Free kicks are among the most exciting events in football matches, be they English Premier League, Italian Serie A, France’s Ligue 1, or Spain’s La Liga. Some are spectacular, and like Roberto Carlos’ incredible bender in the 1997 international when Brazil beat France, they go down in football history. Roberto Carlos was an incredible striker of the ball, and a goal in normal play to rival his iconic free-kick against France was the one he scored from an impossible angle when Real Madrid beat Tenerife a few months in 1998. But even though Roberto Carlos was a free-kick specialist, his conversion rate wasn’t that high.
Across his career, it works out at 4.2% – that’s just over 4 goals per 100 free kicks. Fellow Brazillian Ronaldinho had a better conversion rate at 7.3%. However, none were quite as spectacular as that famous bender, which still remains scientifically unexplained today. Although Ronaldhino’s rate was higher than that of Roberto Carlos, it pales into insignificance against the stats shown in Sportingbet’s summary of the Premier League’s greatest free-kick takers.
No. 1 is the Spanish player Juan Mata, who, with 48 free kicks, managed to convert 8, giving him an incredible conversion rate of 16.7%, over four times that of Roberto Carlos, and over twice as high as Ronaldhino’s. When discussing anything football these days, you cannot leave Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi out of the conversation. Both have scored from some memorable free-kicks. Recently, the Argentinian has overtaken the Portuguese for the most free kicks scored and now leads the personal contest 58 vs 57. Impressive by any standards, but not as impressive as when you look at the world’s top free-kick scorers of all time.
- In first place is Juninho Pernambucano with 77 free-kick goals
- Second is Pele with 70 free-kick goals
- In third place comes Víctor Legrotaglie with 66 free-kick goals
- In fourth, we have Ronaldinho with a tally of 66 free-kick goals
- Fifth highest is Davis Beckham with 65
- In sixth place is Diego Maradona with 62 goals
- In seventh is Zico also with 62 goals but from more free kicks than Maradona
- Number 8 is Ronald Koeman with 60 goals
- In ninth comes Rogerio Ceni on 59 goals
- Tenth is Marcelinho Carioca, also with 59 goals but from more free kicks than Ceni
So, Messi and Ronaldo are knocking on the door and given the competitive nature of both players and the fact that they are still playing, of course, both could make it into the top 10 yet.