There’s often nothing quite like watching a spectacular goal scored from a free-kick, but who are the best in the business when it comes to hitting the back of the net? The statistics are actually quite revealing for the last five seasons and, when it comes to success rate percentages from taking free-kicks, it’s a skill that even the most talented players in the world can often struggle to master.
Lionel Messi vs Cristiano Ronaldo
Is he man or machine? That’s the question many ask themselves of Argentine maestro Lionel Messi, who makes everything he does on a football pitch look effortlessly easy. In February and March of the 2017-18 campaign, the Barcelona star became the first player in La Liga history to score free-kicks in three consecutive matches, adding yet another record to his ever-growing collection of footballing achievements. What’s more, they were all from different positions outside the area and using entirely different techniques each time.
However, statistics suggest Messi isn’t even amongst the best twenty free-kick specialists in Europe, when comparing active players since the start of the 2013-14 season. Indeed, his free-kick success rate is a modest 6.67% with just 11 goals in 165 attempts. Is his eternal La Liga rival Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid any better? Surprisingly, and although the Portuguese superstar has often been lauded for his free-kick technique and ability, his success rate is only 6.25% with 7 goals scored from 112 attempts. Ronaldo was prolific from outside the box during his time at Manchester United, but since leaving the Premier League, he hasn’t recaptured the same ratio of free-kick goals in Spain.
Even though neither Messi or Ronaldo register amongst the most successful free-kick takers in Europe, they have consistently registered the highest number of free-kick goals in La Liga since the start of 2013/14 season.
Premier League’s Finest
Marcos Alonso has wowed crowds with some amazing free-kick goals over the last couple of seasons with Chelsea, making him one of the most lethal dead-ball specialists in Europe with an 18.8% success rate that has produced 4 goals from 22 attempts. However, the highest current success rate of any Premier League player rests with another Spaniard: Juan Mata of Manchester United.
During his spells at Chelsea and Manchester United, Juan Mata had a 22.73% success rate with free kicks, with five goals from 22 free-kick attempts, numbers that somewhat surprisingly give Mata the highest success percentage anywhere in Europe.
Interestingly, the only comparable free-kick specialist over recent Premier League years has been Philippe Coutinho, who achieved a potent success rate of 19.23% with five goals from 26 attempts. While Liverpool boosted their coffers with a whopping transfer fee for the player when the Brazilian moved to Barcelona early in 2018, they’ll struggle to find anyone quite as accurate at taking their free-kicks.
Aces of the Serie A
Widely regarded as the most talented Argentine player since Lionel Messi first made his Barcelona breakthrough, there’s a huge weight of expectation resting on the shoulders of Paulo Dybala, especially after making the move to Europe in 2012. Nicknamed “the Jewel”, Dybala has certainly proven to be an authentic Serie A gem in Italy, first with Palermo and then with Juventus since 2015.
Dybala has achieved a success rate of 21.05% with eight goals from 38 attempts, which is actually vastly superior to his Argentine countryman and hero, Messi.
The jewel in the crown of his repertoire of skills is an ability to find the back of the net from free-kicks. In statistics gathered since the 2013-14 campaign. Dybala has achieved a success rate of 21.05% with eight goals from 38 attempts, which is actually vastly superior to his Argentine countryman and hero, Messi.
Just to demonstrate the power and precision of his free-kicks, Dybala was challenged to beat a 20-man wall on the goal line during a charity match in 2017. Of course, he fired his effort straight into the top-left corner.
Best of the Bundesliga
More than a few eyebrows were raised when Real Madrid let James Rodriguez leave the Santiago Bernabeu ahead of the 2017-18 season. Nevertheless, their loss was certainly a big gain for Bundesliga giants, Bayern Munich. The classy Colombian has been an instant hit with the Bavarian side, as they cruise towards more silverware.
Constantly forced to settle for sitting in the shadows of Real Madrid stars like Ronaldo or Bale, getting opportunities for glory moments at free-kicks was a constant struggle, even though statistically, his numbers in dead-ball situations are far superior. Since the 2013-14 season and during spells at Monaco, Real Madrid, and currently with Bayern Munich, James can boast a successful 16.67% free-kick strike rate with 6 goals from 36 attempts.
The next best in the Bundesliga is Hertha Berlin left-back Marvin Plattenhardt, who broke into the German national team in 2017. His fearsome power striking the ball is only matched by its accuracy, leaving rival defences to fear his ability from dead-ball situations and no matter the distance. The rockets he’s unleashed since the 2013/14 season have produced a success rate of 16.22%, with ten goals from 37 attempts.