Football isn’t about kicking the ball from one end of the field to the other in the hopes of finding the back of the net. It’s all about scoring in any way you can think of. Not every team has the ability to score frequently from open play. Set-pieces give those teams a chance to reclaim parity and live to fight another day.
Set-pieces are important in football, but not everyone can use them effectively. So, today, we’re highlighting five players who have consistently converted free kicks, penalties, and corners to help their team advance. The following are the top five set-piece takers of the twenty-first century:
Number 5:Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo, the leading goalscorer of this generation (796 goals), is the ideal model for a modern-day forward. Manchester United’s number 7 is disciplined and determined, and he rarely wastes chances to keep the scoreboard ticking.
The 36-year-old spent most of his career with Real Madrid, scoring crucial goals and leading the club to multiple trophies. He also won a few games for Juventus and broke a few more records while there.
He has now returned to his first major European club, Manchester United, and appears hungry for more honors.
Cristiano Ronaldo scored his first goal for Manchester United in the 80th minute with an incredible freekick against Portsmouth in a 3-0 victory for United.
Ronaldo is also a fantastic dead-ball convert, scoring numerous goals from free-kicks and penalties. His “knuckleball” free-kicks are stunning, and his ice-cold penalties are all but unavoidable.
Football is a celebration of humanity. It allows us to feel and respond. It causes us to jump for joy and cry in despair. Ronaldinho was the epitome of the spirit that pervades the game. The Brazilian made us understand what the game was all about.
The two-time World Player of the Year won every major award available in the game. Above all, he always did it with a smile on his face. Ronaldinho possessed an enviable arsenal of moves and was capable of turning any game on its head in the blink of an eye.
The 2002 World Cup winner’s open-play goals were stunning, but that was not the only aspect of his game. Ronaldinho was an excellent free-kick taker who could convert from anywhere on the field. His free-kicks were a fine blend of power and finesse, making them nearly impossible to stop for any keeper. The Brazilian was also an unreadable penalty taker, making him Barcelona’s first-choice penalty taker.
Number 3: David Beckham
David Beckham was once a man of many talents. The former midfielder could not only pull the strings in the middle of the park, but he could also convert set-pieces with ease.
Beckham was the epitome of a modern-day footballer, and his clubs adored him for it.
Beckham had a knack for scoring daring free kicks from seemingly impossible angles and distances. Beckham’s free-kick against Greece in World Cup qualifiers earned England a spot in the 2002 showpiece event, and it remains one of football’s most memorable goals.
Over the course of his career, Beckham scored over 60 free-kick goals, cementing his position as one of the game’s best set-piece takers.
Number 2: Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi, a Barcelona legend and Paris Saint-Germain star, is widely regarded as the greatest player the world has ever seen. He is an excellent game reader, can keep the game moving with inch-perfect passes, and enjoys scoring outrageous goals. To top it all off, Messi is a fantastic set-piece taker.
Messi’s magical left foot allows him to swing the ball in from corners, making the keeper’s job difficult. The Argentine is also a skilled penalty taker. Despite a few misses over the years, he remains a reliable spot-kick option.
Finally, he can free-kick. Messi isn’t keen on shooting them from a long distance, but he’s terrifyingly accurate from close range. Surprisingly, Messi was not always a reliable set-piece taker.
After 2012, he added this skill to his repertoire. Messi has 50 free-kick goals for his clubs and eight more for his country in the twenty-first century.
Number 1: Juninho Pernambucano
No discussion of the best set-piece takers would be complete without mentioning the legendary Juninho Pernambucano. The Brazilian and Lyon legend is regarded as the best free-kick taker in football history, with the ability to convert from anywhere.
Juninho rarely discriminated when it came to free kicks. The Brazilian was content to shoot from close range as well as from a distance, with the same devastating effect. He used to curl the ball in from 20-25 yards out when he was younger.
Later in his career, he developed the “Knuckleball” technique, which allowed him to be equally lethal from a distance. Juninho scored more than 75 free-kick goals during his career, making him the man with the most in recorded history.