The perfect execution of a free kick is an art. Tried by many but mastered by few, there aren’t many sights in football more beautiful than a free kick curled, swerved or smashed past the net into the top corner. Artists like the indomitable Lionel Messi, Miralem Pjanic, Dani Parejo, Sebastian Giovinco and the mercurial Neymar Jr may be the reigning kings of the dead ball, but who are the greatest free kick takers of all time? In descending order, here are the players I believe answer that question. 10. Marcelino Carioca Aptly nicknamed “Pé-de-Anjo” (Angel’s Foot) for his tremendous accuracy and technique when striking free kicks, Marcelino was a controversial attacking midfielder who was deadly from dead balls. The former Corinthians man scored 59 free kicks in his career, placing him tenth in this list of the greatest free kick takers of all time. 9. Rogerio Ceni The highest scoring goalkeeper of all time, the very fact that São Paolo legend Rogerio Ceni makes this list is an amazing feat on its own. The confidence and mental toughness it takes for a goalkeeper to wander so far out from his goal to take a set piece, and the belief he had in his ability already sets him apart from his counterparts. Add exquisite technique to that list and you have a goalkeeper who scores more goals than he lets in. Ceni scored 59 goals from free kicks in his career, remarkable for any player, much more a goalkeeper. 8. Ronald Koeman One of the most technically gifted defenders of all time, Koeman was just as comfortable playing in midfield as he was in defence due to his excellent ball playing skills. He could ping a pass from anywhere on the pitch and often find his man. It came as no surprise then that he was just as superb in front of goal, scoring an astounding 207 goals from centre back. Koeman used his magnificent technique when taking free kicks and beat keepers with ease. He netted 60 goals from free kicks, placing him eighth on this list.
Mexico City, Mexico 6/21/1970
CREDIT: Neil Leifer (Photo by Neil Leifer /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)[/caption] Another player in the category of “arguably the greatest ever”, Pèle was mesmerizing. The Brazilian left adoring fans ecstatic for the better part of two decades, scoring all types of goals, from headers, to bicycle kicks, to free kicks. He stayed in his native Brazil playing for Santos for most of his career and won three World Cups with Brazil in 1958, 1962 and 1970. Pelé scored an astounding 70 goals from free kicks in his career. 1. Juninho [caption id="attachment_25164" align="alignnone" width="512"] Olympique Lyonnais’ Juninho Pernambucano (r) bends a free-kick around the Celtic defensive wall[/caption] Last but definitely not least on this list is the greatest free kick takers of all time, Juninho Pernambucano. The Brazilian dead ball specialist could strike a free kick from any angle and distance into the back of the net, and was instrumental in Lyon’s golden years during the 2000s. He amassed a plethora of his goals from free kicks, scoring 77 in total. He is without a doubt the greatest free kick taker of all time. Honourable mentions include Andrea Pirlo, Michel Platini, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Sinisa Mihajlovic, Gheorge Hagi, Roberto Baggio, Alessandro Del Piero and Gianfranco Zola. By Nene Afadzinu]]>