free-kick taker’ at that time. He has scored free-kicks wherever he has been throughout his career and managed 11 in the Premier League alone.
7. Kevin De Bruyne
Although capable of what you would consider a ‘traditional’ free-kick that goes up and over the wall, Kevin De Bruyne has brought a level of ingenuity to his set-pieces at Manchester City. That is because the Belgian has fooled more than one opponent by sliding a free-kick along the ground, underneath a jumping wall. That he does both makes it impossible for defenders to know what is coming. Should they jump or not?
6. Dimitri Payet
His time in English football was ultimately only short, but Dimtri Payet’s free-kicks were special to behold when he briefly lit up the Premier League with West Ham. The Frenchman was able to put incredible height and dip on the ball as he struck it, which meant he could put it anywhere in the goal from any angle.
5. Thierry Henry
There was an effortless brilliance attached to Thierry Henry’s free-kick taking ability. One particular effort against Wigan in 2005 stands out in that respect as the Arsenal icon, who had a reputation for a cheeky quick free-kick, was asked to wait to take it by referee Graham Poll. When the official gave permission, Henry stroked the ball in from 30 yards and mouthed ‘Is that enough?’ in Poll’s direction.
4. Laurent Robert
Laurent Robert scored exactly half of his Premier League goals for from free-kicks, 11 in total. The Frenchman was at St James’ Park during a golden period for Newcastle in the early 2000s and would strike his set-pieces with such venom it was seemingly impossible that he still had the poise and control over the ball to send it on target and not into the stands.
3. Gianfranco Zola
Gianfranco Zola once confessed that he learned the art of free-kicks by watching former Napoli teammate Diego Maradona in training and mimicking the legend’s technique. Clearly it worked, as only five players in Serie A history scored more free-kicks, while he jointly holds the Premier League record alongside Henry for most free-kicks scored by a foreign player.
2. Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo perfected a new way of taking free-kicks in the mid-2000s, being the first to really bring the dipping knuckleball style to the Premier League. His effort against Portsmouth in 2008 is perhaps the single best free-kick English football has ever seen, with the ball up and down over the wall yet still straight as an arrow into the top corner.
1. David Beckham
No one has scored more goals from direct free-kicks in Premier League history than David Beckham’s 18, who is one of the most celebrated set-piece specialists of all-time. Beckham, whose unique technique added extra curl to the ball to take it away from goalkeepers, famously practiced free-kicks after training by hanging a tire in the top corner of the goal.
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